Growing Hungarian fascism? Similarities with Ceaușescu’s Romania?

I have the feeling that I will be all over creation today because there are just too many items that caught my attention. Or that people called my attention to. Let’s start with the latter because two bloggers from Hungary have addressed our topic of yesterday: the rather shady football issue.

One blog post deals with the intriguing possibility of a connection between the sudden decision to pull all slot machines from Hungary and the relatively poor performance of Videoton. According to the author’s theory, although an incredible amount of money went to Videoton from MOL, OTP, Strabag and Közgép, just to mention a few of the supporters of the club, the team isn’t performing as expected. They hired the famous trainer Paulo Sousa who managed to sign up big names in football at home and abroad, and yet  Videoton is disappointing both the sponsors and Viktor Orbán. Videoton’s rival, Debreceni VSC (Loki), has been the best team in Hungary ever since 2000.

So, what’s the connection between the slot machines and Loki? It turns out that the majority owner of the Debrecen team is Gábor Szirma, whose business concerns center around slot machines. If Szirma has to close his operations, Debrecen will be strapped for funds and might have to sell some of its best players. At least this is how the theory goes. A figment of the author’s imagination? Perhaps, although in today’s Hungary anything is possible.

The other post, written by “Pupu,” reflects on the football career of young Gáspár Orbán, the son of the prime minister. The title of the piece is “Ruined Lives.” It points out that Orbán’s children will never have the satisfaction of well-deserved individual achievement. Young Gáspár will never know whether he was chosen by Videoton because of his talent or because he is the son of the prime minister. Moreover, “it must be an oppressive feeling that he has to play with the electric trains that his father never managed to get and now he must fulfill his father’s dream of becoming an international football classic…. Did Gáspár ever think of Nicu [Ceaușescu], his late colleague?… And does Viktor think here and there of Ceaușescu in front of the wall?” Nicu, the youngest son of Ceaușescu, also played football at one point in his life.

According to “Pupu,” Viktor Orbán should think of Ceaușescu because those who gave the final word on the Conducator’s fate were all former supporters whom he had trusted.

This is how Viktor Orbán is seen in certain circles, and these circles are widening. Not so long ago using the word “fascism”  in connection with the Orbán regime was considered to be a sacrilege. I think it was László Bartus of Amerikai-Magyar Népszava who first used it in describing the situation in Hungary, and there was an outcry. I also used the word but only in a very general sense. By now, we have reached a point where Attila Mesterházy talks about the ogre of fascism that is threatening Hungary and indirectly asks for Europe’s help in an interview with l’Unitá, the Italian paper. Róbert Friss in Népszabadság describes the Orbán regime as “the soft successor of Mussolini’s corporate state.” Or there is a profoundly pessimistic writing by András Bruck (ÉS, November 9, 2912) in which he predicts that “Viktor will not go.”  This is an answer to Miklós Gáspár Miklós’s gentle pleading at the October 23 Milla demonstration: “Viktor, I’m asking you nicely, please leave!” Bruck is certain that Orbán, given another four years, will finish the job: his dictatorship will be fully established.

And finally, a few more words about the people who are behind Viktor Orbán. For the most part they are as ignorant as the boss himself. Sándor Demján, the richest man in Hungary, with a meager educational background (learning to cater to tourists in hotels and restaurants), suddenly discovered that only productive work–building, manufacturing, and agriculture–is worth supporting. Once I spent a whole post on this profoundly ignorant man, but every time he opens his mouth I get wound up again. This time he expounded on the fruitless expense of training scientists who examine the life of insects and maintained that it is unnecessary for a worker to know anything about history or literature and that there is nothing wrong with being an unskilled laborer.

Obviously one doesn’t have to be educated in order to make a ton of money, but the problem in this case is that this ignoramus seems to be a close adviser of Viktor Orbán. Blind leading blind. The lackeys are all around, with similar educational attainment and knowledge.

Right now Orbán and his minions are hard at work making sure that they will win the elections. The attacks on Gordon Bajnai have already begun. An opinion piece in Magyar Hírlap by the so-called political scientist Tamás Fricz is crawling with outright lies. And more of the same, if not worse, will be forthcoming. It looks pretty hopeless, I have to admit, but one mustn’t spread gloom and doom because of the danger of self-fulfilling prophecy. Somehow this election must be won despite every effort by Hungary’s little Mussolini to win regardless of the popular will.

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35 comments

  1. I’ve been saying for a long time that many of Orban’s actions remind me of Ceausescu. If he looks in the mirror and sees Ceausescu (I doubt it because dictators rarely see themselves objectively), he is probably mightily scared, based on how the Ceausescu (and his wife) ended their carrier (and life). Their son, Nicu, was an alcoholic and the only reason he didn’t end his life in jail was medical: final stage cirrhosis.

