The man behind Viktor Orbán’s political ideas: Gyula Tellér

An English-language article on Viktor Orbán’s infamous speech of July 26 claimed that Orbán has a brilliant mind. I don’t know on what basis the author came to this conclusion because most people find Orbán’s ideas incoherent and confused. Moreover, it seems that some of his closest associates considered his “philosophical reflections” on the state of the world unnecessary, perhaps even dangerous. But Orbán defended his decision to deliver the kind of speech he delivered because he as prime minister of Hungary has a unique view of the world which he ought to share with the people.

Here I venture to suggest that it is not his unique political role that has given birth to his “revolutionary” ideas. The “birth mother” is instead a trusted adviser who is described by those familiar with his work as an ideologue. Few people even know his name, although it is becoming ever more apparent that Viktor Orbán’s “system” in large part stems from his adviser’s harebrained ideas.

Who is this man? His name is Gyula Tellér. He is apparently an excellent translator, but his real passion is political theory. He started his political career in SZDSZ but soon enough switched allegiance to Fidesz. Tellér was one of the authors of SZDSZ’s party program of 1990; a few years later he had a hand in formulating Fidesz’s program. To understand this man’s thoughts one ought to read Zoltán Ripp’s excellent essay “Color changes of an éminence grise” (Egy szürke eminenciás színeváltozásai).

Gyula Tellér, the man behind Viktor Orbán

Gyula Tellér, the man behind Viktor Orbán

I cannot summarize Ripp’s long and sophisticated essay in a few paragraphs here. Instead I will concentrate on some less weighty articles that appeared after Gyula Tellér’s ideological influence on the prime minister was discovered.

Ilidkó Csuhaj, who is a political reporter for Népszabadság and therefore not a historian or political philosopher, simply said that “Orbán recited a study of Gyula Tellér in Tusnádfűrdő.” According to Csuhaj, Viktor Orbán was so taken with an article Tellér wrote in the March issue of Nagyvilág (“Was an Orbán system born between 2010 and 2014?”) that he assigned it as compulsory reading for all his ministers.

Unfortunately, the connection between Gyula Tellér and Viktor Orbán goes back much farther than March 2014. From a careful reading of Ripp’s essay and Tellér’s own works it is absolutely clear that Viktor Orbán has been mesmerized by this man’s confused and dangerous ideas.

One of his “theories” explains the force of so-called “solidified structures.” Tellér here refers to the Kádár regime: both its elite and its social structure remain part of life in Hungary. No real regime change, he argues, will take place until those remnants of Kádárism are destroyed on every level: in science, in culture, in art. Everywhere. Anyone who achieved anything in the old regime must be stripped of his position in society. An entirely new middle class has to be created. That’s why for Tellér and hence for Orbán the so-called regime change of 1989-1990 is an increasingly insignificant event.

Another theory of his is that in Hungary there are three societal groups: (1) the old feudal Hungary and its later offshoot, the Hungarian upper middle classes; (2) the bourgeois Hungary; and (3) the old Rákosi socialists who simply changed their colors to become leaders and beneficiaries of Kádár’s Hungary. Initially he was critical of feudal Hungary, but as time went by he began to look upon the Horthy regime as an acceptable and perhaps imitable system.

Tellér started embracing international conspiracy theories, plots hatched abroad against Hungary. He became an enemy of globalization and capitalism. The mover and shaker of Hungarian life in his view became the foreign “investor.” From here Tellér easily arrived at anti-Semitism and is thus considered by Ripp, for example, to be a successor to István Csurka. That’s why Ripp colors Tellér “brown” at the end of his essay. Others are less polite. One blogger (orolunkvincent) calls Tellér “a Nazi madman”  and compares him to Aleksandr Dugin, the man behind Putin’s ideas. The blogger quotes extensively from Tellér’s writings and speeches in which he exhibits fervent anti-Semitic views.

Another blogger (democrat) complains how unfortunate it is that “a single man is behind the whole concept” of Viktor Orbán’s political agenda. Behind Orbán’s “grandiose plan” is Gyula Tellér, whom some people call a crackpot. In Tellér’s paranoid worldview, “the world is against Orbán, who is ready to make the country successful with a brilliant new system, but he is oppressed by the ugly and evil foreign (and Jewish and Marxist) capitalists.”

