Is Viktor Orbán afraid? Yes, although he doesn’t have much to fear now

Yesterday a very pessimistic article appeared in Élet és Irodalom by András Bruck, who back in November had written an equally pessimistic piece entitled “No, Viktor Will Not Leave.” You may recall that Gáspár Miklós Tamás gently asked Viktor Orbán at the October 23rd demonstration to leave before it is too late.

This time Bruck is mourning the death of the protest movements. In “Hungary Is Quiet Again” he lists the aborted attempts of the students as well as the opposition politicians to come together and form a common platform. The students were effectively divided by the government while the opposition politicians simply cannot come to an understanding. All is lost, claims Bruck.

Demonstration in front of Fidesz headquarters / HVG Photo by István Fazekas

Demonstration in front of Fidesz headquarters / HVG Photo by István Fazekas

Indeed, the prospects are grim, but all is not lost. It is true that the “official” student representatives caved and sided with the government instead of fighting for the free movement of Hungarian students. They missed a real opportunity: the ruling powers feared the student masses when HÖOK and HaHa managed to demonstrate jointly on the streets. For the leaders of HÖOK, however, their positions in the hierarchy and the very substantial money these student associations receive from the government were more important than serving as the representatives of their fellow students. And yet there still remains a glimmer of hope. The last time around there were only about 70 students at Fidesz headquarters, today there were as many as 1,000, although serious pressure was brought against the student leaders. Heavy fines for high school students and harassment of the university students. Yet they didn’t give up. That is a good sign.

I must say that the behavior of the opposition politicians is less understandable than that of the opportunistic student leaders of HÖOK. After all, the student leaders are part of the power structure; they receive substantial benefits from the government. But the opposition leaders? Even those who have seats in parliament have nothing to lose. If they remain fragmented it can easily happen that not a single one of them will be able to continue in politics. Hungary will become a one-party system after a democratic election due to the electoral system introduced by the Orbán government.

The opposition, both the students and the politicians, should be heartened by the fact that the government party remains paranoid. Otherwise, it is difficult to imagine that such an important event as Fidesz’s twenty-fifth birthday would have been celebrated yesterday under the cloak of secrecy. Not even the reporter of the servile MTI was allowed inside party headquarters. Moreover, the party’s real birthday is March 30, 1988; it should have been celebrated today. The deterrent was most likely the announcement of the demonstration for today.

In the past the birthday party was a much publicized event that included spouses (mostly wives) and children. There were many photo opportunities. It seemed that not a year went by without a picture of Viktor Orbán chatting amiably with the anti-Semitic Zsolt Bayer. Now silence. Only a short press release. Péter Földes (fsp) suggested on his blog that the founders of Fidesz were either afraid or ashamed of their present selves. Several comments stressed that these guys don’t even know the meaning of the word “shame.”

Journalists were having a heyday collecting earlier quotations from Fidesz politicians, starting with András Bozóki who joined Fidesz two months after its establishment. In October 1988 he stressed that Fidesz is “not a political party but a youth organization that it is not interested in political power but wants to widen the forces of democracy among students.” The series of quotations ends with Tamás Deutsch’s claim (February 18, 2013) that “Fidesz came into being as a political organization in the western mold and it is still the same today.”

Meanwhile the present government keeps putting pressure on its youthful political opponents. In the dead of night the police raided and changed locks on a favorite cultural center for young people maintained by a Jewish youth organization because it was alleged that the occupation of Fidesz headquarters was organized there. The Hungarian police, not known for their smarts, forgot that there were other entrances. The next day students barricaded themselves inside. Then came the heavy-handed response from the City of Budapest, announcing that the organization had lost its right to the place. The servile MAZSIHISZ, which represents the Hungarian Jewry, didn’t defend the youth organization. It simply begged the city not to close the center until after Passover. The city generously obliged.

Meanwhile three students of HaHa were arrested without a warrant. Együtt 2014 called the methods employed by the police “reminiscent of the darkest days of the Kádár regime.” The name of János Kádár came up in another article. According to its author, even János Kádár was braver after the crushed revolution than Viktor Orbán is now. After all, Kádár had the guts to get half a million people on the streets on May 1, 1957 while Orbán and the co-founders of Fidesz hid from a small group of peaceful demonstrators. Kádár’s name was mentioned even in front of Fidesz headquarters. One of the speakers recalled Kádár’s political demise as an example for Orbán, indicating that his mismanagement of the country’s affairs might end in his being dropped by his own party.

