Viktor Orbán’s wise friends in Lakitelek (September 27, 1987)

Just as I suspected, Viktor Orbán’s speech in Ópusztaszer is widely considered to be a watershed. The Hungarian prime minister in this speech embraced the ideology of  “Blut und Boden” (Blood and Soil) that was coined in the late nineteenth century and revived during the Nazi period. After all, Orbán emphasized blood relations and attachment to the homeland (Heimat). It was the first time that Orbán openly associated himself with stock phrases of the Nazi ideology and thus the current Hungarian far right.

In comparison to this shocking event his speech at Lakitelek celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF) was mild, although his praise of the chief organizers of the original meeting necessarily entailed praising some leading lights of the current Hungarian far right.

Who were the most important spokesmen of the gathering in 1987? Zoltán Biró, who nowadays writes vitriolically anti-Semitic pieces and can be heard uttering outrageous political opinions on Echo TV. Lajos Fűr, who played an important role in the organization of the Hungarian Guard. András Balczó, brother of Zoltán (Jobbik MP and deputy speaker of the House), who proudly announced in 1989 that “Hungary is under the supremacy of the Jews.” And what about Sándor Lezsák, Fidesz deputy speaker of the House, who was the sponsor of Kurultaj, the tribal meeting of the Turanians? And one of the most important participants was István Csurka, author of The Sixth Coffin. Sándor Püski, the publisher, who nowadays specializes in anti-Semitic far-right publications, was also among the 181 present. Sándor Csoóri, the poet who later became head of the World Federation of Hungarians and today is known for his nationalistic and far-right ideas, also attended. And perhaps I should mention Gábor Czakó, a Kossuth Prize recipient last year, who a few days ago proudly announced his belief in wife- and child-beating.

It was in Lakitelek in the backyard of Sándor Lezsák’s house that the Magyar Demokrata Fórum was born. Although Lezsák in his speech commemorating the event emphasized that the declaration the founders drafted foreshadowed the current regime of national cooperation and the new constitution, the truth (at least if we accept his description of the current regime) is very different. In Lakitelek by and large only the representatives of the Hungarian equivalent of the German Völkisch movement were present. For the people in Lakitelek the “nation” was more important than general human and civil rights. Although today these original signatories like to talk about “unity,” Lakitelek was actually the symbol of division between the “nationalist-populists” and the “democratic opposition.”  The organizers of Lakitelek refused to hold a common gathering with the democratic opposition, whose leaders later established the liberal SZDSZ (Association of Free Democrats).

Despite their national populism, the people who organized MDF were a great deal less radical than the liberals of the other camp. They sought a compromise, a third road between socialism and capitalism or between a one-party system and total pluralism. While the members of the democratic opposition were fully committed to western-style democracy, the founders of MDF sought a uniquely Hungarian path, perhaps enjoying the support of the reform communists of the ruling party. Those who today claim to be such revolutionaries were actually quite timid. Their aim was to establish themselves as a legal entity. They didn’t even formulate a program. The declaration drafted by Sándor Lezsák, Zoltán Bíró, Lajos Fűr, Gyula Fekete, Gy. Csaba Kiss, Sándor Csoóri, and István Csurka was vague. They wanted to have a publication of their own, and to achieve this goal they were quite ready to cooperate with Károly Grósz, who followed János Kádár as the first secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSZMP).

Naturally, Viktor Orbán and his friends who established Fidesz as a youth organization competing with the official Magyar Kommunista Ifjúsági Szövetség (KISZ) were not in Lakitelek on September 27, 1987. In fact, Fidesz didn’t come into being until the spring of 1988. At Lakitelek in 1987 one of the participants, the thirty-four-year-old Dénes Csengey, bitterly complained that one couldn’t see any young people around. Where are they, he asked.