  2. Bajnai’s movement is growing by leaps and bounds–apparently, Laszlo Urban has joined his cause. Urban was a Fidesz stalwart and former advisor to Orban. He’s strongly conservative politically. Wouldn’t it be interesting if he led the opposition with Bajnai as his lieutenant? Now here would be a great recommendation to all those conservative Fideszers to join a legitimate party. It would be the finest of ironies if Fidesz defeated Fidesz in 2014…

  3. Those who have not lived under Ceausescu can not fathom the abyss and the conditions his regime created. Fortunately, books by Herta Muller, the Nobel laureate in literature (she lived there in those times), as well as Tom Gallagher’s Modern Romania, New York University Press, 2005 or Dennis Deletant’s Ceausescu and the Securitate, M.E. Sharpe, 1995, are available to give an insight, to those who want to know, what ‘Ceausescuism’ means.

  4. While Videoton is performing worse than Debrecen in NB1, on the other hand after 4 rounds (two more to go) ranks at second place in its Euroleague (after defeating Sporting Lisboa and Basel and loosing against Genk and Basel) group so one can’t really say that the situation would be dire. This slot machine connection is a little far fetched to me, but of course I have to admit that everything is possible. As much as I heard about Szima, I’m pretty sure he’ll cope with the situation. (Not to mention that he’s not exactly an enemy of Lajos Kósa…)

    “By now, we have reached a point where Attila Mesterházy talks about the ogre of fascism that is threatening Hungary and indirectly asks for Europe’s help in an interview with l’Unitá, the Italian paper.”

    By now? Mesterházy has been talking about if for about a decade when it comes to OV. Not that there is no truth in what he’s saying but putting it as if there has been some boiling point reached recently is a little bit of an exaggeration. Also, l’Unita is the paper of the Italian communists (I mean the real existing hard left), which for the sake of the context it would have been worth mentioning I think. I’m pretty sure there are also ultraconservative papers around Europe occasionally praising the current Hungarian government.

  5. I feel like an orphan, sending my prescient and sometimes even clairvoyant, but always modest observations and predictions and never get any respect for them. (Not that I expect any respect for them, but it would be nice, nevertheless.)
    The first time it happened when I predicted, two weeks ahead, that Bajnai will be chosen as prime minister. And he was.
    Then again it happened, when I called Orban years ago the “kneeling bust of Mussolini” and that didn’t go far either.
    Then next I made a comparison between Mussolini and Orban, concluding that the only difference between them was merely the sophistication and learning the former had and the latter hadn’t.
    Later I even copied in here the 10 point definition of fascism, from the Ecyclopedia Italiana (thanks to the expert of the subject, professor Emilio Gentile), not very long ago to substantiate my claim, inviting the doubters to check out the Oban regime by comparing it to the list and invited all here to pronounce about the progress and about how far the completion was. The only reaction I got for that was feverish disinterest and silence.
    I think it is time for me to give up my position here as the resident Cassandra and wholesale my clairvoyance in more profitable pursuits.
    Nevertheless, in the meantime, I am glad that others are also coming around to the same recognition: Orban’s “system” is a fascist system and he is a fascist. It is still fashionable in Hungary to say that Orban and his system is not fascist, (as for example Gyorgy Bolgar did in “Ujsagiroklub” tonight), but as Orban is really busy to get there as fast as possible, this fashion of pussyfooting is soon proving to be highly transitory.

  6. So, it’s agreed that the EU/COE/IMF aren’t going to intervene. Would other countries in the region be willing to, say, back away from investments in Hungary? I’m thinking here of Poland’s open support of the democratic opposition in Belarus. Who could/would play that role for Hungary?

  7. Csaba K. Zoltani :
    Those who have not lived under Ceausescu can not fathom the abyss and the conditions his regime created. Fortunately, books by Herta Muller, the Nobel laureate in literature (she lived there in those times), as well as Tom Gallagher’s Modern Romania, New York University Press, 2005 or Dennis Deletant’s Ceausescu and the Securitate, M.E. Sharpe, 1995, are available to give an insight, to those who want to know, what ‘Ceausescuism’ means.

    ‘The White King’ by György Dragoman is also very good, from the perspective of a Hungarian child growing up Ceausescu’s Transylvania.

  8. I am no fan of Demján’s myself but to claim that he has a “meagre educational background” is simply misleading. He’s got a college degree (so by definition he’s an intellectual, whether you like it or not). To be exact, he’s an economist majoring in catering and hotel management.

