Miklós Horthy and Viktor Orbán are kindred souls, at least according to George Friedman

I hope I made it eminently clear what I think of George Friedman’s brief description of the role of Miklós Horthy who, he claims, heroically tried to balance between two great powers. Friedman’s knowledge of the period is woefully inadequate. He couldn’t even keep his facts straight, never mind the validity of his conclusions.

On the basis of this inadequate description of what transpired in Hungary between, let’s say, 1933 and 1944, he portrays Horthy as a politician of vision who brilliantly managed to keep Germans and the far right at bay as long as possible. Thereby, he managed to save thousands of lives.

In Friedman’s eyes Prime Minister Viktor Orbán resembles Horthy: he is also trying to steer the ship of a weak and poor country though dangerous waters. Admittedly, he says, times are different, but “circumstances still bear similarities to Horthy’s time.” What, however, we never get any answer to is why Germany is a dangerous enemy of Hungary today. Because Viktor Orbán’s foreign policy is described as a balancing act between a  hostile Germany and a hostile Russia.

Friedman, it seems, envisages a Russia that sooner or later will run down all of Ukraine and thus will become a direct neighbor of Hungary. In the case of Germany, Friedman focuses on the nature of the EU and economics. First, “Hungary is already facing Germany’s policy toward liberal integration within the European Union, which fundamentally contradicts Hungary’s concept of an independent state economy. Hungary is already facing Germany’s policies that undermine Hungary’s economic and social well-being. Orban’s strategy is to create an economy with maximum distance from Europe without breaking with it, and one in which the state exerts its power. This is not what the Germans want to see.” And second, “There is little support from Hungary’s west, other than mostly hollow warnings. He knows that the Germans will not risk their prosperity to help stabilize the Hungarian economy or its strategic position.” Of course, the European Union does try to stabilize the Hungarian economy by pouring billions of euros into it, without which it would have gone under a long time ago.

Be afraid of the future because the past will return / Source: nikotex.blogspot.com

Be afraid of the future because the past will return / Source: nikotex.blogspot.com

And, according to Friedman, there is another similarity between the situations of Horthy and Orbán. Both leaders were faced with a far-right threat. Just to set the historical record straight, Horthy’s success with the extreme right was less than successful, not that he tried very hard. Horthy’s National Army from its birth was a gathering place of extremists. Although he boasted that he could get rid of them at any time, in fact both his administration and the army were full of anti-Semitic extremists who were great admirers of Hitler’s Germany. His friendships with far-right military and political actors in the 1930s dated to 1919-1920 when he was the hope of the extreme right. In the 1920s, Prime Minister István Bethlen managed to keep Horthy away from both his old extremist friends and politics. Once Bethlen was gone, there was no one to keep Horthy in line. He was on his own, with the well documented results.

Friedman sees Orbán just as he imagined Horthy to be: the guarantor of right-of-center politics. The real enemy is Jobbik and, if we didn’t have Orbán, Jobbik today would be the leading political force in Hungary. At least this is what the following muddled sentence indicates: Orbán “constructed a regime that appalled the left, which thought that without Orbán, it would all return to the way it was before, rather than realizing that it might open the door to the further right.” Friedman either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know the real facts: Orbán has fulfilled several demands of Jobbik in the hope of siphoning off some of its support.

Orbán’s strategy as far as the extreme right is concerned has so far been quite similar to that of the governments between the two world wars. The problem is that the strategy didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Jobbik has not lost its appeal. On the contrary, the extreme right has gained ground during the last four years. In 2010 855,436 people voted for Jobbik (16.67%) while this year the number was 1,020.476 (20.22%). It seems to me that Orbán is no guarantee of anything. In fact, with his constant courting of the far right, he only added legitimacy and political heft to Jobbik.

As for the sorry state of Hungarian democracy, Friedman whitewashes Orbán’s domestic policies. “Internally he is increasing his power constantly, and that gives him freedom to act internationally.” Or, “Orbán is trying to do what Horthy did: strengthen his power over the state and the state’s power over society. He is attacked from the left for violating the principles of liberal democracy and Europe.” But, as Friedman explains, all this is necessary because of the external and internal threats Hungary faces.

In many ways George Friedman and Viktor Orbán see the world similarly. Both consider the European Union a massive failure. Moreover, in Friedman’s view, Orbán doesn’t want “to continue playing the German game in the European Union because he can’t. As in many European countries, the social fabric of Hungary is under great tension.”  So, the general portrait of Orbán that circulates at home and abroad as a man who wants to reap the benefits of the European Union but refuses to abide by its rules is all wrong. If we were to believe Friedman, Orbán is doing all this for the higher purpose of saving his country from the Russian bear and the German imperial eagle. He is the hero of the nation, and we are all too short-sighted to realize his true aim.

