Young Hungarian conservatives are disappointed

In the last eight years or so as an antidote to the less than successful governing of the socialists a new kind of conservatism came into being. The representatives of this new movement are young people whose right-of-center messages have moved far beyond the leftover ideas of the old Hungarian populist (narodnik) movement. It is in this circle of young intellectuals that one can hear more and more criticism of the Orbán government.

These people have a large presence on the Internet: Konzervatórium, Mandiner, Jobbklikk. They started a periodical called Kommentár. They even have an institute, Közjó és kapitalizmus. These people are young enough that their socialization didn't take place in the Kádár regime like the current leaders of Fidesz, and therefore their thinking is different from the mainstream party line. These young Hungarian conservatives are a diverse bunch. One can find among them followers of the American neo-conservative movement but also those whose thinking is close to the German Christian Democrats. Their ideological touchstones are all western and have nothing to do with the traditions of the Hungarian right inherited from the Horthy regime. This is an important departure and it gives hope for the development of a modern Hungarian conservatism. They believe in a foreign policy orientation that is based on the ideas of euro-atlantism, while their economic thinking is decidedly market-oriented.

Right after the elections these conservative groups were elated. They believed that the long awaited new era had arrived. They thought that with 2010 the era of post-communism had come to an end. They compared the Hungarian 2010 to the 1968 of the European left. But then slowly the tone changed. At first only polite critical remarks cropped up in their publications. It became evident that the election of Pál Schmitt as president of the republic was not exactly welcomed. The silly Manifesto of National Unity wasn't to their liking either. See, for example, an article entitled "Cracks on the frosting." After the nationalization of the pension funds these new conservatives could no longer follow the incomprehensible ideological zig-zags of Viktor Orbán and his team.

Within half a year the break between the originally enthusiastic young conservatives and the Orbán government seems more or less complete. While Orbán talks about "plebeian democracy," "eastern wind," and "state paternalism," these young conservatives write about parliamentarism, western orientation, self-help. Surely in these circumstances it is difficult to maintain any semblance of belonging to the same political world.

Perhaps the most telling writing appeared in Konzervatórium on January 7. The writer is using a pen name, as was the case with the "Cracks on the frosting" piece. This time the pen name chosen was "Huhogó János" (Croaking John) and the piece was entitled "After the Revolution."  I think that it is telling that the picture the editors decided to use is Orbán and Putin in Moscow. This article is an excellent summary of what has happened or rather has not happened in the last nine years.

Orban and Putin3 The author points out that by the spring of 2008 it was clear that Fidesz most likely would win the elections and thus there was plenty of time to come up with a viable government program, but they didn't. Moreover, Orbán and his friends didn't analyze the reasons for the 2002 and the 2006 defeats because "then they would have had to exercise self-criticism." The author makes no bones about it. In both cases it was the party leader's mistakes that led to defeat. Such defeat in other countries is followed by the resignation of the leader. In Hungary, Fidesz changed party leaders in name only while everything remained in the hands of Viktor Orbán.

It was the desire for "revenge" that directed all of Orbán's political moves, and such an emotional approach to politics rarely leads to victory. He drew the wrong conclusion from the defeat in 2002. He was convinced that he wasn't tough enough and that in the future an even more warlike strategy is necessary. He attacked everything in sight, the parliament, the constitution, the rule of law, and thus he managed to ruin these institutions and their reputation. Fidesz's political strategy was simple: everything is the communists' fault. Once they are gone, nothing needs to be changed. Everybody will be better off. The pensioners will get more money, as will the doctors, nurses, and teachers. Farmers will get higher subsidies, health care will be completely free, taxes will be lowered. "Because their only goal was the acquisition of power one learned practically nothing about what Fidesz was planning to do with this power." This is pretty tough talk.

But Huhogó János goes further. He claims that Fidesz had no plans for the ills of the economy, which is the most "burning question in Hungary at present." Moreover, the author practically repeats the criticisms of József Debreczeni when he claims that Orbán has never taken democracy and the rule of law seriously. Even between 1998 and 2002 he neglected his duties as prime minister; he hardly ever showed up in parliament; he delivered his policy speeches among his admirers instead of in the House. By now, he has completely withdrawn from the boring everyday running of the government and instead created barely functioning super ministries. At the same time he created a Ministry of Interior that is as strong as it used to be in the Kádár regime. The author sarcastically remarks that if Russian-Hungarian relations are as bright as hoped, perhaps advisors can come from Moscow again.