Yes, all is not lost but it will be a difficult fight to get rid of the present rulers of Hungary. As long as the opposition parties don’t unite, opponents of the regime don’t believe that it is worth even going to the polls. There was hope after October 23, 2012, after Gordon Bajnai’s call for action. But since then not much has happened and the electorate has become discouraged. Without a united front of all forces there is no way to get rid of this government.

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86 comments

  1. Mutt, Kirsten, MSZP vs. Bajnai.

    You may want MSZP to go away (Fidesz want them to stay, as the always-loser adversary, as was mentioned before) but at their weakest MSZP is 25 times more organised than Bajnai is currently. Also MSZP- at this moment – has a national network, real supporters, not just Facebook likers, so they don’t just want to go away, they have their community.

    The election system is set up so (of course this is not a coincidence) that new ideas, brands, people don’t matter. National organsation (to be able to recruit loyal and electable local candidates), a well-managed army of activists, up to date data bases and money and access to media do matter.

    You may like G. Bajnai, but – at present – he has none of these and therefore he might as well does not exist. Ok, that is an exaggeration, but Bajnai is an urban, Budapest-based opposition exactly as Fidesz wants, because from Budapest – without owning the country – you cannot hope to win. This must be clear.

    As to Gene Sharp, if Hungarian people had the discipline to resist together and consistently they would have the discipline to work for a party.

    But only the right has the necessary discipline, liberals – by defintion – are not disciplined. They are liberals (leftists) exacrly because they don’t like discpiine. Which is a catch 22 and always an advantage for Fidesz, but that is the case.

    Forget and avoid the L-word like the plague (that was a rule already in the erly 1990’s although it took the Democrats some years to realise), by now it must be clear for any sane person. Why are you so attached to that particular word, when it is the sum of all fears? Darwin stated that it was not the smartest, fastest, strongest animals which survive but those which are able to cope with the changing environment. If people hate and afraid of liberals (in Hungary, Jews) why do you wanna insiit on using it?

  2. @Blumi: “But only the right has the necessary discipline, liberals – by defintion – are not disciplined. They are liberals (leftists) exacrly because they don’t like discpiine.”

    This is a gross simplification. Everybody is able to get organized and affect change if they believe in their cause and its importance… if what you say was true, the civil rights movements in the US would have never achieved what they did (voting rights and equal treatment of women, blacks, and other minorities).

  3. An, I was oversimplyfing for sure, I know that. But you mix up things. We ultimately talk about governments here, which involves parties (like Fidesz or MSZP) and not single purpose social movements (which consisted of various organisations and are anyway difficult to define and delimit) which were effective only to the extent they could persuade politicians to push through Ccongress a Civil Rights Act. The bottom line is that we need disciplined parties and not these Beppe Grillo type non-political organiations. Also the Hungarian students want to be apolitical, partly because they know that parties are uncool and also should there be support from the left, these civilian activists would be shred by the Fidesz media (well, more than they are now). But like it or not politics operates through parties. There is no other way. Fidesz (and Gyurcsány) know this, others seem to be naive.

    Also, not until Obama became as disciplined with his campaign machinery as the Republicans are (always), could they win. You have to follow orders, keep matters confidential, be completely loyal even if that hurts your reputation as fair. reasonable person — liberals tended not to accept these in the past. I guess in the US they realised that there is no other way to succeed againt the Republicans. But there is a tradition to volunteer and be active, in Hungary you want things to happen to you, so it will never happen because it will be Orbán’s drones out there out-campaigning and outsmarting everyone else.

  4. Blumi: “Why are you so attached to that particular word, when it is the sum of all fears?”

    Very good question. What is not clear is whether people object to a specific meaning attached to the word by Hungarian nationalists or conservatives (according to what I understood here: some ‘Jewish/Communist conspiracy robbing Hungary blind’) or whether they object to the idea of human rights, participation, control by the people of the political process. (Or in the worst case, a blend of these two.) If the latter applies, it is not the word in itself that people object to, but its meaning and then saying “liberal” is just correct because people will not like its meaning transmitted through other words either. And if the former is correct, it might be difficult to devise any strategy because people appear to fear “the devil” or some other quite medieval idea of dark forces. Do you think people will mobilise their rational thoughts only because the word “liberal” is not used?

  5. A really fantastic discussion going on right now – thanks, everybody!

    As a foreigner (not really speaking/understanding much Hungarian, at least not the finer parts …) I always wonder about this:

    An wrote:

    Orban’s powerful “us against the greedy foreigners who only want to exploit the county” narrative ???

