István Hiller on restructuring the Hungarian Socialist Party

Doomsayers are already predicting the demise of social democracy in Hungary. According to their argument, the socialists will disappear just as SZDSZ vanished because Hungarian society has no appetite for anything that is associated with the left.

A party may disappear, but the political philosophy behind it certainly will not. SZDSZ as a party is no more, but the liberal idea is alive. It lives on in Együtt-PM, in DK, and, yes, to a certain extent in MSZP. Anyone who wants to throw the very ideas of social democracy and liberalism out the window and who claims that their disappearance will be good for Hungarian society is gravely mistaken. (One of these Cassandras suggests in a comment on this blog that LMP should be the major political force because, in his opinion, it is a centrist party. The fact is that LMP is more leftist than MSZP ever was.) If we send the representatives of social democracy and liberalism packing, we are going to have “national unity” of the worst kind, unity built on single-party autocratic rule.

I believe that both social democracy and liberalism will survive, just as they have survived in most European countries. Of course, the farther east we go the less weighty is their presence. That’s why Péter Pető of Népszabadság is very wrong when he assumes that the underdevelopment of the Hungarian countryside and its uneducated population does not matter. Yes, it does matter. He is also wrong when he minimizes the obstacles built into the electoral system devised by Fidesz. Yes, Fidesz would have won but not the way it did, and today we wouldn’t be talking about the demise of the Hungarian left.

After this brief detour, I would like to return to István Hiller’s recommendations for restructuring MSZP. Before he became a politician Hiller was an associate professor of history at ELTE, where he had the reputation of being an excellent lecturer. Although one of the young Turks in MSZP, Tamás Harangozó, included Hiller in the older generation of “aunts and uncles” (bácsik és nénik), he is in fact only 49 years old. When he became one of the founders of MSZP he was 25.

In the last election Hiller won his district (Pesterzsébet and Kispest) handsomely. As I learned from this interview with him in Népszava, he always insisted on being an individual candidate even when as party chairman he needed special permission from the party to do so. He won in 2002 and 2006 and  now again, in 2014. It is likely that the party will designate him one of the deputy presidents of parliament.

How does Hiller see the party’s situation? “Those people are right who call attention to the electoral law, the restricted possibilities of the opposition to be heard, and the uneven playing field. But those who stop here and make excuses don’t really want the rebuilding of the left…. I believe that the Hungarian left didn’t understand, didn’t digest the shocking changes that Hungarian society underwent in the last five years. Some of the multitudes who live in poverty most likely voted for MSZP in the past. These people hate the present government, but they didn’t choose us but the far right. These people are not extremists, their situation is extreme.”  Thus the party should concentrate on the poorest segments of society.

Some of Hiller’s ideas echo those of Ildikó Lendvai but with a twist. For example, “one cannot blame the left-liberal side for defending democracy and democratic rights, but one must know where to say what.” It is useless to talk about the fine points of democracy in a God-forsaken, poverty-stricken village in the countryside.

Ildikó Lendvai and István Hiller / MTI Photo: Attila Manek

Ildikó Lendvai and István Hiller / MTI Photo: Attila Manek

Hiller admitted that his colleagues don’t get what he is talking about. “They don’t reject [my ideas], but for the time being they don’t quite understand what I want. But I’m accustomed to fighting. What I want is the complete rebuilding of the Hungarian left. It is not enough to climb out of the hole. It is not enough to get from minus to zero. I have higher goals.”

Another similarity between the thoughts of Lendvai and Hiller is that Hiller also believes that there is something very wrong with Hungarian politics altogether. He specifically talked about the divisiveness that exists in Hungarian society. As Sándor Csányi, CEO of the largest Hungarian bank OTP, said, this divisiveness has become an impediment to economic competitiveness. “We must change our whole political culture.”

