Hungarian liberal intellectuals at a loss: Ádám Petri Lukács

There seems to be considerable confusion in liberal circles about the nature of the Orbán government, the current political situation, and the future of the country in general.

Before the April elections the liberal intellectuals tried to console themselves that although Fidesz will win big, the future of democracy is not at stake. In fact there were some liberal writers and political scientists (here I think especially of Eszter Babarczy and László Kéri) who were enthusiastic about a possible two-thirds majority because they thought that such an overwhelming victory would allow Fidesz to introduce all those reforms Ferenc Gyurcsány, because of lack of support inside and outside of his party, was not able to.

Yes, in theory they might have been right. But these people underestimated the potential pitfalls. For instance, that the party in power wants to force its own ideology on the population as a whole instead of introducing reforms that would move the country toward modernization. And that this ideology would be anything but modern. (In fact, it harks back to the 1930s.) These people, I'm sure, didn't think that Viktor Orbán would recreate a quasi-parliamentary system where the opposition is present only physically. I also doubt that they could possibly imagine that all the checks and balances that are essential in a democratic regime would be obliterated by filling all independent positions with party members loyal to Viktor Orbán. There were only very few liberal intellectuals who predicted that Orbán's regime would bear a suspicious resemblance to Horthy's Hungary. Most of the left-liberal intellectuals thought that József Debreczeni and Tamás Bauer were exaggerating. As it turned out, they were right in most of their predictions.

There are still people who are trying to be optimistic and who minimize the damage that has been done to the delicate democratic fiber of the country's institutions. Ádám Petri Lukács, for example (Népszabadság, 22 September), admits that "what they do to children is really terrible," but otherwise the situation is not as hopeless as some liberal intellectuals claim. After all, there will be free elections in four years and, if Orbán et al. are too zealous in rewriting the constitution, no problem, the next government will be able to put things right. I'm afraid one can easily counter these two statements of Petri Lukács. The Orbán government in a great hurry changed the electoral law governing local elections. The result: smaller parties had a very difficult time collecting endorsements and because of a new way of distributing the votes Fidesz candidates were in a privileged position. Therefore, far fewer opposition members will be on the local councils than previously. Most likely a similar change will be effected when it comes to national elections. These changes will enhance if not ensure a Fidesz victory. As for the constitution, Petri Lukács again is too optimistic. Right now everybody recognizes that one very serious shortcoming of the constitution is that with a two-thirds majority it can be changed at will. What if the current government majority inserts a clause in the "Orbán" constitution that would make it impossible, or nearly impossible, to make any changes to that constitution? Then what does Petri Lukács suggest?

Petri Lukács has another peculiar line of reasoning. According to him liberal critics look upon Viktor Orbán as a tyrant "when he just wants to be a good prime minister." However, one can be a good prime minister without removing all the checks and balances from the system, thereby creating a situation in which he can operate without any limits. In fact, most likely such limitless power would contribute to making a man a bad prime minister because there is no one who would block his way when he is on the verge of making a mistake. A good prime minister is someone who manages to steer the ship of state in the right direction within the limits of a democratic system.

Otherwise, it seems to me that Petri Lukács has pretty well resigned himself to the fact that the Hungarian people are satisfied with the current state of affairs. They couldn't care less about checks and balances; they don't care whether the president is a lackey of the prime minister and a former MSZMP bigwig in the Kádár regime; they don't understand that it is inappropriate for the financial affairs of the Orbán government to be scrutinized by a former important Fidesz politician; they don't care about a constitutional court that will soon be completely filled with party hacks; they don't care that Péter Polt may again be the supreme prosecutor, the same Péter Polt who made sure that no financial wrongdoings of members of the first Orbán government were prosecuted. None of that matters and, if that is the case, why bother? This is pretty much Petri Lukács's conclusion. And, he adds, this is not Fidesz's fault. The Hungarian people wanted it this way. Nothing can be done. The liberals are so much in the minority and moreover no one listens to them that the best thing is to give up the fight. As he titled his piece: "We don't exist and there is no need for us."

