Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech about Hungary, the saddest barrack

The reference here is to the description of the late Kádár regime as “the happiest barrack” in the Soviet bloc. The country was isolated but within that small East European world it was a relatively liveable place, especially in comparison to the other countries in the region. Today, as a result of the Orbán government’s policies Hungary is isolated again, except now its inhabitants are deeply unhappy with their lot.

At least this is what Ferenc Gyurcsány claimed this afternoon in a speech lasting an hour and a half. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to watch Gyurcsány, he is an exceptionally fine speaker. His speeches are delivered without notes, except perhaps for a 3×5 card he holds in his hand but never looks at. Yet his speeches are well structured and he is practically never at a loss for words. While most important politicians’ speeches are written by speechwriters, one can be certain here that whatever he says is his own.

 

Ferenc Gyurcsány with his 3×5 card, Photo: Pályi Zsófia, Origo

It was a good and thoughtful speech. I can’t summarize it adequately because after all it was long and he covered a lot of topics. Therefore I will mention only those points that I thought were especially important.

Perhaps one of the most crucial parts of the speech was spent on Viktor Orbán’s role in recent Hungarian history. It is not enough to remove Orbán’s government at the next election because Orbán is “the expression” of a large part of Hungarian society. Orbán might be gone one day, but those who follow him will remain. And the worldview of these people is injurious to the nation’s interest. After all, Hungary cannot look inward, cannot insist on sovereignty when economically and in every other way it depends on cooperation with others. Orbán is not just the “embodiment” of this part of Hungarian society; in the last twenty years he substantially helped to shape it.

Gyurcsány seems to think that “this old-new idea” of a far-right ideology first began to be propagated in 1992 by the recently deceased István Csurka and that within twenty years it captured the heart of perhaps the majority of Hungarians. József Antall in 1992 knew that one could not come to an understanding with Csurka. Csurka was removed but the problem wasn’t temporary. It persisted and Orbán came to use this sentiment and the people who believe in it to gain power. Orbán’s aim was not governing but establishing a new regime. This new regime, in Gyurcsány’s opinion, is already in place and will be very difficult to change.

Gyurcsány calls this new regime “counter-Hungary,” and this counter-Hungary has considerable political strength. This world doesn’t believe in Europe, and in Brussels it doesn’t see a place of cooperation but a source of assault on the Hungarian nation. This counter-Hungary is a world of power and subservience. Counter-Hungary looks inward and whatever is outside it considers a source of threat.

Sooner or later Orbán will be gone but the question is how the other Hungary, the one that believes in the republic will handle that counter-Hungary. The country will not be able to live constantly under war-like conditions. Peace will have to be found between the two Hungaries, the counter-Hungary and Hungary of the republicans.

Gyurcsány also spent a considerable amount of time on the impoverishment of a very large segment of Hungarian society, including the Roma. He pointed out the cynicism of the leading Fidesz politicians when dealing with the plight of the poor. The most infamous claim was uttered by György Matolcsy who said something to the effect that a family can live on 47,000 forints a month. This is what a man or woman on public works is getting from the government. Since then several other politicians slavishly repeated this nonsense until János Lázár, head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, said point blank that there is no way anyone can live on 47,000. But this whole debate shows the callousness of Viktor Orbán and his entourage.

The former prime minister also talked about the radicalization of the Hungarian right and blamed Fidesz for having overly cozy relations with Jobbik, which he called a Nazi party, in the hope of maximing political support.

In addition he talked about changes in Hungarian education. He gave a short history of educational ideas that were introduced after the end of World War II. In the West they opened the doors of education to everybody, but even behind the iron curtain strides were made, especially in primary and secondary education. While in 1950 very few people finished high school, forty years later public education was widely available to both men and women. Higher education in the Kádár regime was still highly restricted but in the last twenty years the number of students attending universities and colleges has been greatly expanded. It is this trend that Orbán, who himself was the beneficiary of the Kádár regime’s policies, is now trying to change.

Gyurcsány had a few harsh things to say about the churches, especially the established churches, that spend mighty little time and effort helping the poor and the downtrodden. They seem to be much more interested in having a cozy relationship with the government.

The former prime minister asked his audience to face the country’s present difficulties squarely. One doesn’t merely have to defeat Viktor Orbán. One must convince the majority of Hungary’s citizens that the country could be a better and a more liveable place if its citizens live in freedom and in a true republic. I am sure that Gyurcsány himself knows that this is a Herculean task. It goes against centuries of Hungarian history.

