Viktor Orbán on freedom and independence

I just heard a law professor who specializes in international law say that he has given up trying to figure out what Viktor Orbán’s speeches are all about. A newspaperman who deals with foreign policy called Viktor Orbán’s earlier speech to Hungarian ambassadors “incoherent.” Therefore, at first I thought that I wouldn’t even attempt to decipher the speech he addressed to his followers yesterday on the steps of the National Museum to mark the 167th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1848 revolution. I changed my mind, however, after I decided not only to read the text but also to watch it on ATV.

Although it might be true that there were fewer people present than in earlier years, the reception was surprisingly enthusiastic. I couldn’t help but compare it to the muted reaction of the invited guests at Viktor Orbán’s “state of the nation” speech a month ago. The difference was so marked that I thought it would be worth taking a look at possible reasons for this difference. Of course, we are talking about two very different kinds of audiences. Invited upper-middle class guests versus the people who most likely go to all the Fidesz rallies. Yet I was not convinced that it was the audience alone that made the difference. So, I began taking note of when the applause was especially fervent. It was when Viktor Orbán talked about Hungarian exceptionalism and the greatness of the nation.

There were enough admirers in front of the National Museum

Admirers in front of the National Museum

Although even some commentators close to Fidesz expressed their hope that, after last year’s national election, the government would introduce a more tranquil period in the political life of the country, it looks as if the people in front of the National Museum enthusiastically support the kind of belligerence Viktor Orbán is known for. From their reaction I would say that Orbán is on the right track. The only question is how representative these few thousand people are of the core voters who are needed for Fidesz to remain in power even after 2018.

Viktor Orbán found the key to the heart of his followers: unbridled nationalism in defense of a country under threat from the outside.

Of course, national holidays, especially March 15th, are perfect venues for Orbán’s nationalist, historically inaccurate harangues. The theme of this speech was the country’s special relationship to “freedom and independence.” For Orbán these two concepts have been part and parcel of the country’s 1,100-year history. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about Stephen I, István Széchenyi, or István Tisza. Never mind that Széchenyi considered the declaration of independence from Austria in 1849 suicidal or that Tisza, very wisely, would never have considered an independent Hungary an option since he knew only too well that independence and territorial integrity were mutually incompatible.

There are some dangerous ideas in this speech. What I found most frightening was that “everything, the constitution, the law codes, the parliament, the government, the national economy, serve only the goal of independence.” The emphasis is not on the rule of law and legal and economic structures, but on the nation. And, he added, “we should never forget that what is the most valuable in the Hungarians is what differentiates [them] from others.” If Hungarians were just like the others, “the world wouldn’t need us.” What an awful thought: the subordination of the individual to a national community. And, he added, if we were not different from others, “on what basis could we ask for the help of God against our enemies?”

With this introduction of the idea of external enemies, he moved on to the defense of the country situated among “nations larger than us.” The goal is the creation of a “free Hungarian world” which is “the basis of our existence.” According to Orbán, every Hungarian knows that “we cannot be free as individuals unless the whole nation is free.” Another dangerous idea and totally false. Individual freedom has nothing to do with the independence of the country. On the other hand, individual freedom can be curtailed by petty tyrants like Viktor Orbán himself. He and his coterie are the threats to individual freedom, not the external enemies he created out of thin air.

I will not spend time on his incoherent summary of Hungary’s 19th and 20th century history, but I would like to call attention to something I find politically important. The appropriate passage starts with the claim that although 167 years went by and the world has changed a lot–for example, democracy was introduced with its “complicated domestic and international rules,” as far as Hungary’s struggle for independence is concerned nothing has changed. Hungarians have always wanted “a place of their own.” Always wanted independence even “after the Compromise of 1867 when they built a country and a capital that the whole world admired. And this is what [they] wanted even after the loss of the country (országvesztés) and when they were looking for ways to regain it during the foggy grayness of socialism.”

