András Schiffer’s departure is hailed on the left

The big news of the day is that András Schiffer, co-chair of LMP (Lehet Más a Politika = Politics Can Be Different), announced his irrevocable decision to retire from politics. He is resigning as leader of LMP’s parliamentary delegation immediately, and at the end of August he will quit parliament altogether. In a long farewell interview to Index he gave several reasons for his departure from politics, the most important being “the lack of intellectual support that would provide stability to a party with a critical attitude toward the existing system.” In plain language, he lay the blame for his own political failure on those intellectuals who in the past stood fast in support of democratic parties but who now don’t aid his efforts against the political system of Viktor Orbán. Veranus, the blogger with strong opinions and a sharp tongue, reacted to this accusation: “I as a former LMP voter and someone who has watched the party’s fortunes over the years with sympathy can tell you the reason for the lack of intellectual support: your hysterical autocratic behavior. You screwed up.” Well, he used a slightly stronger verb.

Schiffer Andras2

While Mandiner.hu, a right-wing site, is full of comments that are quite sympathetic to Schiffer and express regret at his departure, those who, according to Schiffer, should have been his supporters rejoice that at last the man who refused to cooperate with other democratic parties before the 2014 elections was at last out of the way. Klára Ungár, formerly a Fidesz and later an SZDSZ member of parliament, remarked on Facebook that “surely LMP without him will be more successful because [Schiffer] is an extraordinarily unpleasant man.” Zoltán Lovas, one of the organizers of the vigil in front of the statue of Archangel Gabriel against Orbán’s falsification of history, rejoiced over “the disappearance of one of the most repugnant and contemptible characters of the past few years in Hungarian domestic politics.” György Csepeli, a well-known sociologist, attached the following post: “I would also add the adjective ‘heinous.’” Tamás Bereczky, an HIV activist, remembered “little Schiffer from elementary school where he had the reputation of being a little dotty, an aggressive, priggish meschugge.”

The people who can definitely be categorized as belonging to the intellectual elite, the ones Schiffer most likely counted on, dislike him for several reasons. First of all, they consider LMP under his leadership a useful tool in Viktor Orbán’s hands. Schiffer, ever since the formation of the party, has steadfastly refused any kind of collaboration with the other democratic parties, thereby giving an advantage to Fidesz. Some people are convinced that Fidesz helped Schiffer’s party gain parliamentary representation in both 2010 and 2014. The only question is whether there was some kind of a secret deal between Orbán and Schiffer or whether Schiffer was simply a “useful idiot.”

Because of Schiffer’s unyielding attitude LMP already split once in January 2013, when eight of the 15-member parliamentary delegation left to form a party of their own. I suspect that the real reason for Schiffer’s resignation now is that he no longer has the majority of the party leadership behind his policies. The reason for the party strife is probably the same as it was three years ago: the majority of LMP leaders no longer believe that Schiffer’s “go it alone” policy can succeed. Schiffer in his interview was fairly successful in hiding the real reason for his resignation. There was only one sentence that gave him away: “In LMP an organizational culture has developed in which even informal influence is a curse word.” In party debates his support for an issue is actually “counterproductive,” he complained in the interview. Therefore, he added, the party will be fine without him.

There was one member of the left-wing intellectual elite, Gáspár Miklós Tamás or TGM as he is known in Hungary, who was waving his hat while saying goodbye to András Schiffer. TGM’s admiration for Schiffer is not at all surprising. Schiffer made LMP a party that is against globalization and multinational corporations. Schiffer’s LMP is a socialist party and therefore close to the heart of TGM, who still believes in some form of utopian socialism. He believes, like Schiffer, that the politics of the 1990-2010 period were just as bad as the regime of Orbán.

I think it might be useful to summarize a speech Schiffer made in August 2015 at a party gathering to which, for some strange reason, Schiffer invited László Kövér. In this speech he claimed that the cooperation between foreign capital and the communist capitalists resulted in the failure of the country’s economic convergence. He talked about oppression and the exploitation caused by globalization, which threatens nation states. As Péter Béndek, a conservative commentator, noted, “for Fidesz there is only one acceptable socialist, Schiffer.” The co-chairman of LMP is, he continued, a typical representative of those green politicians who are “green on the outside but red on the inside.” Surely, Schiffer’s radical socialism couldn’t possibly appeal to Hungarian liberals and moderate social democrats.