    Do Hungarians really believe this when they look around and see the wealth of services and products that they can choose from nowadays – most of them coming from outside the country ?

    I have problems understanding this – especially as my wife and her family and all the people around Hévíz (where we live) don’t think that way. Are Hungarians in general really that xenophobe and if, why ?

  6. Blumi :
    An, I was oversimplyfing for sure, I know that. But you mix up things. We ultimately talk about governments here

    Right. Let’s not mix up “discipline” with the tendency to question authoritarian regimes and refusing the status quo when it comes to “liberty, equality, and justice”. Liberals can be “disciplined”. If they were not we were still in Middle Ages.

    Also the “left”, whatever fits your dictionary, can unfortunately be very disciplined – see post WWII misery on the east side of Europe.

    But in Hungary the lack of discipline is definitely present. The most prominent example was the betrayal of Gyurcsany by his own party.

    But here comes again my usual oversimplification of things (disguised as practicality). This is not the lack of discipline what we see. There is no activity. Nowadays you don’t see insubordination. I mean not within a certain group. We tend to talk about the “big left”, including all the anti-Fidesz groups, not being able to join forces, but that’s not lack of discipline.

  7. Oh and re “liberal”:

    I know that for some in the US this means devilish or whatever – but in Hungary as a part of Europe ?

    In my home country Germany we have (had) a very strong liberal party who often decided the county’s politics as a coalition partner (though right now the are having problems) and even in the former two party system of the UK the Liberals now play an important role. Same goes for other European democracies.

  8. Wolfi: “especially as my wife and her family and all the people around Hévíz (where we live) don’t think that way.”

    I have also not yet met in person any Hungarian who confessed to believe in such conspiracy theories. That Trianon was unjust, I think this is widely shared, but “dark external forces robbing the country blind” – no. I only know a specific type of “thoughtful smile” (I do not know how to name it) as if my imagination were really poor: “I don’t, but other people…” (and you know: every type of madness is possible.). And yet, I am never sure whether this is not just in the imagination of the speaker :-).

  9. I think people are a bit too gloomy here. Orban and the combined democratic parties have about the same number of open supporters. Most people in the secretive half of the eligible voters do not like Fidesz.

    What is badly needed is a unifying personality for the democratic opposition.
    Bajnai speaks too intellectually, Mesterhazy does not have the gift of
    leadership – so somebody else should lead a united opposition.

    A lot depends on the shape of the economy – and it is in a horrible shape.

    Unemployment numbers are artificially lowered by the “közmunkás”
    (people earning 1/3-1/2 of the minimal wage). In addition, they started
    to count people who moved to Western Europe and work there as
    employed in Hungary. (They plan to falsify the vital statistics numbers this way too:

    http://index.hu/gazdasag/2013/03/29/a_kulfoldon_szuletett_magyarok_is_bekerulhetnek_a_statisztikaba/

    Fidesz also manipulated the deficit numbers with the confiscated retirement funds in 2011-2012. They will manipulate them with the National Bank reserves in 2013-2014.

    The actual deficits have not gone down since Fidesz took power in 2010.

    My calculation gives the following numbers for the deficit:

    2010 4.2%
    2011 3.9% (8.2% retirement funds – 4.3% nominal sufficit)
    2012 4.3% (2.3% retirement funds + 2.0% nominal deficit)

  10. But what I have encountered is a specific pride of rank. Some educated people do not speak very nicely about people without higher education, not from Budapest etc. These people are considered boors, having these medieval or “backwoods” opinions etc. While I cannot say whether this assessment is correct or not, the main implication for me is that this makes it difficult to approach society from the angle of “equality” (necessary precondition of democracy and equal rights) and it may also make it more difficult to arrive at a more broadly shared educational standard (including about society and politics). The “backwardness” of a part of the Hungarian society can be the outcome of the limited interest of the elite to admit newcomers into its circle. But it is getting a bit OT here.

  11. wolfi :
    A really fantastic discussion going on right now – thanks, everybody!
    As a foreigner (not really speaking/understanding much Hungarian, at least not the finer parts …) I always wonder about this:
    An wrote:
    Orban’s powerful “us against the greedy foreigners who only want to exploit the county” narrative ???
    Do Hungarians really believe this when they look around and see the wealth of services and products that they can choose from nowadays – most of them coming from outside the country ?
    I have problems understanding this – especially as my wife and her family and all the people around Hévíz (where we live) don’t think that way. Are Hungarians in general really that xenophobe and if, why ?