And here is the latest Tellér gem, uttered at a conference only yesterday. He delivered a long lecture on his interpretation of Hungarian history and politics over the last 50 years. He claimed that “the change of regime began in 1955” when “a well-informed group of people” realized that socialism cannot survive in its present form. Who were they?  They were representatives of “a well-known and significant sub-culture” whose task was “running the economy, the financial system and the press.” He continued by saying that the “members of this group had numerous offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990. So, these people are still with us.

Although Tellér does not name this group, anyone who knows anything about the political culture of the Hungarian right knows that this was an anti-Semitic harangue. Of course, the whole “history” is outright crazy because it assumes that some people are blessed with extraordinary insight into the future. They know exactly what will happen in forty or fifty years and prepare themselves as well as their children for this eventuality.

Today an article appeared on ATV’s website in which Gábor Gavra, its author, gives a list of Tellér’s ideas that can be found in Orbán’s “national system.” The list is too long to repeat here, but it is frightening. Almost as if every aspect of Orbán’s system came straight from Tellér’s ideas. I think it is time to reevaluate Viktor Orbán’s ideology because its origins can be traced to the ideas of a man who holds far-right and anti-Semitic views.

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Paul
Guest

For us Brits, there are depressing parallels here with Thatcher and her mentor Keith Joseph (equally as loony as Tellér).

Thatcher, like Orbán, was a gifted political operator, tactically very able and successful, but too intellectually limited and narrow-minded to have any real long-term or strategic vision, or the ability to carry it out. But Joseph gave her that vision and its ‘justification’, and, such was her hero-worship of her intellectual mentor, that she followed his strategic vision to the letter. Leaving Britain with the long-term social and economic problems it has today (and will continue to suffer for generations).

Thatcher and Orbán are examples of perhaps the worst sort of leaders – too limited themselves to govern strategically, but so in awe of someone they regard as their intellectual superior, that they are mesmerised into carrying out their programme instead – unquestioningly.

Thinking about it, much the same was true of Blair (although there were several mentors in his case), or, in the US context, Reagan and GW Bush.

God save us from small people thrust into situations that demand great leaders.

Kiss
Guest

It is a scandal.
A gamble of few on account of an unfortunate nation.
Historical crime.
Impeach them.

buddy
Guest

“But Orbán defended his decision to deliver the kind of speech he delivered because he as prime minister of Hungary has a unique view of the world which he ought to share with the people.”

This would make sense to Gábor Széles, since in his opinion Orbán has reached a “higher spiritual plane” since winning the Parliamentary elections. I kid you not.
http://hu-hu.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=609883095794842&id=336958929753928

Isn’t this the kind of stuff that people wrote about Rákosi when he was alive?

petofi
Guest

The Treatment of Kertesz and the Hungarian Mind at Work

After infuriating ‘true Hungarians’ by, a) having the temerity to accept the Nobel Prize, b) leaving Budapest for Berlin, c) declaring that Berlin was a better place for his literary papers than Budapest….the time to get even has come. A sickly Kertesz has checked into the Pecs hospital for treatment. Now the Fidesz/Orban boys had him: they would hoist a demeaning ‘Horthy’ award on him and if he should refuse…well, we know that the Pecs Hospital would, unaccountably, have no longer have room for Mr. Kertesz…

Dastardly, Dirty, and Despicable…and totally in keeping with the style and ethics of Orban/Fidesz.

Paul
Guest
And, now I’ve actually posted on-topic for a change, I feel slightly less guilty about veering right off-topic… One of the signature images of the former Soviet satellite states for us in the west, is the large number of ‘panel house’ estates that ring the large cities – estates built in the 60s and 70s in an attempt to solve the housing crisis, and consisting largely of blocks of prefabricated concrete apartments, anything from 4 stories high, up to 10 or more. Because of their size and number, and because they were invariably made from unpainted concrete, they dominate the towns or cities they are attached to. In Debrecen’s case, for instance, because it sits on the Great Plain, it was said that you could see the towers of the Nagytemplom from many miles away. But today, your first site of the city is the towering white walls of the panel house estates. In the West these estates are often used as visual shorthand for the discomfort and depravation of life under the old regimes. In fact, of course, that is far from true, as these developments were actually quite remarkable achievements, providing comfortable, modern, homes for hundreds of thousands… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

@Paul

Re: “Panel” apartment blocks.