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Jeroen van Drunen
Guest

No doubt it was a fine speech. It would have graced Mr Gyurcsány, however, if he had reflected on his eight years of governance as well. To single out just one issue here: poverty reduction and Roma emancipation have not exactly reached a peak during Gyurcsány’s years in office. ‘The barrack’ might be a happier place if Hungarian politicians in general adopted some critical self-reflection and let true reform prevail over huge egos.

Mutt Damon
Guest

@Jeroen “… Mr Gyurcsány, however, if he had reflected on his eight years of governance”
I don’t think you care much but it was four and a half years.

Tyrker
Guest
“Higher education in the Kádár regime was still highly restricted” Yup – restricted to those with brains. (To be fair, in the first few years of the regime it was also restricted on a class basis but that was largely eliminated from the early 1960s onwards. Admission to universities and colleges depended mainly on one’s high school performance and the result of an entry exam. There continued to be a few cases each year of people being denied admission on a political basis but the main criterion was knowledge.) “but in the last twenty years the number of students attending universities and colleges has been greatly expanded.” Indeed. And it was precisely that emphasis on – or should I say obsession with – quantity over quality that has sent Hungarian higher education on a downward spiral, resulting in a despairing devaluation of university/college degrees obtained in Hungary. The new government’s idea of reducing the number of (state-financed) students in the country’s higher education system is thus more than welcome – at least in theory. Unfortunately the Hoffmann department appears to be even more detached from the world’s realities, which is why I have grave doubts about a lot of things… Read more »
Joseph Simon
Guest

So we are back with Gyurcsány, rejected by the electorate and rejected by his own party. He started his own little party, just what he country needs. He is the most ineffectual public speaker I’ve ever heard. He never tried to stop or mitigate the financial tsunami in form of the Swiss-frank based loans that invaded Hungary. Utterly insensitive to the Hungarian minorities in Erdély, Felvidék, Délvidék, he was determined, along with K. Göncz. never to ruffle any feathers abroad in the interest of the country. You have to view his speech in a political context, like Gingrich calling Obama, a decent man of democratic principles, the most dangerous man in America.

Member

Tyrker: “{From the 1960s] continued to be a few cases each year of people being denied admission [to University] on a political basis but the main criterion was knowledge”
I disagree. First of all you did receive better marks in high school depending on your parents perceived or real “status” in the system. If you left out a year or two after high school your low marks did not matter any more, and getting into universities depended on who you know at the university you applied to, and how much that person supported your education. Also for political reasons you could be turned away or kicked off. Orban, Deutsch and their buddies were not kicked out for any reasons. Interesting to know that although Deutsch entered university in 1988, his degree did not materialize until 1999.

Guest

Some1, absolutely correct!
My wife could not go to university – because her father was an “enemy of the working class”, having owned a bakery, which was taken away from him of course …
When they asked him however to return as a qualified worker/foreman (the party members didn’t know how to bake real bread …) he declined and he continued to work in another city.
My wife’s sister had to become a party member first, so she could study and become a teacher.
PS: My wife also had no career in the Mayor’s office where she worked for many years, because she had refused to join the party – but many party members came to get help from her when they needed to write a letter …

Guest

Joe, you’re a funny guy!
Orbán is on the same level as Gingrich “The Newt” with his “Christian family values” who likes to call Obama a socialist…