It is a long article and I will not be able to cover all of Huhogó's criticism, but his conclusion is the same as that of János Kornai or József Debreczeni: Orbán's power is limitless.

Huhogó points out that Hungarians are prone to blame the west for all sorts of imagined sins and thus show a certain defiance toward any criticism coming from this direction. Orbán shares this Hungarian defiant attitude when criticism is coming from abroad. A good example of this outlook and consequent behavior is how Hungarian politicians react to the criticism of the media law. It is not because the law might have passages that are unacceptable that the western papers and politicians criticize the Hungarian government but because they don't consider the former socialist countries their equals! 

The article ends with the prediction that Hungary's EU presidency will not be a success because "Orbán doesn't understand the EU and most likely will not accept the rules of its games." He doesn't want to build a modern western nation but "a strange mixture of Putinism, state capitalism of China, and a left-wing populist regime found in South America." All this was written by a young conservative.

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Paul
Guest

Strangely, that is the most uplifting thing I have read about Hungary for some time.
Will these young conservatives be able to limit OV’s power in any way, or can he dismiss them, along with all other criticism, as long as the poor deluded ‘people’ are still with him?

John G
Guest

Yes it is very uplifting! It not just us lib-left, foreigners who see things this way.
I just finished reading “After The Revolution” in its entirety. There is nothing left out or overlooked. The writing is precise and balanced, but most surprisingly there are no hold barred, no softening qualifiers added. It is an arrow aimed directly at the heart of the current government.
I have been following Mandiner for sometime and recently I was wondering if they changed allegiances. I guess not; they just decided to see things as they are, not as they are told to believe.
I presume I am not the only one who sees the irony in all of this. Young conservatives lifting their voices against the “old guard”. Just possibly the Fidesz may return to it’s Fiatal roots.
I am waiting anxiously for our Fidesz overseers’opinion on this. What do the defenders of the faith with Anglo-Saxon names have to say about “After the Revolution”?

a3t
Guest

Nah, I feel cynical. The young neo-cons are indeed extraordinarily deferential towards Washington, but that’s typically because they are authoritarian personalities and are impressed by the power of the big boys. At home that’s OV, abroad that’s Washington.
The people you’re quoting have always had an ambivalent relationship to Fidesz. These, I think, are patriotic conservatives who would until now have identified anyone-but-the-commies, while thinking that Orban was rather tasteless. I’d say they’re 15-20 per cent of the electorate.
Now, they’re deserting Orban.
That creates an interesting situation: as I think Velemenyvezer noted a few months back, their votes are now there for the asking if another conservative, sligtly moralistic party emerges that nonetheless believes in the free market. But in the current environment, putting such a party together could be difficult. (Jarai and Pokorni? They’re kind of tied down…)
Or they might go to LMP or stay at home. The thing is, their fear of the Commies is so great that it would take very few concessions for Fidesz to get them back. That, after all, has been Fidesz’s genius since 1998 – being the sole receptical for anti-commie votes.

An
Guest

A ray of hope. The best thing that could happen to Hungary is the birth of a conservative party that is following a European conservative tradition. As opposed to the lunacy that Orban has turned Fidesz into.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John G: “I just finished reading “After The Revolution” in its entirety.”
After I read it I said to myself: I could have written this.

Paul
Guest

“I am waiting anxiously for our Fidesz overseers’opinion on this. What do the defenders of the faith with Anglo-Saxon names have to say about “After the Revolution”?”
I fear you may have to wait quite a while, John, they only tend to go for the easier targets. Although I can forsee ‘Joseph’ penning something pointing out the faults of the conservative right in the USA or Canada.
I miss the old days when the trolls just used to sware at everyone and climax in a barrage of personal abuse written in appalling English.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

a3t: The young neo-cons are indeed extraordinarily deferential towards Washington, but that’s typically because they are authoritarian personalities and are impressed by the power of the big boys. At home that’s OV, abroad that’s Washington.”
When I think of Hungarian neo-conservatives I think of László Seres and I can’t stand him. I think these guys are different.
As for Orbán’s relationship with the US, I think it is more than ambivalent. He blamed the US for his defeat in 2002 because Bush wouldn’t meet him. Moreover, he got himself into that rather awkward situation of renting a private jet, arranging his honorary doctorate to be awarded at a private ceremony sometime in February, and at the end it was for naught.
Right now I think that he hates the Obama administration because of the changed Russian policy of the US. After all Fidesz managed to convince Washington that Gyurcsány was a Russia-lover and that Fidesz will change things. Then the Republicans lost the elections. And there is Orbán high and dry.
And last but not least, I just read that the American ambassador did not attend Schmitt’s reception!
Things are not going well with US-Hungarian relations.