A tad underdressed
Viktor Orbán’s arrival in Lakitelek

Well, Viktor Orbán has the answer because he mentioned in his speech that while the wise men of the Magyar Demokratikus Fórum were gathering at Lakitelek, he and his college friends were talking politics in Szarvas at a campsite. What he forgot to mention was that these two groups wouldn’t have been caught dead together. They were at opposite ends of the political spectrum in those days: MDF was on the right and Fidesz was considered to be the “youth organization” of the liberal SZDSZ.  But Orbán, clever fellow that he is, resolved this old conflict by explaining that while the members of MDF were bound by the “national ideal,”  the founders of Fidesz were joined together by their “anti-communism.” At that time “only the wisest ones saw that we are talking about two branches of the same tree.”

And who were these wisest men? István Csurka and György Szabad. The readers of Hungarian Spectrum know a lot about István Csurka but may not be familiar with György Szabad, a historian who wrote his most important books on the period between 1848 and 1867. His life and ideological beliefs make Szabad an interesting member of the Hungarian right. He is a fervent nationalist whose historical works reflect his deep commitment to Hungarian independence and his antagonism toward the Habsburgs and the Compromise of 1867. Szabad became speaker of the House in 1990 as one of the leading members of MDF. After 2002 he was often seen in the company of Viktor Orbán.

As for Orbán’s understanding of the background of Lakitelek, it is scant. Otherwise he wouldn’t have claimed that “the true merit” of the participants was that “they didn’t let themselves be talked out” of holding the meeting. To my knowledge no one tried to talk them out of anything. On the contrary, the members of the democratic opposition very much wanted to have a joint meeting at Monor, but the MDF organizers refused to participate. Instead, the Lakitelek crew invited Imre Pozsgay, a high official of MSZMP, who was supposed to assist them in their quest “for legitimacy by constitutional means.”  No revolutionaries here.

The rest of the speech was full of Orbán’s old clichés about the decline of the West and his handling of the crisis. Today, just as in 1987, there are people who “tried to talk us out” of the action that is the right one. But just as the founders of MDF were right when they proceeded, so is the Hungary government today under his guidance.

His speech in Lakitelek may pale in comparison to the “Blut und Boden” speech at Ópusztaszer. However, his outfit of the afternoon cannot be outdone. Commentators and bloggers are horrified at the boorishness of their prime minister. I do hope that readers who haven’t already seen it will appreciate the official photograph found on the Hungarian prime minister’s website.

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32 comments

  1. Appearance of Orban? Usual to his tactic of ‘contrary signals’–ie. ” Nothing unusual here. Just us common, everyday, Hungarian folk celebrating our common blood and Christianity.”
    Of course, the allusion to nazi themes was meant to hearten the extreme right, especially as their recent electoral defeat. Already, Orban foresees the necessity of joining with Jobbik.
    Not a surprise as his leniency towards right wing actions has
    been marked.

    Well, so be it: he’s reaping the whirlwind…

  2. One of the many disgusting things about Orban: he can’t wait to attack the EU and the West, but when it came to EU support
    funds he cried blue murder to get it. “We don’t need the IMF.”
    No, but he’ll take as much ‘free’ money as he can, before he breaks into the central bank reserves and bankrupts the country.

  3. petofi :

    One of the many disgusting things about Orban: he can’t wait to attack the EU and the West, but when it came to EU support
    funds he cried blue murder to get it. “We don’t need the IMF.”
    No, but he’ll take as much ‘free’ money as he can, before he breaks into the central bank reserves and bankrupts the country.

    Yes, you’re right. When it comes to the possibility that Hungary will get less money next year, Orbán cries bloody murder. I’m very much hoping that the EU will be able to explain to Orbán that either a democratic Hungary or money. But not both.

  4. The first time I looked at the photo of Orban on the other thread, a nice true Hungarian expression came to my mind. One that even Orban would like as it has that distinct Hungarian flavor that is impossible to translate, so I apologize to those who do not speak Hungarian. “Kirittyentette magát, mint szarospista jézuska neve napján.”

