I have the feeling that we will have a short lull before the storm, so I can wander a bit from politics. Of course, most things that happen these days in Hungary are about politics, at least indirectly, something those young students who demonstrated against the government’s educational policies have yet to realize. They keep repeating that they are civilians who have nothing to do with politics. How long will it take them to understand that they are wrong?
I will take this opportunity to summarize a lecture by the academician Ignác Romsics, a respected historian of the twentieth century. (His book on that subject is available in English.) He is considered to be a fairly conservative man and therefore his lecture reported in today’s Népszava is noteworthy. Romsics is trying to set things straight at a time when the government is encouraging a re-evaluation of the Horthy regime (1920-1945). Although Viktor Orbán and his entourage deny it, the signs are clear: a rehabilitation of the Horthy regime is under way.
First of all, it is noteworthy that Romsics delivered his lecture in the Politikatörténeti Intézet (Institute of the History of Politics) which is under attack by the current government. One reason for Viktor Orbán’s dislike of the institute is that before the change of regime it was called the Párttörténeti Intézet (Institute of Party History), and thus the historians connected with the institute are politically suspect in his eyes. The institute has a large library and an extensive archive, considered to be a private collection, which the government recently nationalized. This move is especially worrisome because private individuals’ archives are also stored there. The institute right now is fighting for its survival and for its archives. So, giving a lecture at this particular institute is a kind of political statement, especially from a historian who is not a flaming liberal.
The institute began a lecture series in December and Romsics’s lecture on “The modern Hungarian political regimes” was the fifth in the series. I’m happy to announce that our friend Gábor Egry, who just published a lengthy comment on demographic changes in Hungary and Romania after 1918, will be the next to lecture on the “Nationality problems in Hungary in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” The earlier lectures are available on video on the website of the institute and I assume that soon enough we will be able to listen to Romsics’s lecture as well.
So, let’s look at Romsics’ overview of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Hungarian political history.
As far as the period of dualism (1867-1918) is concerned, Hungarians like to talk about it as a time of peace and prosperity (boldog békeidők). It was a time of fantastic economic growth, when everything was just perfect. But was it? No it wasn’t because there was no representative government, there was no democracy, and liberalism was greatly constrained. The Emperor-King Franz Joseph I’s power was much wider than that of other western rulers. He influenced foreign policy and defense decisions, and the parliament was able to vote on a piece of legislation only if it was approved by the king ahead of time. Another characteristic of the regime was that very few people had the right to vote. In 1910, at the last election before the war, only 6% of the adult population was able to cast a vote–and not by secret ballot. During the dualistic period government after government had a two-thirds majority, and it happened only once that such a government was removed by a vote of no-confidence. But the victorious opposition had to promise the king before being able to form a new government that it wouldn’t touch the dualistic structure.
During the Károlyi period (1918-1919) no elections were held, but a new electoral law would have made 50-60% of the population eligible to vote, including women. During the Soviet Republic practically the entire adult population had the vote, except it didn’t mean much because of the one-party system.
After the fall of the Soviet Republic the first election took place in 1920 on the basis of the electoral law of the Friedrich government (August 7-November 24, 1919): 40% of the adult population could vote, and vote secretly. This brought about a revolutionary change. The peasantry constituted 60% of the country’s population prior to 1920 but the party representing them had only one or two representatives in a pre-war parliament of 413 members. Now suddenly their number swelled to 30 in a downsized parliament of 219.
One of the first moves of the Horthy regime was to reduce the number of eligible voters. In the larger cities the vote was secret but everywhere else it was again open. By introducing a new electoral system the governments of the interwar period had two-thirds majorities and thus their perpetuation was ensured. The powers of Governor Miklós Horthy were not extensive, but such powers were not really necessary. The system worked without his direct influence.
During both the era of dualism and the period between the two world wars, Hungary had an authoritarian political system. But during the Horthy period even the equal rights of citizens were trampled on by the so-called Jewish laws.
After World War II there was a brief period of “democratic experimentation” that was over by 1949. During the Rákosi and Kádár periods the “role of parliament was only formal.” Real decisions were made within the party apparatus. Parliament had even less of a role to play than it did in the Horthy regime, in which parliamentary debates at least had a moderating influence on the government.
However, and this is an interesting point, “in the late Kádár regime, after the 1985 elections because of the new election law 10% of the members of parliament were elected in opposition to the communist party candidates. It is true that some of these so-called independents were fellow travelers or even party members, but here and there one could hear speeches in parliament that would have been unimaginable earlier.” While “we can certainly label the Rákosi and the early Kádár regimes dictatorships, the late Kádár era can be called authoritarian only.”
