Whom should Viktor Orbán fear? Not his former self but the rebellious students

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Attila Ara-Kovács’s name because I’ve written about him several times on this blog, but if anyone needs a refresher course here’s a brief description of his career from Cluj/Kolozsvár to Budapest where he joined the democratic opposition. In the late 1980s the democratic opposition worked side by side with Fidesz, then a youth organization, so Ara-Kovács had plenty of opportunity to get to know the young Viktor Orbán.

Ara-Kovács, who nowadays has a column (Diplomatic Notes) in the weekly Magyar Narancs, was inspired a couple of days ago to include a piece on domestic issues in his column: he decided to share the impression the democratic opposition gained of the young Viktor Orbán in those days.

Ara-Kovács discovered on YouTube a composed young woman, Réka Kinga Papp, who for two and a half minutes severely criticizes Hungary’s prime minister. She actually calls him a “mad dictator” who will be swept away by the wrath of the people. But she still gives him credit for the constructive role he played in the late eighties. Especially his famous speech at the reburial of Imre Nagy and his fellow martyrs that launched his spectacular political career. So did another new youthful opponent of the Orbán regime, Máté Ábrahám, who also expressed his admiration for the young Orbán. This young man said something to the effect that today’s Orbán would surely be afraid to meet his young self. These students suppose that in those days Orbán, Kövér, Deutsch, Áder, and the others were pure as the driven snow. They became corrupt only because politics and power corrupted them.

It is time to tell the truth, says Ara-Kovács, because it is essential that these youngsters don’t labor under false impressions of Fidesz’s role in the regime change. According to Ara-Kovács, Réka Kinga Papp’s young Orbán never existed. She talked about the “innovative, happy, well meaning will” that Orbán allegedly added to “the big Hungarian collective.” Ara-Kovács categorically denies that Orbán added anything of the sort. On the contrary, he decided to establish a second liberal party by which he divided “the camp of the most authentic opponents” of the Kádár regime.

Viktor Orbán broke his wordOn the reburial of Imre Nagy and other martyrs of 1956 / July 16, 1989

Viktor Orbán broke his word
at the reburial of Imre Nagy and other martyrs of 1956 / JuneLászló Kövér 16, 1989

As for Orbán’s famous speech in which he demanded the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, Ara-Kovács provides some background information. The so-called round table of the opposition made the decision not to mention this demand. First, because they knew that negotiations were already underway and second, because they didn’t want to trap Mikhail Gorbachev in “an impossible” situation. In addition, they didn’t want to provide additional ammunition to the hardliners in the Soviet bloc: the East Germans, the Czechoslovaks, and the Romanians. One must keep in mind that Václav Havel at this point was still in jail. Viktor Orbán and László Kövér, representing Fidesz, accepted this joint decision only for Orbán to break his word the next day. The impression created by that speech was that only Fidesz and Viktor Orbán were radical enough to dare to strive for complete independence while the others were political opportunists. “For him even the revolutionary moment of 1989 was no more than a question of power politics.

This was Viktor Orbán’s first betrayal that was  followed by many more. He betrayed his ally, SZDSZ, and three years later betrayed his own supporters when “he changed Fidesz from a radical liberal party into a party adopting an extreme nationalistic ideology.” No, says Ara-Kovács, these young university and high school students are not at all like the young Orbán, Kövér, Deutsch, Áder, and the others. “Viktor Orbán is not afraid of a meeting with his former self but he is afraid of you. And it is important for you to know that.”

Almost simultaneously with the appearance of Ara-Kovács’s article another news item caught my attention. It is an interview with László Kövér that will appear in tomorrow’s print edition of Heti Válasz. A short description of it is already available on the Internet. According to Kövér, there is no resemblance between today’s “rebels” and their former selves. Ever since the early 1980s they purposefully prepared themselves to accept a political role in the future. “We knew that belonging to the eight percent of the population who received an opportunity to become part of the elite by attending university entailed responsibility. It never occurred to us to leave this country although then there was a dictatorship in Hungary.”