These apartments, at least in Budapest, have high overhead, like district heating – this prevents their “ghettoization” (in the American sense)

Who lives in them?
1. The original owners, the working class of the “socialist” system – now retired and old.
2. Young, working couples with children. This is because kindergartens and schools are available within 200 meters from the apartments

Member

Sorry, Paul, I do not view the panell lakes-es the same way you do. You are correct in saying that people in the 60s and 70s moved in to escape living with their aging parents in squalid village houses. But these places were cramped, poor-quality dwellings and few people were happy about living there, even under communism.

Today, government subsidies and mortgages have allowed well-to-do people to own more comfortable houses. Still, plenty of non-Gypsy people live in the panells, as tappanch noted.

Member

Back on topic:

“…representatives of “a well-known and significant sub-culture” whose task was “running the economy, the financial system and the press.” He continued by saying that the “members of this group had numerous offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990. So, these people are still with us.”

If you remove “the economy, the financial system and the press” and replace it with “mines, public administration and 3/3,” you could be describing Orban’s and Kover’s families.

Zala
Guest
This is the huge-huge difference between Orban and any of his “heirs apparent” (Lázár, Rogán, Szijjartó, etc.) and any of the opposition figures on the left. These people have no grand visions at all and are not even looking for one either. They just don’t care. They are not revolutionaries, they are conformists, aren’t intellectuals in any sense of the word and lack historic ambitions. That is why Orban does nor respect them (ie. not even his fideszniks underlings) and will never transfer power to them, ever. They would spoil that grand construction Orban has been building all through his life. Orban is still, after so many years curious and is looking for “answers” and “theories”. He wants desperately to understand the world, just as he did at the age of 18-19 when he got into Bibo college. Unfortunately for us he went crazy in the meantime. But. He should not be discounted or underestimated. With the op-ed in WaPo yesterday it is good to know that it is increasingly clear to Western observers (whom Orban could successfully dupe for many-many years) that the real face of Orban is really the Tellér-inspired one (though Tellér is only one among many… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

The government forcibly nationalizes a church-run school.
The church is led by Reverend Ivanyi, whom Orban hates.

Fidesz is not willing to restore the church’s pre-2011 status,
although it satisfies all the legal criteria.

http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1030601-perre-mennek-ivanyiek
http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1027768-jogfosztottsaguk-ellen-tiltakozik-ivanyi

tappanch
Guest

Alert: acceleration towards bankruptcy:

Central government debt, as of 06-30-2014 [12-31-2013]:

Gross: 32,464 [28,536] billion HUF, an increase of 13.76% in the last 6 months
Net: 24,704 [22,531], an increase of 9.64%

Net debt of the total government = central+local government + Social Security fund

22,817.5 [21,230.8], an increase of 7.47%

“Consolidated” debt of the total government:

25,431.6 [23,081.9], a 6-month growth of 10.18%

Source:

http://www.mnb.hu/Root/Dokumentumtar/MNB/Statisztika/mnbhu_statisztikai_idosorok/mnbhu_hazt5/ahtadatok_hu.xlsx

tappanch
Guest

Remark:
EUR/HUF, 06-30-2014 [12-31-2013]

309.72 [297.27], +4.19%

tappanch
Guest

Comparison of the numbers of the National Bank (MNB) vs the State Treasury (AKK)

Gross debt of the central government:

2013-12-31: 28,536.1 vs 21,998.6
2014-06-30: 32,463.9 vs 24,786.9

Growth: 13.76% vs 12.67%

Share of foreign denominated debt (AKK): 40.55% [40.48%]

googly
Guest
Paul, You’ve made an interesting observation about the pre-fab estates, something to look into further, perhaps. However, the situation there is not as simple as it appears. As tappanch and Seal Driver noted, many people could not afford to move out of these buildings, while other people actually liked the lifestyle of living there (as you noted, very nicely planned, in many respects). What I’ve also noted is that beyond the young couples with children who like their safety and convenience, some also use the panel apartments as “starter” homes, where they can have a spacious apartment they can afford while they are building up their savings and earning power. Another group of people who have moved into them, at least in Budapest, are the working class from other cities or from smaller towns, who used to live with their parents. The relative unpopularity of these apartments makes them very inexpensive, despite the shared costs, and there are quite a few which are available for leasing. Finally, there are people who just want to live near their families and friends, most of whom remain in the estates for various reasons. When they get enough money to leave their parents’ homes,… Read more »
KissEmber
Guest

Zala – @ August 18, 2014 at 4:05 am – it is a huge insult to find positive feature in today’s Orban.