This particular construct, I’m afraid, is the work of Friedman’s imagination. Orbán’s policies are largely guided by his insatiable desire for power. He whips up nationalist and anti-European sentiments in order to bolster his popularity with Fidesz and Jobbik voters. At the last election, although more than half of the population wanted to see Orbán go, with help from clever mathematicians who managed to construct an electoral system that could produce a two-thirds majority from 44.87% of the votes cast for Fidesz, he managed to stay in power for another four years. After that, apparently he has another plan. Just like his friend Vladimir Putin, he is planning to move on to the presidency. Admittedly, right now the Hungarian president doesn’t have much power, but Orbán with his two-thirds parliamentary majority can easily change the Hungarian constitution to transform Hungary’s parliamentary system into a presidential one. If this happens, Orbán will be a major political figure in Hungary until at least 2022!

The real moving force of Orbán is his personal power and his inability to cope with any authority above himself. The rest is just talk.

I could wrap up my critique here, but I feel I should give a few more examples of the author’s wanton disregard for facts and the unsupported “grand theses” in this article. Here are a few examples. “The great depression in Mediterranean Europe, contrasted with German prosperity, is simply the repeat of an old game.” What old game? Or, Hungary allegedly lies between Russia and “the European Peninsula.” European Peninsula? Or, “the Ukrainian crisis can only be understood in terms of the failure of the European Union.”‘ In what way?

If this article had been published by a run-of-the-mill journalist I would be less appalled. But it was written by a former academic who is supposed to be an expert on international affairs and geopolitical strategy. Based on this piece, I think we can safely exclude from his areas of expertise Hungarian history and politics.

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andrew.szende@gmail.com
Guest
andrew.szende@gmail.com

As usual, an excellent analysis and critique. Please correct one typo:
In 2014 855,436 people voted for Jobbik (16.67%) while this year the number was 1,020.476 (20.22%).
Obviously, this should read: In 2010, etc.
Best,
Andrew Szende

mirvegk
Guest

George Friedman is really skeptical person. I know that he is crazy but he is reading a lot of us. He was writing something about Turkish and Chinese against to America in 2009.Who can imagine Turkey and China ? He has always interesting claims which no one thinks about it before. that is why sometimes he is confusing me and he misgive me about his saying and I think about that if it is true ?! But I am agree with him that sometimes Viktor Orban makes really dangerous things about Hungary and i think that at that moment he is just thinking about himself and political career.

An
Guest

Orban’s PR machinery is working full force. At best, Friedman is a trusting victim of Fidesz propaganda. This is not the quality of insight you’d expect from a company dubbed as the “shadow CIA.”

Jonas
Guest
Spot on post. @ An: Well, based on my readings of books and news articles, this is exactly what I would be expecting. That’s the problem — and this ensures Orban’s advantage, because it shows that Westerners will just never understand him (or any other non-Western politician) and he can always outmaneuver them. I think you way overestimate the capabilities of ‘expert’ organizations. The ‘pros’ were completely clueless in Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Egypt, you name it. The fundamental problem is that the readers of Stratfor’s analyses by definition should know less (or they feel that they know less) about the topic (that is why they subscribe), so they are just not really in a position to evaluate the service. These two posts by Prof. Balogh are just one of these rare instances when a real expert can review the analysis and it quickly turns out that Friedman’s article is extremely weak (and possibly the result of a conflict of interest, if Orban somehow became a client). Friedman, by the way, wrote a book in 1991 about the “The Coming War with Japan”. If one remembers, at the end of the eighties, turn of the nineties, Japan was at the height… Read more »
Gollum
Guest

I am sorry, but I couldn’t resist this little video about Béla.

http://cseszlovak.tumblr.com/post/86217077585

Gollum
Guest

OT: this is a Hungarian translation of a Czech interview with Tamás Gáspár Miklós. He is now an explicitly lefty intellectual, but most of his points seem to be spot on, if a bit strongly worded for mainstream media. There are tons more truth in this than in Friedman’s article, that’s for sure (though the topics are different).