Well, let’s parse these sentences. In reality, in 1848-1849 it became obvious that multinational Hungary could not be maintained without an understanding with the Habsburg ruler of the Austrian Empire. The rapid economic development that started already in the 1850s was achieved mainly by the influx of Austrian capital. The golden age of modern Hungary came at a time when Hungary had home rule but not total independence. The long dreamed-of independence came in 1918-1919, but for that independence Hungarians paid a high price. Yet, it looks as if Orbán would include the Horthy era in those years when the government fulfilled its true obligation of defending the independence of the nation. All in all, putting independence at the core of national existence cannot be supported by Hungarian history. In fact, if anything, the opposite was true during the golden age of modern Hungarian history between 1867 and 1914. Even today, if Hungary were not part of the European Union, its economic situation would most likely be even more dire than it is.

The audience was especially elated when Orbán explained to them that “Hungary was always the flagship of freedom and democracy in the western world” and, with a clear reference to the United States, said that “the people of Petőfi and Kossuth can only smile when somebody tries to instruct them about freedom and democracy.”

After exhibiting his ignorance of the country’s history and offering a hodgepodge of erroneous facts, Orbán announced: “if you want to know your future, thoroughly learn your past.” Well, I’m not sure how precisely the past is prologue, but let Orbán solve that problem. His claim, however, that “we Hungarians came to know the labyrinths of the past” is questionable. Most Hungarians are woefully ignorant of the country’s history, and what little they know has been distorted by nationalistic politicians, past and present.

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Member
A Fidesznek van több visszatérő témája, az egyiket szerintem senki sem fogadhatná el, függetlenül attól, hogy milyen kormány és ki van hatalmon. Veszteségeket átírni győzelemmé és ezt bebeszélni a népnek a leghatalmasabb bűnök EGYIKE. A viktor ugyanis azt mondta, az 1848-as Szabadságharc elbukott, de a Magyarok így is győztesen kerültek ki és annak érzik magukat. Ha ez így lehet bármivel, miért erőltesse meg magát bárki, hogy jó teljesítményt csikarjon ki magából és másokból, hogy sikeres és győztes legyen, ha a veszteségért is ugyanannyi elismerés (fizetés) jár neki? Apple Inc. 1997-ben (18 éve) csődben volt, részvényeinek értéke $100.00 millió volt és évi vesztesége ezt meghaladta. Steve Jobs kapott $150.0 milliót Bill Gates Microsoft vállalatától, cserébe rövid időn belül visszaváltható részvényekért. (Ezeket három év múlva beválthatta Bill Gates $487.3 millióért, ha ma adná el a részvényeket, amik négyszer lettek felezve azóta, az értékük $2.4 milliárd lenne.) Ma Apple Inc. a világ legértékesebb vállalata, messze többet ér, mint Exxon, évi forgalma U$300.0 milliárd felett lesz idén, (Magyarországé talán U$138.0 milliárd) nyeresége negyedévenként U$18.0 milliárd most, de növekszik és a világ legismertebb #1 kereskedelmi márkája. Miért? Mert nem nyugodtak bele a veszteségbe! Mert megkövetelték maguktól, hogy a legjobbak legyenek abban, amihez értenek! Egy vállalt,… Read more »
István
Guest

Gyula there is also another part of the Microsoft bailout of Apple story. Microsoft in return not only made a vast fortune on the non-voting shares they acquired in Apple they also got Apple to agree to drop a long-running lawsuit in which they alleged Microsoft copied the look and feel of the Mac OS for Window. A lawsuit which Microsoft would have lost.

Lastly even with that bailout Apple would have still failed if it had not gone offshore with its hardware production. By the mid-1990s, the Sacramento California area was considered the computer manufacturing capital of the United States. Apple’s Elk Grove plant, which manufactured circuit boards and desktop computers, operated seven days a week and employed 1,500 people. The Elk Grove plant was closed in 2004, less than a decade after full production started. Today, the 250,000-square-foot building sits vacant, a painful reminder of what was once a thriving tech industry. All of those jobs are now in China.

petofi
Guest

Why are you writing in bloody Hungarian on this blog?