Hiller is, of course, most concerned with restructuring the left. He offered some specific proposals.  He would concentrate on “internal structure” and “communication.” When it comes to changing the internal structure of the party, he would use local self-governments as the basis of the party structure. “This is what I’m trying to convince my colleagues of.” According to him, the party should concentrate on micro-communities. “We should reconstruct our organizational model based on the municipalities.” The party bigwigs, however, don’t cherish the idea of shifting the focus of decision-making away from the center.

Finally, Hiller echoes Lendvai’s ideas about a social democratic network. The next three years should be spent moving the focal point from the center to the 3,000-some municipalities. Every village should have at least one party member or sympathizer who can help build the network that would cover the whole country. He ended the interview by saying that he will share his ideas with the party and with the public as well. He knows that it will be difficult to change, but without change there can be no renewal and reconstruction.

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jonty
Guest
I don’t believe social democracy in Hungary is necessarily dead at this point, but I do believe the existing “opposition” parties are and that a fresh start is needed, with a new movement that embraces democrats from across the political spectrum. Call it something like “New Start 2014”. But it needs have a robust programme from the beginning, that is clear and which people can identify with. And the movement should start by looking for support / members in the big cities first and then branch out in planned steps. I’d aim for campaigning / organising to this timescale: 2014 + in the cities 2014 / 2015 + towns 2016 + villages At each stage the organisation must prove itself and show its message is attractive to people. And programmes should be properly thought out and costed. And there should be a relentless campaign to expose the faults of the current government. Above all, the movement needs to have and protect a set of core democatic values. Of course, all of this relies on people actually seeing the “bigger picture” and working together to protect democracy. To date Hungarians who dislike the current Government have failed totally in these respects.… Read more »
Member

I am truly sorry for kidnapping the blog for a moment, but maybe some of you would like to spread the new, as well as some of you may wish to participate. I understand that the deadline is passed to register but not for participate in the various remembrance ceremonies.

“From April 22 to 27, 2014, the March of Life will take place in Hungary. Under the title “Remembering, Reconciling, and Shaping the Future in Friendship”, 250 participants from Germany will be walking together with several hundreds of participants from Hungary along the routes of the former death marches.

At the sites where people were deprived of their rights, dispossessed, deported, and murdered, German and Hungarian descendants of the perpetrators will walk together with the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. With the March, the participants want to honor Holocaust survivors and set a mark for Israel and against anti-Semitism and racism.”
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/179748#.U1RUecYxrFg
http://www.marchoflife.org/en/v2/footer/hungary/

Johnny Boy
Guest

” Péter Pető of Népszabadság is very wrong when he assumes that the underdevelopment of the Hungarian countryside and its uneducated population”

He is an outright Nazi and, moreover, an idiot. He obviously failed to look at the election results map to see that even in Budapest, all intellectual districts are strongly pro-Fidesz (as they always have been) and MSZMP won only in the labour districts.

k1232
Guest

I despise Orban and Fidesz, but leaning on Lendvai and her allies is a mistake. She was a censor, and I don’t care how benign she was or how little she actually did – just accepting that position and the perks that she enjoyed make her unfit for political life. The personal backgrounds of politicians matter.

Poltergeist
Guest

I agree that the “left” will not disappear.

It will live in the DNAs of Fidesz and Jobbik both of which (besides being bullying, nationalistic, Russian-oriented, deeply corrupt etc.) are very lefty when it comes to economy.

(I know that re Fidesz a lot can be said that it is really just another “bad capitalist party”, but really it is social democratic in many sense and average people understand it so, while they treat MSZP as a capitalist party which loves nothing better than to unleash the forces of unbridled competition on the poor average Joes.)