    The reason I’m pointing this out is that from the way you formulated it, your readers might be misled into thinking he only received some sort of vocational training to be a waiter, concierge or something similar; when in fact he graduated from one of the most prestigious business colleges in the entire country.

    That doesn’t make his “strange” ideas any more acceptable, of course.

  9. Csaba Zoltani: “Those who have not lived under Ceausescu can not fathom the abyss and the conditions his regime created.”

    gdfxx also lived there. He knows what he is talking about.

  10. Tyrker :

    I am no fan of Demján’s myself but to claim that he has a “meagre educational background” is simply misleading. He’s got a college degree (so by definition he’s an intellectual, whether you like it or not). To be exact, he’s an economist majoring in catering and hotel management.

    The reason I’m pointing this out is that from the way you formulated it, your readers might be misled into thinking he only received some sort of vocational training to be a waiter, concierge or something similar; when in fact he graduated from one of the most prestigious business colleges in the entire country.

    That doesn’t make his “strange” ideas any more acceptable, of course.

    Someone who finished college is “by definition” an intellectual? Interesting definition of an intellectual. Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Főiskola in 1965 the most prestigious business college in the entire country? You must be kidding.

  11. It is very obvious by now that financial methods does not curb Orban’s path to stomping on everything that remotely remains as crumbs of democracy in Hungary. Simply he shakes hands with devil when needs to plug up the wholes on his piggy bank dreams. The EU simply brushes the problems aside with the small head shaking here and there, even when the Hungarian government spends millions on various propaganda that spreads lies about the EU. They hear what Orban has to say, and pretend nothing happens. As tappanch rightly pointed out on the previous page, the Fidesz Government just finalizes the finalizes the last steps on chocking any efforts to a democratic election.
    Fo those who did not follow, Klubradio the most popular opposition radio station still did not get their robbed frequency back even though the EU court ruled against the Hungarian Givernemnet’s decision to choke the station, the main gathering places in Budapest are pre-booked by Fidesz until 2014, so no opposition can gather in large numbers in any places, those places that are left open are closed down for construction that will last until the end of 2014, Orban clearly stated that he did not have a problem with the regime prior to the nineties, but he did not like the people who run that regime, Internet portals are not allowed to put up political advertisements, and only government media can carry political ads for a pre-set fee (likely so high that no opposition can pay for it), and the list goes on. As usual the EU remains silent .

  12. It seems rather shallow and petty to attack Demján because of his formal qualifications. He may have graduated from a catering school but TriGranit, unlike Közgép, is a genuine company that does operate successfully and internationally (for example, it built the Palace of Arts in Budapest, one of the finest cultural centers in Europe). It is also inaccurate to characterise him as an Orbán supporter. He isn’t. He is an oligarch who lobbies and feeds off whoever is in power. I think it is true from his public pronouncements that he assumed Fidesz would create a more conducive environment for business than Gyurcsány and Medgyessy, and in that sense, he has been disappointed and to his credit, he is virtually the only person who has dared to criticise Orbán to his face, for which he deserves some credit. But he is not a Fidesz supporter in the sense that Simicska is.

    To be fair though, Demján is a typical Hungarian success story whose initial wealth was the result of his ability to manipulate party contacts, both before and after the change of system. But his company does build things outside Hungary, which is pretty unusual for his ilk. As for his views on the education system, yes they can be embarrassing. But there is also a grain of truth in what he says, however unpalatable it might be to those who regard an arts degree as a sign of virtue. If Hungary wants to have a good pension system, a good health service, good infrastructure, then someone somewhere has to create wealth. And that is done through making things, selling things, innovating etc etc. Getting ones hands dirty in other words. Hungary needs engineers far more than it needs zoologists. It needs industrial innovators far more than it needs lawyers. It needs people who can solve differential equations, not historians. Of course, it isn’t an “either or” choice (and people like Demján tend to overstate their case) but the current balance is wrong. Or rather, it is wrong if you want a prosperous country.

  13. Kingfisher: “To be fair though, Demján is a typical Hungarian success story whose initial wealth was the result of his ability to manipulate party contacts, both before and after the change of system”

    As I said one doesn’t have to be well educated to make money. So, he makes a lot of money while he refuses to pay his subcontractors. Nice guy. Sorry, but I consider him a primitive fellow with his crazy ideas about and ideal society built on “work.” Especially as he defines what a work-based society is.

  14. @Kingfisher: “If Hungary wants to have a good pension system, a good health service, good infrastructure, then someone somewhere has to create wealth. And that is done through making things, selling things, innovating etc etc.” Hungary’s real problem is not a lack of unskilled workers, as Demjan seems to suggests, but a lack of skilled ones (in certain trades). Also, the lack of capital that would create those workplaces where skilled and unskilled workers “make things”.

