Not only the university students are unhappy in Hungary

Already  yesterday news leaked out from government circles that taking on the university students might not have been the brightest idea. Even Zsolt Bayer warned the government that it must take the students seriously because otherwise “we might be swept away.” Orbán and his old college friends who run the country nowadays should know the strength of a student revolt, he warned. It’s enough to remember 1988. Of course, Bayer added, there is no tuition fee and therefore naturally the students are wrong, but the government ought to negotiate with them and reach a compromise because otherwise the issue might become a ” symbol.”  And, he added, “the jackals are already circling around them.”  Naturally, the jackals are the opposition parties and perhaps the teachers’  unions. Indeed, all three democratic opposition parties promised the students their support. Attila Mesterházy repeated the Gyurcsány government’s original plan that there would be no tuition fee for students entering in 2014 if the election is won by the present opposition parties.

student demonstration

By late last night Origo reported that “the government is afraid of the rebellious students.”  It seems that not only Zsolt Bayer is worried about the possible end of the Orbán government but the members of the government as well. Although they tried to time the announcement so that it would be close to the Christmas break, the students seem to be fired up. According to the reporter of the article, the “government is grasping at straws” and they are at a loss about what to do.

One idea is that perhaps the already very low 2% interest rate on student loans would be lowered to 0%. Because of the low interest rate the introduction of a tuition fee may be more expensive in the long run than an arrangement similar to the one voted down by the Fidesz-initiated referendum in March 2008. László Kövér went so far as to suggest a change in the number of students eligible for full scholarships. But that had to be his personal opinion because the cabinet will not discuss these figures at its meeting today.

The comments of the liberal Árpád W. Tóta naturally looked at the student demonstrations from a very different angle from that of Zsolt Bayer. He welcomed the students’ reawakened interest in politics. The general apathy has become so widespread in the last few years that most people don’t read newspapers, don’t watch television news and are thus totally ignorant of current events. But suddenly came the realization that politics does matter and that those politicians they despise can make a difference. For better or worse. The guys in power, they finally understood, are not only not doing a good job but are also introducing legislation that is injurious to them. Moreover, they seemed to have grasped that what Viktor Orbán and Rózsa Hoffmann are doing is also threatening the autonomy of the universities and is ruinous  for the future of the country.

I mentioned yesterday that the government is trying to divide the students by introducing tuition fees only for incoming freshmen. So, basically, the most affected group is the totally unorganized high school population. It would be mighty difficult if not impossible to organize nationwide or even citywide mass demonstrations by high school students in diverse gymnasiums and other types of high schools. This is exactly what the government counted on, as was apparent from the cynical András Giró-Szász, the government spokesman, who this morning expressed his surprise that “those students are demonstrating who are not even affected by the changes.”

Not only the students are chanting “We have had enough.” It seems that the right-wing Levente Szőrényi, a great fan of Viktor Orbán at one time, has also had enough. First a few words about Levente Szőrényi. He was born in 1945 in Austria as his parents were fleeing from the Russians. However, soon enough they returned to Hungary and by the 1960s he became a member of a rock group, playing the guitar. In addition, he is also a composer and the author of three books. His close associate is the liberal János Bródy. Their most important collaboration was “István, a  király” (Stephen, the king), a rock opera. Szőrényi wrote the music and Bródy the lyrics. In brief, Szőrényi is an important person in the Hungarian artistic world.

A few weeks ago there were signs that perhaps Szőrényi is not entirely satisfied with the way the Orbán government is handling cultural matters. His first sign of rebellion was that he and Bródy insisted that “István, a király,” to be performed on the occasion of the opera’s thirtieth anniversary, must be staged by Róbert Alföldi, the bête noire of the Orbán regime. He also praised Alföldi’s talent. The government has already set up a committee to find a new director for the National Theater. The result is almost certain: in the end Alföldi will not be chosen. Szőrényi’s indirect support of Alföldi was designed to strengthen the latter’s position.

Szőrényi also stood up for the dismissed director of the Szeged open air theater. But that was just the beginning. Szőrényi gave an interview in Heti Válasz in which he in no uncertain terms informed the powers that be that he is fed up with this Kulturkampf that has been going on in the last two years. “I’ve had enough of brothers Julianus*, of films based on the works of Albert Wass. I’ve had enough of trash. I would like to see real art.” That’s why he and Bródy asked Alföldi to stage their work. According to him, the government’s cultural policies are heading toward chaos. “I’m fed up that I have to accept everything from the so-called ‘polgári’ side just because it is national (‘nemzeti’) and I have to apologize if I don’t like something because otherwise I’m being told that I’m not a good enough Hungarian.” However, Szőrényi didn’t go so far as to criticize Viktor Orbán himself, saying that he doesn’t expect the prime minister to be thoroughly familiar with Hungarian cultural life.

