MSZP: Still together but barely

Vasárnap Hírek, a Sunday paper close to MSZP, published this picture of the situation in the party. The original photo was taken just before the opening of the party congress and shows Ferenc Gyurcsány and Attila Mesterházy greeting each other in front of the building.

 

The situation depicted on the doctored photo is telling. Although the party didn’t fracture, it is unlikely that the declared “unity” is genuine. In fact, Gyurcsány, talking to a reporter for MTI today, said that “we can change our behavior but not our principles.” Here the word “behavior = viselkedés” is a bit awkward. Perhaps strategy would have been a better choice. In the interview he repeated his firm belief that the old socialist strategy simply doesn’t work in the new circumstances. Gyurcsány is certain that MSZP with its old ideas cannot garner the 2.5 million voters necessary to win the election. However, the anti-Gyurcsány forces won the day.

Most likely Gyurcsány is right. Although in 1994 the socialists managed to get an absolute majority in parliament with 36% of the votes, in 2002 and 2006 MSZP needed the assistance of the liberal SZDSZ to form a coalition government. But now SZDSZ is gone. I think it would make sense to open up the party to liberal ideas to induce former SZDSZ supporters to vote for MSZP. But from the immediate reactions from liberal-minded people, I can’t imagine that “these orphans” would vote for a party where László Puch, Tibor Szanyi, Ferenc Baja, András Balogh, and Imre Szekeres play important roles.

The goal of the left wing of MSZP is “a return to the values of the left.” What are these values? One can’t quite escape the suspicion that the ideal for these men would be a society rather similar–as far as social policy goes–to the Kádár regime. The state will take care of you. Everybody will receive something from the state. But we know that such times will never return. Every time Hungarian socialist governments offered more and more benefits to the citizenry in order to win elections, the country came close to bankruptcy.

A “return to socialism” might be welcomed by some older folks–and the socialists’ base is really people over fifty–but it doesn’t seem to satisfy the younger generations. And it certainly doesn’t satisfy those 350,000 voters who voted for SZDSZ in 2006. Or what about the 272,000 who cast their votes for MDF at the same elections? Both SZDSZ and MDF have disappeared, but their voters are still there looking for someone to support. These people are in search of a party, but it is unlikely that an unreformed MSZP can give them a political home.

The question is whether after this “unity congress” MSZP will be more successful in getting back their former voters. In the last few months there have been very small changes in the size of socialist support, but over 50% of the voting-age population either doesn’t know for whom to vote or doesn’t even plan to vote. LMP’s popularity doesn’t seem to grow either. According to the last Szonda Ipsos opinion poll only 7% of those who would vote today would cast their vote for LMP, and they are mostly from Budapest. It is unlikely that LMP could be a gathering place for the former SZDSZ or even MDF voters.

By now many analysts are counting on the appearance of new faces and new parties while they emphasize that in order to defeat Fidesz the anti-Fidesz forces must unite. At the moment not even MSZP and LMP can cooperate to defeat Fidesz candidates in by-elections.

As for MSZP. I just heard István Elek, formerly an MDF parliamentary member who at one point fell under the spell of Viktor Orbán, who is convinced that MSZP is bound to split into two parties because of ideological differences and strained personal relations. In the last few days things turned outright ugly. Tibor Szanyi accused Ferenc Gyurcsány of leaking the speech at Balatonőszöd himself, which in my opinion is total nonsense. After all, it was that speech that led to Gyurcsány’s eventual downfall. In return, Gyurcsány wanted to share his suspicions about who leaked the speech to Fidesz and sent three names to Attila Mesterházy, who refused to open the envelope and in front of journalists shredded the letter.

Several left-wing socialists went so far as to visit right-wing or even extremist organs where they gave interviews in which they made their views about Ferenc Gyurcsány quite clear, to the delight of the reporters in the service of the present government. The whole scene was ugly.

