As I mentioned yesterday, there were two topics suggested by readers and I agreed that they were interesting and definitely worth spending time on. After tackling two surveys on Hungarian societal attitudes we can now turn to the question of “What will happen, what should happen after Orbán?” posed by Zsófia Mihancsik, whose writings have appeared more than once on this blog. Her latest contribution is a series of questions she thinks the democratic opposition should discuss even before the election campaign. At the moment the various opposition parties and groupings agree on one thing: Orbán’s regime must be removed. However, some very important decisions must be made and agreed upon. It is for this reason that she as editor-in-chief of Galamus initiated a series of articles that might assist those whose job it will be to work out a common platform necessary for setting up a successful and lasting coalition.
The first question is: “Do we have to reach a compromise with Fidesz after the party’s loss of the 2014 elections?” In practical terms that means that the democrats must forget about all “the political and moral crimes that had been committed by Fidesz in opposition and in power.” One can make a case for such compromise by pointing out that, after all, the voters of Fidesz represent a certain portion of the electorate.
If the decision is to seek a compromise, one must determine whether this compromise should be with the party itself, with its voters, or both. Moreover, how much should the democratic forces be willing to pay for such a compromise? And one ought to ponder whether such a compromise would actually achieve the desired result of political and social tranquility.
But if it becomes obvious that no compromise is possible either with Fidesz or its voters, then how should the new political leadership handle the coming conflicts? Can they in a democratic regime ignore a party that received the votes of many and is represented in parliament?
What should they do with “the products of Fidesz’s rule–the new constitution and all those new laws?” These laws were enacted in order to build a centralized, state-dominated regime serving only the needs of an autocracy. Would it be enough to whittle away at them or, like Orbán, should they start everything anew and develop an entirely new regime? “In other words, can one build democracy on a set of laws that were designed to build autocracy?”
What should be done with party cadres who masquerade as experts? Should they be replaced? And there is the question of those who were appointed for nine or eleven years. What should be done with those people who, thanks to Fidesz, received land or tobacconist shops? What about the nationalized schools? Does one have to face the fact that these mostly illegal changes cannot be undone and that one must live with them? And if yes, what are the consequences?
More or less these were the questions that Mihancsik posed in her article.
The first answer to some of these questions came from Ferenc Krémer. You may recall that he was one of the early victims of the Orbán regime when he lost his job as professor of sociology at the Police Academy. He was far too liberal for that place. I will summarize the article in greater detail, but his message is crystal clear: there is no way of making a compromise on any level because one cannot build democracy on undemocratic foundations.
Can one build democracy by undemocratic means or does one need consensus? Krémer’s answer is that neither road will necessarily achieve the desired end. After all, the 1989-90 regime change was based on consensus and yet it didn’t produce a lasting democratic regime. At that time consensus was easier to reach because all segments of Hungarian society desired the the same thing, the establishment of a democratic regime. But today the situation is different because, although “all democratic opposition forces assume that there is need in this country for democracy, the fact is that almost as large a segment of society gladly settle for a dictatorship.” Thus the reintroduction of democracy in Hungary at the moment, unlike almost fifteen years ago, does not have a solid societal foundation.
If the preconditions of a general desire for democratic change are missing, can one substitute for them concessions to those whose ideal is not exactly democracy? In Krémer’s opinion one can’t. In the past, no concessions to a Viktor Orbán-led Fidesz ever followed by any tangible result of cooperation. Moreover, the election will be decided by the now still undecided voters. In Krémer’s opinion “it is a grave political mistake to consider the undecided voters as disillusioned Fidesz followers and to talk to them as if they had anything to do with what happened in the Fidesz era. … It is very probable that one cannot offer anything to the Orbán voters that would change their minds and therefore one shouldn’t even experiment with such an approach because it only confuses the anti-Orbán voters.”
The democratic opposition first and foremost must decide whether Orbán’s regime is a democracy or not because “autocracy will remain with us as long as its institutions and its culture exist and function.” If the answer is that, yes, it is a democracy, then both the institutions and the people populating them can remain in place. In this case, in Krémer’s opinion, there will not be democracy in Hungary even after the fall of the Orbán regime.
Krémer then outlines a series of possible compromises that could be offered to Fidesz. What Fidesz institutions should be left intact? The Media Council? The current system of public works? The “orbanization” of state lands? The national tobacconist shops? The nationalized and centralized school system? The militarized police? The Anti-Terrorist Center (TEK)? Forcing experts into retirement? Which ones?
What about some of the newly enacted laws? “Vote for which one you would like.” The new labor law? The Basic Law, especially with its fourth amendment? The law dealing with the police? The law that dispensed with local autonomy? The law on churches that discriminates against some religious communities? Or what about the law in the making that would sanction school segregation?
What can they offer to the “servants of dictators”? Should they follow the policy of Imre Kerényi and György Fekete, commissars of national culture, or the views of the historians of MTA who decided that no György Lukács or Vladimir Mayakovsky can have streets named after them? Should one say that there is agreement regarding Fidesz’s concept of family or that one can believe in God in only three ways? “Yes, we could say it but then we wouldn’t be who we are.”
In brief, Krémer is unequivocably against any compromise. Naturally one could argue with his views, but his reasoning, in my opinion, is sound.