Who’s behind the political turbulence in Hungary? Naturally, the United States and the “left-liberals”

When Viktor Orbán, however reluctantly, decided to scrap the internet tax, he undoubtedly thought his troubles were over. He would not have to worry about young people going out on the streets again to demonstrate against his government. But he was wrong. The demonstrators found plenty more to criticize, especially the regime’s systemic corruption. Since Viktor Orbán is not the kind of man who admits missteps, he and his supporters had to find a culprit, someone who was “stirring the pot.” And the most obvious candidates for such a role were the United States, described by right-wing commentators in Magyar Hírlap as “the empire,” and the “left-liberal” intellectuals at home and abroad.

Let’s start with the United States, enemy number one. Those commentators who blame the U.S. for the unfolding drama of anti-government sentiment tend to forget that it was not the United States that revealed its decision to ban six allegedly corrupt Hungarian officials from its territory. It was the Napi Gazdaság, a financial daily owned by Századvég, the think tank that has been described by a former associate as a money laundering operation. If the government hadn’t decided to leak the information about the ban, most likely today we would know absolutely nothing about Ildikó Vida and her co-workers at the Hungarian Tax Authority (NAV).

But, according to the Hungarian right, the United States’ role in this latest crisis goes far beyond its travel ban. Under the present circumstances, the argument goes, there is no possibility of carrying out an armed coup in Hungary like the one the U.S. allegedly staged in Chile in 1973. Therefore, the United States is now supporting, I suppose even financially, the opposition. “Many people believe that it was the United States that was behind the initial successes of Gordon Bajnai.” But Bajnai turned out to be the wrong man for the job.

Then came Plan B. The United States, even before the three landslide Fidesz victories, realized that “there is no chance of replacing Viktor Orbán.” But since there are no potential leaders in the opposition, André Goodfriend “became the star of the anti-government movement.” The United States has been working toward the destabilization of the country in the hope of changing the Orbán government’s foreign policy orientation.

M. André Goodfriend, the star of the "left-liberals at a press conference

M. André Goodfriend, the star of the “left-liberals,” at a press conference

It is this American destabilization effort that explains the outrage of thousands of Hungarians against the Orbán government in front of the parliament building. The various groups that have appeared recently don’t offer an alternative, but this is not their real goal and purpose. They want to “weaken” the regime, make the “consolidation” efforts of the government impossible.

Magyar Hírlap zeroed in on the “domestic enemies.” Left-liberal intellectuals, hand in hand with the Americans, are behind the disturbances. Proof in support of this accusation is rather flimsy, but such weaknesses have never bothered Magyar Hírlap‘s Tamás Pindroch. The link between the “left-liberal intellectuals” and the United States was demonstrated by André Goodfriend’s appearance at one of the Saturday evening open houses of László Bitó, professor emeritus of ocular physiology at Columbia University who developed Xalatan, a medicine for glaucoma. And if anyone needs more proof here it is. Back in April Ágnes Heller, the philosopher, was asked during a political discussion whether something like what happened in Kiev could happen in Hungary. Heller responded that yes it could but not in the same shape and form. For example, a revolt of the hungry masses could break out.

But Pindroch’s accusations are mild in comparison to what László Földi, a former intelligence officer during the Kádár regime and even for a few years after the change of regime, had to say. He is convinced that a large demonstration like the one we saw on Monday cannot be organized on the internet and without any money. According to him, “it was a carefully prepared, well-organized and financed event.” Földi suggested that those behind the action serve foreign interests for financial gain and thus commit treason. In brief, his claim is that the United States is financing those left-liberals who are behind the anti-government protests. Földi is convinced that by now the United States will be satisfied only with the departure of Viktor Orbán. Abandoning participation in the Southern Stream will no longer suffice.

Another intriguing piece by András Dezső appeared in Index, an online site that cannot be called right-wing. Dezső is a talented young journalist who made quite a name for himself with his investigation of Jobbik’s Béla Kovács, who is accused of being a Russian spy. In this piece he proposed that there is a direct connection between a report of Human Rights First, “a little known but influential human rights organization,” and the current U.S. policy toward Hungary. The report, entitled “We’re not Nazis, but…,” made a number of recommendations to the U.S. government in general and the State Department in particular which, according to Dezső, the United States is actually following today. I wrote about this report at length and quoted some of the recommendations Dezső is talking about.