And there is another “sin” for which a lot of liberals will not forgive Schiffer. When in May 2011 the prosecutor’s office charged Ferenc Gyurcsány with “abuse of office” in connection with the Sukoró real estate swap, it was on the basis of a complaint filed by András Schiffer in October 2009. Of course, Viktor Orbán would dearly have loved to send his political opponent to jail, but he preferred to have Schiffer’s name attached to this particular dirty trick instead of instructing his commissioner to launch the court case against Gyurcsány. Clever fellow. Supporters of Gyurcsány simply cannot forgive Schiffer for his involvement in this case, especially since Schiffer has never felt the urge to file a complaint charging Viktor Orbán with “abuse of power.” Most people feel that he should have apologized to Gyurcsány since he went after him on the flimsiest of charges. That’s not going to happen. Schiffer hates Gyurcsány about as much as Orbán does.

Finally, I should add that I also dislike András Schiffer. I disagree with what he stands for politically, and I find him objectionable as a person. I join those who think that his departure is a blessing for the true opponents of Viktor Orbán’s political system.

May 31, 2016
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petofi
Guest

It would be interesting to learn how these post-political politicos make their money in retirement. For instance, how does Mesterhazy make do….?

Observer
Guest

It’s much more relevant to check the billions flowing to the bank accounts of the current ones.

Gabor Toka
Guest

Schiffer, for one, left behind a reasonably safe legal practice for politics, and he announced his intention to return to that. There is really no need to suspect bribes and Judas money in absolutely every pocket!

Guest

So can we now consider the possibility of some kind of coalition between the opposition parties? Seems like the only way forward.

tappanch
Guest

Just a piece of news on economic philosophy & policy.

On Thursday, the Orban government, quietly and under disguise, plans to cancel its “neoliberal” or “neoconservative”, but definitely [US] Republican adviser-inspired sacred cow, the flat tax ! (Well, kind of …)

The European courts ruled against the discriminative nature of the non-cash, tax-free bonus card system [SZÉP-kártya] under the Orban government. [They had expelled the non-Hungarian (French) card issuers from this business].

The average benefit was 22,500 (72 euros) a month for employees last year.
This benefit is taxed not at 50% (like salaries), but at the generous 🙂 34.5%.

Fidesz counters the ruling by moving 100,000 [$355 or 319 euros] a YEAR from the cards into cash. So the first $355 of the salaries will become tax-free income from 2017.

This move will also brighten the statistics – it automatically increases the gross salary of Hungarian employees by 27 euros a month on paper.

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20160601_parlament_elott_a_cafeteria

tappanch
Guest

Correction: the word “tax-free” should be replaced by “taxed at a preferential rate” in the text above.

Observer
Guest

1. Pls don’t made me jump – they have not touched the flat tax.

2. ” … taxed not at 50% (like salaries), but at the generous 🙂 34.5%…”

You mean the total of tax, levies and contributions payable by employee and employer ?

Observer
Guest

I also find Schiffer unlikable personally (dour, doctrinaire, intolerant, ) and disagree with his position. His only merit were his speeches in parliament criticizing the Orban regime.

Talking about “opposition has been co-opted”, which I don’t believe, please note that Schiffer was in charge of L.Solyom’s campaign for president in 2005. Solyom was supported by Fidesz!!

G. M. Tamás
Guest
Dear Eva, It is a complete travesty of my political views to say that I would condemn the 1989-2010 period as much as I view the Orbán regime as a tragedy for Hungary. You cannot (or at least, should not) disregard my unremitting struggle against this new-fangled far right system in the last 6 years (& against East European & especially Hungarian authoritarianism in general). Expression of esteem for a political opponent such as Dr Schiffer ought not to be considered as agreement. Yes, he was an excellent parliamentarian & a colourful figure of public life, in spite of his many errors & mistakes. Our political views (yours & mine) may differ (although I am not advocating socialism as a solution, ‘utopian’ or otherwise – one has to differentiate between critical attitudes & political programmes) but is must be quite plain that this sort of chauvinist half-dictatorship & provincila crony capitalism should be resisted by every honest person, be he or she liberal, conservative or even a radical leftie such as myself. The relentless political crisis in Hungary & the sorry state of the ‘democratic’ opposition is as distressing to me as it is – apparently – to you. And… Read more »
G. M. Tamás
Guest

Sorry for the typos: ‘it’, not ‘is’ in ‘it must be quite plain’ & ‘provincial crony capitalism’. Apologies.