    This is not easy for non-Hungarians, especially persons reared in the West, to understand: the communist era mindset still exists. This mindset had to do with understanding the realities of the time–expertise and hard work little mattered. You got ahead by guile, cheating, turning in others. Greed was an unsatiable fact: their were few resources and most could only wish, not achieve. Looking West, the Hungarian could admire but very few were the relatives who weren’t met with a mixture envy and greed. A necessary corollary to all this was the fact that no one fought the powers that be. You toadied up to them, or, if you were clever enough, you tricked them. You never opposed them. Three generations of this had ground this reality into
    the Hungarian psyche.

  12. Kirsten, Mutt, Some notes. My take is that one of the reasons SZDSZ perished was because liberalism (among other negative connotations) came to essentially mean human rights activism. And that -cynical as it sounds- is really an intellectual issue (in Hungary). People are desperate because mainly of economic reasons and foremost they want politicians to deal with the most pressing issues such as jobs, growths and the like. I am not talking here about religious Fidesz voters, but those beyond them. They did not see (for whatever reason) that SZDSZ wanted to deal with the problems of the everyday men, only of those of Budapest intellectuals and minorities. Not good, because, again, it is the majority, the masses who decide elections. Even sympathizers could say, sure we like gay rights, but you should be working on how to increase the salaries of teachers, whatever.

    I do not think that liberals in Europe (as it is understood post 1945) have ever fought with discipline for anything. The European political system to me seems a kind of enlighted elitism, meaning that the enlighted governments give certain rights to people because that is what modern, Western value dictate. It is completely the opposite how the US operates, where movements (and political parties) need to have a strong grass roots basis (but again movements are limited issue movements, especially because management focus is very important if you are not a party). I am not saying one is better than the other, only that liberalism (as I understand it, but I guess libraries have been written on this word alone) worked not through direct political work but more because of culturally hegemonic processes (at least in Western Europe) spearheaded by cultural elites.

    In Eastern Europe I think freedom and rights are not connected to liberalism or to any ideology, more to a kind of resistence against the government and the economy. Being free in everyday processes, being rude (not complying with social norms), breaching smalller-scale laws with impunity provide people with a kind of freedom, when people actually feel that they have none (due to mostly economic reasons, people feel they are just toys in the hands of fate).

  13. Blumi: “People are desperate because mainly of economic reasons and foremost they want politicians to deal with the most pressing issues such as jobs, growths and the like.”

    These demands are entirely comprehensible. The problem is that politicians will not start to deal with the most pressing issues out of some graciousness. That appears to be not very well understood. All this talk about checks, balances, constitutions, participation of people in the political process etc. has no other motive than creating the circumstances in which politicians are most likely to be compelled to deal with those issues that are considered to be most pressing by the electorate, and to deal with them in a way that is considered helpful by the electorate. The general idea is that you cannot take for granted that politicians will work in the public interest. First, this is because what exactly is this interest of the public has to be found out. For that, the voters (the public) have to bother to reveal their preferences – in other words people must be willing to SAY publicly what they want and if possible in rather concrete terms, no general talk about some “decent life”. No: what exactly do they think is “decent life”. Second, even if people say what they want, they must make politicians do that. People who engage in politics do this ALSO because of individual interests. That is not forbidden. But it is necessary that there are “checks” and “balances” so that it is not their personal interests that dominate policies but more broadly shared interests. So if people say that they care mainly for gas prices, economic conditions etc., they need to understand that this will not be provided by some enlightened landlord or king or businessman. There is no reason why the landlord, king or businessman should act in the interest of other people if these behave like “sheep” that may mutter but otherwise does not protest against any abuse. But society can create circumstances in which it is more likely that politicians are pressured to deal with the most pressing issues. And experience of the democratic countries shows that special interests always try to reduce the checks and balances, and that the broad public has to stay committed to these political issues if it wishes to achieve just something so basic as “jobs, growth and the like”.

  14. I thank all who commented on my contributions. Within the limits of abilities I have been trying to encourage Hungarian intellectuals, conservatives, liberals and left-wingers alike, to discuss major issues of the nation as the political, or rather, the politicking elite has miserably failed to do it and we cannot expect that they will repent and change at the 2014 elections. Hungarian intellectual have traditions to represent the consciousness of the nation and tackle pivotal questions head on. Just think about the Reform era of the 1840s, the preparation for the big Compromise with the Habsburgs in the 1860s or in the 1980s for that matter. They should initiate a national debate where Hungary stands now, what the country can offer its citizens, what can be achieved in the foreseeable future and what only later at a price, how the country can join the international community and on what terms. Politicians will not talk about these, because honest answers would be sure vote-loosers, so intellectuals ought to force them to take a stand on these issues, which might sort out the wheat from chaff.