Well, let’s dissect these sentences. Kövér talks about the early 1980s. In the early 1980s no one but no one had the slightest inkling that the days of the Soviet Union were numbered. That its empire would crumble by the end of the decade. Most of us didn’t even know it in 1987 or early 1988. So, if Kövér and Orbán were preparing themselves for political roles they were getting ready to join the socialist political elite of the Kádár regime. It cannot be interpreted in any other way. If that is the case, it is no wonder that they didn’t want to leave the country despite its being a dictatorship. No, they would have been an integral part of that dictatorship. Perhaps those who would actually steer the ship of that one-party regime. Everything Orbán, Kövér, Áder, and some of the others from the original crew are doing right now supports this hypothesis.

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Paul Wal
Guest

Dear Eva,
Every day you are a shining light in the darkness. Am I crossing a line? I hope not.
Sweet kiss on your cheek Eva!
Keep those articles coming.

Member

Paul, if this was a marriage proposal, then take a number!

Here is Reka’s video with English subtitles (by me). Make sure the CC is on! Enjoy!

Minusio
Guest

My girlfriend was there when Orbán called for the Soviet military to leave the country. She instinctively disliked him (not because she wanted the Soviets to stay!).

It is probably true that the two thirds of students that wouldn’t vote for Jobbik are Orbán’s greatest menace. But look at the figures: Students’ numbers are declining, the most gifted are leaving the country. And then, how many are they anyway? Enough to swing an election? I doubt it. If they had some of the radicalism of the students of 1968 in them, I would give them a chance rioting Orbán away. But will they? I doubt that, too.

An
Guest

Ara-Kovács is right, Orban haven’t changed. It is just becoming more evident who he really is.

An
Guest

hasn’t, I meant of course… that sneaky third person in English got me

Member

Orban said in the Parliament on November 5, 2012:

“A precise phrasing has its advantages. You know, in the 80s, I did not fight against the dictatorship. I fought against the people who were running the dictatorship.”

http://www.fidesz.hu/index.php?Cikk=185954
http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20121105_nem_a_diktatura_ellen_harcolt_anno_orban

This was a precise phrasing indeed. It was not the dictatorship itself he did not like before 1989, but it was the fact that other people were the dictators!

Member

Breaking News:

Andras Simor has just became an EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) vice president.

http://www.ebrd.com/pages/news/press/2013/130327.shtml

I hope he’ll have Orban’s balls in a vice grip.

The EBRD was always critical of Orban’s policies:

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20130115-709294.html

cheshire cat
Guest
1. Orban himself told journalists the story of how he had composed his famous speech. Apparently he had written one version (a somewhat banal, less radical one) and then Fidesz decided it was no good. He went home and rewrote it the night before because he wanted the speech to focus on one main message: “how DARE the socialist party stand here with US at these graves. The “reform-socialists” have nothing to do here, we will not allow them to share this experience with us. That was his main intention with that speech – to attack the socialist party. (You can read this interview in Debreczeni’s first book about him.) 2. I’m always a bit surprised when analysts say, what a genius Orban was when he consciously steered his liberal party to the “national conservative right” because he realized he would have more chances to win from there. Maybe. But I remember many things from those years, and one clue is “Democratic Charta.” The then conservative MDF-led government (around 1990-92) started to show some antisemitic and other Horthy-style tendencies. Tivadar Farkashazy, a journalist, organized the democratic charta against these tendencies. He invited all opposition parties (SZDSZ, Fidesz, MSZP) to join… Read more »
Member
Mutt : Breaking News: Andras Simor has just became an EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) vice president. http://www.ebrd.com/pages/news/press/2013/130327.shtml I hope he’ll have Orban’s balls in a vice grip. The EBRD was always critical of Orban’s policies: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20130115-709294.html THis news already broke. hahaha Some1 : CharlieH : Completely O/T! Simor comes to London/. As Vice-President for policy at the EBRD. Your loss – our gain! Welcome András. Might still rankle with Orban! “Orbán’s followers in the ruling Fidesz party left no stone untouched in their hunt for dirt on Simor, including in his financial affairs. But he survived with his reputation intact.” The FT adds: “…….it should feel like a health spa after his torrid time at the central bank…….” I bet it will – he should get a decent wage too! (Don’t think Matolcsy will ever pass muster as an international banker. God forbid he ever comes to London! – (Unless it’s for Billy Smart’s Circus!)) Regards Charlie http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/03/27/hungary-simor-finds-a-safe-haven/#axzz2Oiwn1NZp I do nothink this was OT. It just proves that professional organizations actually value qualifications, experience, knowledge and results. In Hungary the patchwork government is made up by standards below the norms of any series organization. I mean Hungary… Read more »
Member

My quote was from the comments of the previous blog entry March 27, 2013 at 11:05 am | #42 and 11:18 am respectively.