Yes, there are similarities between the recommendations of the authors of the study and the actual steps taken by the U.S. government, but I would find it strange if the staff of the Hungarian desk at State was so oblivious to what is happening in Hungary that only after reading this, by the way, excellent report did they finally decide to act. Moreover, here is something that undermines Dezső’s hypothesis. One of the recommendations of the report is to “seek commitments from Hungary and Greece to set in place policies and practices to impede high-level corruption and improve transparency and equal enforcement of the law.” But we know from the aide-memoire–what Viktor Orbán called a scrap of paper (fecni)–that Goodfriend intervened with the foreign ministry as well as the tax authorities on the subject of corruption as early as October 2013, almost a year before the appearance of Human Rights First’s study.

My hunch is that the officials of the State Department have been following the Hungarian domestic scene and Viktor Orbán’s relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia for some time. Their concerns most likely intensified in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis. And then came the fateful June 27 “illiberal” speech of Viktor Orbán when, it seems, they decided that it was time to act. The sharp-eyed authors of the study on the Hungarian far right noticed the same problems the U.S. diplomats perceived and recommended similar remedies. But we would underestimate the diplomats in the State Department if we assumed that only an outside study woke them up and made them move.

Trying to crack down on corruption is one thing, funding and organizing demonstrations is something else. There is no evidence that the U.S. helped the demonstrators–or even that the demonstrators needed outside help. They just needed the miracle of modern communications technology.

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Mrozek
Guest

It is truly disturbing to see the developing anti-US hysteria. András Lánci compared Századvég to Prezi… irrational!

GW
Guest

Don’t the Fidesz leaders and their friends in the press show that they have a poor estimation of the skills and intelligence of the Hungarian people when they cannot imagine that Hungarians are capable of organizing a protest rally without the help of foreign agents or money?

Look, a protest of this scale doesn’t require rocket science to organize, it doesn’t require much money, it doesn’t require any unusually sophisticated communications technology, and it certainly doesn’t require the assistance or encouragement of professional politicians or parties, let alone non-Hungarian support. All it requires are a critical mass of motivated people, creative sourcing of things like PA systems and efficient use of everyday communications tools, like Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and SMS, What’s App, or phone message trees, all of which are accessible by cell phone.

Pál
Guest

Anti-Amercian crazyness always works with the crowds, so it will only intensify. This is only the beginning.

Member
So, if according to Fidesz it takes so much (foreign) money, so much skills and organization to pull together a 10,000 people demonstration such as the past Saturday one n Budapest, why don’t they enlighten us how is the COF Peace Marches can be organized so efficiently with free buses to carry the crowd even from across the Hungarian borders, free lunches, flags, professional printed large size posters and banners, etc. Where does COF gets the money and organization for its (SUPPOSEDLY) 100,000 people’s marches? Fidesz advocates that 10,000 people cannot be done without outside help. Do they know this from experience? Who finances COF? Obviously not the USA. Dare I say that based on what Fidesz says it must be our friendly friends from the East? I think it is time for the opposition to start to give a closer look. As far as Andras Dezso goes, maybe he should invest a little more time on expending the Russian and Eastern “influences” that is actually harmful for Hungary versus contributing to the hype about about the “Western Theory”. As Vitor Orban says: ” Maybe the oil is flowing from the East, but freedom always arrived from the West!”
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Somebody from the government must have leaked the “fecni” to “Napi Gazdaság”. Was it to embarass Orbán or to whip up anti-USA opinion?
Now Orbán is in a catch 22 situation. He went to Switzerland probably to make arrangements for his private money there and he is opening up with a band in the national colors a place elevating porc.
Karl Kraus wrote about being “irrnational” and that can be said about Orbán. He whipped up crazy nationalism. But how crazy can you become to ally yourself with Putin?
Will Hungarian nationalist demonstrate for an alliance between Russia and Hungary?

