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.
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.