    Lets not forget that many handsome politicians, like Obama or Sarkozy do dress casually time to time, but would never make the mistake of wearing a black patent leader shoes with a v-neck T-shirt (a’la Saturday Night Fever). It so tasteless as most of things that Orban attaches his name to.

  5. Eva S. Balogh :

    petofi :
    One of the many disgusting things about Orban: he can’t wait to attack the EU and the West, but when it came to EU support
    funds he cried blue murder to get it. “We don’t need the IMF.”
    No, but he’ll take as much ‘free’ money as he can, before he breaks into the central bank reserves and bankrupts the country.

    Yes, you’re right. When it comes to the possibility that Hungary will get less money next year, Orbán cries bloody murder. I’m very much hoping that the EU will be able to explain to Orbán that either a democratic Hungary or money. But not both.

    Why haven’t the opposition parties made more of the high cost of Orban’s ‘szabadsagharc’?

    Also, how could the opposition parties stop asking the question “Why?” Orban released the Azeri? They should be relentless on this point, yet they’ve thrown in the towel already. I don’t get it. It’s almost like a tacit
    agreement over corruption: “You won’t embarrass me,
    and I won’t embarrass you on the next turn.”
    How revolting.

  6. Konrád György was also present in Lakitelek. One “minor” detail you forgot to mention.
    Yet another propaganda entry from you with total disregard to some facts.

    You call yourself an academic?

  7. Miklos :
    Konrád György was also present in Lakitelek. One “minor” detail you forgot to mention.
    Yet another propaganda entry from you with total disregard to some facts.
    You call yourself an academic?

    What would this blog be without a classic example of the ill-will of an “Hungaricum idiotum”?

  8. Terrible times. I looked up György Szabad – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gy%C3%B6rgy_Szabad http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szabad_Gy%C3%B6rgy
    I am waiting for a historian who could explain the 12th point of 1848. Union.
    I think it meant union with Erdély.
    This could be extended to union with Romania and Austria in better times.
    Hungary would survive as a member of smaller Union, with better ideas and policies from Austria and Romania.
    It would be the end of the Orbani robber baronship.

  9. Miklos :
    Konrád György was also present in Lakitelek. One “minor” detail you forgot to mention.
    Yet another propaganda entry from you with total disregard to some facts.

    Why do you call views different from yours “propaganda”?

  10. That’s ok, Mutt. Miklos is just writing in the name of love and understanding. The “You call yourself an academic?” type of verbal attack is just to show you how Miklos detest hatred. Yes, hateful speech makes him very sad.

  11. Eva: “I’m very much hoping that the EU will be able to explain to Orbán that either a democratic Hungary or money. But not both.”

    Sometimes even good Homer sleeps.

  12. I like Miklos, he reminds me a bit of Johny Boy. Same mixture of apparent sanity and absolute madness.

    We need loonies like this on here to remind us what we’re up against – easier than reading the mad comments on sites like politics.hu.

    But for God’s sake (and mine, wading through all this), don’t take him seriously – he’s just a troll.

  13. Oh, yes. György Konrád. The situation was as follows. The organizers of Lakitelek wanted to work together with the reformists within the communist party and therefore for the sake of Imre Pozsgay who was present in Lakitelek they refused to invite the so-called hardcore of the democratic opposition. Pozsgay himself talks about this in his book published in 1993, János Kis, Ferenc Kőszeg or Gábor Demszky therefore were not invited but the organizers decided to invite György Konrád and Miklós Vásárhelyi who were less exposed.

    I might add that in addition to the right-wingers there were two people who didn’t belong to this circle: László Lengyel and Csaba Gombár. In fact, at the meeting Lengyel harshly criticized the organizers for their divisive tactics. Gombár and Konrád demanded a multi-party system. But they were the only ones present.

    In order to get assistance from within the communist party they abandoned those who actually fought hardest against the regime. The authors of the “Társadalmi szerződés” (Social Contract / June 1987) were not invited, although they were the first who announced that “Kádár must go.”