Ktrolapao
Guest
Karl, Orban accepts/admires real power, like that of Putin. He can’t suffer wusses like Merkel or the EU. Orban admires really powerfully people like Putin who just don’t give a sh*t about the rules or about the expectations from them, who just take what they feel is theirs. If Obama would send a drone to Hungary, Orban would respect him too. But sending these subtle messages will lead nowhere in reality (it will only generate a meta-war in the media). As a result, Orban has no problem allying himself with Putin. Putin is a good lord like China, these two powers always ask for favors, but they also make sure that the vassal feels good in his place and they don’t expect annoying things like democracy, human rights or lack of corruption. Like a good lord should, Putin – Orban thinks – would defend his vassal (Orban). (Actually I feel that Putin’s advisors have already been assisting Orban’s advisors, so in a way Putin already made good on his part of the bargain.) What’s not to like in this scenario for Orban? Seriously? Orban and his cronies get unimaginably rich and they are defended against forces who would demand democracy,… Read more »
Gabor
Guest

According to Laszlo Keri the darling of the left, there were a “series of attacks by the Americans” (támadás sorozat az amerikaik részéről).

Maybe it was all in his head? Or he went crazy? Because in this blog post even the fact of the attacks seem to be in question.

buddy
Guest

Gabor: if you look at the US’s “attacks,” they are the following: there’s a lot of corruption in this country, even at the highest levels (US Embassy), Hungary is targeting civil society (Obama), Orbán is only interested in getting rich and retaining power (Clinton, speaking as a private citizen on a talk show).

Nothing exactly new or surprising there.

Meanwhile, here are the attacks on the US by Hungarian public officials, among others:
– Rogán calls M: André Goodfriend a “liar” (szavahihetetlen)

– Ildikó Vida threatens to sue Goodfriend

– Orbán claims that the US is “waging a slanderous campaign against the innocent citizens of a country for raw economic interest” (nyers gazdasági érdekek miatt rágalmazási hadjáratot folytat egy ország ártatlan állampolgáraival szemben)

– Plus the numerous slanderous attacks by private Hungarian citizens on the US, as listed above.

It looks to me like the “series of attacks” is much worse uglier and dirtier coming from the Hungarian government to the US rather than the other way around.

Guest

@Gabor the troll:

Would you care to describe for us those attacks by the Americans?

You sound so unbelievably stupid and idiotic when you don’t present real facts …

Member

@ Gabor: In fact there are attacks by the Americans, and by the Romanians, and by the Germans, and by the Norwegians… in all by all countries that have a clue about liberal values, and by even this who do not.
On the other hand there are no attacks, in fact lots of support from Azerbaijan, Russia, etc. A this point in time there is one, single physical war (name it as you wish) happening in Europe, and that is a war started by the Russians, and not the Americans. Oh my god paper attacks by the Americans! Everyone, please run for cover! WHy are you so worried about criticism and possible support of the Americans, when Orban is making friends with Russia that is creating war? Who paid for COF for their marches with 100,000 people?

miki
Guest

I sincerely hope that if Fidesz is going to force the Hungarian people to choose between America and Russia, this will be their biggest mistake and one step further to the end of Fidesz. I cannot image that people would choose Russia over America, or the East of the West. People are cannot be that blind.

Gabor
Guest

Wolfi, do you even understand what I wrote? Do you even know who Laszlo Keri is?

Kéri László magyarul. Ismered? Értesz egyáltalán magyarul, wolfi? If you don’t know who he is and cannot understand him, you shouldn’t comment on his views. Otherwise you will look “unbelievably stupid and idiotic” copyright wolfi.

@buddy Orban said the exact opposite of what you say. Why are you trying to say something different? Are you practicing manipulation and misleading people?

puliszka
Guest
@miki Please don’t underestimate the manipulative power of politics and the media. Putin is a master of such manipulation and his people are very active in Hungary as we speak and Orban and his people are great at that too. People may actually choose Russia which doesn’t mean that many years later they couldn’t realize that it was a bad choice. But that will be then. Moreover the circumstances could be such that supporting the US or the EU could be untenable. Like in the US after 9/11 no politician could criticize the Iraqi war (nobody wanted to, but I mean even if they wanted to). Or in 1944 in Hungary people couldn’t come out and support the Allies politically even though it was obvious Hungary way about lose badly on the side of Germans. Or Milosevic was reelected and even adored even though he clearly succeeded to make Serbia – which prior to 1990 was the envy of the Eastern Bloc – into the poorest country of the region (I think even Albania fared much better over the last 25 years). People are not rational in a way the US often expects them to be. Often they actively choose… Read more »
buddy
Guest

Gabor: “@buddy Orban said the exact opposite of what you say.”