Miklós Haraszti
Guest

I just cannot stand — I know I should — TGM’s constant repainting his canvas and debunking those who remember the previous. He is on record — not once — saying Schiffer’s is the only political offer worth voting for. Clearly because of Sch’s anti-Western, anti-globalist, anti-EU, anti-US, anti-TTIP stances.
If I already decided to chime in, I have to say Eva, as much as I agree that Schiffer’s turning to Péter Polt against Gyurcsány in the Sukoro case was an error (moral, to be precise, as much as legal and political), Gyurcsány’s not grabbing the moment of his acquittal from under the Sukoro charges to withdraw from politics in dignity was another gross mistake.

Guest
Just to comment on Mr. Tamas’ points. In noting the ‘relentless political crisis in Hungary’ it stands to reason that the longer it goes on without any end in sight, where ‘robbery under law’ continues unmitigated by any sort of control and where checks and balances exist in an a seemingly amoral and vacuous environment , the more the system will increase in the road onto potential disorder. The momentum towards disaster could be unavoidable. There could be not a Donau to cross but rather a grave Rubicon one day. As a student of history we dismiss to our peril the relevance of the 30’s to our time. Die Zeit’s political editor Jochen Bittner has pronounced on this in a recent piece in the NY Times. The fact that indeed xenophobia and race conflict in the US are on the rise points to how the ‘infection’ is not simply relegated to Europe. It’s here as well and getting stoked by politicos with agendas who constantly feed its fire and I will include Magyars themselves who see the opportunity to make known and distribute ‘views’ which are cloaked in a ‘new’ and more considered and appropriate version of ‘democracy’ and that… Read more »
Observer
Guest
@ TGM I wonder what your political views are if “not advocating socialism as a solution, ‘utopian’ or otherwise”. They seem kind of left and utopian, but are somewhat clouded by a propensity for bombast and fringe statements. Your ”unremitting struggle against this new-fangled far right system in the last 6 years ..” was preceded by similar unremitting struggle against the earlier democratic governments. Having “critical attitudes” is one thing, lambasting all and sundry is another. Your positions/statements (véleményformáló) prior to 2010 did their share of damage, paving the way for the Orban regime; hence you also are responsible for “the sorry state of the ‘democratic’ opposition”. You are part of sizable milieu of center/left intellectuals dabbling in politics or political analyses (with media exposure), who always seem to confuse ethics and philosophy with politics and government. Politics is the art of the possible, pure ideals should be discussed elsewhere; for politics read Dictator’s Handbook, not John Rowls. I can’t recollect a practical political idea, recipe from TMG, one that could possibly be considered for implementation. Clownish Torgyán and deeply provincial Orban succeeded in politics without any or philosophy or great ideas, where better educated and much more intellectual liberals… Read more »
andy
Guest
Schiffer has a reputation of being “difficult” having a personality of a primadonna with a tendency of throwing hissy fits. He had a lot of ideological points though just as Fidesz had and liberals ignore these criticisms (issues with capitalism, free trade, TTIP, immigration etc.) at their peril. Schiffer always sympathized with Fidesz because to him the left/liberal parties were capitalist (bourgoisie) sellouts. He was – just as in 1930’s (TGM can correct me if I’m wrong) the leftist parties were – preoccupied with internal (ie. to the Marxist ideology) issues. The real enemy of the communists were always the social democrats (ie the bourgeoisie masquerading as leftists) and not the fascists. Ideological purity has always been the most important issue for any self-respecting “real leftist” such as Schiffer. For the conservatives it is unity and discipline, so it is not a surprise that the right-wing is much more successful. It’s not a surprise either that the in post-WWII Italy the left-wing only governed for a very short period, the many leftists parties just couldn’t get along. Same in Hungary. There was no way LMP, Együtt, DK and MSZP were going to get along and this was not lost on… Read more »
Gabor Toka
Guest
I think that your evaluation of Schiffer is too bleak. I also find lunatic Schiffer’s anti-globalization stance and discomforting some of his gestures towards the despicable; plus the many credible testimonies to this effect make me believe that he probably behaved at times like a hysterical autocrat. But this should not make anyone demonize him as a traitor, a Fidesz agent, etc. It is not obvious how the Orban regime can be brought down and it is probably not just inevitable but also advantageous that there are different ideas around about that. For instance, it is not at all obvious that Schiffer’s rump-LMP took any more votes away from the left than from the right, or the otherwise dead-certain non-voters. Assuming the opposite by the mainstream left has no foundation in facts, and is at best harmful political blindness, and at worst hatred for perfectly legitimate criticism of sleaze, bad policy choices, attempts at covering up and belittling police brutality, etc. under left-wing governments. Fair enough that most on the socialist and liberal side felt frustrated by Schiffer leading LMP out of any alliance with them. But people in that camp should still appreciate Schiffer’s ability to resign: they only… Read more »
Guest