Try to read the Human Rights First report on Hungary. Under Orban, the nation was further polarized, and ruined.

The crime of Gyula Teller is that he plants even more destructive material in the head of Orban.

Member
I am not sure how OT: (Back from North) As we all know those who helped Orban to get back on power after his huge defeat were able to do so by a “staged” protest of the crowd. (What I mean by staged is that although the protest had some organic elements the “police violence” was clearly provoked by extremist who infiltrated the crowd. THe members of this group were football hooligans who Fidesz later hired to “defend” their headquarters from peaceful university students.) Now the same group that Fidesz kept in payroll attacked the peaceful protesters of the memorial Orban erected to falsify history. This is the same group Fidesz acquitted from all charges when they staged the riot at MTV in 2006. When Teller calls for “new oder”, these are the people who he supports. These are the people who Orban favours, and keeps around to make sure he can keep his power. http://www.politics.hu/20140817/far-right-sympathizers-clash-with-protesters-at-ww2-monument/ On a side note if Teller believes “members of this group had numerous offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990. So, these… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Some1:These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990.

I noticed that most of these children are right wing Fidesz or Jobbik. A notorious (ex-)Jobbik and founding member of the Magyar Garda is running for Mayor of Szentendre, as Independent candidate. Dr. Filo Andras (although he denied any involvement in the Politics of his parents), he benefit from communism and have apparently a lot of land.

http://gondola.hu/cikkek/70507-AVH-s_csemete_a_Jobbik_kepviselojeloltje.html

tappanch
Guest

Growth of the net debt/GDP under Orban II:

2010-06-30: 62.4%
2014-06-30: 76.3% + 10% (nationalized and spent private retirement accounts)

Member

@Eva: Yes, I did get that but wouldn’t in Teller’s mind would be even a bigger sin to “conspire” with these “foreign” powers? I mean if you follow Teller’s logic (if there is any) anyone who worked for “a well-known and significant sub-culture” whose task was “running the economy, the financial system and the press” who served them and allowed them to exist must been in cahoots. If Orban, Kover and the others are so smart, they should of known. Even if their parents served them according to Teller they must been “offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” On the other hand if they are not so smart are they worthy enough to save the nation?

cheshire cat
Guest
Paul (did you see my long “essay” on the educational system?) It’s not just gypsies and the very poor who live in panels. I’m familiar with the Debrecen ones, and especially the newer ones (Ujkert, Tocoskert) are not populated by the lowest of the lowest. Single-parent families (including teachers), university students, divorcees, young couples with or without children. Often it’s the original, now retired elderly owners, whose children have left, and who live on very low pensions – they like the fact that they don’t have a garden to look after, enjoy the proximity of GP surgeries, shops, smallish markets, direct bus connection to the city centre etc. And they like chatting to each other, they have known each ther for 40 years, it’s a community if you like. You are right, in communism these flats represented a huge step-up. I grew up in one, and we had moved from a run down house at the muddy, dirt-road edge of the city, which had no bathroom, no running water, no toilet and no gas heating. It was luxury for my parents! In socialism, these were very democratic dwellings, because the differences of income were very small: doctors lived next to… Read more »
Gardonista
Guest

@Zala:

many of his ideas have some roots in normal criticism which the mainstream discourse unfortunately suppresses in the West. It is clear, for example that the EU’s economy (include Japan, UK, US etc.) has huge structural problems

Huh? These structural problems have been the top of the mainstream discourse since 2007 (even before the collapse of 2008).