Jo Peattie
Guest

Fidesz overseers with Anglo Saxon names, surely not. This article lifted my spirits, a little anyways.

Paul
Guest

“Things are not going well with US-Hungarian relations.”
In a couple of years time they should be a lot better – with President Palin in charge…

Öcsi
Guest

Paul wrote: “In a couple of years time they should be a lot better – with President Palin in charge…”
Oh, please don’t wish that on either country! 😉

Minusio
Guest

I can see the tragic of these young Hungarian conservatives. But I fail to see any perspective for them. Although more and more people will be desillusioned with Orbán, and although this article by “Croaking John” might be as good as Kornai’s, all of this is ‘post festum’. The train to Belorus has left a while ago.
The Orbán regime won’t be endless (although we may have seen only the end of the beginning). But a democratic and constructive future will only be imaginable if and when a political culture and a civic spirit evolve that allow Hungarians to see a political opponent only as an opponent – and not as an enemy to be destroyed.
For the time being, they behave like freed serfs, not as masters of their house and guardians of the ‘res publica’. In short, they are not “sovereign” as you would find the people in a real democracy. Hungarian politics is a field of bad manners. And most acquire their manners as children…
So following this boorish regime, there will be more instability until someone tells his/her fellow countrymen what it takes to govern themselves.

Öcsi
Guest

Minusio wrote: “But a democratic and constructive future will only be imaginable if and when a political culture and a civic spirit evolve that allow Hungarians to see a political opponent only as an opponent – and not as an enemy to be destroyed.”
And yet the political discourse is being revved up in the very democracies you allude to. But I agree with your comment.

Teregeto Hanosi
Guest

When the messiah comes, it will come from the conservative liberal sector.
The is no good pure conservative or liberal person.
The mutts are the good ones.

Member

@ Teregeto Hanosi, I agree with you. In Hungary the “divide” between left, right, liberal, conservative, is very murky. Even what people believe in is murky. My mother’s best friend is a nationalistic lady (you should see her Skype status), who just loves my mom and dad well knowing that they are Jews. She does not really like any other Jews… go figure. What I am trying to say that through these years, all the promises and disappointment, finger pointing, reforms and lies truly messed people up.
I believe that the masses in Hungary are just naive and inexperienced politically after their freedom being taken away so long, and politicians do take advantage of that. Someone will rise above and come up with some plan and with a clear vision that could provide some alternative, but it will come from a mixture of ideas. It will be a little tapas of all the good ideas. (Do I sound naive or hopeful?)

Kevin Moore
Guest

“I believe that the masses in Hungary are just naive and inexperienced politically after their freedom being taken away so long, and politicians do take advantage of that.”
Finally a comment that makes sense.
And what it claims is true.
“freedom being taken away so long, and politicians do take advantage of that. Someone will rise above and come up with some plan and with a clear vision that could provide some alternative, but it will come from a mixture of ideas. It will be a little tapas of all the good ideas.”
You should decide if it’s beneficial or not to have a mixture of ideas. Orbán is criticized for everything, among them for his mixture of ideas. So, as it seems to me, a mixture of ideas is good unless it’s Orbán who has it.

Member

Kevin: “You should decide if it’s beneficial or not to have a mixture of ideas.” Maybe I should of referred to “best practices” put together in a chain by people (or a party) that do understand cause and effect. Orban picks ideas out of context (elements of media law for example) that in new context and paired with other ideas are spell disaster. Also, Orban has a baggage that he cannot just pretend it does not exist. His “koponyegforgato” politics, his unwillingness to take criticism, his unwillingness still to disassociate himself from the far right makes every step he makes questionable by many. Young Democrat(?) he is no more. He is a middle aged man and he is not a democrat.