Maybe Schiffer’s leaving gives LMP a new chance …

Not too much OT:

When I read about LMP the first time I got the impression that they were a kind of Green party so later I was astonished at some of their positions.
As you might know the Greens have been quite successful in Austria and Germany – I’m especially proud that our Schwab prime Minister Mr. Kretschmann has just been reelected, now in a coalition with the Christian Democrats.

Is there no chance for a real Green party in Hungary at all?

PS:
Also the comparisons to Italy – shouldn’t the Hungarian political system be more like the Austrian (or German or British even) with a smaller number of parties instead of the Italian system where you have almost more parties than seats in parliament now ..

Brian McLean
Guest

Schiffer in my view is a man of great determination and little political understanding. I wish him success in returning to the law, where those qualities are fully appreciated.

petofi
Guest

@Brian McLean

Surely, you don’t mean ‘Hungary’….?!!!

Brian McLean
Guest

I’m not quite sure what your question is.

petofi
Guest

This bloody new setup seperates the comment from the original so that our answers drift into the ether…You talked about certain qualities appreciated in Hungary and I questioned that.
The only thing appreciated in Hungary is chicanery.

Gomez
Guest

Don’t worry about LMP too much Fidesz will finance the new leadership too.

It doesn’t matter if LMP doesn’t get into Parliament in 2018, if it can take away 2-3% from the left-wing such investment was more than worth it.

Plus given the election maths the winner of the election (ie. Fidesz, currently standing at well over 40% and Jobbik has maybe 20%) also wins more mandates in the stead of those parties which do not reach the 5% threshold.

LMP will be a nice zombie party which it has been for years. It is totally irrelevant politically but it plays a nice role in chipping away votes from the left-wing (it may also chip away votes from the right-wing but the right wing has enormous reserves, especially in Erdély and Vajdaság, so for Fidesz it doesn’t matter it can afford losing a few points as long as it remains the dominant party and it will).

Jon Van Til
Guest

It is heartening to see so many important thinkers join the conversation on Hungarian Spectrum, many of them finding it appropriate to use their own names (as intellectuals proudly do in free constituencies). As Hungary’s progressive sector finds its way toward unification in this time of opportunity, it is good to have HS as a primary source of exploration, consideration, and dialogue.

Observer
Guest

Hear, hear.

Brian McLean
Guest

Well said.

zolika
Guest

“MSZP is full of Fidesz-collaborants” says Tibor Szany. No shit.

http://444.hu/2016/06/01/szanyi-tibor-szerint-az-mszp-tele-van-fideszes-kollaboransokkal

anikó
Guest

OT. I’m sorry that this is in Hungarian (google translate may be able to translate it). This is a moving poem by Mária Sándor from Pomáz. It is titled: Lead your nation! and was addressed to the leader of the nation Prime Minister Viktor Orban who just turned 53 yesterday.

