Civic Control–One Million for a Democratic Society: A call for democracy!

The leadership of Civic Control–One Million for Democratic Society is widening the group's political activities. On March 15 the group staged the largest street demonstration against the Fidesz government. At that point they demonstrated against the new media law and for freedom of the press. Today they feel that they have to fight for democracy itself.

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As the memories of the 1989 regime change are fading fast, and while the ruling coalition treats that era as if it was an embarrassing stain on a family’s clean sheet of honor, those of us who had already been politically aware at that time will never forget the liberating thrill of the mass demonstrations and the collective chants: De-mo-cra-cy!

We may have had illusions about the road that lay ahead, about the way parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, pluralism would work.  Maybe few of us suspected that liberty was not a condition but rather an endless process whose everyday practice would be trying, tiresome, and filled with personal and collective risk-taking.  But one thing we surely did not expect: none of us thought that little more than twenty years after the regime change we would feel the absence of liberty so keenly that we would be back in the streets demanding “De-mo-cra-cy!”. Yet here we are again.

This time, however, we look around in astonishment. Where are our fellow protesters? As the Hungarian Republic’s days are running out, its citizens are apparently uninterested in such abstract ideas as democracy, freedom of the press, constitution, human rights, and the checks and balances that control the executive branch’s power. Granted, these issues are not easy to identify with, especially when one has to work day and night to save the house and the car from being repossessed by the bank or the state and so that food will be put on the table even beyond the 20th day of the month; when one has to be careful what is being said within the earshot of colleagues and the boss and when political views are better kept in secret. But wait a second. Where were we? Oh, right, democracy… indeed.

The coalition parties that govern Hungary today came into power on the strength of hazy promises. Now they are transforming our world at breakneck speed. They justify their actions with their magical “2/3 mandate” while in reality only 37% of all eligible voters’ ballots were cast in their favor. The administration intends to cement its power for decades not unlike the Horthy, Rákosi and Kádár regimes once did.  Would this be the “Hungarian model” that we keep reverting to? The reduction of pluralistic society to a “central field of force”?  A degenerate parliamentary system built on personal idolatry and dressed up with an opposition that serves at best for decorative shrubbery? A so-called “system of national co-operation” where only those who approve are accepted? An Orwellian Newspeak in which every utterance means its opposite. A "Retirement Fund Protection Plan" the essence of which is that the national budget swallows up our savings? "Independent" institutions led by the same party’s faithful soldiers? A new "value-based" culture where the famous "2/3 majority" – which is capable of pushing through any legislation that comes its way – decides what constitutes “value” and what does not, what should be tolerated, supported, or forbidden, the same way as Comrade Aczél once used to do, what religion is and what it is not, who is a good Hungarian, a good citizen and who is not.

And in the middle of all this sits on his throne the infallible Oracle, the boss of all bosses.

In the heart of the European Union a unique autocratic system is taking shape. One might debate whether it is conservative-authoritarian or more Bolshevik in style. Whether it is modeled on the Chinese one-party system with its expansive state bureaucracy wading knee deep in corruption, offering a cheap, subjugated labor force disciplined by the threat of political and economic sanctions to domestic and foreign businesses. Or is it a replay of the Horthy regime? Some indications for that are historical revisionism, the creation of excuses for the racist and feudalistic mentality of its politicians, engagement in political revenge, the politics of ethnicity, and the introduction of educational and social reforms that create barriers preventing upward mobility. It is a waste of time to look too long for the most fitting historical analogy. But it needs to be stated that a dictatorship is under construction and its building blocks are rapidly falling into place.

“So if it is dictatorship, then let there be dictatorship” – some Hungarians may say – “just let us live a little better already!” But based on what this administration is doing, our lives will not be any easier.  Our income will be less, our summer vacation reduced, overtime will not be compensated, everybody will be easier to fire, there will be no career tracks to count on and no labor unions that could protect workers’ rights. There will not be (and there already hardly is) free media.  There will be, however, labor camps for the unemployed under the pretense of public works projects; there will be segregation, marginalization of certain segments of the society, labeling, a party-influenced investigative/prosecutorial system, governmental influence over the courts, and deepening conflicts with the neighboring states. A conspiratorial inaction vis à vis the increasingly threatening murderous far-right. The poor will be poorer, and the rich will be even better off.

In a crisis-ridden external economic environment, a fast-reacting economic policy is needed. Instead, the administration focuses on the opposite, on cementing its current economic policies for the long term, tying even the hands of future administrations for many years to come. Those policies include, for instance, the unfair and already failed tax system. The new system turns employer and worker against one another by restricting rights, hence artificially generating conflicts. 

Hungary’s hostile stance toward open market competition, the government’s granting of unpredictable politically motivated favors, its mysterious stock purchases all add to the country’s bad reputation in the world.

What kind of future does this regime offer to young people? We can see the trends, the caste-like social structure with its dated ideologies, the impermeable class structure which provides no possibility for upward mobility for the poor, the lack of assistance for talented young individuals all make the system unbearable for them. There has never been a time when so many considered leaving the country. And not only physicians take off. The country will be empty. All who are able to do so are fleeing.