Tibor Szanyi on HírTV accused bloggers “who claim to be sympathizing with the left of actually being paid professional hacks.” According to Szanyi there are only 20-30 such bloggers who most likely use false names. These bloggers “may cause serious confusion in the heads of some party members, but they cannot touch the closed echelon of the party.” There might be some well-meaning people among them, but “all the others are members of a paid brigade.” These words reminded Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus, of the Kádár regime when the critics of the Party were called hacks “who can cause serious confusion in the heads of some party members.” Indeed, the wording is frighteningly similar. Most likely the thoughts of Szanyi and some others in the left wing of MSZP are remnants of the kind of thinking that characterized the MSZMP of János Kádár.

There are other voices as well, but they were not even invited to the congress. For instance, Magda Kovács, Mrs. Kósa, an old-time socialist who joined MSZMP in 1967. She served as Gyula Horn’s minister of labor and later spent five years in Brussels as an EP member. Because of her long MSZMP affiliation one would think that Magda Kovács would sympathize with the party’s left wing. But no! She wrote a letter to the congress in which she compared the present situation of the party to the days in 1989 when the reform wing of MSZMP broke away and established MSZP. These are crucial times and a lot depends on how the congress decides about the party’s future.  She is certain that the party must be open “to the growing community of sober citizens who are looking for a political alternative.”

I don’t think that MSZP with its current leadership and structure can be that alternative. But somehow I don’t think that this is the end of the story.

 

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Paul
Guest

In the roughly similar situation in the UK in the early 80s, the Labour party spent years tearing itself apart and for some time looked doomed never to be a party of government again.
But eventually modernisers reformed the party and then a new generation of what are now called ‘Blairites’ rebranded it and effectively moved it away from the contaminated image of ‘old’ Labour, and eventually won a landslide election.
That’s the good news. The bad news is it took EIGHTEEN years.
And during those eighteen years, the Thatcherites changed the country I had grown up in beyond all recognition. And it has proved virtually impossible to undo those changes in any meaningful way.

Paul
Guest

An interesting post-script to this comparison – I forgot, as many often do, that there was nothing inevitable about Thatcher’s long reign. In fact, after two years of fairly inept government and disastrous economic, industrial and employment policies, she had a poll rating lower than any PM in British history.
What saved her was the Falklands/Malvinas ‘war’ that broke out in 1982. As a result, she won the following year’s election easily, when she had been expected to struggle to retain power. And the rest is (literally) history. One of the great ironies of British history is that Argentina lost but gained their freedom from the military junta, whilst ‘we’ won and got Thatcher!
So, how far can we take this comparison? OV’s popularity, after just a year, is sliding just as fast as Thatcher’s did – but, of course, there is no Hungarian equivalent to the Malvinas/Falklands situation.
Or could he get desperate enough to manufacture one…

Member

Paul: “So, how far can we take this comparison? OV’s popularity, after just a year, is sliding just as fast as Thatcher’s did – but, of course, there is no Hungarian equivalent to the Malvinas/Falklands situation.”
Actually there are some articles floating here and there about the threat of civil war in Romania between Hungarians and Romanians.
Read the Washington Post: http://tinyurl.com/3qffzju

Paul
Guest

Interesting link, someone (I wish you’d change your name, it sounds daft when we reply to you – at least have a capital S!).
I wonder how OV would react if Hungarians in Romania started a campaign of civil disobedience and the Romanian police and right-wing thugs got a bit over enthusiastic in their response?
In a way, it would be exactly what he might need – show what a strong leader and good patriot he was, etc, etc. But the reality of what Hungary could really do about it might make even him cautious. Hungarian troops massing on the border? Hungarian planes flying over Transylvania? Romanian tanks in Debrecen’s Kossuth Tér?
Hopefully, even the Viktator isn’t that crazy. But what else could he do, bearing in mind both countries are in the EU? It would have to be more than just gestures and threats, as he couldn’t afford for it to fail – if he made a grand patriotic gesture but then had to back down, it would be the end of his political career.

Johnny Boy
Guest

I hope they last for a while, then die a spectacular death just before the 2014 elections.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“But now SZDSZ is gone.”
I can’t remember reading a sentence here so far that made me so happy as this one.