Kirsten
Guest

If the role of OV in 1989 now appears to have been different from what has been thought for a long time, and if he apparently never had any other programme than: seize power and “destroy all his enemies”, for me this makes it also necessary to change other interpretations of the past 25 years. An equally important question is what made the other political groups so “weak” or unsuccessful that he appeared as the “saviour” in 2009/10? It is no doubt necessary to dispel myths about OV, but it is still a question why he could succeed. And also, which people in the “old establishment” did he hate so much and why – given that he comes from a background sufficiently close to this Communist establishment.

Paul
Guest

An :
hasn’t, I meant of course… that sneaky third person in English got me

Not sneaky, just subtle…

Tamas Grof
Guest

Kirsten :
If the role of OV in 1989 now appears to have been different from what has been thought for a long time, and if he apparently never had any other programme than: seize power and “destroy all his enemies”, for me this makes it also necessary to change other interpretations of the past 25 years. An equally important question is what made the other political groups so “weak” or unsuccessful that he appeared as the “saviour” in 2009/10? It is no doubt necessary to dispel myths about OV, but it is still a question why he could succeed. And also, which people in the “old establishment” did he hate so much and why – given that he comes from a background sufficiently close to this Communist establishment.

This the million dollar question. I have been trying to find answers for years. Does anybody have some clues? I think it would be a nice topic to debate on.

Tamas
Guest

Tamas Grof :

Kirsten :
If the role of OV in 1989 now appears to have been different from what has been thought for a long time, and if he apparently never had any other programme than: seize power and “destroy all his enemies”, for me this makes it also necessary to change other interpretations of the past 25 years. An equally important question is what made the other political groups so “weak” or unsuccessful that he appeared as the “saviour” in 2009/10? It is no doubt necessary to dispel myths about OV, but it is still a question why he could succeed. And also, which people in the “old establishment” did he hate so much and why – given that he comes from a background sufficiently close to this Communist establishment.

This the million dollar question. I have been trying to find answers for years. Does anybody have some clues? I think it would be a nice topic to debate on.

Paul
Guest

“what made the other political groups so “weak” or unsuccessful that he appeared as the “saviour” in 2009/10?”

1) Orbán’s very effective campaign of extra-parliamentary action and black propaganda.

2) His instinctive understanding of the inner demons of the average Hungarian and how to exploit them.

3) 20 years of political corruption and ineptitude.

4) Gyurcsány’s ‘lies’ speech.

Minusio
Guest
Kirsten : If the role of OV in 1989 now appears to have been different from what has been thought for a long time, and if he apparently never had any other programme than: seize power and “destroy all his enemies”, for me this makes it also necessary to change other interpretations of the past 25 years. An equally important question is what made the other political groups so “weak” or unsuccessful that he appeared as the “saviour” in 2009/10? It is no doubt necessary to dispel myths about OV, but it is still a question why he could succeed. And also, which people in the “old establishment” did he hate so much and why – given that he comes from a background sufficiently close to this Communist establishment. I think one shouldn’t keep forgetting seven things about Orbán: (1) He lead a government from1998 to 2002 that ended in chaos, shame and scandal – and empty coffers. (Hardly anybody talks about this anymore. Why?) (2) His smear campaigns when in opposition had a long-lasting effect, because the Socialists (who should have renamed themselves Socialdemocrats, anyway) didn not care to develop countermeasures. A huge mistake! In both governments Fidesz has… Read more »
Paul
Guest

“This is evidenced by extended stays at Austrian psychiatric clinics.”

Is this fact or rumour?

Minusio
Guest

@ Paul. According to my scientific professor-girlfriend, this is a known but not “widely shared” fact. She isn’t much into rumor things, but well networked (you know this cosmopolitan typa thing). I’ll ask her from where she knows this.

Max
Guest

“So, if Kövér and Orbán were preparing themselves for political roles they were getting ready to join the socialist political elite of the Kádár regime. It cannot be interpreted in any other way.”

