László Bartus on Gordon Bajnai’s road to failure

In the wake of the stalled negotiations between Együtt 2014-PM and MSZP several opinion pieces appeared. I found most of them less than inspiring. This morning, however, I happened upon László Bartus’s article in the Amerikai-Magyar Népszava, a paper Bartus bought after he emigrated to the United States. The Amerikai-Magyar Népszava is the oldest Hungarian-language paper in the United States, established in 1891. Within a few years Bartus managed to transform a backwater ethnic weekly into an Internet outlet that not only covers Hungarian news but also offers a rich digest of American politics. The paper that had only a few thousand readers ten years ago today has a significant online presence. Amerikai-Magyar Népszava has many devotees from Hungary who never fail to send me links to some of the more important articles published in the paper.

László Bartus is a controversial man. There are those who think very highly of him while others dislike his style. One thing is sure: Bartus doesn’t beat around the bush, and therefore he can rub people the wrong way. He has decided opinions, and I guess if someone holds equally strong opposing views the clash is inevitable. I’m pretty sure that this editorial will also be controversial. Although Bartus and I don’t always see eye to eye, I happen to agree with some of his analysis in “Road to failure” that appeared in yesterday’s Amerikai-Magyar Népszava. I found his criticism of Gordon Bajnai’s strategy especially on target.

The article is an indictment of Viktor Szigetvári, the chief adviser of Gordon Bajnai who, in Bartus’s opinion, is largely responsible for Bajnai’s political failure. In Bartus’s assessment Bajnai, given the poisonous political atmosphere in Hungary, was lucky that he managed to survive a year as prime minister of Hungary without serious political damage, which gave him a real advantage over some other politicians. But then he “committed all the mistakes that a politician can commit.” Bartus doesn’t remember one good step Bajnai has taken since October 23, 2012. We often make the mistake of blaming advisers of people whom we find decent and attractive but in this case, Bartus claims, the “bad adviser” syndrome is genuine. He considers Viktor Szigetvári “one of the most noxious characters of Hungarian public life since the change of regime.”

Like me, Bartus finds the Hungarian version of “political scientists” (politológusok) injurious to politics. Szigetvári is one of those “ventriloquists” who try to convince the rest of us that they are “in possession of some secret knowledge that other ordinary human beings simply cannot understand.” Some of them appear on radio and television programs and “talk a lot of nonsense only adding to the general confusion,” but there are others who are much more dangerous because they sell their “advice” for good money. Eventually these “advisers” become convinced that they themselves should be politicians because after all they are in possession of that secret knowledge. This is what happened in the case of Viktor Szigetvári who by now is co-chairman of Együtt 2014. But even before, Szigetvári had political ambitions and held high positions during the Medgyessy, Gyurcsány, and Bajnai governments. Under Bajnai, he was in charge of the prime minister’s office.

Viktor Szigetvári at one of his many appearances on ATV

Viktor Szigetvári at one of his many appearances on ATV

Bartus is amazed how it was possible for Szigetvári to survive unscathed even as everything he touched went sour. He was for a while in charge of MSZP’s communication, which was anything but admirable. He was somewhat of an odd bird among the socialist party leaders. I myself mentioned in April 2009 that Szigetvári graduated from the famous Piarist High School in Budapest which normally produces Fidesz cadres and not MSZP comrades. In addition, he wrote his dissertation under Tibor Navracsics. “He joined MSZP when it served his interest and when not he left it.” He calls himself a “conservative liberal.” Szigetvári’s “natural place would be on the “Christian-national right.” And perhaps that is why Szigetvári led Bajnai to the wrong strategy of trying to find allies on the conservative right which, according to most people, really doesn’t exist in Hungary.

In addition, it was also a mistake to use the so-called “civic movements” Milla and Solidarity because there is no politics without parties. It was wrong of Bajnai to offer himself as the leader of an alliance when he himself didn’t even have a party.  It was a mistake to define this alliance in opposition to the left. It was wrong to mouth some of the lies of Fidesz, including the Fidesz interpretation of the events of September-October 2006. Bartus “in place of the chairman of MSZP [Attila Mesterházy] would have gotten up and stopped all further negotiations with them at that very moment.”