The government is busy building its own sandbox rather than creating an equal playing field for the benefit of all the often mentioned “Hungarian people.” At the moment it seems that these politicians, who had well thought out plans for grabbing, extending and keeping power but who are merely drifting along when it comes to economic policy are in a winning position.

It seems as if the country were paralyzed, under a spell. There is no visible force that could stop the power mongers.

We, members of a civic organization established by some of the organizers and participants of the big press freedom demonstrations last spring have decided to take it upon ourselves to awaken the country from its daze and thereby prevent the ruling coalition from claiming ownership over the nation.  We cannot allow the various democratic forces to be governed by petty interests and not talk to one another.  We want co-operation. We want to unite everyone who desires genuine democracy, wishes for legal and economic security and a better, predictable future.  And all those who believe that this country must be a firm member of the European Union.

Let us think and act like democrats!

The authors are the co-chairpersons of the Civil Control–Let’s Become One Million for Democracy nonprofit organization.

Anna Vámos

Sándor Székely

Co-chairmen

Civic Control–One Million for a Democratic Society

 

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Wondercat
Guest

Ah, Dr Balogh — WHERE is the link to the Hungarian-language original text? How can I share this with friends?

Member
“freedom of the press, constitution, human rights, and the checks and balances that control the executive branch’s power.” If the Orban regime does fall within the next two decades I guarantee you that it will not be for any of those reasons simply because the people for whom those issues are important comprise a miniscule proportion of the electorate. If Orban were to promise that a space-ship would be landing at Hosok Tere tomorrow and furthermore it would be dispensing forints to deserving Hungarians, then a depressingly large number of people would be there waiting for it impatiently in line. That’s the reality Civic Control and the other opposition movements (if they even justify the label) have to contend with. Orban’s ridiculous promises are still believed even by those with more than the requisite number of brain cells to permit critical thinking. I still remember deconstructing his pension promises last year, not to a homeless alcoholic but to someone in middle management in a bank (“if he takes you private pension he will spend it within the next 12 months, in return he is promising you that in 30 years time he will guarantee you a state pension when in… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

“the people for whom those issues are important comprise a miniscule proportion of the electorate.”
I am afraid that you are right but it still makes sense to offer alternative political platforms. Just in case people start to get interested or in general for political (and democratic) education. Even if the number of active participants will be lower than the 1 million, if acquaintance with democratic processes is as low as we must suspect currently, some grassroot work on what OV is doing, and whether he will really unselfishly care for all Hungarian subjects has its value. And if the agony today is related to the too moderate political transition in the 1990s, during which expectations were mainly disappointed, this also needs to be worked up.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Wondercat: “WHERE is the link to the Hungarian-language original text? How can I share this with friends?”
I received the ready translation from one of the organizers. According to him the original appeared in the Tuesday edition of Népszabadság.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Don’t you get bored of this?
A weekly letter or call for democracy. (That is, “we want power back!”)
I’m already bored reading the same lunacy every week…

link
Guest

Link to the original text in Hungarian
http://nol.hu/lap/forum/20110822-demokraciat
Johnny Boy:
No we are not getting bored of it.
“The time has come to stand up for democracy in Hungary!
We come from every corner of the world.
We do not believe in media censorship.
We do not believe in forced labor.
We do not believe in limits on religious freedom.
We do not believe in political witch-hunts.
We do not believe in retroactive laws.
We do not believe in limits on the rights of the accused.
We believe in democracy, and we stand united in support of true democracy in Hungary.”

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Link You wrote ** “ We do not believe in media censorship. We do not believe in forced labour. We do not believe in limits on religious freedom We do not believe in political witch-hunts. We do not believe in retroactive laws. We do not believe in limits on the rights of the accused.” ** So do I. Unfortunately out private troll –Johnny Boy- and his ‘Mighty Leader’ (Orban Viktor) DO believe in all these things. They DO believe in media censorship, forced labour, retroactive laws etc. Unfortunately most of the things they believe in are contrary to the European Charter of Human Rights, but no Hungarian will take them to the ECHR (yet). The Hungarians are mesmerised by the dreams of once great (but non-existent) glorious nation. It is a pipe dream, like the prat who wrote in this blog some years ago ** “That the Slovenian drill rig crews would drill for gas for nothing if they were asked to do so in the name of the ‘Holy Crown’” **. ‘What a ‘Loonie’! Hungary has produced and fallen for, some of the world’s greatest cheats, swindlers and ‘con artists’ and the present generation is no exception. I was… Read more »
Paul
Guest
JB, it’s ‘WITH this’, not ‘of this’. I’ve pointed this out several times before. And if only it were just once a week! We seem to be getting this pointless intellectual masturbation every few days at the moment. Can’t these people see that we KNOW what’s wrong with OV and Fidesz, we KNOW what they are up to and how they plan to (and will) achieve it. What we need to discuss is what to DO about it. At this rate the day will dawn when all the intellectuals and philosophers on the left have finally discussed every last detail, dotted every last i and crossed every last t, and know exactly what’s wrong with OV and Fidesz and what they are planning to do. And then they’ll look up from their open letters, Facebook pages, blogs, conferences and (occasional) demonstrations, and realise, with genuine shock, that OV and Fidesz have already DONE it and it’s too late. The Thousand Year Reich is in place. OV must be laughing himself silly every time one of these things is published. He knows it amounts to nothing, he knows the intellectual ‘opposition’ can (and will) do nothing. But, more importantly, he knows… Read more »
Member