It is, however, crystal clear that Viktor Orbán and his minions know exactly what they are doing. They want to give the financial advantage to those who claim that they were discriminated against by the liberal elite in the past. Others see it differently. They claim that in the artistic world those who complain against discrimination are actually not talented enough, and now with the help of the Orbán government they will reap the benefits of the regime change.

A good example is the Magyar Művészeti Akadémia (MMA). In 1992 Domokos Kosáry, a historian and then the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, came up with the idea of having a section of the Academy devoted to the arts. Thus he established within the framework of the Academy the Széchenyi Akadémia. A few years later, however, the right-wing architect Imre Makovecz established another academy where mostly right-wing artists gathered. The Orbán government has made this academy the official academy of the arts. While the Széchenyi Akadémia gets practically no government support, the Magyar Művészeti Akadémia has received billions. Actually its status was written into the constitution alongside the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Not only that, but MMA also received as a gift the Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle) that was built at the end of the nineteenth century and has been owned and run by the Hungarian government ever since. The gallery exhibits the works of contemporary artists. Many of the painters and sculptors who gathered in MMA never managed to have a show in the Műcsarnok.

The director of the Műcsarnok, a Fidesz appointee, resigned in protest. Several people strenuously objected to the appointment of a certain György Fekete, who made some remarks that echoed the Rákosi regime’s ideas on government-dictated art. Even András Stumpf of Heti Válasz wrote a devastating opinion piece about MMA with the title “Black country.”  Fekete means “black” in English. Meanwhile one of the best painters in Hungary today, László Fehér, resigned from MMA. Fehér in Hungarian means “white,” so newspapermen are having a good time with black versus white turns of phrases.

The trouble is bigger than Viktor Orbán thinks. Even his followers are leaving him in disgust.

—–

*Brother Julianus was a Dominican monk who with three others began a journey eastward in 1235, allegedly to find the original dwelling place of the Hungarians. The description of his journey is in the Vatican Library. He claimed that he could converse with the “Hungarians” there in their own language even after 800 years of separate existence. The real significance of his journey is that he was the first one who was able to warn the West of the forthcoming danger of Mongol invasion.

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Guest

London Calling!

So it looks like trying to use Orban’s ‘values’ – money – and trying to ‘buy’ the students off won’t work this time.

They seem to be demonstrating on behalf of students who will follow them – a noble cause.

This is much bigger than just tuition fees.

At last something has awoken the sleeping giant!

Go! Students Go!

Save Hungary!

Regards

Charlie

Guest

oh yes! Is this the start of the Central and Eastern European Spring?

Vándorló
Guest

Stumpf’s title is probably a reference to Babits Mihály’s verse “Fekete ország” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT-phMrozz4

Fekete ország

Fekete országot álmodtam én,
ahol minden fekete volt,
minden fekete, de nem csak kívül:
csontig, velőig fekete,
fekete,
fekete, fekete, fekete.
Fekete ég és fekete tenger,
fekete fák és fekete ház,
fekete állat, fekete ember,
fekete öröm, fekete gyász,
fekete érc és fekete kő és
fekete föld és fekete fák,
fekete férfi, fekete nő és
fekete, fekete, fekete világ.
Áshatod íme, vághatod egyre
az anyagot, mely lusta, tömör,
fekete földbe, fekete hegybe
csap csak a csáklyád, fúr be furód:
s mélyre merítsd bár tintapatakját
még feketébben árad, ömöl
nézd a fü magját, nézd a fa makkját,
gerle tojását, csíragolyót,
fekete, fekete, fekete
fekete kelme s fekete elme,
fekete arc és fekete gond,
fekete ér és fekete vér és
fekete velő és fekete csont.
Más szin a napfény vendég-máza,
a nap a színek piktora mind:
fekete bellül a földnek váza,
nem a fény festi a fekete szint
karcsu sugárecsetével
nem:
fekete az anyag rejtett lelke,
jaj,
fekete, fekete, fekete.

See: http://mek.oszk.hu/00600/00602/html/vers0102.htm

Paul
Guest

No, Charlie, it’s not.

Member

THere was a high school organization made up by students present . Does anyone knows who they are? Their representative spoke very smartly for such a young man.
I think Orban undermines high school students. I would be happy to donate to this group of students to cover expenses of publishing flyers, etc. So any info would be welcomed.