Member
This article is an excellent analysis of the viktor and Fidesz lovers primitive, populist and totally false ideas. I also thought, that the viktor presented to hip worshippers the “Übermensch” idea, stating, that IF Hungarianss were only the same as other nationalities…. This means that others have less values, because Hungarians have something extra. I am not trying to defend nazi Germany, but excuse me, at least the Germans tried to make themselves better than anybody else, in sports, in education, in technology, they were hard working, clean and proud of actual achievements and successes they had in the 1930s. They rebuilt the shattered, broke and bankrupt country, came out from the Depression and eliminated almost all the unemployment ON THEIR OWN. They did not get huge sums from an EU, like Hungary does now for over a decade, every year. It is the greatest tragedy and sin of the Germans, that it was wasted to destroy tens of millions of people and almost half the World. On the other hand, what is it, that Hungarians excel in now or they making efforts to excel in and what are the successes and achievements they have for the last 26 years,… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Gybog.

Notice, please, that there is one great similarity between nazi Germany and Orban’s Hungary: they have both served up Nationalism and Exceptionalism by the tonnage…and it has made the people crazy and feel empowered. With that, Hitler led his people to do his every bidding and, eventually, to their doom.
Why should we expect Orban’s results to be any different?

(What troubles me almost as much as anything else is that asinine Hungarians do not LEARN. I thought these people were educated…but it seems their minds are washed clean by anti-semitism and nationalism regularly.)

Stupid assholes.

Bitstream Fractalized
Guest

Orban (who is reformed christian) has the support of all large Hungarian christian denominations and also the support of others like many branches of Judaism. In contrast to this, Hitler was rather advocating some sort of paganism definitely not Christianity. This is one big difference.

“Stupid assholes”, an asshole is very important part of the body, imagine yourself without an a..hole. You would be full of ….

Paul
Guest
Years ago, when I was still in my ‘honeymoon’ phase of getting to know Hungary, I met a German guy who had worked there for several years and was about to go home as his contract was finished. Chatting to him about Hungary and the Hungarians, I was surprised to hear him expressing negative views about his hosts and saying that he was glad to be going home at last. His views clashed so much with mine of the time that I asked him why he was so eager to get away. “It’s the Hungarians”, he said, “they’re convinced that they’re the best nation in the world, and they constantly tell you about all the things Hungarians have done, but at the same time they constantly expect everything to go wrong “because it always has”, and they blame everyone else but themselves for this. I’ll be very glad to get away from that madness”. I thought him a bit harsh, if not unhinged, at the time, but years later I came to understand what he meant, and to appreciate how he felt. And Orbán knows this, and understands how the ‘average’ Hungarian thinks and feels – and he constantly feeds… Read more »
István
Guest

Given the fact that many Hungarians are aware to one degree or another that Hungary as a nation state, a culture, and a language is lucky to have not completely disappeared from the face of the earth PM Orban’s nationalist rhetoric has a deep resonance for many Hungarians. If we think about the devastation of both the Ottoman occupation and early stages of Austrian domination following that occupation the fact that a small independent nation called Hungary exists is in many respects amazing.

So we should not be in the least surprised by the support amongst the Fidesz troops for this type of nationalist harangue. Of course we can smirk at some of PM Orban’s excess that Eva kindly translated – for example “the people of Petőfi and Kossuth can only smile when somebody tries to instruct them about freedom and democracy,” But none the less such nonsense does work politically.