  15. Istvan Foldesi :
    I thank all who commented on my contributions. Within the limits of abilities I have been trying to encourage Hungarian intellectuals, conservatives, liberals and left-wingers alike, to discuss major issues of the nation as the political, or rather, the politicking elite has miserably failed to do it and we cannot expect that they will repent and change at the 2014 elections. Hungarian intellectual have traditions to represent the consciousness of the nation and tackle pivotal questions head on. Just think about the Reform era of the 1840s, the preparation for the big Compromise with the Habsburgs in the 1860s or in the 1980s for that matter. They should initiate a national debate where Hungary stands now, what the country can offer its citizens, what can be achieved in the foreseeable future and what only later at a price, how the country can join the international community and on what terms. Politicians will not talk about these, because honest answers would be sure vote-loosers, so intellectuals ought to force them to take a stand on these issues, which might sort out the wheat from chaff.

    This sounds nice. Except that it is hard to implement in a country where those who may say something the regime doesn’t like could lose their jobs and become destitute.

  16. Wolfi:
    Hungarians have inferiority feelings. They want their country to be rich and prosperous and civilized, much like Germany and Austria. But they have to face the reality that whatever they do and however hard they try, it is not happening.

    This “admiration”, or considering Western Europe as a role model, worked for a good 10 years but gradually disappointment took over. People were becoming more an more suspicious of foreign companies, who invaded their markets and make profits out of their money. As the cold civil war broke out in 2002 and populism grew, Orban and co stirred these feelings up successfully, and they still feed them. “Foreign (western) companies are bad, western products are bad. Lidl sell German garbage food that Germans themselves won’t eat. Germans themselves would never shop in Lidl. The EU only took us on to colonize us. They destroyed our economy, and the socialists sold the country to them.”

    A lot of people are gullible and these explanations comfort them. “The way to go is to fight for our independence, punish foreign companies, force them out of the country and make Hungary big again by growing and making everything for ourselves.”

    I, for one, know LOADS of Hungarians who think like that, including well-educated, otherwise intelligent people.

  17. Kirsten #13 I completely agree with everything you say.

    To join the debate on who Orban should “fear”.
    I agree with Janos Kis, a liberal political philosopher, who predicts that all the anger that Orban stirred up in people in the past 10 years or so (all the desire for vengence, the inability to think rationally about politicians etc) will fall back on Orban’s party’s own head. The country has been brainwashed into thinking and behaving only this way.

    This sounds very logical to me.
    I’m pessimistic (and quite worried): I don’t see a chance that the people will take a deep breath and suddenly start to behave like in a mature democracy in the next 1.5 years or so.

  18. Istvan Foldesi :
    [the Hungarian intellects] should initiate a national debate where Hungary stands now, what the country can offer its citizens, what can be achieved in the foreseeable future and what only later at a price, how the country can join the international community and on what terms. Politicians will not talk about these, because honest answers would be sure vote-loosers, so intellectuals ought to force them to take a stand on these issues, which might sort out the wheat from chaff.

    What do you have in mind? A petition? Does Orban look like somebody to you who gives a hoot?

    This is just a joke … but do you want a pony too?

  19. To Mutt:

    Yes, I have always wanted a pony.

    About the intellectuals: please, do not forget that in the old regime the democratic opposition had the temerity to demand Kadar’s departure (Kádárnak mennie kell)in 1987. Today former President Solyom openly criticizes the Ground Law, internationally recognized sociologist Hankiss asks the question in a daily: How did we get here….Others should be encouraged to follow. The freshly published data from the census gives a good reason to address questions of national destiny. Why are less and less Magyars? What can Hungary offer its citizens within a foreseeable future and at what cost?

    But we should be aware, that the 2014 elections will be decisive for more than four years. In 2010 Orban hid his agenda and revealed himself and his plans when he was elected. If he reelected he can and will feel vindicated and continue his course.