    True, there may be an overproduction in certain degrees in higher education, and you can argue how many scientists vs. sociologists a country needs. Though even if you are businessman, if you are not absolutely shortsighted, you need to acknowledge science’s and engineering’s role in innovation. I believe that this whole rant against education is fueled by anti-intellectualism and by a short-sighted need for uneducated masses of “slave-labor”, which maybe in Demjan’s personal business interest, but it is not the country’s long term interest.

  15. Maybe I am ignorant, but somehow I missed the Hungarian Government’s PR campaign aimed at the “New Generation” in order to convince them to stay in Hungary(?) versus take on better opportunities elsewhere.
    It is a must see!!!!It is a clear testimonaial how out of touch Fidesz is with the real Hungarian youth, Maybe the children of Orban and the other Fidesz members can live the lyfestyle portrayed (iPhone, rental of a glider, motor boating, etc.) but I think after watching this piece of work the average Hungarian youth wold start to walk towards the border to take on some jobs to live the life.

  16. Kingfisher: On the higher education yes, but I don’t think Demján was arguing for the balance towards highly trained engineered, he technically implied that a university degree is sort of useless.

    Of course, offensive as it is, the joke

    -What does a fresh IT degree graduate say to a fresh liberal arts (bölcsész?) degree graduate?
    -??
    -A big mac menu with a large coke please.

    is pretty relevant, and in that case Demján is sort of right. But again, I’m not sure if he was going for just that.

  17. London Calling!

    Some1 – your link says “this video doesn’t exist”.

    Can you post the link un-embedded please?

    Regards

    Charlie

  18. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Completely O/T
    And pure history!
    How the BBC did or did not warn the Jews of Hungary about the deportations during the war.
    A fascinating article to accompany a documentary.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20267659
    Regards
    Charlie

    Are the Brits strangers to anti-semitism?
    Ask the Bronfmans who spent billions on building Canary Wharf but could not get an underground line built out to it. However, when they were divested of their holdings…Presto! The needed tram line soon came into being.

  19. CharlieH :London Calling!
    Some1 – your link says “this video doesn’t exist”.
    Can you post the link un-embedded please?
    Regards
    Charlie

    I believe this is Some1’s video

  20. I’m hesitant to use the word “fascism,” since it seems very much tied to Mussolini. I don’t want to label any government I don’t like with the fascist label, and Orban’s government can be quite repressive and undemocratic without being in any way fascist.

    Do other people here think it furthers the conversation by using this word? Or does it make the discussion of Orban devolve into name calling? Could it undermine the credibility of the opposition by making them seem like knee-jerk liberals who paint every conservative government with the same name? Or does it starkly call attention to the grave dangers facing Europe by the rise of this dangerous ideology?

  21. Yes, Some1’s video wasn’t available–but I’m wondering if it wasn’t on the FaceBook link that Bowen gave us–it had the smart phones, cars, gliders, motor boats and more (as Some1 described). Not sure it wasn’t meant to invite young people to vacation in Hungary as it incorporated scenes at Lizst Ferenc. Shows a carefree and funded youth life. Only able to catch a few words from the song.

  22. As for Demján’s ideas about education. I think that as a background for everybody a “liberal arts” education is a good foundation. After that he can become a doctor, an engineer, a scientist. Whatever. But he cannot be what Hungarians call “szakbarbár,” someone who knows nothing else but his narrow field of expertise. Otherwise people will end up like Orbán and Demján.

    By the way, I have the feeling that Demján’s ancestors were originally called Demjanjuk. Do you remember the Ukrainian camp guard? So, it is possible that the name was originally Ukrainian.

  23. Some1 :..and thank you Bowen to including the proper link!

    I just showed the video to my wife. “Just like Ceauseccu” was her only comment.

  24. Bowen :
    I believe this is Some1′s video

    There was one last year where the Hungarian youth was barfing together on the street (at around 1:30):

    Demjan is a dumbass. Just listen to him. I wouldn’t care if he had a PhD. He should stay in the background, run his empire and shut up. I hope somebody shows and translates this blog entry to him.

    A little pop psychology on these guys. If they are not entirely brain dead or rotten, they probably have realize already that they are not exactly the archetypes of the self made man. As Kingfisher put it they they used their party contacts to get rich in the confusion in the end of the communist era. Some of them may have a shred of guilt and is trying to be some kind of leader – giving speeches to ordinary subjects, making a false impression, mainly to themselves, that they are actually serving their country. Pitiful.