Well, one thing is sure: if all those people who didn't vote for Fidesz (or Jobbik) think the way Petri Lukács thinks, then the future is pretty bleak. But luckily not everybody thinks like he does. It is true that for most people the pocket book is much more important than some abstract concept of constitutional law, but sooner or later the Hungarian people will come to the realization that this government also won the elections by promising more than it can deliver. Moreover, if Hungarians' knowledge of democracy is wanting, it is time to strengthen it. Of course, one of the best places for that would be in the school system; unfortunately, I don't expect anything from a school system set up by Rózsa Hoffmann. But newspapers can also be a powerful educational force, especially if articles were written in a more intelligible prose style, with the general public as the intended audience.

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Paul Haynes
Guest

“We don’t exist and there is no need for us.”
You could only be in Hungary!

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Petri: “We don’t exist and there is no need for us.”
This is a perfect sentence and probably the very first true sentence by Ádám Petri Lukács.
This is the sentence that kept circling in my mind when reading through this post, this comprehensive syndrome of a vision of superiority by the least worthy. This is nothing more than a whine of some for being out of the power where they should never have been in the first place, now put out by democracy itself. Strangely enough, the whining goes about the alleged destruction of democracy whose result can’t be accepted apparently – that Orbán has been granted full power upon the will of the voters.
Now he finally has the opportunity to put things right. (And I wish the Horthy era would return more or less!)

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Oh, and “left-liberal” papers pooping such lunatic craziness are my favourite readings these times. I rarely had as good laughs as I have nowadays when reading Népszava. These attempts stinking of sweat assure me that we’re heading in the right direction.

Rigó Jancsi
Guest
It’s about checks and balances. It’s the basic rule of three columns in a democracy, every child learns (or should learn) that in school. Don’t give legislatives, executives and judiciary into one hand or into the power of one party – and as fourth column, have an independent media. That has nothing to do with the agenda of OV or Fidesz, it’s true in any democratic system, and any party should respect this system. As Éva says, it can also be a system of self-protection to avoid mistakes. Should OV some day have the idea to remove the citizenship of all people with the name Pásztor, who could stop him? That’s the point. In every functional democracy, there is need for counter balance. A 2/3 majority of MSZP wouldn’t be wishful either. Of course, you need functional majorities, a stalemate isn’t fun. But if by chance the voters granted you with 2/3, you have to use that power wisely and responsibly. Maybe it takes a longer time for a nation to grasp this idea, and 20 years were not enough. OV is still a child of the old system. In the Germany of the first “big coalition”, 1968, there was… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

APL statement is true. No need for those who believed that the first amendment should be realized in Hungary and that the freedom for hate preachers is more important than the Human Dignity of minorities. No wonder that a number of those cowards try to adapt themselves to the new naked emperor V.O.
Now they can be satisfied, thanks to their “freedom for Nazi speech” the courts decide it is absolutely legal to make an election campaign with the slogan of “gypsy-criminality”
After all in today’s Hungary Jobbik’s right to incite racial hatred is more important than the Human dignity of Hundred of Thousands of Hungarian citizens.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@Karl Pfeifer: as the saying goes, “hatred is terrible without power”. This is what applies to you. You think your pathologic categorization of the right should be enacted in law, but the times where such dictatoric attributes could rule are over. Democracy is something clearly not for you, and I have bad news: you’ll have to endure it. This severe frustration you display fits you, it looks nice, I must say, however.