  20. gdfxxx :

    Istvan Foldesi :
    I thank all who commented on my contributions. Within the limits of abilities I have been trying to encourage Hungarian intellectuals, conservatives, liberals and left-wingers alike, to discuss major issues of the nation as the political, or rather, the politicking elite has miserably failed to do it and we cannot expect that they will repent and change at the 2014 elections. Hungarian intellectual have traditions to represent the consciousness of the nation and tackle pivotal questions head on. Just think about the Reform era of the 1840s, the preparation for the big Compromise with the Habsburgs in the 1860s or in the 1980s for that matter. They should initiate a national debate where Hungary stands now, what the country can offer its citizens, what can be achieved in the foreseeable future and what only later at a price, how the country can join the international community and on what terms. Politicians will not talk about these, because honest answers would be sure vote-loosers, so intellectuals ought to force them to take a stand on these issues, which might sort out the wheat from chaff.

    This sounds nice. Except that it is hard to implement in a country where those who may say something the regime doesn’t like could lose their jobs and become destitute.

    The political elite drinks canal water. They’re neither political nor elite. They’re garbage.
    The people are lazy, inept, and amoral.
    This country is getting what it deserves.
    Once Orban kicks the bejesus out of the country, he will decamp for London…or Moscow.

    Long Live Csatary!!

    Hajra! Hajra!!

  21. This may be getting more OT, but still:

    cheshire cat :
    Wolfi:
    Lidl sell German garbage food that Germans themselves won’t eat. Germans themselves would never shop in Lidl. The EU only took us on to colonize us. They destroyed our economy, and the socialists sold the country to them.I, for one, know LOADS of Hungarians who think like that, including well-educated, otherwise intelligent people.

    Objectively this is nonsense – I see and hear many German speaking people here at the local Aldi and Lidl and my wife tells me to buy many things there instead of other supermarkets. So in summer we go for shopping first to the farmer’s market, then to Aldi and the rest we buy nolens volens at the Interspar (which is also German owned as far as I know …), Tesco is only visited when they have special offers for brands …

    Even more OT:

    The more I follow this discussion, the more I realise how lucky I was in finding my wife in Hungary – and we were both already over 60 at the time! If she had been a “typical Hungarian” we sure wouldn’t have made it together.
    BTW we just spend a week in a spa hotel in Harkány – visiting Pécs of course and also Siklos and Villány. It was really nice and we had a very good time – in spite of the horrible weather!

  22. Welcome Blumi, and you will join the lonely Petofi in the sharp minded corner.
    Gene Sharp, http://www.aeinstein.org, is taught in Hungary, ELTE and SOTE by Tamas Csapody.
    Hungarian Liberal/Szabadelvu can be identified only with Deak.
    He was upholding the traditional freedom, law and spirit of the pure and spiritual Hungary, by being moral and intelligent.
    Lawyer, an enlightened, non-violent and modest man led Hungary to reforms and economical booms.
    The SZPM never managed to match the standard of Ferenc Deak and Pal Somssich.
    The SZPM needs education in liberalism.

  23. Wolfi:

    I use Aldi quite a lot in England and I’m happy with it. If you tend to cook fresh food, it’s good for staples. I’ve been to a Hungarian one once, it was the same: clean and tidy shop, good prices, good quality, not a big range. When I first realized how good the quality was (in England), I read a bit about how they do it, and am fine with that business “model”.

    I think it was Lidl in Hungary first, and some people were put off by the discount “atmosphere”, and decided the products must be rubbish. That’s natural in a way, it was the same in Britain, before shopping at Aldi became the new recession chic for the middle-classes 😀
    It’s good to know that in your experience not all Hungarians believe this “nasty Germans dump their rubbish on us” propaganda!

    Even more OT, but allegedly it’s true that some Western companies sell lower quality versions of their products in Eastern-Europe, including coffee, washing powder, soft drinks, chocolate. I have heard of families who regularly use Ariel washing powder bought from Austria, because it cleans better than Ariel in Hungarians shops. I myself can confirm that even at the end of 90s, coffee like Tchibo or Eduscho never tasted as good if bought in Hungary as in Germany.

    Wolfi, it sounds like your wife is a very sensible and open-minded Hungarian.
    I truly hope she is not unusual. I have several family-members, and even one very old, good friend who support the Orban government, some quite brainwashed, some more reasonable. It’s refreshing to hear about others!

  24. Thanks for the reply Eva. I’ve talked to leaders of Mazsihisz who have been critical of Fidesz’s tolerance of anti-Semitism e.g. fascist writers on the school curriculum, Fekete Gyorgy’s anti-Semitic comment. However, I was somewhat surprised by their confidence in people at the top of the government. Some NGOs want to be apolitical so they can work and influence the people with power. Whether that’s Mazsihisz’s logic, I do not know.