Member
IF, one could follow the viktor’s so called thinking and the mentality of the “average Hungarian”, it would be perhaps helpful for them to learn from history without distortions and lies. I will present a version of two historical events here, based on the fact, that yesterday the viktor called the loss of the lost 1848 Revolution a victory for Hungary and stated, that all Hungarians should think of it as victory. Therefore; On August 26, 1526 the Hungarian army was annihilated by the Turks, the fleeing King, Louis II. drowned in a creek, because of his heavy armor. So he could not receive the good news from his generals, the few, who were still alive, that the battle was a “Hungarian victory”. The Hungarians were so happy, that they invited the Turkish Sultan to be their ruler and became part of the Ottoman Empire for 156 years. Yet! On January 26, 1699, the good Hungarians who for three years already, won major battles agains the Turks on the side of the Austrians, did not even show up at the Peace Conference in Karlowitz, (or Sremski Karlovici – Northern Serbia) and I quote here from an English text; The Treaty… Read more »
nwo
Guest

Eva. Wonderful synopsis. Cutting through Viktor’s bs incisively. I do agree though with other commentators (including you) that Viktor knows his audience and understands the yearning of many for Hu to be considered successful, even as others said the real effort to achieve success the “old fashioned way” is largely lacking.

saslik
Guest

I agree. Putin also knows this. Nationalism works. Jobbik is also nationalistic but it doesn’t exude power and so it’s a bit incongruent. With Orban nationalistic grandeur and the image of powerfulness come in a congruent combo (at least for the superficial believers, but most people are superficial).

Orban will continue with unabashed nationalism, he has few choices left and he believes in it. Of course that 6bn euros per annum is important but if the EU is so stupid to as to pay that amount practically into his own pockets then he can make a backroom compromise with the EU too. Of course openly he will continue to bash the EU because the EU doesn’t care, apparently just loves to be the whipping boy.

Nationalism is a powerful tool, which the left-wing lacks and it’s a huge disadvantage for them. Not surprisingly in Israel the Labour party renamed itself Zionist Union. People crave nationalism and easy messages.

What does the left want? Until the left comes up with a one sentence answer a 6-year old can understand, the left is doomed.

tappanch
Guest

Samuel Johnson (1775):
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. ”

Well, in the last 130 years, Hungarian nationalism has definitely been the first and last refuge of thieves and scoundrels. Orban & his friends are no exceptions.

Looking back in the same period, can you name a regime that plundered the money of the “nation” so brazenly and openly as Orban’s?

tappanch
Guest

Women in ministerial positions around the world, January 1, 2015.

First: Finland: 62.5% women

Last: Hungary, Slovakia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan: 0% women.

http://www.fn.no/content/download/21895/201312/version/1/file/wmnmap15_en.pdf

Live long and prosper
Guest

I hate these ‘how great are Hungarians’ speeches. I find them insidious and stupidly pretentious. When I first came here in 1994 I was intrigued by their history, particularly of the period preceding WWII until the Wall came down. And I had the romantic and naive idea that post 1989 Hungary would blossom into a country of greatness, as it seemed determined to. As it seemed confidant that it could. As I hoped it would. As I still hope it somehow will. But if it ever can, it will be a long, long time in the future. For now I observe an absurd but persistent vainglorious nationalism deriving from the distortion of history and cynical, widespread corruption by the ‘elite’, both of which are enabled and perpetuated by a leader who, by my definition, cannot possibly love his own country and who is kept in power by too many unthinking followers who must be the most gullible people you could find anywhere. And that’s rather sad.