g.stillt
Guest

*Counter-Hungary looks inward and whatever is outside it considers a source of threat.*
here’s a good example of this agreed schematic view. schöpflin györgy.
http://www.echotv.hu/videotar.html?mm_id=109&v_id=12220
experts in creating pleasant “discussion” atmosphere.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I just read an interview with Zoltán Kovács undersecretary for communication in euronews Ispeak:
Alex Taylor: “‘Just one question isn’t it already rather alarming that your job exists. Most governments have a spokesperson but a minister for communication doesn’t that speak volumes about the problems?”
Excellent question and no answer is really given. And Alex Taylor doesn’t even know that the Orbán government just allocated 1.5 billion forints for communication. Amazing.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Mutt Damon: “Mr Gyurcsány, however, if he had reflected on his eight years of governance” I don’t think you care much but it was four and a half years.” It is becoming tiresome to always talk about the past. Very soon this government will have been in power for two years. It is time to face reality. The country’s economic and financial situation is worse today than it was two years ago. As for oratorical skills. Orbán used to be a good speaker, but in the last few years he is getting weaker and weaker in this department. Moreover, he always read his speeches and I know from my own experience that this kind of delivery doesn’t make a good and enjoyable lecture. The kind which at the end the students break out in applause. But that needs a lot of practice. Most likely Gyurcsány spends many hours thinking about what he will be talking about and in what sequence but also he must practice before the actual performance. But the final delivery is really admirable. Regardless whether you agree with him or not. The very fact that he can deliver an hour-and-half speech off the top of his head… Read more »
Paul
Guest
“like Gingrich calling Obama, a decent man of democratic principles, the most dangerous man in America.” As Wolfi points out, this is a truly mad ‘justification’ of JS’s ‘argument’. Orbán = Obama, Gyurcsány = Gingrich – of course! Why didn’t I notice that before? But our lonely old Troll does have a point – although made much better by Jeroen van Drunen: “It would have graced Mr Gyurcsány, however, if he had reflected on his eight years of governance as well.” OK, four and a half – but let’s not waste time splitting hairs, after all Gy was hardly uninvolved in the ‘government’ of Hungary during through most of that time. It sounded like an excellent speech and certainly made a lot of sense, but most people’s reaction is going to be much the same as Jeroen’s (if not a great deal more negative). The only way to get those people to listen to the sense Gy talks is for him to first address his part in bringing about this mess. Did he realise all this about Orbán, Fidesz and “counter Hungary” at the time? If not, when did it start to dawn on him, and what did he try… Read more »
Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

I’m sorry but Mutt is right, Gyurcsány never properly faced the lying caught on tape and consequently doesn’t look any better than any of the others. And if that had of been the only problem well maybe Orbán wouldn’t have a super majority. I’ve always found it odd that in the face of the tapes and the riots that the political opposition and indeed MSzP weren’t able to obtain Gyurcsány’s resignation. I’ve always wondered what is broken in the system that Orbán wasn’t able to immediately take advantage or what did Gyurcsány have over Orbán to weaken him.

riviera1
Guest

@ Gyurcsany and lying…
I’m no expert on what happened but doesn’t Hungarian also employ the royal ‘we’? Thus Gyurcsany meant members of his party rather than himself.
Personally, when I heard this statement by Gyurcsany I thought: “A man who admits to lying (along with others of his party) must surely, thereafter, be trustworthy! What political truant would admit to lying?”
Moreover, I believe that Gyunrcsany left his party because of the widespread fraud that went on during MSZP’s stay in power.

riviera1
Guest

As I’ve said before, my real beef with Gyurcsany is that he went over to the Russians in 2008 on the pipeline deal. As a member of the EU, he ought not to have done that…

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

@ riviera1
I don’t know what finally caused Gyurcsány to quit but I doubt it had anything to do with the widespread fraud. Quite frankly the “fraud” is prevalent across party lines and in fact, there is “cooperation” across party lines.
At the time I think it was seen that with Gyurcsány in the lead, MSzP was going to take a beating and it seemed that Gyurcsány was forced out using some form of coercion. One telling sign was a comment in Pravda that said, “we lost our man in Budapest”.
My historical analogy to whats happened here is the mess that the conservative government of Brian Mulroney left his party in after his stint in power. The party was almost completely wiped out of existence and the Liberals enjoyed many years of success afterwards until eventually they got caught out in questionable practices. That said, the Liberals didn’t go on to wreak the country once they regained power (and the probably couldn’t have given the provinces have powers that would keep the federal government in check).
IMHO, there is no way to recycle Gyurcsány as he’s part of the old guard and it’s time for the old guard to depart.

Csoda. Kegy
Guest

Thank you, Eva. Some insightful observations relevant to an interesting underlying subject: the likelihood and desirability of Gyurcsany making a come-back.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Living with it in Hungary: “I don’t know what finally caused Gyurcsány to quit but I doubt it had anything to do with the widespread fraud.”
Actually Gy. himself talked about the reason of his resignation several times lately. In the fall of 2008 came the international financial crisis and at the same time an attack on the Hungarian forint. Hungary couldn’t finance itself from the market and had to turn to the IMF. In addition, the country had to lower the deficit. Came the first austerity package. It wasn’t enough. Came the second one and that wasn’t enough either. There was need for further belt tightening and it became obvious that the MSZP caucus was not going to support a third austerity package. So, he resigned.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

The video of Gyurcsány’s speech is available on ATV’s website:
http://atv.hu/cikk/video-20120221_gyurcsany_nyolcadik_evertekeloje_eloben_az_atv_n
In addition there is a detailed summary of the text here:
http://tiny.cc/5s2b1

Wondercat
Guest

OT, but of interest: http://kurier.at/wirtschaft/4485816-eu-will-gelder-fuer-ungarn-sperren.php
Today’s agenda in Brussels includes discussions of holding back EU funds from Hungary.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Wondercat: “oday’s agenda in Brussels includes discussions of holding back EU funds from Hungary.”
The decision was made. They froze about 450 million euros’ worth of subsidies.