  25. Kavé :
    The Siraly situation is sad, but predictable. It was, essentially, a squat on the site of the former Communist era Hungarian book club building. It was a great use of an abandoned property, became an important theater center for the avante-garde scene, but it was a squat nonetheless.
    The Siraly came out of the Neolog Jewish youth group MAROM, which used to have a headquarters at Garay ter in the outer 7th district. About ten years ago MAROM wanted to have its own Hanukah celebration and asked Mazsihisz for funding. Mazsihisz said it would grant funds but only if it could dictate who would speak and who would be the entertainment (Mazsihisz is run by Zoltai Gusztáv, a former Communist Party cadre who was Party overseer for Budapest Theater life. A true “piece of work.” ) MAROM refused this, organized its own program, and the resulting celebration attracted over a thousand attendees. In response, Mazsihisz closed the MAROM headquarters and expelled the rabbinical student who performed the candle blessings from the Neolog Yeshiva. Nice guys. Mazsihisz is essentially run as a business more than a religious organization, and has rather contentious relationships with all of the other organized Jewish communities, including the Orthodox, Chabad and the newly established Reform congregations, mainly based on Mazsihisz’ control of funding and property holdings.

    Thanks Kavé. Do you know of other Jewish organisations in Budapest who you think are more representative of the community?

  26. chris :
    Thanks Kavé. Do you know of other Jewish organisations in Budapest who you think are more representative of the community?

    I know this question was not addressed to me, but I would like you to clarify what do you mean by “more representative of the community”. As we know from the current Hungarin political environment the numbers does not neccesarely mean fair represenattion of all.
    The curent Jewish in-house “fights” is not about “representation”. I am linking two articles that may shed some light on some issues that caused a drift in the Jewish community of Hungary.

    http://index.hu/belfold/2011/10/06/nagy_zsido_alkudozas_kezdodik/
    http://www.szombat.org/politika/4263-mazsihisz-kontra-kim-vita-a-zsido-kozossegi-kerekasztal-ulese-utan

  27. tappanch :
    What is badly needed is a unifying personality for the democratic opposition.
    Bajnai speaks too intellectually, Mesterhazy does not have the gift of
    leadership – so somebody else should lead a united opposition.

    While I mostly agree with you , unfortunately it never gonna happen.
    This is Hungary, for Heaven’s sake! No chance in Earth, that they going to unite on anything, let alone the fate of the country.
    I’m not joking, I wish I would!

    At the very instant someone emerges, the masses will express their condemning opinion – whoever the person would be or whatever his/her story – and will make it clear in no time, why not. Never mind, that in the main time everything goes belly up, the most important will be – as always: why not!

    Time goes by and at the end nothing remains to salvage either, but we still will be arguing over who’s grandmother was member of one or other party, who may have been sympathetic to the Society of Communist Youth’s or the other way around, and nothing ever gonna happen, because we just couldn’t agree.

    Prove me wrong, please!

  28. I’m not disagreeing with people’s opinions on Mazsihisz as I don’t have much of an opinion on the group, good or bad. Plus, I am not part of the Jewish community so I’m not going to have much insight. I just wanted to know where the idea that the group was subservient to the government came from. As for “representative, when Kavé said Mazsihisz was more of a business than a religious organisation, and has a contentious relationship with all of the other organised Jewish communities, I got the impression that the group does not represent the interests or opinions of the larger Jewish community. So I wanted to know about organisations that might be able to speak better on behalf of Jewish Hungarians. Thanks for the articles Some1. And thanks for the blog Eva, it is a great resource to those of us who are trying to get a better understanding of Hungarian politics – and especially those who can’t read much Hungarian!

  29. spectator, Gene Sharp says that liberation starts with self-liberation. You’re not going to free yourselves of your present chains without liberating yourself from the shackles of the past. That’s one reason why Hungary needs a broad social movement as much as a reenergized left-wing political party or parties.

  30. chris :
    So I wanted to know about organisations that might be able to speak better on behalf of Jewish Hungarians.

    They say that when there are 10 Jews in a room, there are 11 opinions. I think the diversity of Jewish opinion is a strength of my religion. So I am suspicious of ANY group that speaks for all Jews.

    Hungary has traditionally been home to the most secular and the most religious (frum) Jews in the world. In Hungarian terms, non-observant Jews and frum trust each other as much as LMP trusts Fidesz/Jobbik.