    By the way, at the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration the original organizers thought that this famous sentence was first uttered in Lakitelek. See Sándor Révész’s editorial in Népszabadság. http://nol.hu/velemeny/20121001-menni_kene__menni_kene# I should also mention that it was János Dénes who actually quoted the sentence from the “Social Contract.” János Dénes became a member of MIÉP and published scores of anti-Semitic books. He is described as a nut in the Hungarian media.

  14. Today, we can be constructive to draft a current social contract:

    1. Super calm scholarly discussion on reform path
    2. Absolute elimination of extremism and genocidal
    3. Transparent governing to end corruption
    4. Well Balanced Corrective Taxation To Reduce the Wealth Inequality
    5. Reenergizing research and development, to promote competitive versified industrialization
    6. Careful agricultural policy
    7. Enviromental cleanup

    Do we need more than 7 points?

  15. i-Deak :
    Today, we can be constructive to draft a current social contract:
    1. Super calm scholarly discussion on reform path
    2. Absolute elimination of extremism and genocidal
    3. Transparent governing to end corruption
    4. Well Balanced Corrective Taxation To Reduce the Wealth Inequality
    5. Reenergizing research and development, to promote competitive versified industrialization
    6. Careful agricultural policy
    7. Enviromental cleanup
    Do we need more than 7 points?

    You need 10 points, of which the first four would be a repetition of #3–rules to end corruption in government.

  16. Remembering that this will be in Hungarian, “hét pont” doesn’t really sound right – it lacks impact. I’d go for “kilenc pont” – it sounds better in speeches.

    I’m always a bit suspicious of a round number of points – always the thought that an extra one had been invented just to bring the numbers up, but “tizenkét pont”, has the historical resonance. Although that does involve inventing another 5 points…

  17. Perhaps 8.Describe why industrialization needs to be in poetic form.
    9. Re-describe 4. as “see Marx/Engels”
    10. Start free courses of “careful” agriculture (nehogy a kapa nyele feltorje a kezedet”…..

  18. Louis Kovach :
    Perhaps 8.Describe why industrialization needs to be in poetic form.
    9. Re-describe 4. as “see Marx/Engels”
    10. Start free courses of “careful” agriculture (nehogy a kapa nyele feltorje a kezedet”…..

    I guess some people like yourself never be happy with anything. You support Fidesz that nationalizes private retirement savings, want nationalizes hydro etc. But take your head out of your behind when someone suggests that maybe some of the riches should pitch in to support those who are not so advanced in economical term (maybe they do not have tight enough relationship with the Orban group?) WHat are exactly supporting and opposing Louis? You agree wit the flat tax that actually punished the poor? Everything good until Fidesz does it? You are funny in deed.

  19. Some1 :

    Louis Kovach :
    Perhaps 8.Describe why industrialization needs to be in poetic form.
    9. Re-describe 4. as “see Marx/Engels”
    10. Start free courses of “careful” agriculture (nehogy a kapa nyele feltorje a kezedet”…..

    I guess some people like yourself never be happy with anything. You support Fidesz that nationalizes private retirement savings, want nationalizes hydro etc. But take your head out of your behind when someone suggests that maybe some of the riches should pitch in to support those who are not so advanced in economical term (maybe they do not have tight enough relationship with the Orban group?) WHat are exactly supporting and opposing Louis? You agree wit the flat tax that actually punished the poor? Everything good until Fidesz does it? You are funny in deed.

    Kovacs is a chip off the old Balkan block. Having lived some years in Macedonia, I discovered what the Balkan mentality values the most and it is this:

    The height of pleasure is “the transmission of misery”….

  20. Some1: “WHat are exactly supporting and opposing Louis? You agree wit the flat tax that actually punished the poor? Everything good until Fidesz does it? You are funny in deed.”