Szigetvári’s strategy to create a centrist party led Bajnai into dangerous waters, For example, he talked about Cardinal József Mindszenty and István Bibó as if these two were on the same side in October-November 1956. Bartus objects to Bajnai’s views on the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries, viewing them as no more than an echo of the Orbán government’s propaganda. Bartus is of the opinion that one cannot make peace with the Orbán ideology because it is impossible to rebuild democracy hand in hand with those who managed to destroy it.

While Bartus considers the Orbán regime fascism pure and simple, he also has a very low opinion of MSZP, even in its reformed and renewed form. What he would have suggested to Bajnai is to find a new “third road policy.” But Bartus’s third road is very different from the ideas of the populist/narodnik/népies writers. For him the “the road” means to be against both Orbán’s fascism and MSZP’s corruption. To bring true democracy, the rule of law, and a well regulated capitalist system at last to Hungary. As far as Bartus is concerned, MSZP is incapable of leading Hungary in this direction. In Hungary “the only possible partner in such a quest is Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK, which best represents these principles. Behind DK stands the majority of  the modern, enlightened grey matter of the country. . . . The real adherents to the rule of law.” Bartus admits that the supporters of  DK are not numerous, but still “these are the natural allies of Bajnai and not the careerist former students of Jesuits and socialists who cling to their corrupt ways.”

I happen to agree with László Bartus that Gordon Bajnai’s natural allies should be the members and supporters of the Demokratikus Koalíció, but one must ask whether Bajnai could have been any more successful if he had turned to Ferenc Gyurcsány and sought the support of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Unlikely. DK may one day become an important political force, but it certainly is not at the moment.

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Nick
Guest

For an Englishman, this is a bit strange – in Britain for a Jesuit school to produce right-wingers would be more than unusual. The British SJs are some of the most open-minded and sensible people I have ever met! It is very sad that Hungary is not the same in this respect – where are the sensible Catholics?

Paul
Guest

I think the problem all potential leaders of the left have is that they are still thinking in democratic and political terms – when Orbán has abolished both.

There are no reasonable answers to the Hungarian crisis, because Orbán won’t be reasonable.

The only answer is to call a spade a spade, and declare Orbán, and everything he’s done, illegitimate, and then propose a very simple strategy:

1) Revoke the new constitution and all laws and political appointments Orbán has made since April 2010.

2) Install a provisional, apolitical, government, tasked solely with running the country for a maximum of two years, whilst a new constitution is prepared.

3) Under guidance from the EU, and with all parties involved, develop a new constitution (to be ratified by a referendum).

4) Call new elections.

After that it DOES get difficult, as the country will be in a mess and some hard decisions will need to be taken. But this is one of those rare moments in politics where the first, and most crucial, step is the simplest one.

All it needs is a leader with the vision and courage to do it.

An
Guest

@Paul: Exactly. Before doing all this, somehow the country needs to get rid of Orban. Actually, Bartus has long been advocating boycotting the elections. It would be possible on the grounds that the new constitution and the new election law is illegitimate. But it is a double-edged sword. Most likely it would only result in Orban’s “reelection” (which is going to be the outcome anyway).

Member

All I can say, that this analysis is right-on!