Vezesd nemzeted

Tán Isten küldte őt, ide le a földre,
Hogy legyen nemzetének hű vezére.
Vagy csupán csak egy földi ember,
Ki, ha kell, küzd, szól, s tenni is mer!

Kit követnek százak, ezrek, milliók,
Kinek szaván csüngnek, földi régiók.
Kinek első az országa, nemzete, népe,
Kit ezért ütnek a gyűlölködők cserébe!

De áll a gáton, mert ő igaz magyar,
Ő az, ki nemzetének Kánaánt akar.
Százezrek mozdulnak mellé állva,
Egyetlen, kérő, halk, hívó szavára.

Ő az, ki, védi, óvja, elszakadt nemzetét,
És mozdulnak érte mind, egy emberként.
Milliók harsogják, pajzsként állva eléje,
Eddig és ne tovább, magyarok ellensége.

Nem átkozza, nem mocskolja ellenit,
De legyőzi népe hazug ellenfeleit.
Hátára ostorcsapások ezreit vállalja,
Bennünket kímélve, azt büszkén állja.

Vezesd országod, vezesd nemzeted,
Isten talán nékünk ezért teremtett.
Ne halld a kétkedők vádló táborát,
De halld nemzeted, áldó, hívó szavát.

Guest

No! No! No!

Fuck off Orban! Not sent by God!
Long may be rot.

Take your rubbish poems elsewhere.

Don’t suppose you’re Anikó Lendvai are you?

Guest

“Nem átkozza, nem mocskolja ellenit,
De legyőzi népe hazug ellenfeleit.”

Ha! Ha!.HAaaaaaaaa! HAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Oh! Sto…… HAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa stop pleeeeeeeees ….HAAaaaaaaaaàa ……
Haaaaaaaa. STOPPPP!!!!!……. Haaaaaaaaaaaàaaàaaa…….

Guest

Apologies Eva. My reaction got the better of me after my partner translated the first stanza.

Delete as necessary.

Bowen
Guest

They used to write similar poems about Ceausescu (before he was shot). Children had to learn them in school. I guess we should be grateful that’s not happening in Hungary. Yet.

Guest

You took the words right out of my mouth, Bowen …
Though it might be derived from a laudatio for Mussolini.

Brian McLean
Guest

Das ist die Wahrheit, die mich Dir verband:
Ich suchte Dich and fand mein Vaterland.

John 3
Guest

Disgusting poem by Kinga Sándor.

The poet – http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20160601_sandor_kinga_vezesd_nemzeted – Kinga Sándor – qualifies for the title of the:

“Most Duped”.

Probably translated from a North Korean original.

Guest

Totally OT – or maybe not?:

North Korean media just sang the praises of Donald Trump – debunking site snopes.com reports it so it’s not a joke/fake:

A column carried on DPRK Today, one of the reclusive and dynastic state’s mouthpieces, described Trump as a “wise politician” and the right choice for U.S. voters in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

It described his most likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, as “thick-headed Hillary” over her proposal to apply the Iran model of wide sanctions to resolve the nuclear weapons issue on the Korean peninsula.
http://www.snopes.com/2016/05/31/north-korea-endorses-trump/

Istvan
Guest

Yes I am sure Trump was thrilled to have the endorsement of North Korea. With Putin and Kim Jong-un behind Trump he will surely win.

petofi
Guest

@ aniko

Lead the nation…?

I’d like him to lead my bank account as well as he’s led those of his family…

Observer
Guest

Guys,, please,

Here comes another screaming proof of what are we dealing with, don’t interrupt them:
Let the dictatorship and the fanatic sect of believers show under the lamb skins and cassocks and the beloved trickster lead the flock of dupes and dummies.

But democracy it ain’t.