    I am glad that I am entretaining you. My support of issues does not revolve around Fidesz or any other party. (Contrary to tha acolytes here!) I have supported flat tax for many years even before Orban got into long pants. I have recommended several times to the readers here to perview Tocqueville’s book on Democracy in America. I believe, as he described it, that once a party distributes wealth to ever enlarging section of the population, that party wiil always win elections and democracy will end in America. I am a firm believer that the same is true for any other nation. I hope this will again entertain you!

  21. Petrovics: “Having lived some years in Macedonia, I discovered what the Balkan mentality values the most and it is this:
    The height of pleasure is “the transmission of misery”….

    Shame on you, being collectively racist toward tha Balkan folks this time……

  22. “Who were the most important spokesmen of the gathering in 1987? Zoltán Biró, who nowadays writes vitriolically anti-Semitic pieces and can be heard uttering outrageous political opinions on Echo TV. Lajos Fűr, who played an important role in the organization of the Hungarian Guard. András Balczó, brother of Zoltán (Jobbik MP and deputy speaker of the House), who proudly announced in 1989 that “Hungary is under the supremacy of the Jews.” And what about Sándor Lezsák, Fidesz deputy speaker of the House, who was the sponsor of Kurultaj, the tribal meeting of the Turanians? And one of the most important participants was István Csurka, author of The Sixth Coffin. Sándor Püski, the publisher, who nowadays specializes in anti-Semitic far-right publications, was also among the 181 present. Sándor Csoóri, the poet who later became head of the World Federation of Hungarians and today is known for his nationalistic and far-right ideas, also attended. And perhaps I should mention Gábor Czakó, a Kossuth Prize recipient last year, who a few days ago proudly announced his belief in wife- and child-beating.”

    I guess by now I should have gotten used to this but it never ceases to amaze me how a professor of history can play so fast and loose with the facts. The truth is that there were no less than forty-one spokesmen at the event, with the list including – in addition to the few characters hand-picked by you – the likes of György Konrád, László Lengyel, Csaba Gombár, István Elek and many others. Evidently they do not belong to the “most important” ones in your view. Oh well. Your attempt to portray the Lakitelek event as hardly more than a gathering of anti-Semites is pathetic but not new. Some of the attendees recall the allegation that the event would have had “anti-Semitic overtones” surfaced as early as October 1987.

    BTW if anyone’s interested in who András Balczó is apart from being the brother of Zoltán Balczó they can find a bit more information about him on these websites: http://www.london2012.com/athletes/famous-olympians/athlete=andras-balczo/
    http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ba/andras-balczo-1.html

  23. Well, Tyrker. Let’s see who composed the “Declaration.” Sándor Lezsák, Zoltán Biró, Lajos Für, Gyula Fekete, Gy. Csaba Kiss, Sándor Csoóri and István Csurka. Out of these who remained active or interested in politics are right-wingers.

    As for Balczó. Who cares whether he was Olympic champions. He wasn’t in Lakitelek because of his Olympic fame.

  24. Louis Kovach :
    Some1: “WHat are exactly supporting and opposing Louis? You agree wit the flat tax that actually punished the poor? Everything good until Fidesz does it? You are funny in deed.”
    I am glad that I am entretaining you. My support of issues does not revolve around Fidesz or any other party. (Contrary to tha acolytes here!) I have supported flat tax for many years even before Orban got into long pants. I have recommended several times to the readers here to perview Tocqueville’s book on Democracy in America. I believe, as he described it, that once a party distributes wealth to ever enlarging section of the population, that party wiil always win elections and democracy will end in America. I am a firm believer that the same is true for any other nation. I hope this will again entertain you!

    Oh, Louis, what are we going to do with you? You try on a word like perview (really, it is
    purview, but misused here)…but then surprise us (ie. the royal ‘we’) by quoting the great
    Tocqueville. Knowing the writer gives you some immediate points. However, generating
    different tax levels is not exactly ‘distributing wealth’, as you suggest. What a mism-mash
    you can make of a classic!