Minusio
Guest
I basically agree with Bartus: ‘In Hungary “the only possible partner in such a quest is Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK, which best represent these principles. Behind DK stands the majority of the modern, enlightened grey matter of the country. . . . The real adherents to the rule of law.” Bartus admits that the supporters of DK are not numerous, but still “these are the natural allies of Bajnai and not the careerist former students of Jesuits and socialists who cling to their corrupt ways.” ‘ – Well said. But at the same time I have reason to believe that “the grey matter of the country” is in scarce supply. Just look at the latest polls. It’s a tiny tail trying to wag a big dog. @Paul. It is easy to agree with your proposed agenda. I have also stipulated a “constitutional reset” a while ago. However, you leave out the point of transition, the most critical in all systems, to which only a working democracy has a viable answer. You wrote: “The only answer is to call a spade a spade, and declare Orbán, and everything he’s done, illegitimate…” OK. You do, I do, a couple of thousands would… Read more »
Rabbit
Guest
I think Bartus way overcomplicates things. Szigetvari is simply a political animal, a kind of pollster who can also deal with logistics of a campaign. He is supposed to be good in areas where politicians are not that good as politicians although like to sit in their Audis as a deputy state secretaries, but don’t like to work on campaing logistics. Szigetvari was always a pollster/campaigner advisor even at the Prime Ministers office. Note that only Szigetvari wrote about the new election system quickly in depth and with expertise (at haza es haladas blog), for everybody else, including journalists and opposition politicians, the new system is way too complicated to comprehend it easily and quickly. It may even be that Együtt was his brainchild and Szigetvari was simply looking for a willing politician and convinced Bajnai who otherwise did not really have the ambition, Péter Tölgyessy also thinks that. But that does not mean that his idea is wrong. His idea is very simple, and probably still holds (although we cannot know for sure, all polls seem to indicate so). That MSZP alone cannot win an election in the new system. (Orban created a system to vastly prefer the most… Read more »
Member
I’m a subscriber of the print edition of the American Nepszava. Most of the articles I read can on-line, but I like the cross word puzzles.They are sending it even when I think I owe them money. Nice. I should give them a call … I promise. I generally like Bartus. He has balls. I like his directness. But sometimes he writes hair raising things that are simply meant to be shocking to attract attention. In his last week’s editorial, where he called the Orban regime flat out fascism, he attacked Gyorgy Bolgar, the famous talk show host for not calling the present Hungary a fascist regime. Bolgar’s point was, talking to a caller, that there is no physical terror in Hungary and the press is still free. Bartus even called Bolgar an agent provocateur of the Orban regime for protecting them. Speaking about helping the Orban regime, there’s nothing that Orban wants more than this kind of mindless attacks … Bravo. One of Bartus’s frequent punchbags is the Hungarian Catholic church. I can’t blame him, especially nowadays, and I have to admit that his target is strictly the church not the Christian faith, but he isn’t taken seriously by… Read more »
TelekiAgain
Guest

The Hungarian Jesuits must be anticommunists as the rest of the conservatives, and fooled by the Balogh/Orban lies.
There is foolish race in anticommunism in Hungary.
To commit the same suicide as the Horthy leaders.

AB
Guest

This is gutter journalism, very similar to Magyar Hirlap only from the opposite side. Zsolt Bayer bashes Gypsies and Jews, Laszlo Bartus hates Catholics.
I am a liberal and i feel ashamed whenever I see the hateful articles in Amerikai Nepszava without intelligent arguments.

Member

Akinek gutter észjárása van, az természetesen azt veszi csak ki Bartus László cikkéből, amit ön. Szerintem maradjon a Magyar Hírlap olvasásánál, lehet, hogy a Bayer Zsolti ötlete szerint, heti folyatásokban, részletesen, képekkel illusztrálva, leközlik majd az orgoványi erdőben történt magyar hőstetteket!

Sol
Guest

OT but interesting, Markó Béla about the Orban / Basescu strategies (in HUN):

http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20130825_Marko_Bela_romanmagyar_vakacio

Marko I think does not get it, or probably he does being a really savvy political hand, that whatever happens anywhere to ethnic Hungarians has zero relevance in the greater scheme of things or as far as Fidesz is concerned.

The one and only use of ethnic Hungarians is their tendency to vote for Fidesz.

Otherwise, they are foreigners (eg. in the Hungarian countryside ethnic Hungarian immigrants are simply called Román and are not welcome).