Member

Johnny Boy: So why try to create a democracy at all when you could aim for a one party state? You and your buddies do not like any opposition. I say, move to China. Isn’t that the country that you and Orban admire so much? But again that would not be enough, so maybe reach back and go as far as Mao. Yes, that’s it. As Orban slowly starts to get rid off, not only his political enemies, but sweeping his friends to the sideline, Hungary already becoming more and more like Mao’s China. You are so pathetic in your train of thought about what democracy is that is not even funny, indeed is really sad. You cannot even see it that the regime that you despise so much is exactly the regime you are moving towards to.
Paul: someone = Some1 Better? lol

HOVA-TOVÁBB?
Guest

Gyurcsány was responsible for the development of the Jobbik . The poor and desperate joined the family of the Jobbik. The neglected citizen needed to belong to somewhere, and accepted the wild incitement in his despair.
Gyurcsány ignored the fringes of the society.
A new MSZP could provide roof to the neglected. The flat tax can be reversed and the people would appreciate the return of justice.
In general a fair political strategy would be a great gift to the Hungarian society.
Can the quarreling MSZP leaders learn a new constructive behavior?

Johnny Boy
Guest

“And during those eighteen years, the Thatcherites changed the country I had grown up in beyond all recognition.”
Thatcher was widely respected all over the world. Why didn’t you like her?

Johnny Boy
Guest

Some1 your mental standards are even much lower than I thought they were. That wicked vision of a one-party system is in your abject mind only.
Or it just as well might not only be a vision from you, your favourite party had been doing it for more than 40 years and you apparently have no problem with that at all.

Johnny Boy
Guest

HOVA-TOVÁBB: “Gyurcsány ignored the fringes of the society.”
Finally a valuable assessment of Gyurcsány here on this blog, albeit it comes from a reader.
But actually it’s much more than that. Gyurcsány ignored not only the fringes but the whole society, deliberately trying to ruin the ‘working class’ – that is, the conscious class that works to move somewhat forward in their life -, and rearing those that rely on aid. All this to ensure that there are as many hopeless voters as possible, for those in despair won’t reach up to the level to call him to account.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB to Some1: “That wicked vision of a one-party system is in your abject mind only.”
But why? Didn’t you say that you hope MSZP will completely disappear before 2014 and you are so glad that SZDSZ already disappeared. If you go on like that very soon only one party will remain. Or perhaps two. One is better than the next (smiley).

Member

Johnny Boy: You just do not get it, do you? Also, if I would love the the party for the last forty years so much, why would I live the country in 1988? For that matter JB, I did something against what was going on in 1988, and I had to leave. I asked you what did you do or what did your parents do (or Orban) prior to 1988 but I yet to receive an answer, and that is enough proof about your lack of integrity. As far as one party system goes, please let me know about he actions Orban is taking to be inclusive. Please, do not hold back. Also, quote me any of your text where you did not respond with insults about other people’s opinion? Good luck simpleton.

GW
Guest

Johnny Boy wrote:
“… the ‘working class’ – that is, the conscious class that works to move somewhat forward in their life.”
Well, it certainly looks as if Johnny Boy still remembers his Marxist-Leninist theory; further evidence that the present government, although nationalist-populist in profile retains a solid core of pre-’89 ideas and values. The difference between the MSzP and Fidesz appears largely to be that Fidesz never went through the gut-wrenching process of abandoning all of their Marxist-Leninist baggage, while picking up a good dose of Horthy-era authoritarianism along the way.

Member

I so agree with GW. You nailed it.

Kirsten
Guest

hova tovabb:
What a summary of the problem. The “neglected citizen” who needs “to belong somewhere” should try using his/her own capacities including his/her brains to find a “fair political strategy”. That “would be a great gift to the Hungarian society”. Not waiting for the politicians, who already have more than amply shown that they are not capable of it, to change. Why should they if too many people think that they are only consumers of policies not participants in the entire process.

Szabad Ember
Guest

Johnny Boy: “Gyurcsány ignored not only the fringes but the whole society”
Your assertion is a massive logic fail; if he ignored the whole society, that would mean that he did nothing the entire time he was in power. You should at least claim that he was aiming his policies towards some segment of society, even if unintentionally, since every policy helps someone as it hurts someone, i.e. Orbán’s new tax system helps the rich as it hurts the poor and working class.
I’m thinking that Some1 is right to berate and insult you, even if it does no good and actually hurts his cause.