Member

Amen!

tappanch
Guest
“The deepening moral crisis, the staggering proportions of corruption , the centralization of power unprecedented since the fall of Communism*, the replacement of professionals with political zombies*, the appearance of criminals flocking to the power and wealth on the ladder of politics, the hundreds of billions disappearing in the brokers’ scandals, where the actual people responsible are not named are just some of the things happening. In the meantime, the public health care system is grinding to a halt*, the public education costs more after the nationalization, its quality slowly but surely slipping, the increasing social tensions endanger public safety, the local governments find themselves in the same [dependent] situation as the local councils [in the Communist system], and our foreign policy and has never seen such a free fall as nowadays. There is hardly any European country that would seriously talk with us, while we also lost such allies as the Poles, who traditionally maintained good relationship with us. The complete political control of the “public” media throws into the mud the freedom of press expressed in 1848 by the 12-point declaration of demands*. So we should not be surprised if our children plan their future outside Hungary, because… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

His speech on video:

Member
Since the Nazi card has been played… Of course Orbán (like his Big Brother Putin) cultivates a style which very much resembles both Nazism, classical Fascism and Stalinism: aggressive nationalism combined with an eclectic hodgepodge of right-wing (ideological conservativism, pseudo-aristocratic and militaristic traditions, “family values” etc.) and left-wing values (low-brow culture, glorifying the “hard-working people” and instrumentalizing their envy and grudge towards more educated and richer classes). BUT: Hitler, Lenin and probably even Stalin were people driven by an ideology which had at least the purported goal of making the world a better place for the (right kind of) people, and which claimed to have ambitious philosophical foundations. And their systems employed and exploited – alongside thugs and violent criminals – naïve idealists and useful idiots, even educated ones, who sincerely believed they were building a better world, within a clearly defined ideological framework. Whereas Orbán and Putin are openly opportunistic “godfathers” interested only in grabbing as much money (and power) as possible to themselves and their families. They only use and exploit the ideology which suits them best to keep the people (or a sufficient part of its more stupid segments) happy or at least obedient. In this case,… Read more »
gla
Guest

People under 30 support Jobbik more than they do Fidesz.

Jobbik is perceived to be cool by the young and Fidesz is now uncool and young people hate to be associated with the uncool lest they contract the uncoolness disease.

Turulpörkölt
Guest

Liquidation of the national parks of Hungary.

All land owned and used by the national parks in Hungary will be up for agricultural usage, which means at least 50,000 hectares (100,000) acres will be distributed to cronies (i.e. reliable front companies, people behind which Orban and his pals are) and EU subsidies will be received after such lands.

Insanity continues.

http://nol.hu/belfold/szabad-az-allami-foldrablas-1522507

tappanch
Guest

Example from the article: Hortobagy National Park (the “Puszta”) has an area of 600 km^2. This will be reduced to 10 km^2 in a few days!

Fideszization goes ahead at full steam, fueled by European Union money.

Live long and prosper
Guest

This is awful. I flew over it once, very low, many years ago, in an open cockpit ‘plane, having visited previously during the height of summer, and I marveled at the beauty of the gently undulating virgin Hungarian grazing land, and the herds of horse and cattle. What a desecration it will be for it to become merely farmland for political cronies, for the purpose of extracting EU agricultural subsidies. Yet another disgrace.

Member

That is insane. Doesn’t the EU has some law about National Parks or such? I thought I read something like that at once regarding the reservation of of natural space. Does anyone recalls something like tho? I know some part of the Hortobagy is Word Heritage site. Is Gemenc also part of this?

Arpad
Guest

What would spin-meister Habony do if he was really smart?

Let Jobbik continue to grow until 2018 and then ask all leftist voters to vote for Fidesz in order to protect democracy, surely leftist voters can’t desire Jobbik to form a government…

Just as Chirac asked for the leftist voters to vote for him against Le Pen (the elder Le Pen, and it worked).

Since the fragmented Hungarian leftist parties have no realistic hope to win any elections (let alone govern) in this election/governmental system (Veszprém was an anomaly, where the leftists were not advertizing their presence) Orban will win again.

Check-mate, lefties…

http://444.hu/2015/03/17/ha-en-lennek-habony-arpad/

Member

How will the Jewish organizations react to this?

tappanch
Guest

Ipsos poll, taken between March 6 and 13.