András B. Göllner
Guest
Schiffer’s departure from the party-political scene should not be lamented. Sending him off with a pat on his ass, as TGM does, was a hasty gesture, but in the great scheme of things, it makes as little difference as Schiffer’s absence from the political scene. As the song goes – one less man to pick up after, one less egg to fry…. Hungary’s political malaise is political cultural, and transcends individual political shortcomings, be it Gyurcsány’s, Schiffer’s, TGM’s or Haraszti’s. What Hungary’s democratic opposition is unable to fathom, is that winning the hearts and minds of the electorate cannot be achieved with the approaches that these thoughtful, grammatically correct opinion leaders have practiced for 25 years. It’s time to look at reality in the face gentlemen. – you are losers, prisoners of a mindset that may resonate well on the pages of Élet és Irodalom, but can’t generate electoral victory, Worse still, when you succeed – and that is usually due to the fact, that there is no one else to turn to – your approach (a.k.a. ineptitude) results in shamefully bad governance. Suggestions like piggy backing onto Jobbik as a way of defeating Fidesz is a tried and true… Read more »
bobbymugabe
Guest

Mr. Göllner, I agree, the lefties should go and start working.

Alas they are lazy. And they have no ambitions other than to get a little cut from the big dough.

They don’t even order the relevant books from Amazon.com on what to do in a campaign, it’s so ridiculous.

Brian McLean
Guest

I couldn’t agree more. A party with a handful of members isn’t a political party, it’s a group of scallywags with political pretensions.

Observer
Guest

@András G.

Yes, what “may resonate well on the pages of Élet és Irodalom..” is usually not politics. The “democratic opposition needs to learn .. to WORK” and this work is not always idyllic and squeaky clean (see Churchill about sausage and laws).
Master the political language … the art and craft of grass-roots political organization” and a couple of other tricks we must, or else. Look at the ugly brute we face.

Brian McLean
Guest

Well, I began reading it bravely, thinking it was the last word in Pomáz irony, but then I began to have doubts. Surely not, no, surely she can’t have meant it seriously?

Observer
Guest

Brian,

Check out her face on the FB, it says it all.

Mama
Guest

It is real. And she’s far from being the only one. There are thousands upon thousands of similar people. They just love Orban, what’s the big surprise?

András B. Göllner
Guest

@ bobbymugabe

Why throw the baby out with the bathwater ?? That’s silly. That’s the Orbán way of raising children.. There is nothing wrong with the ideas of the Left, or with Liberalism. The problem is with the cooks, that happen to be in the political kitchen in Hungary.

petofi
Guest

No, the problem is the acceptable norms and values of Hungarians.
The Left and Liberalism can get no traction because those philophies mean the splitting of the pie among all. That’s not the Hungarian way: the age-old practice is to stab the neighbour on each side and take their pieces….

Observer
Guest

@mama
It’s not a surprise, it’s incomprehensible – how can people cheer their own rape. Are they so dim or so complexed, or both?

tappanch
Guest

Here are highlights of the counter-poem from 444.hu

The bards of Wales , oops … Quaest

“Quaestorbánc fidióta király
Botladozik narancs lován:
Hadd látom, úgymond, mennyit ér
A stróman tartomány.

Van itt polt hátán polt és tarsoly is jó..
A házelnök már Kövér..
Használt a sok ügyködés:
S, hogy lázár is mindig többet ígér..

[…]

Ti rokonok, strómanok…! Hát senkinél
Sem koccan értem pohár?
EmeNbések, TEKkesek… ti hun ebek!
Hát ne éljen a szotyi-király?

[…]

Orbán király, törpe király
Léptet lopott lován:
Szeretné látni meddig ér
A FideSS tartomány.

[…]

Áll néma csend, a stadion
Lopva omladozik!
„Fejére szól, ki szót emel!
Orbán nem alhatik.”

Álmatlan éjben így motyog,
Birkáknak ostora:
Jobbra szeretnék tartani,
De nincsen már hova!

Túl Felcsúton, túl éjszakán,
Huzatos kürtőn át:
Több száz CÖF-ös énekli még
A bértanúk dalát! ”

http://444.hu/2016/06/02/utoljara-talan-rakosi-matyasnak-irtak-olyan-gyonyoru-verset-mint-most-orban-viktornak

Guest

Re Jobbik – so you don’t get any false hopes ( the regulars here surely know this):

We had a discussion with one of our neighbours today (well, we tried but not for too long …) and my wife finished him off with:

Jobbik is just the mirror image of Fidesz

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