http://dotoho.blog.hu/2014/05/12/europa_jovoje_a_szkinhedallam

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Mr. Friedman who pretends to know something about Hungarian History is an ignoramus. He does not know when Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union. He is also immoral, when he ignores the hold-up murder of more than half a million Hungarians (Jews or persons qualified as such by the Hungarian racial law of 1941) because Horthy did not let in July 1944 deport from Budapest. In August, Horthy gave his O.K. for the deportation from Budapest, but alas, the Red Army made it impossible to deport to Auschwitz-Birkenau. So ten thousands were sent on foot to the western border of Hungary.
Any junior analyst who writes his first paper will check the facts. Not so, Mr. Friedman, for him what his parents said to him are facts and so he can neglect History. Moreover, in doing so he joins those “real Hungarian” historians like Ernö Raffay, Sándor Szakály and Mária Schmidt who rewrite History to show Horthy and his Hungarian perpetrators as innocent.
The advantage of Orbán is, he can point out, not only my (acolyte) Historians say so but also an American named George Friedman.

Judith
Guest

I think we should shelve Friedman’s 4 pages long reflections as oral history.

petofi
Guest

I think the sins of a Friedman, or a Szigetvari (who called into question Schepelle’s expertise) are even greater than those of an Orban because unknowing readers come innocently to their opinions and are given to believe that Orban’s harangues are seen by objective persons as having
legitimacy.

British political support
Guest
British political support

Do not forget that Horthy was installed by strong British political support.

real history
Guest
“Any junior analyst who writes his first paper will check the facts. Not so, Mr. Friedman, for him what his parents said to him are facts and so he can neglect History. Moreover, in doing so he joins those “real Hungarian” historians like Ernö Raffay, Sándor Szakály and Mária Schmidt who rewrite History to show Horthy and his Hungarian perpetrators as innocent.” Oh but there is another possibility. What if Stalinist and Communist historians weren’t 100% honest, and they already falsified history as much as they could? Why should we trust Stalinists and Communists to tell real history, to write real history books? And if it is true that Communists falsified history for many decades, then the current state of history is the one falsified. Why did Communist era historians have an incentive to falsify history? The Rakosi regime which was so oppressive so unbearable that average people were suffering greatly. The Rakosi regime needed history falsifications to justify the very existence. They did this by falsifying en mass history of the previous era, and trying to portray it as negatively as they could. This was hardcore propaganda, nothing was sacred. Historical documents were burned, purged, photos altered, falsification everywhere.… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@Real History@ during the Horthy period the right to vote was severely restricted in cities to men above 26 and to women above 30. In the villages, one had to vote openly. Is that a communist lie?
Real History do you want to deny that Hungary was during Horthy’s rule the country of 3 Million beggars? Is that a communist lie?
@Real history@, so all serious historians in Hungary and the Hungarian academy of sciences are just idiots who fell victim to the communists.
Because some communist Historians especially during the Rákosi period falsified history it is justified that Orbán’s acolyte Historians rewrite Hungarian History?
By the way Real History, do you deny the Hungarian Holocaust, the deportation of more than half a million Hungarians to Auschwitz-Birkenau?

KT
Guest
SLOVAK FASCIST ATTACKS WOMEN, CALLS THEM CUNTS FOR SPEAKING HUNGARIAN “You fucking stupid cunts, speak in Slovak, your Hungarian speech irritates me” – the words of Dárius Rusnák to two Hungarian women, having coffee. According to recent press reports Dárius Rusnák who works for the Office of the Slovak President, tried to beat up two Hungarian women for speaking Hungarian in a bar in Bratislava. Non-fascist Slovaks intervened and stopped the attack from turning into a beating. The confrontation began when two Hungarian women were speaking to each other in their native language and Rusnák asked them in English “What language are you speaking in” The women replied in English that they were speaking Hungarian. Then Rusnák asked “Why?” The women replied that they were Hungarians and that is the reason. This is when Rusnák lost his temper and started shouting: “You fucking stupid cunts, speak in Slovak, your Hungarian speech irritates me” And then when he was ignored, started shouting even louder “STUPID CUNTS SPEAK IN SLOVAK”. Soon his shouting became unbearable and other patrons of the bar came over to see what the issue was. At this point Rusnák wanted to beat up the women much like the… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

KT thanks for this info which was published also by Népszabadság
http://nol.hu/kulfold/magabol-kikelve-karomolt-magyar-noket-a-szlovak-elnok-pr-fonoke-1463265

The Hungarian nationalism is not better than the Slovak one

Guest

It is almost funny that these nationalist right wingers are so similar in most ways, hate for the EU, the Jews and the Muslims, the immigrants in general, the Roma, the LGBT community etc – the only difference is:

The Hungarian Nationalists hate the Slovaks and Romanians etc, the Slovak Nationalists hate the Hungarians, the German Nationalists hate everybody who is not a German – you could continue this list with UKIP and the French etc …

A bit OT:

Germany has a new anti-EU party which wants back the Deutsche Mark called AfD (Alliance for Germany) and it seems our conservative CDU is very afraid of them – because they might steal even more votes from the Christians at the EU elections …

They already are angry because their 4,7% at the last parliament election probably cost Mrs Merkel the hoped for absolute majority. Now one of our local politicians (mayor of Rottenburg, a medium sized town – and the seat of a Catholic bishop) called the AfD a Nazi party – worse than the real Nazis, because they don’t show their Nazism openly …

Any similarities to the Fidesz/Jobbik situation are purely accidental, of course!

tappanch
Guest

Orban continues his Kampf against Norway.

If he cannot decide 100% about the distribution of the Norwegian money, no money should come.

Technically: the Governmental Overseeing Authority (KEHI) was ordered to conduct a comprehensive audit of the Norwegian Fund.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2014/05/21/rakuldik_a_kehit_a_norveg_alapra/

claus
Guest

tappanch: I don’t get it, why can’t the Norwegians themselves decide on the grants? Sure, it’s assitional work, but this is their goal: to help people living in developing nations, under dictatorships. Just because a Gulash dictator blackmails them, doesn’t mean that they should give it up. They should directly decide and transfer the money. Orban is not the last of these bullying autocrats who will try to make the life of donors difficult, they should get ready to oppose these people if they seriously think about their goals.

Petru
Guest

As the first commenter remarked to the Spiegel article:

Ist es wirklich eine Nachricht wert, dass ein nationalistischer Autokrat, der gegen Minderheiten hetzt, sich auf die Seite eines anderen nationalistischen Autokraten, der gegen Minderheiten hetzt, stellt?

Good point.

As someone on this blog remarked Orban wants his own special relationship with Putin and will not let Jobbik benefit from Russia’s money, so he had to break up Jobbik’s Russian connections a bit. As far as I remember, Putin in most cases retaliates if another country charges one of his spies. But, again, as somebody wrote here, this “spy” case is already agreed upon with Putin (le van vajazva), Putin does not care, as Orban will be at least as good a representative of Russia in the EU as Kovács was (plus Putin has the Bulgarians, Greek etc. anyway), perhaps he will be much better because with this spy case Orban will even look like a brave, reliable pro-EU politician. Right. But the EU politicians will swallow this too, they always believe everything.

Gardonista
Guest
Horthy did save some Jewish lives, including a friend of mine. I have tried to explain to him why Horthy should not be honored, but there’s no chance of it. My friend is alive, as he sees it, because of Horthy, and no amount of historical scholarship could overcome the weight of his personal experience. My parents, however, are different. One lived under Horthy as a Jew, with all the baggage that goes with that. The other fought against for the Allies. Both remember the Horthy years and have sympathy for him, but I have been able to convince them that Horthy was not such a great guy. I am in the anti-Horthy camp, but my guess is that it is better to attack him for his failures of strategy and tactics, not his ideology. Yes, we can trot out his letter to Teleki Pál that he was an anti-Semite, but Horthy AND the Nazis were afraid of the Arrow Cross and the parties in several countries that were more extreme than the main-stream anti-Semites. So, maybe Horthy’s biggest mistake was thinking that the Nazis would just deport Jews. He failed to realize what their plans were. Horthy did a… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Gardonista, without the anti-Semitic ideology, the anti-Semitic laws the Hungarian administration could not deport within a few weeks more than half a million citizens.

koeszmeod
Guest

The Auschwitz Protocol was written by Vrba and Wetzler, two Slovakian Jews who escaped from Auschwitz, at the end of April 1944. It was also translated to German at the same time and was available already in May. Horthy knew about Auschwitz and did not stopped the trains until July. The amazing, George Mantello received the protocol from a Romanian diplomat in June and he organized a press campaign in German , 400 articles has been published in mainly Swiss papers in July. Horthy stopped the deportations only in July when it became well known what was happening in Auschwitz. Until it was not publicized, though he knew about it , he did not care.

Ron
Guest

Entirely OT: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is putting online all kinds of high res photo’s of art and high res of artistic photo’s. For anybody who is interested: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search?ft=budapest&rpp=30&pg=2

Walking with the enemy
Guest
Walking with the enemy

Eve, did you watch this movie review with Holocaust survivors? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8nYiZiafjQ

wpDiscuz