Fidesz 21%
Jobbik 18%
MSzP+DK+Egyutt+PM 18%
LMP 3%

No party, other 40%

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/03/17/ipsos_fidesz-jobbik_21-18/

East-West
Guest

Let’s remember that the realistic ceiling for voters’ participation is max. 80% and that presupposes an extreme nation-wide enthusiasm not seen for years in Hungary (when there were +600k people living in Hungary, who now live in Western Europe and who for all practical purposes unable to vote).

So in the “no other party, other” category there are at most 20%.

This means to me that half of all voters are right-wing and half are divided between some half a dozen left-wing formations.

Since the leftists are more concentrated in Budapest and some limited urban regions which are compartmentalized in the current election system, Fidesz/Jobbik still has a lock on Parliament.

Also it’s important to note that the number of leftist hasn’t grown for years. Nobody is enthusiastic about József Tobias of MSZP, but people are enthusiastic about cool Gabor Vona with the cute dogs.

buddy
Guest

Hungary’s new tactic for dealing with the foreign press: if we don’t like what you write, we’ll sue you.

Example A: Thursday’s article in the Financial Times about Paks, which “caused damage to Hungary”

It’s quite a chilling development, actually. And almost certainly won’t improve Hungary’s stature abroad.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20150317_Hir24_Beperli_a_kormany_a_Finacial_Timeso

Guest

In German we have a saying:
Ist der Ruf erst ruiniert – lebt’s sich völlig ungeniert …
Loosely translated/adapted:
When everyone knows you’re crazy you can do and say whatever you want – without any consequences!
Of course you might end up in a psychiatric ward – not in jail like a hundred years ago.

Hungary has become the laughing stock of the civilised world …

petofi
Guest

More correctly, the Hungarian People have become the laughing stock of the whole world..

Kirsten
Guest
I am amazed that there are attempts on this blog to portrait Hitler’s (or the Communist) ideology as something “rational” and “successful” (scandalous!) as opposed to Orban’s rather innocent comments. THAT is a shock. Orban has said nothing that would have not been written and said before even by people who otherwise consider themselves to be centre of the political spectrum. Hungarianism with all its contradictions is simply a habit in Hungary – without necessarily lead to much action, as I learned. The main interest is to lick one’s wounds (no matter of which origin exactly), relate it to the nation, and to feel national gloom (and otherwise try to make one’s personal life as acceptable as possible – given the circumstances of that nothing can ever change anyway). Of course it is better if this does not interfere with international politics (as it did less with the earlier governments and which it does now), but it has been a constant at least in what average people think. Hitler’s ideology was meant from the start to lead to the destruction of quite a number of lives, and they started with it on day 1 of taking over government (actually before… Read more »
spectator
Guest

Kristen, “rational” in my interpretation is a rather subjective term.
I mean: subjective from the point of view of the subject.

Yes, nazism and communism can be ‘rational’ if you look at it from their point of view, or even just objectively.

Remember, evaluation usually comes afterwords. At the time it may have had all the characteristics of something on the right side – never mind, though, that a handful of the people knew all along that it is wrong. But than again, just how many of the people voted against Orbán?

Exactly my point!

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spectator
Guest

About the subject:
I’m afraid that the so called “democratic opposition” going to miss the goal completely – once again. (Yes, I’m aware of the Veszprém events and the facts too, that it doesn’t really matter”

As far as I see it the voting once more would only have the stake that whether or not somebody will have a chair somewhere, and a salary with it and nothing else really.
Before anybody will object just take a look of Kész’s position and role.

The overwhelming majority of two/third of the ruling party in reality never was in jeopardy – in worst case they need an ounce more negotiating and a few more allowances with some of their Jobbik sleepers, or shell I mention the name of another party? – because anything with a slight importance (to the Viktor, that is) going to be voted through in any event, mark my words.

Conclusively, besides of showing off – if at all – it has a preciously little true effect, whatever happens. Unfortunately.

I honestly hope that I’m wrong, all the way! Keep your fingers crossed that I do!

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