Paul
Guest

Fantastic poem for us non-Hungarian speakers – I understand half of it without having to look any words up!

pusztaranger
Guest

Some1: “THere was a high school organization made up by students present . Does anyone knows who they are?” Sure do, they are called “Diákellenállás a Felsőoktatásért – DEF” ([High School] Student Protest for Higher Education), here is their Facebook-Group: https://www.facebook.com/defafelsooktatasert

Paul
Guest
Google translate makes a fair fist of this – although with a few strange bits: Black Country at dreamed, where everything was black, all black, but not only outside: bone, marrow in black, black Black, black, black. Black sky and black sea black trees and black house animal black, black man, Black joy, mourning black, black and black stone and ore black trees and black earth, black men, black women and black, black, black world. Here’s dig, cut more the material is lazy, concise, Black Earth, Black Hills bearing only the boat-hook, drill a drill: s deep dip at any tintapatakját feketébben still flowing, her tears cascade Look for grass seed, the tree look makkját, turtle eggs, germ balls black, black, black Black fabric Black and mind, black face and a black problem, black and black and blood vessel black and black bone marrow. Other colors in the sun hotel, glazes, piktora all the colors of the day: bello black frame of the earth, no photo depicts the black level slender beam with brush not: hidden in the soul of black material, oh, Black, black, black. “turtle eggs, germ balls” is a great line!
Kingfisher
Guest

The significance of the student protests is that it is neither the property of the left or the right. People are angry that Fidesz have lied to them in such a transparent and obvious way, it is the principal rather than political colour that is driving the protests, something we’ve not experienced in recent years.

Member

pusztaranger :
Some1: “THere was a high school organization made up by students present . Does anyone knows who they are?” Sure do, they are called “Diákellenállás a Felsőoktatásért – DEF” ([High School] Student Protest for Higher Education), here is their Facebook-Group: https://www.facebook.com/defafelsooktatasert

Thank you.

Vándorló
Guest
Apologies to those who don’t speak Hungarian, but there is a blow by blow account of the strike’s spread to secondary/highschools over at HVG: http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121213_Sorra_kezdenek_sztrajkolni_a_kozepiskolas Maybe Giró-Szász will be happier now that they’ve managed to knock the phlegmatism out of the future generation of voters. Should have let sleeping dogs lie:”Ne ébreszd fel az alvó oroszlánt”. @Kingfisher: As you note, the students are no-one’s property yet. More importantly, they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Most Hungarian inertia is due to people hoping to keep hold of the specific gains they have made at the expense of their fellow countrymen. Either they have been the beneficiary of wonton state largesse in the past (e.g. MSZP’s “consultants”), or are now its recipients (e.g. Fidesz’s agricultural land grab) – and do not want to give up what they have taken. Those outside of that close knit community are the hoi-polloi that can be safely ignored, manipulated or patronised by state run media, as the are largely ill-educated pensioners who settle for small bribes. So the students are different. They are fighting for everything: their future. The right to a job based on experience and skill, not nepotism. For them it’s… Read more »
Peregrine
Guest

HÖOK Szeged. The local head is a paid Fidesz politican, and there are lots of them at HÖOK.

You know, what I am pretty sure that when all are said and done Fidesz will try to establish a new, controlled HÖOK alternative, if HÖOK’s reputation gets really bad. They will want to control students (as they control trade unions, doctors’s associations, set up right wing artist academies, association of theaters etc.).

http://index.hu/tech/mem/2012/12/13/a_szegedi_ehok-elnok_dolgokat_nez/

Guest

@Vándorló:

Good to hear from you again!

This students movement reminds me a bit of the 1960s when I was a student in West Germany and we rebelled against the conservative/reactionary authorities. The so called “Christian Democrats” of that time were as bad as Fidesz today.

It’s really funny or sad in a way that “liberal” is a bad word today (for Orbán and his cronies) as it was in the 60s in Western Europe.