I am afraid that you are right but it still makes sense to offer alternative political platforms. Just in case people start to get interested or in general for political (and democratic) education.
I don’t argue that it’s important for the long term Kirsten but something is needed for the present. If the regime does fall it will be more than likely that the JObbik fascists will be the ones who will have taken most advantage from any pulic disillusionment with Orban. How do the liberal intelligentia plan to avoid that possibility?
It’s perhaps approaching the time when more direct action is required- and by that I don’t mean violence but more along the lines of civil disobedience provoking Orban and his goons into inevitable overeaction. It’s easy saying that from behind the safety of a keyboard but what is needed most now is a shake out of apathy.

Johnny Boy
Guest
Paul. You pointed this out ONCE, and as a response I pointed out that both forms (with or of) are in use… So I suggest we let this debate settle. Ok? “And if only it were just once a week! We seem to be getting this pointless intellectual masturbation every few days at the moment.” Couldn’t agree more with you on this one! “Can’t these people see that we KNOW what’s wrong with OV and Fidesz, we KNOW what they are up to and how they plan to (and will) achieve it. What we need to discuss is what to DO about it.” The problems begin when you really believe all this ‘pointless intellectual masturbation’, though I’m very reluctant to call it intellectual… We in Hungary have an anecdote in which a woman always cried for help, claiming her house was burning. People repeatedly rushed to her help, only to find that there was nothing wrong with her house. And, once upon a time, when her house was really burning, no one (see? I learn) was there to help because people got bored of the false alarms and simply didn’t care. This is what is happening now. Nothing is violating… Read more »
florian
Guest

I agree with Paul. I am reliably informed that Hungarians are almost as good as the French at discussing things to the utmost degree without actually getting down to some useful action. Stop talking and start doing- Please?!

Paul
Guest

JB – “bored OF the false alarms” (etc) may indeed be in general use, but it is still wrong.
It stems from a misunderstanding by the uneducated that the spoken “bored’v” equated with the written “bored of” (as ‘of’ is pronounced as ‘ov’, not ‘of’), when it obviously should have (should’v – should of!) been “bored with”.
This has developed into a general assumption that this switch from ‘with’ to ‘of’ could be applied in all such cases, whether it made any sense or not.
Now, I know that language evolves (especially English!), and that this is precisely how this often happens – mistakes becoming common and eventually being accepted as legitimate. And one day ‘bored of’ will be reluctantly accepted because the battle for accuracy has been conceded to the uneducated masses. But this hasn’t yet happened, and hopefully we are still some years from this travesty.
So, for now, if you use this construction, those of us who speak English to a reasonable standard will automatically know that you are either not a native speaker, or thick.
Or quite possibly both.

peter litvanyi
Guest
“We come from every corner of the world. We do not believe in media censorship. We do not believe in forced labor. We do not believe in limits on religious freedom. We do not believe in political witch-hunts. We do not believe in retroactive laws. We do not believe in limits on the rights of the accused. We believe in democracy, and we stand united in support of true democracy in Hungary.” Thanks dear “link”. Count me in. I fully agree with the open letter posted by Eva. Dear Paul; be there on the 15th and whatever you are thinking. Some people are actually “doing it”: how about Tetenyi Eva? Just an example. Never give it up bro! Don’t be such a sourpuss. Dear “Odin’s”: “Hungary has produced and fallen for, some of the world’s greatest cheats, swindlers and ‘con artists’ and the present generation is no exception.” Ughuuum; how about the “Iron Lady” or the Next One? Nothing personal here; I could pull up Ronnie or G.W. in a heartbeat. Yet you are right; we are up there. We may even get the Silver /not too shabby for such a small country/. I am asking everyone friends here: please… Read more »
Paul
Guest

OV will ignore the demo.
He has his “two-thirds” mandate from The People. Why should he worry about the Budapesti liberals and communists? They can do nothing to stop him.
But, by all means demonstrate, if nothing else it makes you feel better (I should know, I went on enough during Thatcher’s time!). Just don’t stop.
If OV is to be stopped, we need a constant series of ‘events’: demos, court cases, strikes, sit-ins, civil disobedience, etc – all designed to attract foreign media attention.
And if that doesn’t work, ‘we’ (i.e. you) will have to be prepared to up the anti. We’re going to need Amnesty complaining about human rights abuses, editors being jailed, protestors being beaten up, and probably a lot worse before OV starts to feel real pressure.
And the longer you leave it, the harder the fight will be.

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