    As for ‘being collectively racist toward the Balkan folks..’–nonsense. I say it as I saw it, and experienced it. Don’t nay-say it–the Balkan mentality–unless you got personal experience
    otherwise.

  25. Louis Kovach :
    Some1: “WHat are exactly supporting and opposing Louis? You agree wit the flat tax that actually punished the poor? Everything good until Fidesz does it? You are funny in deed.”
    I am glad that I am entretaining you. My support of issues does not revolve around Fidesz or any other party. (Contrary to tha acolytes here!) I have supported flat tax for many years even before Orban got into long pants. I have recommended several times to the readers here to perview Tocqueville’s book on Democracy in America. I believe, as he described it, that once a party distributes wealth to ever enlarging section of the population, that party wiil always win elections and democracy will end in America. I am a firm believer that the same is true for any other nation. I hope this will again entertain you!

    You are certainly “entretaining” me. I know that you do not with everything Fidesz does as your views on some subject are certainly more aligned wit the Jobbik. I am happy that you are supporting the flat tax even though that it helps the ultra rich to make even more money at the expense of the poor. Now, I certainly see what your problem is with liberal ideas. I never doubted your views on those subjects, but you can understand why it makes me wonder why didn’t you raise you voice against the idea and practice of nationalization of private things in Hungary? Your “liberal”, “socialist” friends here do not really like nationalization. Do you understand the confusion here.
    I am not sure what do you mean by acolytes here, as I do not see too many contributer agreeing with everything here, with the exception of you, who certainly disagree with any opinion or even facts that Eva presents. Now, that is the attitude of an acolyte, Louis.

  26. Some1: “I never doubted your views on those subjects, but you can understand why it makes me wonder why didn’t you raise you voice against the idea and practice of nationalization of private things in Hungary? Your “liberal”, “socialist” friends here do not really like nationalization.”

    Considering the original privatization, at which time the ex- communists stole almost everything, I do not see anything wrong with reprivatization, if performed for that reason. Otherwise, I am against nationalization by any government.

  27. Louis Kovach :

    Considering the original privatization, at which time the ex- communists stole almost everything, I do not see anything wrong with reprivatization, if performed for that reason. Otherwise, I am against nationalization by any government.

    You mean like Győző Orbán, father of Viktor, who was the manager of a quarry owned by the Hungarian state. He bought it for peanuts with Fidesz money received from the sale of a very expensive piece of real estate the party received for party headquarters from the Antall government. This is the kind of privatization by the ex-communists you had in mind?

  28. Dr Balogh: “You mean like Győző Orbán, father of Viktor, who was the manager of a quarry owned by the Hungarian state. He bought it for peanuts with Fidesz money received from the sale of a very expensive piece of real estate the party received for party headquarters from the Antall government. This is the kind of privatization by the ex-communists you had in mind?”

    If proven, I include any and all privatization, regardless of who got it. BTW: Did not all parties receive party headquarters? All were wrong not only the Fidesz one.

  29. Louis Kovach :

    If proven, I include any and all privatization, regardless of who got it. BTW: Did not all parties receive party headquarters? All were wrong not only the Fidesz one.

    Proven? Open secret. As for the headquarters, there was nothing wrong with the headquarters per se. The problem was that money of the party was passed on to the chairman’s daddy.

  30. @ Louis Kovach “Considering the original privatization, at which time the ex- communists stole almost everything, I do not see anything wrong with reprivatization, if performed for that reason.”

    Now, you hit the nail on the head… yes, if there is any re-privatization of nationalized assets by Fidesz, it will be performed “for that very same reason”, in “ex-communist” style.. selling state property for peanuts to buddies. That is, if they decide the re-privatize.Orban may just decide to keep things in state hands (as he has total control of the state, at this point) and feed his buddies through contracts with state-owned companies. In that way he can retain more control…. he can reward and punish his “subjects” at will.

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