This is an important statement, especially in light of Fidesz’s penchant for making no distinction between the Stalinist Rákosi regime, the early Kádár period, and the last five years of the one party-system that was already being challenged.
As for the situation under the second Orbán government, “there is no dictatorship in Hungary today because the elimination of the separation of powers hasn’t taken place, there is still a multi-party system, and there is still media freedom. At the same time the steps the government has taken in the last three years have led to such a concentration of power that we can say that Hungary has started on the road toward an authoritarian political system.” I do hope that the world listens.
According to LeMonde
Victor Orban is following the De Gaulle. A notable example.
I know and we are supposed to be impressed. One hundred negative article versus 1 pro-Orbán article. Long live Viktor Orbán and his authoritarian regime!
Dear Csaba K. Zoltani.
Unfortunately, the article you link to cannot be read in its entirety, but no matter: if you wish to compare Orban’s Hungary to de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic, here goes. First: France was on the threshold of a coup-d’etat, led by the army, and triggered by the last crisis of de-colonization, when de Gaulle stepped in, in the summer of 1958. When Orban came to power in 2010, Hungary was decidedly NOT on the verge of political collapse. It was as peaceful as could be. A normally scheduled, normally executed election took place. One side won, albeit handily. Second: when de Gaulle insisted that a new constitution be instituted, he put it up to a national referendum. Every Jean, Jeanne, Michel, and Michelle got to vote on a text made perfectly public before it was ever declared constitutional. No such luck in Orban’s Hungary. Third, de Gaulle, while indeed shifting power towards France’s executive branch, never swept away the checks and balances expected in a modern democracy in the form of a meaningful judiciary, equal treatment for opposition positiions in the national media, independence granted to universities, schools, etc. never thought to do such a thing, nor did he do away with the civil code, nor did he attempt to populate every nook and cranny of bureaucracy with his lackeys and cronies. Guess he just had more confidence than that. (Nor did he change the official name of the country, for what it’s worth.) Fourth, when in 1969 de Gaulle faced a reversal of his political will in the form of the rejection of a referendum he had put up to vote, he resigned and exited the political stage. Should we hold our breath and expect the same of Monsieur Orban on this one, too? I’m not French, but I find it offensive that one would pretend to compare de Gaulle and Orban.
De Gaulle, who had little consideration for the bourgeoisie and for journalists, called Le Monde: “l’Immonde” (the squalid). For De Gaulle, the day when “l’Immonde” (Le Monde) would support him would be the day of a national disaster.
Éva, for those not intimately familiar with Hungarian history, your mention of the “Soviet Republic” without elaboration might have them scratching their heads. Perhaps not everybody’s aware that Hungary had a homegrown Communist state for 133 days in 1919.
Which reminds me, there’s a new TV quiz show here called “Észbontók” where everyday people try to guess not-too-difficult trivia questions, with hilarious/shocking results. For example, in the first show three young women claimed that humans first landed on the moon in 1949, and that Fahrenheit is a measurement for wind speed. So much for the products of today’s Hungarian education, I suppose.
“I have the feeling that we will have a short lull before the storm, so I can wander a bit from politics. Of course, most things that happen these days in Hungary are about politics, at least indirectly, something those young students who demonstrated against the government’s educational policies have yet to realize. They keep repeating that they are civilians who have nothing to do with politics. How long will it take them to understand that they are wrong?”
Dear Professor Balogh!
The students and all those who are desperately cling to so called “civil” groups, while rejecting all parties and/or politicians, will realise that they’re wrong when it will dawn on them that you have to have a philosophy, a program, a clear indication to be FOR something, rather than AGAINST something to change society. I am sure they will one day, but this almost total rejection of “politics”, the way that became a dirty word is understandable, if somewhat frustrating to the likes of us who understand the above. I know, or at least suspect, reading your posts and generally your work, that you are not a socialist, or you are but are not prepared to polemicize in that vein. I have said before that unless those who comment are scrupulously fair and clear on how their criticism of the Orban regime can be followed up with action, this is only an academic exercise. Perfectly valid, but only academic. I am not suggesting that you don’t do that, but pardon me for saying, that for those of us who live here calls for action are getting more and more relevant, sometimes even desperate. I can’t see the students or any other section of society getting excited over calls for a more democratic, nicer or honest version of capitalism solving the problems of Hungary today. Look at history – you have time and time again have brilliantly done that -, look at examples of other regimes from the not so developed world! There is no chance – in my opinion – that the way out of what is now being built in Hungary (I totally agree with your post of today, by the way), can be removed by bourgeois democratic means. Although perhaps a combination of parliamentary and extra parliementary means is possible. But just vague calls for something that has no name is insufficient. Popular power, out on the streets with a clear democratic socialist program is the only way to get the numbers behind you. Yes, it is still a looked down on philosophy, but only in name. Spell it out what it really means and you’ll see the difference. That is my creed and I firmly believe that is the only way. This forum, of course, is not necessarily the best one for agitation of this sort. However, to be scrupulously honest I had to say it, even if it is likely to fall on mostly deaf ears.
