At least this is what Attila Mesterházy claimed in his keynote speech at the Congress of MSZP yesterday. There were some items on the agenda that are worthy of our consideration.
The most interesting part of the proceedings was the practical rewriting of the party’s bylaws. With the exception of one item, the direct election of the party chairman, the congress accepted all the suggestions of Ferenc Gyurcsány and his Democratic Coalition Platform. Even the important positions in the MSZP parliamentary delegation will be assigned to new people during the winter recess of the House. In general, Mesterházy gently suggested to the bigwigs in the party “to step back a bit.” He asked “those who in the last few years represented the socialist party … to help the work of the party from the background.” The party needs everybody “but not necessarily in the same role as before.” How well this went over with the old guard, I can imagine.
The slogan of the new MSZP is “Collaboration for the New Republic.” This is not new either. Gyurcsány and some of the other civic groups also put out a demand for a new or a fourth republic. The only difference is–and that is a fairly substantial one–that Gyurcsány wanted to open the party to all democratically minded individuals while the MSZP stalwarts demanded that MSZP remain a party that appeals only to the socialist electorate. However, they were ready to work together with other anti-Orbán forces.
This time the emphasis was on “collaboration” with practically everybody: the Solidarity movement, the Milla movement, the 4K! group, the trade unions, the Facebook activists, university students, people working in the health care system, and teachers. You may have noticed that LMP wasn’t mentioned by name. Mesterházy even called on the democratic forces on the right of center and on those who voted for Fidesz but who by now are deeply disappointed with Viktor Orbán’s regime.
After outlining the sorry state of the Hungarian economy as a result of György Matolcsy’s “unorthodox” policies and predicting that the situation might even be worse soon, Mesterházy outlined his party’s plans for the future. The chairman of MSZP thinks that after the fall of Viktor Orbán the country cannot go back to the pre-2010 days. It’s not enough to reestablish life as it was before Orbán’s landslide. In spite of all the MSZP successes “the hopes at the time of the change of regime were not fulfilled.” The country didn’t manage to catch up to the West, the great disparity between rich and poor remained, and there are still many people who consider themselves to be the losers of the regime change. A “cold war” developed between right and left that impeded progress.
This description of Hungarian reality is certainly correct, but what are MSZP’s remedies? It is a nice wish list, but I am not at all sure that the three items Mesterházy mentioned can be implemented. It is all well and good to announce that a “new cooperation” must be established. After all, there is only one Hungary. “Let’s create a country where everybody feels at home.” But how is that going to be achieved given the huge differences in outlook between right and left?
Mesterházy also announced an entirely different economic policy from that of the current Hungarian government. Instead of isolationist tendencies, Hungary should strengthen its ties with the world economy. That can be achieved and would be welcomed by the countries of the European Union.
And finally, “there must be a new compromise in politics.” Hungarians must agree to create a political culture that considers the other side to be not an enemy but an honorable opponent. One must have political dialogue and be ready to compromise. Well, the only thing I can suggest to Attila Mesterházy on this score: please talk that over with Viktor Orbán and his followers.
Finally Mesterházy promised a new program that is being worked out by the Attila József Foundation and will be released on March 15, 2012. I must admit I have never heard of the Attila József Foundation. I can only hope that the people drafting the program will do a good job.
I was happy to see the reappearance of the Kossuth coat-of-arms both as a pin on Mesterházy’s jacket and on the podium.
Indeed, for the Fourth Republic one needs a truly republican coat-of-arms, not one with the crown on top. The current coat of arms was accepted by the Hungarian parliament in 1991. MSZP, SZDSZ and, yes, Fidesz voted against it but the majority of the conservative parties–MDF, Christian Democrats, and Smallholders–carried the day. The crown simply doesn’t belong on the coat-of-arms of a republic. It is time to get rid of it and move the crown from the parliament to which Viktor Orbán moved it to a museum or to an eventually restored Royal Castle. But who knows? It is possible that before that can happen Viktor Orbán himself will move into the Castle. They are already working on the details. But let’s not forget that Orbán’s first idea of a proper office for himself was the Sándor Palota which was restored at great expense. By the time he was ready to move in, he lost the elections. Perhaps there is still hope!