Oh he did, did he? How interesting of you to say that. Well then, please do tell us EXACTLY what he said, and how it was the “exact opposite” of what I wrote. I certainly don’t want to “manipulate” or “mislead” anyone!

Please, go ahead, I’m very interested in hearing how you answer this question.

i-gen
Guest

Putin and all misinformation czars can try but can not succeed to manipulate intelligent people.

He has greatly succeeded to manipulate America’s well meaning human rights activists, and undereducated journalists. He had the support of al-jazeera and press tv.

Obama is his victim, but the says a lot of the judgement of the US President and his team.

Lucky, that two people could save us from the darkness at daytime: Andre Goodfriend, and Victoria Nuland.

Let us unite in our support for these two heroes.

miki
Guest
@puliszka You are right in many ways and you have to be a Hungarian to understand what the problem of the Hungarians with the EU is. The US is a different story, they have their opinion about everything and they are disliked in many countries. However, among the Fidesz voters I still think there are less people who like Russia. Actually until recently Orban himself was against a close relationship with Russia. A part of the people vote for Fidesz because they were so against Russia and communism. The change of the mind of Orban was recently demonstrated in a video that was published on Index: http://index.hu/video/2014/10/23/2014_oktober_23/ When you see these pictures together you don’t get the idea of a stable person, actually he seems to have a multiple personality syndrome. A part of the Fidesz supporters are blindly following Orban whatever he says, but for many other voters this change of mind went too fast to follow and they are not joining his adoration for Putin. So I am more optimistic than you are about this, because I believe that the anti-communist voters of Fidesz are still anti-Russia. The nationalistic rhetoric is not going to help in this case… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Spending on local elections, 2014 October:

Fidesz 73.5%

Left parties combined: 14.8%
Jobbik: 9.9%
LMP: 1.8%

http://kepmutatas.hu/

tappanch
Guest

Posters & billboards in public spaces, 2014 October:

Fidesz 85.8%

Left parties combined: 6.3%
Jobbik: 7.4%
LMP: 0.4%

http://444.hu/2014/11/20/900-millioval-toltak-meg-a-fidesz-onkormanyzati-kampanyat/

tappanch
Guest

“VAT cheated brands” from a note by American vegetable oil maker Bunge, that was sent to the Hungarian Tax Authority in 2011:

http://img8.hvg.hu/image.aspx?id=cacaf6dc-5f56-44ef-b16c-8394643977ca&view=7fcefbf8-ac48-4ee6-aef5-32203afa118c

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20141120_A_fecni_mogott_komoly_informaciok_allnak

tappanch
Guest

The Fidesz state finally acquired the EU tender software from its dead owner Mr Komaromi.
(probably from his minor children)

http://www.portfolio.hu/unios_forrasok/gazdasagfejlesztes/megemelik_a_legnepszerubb_kkv-palyazat_keretosszeget.3.206793.html

Istvan
Guest
Responding first to puliszak: you write “Like in the US after 9/11 no politician could criticize the Iraqi war (nobody wanted to, but I mean even if they wanted to).” That is not true, In October 2002 even seven Republicans voted against what was called the Iraq war resolution and 126 Democrats voted against it. Many former military officers also expressed opposition to it because many of us believed that the Iraq government played no role in the 9/11 attacks. Second responding to I-gen: You argue that Putin has “succeeded to manipulate America’s well meaning human rights activists, and undereducated journalists.” I don’t agree. The Russia Today network has influenced the pacifist movement in the USA and the anti-war movements, because they are looking for any excuse to oppose any potential military action and the truth be told there are some old links to the Communist Party USA in those movements. There are almost no American journalists on the left who accept the Russian narrative about the Ukraine. Even the most critical journalists in the USA who are sympathizers of Snowden and opponents of the CIA/NSA do not believe Putin. The anti-capitalist left in the USA, which is very small,… Read more »
googly
Guest
Gabor, You wrote: ” If you don’t know who he is and cannot understand him, you shouldn’t comment on his views.” That is a terrible misdirect, since I’m betting you don’t speak German well enough to understand what Angela Merkel says when she speaks about Hungary, but I’m sure you would criticise her about it, since it would probably be translated into Hungarian and English for your convenience. Meanwhile, you are the one who mentioned Kéri, without giving details about what Kéri said. If you come to an English-language website and make claims about someone without fully explaining and supporting those claims (especially once someone asks you to do so), you are either lying about what he said or think that everyone else is an idiot who takes your claims at face value. Wolfi asked you to elaborate, in English, but you didn’t want to for some reason (likely because if you did, your lies would be exposed), so instead you told him that if he doesn’t speak Hungarian well enough, then he shouldn’t comment on what Hungarians say in Hungarian. I’m sure Orbán would love it if such a rule were put in place, but that’s not how logic… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