Kövér has been a member of Parliament’s national security committee in the last 23 years. As such, he has been one staunchest opponents of the opening of communist archives and is rejecting calls for investigating his links to the communist secret services.

Now that the Government establishes the ‘Research Institute and Archive on the Change of Regime’, I wonder what kind of archive it will be when the communist archives are still closed?! Just a farce and a kind of Disneyland, I presume.

http://www.fidesz.hu/index.php?Cikk=190378

Max
Guest
Guest
Győr Calling! Firstly a Big Thank You to Mutt for your translation – you have facilitated us little englanders entering the debate! I have always thought – in a normal country – that the students sometimes hold the key to a transformation in politics. And I’ve watched with heart-in-mouth as the students have on two occasions started actions which might have built up to a critical mass – but alas they have petered out. (The Fidesz headquarters occupation and the student ‘fees’ demo’s.) I think Minusio is right in his analysis – but I would add that for some reason the students are unusually right-wing anyway in Hungary; many are leaving in unusually high numbers as he says So no critical mass.. This is also linked to the Kirsten question….. ************************************************************************************* And why are the opposition so unusually weak? You may have hit on a number of causal factors – but I think you have missed the main factor: The ‘Hungarian Psyche’ has been moulded – conditioned – oppressed, by years’ of communism. Where dissent was oppressed with subtle and unsubtle psychological measures – and any dissenting organisation, like (real) democratic trade unions, for example, were just not possible. Reinforced… Read more »
Guest

Max The Government is just making hay while it can – we just have to wait for the outcome of Helsinki.

Expect damage-limitation to be quick and extreme!

The brain-storming has already started – I’m sure!….

Guest

..and all is ok now!….

The Rolling Stones will be at Glastonbury this year – at last!

petofi
Guest

Max :
Now it is official. What a relief! We can all relax…
http://www.kormany.hu/en/prime-minister-s-office/news/more-and-more-international-officials-declare-international-criticism-against-hungary-to-be-exaggerated

‘Getting and Spending’….that Azeri money is going fast…

Member
Kirsten : If the role of OV in 1989 now appears to have been different from what has been thought for a long time, and if he apparently never had any other programme than: seize power and “destroy all his enemies”, for me this makes it also necessary to change other interpretations of the past 25 years. An equally important question is what made the other political groups so “weak” or unsuccessful that he appeared as the “saviour” in 2009/10? It is no doubt necessary to dispel myths about OV, but it is still a question why he could succeed. And also, which people in the “old establishment” did he hate so much and why – given that he comes from a background sufficiently close to this Communist establishment. I think most other political players wanted a clean slate, and they went into the changes with an open mind and ready to cooperate. It certainly took them by surprise Orban’s “coup d’etat” to take ultimate control. His speech as outlined in Eva’s entry, and how he grabbed on to the “sole saviour” position caught most people off guard. Remind you that we hear very little from the university mates of… Read more »
Member

The 2011 census data are published today, one and a half years after the census.

http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/idoszaki/nepsz2011/nepsz_orsz_2011.pdf

Member

3.2% of the people declared Gypsy ethnicity.

Member

Religion:

Did not answer 27.2%
No denomination 16.7%
Atheist 1.5%

Roman+Greek Catholic 37.1%
Calvinist 11.6%
Lutheran 2.2%
Greek Catholic 1.8%
Greek Orthodox 0.1%
Jewish 0.1%
Other churches, denominations 1.7%

Member

Correction:
Roman Catholic 37.1%

Guest

Győr Calling!

I see they have given the actual census population as 9,937,628 – instead of 9,938,000 – so they are sticking to that figure!

I believe this ‘estimate’ is deeply flawed as people who leave Hungary are only counted if they ‘advise’ official agencies.

And I can’t see so few employed, supporting so many non-workers, for whatever reason.

I believe ‘Gabriella’ (recent Gabriella!) is an Orban place-person – so I deeply mistrust this most controversial number.

10,198,000 to 9,938,000 between the census’ is a figure that meets the ‘published’ exodus – published, that is, by the Orban media.

I really didn’t expect it to change.

I wonder – is this department is subject to auditors? A lot of EU money depends on these numbers too.

(Thanks Tappanch I was expecting your update! The English version hasn’t appeared yet!)

Regards

Charlie

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