Paul
Guest
“It’s really funny or sad in a way that “liberal” is a bad word today (for Orbán and his cronies) as it was in the 60s in Western Europe.” Ditto for the word ‘Christian’ – it only seems to be used by those who think and behave in entirely un-Christian ways. In fact there seems to be a general rule of thumb here – the party is the inverse of what it claims to be by its name. For instance, if a party has ‘Christian’ and/or ‘Freedom’ in its title, it’s invariably right-wing. Other examples – the Australian ‘Liberal’ party (right-wing) and, of course, our own dearly beloved Hungarian ‘Socialist’ party (I have no idea what they are these days, but ‘socialist’ is not it). A good party game might be to re-christen parties with more appropriate names. Jobbik, for instance, would be the Fascist Loonies, KDNP might be the No One Actually Elected Us party, or simply the Bigots. Fidesz would be difficult to sum up in just a few words, but the Power at any Cost, or Whatever Madness Orbán Thinks Up Next party might do. MSzP would simply be the Yesterday party and LMP might be Nice… Read more »
Bowen
Guest
Paul : “It’s really funny or sad in a way that “liberal” is a bad word today (for Orbán and his cronies) as it was in the 60s in Western Europe.” Ditto for the word ‘Christian’ – it only seems to be used by those who think and behave in entirely un-Christian ways. In fact there seems to be a general rule of thumb here – the party is the inverse of what it claims to be by its name. For instance, if a party has ‘Christian’ and/or ‘Freedom’ in its title, it’s invariably right-wing. Other examples – the Australian ‘Liberal’ party (right-wing) and, of course, our own dearly beloved Hungarian ‘Socialist’ party (I have no idea what they are these days, but ‘socialist’ is not it). A good party game might be to re-christen parties with more appropriate names. Jobbik, for instance, would be the Fascist Loonies, KDNP might be the No One Actually Elected Us party, or simply the Bigots. Fidesz would be difficult to sum up in just a few words, but the Power at any Cost, or Whatever Madness Orbán Thinks Up Next party might do. MSzP would simply be the Yesterday party and LMP might… Read more »
Guest

“Mafia Gang of Middle-aged Autocrats”—MAGA! Google translates this as ‘itself’, ‘oneself’–perfect for Orban’s Fidesz.

Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
You will enjoy this one. In the Nagy Lajos Gymnasium in Pécs that was taken over by the Catholic Church students in grades 11 and 12 tomorrow morning will attend mass in order to pray for the proper solution of the present tuition fee situation.

God v Orbán? No contest, God doesn’t stand a chance against the ‘super majority’.

Paul
Guest

‘Mafia Gang of Middle-aged Autocrats’ – excellent!

I think it should be HS policly from now onwards to call them this.

Paul
Guest

Gretchen :
“Mafia Gang of Middle-aged Autocrats”—MAGA! Google translates this as ‘itself’, ‘oneself’–perfect for Orban’s Fidesz.

Only one minor problem, Gretchen – it’s MGMA, not MAGA!

Guest

No,Paul, it’s:

MAfia GAng of Middle AGed Autocrats = MAGA MAGA!!

Member

Meanwhile in Brussels …

Orban is answering questions from journalists.

“We had a strong week. On Monday we did the budget, then on Wednesday the price decrease on gas, heating and electricity, on Thursday we solved the minimal wage for next year, and by this weekend we will take care of the education reform.” answered Orban when he was asked what is his message to the protesting students. When he was asked if Rozsa Hoffmann stays in the government he said nothing.

I’m wondering what the hell was he doing Tuesday … hmmm.

Guest

@Paul–I took liberties. I like Wolfi’s solution.

Member

Eva S. Balogh :
You will enjoy this one. In the Nagy Lajos Gymnasium in Pécs that was taken over by the Catholic Church students in grades 11 and 12 tomorrow morning will attend mass in order to pray for the proper solution of the present tuition fee situation.

Please, God! Remove Orban and keep the education free! Amen!

Member

Mutt :

I’m wondering what the hell was [Orban] doing Tuesday … hmmm.

He scrapped other treatment options for people with advanced stages of cancer than chemotherapy. I am sure his family did not go under chemo just yet, and I do not wish it on anyone, but he will only change his mind when of his close relatives will suffer and gets close to death.
You do not believe it? http://www.egeszsegkalauz.hu/daganatos-betegsegek/veszelyben-sulyos-rakbetegek-gyogyszerellatasa-111712.html

Member

Rozsa Hoffman on the transformation of education in Hungary, on a news conference today in Bekescsaba.

“In a society that is often accused of disintegration, where people sometimes get to each others’ throat for nothing, with some exaggeration, I find that wherever I go and manage this transition, the participants demonstrated exemplary cooperation.”

(Maybe Hoffman and Matolcsy are having an affair and they write each other’s speeches…)
http://index.hu/belfold/2012/12/13/hoffmann_szerint_remekul_megy_a_kozoktatas_atalakitasa/

Paul
Guest

Mutt :
Meanwhile in Brussels …
Orban is answering questions from journalists.
“We had a strong week. On Monday we did the budget, then on Wednesday the price decrease on gas, heating and electricity, on Thursday we solved the minimal wage for next year, and by this weekend we will take care of the education reform.” answered Orban when he was asked what is his message to the protesting students. When he was asked if Rozsa Hoffmann stays in the government he said nothing.
I’m wondering what the hell was he doing Tuesday … hmmm.

And on the 7th day he rested…