    So it means a lot for me to say as a liberal Jew that I will work with frum to fight Orban. I would distrust any Jewish group that cozies up to Fidesz.

    My fellow Jews agree on almost nothing, including Israel and Horthy. It’s hard to even use the word “we” when talking about other Jews, but we are unified when we see Jobbik (thank you, Jobbik!), and when we see Orban appropriating Jobbik symbolism.

    That said, I could still understand how some might want to ally with Orban in order to repel his dalliance with Jobbik. I disagree with that strategy.

  31. Thanks for your comment Gardonista. I understand what you’re saying. I’m sure the same is true for many groups, e.g. a group fighting for the rights of African Americans in the U.S. is not necessarily going to represent the opinons of all African Americans. There’s a lot of diversity within any religion or ethnicity. I’m interested in your comment about Horthy. Are there Jews who think he did help defend the community during WWII? I see Horthy as mostly a figure that the far-right can latch on to who will not bring the same level of attention / scorn as Hitler. However, I did read an article in one reputable foreign news outlet that said he refused to deport Jews so I am a bit confused.

  32. chris :
    I’m interested in your comment about Horthy. Are there Jews who think he did help defend the community during WWII? I see Horthy as mostly a figure that the far-right can latch on to who will not bring the same level of attention / scorn as Hitler.

    A friend of my Mom who is an educated, cultured and liberal Hungarian Jew defends Horthy’s treatment of the Jews. He and his family were living in Slovakia during WWII and their lives were saved by moving to Horthy’s Hungary. I can’t deny or diminish his experience.

    There are intelligent and informed reasons to defend Horthy. In my opinion, he’s not as bad as Hitler, though there were Hungarians who were more brutal.

    I vehemently oppose the honors that the Hungarian government is bestowing on Horthy. I’m still trying to learn more about his legacy in order to effectively fight against those who praise him.

  33. It is very difficult and probably distorting to address the Horthy phenomenon in a blog response. But we may not err, if we state that he was an authoritative figure, which was certainly not an exception in Europe during his reign. During his twenty-five years Hungary achieved a modicum of economic stability, but social strife and tension were prevalent. The regime was conceived and lived on in an anti-semitic climate, which gradually got worse and worse first with the adoption of quotas on Jewish university students and from 1938 with more and more deprivation of civil and political rights of Jews first as people belonging to that denomination, and later characterized as a race. Horthy was, according to his diary, a self-confessed anti-semite, which did not prevent him from developing working relations with top industrialists of Jewish descents.

    It is disputed whethe he had positive knowledge of the post-Wansee fate of Jewry, but must have a pretty good picture of that. After the German occupation in March, 1944 he chose not to resign and appointed people who and Hungarian state officials, gendarmes and police within two months managed the deportation of 438 thousand Jewish people from outside Budapest to the death camps. After heavy Vatican and neutral countries’ interventions and US warning, accompanied with bombing his castle, he ordered a halt to the deportation, thus most of the Budapest Jews managed to survive the war. He hoped for an allied landing in the Balkans, but after recognizing that he had to deal with the Soviets, he tried a clumsy and failed armistice with them, which prompted the Germans to remove him and put the Hungarian fascist Szalasi at the helms. He survived the war in German custody and was freed by US troops. The Yugoslavs demanded his extradiction, which was denied mainly because Stalin did not want to put “the old soldier” on trial. He died in 1957 in Portugal, where he was supported by a fund set up by a former American diplomat and exiled Hungarian industrialists of Jewish origin.

    My view is that he was a typical product of his time, when Hungary was certainly not even close to the Czechoslovak democratic model, but was definitely better than the dictatorships of Hitler, Pavelic, Tiso and Antonescu. In sum, his “rehabilitation and eulogy” would most certainly, to put very mildly, send the worst possible message to people who oppose authoritative regimes and were the victims or war enemies of his regime.

  34. ząc, że Frodo nie
    zna jej podtrzymać Ciekawy blog w zdrętwiałych dłoniach,
    przytrzymał mu palce. – Na skutek –
    mruknął Frodo po momentu. Uniósł silnie manierkę, syntetyk zastukał o zęby.
    Nieoczekiwanie
    sprężył się, próbując powstać. Rozglądał się nieprawidłowo.
    – Mariszka – jęknął, czując
    przeszywający gehenna żeber. Kirpiczew proch dokuczliwą łapę.

    – Siedź. – Wagner położył mu graba
    na ramien.

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