Zala
Guest
@Gardonista Not true. The default thinking has been that the ECB will print money (though it took time to convince the Germans), Germany would not have to alter its economic structure and that the Southern European countries will over time miraculously grow out their debts. Growth will restart (just because that is the nature of growth, it always restarts) and everyone will be happy. (And people will move to the more efficient countries like Germany and depopulate the loser ones, like Michigan lost out to Texas and South-Carolina). If one really wants to be honest, though, then nobody really did anything other than the ECB has been printing money like the Fed. And here were some bailouts, but it does not look like growth is returning to Greece, Ireland or Portugal big time or that the economic structures would have changed, only some social costs were cut. But by and large Merkel’s policy of waiting things out prevailed. But things will not solve themselves. We see all the cracks, one by one they do appear, but nobody knows what to do and so nobody dares to say it loud that things just cannot go on as they did so far.… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Tellér’s ideological victory may become Fidesz’s problem. Right wing intellectualism or pseudo-intellectualism attracts attention. Orbán’s speech has now made the editorial pages of the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hungarys-illiberalism-should-not-go-unchallenged/2014/08/16/b2dc72d4-1e5c-11e4-82f9-2cd6fa8da5c4_story.html The editorial concludes “The (European) union, which has promised Hungary $20 billion in aid over the next seven years, must make clear that member nations cannot reap the benefits of membership while violating their treaty commitments to freedom of expression and the rule of law. The United States, too, should downgrade relations with Mr. Orban’s government. Mr. Orban has excluded himself from the democratic West; he and his government should be treated accordingly.” Effectively my reading of this editorial is that the Post is writing off Hungary and welcoming Orban to join the Putin camp. I personally am sympathetic to that perspective. But the break would need to be implemented in stages: (1) Removal of all US assets and forces from Pápa AFB, (2) a request to NATO to remove all its assets from the base, (3) call a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) with an agenda point for suspending Hungary from NATO. Removing Hungary from NATO technically would be easier than from the EU and that should be the first… Read more »
conclusion
Guest

Istvan, shouldn’t your step (1) be?: “Removal of US assets, spying equipment and paid agents from Budapest and stopping mass surveillance and spying against Hungarians”

“Today an article appeared on ATV’s website in which Gábor Gavra, its author, gives a list”

Wasn’t Gabor Gavra the one who was fired from HVG for falsifying evidence? When he presented a tape as authentic, a tape which he personally received from the MSZP Party headquarters. Apparently during that time it was common practice for HVG people to report to MSZP the HQ for briefing.

Istvan
Guest

Conclusion: I doubt the US would spend money on surveillance against Hungarians in mass, even though I suspect the US has the technical ability to do so given the information Edward Snowden has made public. But Hungarian communications with Putin’s agents about NATO matters are more than fair game and I hope personally it is being done.

Member

conclusion
August 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm
Istvan, shouldn’t your step (1) be?: “Removal of US assets, spying equipment and paid agents from Budapest and stopping mass surveillance and spying against Hungarians”

You mean the Russian paid agents and surveillance? You are mixing up things my friend.
Hungarian far-right MEP suspected as Russian spy
http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-elections-2014/hungarian-far-right-mep-suspected-russian-spy-302185
“It turned out that on June 16, 1989, when Viktor Orbán was sending the Russians packing, Tasnádi [currently undersecretary in the Ministry of the Interior] was waiting for the reports of two of his agents, Amur and Vera. ”

http://mno.hu/magyar_nemzet_belfoldi_hirei/egyre-aktivabbak-az-orosz-hirszerzok-1224342

Yes, let the Russians remove Paks. I am with you!

Kirsten
Guest

Zala, interesting observations about the problems of the euro area and Japan. Also in the previous post, your observations were cunning: “Orban hopes that soon the West will have a similar crisis like the one in 2008 and that it will happen earlier than any potential Russian crisis.” What do you think does this all mean for Hungary? That Orban himself will be safely in exile in Russia before the crisis sets in there too so that he will move to the Seychelles? Leaving Hungary in exactly which constitution? As a part of the Eurasian Union? Or that Orban has found for Hungary far better solutions in that he lets the MNB print money to buy art and unmarketable real estate and build football stadiums?

Toboz
Guest

The right-wing literary critique who was of the view that Imre Kertész was not Hungarian and who regularly speaks highly of the revived fascist/nazi writers (who are just bad writers) also gets a decoration, though a lesser one than what Kertész will receive.

The show must go on and the Fidesz/Jobbik cultural universe must be rewarded.

This shows that Kertész is only a puppet, a theater prop in this game, nothing more.

http://vs.hu/kiegyensulyozottan-dijaz-kormany-0818

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