Member

Szabad Ember: “I’m thinking that Some1 is right to berate and insult you, even if it does no good and actually hurts his cause.” I honestly tried to stay civilized with Johnny Boy, but of you have been following the blog long enough, you would see that Johnny Boy regularly calls people by names, and insults everyone. When I call him by names those are direct quotes from him that he used on others. I have not used any of his terms on anyone else but Johnny Boy, and again only the same way as he uses it, so he would feel at home. At the same time I appreciate your feedback and observation and I will tone it down.

Paul
Guest

“Thatcher was widely respected all over the world. Why didn’t you like her?”
Well, young Semmi, in that one question you reveal not only your astonishing lack of knowledge of the politics/culture/history of the UK at its single most defining period since the war, but also of your staggering political naivety in general.
This came as a shock, even to such a fan of your stupidity and ignorance as myself.
PS – “albeit it comes from a reader” – “albeit” actually means “all be it” (this shouldn’t have been too difficult to work out for someone of your claimed proficiency in English). HTH

Paul
Guest

PPS – now you’re back ‘in the office’ after your weekend break, how are those sources I requested coming along?
(re the police)”but there are none at work above 50.” Johnny Boy | June 17, 2011 at 07:37 PM

Paul
Guest

Some1 – excellent! Thank you.

peter litvanyi
Guest
Dear “hova tovabb”: that’s the case but only partly. There is no left wing party in Hungary /or in the USA either if that’s a consolation to anyone/. MSZP? A wishy washy conglomerate which is mostly neocon and opportunistic by nature. And whatever they say; what you do is what matters. However the “Jobbik” is not the party of the disenfranchised or the voiceless. It is mostly a party of the power hungry “out of luck” gentry. Dear Paul, “But eventually modernisers reformed the party and then a new generation of what are now called ‘Blairites’ rebranded it and effectively moved it away from ..”- was this the bad news or the good news??? Come on now…. Nah, it’s time for a revival of the original idea as urgent now as it ever was. Nah, not in one PARTY; that is for those who don’t get it. Yet at the same time we need to learn NOW how to cooperate; wasn’t it the subject we were supposed to have mastered in preschool? Can we start forming that coalition now? Before it’s too late? PS: MSZP I always thought had only two lies in the name such as “Socialist” and ”… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

Eva S. Balogh: does losing the MSZP and SZDSZ equal to the concept having no other parties than Fidesz?
In my opinion: no!
I never said i’d be glad to see LMP and Jobbik die, and I never said I’d be sad to see other parties emerging.
Do you understand the difference between not having MSZP and not having opposition at all?

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Fidesz never went through the gut-wrenching process of abandoning all of their Marxist-Leninist baggage”
Neither did MSZP. That’s the main problem with them.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Szabad Ember: “I’m thinking that Some1 is right to berate and insult you, even if it does no good and actually hurts his cause.”
All he does is insulting me and he complains that I ignore him or insult him back.
I wonder if he will ever realize.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Paul: you still didn’t tell me why you didn’t like Thatcher.
You told me I’m not right when I say she was respected worldwide. (But I am right, she was.)
So?

Paul
Guest

She was also strongly disliked worldwide.
And you could say the same for Bush, Blair and Reagan – to pick three out of the air.
Your point is?

Johnny Boy
Guest

Of course she was also disliked because she was the “divisive” personality type. Those who do nothing are not divisive because no one has an opinion about them at all.
If you do something significant, you’ll gain haters besides your fans too.
Thatcher was great.

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: Why do you think Thatcher is great. She did all the things for which you dislike/hate MszP/Szdsz for. They just copy her ideas.

Member

JOhnny Boy: “”Fidesz never went through the gut-wrenching process of abandoning all of their Marxist-Leninist baggage”
Neither did MSZP.” Finally an admission from Johnny that makes sense.
Johnny Boy, I am not insulting you. I am repeating the name callings you pepper others with. Don’t you get it? I would be so lucky that you would ignore my comments, but you do not. You come out and throw insults, while certainly not answering the questions that in any way implicate you. Of course you do not respond. No surprise there. lol

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