Echo778975
Guest
magyarinfo/Kettős Mérce and dinamo műhely are two sites with the new generation of lefty intellectuals. Some of their comment have points. But instead of organizing their parties, which they are inherently incapable of, they are doing what the Italian left always did. Argue internally (but publicly) everything to death, fragment, offend people and get offended and most importantly be smarter and a more real lefty politician, more loyal to Marx or whoever. This will lead nowhere. The right wing instinctively knows that that there is no mileage in arguing. Only in working and organizing. If somebody does not like the existing right-wing Fidesz, then they set up another party like Jobbik and start to work on that. But there is no intellectual debate, everybody supports loyally their chosen party like a good soldier. There is discipline and efficiency. And – most importantly – there are results. The current left will in my view disappear and only reemerge in some form after 2018 at the earliest because at the municipal elections the left will badly lose again given the fact that Jobbik has prevailed over the united left in over 2000 municipalities and except for a handful of cases in each… Read more »
Opp Pride 2014
Guest

It was almost a glory to lose the 2014 election against such crooks.

Every member of the leftwing opposition can be proud of the failed effort.

Shame goes to the ones who belong to the fidesz/kndp/jobbik or voted for them.

They all will be in the dock of a future fair court.

LoPe
Guest

Re tappanch’ rumours about MSZP. I do not know if these are true or not but these items are also circulating:

Lajos Kósa’s (still mayor of Debrecen though heading to the Parliament) wife moved in with Éva Risztov (who won the Olympic gold medal in London in long distance swimming) apparently after Lajos Kósa beat her up again.

Janos Lazar recently brought her wife to the traumatology department in Szeged with a broken jaw.

Paul Summers
Guest

I would like to thank to the owner of this blog for her anti-Hungarian agenda. Without your ongoing anti-Hungarian hate campaign the 2/3 victory wouldn’t be possible.

Guest

Wow, we have a new kuruc troll …

@Paul Summers:

Without the manipulations of Fidesz 45% of the votes wouldn’t have got them a two thirds majority …

PS: How do you translate “Ne bántsátok, ő a mi zsidónk.”?

petofi
Guest

Paul Summers :
I would like to thank to the owner of this blog for her anti-Hungarian agenda. Without your ongoing anti-Hungarian hate campaign the 2/3 victory wouldn’t be possible.

There is no ‘campaign’.
If individual commenters show Hungarians to be…servile, sycophantic, envious, lazy, un-thinking, delusional and the like…it may possibly be that with our western education and objective point of view, that is how they appear to be.
Sorry.
You can varnish falsehood, but not the truth.

petofi
Guest

Furthermore, Mr. Summers, you might just try out your discriminatory powers and consider
a setup where 45% of the vote gets you a 2/3 majority.

Having done that, work your navel over the asinine, purely fraudulent, anti-democratic nature
of the powers given to parliaments with a 2/3 majority. I can assure you that no true democracy–under any percentage of the vote, be it 66% or 85%–would stand for the permutations that Fidesz have wrought.

Democracy works with an element of trust and respect within society: in Hungary their is precious little of both.

Kirsten
Guest
When I read both Eva’s entry and the comments, it is clear that there is no easy way out of it,and the problem is not that some political “left” would have to be revived. I do not even believe that some earlier “political culture” would have to be revived, as my reading of Hungary’s past is that there has never been either a phase of sustained aiming at democracy nor a sustained phase of democracy. It is indeed not helpful, and even telling, that MSzP is unable to see that it is a problem what it has formerly been: a Communist party, which transformed itself half-heartedly (which imho is the maximum that one can expect from a Communist party with its legacy of one party rule, the idea of a vanguard role in the society, and the idea that people have to be either paternalised or threatened because it is the Communist who are in possession of the eternal truth and entitlement to decide about right and wrong). Istvan Hiller ran as an “independent candidate”, which is just another representation of the observed inability of the Hungarian politicians to cooperate and arrive at compromises. I fully agree with Jolty that… Read more »
Member

Paul Summers :
I would like to thank to the owner of this blog for her anti-Hungarian agenda. Without your ongoing anti-Hungarian hate campaign the 2/3 victory wouldn’t be possible.