Joseph Simon
Guest

‘Gyurcsány making a comeback’???
Well, he has already come back in the Hungarian Spectrum, but only here, as Eva is trying to resurrect him, like Lazar being called back from death.

Member
@I love Hungary, “the lying caught on tape”. This is getting to be an old and repeated discussion. I am sure even his enemies recognize it that Gyurcsany is not stupid. What he said was relevant for his party and the other parties and for the times of Hungary. We meaning the whole political system, his whole party, how Hungary was corrupted at the time. It was a couragious and honest thing to say, and I am 100% sure he was aware what he was saying and he was aware what he says will be repeated. WHat he was not aware of is how low Orban and his bunch can get to use this statement and twisted into knots. WHy you question Gyurcsany, I would like to remind you that it is the same Fidesz whose members called on the police not using live ammunition against the molotov-cocktail throwing rioters in 2006, and two seconds later turned against the same police literally portraying them as the enemies of the poor, angel demonstrators. It is the same Orban who called for Gyurcsany resignation for lying, and saying he never lied in his life, then we figure out what he said for… Read more »
Member
Well, doesn’t it make you uncomfortable listening to somebody, who’s name became a trademark of the dysfunctional Hungarian politics, giving a great analysis of the present? I mean if you didn’t know his past you would think that look, he is maybe our guy … By the way why are we so sure that he wants to come back? Come back to where? All the way to the prime ministership? I’m not so sure about that. The way I see it, he is doing his best to beat the drums, kind of like we are doing it here on this blog. So far it’s obvious for many in Hungary that the Orban regime is far worse than the Gyurcsany era was. The greatest sin of the “socialist”, the corruption, “stealing” was nothing compared to the enrichment of the FIDESZ politicians. If the “socis” were wheelbarrowing the money out then the FIDESZ came with backhoes. But againg this is the best speech a Hungarian politician gave in the past couple of years, but it’s an “only” analyzis. We should not make the same mistake as in 2010 and vote for somebody who doesn’t tell you what to change and how. If… Read more »
Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

Eva, all he needed to do was stop the corruption by naming names and taking action.. I wonder why he couldn’t and still can’t do this. I wonder why the US commerce dept. fined BASF $400,000,000 over the fighter aircraft deal that saw a dispursment some $19,000,000 in bribes split between Hungary and the Czech Republic. So yeah maybe he came up with a good story but I’m a skeptic.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Living with it in Hungary, Are you talking about the Gripen? But that was Orbán not Gyurcsány.

Member

@Living with it in Hungary
BAE, not BASF, and it was Orban, in 2001 who choose the Gripens over the F16s that the generals recommended.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary
Eva, yes, Orbán was in charge. That said, here is what the NY Times alleged as written in 2007. “British BAE Systems and Swedish Saab AB, which sold Hungary the Gripen fighter jets, paid several million dollars to the larger Hungarian political parties six years ago”. I think MSzP qualifies as larger. That said, at the end of the day I don’t know what really happened. What I have been told by people that supposedly know is that one hand always feeds the other. And those that get in the way can be given a pretty rough ride. So maybe you are right and Gyurcsány is one of the good guys but then why does he not come out and say, these suspicious things have happened and it needs to be investigated. The corruption is there, it blatantly obvious yet mums the word. So unless he’s done something substantive to combat the problem I’m afraid I must paint him with the same brush as the others. BTW, Mr. Kovacs’s letter regarding Hungary’s treatment of Roma was published in the Guardian (UK) so it’s good to see that PR budget got to good use. I guess the Guarda I’ve seem patrolling… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Living with it in Hungary, do you really think that Orbán shared the loot with MSZP then in opposition? Very unlikely.
Otherwise, I’m certain that a great deal of that money ended up in Fidesz’s pockets, if not some of it in Orbán’s.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

humm, my response was eaten by the system. Eva, you are right, Orban was in power but.. one hand feeds the other and in this case the NY Times reported (and my eaten posting had a quote) that all of the major parties received money. Maybe old news but until someone starts saying somethings rotten in all parties and starts proper investigations as apposed to let prosecute our political opponents…..

Living with it in Hungary (1)
Guest
Living with it in Hungary (1)

yet another eaten response.. testing

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