NationalAgain
Guest

This is the important observation of Bartus on, and the best slogan against orbanism:

“A magyar jobboldaliság a belső harcokat követően visszatért a horthysta “keresztény-nemzeti” ideológiához, amely a konzervativizmust az antiszemitizmusra épülő nemzeti identitással váltotta fel, miután a nemzet fogalmát elszakította a liberalizmustól. ”

orbanism is the return to the horthism, flying on the wings of antisemitism. It is the new nice christian-nationalist identity of Hungary.And the reinvention of a national suicide again.

JGrant
Guest
Quote: “To bring true democracy, the rule of law, and a well regulated capitalist system at last to Hungary.” Unquote I apologise to show my politics yet again, but Hungary has never had a true democracy and especially not a well regulated capitalist system. It missed the boat by about 200 years. By the time capitalism was built in Hungary it was already in its decline as a social and political system. Why do you think Orban’s demagogues are this successful with the “We will not be a colony!” slogan? Precisely because we have always been a colony. Either politically: under Austria, Russia – or economically, like currently. Nothing made me feel more angry and sad at the same time than the total gutless and probably corrupt selling out of totally successful Hungarian industry to Western European and US interests in the early 90’s. Many industries, like Hungarian pharmaceuticals for example were excellent and needed no Western owner to modernise it and/or make it profitable. The pharmaceutical industry fell foul to the universal law of ‘no multinational is willing to allow any domestic industry to remain to challenge it anywhere where it establishes itself.’ Of all the Eastern European states… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Interesting interview with the last surviving member of the Schlieswig Holstein. Especially, the last part. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2402032/WWII-started-55-minutes-earlier-Hitler-claimed-Extraordinary-confession-Nazi-battleship-gunner-fired-shots-Polish-Naval-base.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

‘Hitler told the world that the bombardment began at 5.45am, but this was untrue.
‘It began at 4.50am. I know because I was there.’ It was the first of the many thousands of lies Hitler would tell the German people throughout the conflict.

tappanch
Guest

In the meantime, Jobbik gives full support to the post-gas-attack Assad regime.

How much money do they get from Iran?

http://jobbik.hu/hireink/jobbik-sziriai-konfliktus-hattererol

Member

Tappanch: In the meantime, Jobbik gives full support to the post-gas-attack Assad regime. How much money do they get from Iran?
———-
A LOT AND FOR MANY YEARS NOW! THEY WOULD NOT EXIST WITHOUT IT!

tappanch
Guest

@Ron:

Gerdau’s last words in the article are memorable:

“To avoid war, learn.
Education is everything.
Go to school.
And don’t forget to vote.”

tappanch
Guest

Armed terrorist wannabe organizes against Alfoldi’s theater performance in Budapest on August 30:

http://cink.hu/ez-a-kedves-fegyveres-neni-szervezi-az-alfoldi-ellenes-1200465938

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

tappanch :
@Ron:
Gerdau’s last words in the article are memorable:
“To avoid war, learn.
Education is everything.
Go to school.
And don’t forget to vote.”

Unfortunately, Weimar Germany had the highest literacy rate in continental Europe, and huge turnouts at general elections. So I guess it could also depend on what is taught.

By the way, I wonder if Dr Balogh could enlighten us about the current state of the Hungarian historical debate for the years 1867-1919 ? Two decades after the demise of the communist regime, has there been significant re-evaluations?

This weekend I came across a book I’d forgotten, a study in historiography about how, in the 60s/70s, the controversy around Fritz Fischer’s works (about the Wilhelminian era) had changed the landscape of XXth century German historical studies – and probably participated in changing the country’s minds.

Member

Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …

Laszló Kövér, the president of the parliament (Fidesz) fined two opposition MPs to 50k HUF each, for quoting the Prime Miniszter, Viktor Orbán.

http://bit.ly/143dhaW

The banner says: “We don’t want a Europe Hungary where the majority abuses it’s powers …”.

szomszéd
Guest

…”Bartus finds the Hungarian version of “political scientists” (politológusok) injurious to politics. Szigetvári is one of those “ventriloquists” who try to convince the rest of us that they are “in possession of some secret knowledge that other ordinary human beings simply cannot understand.” Some of them appear on radio and television programs and “talk a lot of nonsense only adding to the general confusion,” ….