You give very little credit to Orban and his gang. With their continued effort to undermine any democratic measures, overspend allowed money, spread misinformation, allow crooks to run the country (Schmidt, Rogan, etc.), misaligned Union money to friends (Kozgep), destroy the land of others (Kishantos), steal and spend the private savings of thousand (retirement savings), redistribute wealth (tobacco shops), allowing murderers to run free, giving out votes to people who may never stepped on Hungarian soil in their lives, all for fun, profit, influence can achieve a lot. Wait Mr. Summers, the next election, if Fidesz can come up with better ideas will be won 100%.

Guest

Please, people, don’t feed this extremist kuruc troll Summers!

Just have a look at his facebook page (click on his name) – and shudder …

Or read what re wrote/commented re the Gypsies’ situation in Hungary:
http://theconversation.com/persecution-of-roma-in-hungary-is-spiralling-out-of-control-23262

Member

I know why Fidesz won!!! Probably extraterrestrials helped. According to Gabor Szeles, one of the well deserved recipient from Orban / Fidesz of the Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit in 2013, stated today that it was UFOs that took the Malaysian Airline. It is very obvious that the person who is one of the main organizers of the Fidesz / Orban / COF Peace March, and great opposer of the EU could not come up with such statements without any proof. I am sure through his connection he was able to ask for some help to support Fidesz too. These are the people who Hungarians should believe make good political decisions. No kidding Fidesz won.

tappanch
Guest

A rare, mildly critical voice from inside the Fidesz fort:

http://hetivalasz.hu/uzlet/elmentunk-a-falig-75595/

Member

wolfi :
Please, people, don’t feed this extremist kuruc troll Summers!
Just have a look at his facebook page (click on his name) – and shudder …
Or read what re wrote/commented re the Gypsies’ situation in Hungary:
http://theconversation.com/persecution-of-roma-in-hungary-is-spiralling-out-of-control-23262

I see, so he is one of the across the border Hungarians who Orban gave the right to vote. Lovely character for sure. Well, he just represents some of the people who voted for Fidesz.

Mutt
Guest

Paul Summers :
I would like to thank to the owner of this blog for her anti-Hungarian agenda. Without your ongoing anti-Hungarian hate campaign the 2/3 victory wouldn’t be possible.

Right. Because millions of Hungarians were reading this blog in English before the elections …

No. The 2/3 is because they are as smart as you are.

Member

wolfi :
Please, people, don’t feed this extremist kuruc troll Summers!
Just have a look at his facebook page (click on his name) – and shudder …
Or read what re wrote/commented re the Gypsies’ situation in Hungary:
http://theconversation.com/persecution-of-roma-in-hungary-is-spiralling-out-of-control-23262

I never cease to be amazed at how some of the regulars of HS fail to detect F/J trolls straight off, and instead try to chat with them. That, of course, is the trolls’ objective; but what impels the veterans to keep playing into their hands? (At the very least, when quoting them, make sure you are aware of what you are doing: “A Fidesz/Jobbik troll under the false name of W wrote…”.)

Member

I meant X, of course, not W!

Mutt
Guest

Well, trolls are good. What’s important is how do you reply to them. Don’t forget that the purpose of this blog is to inform the English speaking world about Hungary. If the moron pitches you an easy one … then answer with information that they don’t want the readers to read.

petofi
Guest

I agree with Mutt: a troll often times reveals the extremity to which average Hungarians are prone to, or listen to wonderingly. A normal western reaction would be, “It can’t be”, but it can;
and trolls are living proof of it.

HiBoM
Guest

I thought the definition of a troll is someone who posts insincerely to disrupt or irritate an open forum. In other words, someone who claims to believe things that they actually don’t believe.

A lot of the people you call trolls are in fact posters who reflect opinions that are probably shared by a large number of people in Hungary. You and I can be horrified by these opinions and disagree but I don’t think these posters are insincere. They just post views that many people here (myself included) disagree with. But given the rather monochrome and often sycophantic views of the regular posters here, it surely is a healthy thing that we get people with views different to our own and which in part explain why the politicians we like and support fail to win the support we posters expect.

