A few days ago a sharply-worded open letter addressed to Viktor Orbán made its way to Hungary. The editors of Népszava translated the English-language original written by Miklós K. Radványi, vice president of international policy at Frontiers of Freedom, a decidedly right-of-center think tank whose philosophy is summarized as “we promote the principles of individual freedom, peace through strength, limited government, free enterprise, free markets, and traditional American values.”
Not too many people in Hungary are familiar with Miklós Radványi, although he has been around Republican politics and politicians for a long time. Prior to joining Frontiers of Freedom, he served as the foreign affairs adviser to Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Christopher Cox. It is likely that the latter’s keen interest in East-Central Europe stems from his association with Radványi. Cox came to know several prominent anti-communists in the late 80s, among them Árpád Göncz, with whom he developed a close friendship. He and his new wife spent part of their honeymoon as guests of the by- then President Göncz and his family.
As for Frontiers of Freedom, Népszava seems to know that the right-wing think tank was a strong supporter of Donald Trump during the election campaign. Therefore, the argument goes, the “sharp criticism” comes from the “inner circles of Trump.” That may be an exaggeration, but we can safely say that on many crucial issues Trump and Radványi see eye to eye. Especially in their hatred of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The government mhttps://www.ff.org/author/radvanedia’s initial reaction to the appearance of the letter to Viktor Orbán was silence. It was only today that Magyar Idők published an op-ed piece on the subject. The author, László Szőcs, spent three years in the United States as Népszabadság’s correspondent in Washington. He tells us that he met many, many people, American and Hungarian diplomats and public figures in general, while in D.C. but he has never heard of Miklós Radványi or Frontiers of Freedom. The conclusion is that criticism from such a nonentity simply doesn’t deserve any attention. Szőcs’s main problem is not so much with the letter, in which Orbán is called the political prostitute of the European Union, but with Népszava’s editorial policy. One doesn’t place “an insignificant opinion piece … on the front page.” By doing so, the paper is misleading its readers. There are, after all, hundreds of such think tanks in Washington, holding divergent views.
Maybe so, but it cannot be denied that Donald Trump hasn’t paid any attention to Viktor Orbán, his kindred soul who, alone among European heads of government, endorsed him months before his election.
Here is the English original of Miklós K. Radványi’s “Open Letter to Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary.” It is perhaps the harshest criticism that has ever been published about the autocratic Hungarian prime minister.
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Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
I write this letter because I care about the past, the present, and the future of the country in which I was born and grew up. Also, as an American citizen, I am deeply concerned about the steadily deteriorating domestic conditions in Hungary and the reckless foreign policy that you pursue against the fundamental interests of NATO, the European Union, and the entire Hungarian nation.
During your student years, you criticized and actively opposed the dictatorship of the communist party. You were instrumental in the establishment of the Alliance of the Young Democrats. Your memorable speech at the reburial of Nagy Imre and the other martyrs of the October 1956 Revolution, in which you demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Soviet Red Army from Hungarian territory and subsequent free elections, contributed to the collapse of the regime in 1990. Elected to the Parliament in the spring of 1990, you led your party in opposition in a constructive fashion.
After the untimely death of Antall Jozsef, the first Prime Minister of the free Republic of Hungary, you made the politically expedient decision to transform the Alliance of Young Democrats into a “Civil Party,” thus releasing the genie of self-defeating nationalism from the bottle of a non-existent Hungarian ethnic superiority. You prevailed in the national elections of 1998. Although your party only received 42% of the votes, you embarked on a policy of “winner takes all,” resulting in shameless corruption and revolting mismanagement of government.
Accordingly, the voters rejected you and your party in 2002. During your eight years in opposition you organized street riots and other violent disturbances against the legitimately elected government. You declared total resistance and refused to attend the meetings of the Parliament. In this manner, you abdicated your responsibilities as the leader of a democratic opposition and turned yourself and your party into a highly destructive force in Hungarian politics.
In 2010, you and your party were brought back to power with an absolute majority in the Parliament. As the head of a one party state, you have continued on the same destructive path that you so ineffectively walked in opposition. The list of your political, economic, social, cultural, and moral transgressions would take, if enumerated, several volumes. However, your most destructive political, economic, and moral offenses must be stated. You have had a real opportunity to create a model of European democracy to the world by respecting the independence of all three branches of government, especially the judiciary. Instead, you have invented the term “illiberal democracy” that has only demonstrated your lack of understanding of what democracy is all about. In your deranged arrogance, you have scattered the political reforms of the last quarter century and pushed the poisonous ideology of exclusive nationalism. Today, in order to cultivate an idiotic version of Hungarian exclusivity, you are in the process of raising a subservient generation that surely will not be able to stand its ground in the global competition.
In economics, you again have misunderstood what capitalism is all about. You have established a corrupted form of “state capitalism,” best described as a Houdini economy, in which both the private business and the distribution of their products are controlled by you and your acolytes. By favoring individuals of your preference, while excluding others who refuse your game of “pay to play,” you have reinstated the same economic model that characterized Mussolini’s fascist state, Hitler’s national socialist empire, and Stalin’s gulag economy. Your heavy reliance on public works has brought forth an unqualified working underclass that is wholly dependent on your government. This underclass, which comprises one-third of the workforce, is free neither economically nor politically. You and your cronies’ insatiable appetite for corruption have destroyed the health industry as well the hitherto excellent Hungarian education system.
In foreign affairs you have turned yourself into the political prostitute of the European Union. While the European Union’s financial contributions have provided the life support needed to keep the economy above water, you have attacked the “imperial rule” of Brussels on a daily basis. Using the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries as political pawns, you have tried to divide the member states of the European Union along racial and ethnic lines. Simultaneously, you have made highly publicized overtures to the Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to justify your dictatorial regime at home. In the same vein, your alleged friendship with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has merely served to legitimize your indoctrination of the Hungarian youth.
In closing, guided by your narcissism and megalomania, you have abandoned Hungary’s and Europe’s political, social, and moral ideals. Instead, you have been marketing your “illiberal democracy” and your corrupt economic ideas. These are not the values the Hungarian people elected you for. These are not the ideals the Hungarian people aspire to. What they want is true democracy and economic freedom. These, in turn, are not the realities you care to acknowledge. Your sick ego calls for a despotic and morally empty state. You have failed your people. They must hope for your speedy departure from office to live free again, to think normally again, and yes to dream of a better future again.