Paul
Guest

‘Kevin’, none of us judges things in the way you say, as you well know.
We judge things on the simple basis of whether they are good or bad for Hungary. Who does them is secondary, whether it’s OV or Gy or anyone else.
And we judge Orbán quite simply on what he does, not who he is.
None of us started as anti-Orbán, he has forced us to take that position by what he does, and by the way he identifies himself with ‘Fidesz’ policies/actons.
The problem is not us, it’s him.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Paul, sure, you must also know it’s relative who is behind the bars and who is outside.
I have no doubts you think you are outside, whereas the vast majority of the world (including me) thinks you are inside.
That’s life.

Kevin Moore
Guest

@someone: as long as opinions like yours reach me again and again and again from the same corral (read: left-lib), I’m saddened again and again.
You still think you are entitled to pick and choose people, to label people, to decide if people are “worthy” or not, if they are democrat or not, and, in general, exclusively hold the right to assess and judge people and their deeds.
Fortunately this nation (Hungary) has been taught during the Rákosi and Kádár era on how the ‘left’ concept on democracy looks like.

Paul
Guest

‘Kevin’ – I have no idea who is ‘behind bars’, or what on earth you’re on about.
Do you seriously think that the rest of the world sees things the way deluded OV supporters like yourself do?
I suggest you change your medication.

Mutt Damon
Guest

More people liked the “1 million for the freedom of press” Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/sajtoszabadsagert
then Viktor Orban’s.
“Hajra Magyarorszag!” 🙂

Kevin Moore
Guest

No, Paul, it’s the rest of people affiliated with Hungary who see the world basically like OV and mates.
You are however free to stick to your false delusions about Hungary and keep not understanding one bit of what’s happening and why.

Kirsten
Guest

@Kevin: Would you accept that there might be Hungarians as you are too but of a completely different opinion politically?

Mutt Damon
Guest

Kirsten, they by definition are not Hungarian. Case closed. 🙂

Member

Kevin Moore: You have no idea how wrong you are about me, about my political views and such.
You should stick with the subject, instead of killing the messenger. I have news for you, there are people who do not like Fidesz (right or wrong), there are people who do not like Gyurcsany (right or wrong), but Gyurcsany is irrelevant on many of this discussions. You just really do not like if someone does not clap their hands for your opinion. You are running around telling people what is wrong with them, with their opinion, and with their believes. You are still blaming the last 70 years for everything. My problem with Fidesz is the same problem I have with you now. Hypocrisy, righteousness, and finger pointing. You do not like this site? Do not read it. I do not go on the Magyar Hirlap and keep reading their commentary or provide my comments on the daily basis.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Kirsten, don’t twist my words, I was echoing back Paul’s comment.
In case you are interested, you can read what I wrote before and it says “majority”, not “everybody else”.
Case now closed, hoping that interpreting written text succeeds for you.

John T
Guest

“Paul, sure, you must also know it’s relative who is behind the bars and who is outside.
I have no doubts you think you are outside, whereas the vast majority of the world (including me) thinks you are inside.
That’s life.”
Kevin – Maybe its just me, but I’m at a total loss to see how you come to this conclusion.

Kirsten
Guest

@Kevin: “No, Paul, it’s the rest of people affiliated with Hungary who see the world basically like OV and mates.”
Sure, there is not “everybody else” but “the rest of the people”. I am quite confident that I passed your test.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Kirsten, as I’ve said, I was echoing back Paul’s own words. You missed that again, the second time. I think it’s intentional so I won’t waste one more word on that.
John T: it is quite simple, Paul wittingly said about Orbán: the problem is with him, not “us” (Paul).

Paul
Guest

I am at a complete loss here! What words of mine was ‘Kevin’ “echoing back”??
I am so confused by the above posts that I’ve just gone back to my posts, and I said nothing like what I am being quoted as saying!
But this business of it being ‘relative’ who is behind bars or not really intrigues me. What the hell is ‘he’ on about?!
A great many things in life are relative – truth, for instance – but ‘Kevin’ comes up with just about the best instance of something that ISN’T relative. After all, you can’t be in a more ‘absolute’ situation than being behind bars!
Let’s just run a little logical exercise to test this. Person A is in jail, Person B isn’t. Which one can come and go as he wants? Which one is locked up and is entirely at the mercy of his jailers?
I think even ‘Kevin’ should have no trouble working that out.

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