Ever since yesterday morning I have been receiving one e-mail after the other from people who wanted to be sure that I don’t forget about the speech Viktor Orbán delivered amid constant whistling by a small group of demonstrators. The occasion was Hungary’s national holiday marking the constitutional revolution of March 1848 that, at least temporarily, ended centuries of absolutism.
Of course, I had every intention of writing about the speech, especially since it is one of the most frightening and threatening speeches Orbán has ever made. At least this seems to be the consensus among Hungarians on the spot. Ordinary citizens who commented on the speech on György Bolgár’s Klubrádió talk show were outraged not so much by what he had to say about Brussels, because they are accustomed to that, but the way he spoke about them.
If I were to summarize the speech in a single sentence, I would say that it was a declaration of war against the progressive tradition in Hungarian history and all Hungarians who don’t support him as well as a massive attack on those European politicians who, in his opinion, are aiding and abetting the migrant hordes.
Let me start with history because, soon after 1848, Orbán landed in 1919. After I wrote a post on Zsolt Bayer’s anti-Semitic rants a couple of days ago, a few commenters suggested that there is nothing new to say about Zsolt Bayer. In fact, it would be best to ignore him. I disagree because I have the sneaking suspicion that it is Zsolt Bayer who says things that Viktor Orbán himself doesn’t want to say. That perhaps there is a deep understanding between these two men.
I assume we all remember what Bayer wrote about the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 and its alleged, perfectly understandable consequence: the massive anti-Semitism during the interwar period. I never thought I would encounter the topic of 1918-1919 again so soon, least of all in Viktor Orbán’s speech on the anniversary of the 1848 revolution. But there it was, front and center.
In Orbán’s view, Hungarians are deliberate and moderate people who don’t immediately grab the sword or the gun. In the last 170 years, there were only two occasions when Hungarians chose that road, in 1848 and 1956. More ominously, he continued: “Our historians also note a revolution in 1918-1919, but that is not preserved on the pages of our glorious past. Nay, it is preserved not on a different page but in a different volume. We find the description of the 1918-1919 revolutions in encyclopedias filled with hatred of Hungarians written for foreign interests and goals, which describe Bolshevik upheavals under the entry ‘frightening examples of intellectual and political degeneration.’” Hungarians have two revolutionary heritages. One, from 1848 and 1956, leads straight to his government’s new constitution and the present regime. “The other heritage’s bloodline begins with the Jacobin predecessors through 1919 and World War II straight into communism and the Soviet world in Hungary.”
I don’t think that readers of Hungarian Spectrum need a lot of assistance in deciphering the meaning of these sentences, but perhaps it would be helpful if I pointed out that Orbán here rejects not only the Hungarian Soviet Republic but also the revolution of 1918, which marked Hungary’s independence as well as its transformation from a kingdom to a republic. It is another matter that due to the excessive demands for troop withdrawals by the Allies and a possible misunderstanding with the French representative residing in Budapest, Mihály Károlyi, the president of the republic, felt that he had to resign in March 1919. Without his knowledge the Social Democrats made a deal with Béla Kun’s small communist party. It was a desperate move in the naïve hope that a world revolution might make borders superfluous.
Orbán pressed the theme of Hungary’s brief, inglorious past: “The heritage of 1919 is still with us, but luckily it is only smoldering. … [W]ithout a host the days [of the representatives of this heritage] are numbered. When no new big intellectual and political infusion package arrives from abroad, then the leaves, the branches, the roots themselves shrivel up in the Hungarian soil, which is unfit for internationalism.” Well, that was the last straw for those Hungarians who are critical of Viktor Orbán and his government. The careful listener or reader couldn’t fail to notice that Orbán called them not only communists directed from abroad but also parasites. And they didn’t like it one bit. A former politician and journalist, once a great fan of Orbán, publicly announced yesterday that as long as Viktor Orbán is prime minister he will not wear the tricolor rosette, as is customary on March 15.
The “host and parasite” metaphor has been widely discussed in the Hungarian media and online. A friend of mine who knew that I was working on Orbán’s text called my attention to a Facebook post whose author, Péter Sziklai, a professor of computer science at ELTE, wrote the following: “I wonder whether perhaps Orbán’s speech writer subconsciously recalled the following text. Even the soil and the host are there. ‘He is and remains the typical parasite, a sponger who, like a harmful bacillus, spreads out more and more if only a favorable medium invites him to do so. But the effect of his existence resembles also that of parasites; where he appears the host people die out sooner or later.’ (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Munich, 1942).”
The attack on Europe came last. One political commentator didn’t think there was anything that hadn’t been said before, but most people I talked to considered it perhaps the most vicious assault yet on the European Union. These people felt that the passages deserve more exposure than the foreign press can give them in short newspaper articles.
The question in 1848, in the poet Sándor Petőfi’s view, was whether Hungarians should remain prisoners or be freed of their shackles. In Viktor Orbán’s opinion, it is a question that Hungarians still must ask. “Today Europe is like a faded, pallid, withering flower that is being gnawed by a secret vermin. After 168 years, after the great revolutions of the European people, our common home, Europe, is not free.” Therefore none of the nations that constitute the European Union can be free. And why not? “Because it is forbidden in Europe to tell the truth. Even if a muzzle is made out of silk, it is still a muzzle.” And he follows up with a long list of items Europeans are forbidden to talk about. It is forbidden to say that immigration will bring crime and terror, that people coming from different civilizations are dangerous to our way of life, and so on. In this long lament there are a few items that are not Viktor Orbán’s usual stock in trade. It is worth highlighting them.
One of Orbán’s outrageous accusations is that “it is forbidden to say that it is not a coincidence that the masses arrived at our doorsteps but is a planned and directed undertaking.” And that people in Brussels “are plotting to move and settle these aliens among us as soon as possible.” It is also forbidden to say that “the goal of this settlement is to redraw Europe’s religious and cultural patterns, restructure its ethnic foundations, eliminating the nation states, which are the last obstacle of the International.” It is also forbidden to say that “today many people in Brussels are working on the plan of a United States of Europe.”
I think western colleagues of Viktor Orbán should ask the Hungarian prime minister the next time they sit around the conference table in Brussels whether he really thinks they are the ones who are encouraging the refugees from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries to come to Europe to destroy the very fabric of their own culture. And whether he really believes that they are agents of the Communist International, which is behind the destruction of the nation states.
The internal enemies, who are the direct descendants of the Jewish communists of 1919, and the EU agents of the Communist International are conspiring against the Christian nationalism of Orbán’s Hungary. One could say that these are the paranoid ravings of a madman, but I think he has thought through his position and means every word of it.