EU money earmarked to Hungary for 2014-2020, in billions of euros:

Total 34.311, i.e. an average 4.9 billion euros a year

Cohesion: 21.906
Direct payments: 8.935
Others: 1.012

http://www.portfolio.hu/unios_forrasok/gazdasagfejlesztes/elkuldtuk_brusszelnek_az_ezermilliardos_anyagokat.3.206778.html

puliszka
Guest
@miki See, the problem I see in my own family is the following. Those who still uncritically support Orban would follow him anywhere, regardless of what he says. He supports Russia now and they’re with him. They always disliked the US anyway, symbol of liberalism, jews, capitalism etc. They are the classic, somewhat more bourgeois, but in reality declasse, Buda-dwelling Christian (ie. non-jewsish) middle class. Those, however, who lately became more critical of Orban himself and the corruption which is undeniable even to fideszniks (although it is usually rationalized away) clearly moved toward jobbik’s ideology. These people haven’t as of yet come out as jobbikniks but the ideology is undeniably there — and as part of that these family members openly support Russia over the US. (There is no place for rational arguments or mentioning communism, it’s a hopeless exercise with them.) And this part of the family, as you could guess by now, belongs to the lower-income, working class for whom anyway Jobbik is the natural home. Fidesz is decidedly more bourgeois, even rurally, where the local doctors, lawyers etc. support Fidesz and workers Jobbik. As it was mentioned low income people are absolutely unavailable to the left which… Read more »
gardonista
Guest

@Ktrolapao

The irony with Orban’s admiration of Putin is that in the long term, Russia is becoming economically irrelevant. Russia is 8th in world GDP, behind Brazil and barely ahead of Canada. Its prospects aren’t good, even without the Ukraine conflict.

Does anyone think Russia will be able to compete with China in 50 years? And will China care about Russia if its economy sucks?

Orban’s is choosing to ally himself with a losing nation. If a Hungarian citizen is only concerned with long term financial health of the country and has no concern with ideology, then I can’t imagine them being happy with Orban. It’s not just “left libs” who should be concerned with the Russian alliance- it should be the business community.

tappanch
Guest

Correction:
Others (mainly rural development): 3.470

puliszka
Guest

@Istvan: With all due respect, outliers always exist, but they rarely influence the outcome. I’m sure there have been heated debates in East Coast university seminar rooms too.

I remember as I happened to be there at that time that New York Times (called a “liberal” paper by some) was totally uncritical of the war efforts and of the US government, when the less naive and more cynical European questioned the obviously non-existent evidence put forwards by the neocons. In the mainstream it was just not patriotic not to support the war. It was the perfect opportunity to transform the US into a kind of national surveillance state (however democratic) as it is called by constitutional law scholars.

Istvan
Guest

One hundred and thirty members of Congress voting against the war resolution was not an outlier. It was a significant minority in opposition to the war in Iraq puliszak. Ultimately this opposition became the majority and in good part led to the election of President Obama and the withdraw from Iraq. Now more than likely we will have to return to a troops on the ground combat role in Iraq.

Now unfortunately we have fight a protracted war in Iraq with the Islamic State because of the war President Bush got us into in Iraq. Ultimately our armed forces will prevail and IS will be destroyed. It will cost many lives of Iraqis, Syrians, and Americans.

Istvan
Guest

One addition thing puliszak, there are a total of 535 members of Congress (House and Senate combined). So 130 no votes was significant opposition.

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