This is very nice characteristics of not only “political scientists” but the politicians themselves, Bainai included. When he was recently in Slovakia to talk with his political friend Bugar he criticised everything OV is doing. Having been asked to present his attitude to Orban´s recruiting new Hungarian citizens in neighbour countries he said he would not change anything in that and tried to explain his position with something that could be exactly defined as some secret knowledge not accessible to ordinary human beings. Of course, there was very simple explanation at disposal – that he was the same populist as Orban – but naturally he did not confessed that. Unfortunately for him, everybody knows it.

petofi
Guest

Mutt :
Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …
Laszló Kövér, the president of the parliament (Fidesz) fined two opposition MPs to 50k HUF each, for quoting the Prime Miniszter, Viktor Orbán.
http://bit.ly/143dhaW
The banner says: “We don’t want a Europe Hungary where the majority abuses it’s powers …”.

“Parliamentary privelidge, Hungarian style”.

Is there another Parliament in the world where its members can be fined?????

Or, as Herr Putin has said, “There’s YOUR Democracy and then there’s ours!”

Or, as Kover would say: “There are your parliamentary rules and then there are ours!!”

HAJRA MAGYAROK!!!!!

spectator
Guest
@JGrant Actually I think, that one more aspect of Paul’s comment worth considering, namely: “2) Install a provisional, apolitical, government, tasked solely with running the country for a maximum of two years, whilst a new constitution is prepared.” However utopian it may sound at first, it would be a chance of a lifetime to the opposing forces to be able to work on two more years, which party or what kind of political conglomerate would lead, define the future of the country. As things are today, I don’t see a clear and easy way out of the present political turmoil, in spite of the various statements regarding the willingness to compromise – up to a certain point, mind you. Unfortunately the possible opportunity of some kind of personal advancement much more important to some newcomers with attitude than to reach an agreement, so I have no high hopes. Not to mention the fact, that even if the MSZP and the E14 would find some solution to cooperate, there are still quite a few others who should be included if it was a fair pact. Assuming the role of ‘the only chosen one’ quite a bold status, would need a way… Read more »
Ivan
Guest

Clutching at straws maybe, but the most important thing is to garner more interest from the outside world. The almost total absence of discontent on the streets (which rather gives the lie to the idea that the country is in any serious way turning against Fidesz) is not going to help this. There was immense international interest when the anti-Gyurcsany forces made plain their obvious displeasure and numbers in 2006 (though the journalism was pretty bad – I don’t remember any journalist explaining what that sea of red-and-white-striped-flags was all about … ).

So, perhaps a 90% majority in parliament based on about 20% of the electorate might actually help, in the long run, to draw attention to the iniquities here?

Perhaps the vote should NOT be got out?

AB
Guest

@bubala
Well, i am a liberal, but i can’t stand primitive, hateful articles without credible arguments. laszlo Bartus is the shame of Hungarian journalism, He hates catholics so now Szigetvari’s sin is to be a piarista student.
It is not enough to read what you want to hear, if you accept Bartus type of arguments you have pregudice as well. Just like Magyar Hirlap the same style with the opposite direction.

Member

Yes you are right, the black color is the same as the white just opposite. And you don’t like any of the other colors either. I think this is a case of being screwed.

AB
Guest

Bubala
The problem is that you are also attacking like Bartus. Instead of intelligent arguments, just cursing. Well probably not worse it. It is a marginal group who read Amerikai Nepszava and it is unfortunate that this blog which is usually the place of high level discussion quotes Bartus as a credible writer. And takes the stand at the side of his extreme views about certain religions and people.

Member

You have no points to argue and I am not cursing, I never do. We are finished, I have no more to say and/or to read on this subject. Bye.

PeaceAgain
Guest

AB is invited to turn from closed minded person into an open minded one.

Is this hollow anticommunism of the orbanists in the interest of the tortured Hungarian nation?

Is this anticommunism driving half of the nation into a second class status?

Bubala 51 is intellectually and emotionally on the right track. I would support his logic over AB’s.

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