The Fidesz PR machine … bummer. Finally something and it costs 2 Euros to read.
I am putting in a request, not the first time and not so humbly as usual, that those “Jewish Laws” no longer be called Jewish laws, as it sounds so smooth and unobtrusive, whereas they were called in the original: Jew Laws. It is not nice and not politically correct sounding that way, I admit, but let’s just call them as they were: savage, murderous, and barbaric laws and their name should sound just as bad: Jew Laws. That’s what they were.
Remek tanulmany a Dunamenti Mongoliarol. Sajnos vannak alacsonyabb rendu fajok melyek keptelenek elsjatitani a demokracia alapelveit. Ezek koze tartoznak a Dunamenti Mongolok,
didnt you mean return to its dirty commie jew past
And this is a good thing???? De Gaulle is responsible for wiping out more than 70 different language groups that existed in France before 1945.
Anyone expecting a dictatorship in Hungary in the sense of what they’ve looked like historically is fooling themselves. What is happening here won’t or can’t look like Kadar or any other pre-21 century dictatorship simply because the conditions on the ground are very much different. So I expect that any authoritarianism/dictatorship that does form will look more like Venezuela than what existed under old regimes. One of the changes will be that opposition parties will be allowed, they will just have no chance at winning. Isn’t that the case or are we close to that case today?
J Grant your eloquent post tells it like it is – it’s easy for us extra-country armchair observers to not get the perspective of the man on the Győr omnibus.
But we have just seen the passing away of Mrs Thatcher – and you will see from sebt’s post (I think) in another place that we in England had just those senses of gloom during her ‘reign’.
Whilst they were on a different scale; sometimes we wondered if the nightmare would ever end but it eventually did.
Many people are dancing in the streets at her death and there has been a concerted campaign to get the Wizard of Oz song “The Wicked Witch is Dead Ha! Ha! The Wicked Witch is dead” into the BBC pop charts in celebration.
And they succeeded – such that the BBC has banned the playing of the full song – just a short excerpt until at least she is laid to rest.
And there have been street parties close to where I live.
For me this is too over the top – and is insensitive to her close relatives and I thoroughly disapprove.
But I understand why. She was such a divisive figure in England – separating the poorer North from the richer South.
So there is hope – and I believe there is some hope in the ‘extra-country’ manoeuvres currently underway.
Hold on – keep hopeful!
IT WILL END
While we’re on the subject of De Gaulle…. as a role model, let me bury him for good. Here is a man that waged a subtle on a country that only a few years before sent 10s of thousands of men to liberate it, an act that resulted in many of them being killed or injured. This war almost destabilized a functional democracy and caused the deaths or more people. So, this is the gratitude, the thanks Canada received from De Gaulle for it’s role in liberating France. Mean while, the Dutch still send flowers (http://bit.ly/Kav1L). So De Gaulle may be revered as a hero but all he did was flee to the UK and then hitchhike a lift on a jeep back into Paris. If that makes him a role model then god help us all.
Eva, I just wanted to acknowledge during this ‘lull’ how unusually rich and readable your blog has become lately.
Trolls and Racists apart – So many different historical perspectives – Cheshire Cat; Suzi; Sebt et al – all giving a real insight to current history – the Balkans, de Gaulle among other topics – Amazing!
History coming alive.
Alleluya to all that!
Orbán would love to be the new governor Horthy. Ruling for 25 years without elections, I guess that is his dream and you know what, many (not many, actually hundreds of thousands, if not millions) on the right would love that too. These people need to worship and serve a tough ruler who – perhaps indirectly but – puts Jews (international corporations, banks, the communists, etc.– everything bad, for the Jews, liberals are a symbol only of everything which they fear and hate) back into their place.
I’d like to add one more comment about the danger of believing in your own rhetoric. Where did we first hear the term, they will greet us a liberators? Dick Cheney? Nope.. it was Madison when he was planning the attack on Montreal during the war of 1812. It didn’t quite work out as planned…. Fortunately for Cheney he went in with overwhelming force and support that the Americans didn’t have when they finally invaded Canada.