cba
Guest
Isn’t life strange? I guess that those of us who like to think for ourselves are blessed with the ability to find comfort in the most unexpected of places. Szilárdelvtárs, your psychologically (and grammatically) suspect comment that “I rarely had as good laughs as I have nowadays when reading Népszava” fills me with hope. Don’t mistake this for an ad hominem, because it is no such thing. This seemingly sarcastic remark is central to the point that I want to make. So you’re getting some of the best laughs of your life from reading a newspaper, the views of which you despise, two days after the man you worship finally achieved near total control of your country? On a human level that is quite sad. It just doesn’t seem much fun to be you. Social liberalism has many guises, but it offers much more than your blind faith and schadenfreude. The regular commentators on this site, with whom you lock horns every day – presumably (ostensibly?) acting on the same psychological compulsion that compels you to read Népszava – have a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs, political or otherwise. There are locals who somehow have the strength of stomach… Read more »
whoever
Guest
Ha! Post of the month from cba there. I totally agree with everything above. Thinking positively, Hungary may be ‘running up the hill backwards.’ For a real democratic culture to emerge, it may have to be reasserted twice – firstly against the weakening grip of the old MSZMP, and then again, against the tired old rehashed Horthyists, the directionless and opportunist mercenary army of Fidesz. I believe that the elections since 1994 have reflected a lack of genuine choices. Hungarians have been poorly served by the available options. The emergence of the LMP provides an opportunity for threads of thought which didn’t get a proper airing, in either the SZDSZ or the MSZP. Szili’s new party, if established successfully, will add another element of pluralism, especially if it builds from the bottom-up, something the MSZP never prioritised. The free-market liberals, who eventually choked the SZDSZ to death, also have opportunities to organise, both within the MSZP, as part of Gyurcsány’s new platform, and as a new entity. It’s up to them to enlist citizens – not to rely on foreign funding, or some privileged existence as an elite, perched on top of a post-communist party. The point I am making,… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Pásztor Szilárd: a quick question (sorry if this has come up before).
You’re a democrat, you describe yourself as a democrat.
Then how can you justify your worship of Horthy?
In what way was the Horthy regime democratic? None of the elections from 1921 to 1945 would have met the criteria for ‘fair and free’ elections, as provided by the OECD? Parties were blocked from standing, and balloting was open.
I really would be interested in your answer to this.

Paul Haynes
Guest

Liberals think you can make an omelette without breaking egss.
And you can’t.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

cba: “Budapest is in for a shock.”
That reminds me that while listening to an interview with Tarlós I had the sneaking suspicion that he (Fidesz?) may stop the metro construction. There were just too many “ifs” in his answers. See http://atv.hu/video/video-202004_tarlos_istvan

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@cba: “To save you a couple of litres of bile at this point”
No, you totally misjudged me. I actually had a good laugh when reading your post. Such an amount of compressed lunatic pulp about how OV is ruining the democracy he has always fought for against your favorite commies always makes me think again about “you don’t exist and there’s no need for you”.
Again, this constant feeling of superiority of the inferior you portray is also very apparent and very amusing. Keep up the work!
@whoever: I said I wish the Horthy era back more or less. I don’t want anti-democratic attitudes back but I want merciless punishment of those who have sinned and i want order.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

One more comment: your “typical” educated, “modern” 20ish or 30ish in Hungary – including me – is the typical Fidesz supporter. Within my age group, of those who are active politically about 80% or so support Fidesz. This is their core voter base and always has.
Those of higher education are significantly over-represented in the right-wing base. The other side consists mainly of pensioners pining for the old times, inactives like the unemployed and those who live off of grants they get after the number of their kids, and the thieves who join the soc. side in hope of positions in economic power.
This is why this win by Fidesz is so important. The active and educated have won over the hustler and sponger.

Member

Szilárd, What would you identify as the good points of the Horthy era that you would wish to see come back?

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

I admire his endeavours in reverting the losses of the Treaty of Trianon, his relentless fight against communists and against all types of suppressive power, his ability to select people of the highest quality to lead key areas of the country, his Prussian-like attitude towards order (Ordnung muss sein), and all in all his honorable behavior that was recognized by all of his contemporary leaders in Europe. (Except communists, but they were nothing more than filthy criminals – no wonder they hated Horthy.)
I’m not surprised that you probably hate all of these qualities in Horthy – you are in ideology and human quality the descendants of those against whom Horthy has fought in his entire life.

