I was hoping that I would be able to report on the LMP Congress, which will decide the party’s attitude toward Gordon Bajnai’s Együtt 2014 Movement. Hence “Together 2014.” However, the internal differences that exist within the party seem to be difficult to iron out, and it looks as if a decision can be expected only tomorrow. Not a good sign.
Péter Róna threw in his lot with LMP a few months ago. Róna has many admirers in Hungary. There is a certain aura that surrounds Hungarians who spent the greater part of their lives abroad, as Róna did, and who achieved financial success. Róna was an investment banker who, after he returned to post-1990 Hungary, had a few business ventures that made him a wealthy man in Hungary. He also became a kind of gentleman farmer; he is currently experimenting with cheese making. Recently he was invited to be a senior research fellow at Blackfriars Hall of the University of Oxford where he is working on “the restoration of value judgement and moral sentiment in economic theory.” It’s not surprising that the LMP leadership, no friends of western-style capitalism, found their spiritual leader in Róna.
The discussions about the direction LMP will take are being held behind closed doors, but Róna, who is certainly not media shy, told MTI his own opinion on the matter. Róna apparently rose and expressed his belief that “cooperation with Together 2014” is absolutely necessary for the removal of Viktor Orbán from power. However, “he didn’t recommend joining the movement” because “there is a vast gap between the economic and societal ideas of the two organizations” that simply cannot be bridged. As far as Róna can ascertain, Gordon Bajnai’s ideas on the economy would be a continuation of the programs of the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments, which would mean “a policy structured by capital to the interests and needs of capital.” But, Róna claimed, the time of such economic and societal structures is gone.
During an interview with György Bolgár (October 17) Róna expressed his disappointment in Gordon Bajnai’s economic plans which the former prime minister had outlined before a group of economists earlier. Right after the interview Bolgár asked László Békesi, former finance minister, what he thought of Róna’s ideas. Békesi began: “Yes, I’m familiar with his line.” (In Hungarian: “Ismerem a szöveget.”) According to Békesi, “Róna would like to see a third-road character but there is no such person.” Here Békesi was referring to a school of economic thought from the 1930s that championed a “third road” between capitalism and socialism. According to Békesi, there are some realistic elements in Róna’s concept, but in its entirety it is not a viable economic model. Hungary cannot get out of its economic troubles by relying on small businesses and taking an antagonistic attitude toward capital, globalism, and banks. If Róna criticized Bajnai for wanting to continue the economic policy that stabilized the rocky boat of the Hungarian economy between 2008 and 2010, he said, then it is actually high praise of the former prime minister.
As for Róna’s ideas on foreign investment, Békesi found them totally unrealistic. If it depended on Róna, he wouldn’t allow any foreign company to settle in Hungary “that creates less value to the country than what it takes out.” Róna, for example, insists that the Mercedes factory in Kecskemét was a very bad deal for Hungary because Mercedes received too much government assistance while it created only a few thousand jobs. So, the Hungarian taxpayers’ money wasn’t used effectively. But, according to Békesi, these companies (Mercedes, Audi, Opel) have expanded their operations in Hungary over the years and thus they reinvested some of the profits that accumulated in their plants in Hungary. Second, Hungary is not in a position to pick and choose among investors. Viktor Orbán occasionally says the same thing as Róna: there are good multinationals and bad ones and Hungary will make the decision who the lucky ones are who can invest in the country. It simply doesn’t work that way.
Of course, I have no idea how much influence Róna has on the youngish membership of LMP. Most likely more than his ideas deserve, but one must admit that anti-capitalist sentiment, especially against big business, is prevalent in LMP. Some people in LMP even talked about him as their candidate for prime minister, an idea Róna rejected, calling himself totally unfit for the job.
A last note. There is a remark that requires a little parsing. Gábor Vágó, an LMP member of parliament, announced after the meeting that whatever the decision is, it has to be announced unequivocally and resolutely. And they should stick to their decision whatever it is. Well, he expressed it a little less politely (“ne tökörésszen az LMP” was the exact phrase). He added, however, that “the decision shouldn’t be based on the current opinion polls.” That additional information is hard to interpret because the opinion polls at the moment are all over creation.
I do hope that the party leadership will decide to join Together 2014, if for no other reason than self-preservation.