Horthy or Mugabe are the choices.
Well, actually the readers of the Hungarian Spectrum are on the whole are quite familiar with Hungarian history. But thanks.
“I guess that is his dream and you know what, many (not many, actually hundreds of thousands, if not millions) on the right would love that too. ”
As big a problem are the millions who really couldn’t care one way or the other and for that fact it’s not only the Orban regime’s fault,
Yes, Sándor. I remember but I don’t agree with you. The word “zsidó” is both a noun and an adjective in Hungarian. So, “zsidó törvények” surely means “Jewish laws.” So, sorry, I can’t oblige.
One correction. There would be elections but about as meaningful as the ones held during the Horthy regime. Of course, nowadays one cannot have open balloting and therefore he has to find some other means of rigging the elections. And he is doing his best to be able to do so.
One of these days we ought to talk about the new election laws because it will be the next international outrage. Just wait.
This is exactly why Sandor has a point. We automatically assume the word zsidó is an adjactive in the “zsidó törvény”. It’s not. See, “adó törvények, ingatlan törvények” (tax laws, property laws).
I would call the 1938-1942 laws “[anti-]Jewish laws”
Sorry my very poor english, I can only read. But to say “the equal rights of citizens were trampled on by the so-called Jewish laws” is very inexcusable (and especially from an Hungarian academician) – who was in power while cca 600 000 Hungarian citizens perished in Auschwitz and other camp?
Despite Mutt’s very correct grammatical addition to the Jew versus Jewish controversy, I find “Jew Laws” unacceptable in English.
On the other hand, I like Tappancs’s suggestion for using “anti-Jewish laws.” That sounds like English and covers the intent of these laws.
I agree with you that Romsics is making light of the Hungarian Holocaust here. But I will wait for the final word on that question until I can hear the whole lecture. Let’s not forget that the text I worked from is a very abbreviated description of the lecture.
We also say dog laws. Not anti-Dog laws even if the subject’s animal rights are seriously violated. They are locked up, chained, castrated, forced to work and put down with no reason. Dog law is more insulting since it blatantly suggests the “regulation” of the problem.
Professor Romsics was in the middle of a controversy last summer because of his lectures. There was a quite heated debate over how much detail can be considered historical fact about the ethnic background of the 20th century politicians and public figures in Hungary. Some even called him a closet anti-Semite.
Check out the Hungarian Turul Trooper’s latest adventures in foreign languages:
These guys are the so called “Peace Marchers”. Beautiful example of the Hungarian self pity. But the good news is “continue to believe steadfastly in the power of love and unity”. The same people who wanted to pour acid on the students at the Fidesz HQ building.
For some reason it is addresses to “Europe’s citizens”. So Americans, Canadians, Australians, New-Zealanders look away. People in Holy Jimmy’s Backyard I believe still can be considered EU citizens, even though the are not on the Continent.
thanks Charlie #14 🙂
What a bad piece of journalism.
The author is recycling at face value the answers of OV and BZ to his own unchallenging questions in his interviews of last year, using outdated facts (the paragraph on the new Constitution and the sentence about the Constitutional Court are particularly hilarious) to portray OV as a superhero: “one of the fiercest enemies of the abuses of financial capitalism” who for instance “waged (and won) an epic battle with the banking lobby”.
Kind of a Hungarian Superdupont, same white pyjamas, black vest of course. This article being published by Le Monde (whose Vienna correspondent is ordinarily highly critical of OV) tells more about the current disarray in France than it does about Hungary.
The LeMonde author was paid handsomely for this, I suppose. The article is not only complete BS, but it is really strange and counterintuitive to appear in LeMonde (as opposed to say in Le Figaro).
Fidesz uses all methods to create a better publicity, they target individual people as well as engage PR, lobbyist firms to do the same indirectly. Have not been too effective so far.
Fidesz politcians do believe (and of course desperately want to believe it too) that foreign press negative reports are really a coordinated attack on the nation itself, so in all likelihood Fidesz heavily employs the national security apparatus (which is anyway a mania of Fidesz, according to the media, Fidesz called them to provide info about Swiss bank accounts, to find out who are trying to defame Hungary and create an economic crises, to name a few important issues where they contribute). Ridiculous. But Fidesz needs enemies. They (as all communities) thrive on enemies.
