Hungarian spring cleaning: The philosophers and all the others

We have been spending an inordinate amount of time on the media law and with good reason, but let’s not forget about other “sins” of the Orbán government. Among them is the slated closure of thirty-five foundations, including the 56-Institute. But on the list we can also find foundations established for the assistance of the homeless, the Foundation for the Gypsies of Hungary, the foundation for the collection of old Hungarian films, the Gandhi Foundation for the education of the Roma, and one could continue.

According to Zsolt Semjén, deputy prime minister, in place of these foundations the Ministry of National Economic Development will come up with other solutions. We don’t know what these other solutions might be, but I know for sure that the government has the brilliant idea of subordinating the 56-Institute and its fifteen or seventeen historians to Mária Schmidt’s House of Terror. It is a suggestion that cannot be accepted by the historians working in the Institute. So, it is very possible that the 56-Institute after twenty years will cease to exist. An awful loss. But the 56-Institute has been a thorn in Orbán’s side for a long time. Between 1998 and 2002 the institute’s subsidy was halved, but now it seems that it can close its doors for good and its researchers can look for new jobs.

What’s wrong with the 56-Institute? Their research doesn’t support the image of the 1956 Revolution Orbán and the Hungarian right have in mind. Orbán has tried at various times to reinterpret 56. While in office he gave a lecture on the subject in Austria in which he described the events of 1956 as a “bourgeois revolution.” Anyone who has some knowledge of the history of those two weeks knows that the events don’t support such a contention. Lately, he even went so far as to claim that his “revolution” in the voting booths is the direct continuation of the Revolution of 1956!

There are also attacks on people who show open opposition to the Orbán regime. For months now the newly appointed head of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has been after certain members of the staff who, in his opinion, are spending too much time writing political types of articles in periodicals, magazines, or even newspapers. Now the philosophers are accused of a much worse thing: “fraudulent misuse of funds.” Monsters and Critics considers this latest assault on the philosophers a punishment for signing an open letter complaining about what they called the dismantling of democracy in Hungary. The letter was signed by 70 civil rights activists, including former dissidents like Vaclav Havel, Adam Michnik, and Árpád Göncz. But among them were also philosophers Ágnes Heller and Mihály Vajda as well as literary scholar Sándor Radnóti.

Magyar Nemzet, a paper close to Fidesz, started the attack by claiming that a “liberal circle of philosophers” managed to get almost half a billion forints in grants from the National Office of Research and Technology that was set up by the liberal minister of education, Bálint Magyar. According to the paper, this office’s funds were considered to be a kind of private bank for liberal intellectuals–among them Sándor Radnóti, Ágnes Heller, Mihály Vajda, György Gábor and György Geréby–who received grants for topics that had nothing to do with the Office’s stated requirements.

The grand inquisitor, Gyula Budai, the man who was entrusted by Viktor Orbán with unearthing information that would prove Ferenc Gyurcsány guilty of something or other, was quick. On the very same day that Magyar Nemzet‘s article about the fraudulent philosophers appeared, he announced that his investigation is proceeding with “full speed” and that he had already launched a complaint with the prosecutor’s office. This guy means business.

Gyula Budai

 

Coincidence or not, Jews figure prominently in Budai’s investigations. Two of his big cases involve the attempts of Israeli investors to establish entertainment centers. Magyar Hírlap, a far-right paper, felt compelled to mention that György Gábor’s field of research is anti-Semitism. And the above mentioned philosophers are all Jews with the exception of György Geréby, who happens to be my best high school friend’s son.

By the way, by the time the news about the philosophers appeared in Magyar Hírlap, the amount of money allegedly fraudulently expropriated shrank from half a billion forints to 70.5 million, which was a grant to the Institute, not for one year but for three. At today’s exchange rate this amounts to a little over $100,000 a year.

Yesterday I mentioned that János Kornai is a Permanent Fellow of Collegium Budapest, Institute for Advanced Study. Well, the Collegium Budapest might not exist for long. The Collegium has been financed ever since 1992 by two German provinces in addition to foundations from France, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Collegium received a building which they renovated and added a guest house to it for foreign scholars. Wolf Lepenies, the founder of the institution, put in a request to the minister in charge for some financial help in 2000 during the first Orbán government. The answer was that the Collegium will not receive any assistance because it had good relations with the former government. The interview with Wolf Lepenies appeared in Die Welt, who ended his conversation with the journalist with this sentence: “At the beginning of the year the Orbán government introduced the censorship of the press. Now spring cleaning is taking place in Hungary.”