Of course, I suspect most people only want to hear from people who parrot views identical to their own, but that is a Hungarian (and not just Hungarian) disease, as reflected on HirTV and ATV in nearly equal measure.

Member

Stevan Harnad :

wolfi :
Please, people, don’t feed this extremist kuruc troll Summers!
Just have a look at his facebook page (click on his name) – and shudder …
Or read what re wrote/commented re the Gypsies’ situation in Hungary:
http://theconversation.com/persecution-of-roma-in-hungary-is-spiralling-out-of-control-23262

I never cease to be amazed at how some of the regulars of HS fail to detect F/J trolls straight off, and instead try to chat with them. That, of course, is the trolls’ objective; but what impels the veterans to keep playing into their hands? (At the very least, when quoting them, make sure you are aware of what you are doing: “A Fidesz/Jobbik troll under the false name of W wrote…”.)

I think it is important to reply to some of the trolls. First time visitors or those who are not familiar with the Hungarian situation need to know the truth.
I guess the opposition also believed that Fidesz is a troll (which is) but not seeking up and not setting the record straight had no benefit. Fidesz can say whatever they want since people believe them. THat was the tragedy of the 2014 election!

Member

“Troll” as we refer to is a the concept that started in the 1990s and still evolves. I think when we refer to trolls, we refer to “drive-by” posters, who try to put on some PR materials, or individuals who put on content (regularly or otherwise) that has no factual truth. Simple is that. If Eva decides to keep those posts on then I feel that the factual information must be posted as not to let the Fidesz or Jobbik PR go unanswered. THis blog is not maintained or owned by Kozgep as free forum to spread lies.

When some of you say that some of the trollers are not trolls but people expressing personal opinion, I would like to say that when something is presented as factual information without the facts than it is not an opinion no more. Opinion is derived from facts not from lies.

HiBoM
Guest

OT but I’ve just seen a photo on Index from the Felcsut stadium opening. And in one picture, we see Polt Péter joking with Deutsch Tamás. It is utterly outrageous that the head of the prosecution service (who as we know is a political appointee) is hobnobbing with government and party political figures (and only one particularly party.)

But as we now from the recent election, no one cares or will care.

googly
Guest

Johnny Boy :
” Péter Pető of Népszabadság is very wrong when he assumes that the underdevelopment of the Hungarian countryside and its uneducated population”
He is an outright Nazi and, moreover, an idiot. He obviously failed to look at the election results map to see that even in Budapest, all intellectual districts are strongly pro-Fidesz (as they always have been) and MSZMP won only in the labour districts.

The left won districts VI, VII, and XIV, none of which can be considered “labour districts”. All of them are full of middle-class and educated people. Stop spreading lies to fool people into supporting Fidesz, it’s a lost cause. If it hadn’t been for the gerrymandering, Fidesz would barely have won the election. As it is, pathetic, corrupt idiots like the ones who run MSZP managed to do better than the last elections, now that people have seen what Fidesz wants to do to the country. A strong majority of voters wanted a change of government, and in a fair system they would have gotten it.

googly
Guest
HiBoM : I thought the definition of a troll is someone who posts insincerely to disrupt or irritate an open forum. In other words, someone who claims to believe things that they actually don’t believe. A lot of the people you call trolls are in fact posters who reflect opinions that are probably shared by a large number of people in Hungary. You and I can be horrified by these opinions and disagree but I don’t think these posters are insincere. They just post views that many people here (myself included) disagree with. But given the rather monochrome and often sycophantic views of the regular posters here, it surely is a healthy thing that we get people with views different to our own and which in part explain why the politicians we like and support fail to win the support we posters expect. Of course, I suspect most people only want to hear from people who parrot views identical to their own, but that is a Hungarian (and not just Hungarian) disease, as reflected on HirTV and ATV in nearly equal measure. I agree, the posts in question are not from trolls, but rather from paid obfuscators who are sowing… Read more »
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