The top Fidesz politicians really believe the world they (a rather small fraternity with a religious support bae) created (like the millions of Nazis believeing and adoring Hitler of the crying supporters of the Dear Leader), and they really think that Hungary is triumphant and would be a new Austria (only better) but for foreign enemies hell-bent on denying Hungary its righful place among the powers of the world. I kid you not.
I don’t think this has anything to do with Fidesz PR. It’s entirely about French “souverainism” which affects both the right and the left, as demonstrated earlier by the EU referendum in 2005. Interestingly, this is also a “back to the future” kind of praise.
Le Figaro hasn’t published a pro-Orbán paper for a long time (they were quite enthusiastic in 2010-2011, as were several MPs from the UMP party). My guess is it’s because Mr. Sarkozy played heavily the Merkel card, which you obviously cannot do while praising OV at the same time. But it might resurface any time.
Souverainists form a rather loose family, and they don’t have a national media close to their views so their opinions may pop up anywhere. Mrs Le Pen – the only French party leader who has actually spoken highly of OV recently – is actively trying to enroll them. Funnily, her party’s “old guard” has been close to Jobbik for years…
I was in Ottawa when De Gaulle burped that out–a ‘senior’s’ moment if ever there was one. “Oh, I can do this…let’s have some fun.” Almost led to the separation of the province. Pearson should have chewed him out.
You can read the whole De Gaulle article in Googlish (Google English) here, courtesy of Google. It’s joke, really.
“There has been a systematic smear campaign against Hungary since the 2010 elections, whereby large-circulation newspapers, television shows and other media tendentiously spread false and discrediting news on a daily basis. These news reports attempt to convince public opinion, which is unfamiliar with the Hungarian reality, that democracy has been undermined in Hungary, that minorities are persecuted, that the press is not free, that ordinary people must fear, that anti-Semitism and prejudice are raging.
This crusade is the reaction of the left-wing and liberal intellectuals dominating the international media to the devastating defeat the Hungarian voters inflicted on them and the conservative revolution in Hungary. The leftists and liberals fear a Europe-wide conservative shift, which is why they wish to wipe out the results of the Hungarian change and launched a smear campaign against us.”
I don’t think this idea would go down very convincingly in Germany, Britain etc, that their media is dominated by left-wing liberal intellectuals who fear a Europe-wide conservative shift caused by Hungary…
I have read things like this a hundred times and it’s always shocking and funny at the same time.
Yes! You got that right! We don’t want a conservative shift … Duh! How did you figure it out?
Get a load of this! We believe that the majority of the Hungarians don’t want it either. Why the drama? Because you are right ???
Bang, bang, bang (my head) …
I thank Mutt for the technical contribution and renew my plea on an other ground. Namely, it is not our English sensibility, but our good taste that makes it so difficult to accept, I understand that. However, Jewish Laws, simply stated, would mean laws that are made by Jews. Then it would be Jewish law all that is in the Bible, they indeed are Jewish laws. If you want to distinguish, as you properly should, then the laws discussed here, cannot but be called Jew Laws, as they were actually intended to be. I respect, even understand your reluctance, but I don’t think you have a case here.
Sandor, I like you very much but I’m sticking with tappancs’s very good suggestion as anti-Jewish laws.
Eva, I like you just as much, respect and honor you at every opportunity I get. And just because you are wrong, as in this case, (besides, it doesn’t happen that often), I shall not stop doing so.
A Warped Jewish Quota can be another term.
Most university applicants lived in Budapest. Their children applied for higher education in large numbers. The numerus clausus helped the christian hungarians in budapest.
Less all others in the provinces.
“Numerus clausus in HungaryThe Hungarian Numerus Clausus was introduced in 1920. Though the text did not use the term “Jew”, it was nearly the only group overrepresented in higher education. The policy is often seen as the first Anti-Jewish Act of twentieth century Europe.
Its aim was to restrict the number of Jews to 6%, which was their proportion in Hungary at that time; the rate of Jewish students was approximately 15% in the 1910s. In 1928—because of the pressure of liberal capital and League of Nations—a less explicit version of the act was passed. In the period of 1938–1945 the anti-Jewish acts were revitalised and eventually much worsened, partly due to German Nazi pressure, but also due to the liquidation of left-wing or centrist Hungarian parties during the White Terror.
Many Hungarian scientists such as Edward Teller emigrated partly because of the Numerus Clausus.”
Ironically, you slovaks and slavs contain more asian haplogroup markers, but we don’t call you mongoloid. (Haplogroup N and haplogroup Q markers)
But I can’t understand why are you racist, and why do you hate asian people.
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