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komp kalauz
Guest

What is next?
To remove the liberal reformer Ferenc Deak 1803-1876 from the history books?

Minusio
Guest

So there it is, the vengeance of the philosophically and culturally challenged. And imagine: all happens quietly, without book burning and concentration camps! “Gleichschaltung” in all public sectors, one after another.
I mentioned earlier that most people have forgotten all about the first Orbán government. Reading Lepenies’ shocking remarks about the founding and the fate of the Budapest Collegium reminded me that it would be worthwile to look again at that period. Everybody should have been warned.
Lepenies tried to convince the Fidesz minister of science in 2000 of displaying at least some political culture by quoting T. S. Eliot: “”Democracy means that the government dines regularly with the opposition.” The minister wouldn’t have any of it. (He probably didn’t even understand what this quote implied.)
Those boorish manners have returned and are meant to stay, according to Orbán for the next 15-20 years.

Member

Minusio, I know you will think that I am only making this up but today I had a comment ready for the thread “János Kornai’s stock taking of Hungarian politics and economics”. It would of been a comment on Kevin’s Guardian quote. It said “I have one word for you: Gleichschaltung.” THen I thought it is maybe pushing the envelope, so I did not post it. Minusio, I agree with you 100%!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

It is worth noting that even Heti Válasz, a magazine that was created by Fidesz on government money, is criticizing the media law. In fact, the criticism is identical to the ones that come from the other side. See
http://hetivalasz.hu/jegyzet/mediatorveny-egy-elore-lathato-bukas-kronikaja-34611/

Peter Koroly
Guest

Magyar Hirlap had yesterday mentioned in the headline on the fronpage that one of those who allgegedly participated in this fraud is a researcher of antisemitism.

Joseph Simon
Guest

My question: Have you ever visited the ’56Intézet? It is located in Dohány utca occuping the second floor in a non-descript apartment building. Very hard to find. Not even a sign on the building to indicate that it is an institute. My first reaction was: why isn’t this body located at a university where it would have some exposure. Very few people in Budapest know about its existence. They have a small library and they even sell books. But to whom?
Rainer M. János, a historian, edited the book ‘Nagy Imre Per’ published in 2OO8. The purpose of the Institute would be better served if it was located elsewhere, even the House of Horror would be a better place.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
So now it begins. This is the ‘Second Coming’ of the ‘Mighty One’ (the saviour). The destruction of all those people and things, which, either directly oppose, or do not support, the re-writing of history in the required direction. This new history will seek to place the roots of Fidesz deep into Hungarian history and it’s ‘Glories’ and its ‘glorious defeats’. The new history will cloak Fidesz and of course their ‘Dearest Leader and Mighty One’ with the mantles of the greats of the Hungarian past. Those little inconveniences which show ‘otherwise’ will simply be destroyed or at least quietly buried. The first series of associations will be with the heroes of the recent past including those who were killed in the 1956 rebellion and those who suffered in the aftermath. Along with that will come Hothy and his victories and his glories, glories you ask? Yes those of the Royal Hungarian Air Force. Credits for ‘kills’ are easy to fake. The new records will show that the Royal Hungarian airforce destroyed more U.S. aircraft than were actualy built. The second and most important group of ‘associations’ will be with Kossuth, Batthyany and above all with Szechenyi. Attempts will be… Read more »
Rigó Jancsi
Guest

During Horthy’s time, so many brilliant people left the country for good, it was a terrible “brain drain”. It’s painfull to see the beginning of this once again. In a country with hardly any natural resources, except for good soil and red sludge, the human mind is the most important good. And I doubt that a country full of little Orbán clones will be very successfull in today’s world…
Regarding freedom of press, I would like to mention that there will be a demonstration this Friday at 18:00 on Kossuth tér. I’m not really sure who the organizers are, but in any case it might be worth going there, to show the government that there actually is an opposition.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Mr Ringo I wonder what the annual rate of emigration was in Horthy’s time? I will put an aluminium 5 Filar piece on the table that the rate of exodus was far greater in1956.
Orban Viktor does not care so long as is ‘The Beloved Leader and the Mighty One’ and the top levels of Fidesz are too well off to give a ‘monkey’s about this’.
You must remember that after 2002 Orban Viktor blamed the people for his defeat. We all know just how unforgiving he is and now the punishments of the people will start.
Oh the aluminium 5 Filar piece is one which is used to adjust the ‘rate’ of my ‘Regulator’ clock.

