In the last month or so several thought provoking articles appeared in Hungary, not about the analysis of the present political situation but about "life after Viktor Orbán." Some people would say that the appearance of such articles is premature. After all, Fidesz still has a sizeable following and unless the apathetic one-third of the population wakes up before 2014 another Fidesz victory is a very real possibility.
However, I would argue that it is not too early to think in terms of a Hungary after the "counterrevolution." A bit of an explanation is due here. Some people might ask what kind of a counterrevolution we are talking about. Mária Ludassy, professor of philosophy and a student of the French enlightenment, wrote a short essay about revolution and counterrevolution on the occasion of the 222th anniversary of the French Revolution. The article in the strict sense of the word concentrates on the French revolution and some of the ideas of eighteenth-century philosophers, but if we dig a little deeper it is clear that Ludassy wants to call our attention to the meaning of the word "revolution."
As historian Zoltán Ripp points out in an article that appeared in Mozgó Világ (August 2011), the word "revolution" resonates well in Hungary. In my opinion, this positive association with revolutions is due to a misunderstanding of Hungarian history. Because the 1848 "revolution" wasn't what we think of when we talk about the French Revolution. It was simply a peaceful and lawful change of regime. It is another matter that eventually because of differences of opinion about the real meaning of these changes between the Hungarian government and the king a war of independence followed. Even 1956 wasn't really a revolution, although we ourselves always referred to it that way. Rather it was an uprising, mostly in Budapest, with relatively few active participants although with large mass support.
If "revolution" sounds good to Hungarian ears, "counterrevolution" has a very bad billing. The last group of people who proudly declared their movement a "counterrevolution" was the bunch of counterrevolutionaries who in Vienna and Szeged tried to gain support from the Great Powers not just to quell the Bolshevik coup d'état of the Hungarian communists but also to prevent the reestablishment of the liberal democratic regime of Mihály Károlyi.
Ludassy quotes Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-1794) who defined revolution as "an event whose goal is the increase of freedom." In this sense it can be agreed that Viktor Orbán's revolution in the voting booths was anything but a revolutionary development. On the contrary, more and more people by now call it a "counterrevolution."
But how can that "counterrevolution" be ended once Viktor Orbán is no longer the prime minister of Hungary? What kind of legitimate and constitutional instruments will a possible opposition have at its disposal? This is a real dilemma which many legal and political experts are pondering over lately. Most of the participants in the discussion about the future wrote articles on the subject in such publications as Magyar Narancs, ÉS, and Galamus.
One could ask whether these early discussions are futile. I think not because it takes time for theory to have a chance of being transformed into successful practice. In these writings we find innumerable solutions, from the simple answer of "let's achieve a two-thirds majority" to initiating a referendum which may not be legal but could make the new constitution null and void. However, says Ripp, one doesn't have to complicate the situation by getting lost in legal details. If we declare the new Orbán regime counterrevolutionary and the government's many unconstitutional acts illegal, then the new constitution that is supposed to fix the accomplishments of this counterrevolution is also illegitimate. Especially since this constitution was approved only by the parliamentary delegation of the governing party. That's why, says Ripp, it was so important that the two democratic parties didn't participate in its composition and its passage. (I may add here that it was Ferenc Gyurcsány who first declared that taking part in the subcommittee's work on the constitution would be a terrible mistake.)
Zoltán Ripp makes a contribution to the growing literature on the subject of "what there will be after Orbán" by outlining a scenario for the re-democratization process. (1) Cooperation and collaboration of all democratic forces is a must. (2) All democratic forces must take part in this work–not just parties but also trade union leaders and civic associations who create a "common forum." (3) And I think that this is perhaps the most important point Ripp makes, all these groups should define themselves not just as an opposition to a party (Fidesz) but as an opposition that totally rejects the Fidesz-created regime. They all must look upon the new constitution and the cardinal laws as illegitimate, serving despotism. Because the right of resistance against despotism supersedes the recognition of legislation that disregards the constitution. (4) At the very beginning the different groups must agree on the theoretical foundations of their cooperation. (5) One cannot simply wipe the slate clean and return to the pre–Fidesz conditions. The goal is the preparation of the legitimate creation of the Fourth Republic which will be a modernized and expanded form of the 1989 democratic transformation. (6) The opposition forces must get rid of the "Fidesz shadow state" (árnyékállam) and restore the de facto impartiality and autonomy of independent institutions. The participants must agree about the techniques and details of this operation. (7) The most sensitive question is the fate of Fidesz after the hoped-for fall of the Orbán regime. According to Ripp a democratic center-right's participation in this process is of paramount importance. Without a moderate right one cannot create a consensual and legitimate new constitutional order.
All this is intriguing. Especially the question of the Fourth Republic, about which one hears more and more. Tomorrow I will continue with a couple of more interesting thoughts on the subject.