    He’s just an example how rampant is mediocrity and incompetence in the Orban regime.

  25. London Calling!

    Petofi “..Are the Brits strangers to anti-semitism?” – Explain please?

    Canary Wharf was originally conceived by the Reichmann Brothers through Olympic and York – and rescued by the Canary Wharf Group.

    There are no trams in Canary Wharf. It is served by the ‘Docklands Light Railway’ (DLR), Buses, The Undergound and the nearby Train network.

    There is an excellent tram system in Croydon and surrounding areas.

    Regards

    Charlie

  26. Mutt :

    Bowen :
    I believe this is Some1′s video

    There was one last year where the Hungarian youth was barfing together on the street (at around 1:30):

    Demjan is a dumbass. …..
    As Kingfisher put it they they used their party contacts to get rich in the confusion in the end of the communist era. pant is mediocrity and incompetence in the Orban regime.

    I would love to know how much Fidesz paid for this useless campaign. Maybe they should of put the money back to system instead. WHo made those advertisements anyway? I mean who were the “creatives”?

    As far as Demjan goes… He did not get rich at the end of the communist era. He was already rich under the communist era. He just figured out how to carry over his wealth already made, and how to buy up everything with the money he already had. He is not a nouveau riche.

  27. Bowen: Thank you for the link.

    I probably shouldn’t have watched it as it just enraged me so much that I can barely keep my fingers on the keyboard. I used to be one of those kids, I loved my life, I loved my friends, I loved my family and I loved my girlfriend. I just wanted to be a scientist working for my country when I had to face that if I do my PhD in Hungary, I will be making no more than 450$ a month and either won’t be able to move out of my childhood room or can move into a tiny apartment with 4 other people and would still need a tremendous financial support from my parents till the age of 30!!! (unless I had done 20-30 hours of private tutoring a week which would virtually leave no time for my development on my field.)

    All my PhD friends who chose to stay home either still live in a college dorm with roommates in the literal sense (some of whom are 19-20, you can imagine how it might be) sharing the showers with 50 people on the hallway or if they are a little better off (i.e. have more family support), then they are able to rent a rather tiny apartment with a lot of roommates. (I know a girl from Corvinus who lives together with 9 other people in a terrible apartment at Ráday street). Or two girls, very good friends of mine who are not even Phd students (both are young professionals in psychology) sharing a bed to save money.

    I get depressed for weeks everytime I leave Budapest exactly because I miss what you see on the video so much, and now they dare to rub it in my face with this dumbass cheesy, hokey lyrics talking about “One is sometimes likely to forget how lucky he/she is, just because something happens to hurt”. Excuse my french, but seriously, f*** them!

  28. “Are the Brits strangers to anti-semitism?
    Ask the Bronfmans who spent billions on building Canary Wharf but could not get an underground line built out to it. However, when they were divested of their holdings…Presto! The needed tram line soon came into being.”

    No, we are not strangers to anti-Semitism, and we are certainly no saints. But anti-Semitism is hardly a significant problem in the UK these days. Jews are thoroughly integrated into society at all levels, mostly without people giving it a second thought. If Labour win the next election, our Prime Minister will be Jewish.

    You will hear the occasional anti-Jewish joke or comment, the same as you will hear remarks and comments about Asians, black people, Easter Europeans, Irish, Scots, Welsh, etc, but UK society is generally the least racist of any country I am aware of. People of all races and colours live and work together, with hardly any problems at all. The only flashpoints are where mono-racial/ethnic communities become established, but that has always been the case everywhere and is due to the normal misunderstandings and feelings of injustice that you get with any ‘them and us’ situation, it is not really race related at all.

    Only today, I took my son to the park after I’d picked him up from playschool and there were two other families already in the park – one Nepalese and one Polish (my son, of course, is Anglo-Hungarian). We chatted and the kids played quite happily. I am too aware of our history to often be proud of my country, but at moments like that I am genuinely proud to be British.

    As for Canary Wharf, the history of that development is far more complex than you paint it and I very much doubt anti-Semitism had anything to do with it. You make the (common) mistake of assuming that, just because people of one particular race or colour happen to be involved in something fishy there is necessarily racism involved. Corruption, big business and even downright criminality, quite possibly, but anti-Semitism? Why?

    My own personal theory about the Docklands development, of which Canary Wharf was the centrepiece, and its (initial) lack of connection to the Underground, is that it was down to Thatcher. Docklands was very much her baby and she was known to be vehemently anti-railway (it is one of the great ironies of history that the Channel Tunnel will always be associated with her – a railway tunnel!).

  29. After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox
    and now every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.
    There has to be a means you are able to remove me from
    that service? Thanks!

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