John G
Guest
An ill educated nation is easier to govern. I presume nobody here is shocked by this turn of events. Not just in Hungary but after any revolution (be it one with weapons or one with ballots) the first order of business is to silence any and all who may have a different philosophy from the winners of the revolution. Then of course they eat their own because all those who were good at fomenting revolution may turn on the new government as well. Then comes the rewriting of history, which already has started in Hungary. Just recently I noted how Zrinyi in now regarded by some as a traitor to Hungary. His most famous writing contains the Latin quotation: Popule meus, qui te beatum praedicant, ipsi te decipiunt. (My people, those who call you blessed deceive you.) How appropriate of the situation in Hungary. One must not forget that Orban and “the Boys” went directly from University to politics without making a stop in the work place. As they probably fit into the 88 % category of those between 25-64 who do not pursue any form of continued education in Hungary, as opposed to the 54% average in the EU,… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Interesting that our ‘Joseph’, who claims to be a Canadian Hungarian, who has only recently become a Hungarian citizen (and therefore is most certainly NOT a Fidesz troll) knows the whereabouts of the ’56Intézet in such detail – “not even a sign on the building to indicate that it is an institute”.
Did you just happen to pop over there the last time you were in Budapest, ‘Joe’?
Or did someone just happen to pass this information on to you?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Actually, the 56-Institute in spite of its modest office has done very important work in the last twenty years. It is modest because they don’t have much money. But take a look at the webpage in English:
http://www.rev.hu/portal/page/portal/rev/aktualitasok

Kevin Moore
Guest

…and while all of you are outraged by the allegedly politically motivated ‘attack’ on these philosophers, nobody is talking about the staggering number of contracts these ‘philosophers’ made in the name of the institute they govern with their own private companies for the exact same task that they should be doing within the borders of the institute as public servants.
But, luckily, it’s the court that will decide and not you.

An
Guest

@Kevin Moore: Oh yes, those nasty philosophers.. all they care about is money. That’s why they became philosophers and not, let’say, investment bankers.
:-)))

Kevin Moore
Guest

As if only investment bankers were able to become crooks.
Your style of grappling is ridiculous.
Read here and explain why these are legal and morally OK:
http://www.gondola.hu/cikkek/74670-A_filozofusok_nem_rendelkeztek_eleg_szellemi_kapacitassal.html

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

An: “Oh yes, those nasty philosophers.. all they care about is money. That’s why they became philosophers and not, let’say, investment bankers. :-)))”
The budget of the NKTH was 50 billion forints a year but for the humanities and social sciences only 1-1.5 billion forints were allocated. Out of this amount only 70 million was given to the institution, where seventeen people worked. And it was for three years. I talked to one of the people mentioned by MN and he is outraged. MN’s account sounds like some kind of conspiracy. It is normal procedure to apply for grants for different projects. One either wins and gets some support or not. This is that simple.

An
Guest

This may or may not be valid charges, but the whole thing is ridiculous, Kevin. This Fidesz-led anti-corruption campaign is, that is solely used for political purposes.
The only way this would be credible if Fidesz would crack down on corruption among their own circles as well.

Mutt Damon
Guest

Say what? 1.21 Jigawatts??
Well, according to the institute’s web site http://www.phil-inst.hu/hu/linkek/linkek.html in 2004 they had 24 people and about 110 million government support. This almost doubled by 2009: 38 people and 140 million in government money.
Why does the government need to have philosophers on the payroll? All these jobs should be awarded as contracts to mainly colleges.
Typical FIDESZ by the way. Doing it the easy way: revenge but no sign of any regulations. Real laws and regulations are too much work.

Kevin Moore
Guest

An: so, in your opinion, even if these people stole, this campaign is ridiculous, that is, these people who stole should be acquitted on political grounds. Right?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kevin: “An: so, in your opinion, even if these people stole, this campaign is ridiculous, that is, these people who stole should be acquitted on political grounds. Right?”
Kevin, you’re wasting your time. They didn’t steal a penny. Heller, for example, was supervising a younger group of philosophers who were working on Nietzsche, Lukács, and Heidegger, but for her work she didn’t receive any money. Moreover, there are such things as grant applications. One either gets the money or one doesn’t. They received the money, so the people in charge thought that their project was worthwhile.

An
Guest

@Kevin: “so, in your opinion, even if these people stole, this campaign is ridiculous, that is, these people who stole should be acquitted on political grounds. Right?”
I didn’t say that, just for the record. You always complain that other commenters put words in your mouth, yet you do the exact same thing to me.

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