whoever
Guest

‘ his honorable behavior that was recognized by all of his contemporary leaders in Europe. ‘
Er, wrong. The British Labour Party, by no means a communist front, were always very worried by Horthy’s persecution of social democrats and trade unionists, and even sent a delegation to Hungary in the 1920s to plead against a continuation of the White Terror. Lord Rothermere may have like Horthy, but many other democrats around Europe, were under no illusions about the deluded and delirious politics Horthy represented.

cba
Guest

@Éva, yes many ifs, but I suspect that the main one is “if Viktor says its okay!”
@whoever, cheers! What do I win? A McHappy Meal with Szilárd?
@Szili Pástard: If you interpreted from that post that I am a communist then you have something wrong with your brain.

Paul Haynes
Guest

“I want merciless punishment of those who have sinned and i want order.”
The mask slips…

Guest

@cba and whoever:
Thanks for your really interesting (and somehow still uplifting) comments.
We’ll have to see how FIDESZ and OV manage and what the EU will say and do if they get too much “Horthy-like” …

whoever
Guest

‘The other side consists mainly of pensioners pining for the old times, inactives like the unemployed and those who live off of grants they get after the number of their kids, and the thieves who join the soc. side in hope of positions in economic power….This is why this win by Fidesz is so important. The active and educated have won over the hustler and sponger.’
It’s the humanity, that shines out of every sentence, and the obvious love for his fellow Hungarians, that makes the incoming Budapest Regime such an irresistable model for the rest of world. Hajrá Magyarország!

cba
Guest

@Paul, haha, yes it seems that Szilárd had a Dr Strangelove moment for a second there

Alias3T
Guest
Yes, sign me up to the CBA appreciation society. Szilard, what strikes me is that you appear to talk to a very restricted circle of people. People in their 20s and 30s have a wide range of political leanings. Some are Godor-visiting, long-haired liberals, some wear ironed check short-sleaved shirts, have neat hair, tipple expensive palinka and Hungarian wine and support Fidesz. You only seem to know the latter group. Fidelitas has great parties, but there is a life beyond the third floor of Mammut. Also, less of the “merciless punishment” please. It brings rather disturbing images to my mind. Also, I assume you’re a Christian, so you should really believe that retribution is God’s job. One thing is sure: few of those young professionals have an explicit party allegiance. Very few people your age would regard themselves as Fidesz supporters. They might, at most, regard Fidesz as a lesser evil “because I can’t stand the Socialists”. Many regard Orban as a dishonest manipulator. Fewer still regard themselves as Socialists or Liberals. “At least they’re not nasty manipulative statist demagogues like Orban.” As cba and whoever have said, there’s a supply issue here. No party is offering what people want.… Read more »
Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@Paul: what problem do you have with punishing those who have sinned?
Do you support criminals? Why?

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@Alias3T: every word of yours is simply wishful thinking.
You very much wish all of what you write were true – unfortunately for you, you’re wrong.
You may remain dazzled by your false vision of youth in Hungary, still reality spectacularly counters your arguments. Look at the numbers and the votes. You lose.

Öcsi
Guest

Szilárd wrote:”You may remain dazzled by your false vision of youth in Hungary, still reality spectacularly counters your arguments. Look at the numbers and the votes. You lose.”
No, it’s not Alias3T who loses. It’s Hungary. Going backwards is not going forward. But I’m sure that escapes you…

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

Yes we are going backwards to the era of approx. 2000 where we were clearly leading the new EU joinees.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Alias3T: “Despite what Eva said, Tarlos, now with a large personal mandate of his own, is, whether he likes it or not, bound to Budapest more than he is to Orban. The government is already making cuts everywhere. Tarlos will not go along with Orban if he cuts capital spending in Budapest.”
We will see. We will see.

GDF
Guest

Posted by: Pásztor Szilárd: (And I wish the Horthy era would return more or less!)
I assume you also wish for the Numerus Clausus to be re-introduced.

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@GDF: such an assumption tells only about you, not me.

GW
Guest

Pásztor Szilárd,
Then tell us about you: Would you like the Numerus Clausus to be re-introduced or not?

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