Rebirth of the Hungarian Socialist Party?

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!

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Ron
Guest

Eva: I can only hope that the people drafting the program will do a good job.
I hear and read that parties are making programs and they should not do that.
Only if VO goes, which I doubt and I agree with Paul on this, there are only two things that need to be done in the first instance (road map to democracy):
-either re-instate the 1989 constitution or make a new one and
-a new proper election system (I prefer proportional representation with no limit and two houses (parliament and senate)
After adoption a new election is held to confirm the constitution and election bill.
After this the road map to economy is starting, and only when this is finished the political parties should implement their programs.
I hope they will not make the mistake to have everything at once. This require certain steps to be taken and finished before new steps are made.

Member

Ron: “I prefer proportional representation with no limit and two houses (parliament and senate”
I am skeptical of Senates as usually ends up being a depository for chums of the running party. THe party who is on power first will stack it, ad it will take a long time to achieve a proper balance. It cost a lot of money. For a small country like Hungary I am not sure if the Senate is the way to go.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“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.”
HAHA this is the most amusing thing I’ve read here in quite a while.
All of a sudden, the sight one of the symbols of Hungarian history causes happiness? 🙂
Since when did these symbols cease to be Nazi symbols? Since when is “nationalism” accepted, or even, a cause of happiness?
It is quite striking how MSZMP is trying to follow the fashion and, with teeth set tight, mimick, albeit without really understanding anything of it, the “nationalism” they fundamentally hate so much.

Johnny Boy
Guest

And: a little offtopic, but I can’t stand posting this news here. Yesterday’s voting for MP candidates in District II. of Budapest yielded the following results (differences in percentage to the result of 2010 in the same district):
Fidesz: -0,31; MSZP: +1,24; LMP: +3,07; Jobbik: -0,50; MDF-JESZ: – 3,50
Quite a popularity decline for Fidesz at a 0.31% loss!

Member

Johnny Boy: “All of a sudden, the sight one of the symbols of Hungarian history causes happiness? 🙂
Since when did these symbols cease to be Nazi symbols? Since when is “nationalism” accepted, or even, a cause of happiness?”
Well, when it does not come form nationalists or from the far right movement it always caused happiness amongst ALL Hungarians. When the far right and nationalists and populist started to “sell” the symbols as the trademark of the “True Hungarians”, the symbols lost their generic meaning as symbols of Hungarian unity. The populists traded Hungary’s unity for cheap solutions. THere you have it!

Member

p.s.: to Johnny Boy… I know you are reading my entries. bahahaha
Posted by: Johnny Boy | October 27, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Paul
Guest

“but I can’t stand posting this news here.”
The drink again, JB?

Paul
Guest

A little off-topic, but, talking of Kossuth, can anyone explain why OV set a limit of 150 years for his constitution paintings?
Surely Fidesz would jump at the chance to be associated with the 1848 revolution and the “greatest Hungarian” – or am I missing something?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “A little off-topic, but, talking of Kossuth, can anyone explain why OV set a limit of 150 years for his constitution paintings? Surely Fidesz would jump at the chance to be associated with the 1848 revolution and the “greatest Hungarian”
Not really. Their idol is St. Stephen. 1848 and republicanism. It’s not their favorite topic.

Paul
Guest

Thanks, Éva. An interesting comment. I come to Fidesz via my family, so I wasn’t aware of the ‘official’ view of Kossuth and 1848. The Fidesz supporters I know certainly regard Kossuth as “the greatest Hungarian”.
But I see how it fits in with a lot of other Fidesz/KDNP stuff.
Odd, though, that they revere a crown so much that he never actually wore.
But then I suspect that ‘Szent’ István was as much a Christian as Henry VIII was a protestant…

Jano
Guest

Paul: “The greatest Hungarian” is a term usually used in connection with Széchenyi. Kossuth gave him this name.

Paul
Guest

I’m aware of that, Jano, I was using the term slightly ironically (although I know only too well that such subtlety doesn’t work on the internet!).
But, I was also reflecting what most of the Hungarians I know actually feel. To them Kossuth deserves the title because he was “a man of action”, not just a “dilettante politician”. (Not exactly my views – just echoing what I hear.)

Jano
Guest

ok, I wasn’t sure. I’m not absolutely delighted by Kossuth either but he indeed put something down on the table and made an unereasable mark in tje countries history and was also a milestone in tje development of Hungarian liberalism.

Paul
Guest

I can’t make up my mind which (if either) should be seen as ‘the greatest Hungarian’.
Even if Kossuth hadn’t started the revolution, I still don’t think Széchenyi really deserves the title. A ‘great Hungarian’ certainly, but let’s not go overboard. (Although, as always, history has to be seen in context, and perhaps at that time what Kossuth said made sense.)
But Kossuth was also flawed and he made some pretty big mistakes, so I also doubt if he deserves the title. (But again, it’s easy to make such judgements from my cosy armchair, and with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.)
I suppose the argument boils down to was Kossuth right to initiate the revolution?
Perhaps Széchenyi was right and something like the Compromise could have been achieved earlier without all the death and destruction. But then, perhaps, had Kossuth won, Hungary would have gained something much better than the Compromise?
Although, almost certainly, the country would have split upon ethnic lines if the revolution had been ‘won’ – so would an early ‘Trianon’ really have been seen as such a success?
But one thing is for certain, either way Hungary would have become a much happier country than it is now.

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