“National literature” in the making in Hungary

Last night when I read that Heti Válasz will be coming out with sensational revelations about how Ferenc Gyurcsány’s  infamous speech at Balatonőszöd in the spring of 2006 ended up in Fidesz hands, I thought that today’s topic was a given. I should have known better. It turned out to be a cheap journalistic performance. The so-called “crown witness,” that is the informer, was totally discredited within a few hours. Anyone who’s interested in the story should listen to György Bolgár’s interview with the informer on “Megbeszéljük” on Klubrádió. Actually, the whole two-hour program makes for worthwhile listening, including two other important interviews that Bolgár conducted.

But it’s just as well that I had to change topics because for days I have been contemplating turning to one of my favorite essayists, András Nyerges, for inspiration. I’ve written about Nyerges several times. He is a full-time novelist and poet, but on the side once a month or so he writes short pieces comparing the present Hungarian right to its counterpart between the two world wars. Nyerges must have combed through hundreds and hundreds of right-wing newspapers. Some of his findings are quite embarrassing to later greats of Hungarian literature. That’s why the subtitle of one volume of his collected essays is “Blasphemous Investigations.”

A couple of days ago it came to light that one of the most distasteful characters in Viktor Orbán’s entourage, Imre Kerényi, made another outrageous comment on a local television station serving the inhabitants of District V in Budapest. I’ve written about Kerényi three times, but perhaps the most revealing post was entitled “Imre Kerényi, the brains behind the ‘Table of the Basic Laws.'” Kerényi seems to have a free hand when it comes to spending billions of forints on kitsch art or a “National Library” that even includes a third-rate cookbook from the Kádár period.

There is only one good thing that one can say about Kerényi. He doesn’t hide the fact that  as “commissioner in charge of art” he divides all art forms into “right and left” or “national and international.” Good and bad. For instance, he views the history of twentieth-century Hungarian literature as a victory of the left over the right. In fact, he makes no secret of his belief that the literary greats of the right were actually suppressed. But, he says, from here on everything will be different. The current regime will develop its own “national canon.” Now that they are in power, they will make sure that those who have been successful both inside and outside the country, for example Péter Esterházy and Péter Nádas, will be pushed into the background.

Actually, it is unlikely that the Hungarian government can ruin the careers of these two particular writers because their international fame protects them, but others are not so lucky. Let’s take, for example, the University of Performing Arts whose president is not a favorite of the regime. In order to ruin the institution, the government simply cut back its support. With the National Theater at least they had the decency to let Róbert Alföldi, the current director, finish his term. But when he reapplied for the position, the powers that be made sure that their man, naturally someone with right-wing political views, got the job. Kerényi was one of the jurors. He admitted that the nomination of the new director wasn’t exactly cricket but, he said, sorry, “our time has arrived.”

Kerényi’s latest pronouncement on the local TV station was that from here on everything will be different in the National Theater. It will not be a theater of “fags” but of “loyalty” and “love.” Keep in mind that this man is a member of the Hungarian government.

And now to Nyerges. Let’s see how the Hungarian right saw the state of Hungarian literature in the 1920s and 1930s. A Hungarian member of parliament in 1920 expressed his view that “national literature went to the dogs and anyone who tried to follow the national or religious path was branded. A new kind of literature was born: the literature of Pest, an anti-literature.” And he went on to list the names of those “from whom the national feeling died out”: Ferenc Molnár-Neumann, Mór Szomori-Weiss, Sándor Bródy, Ernő Szép-Schőn, Lajos Bíró-Blau. “The time of reckoning has come. The time will come when everybody will be measured by our natural feelings.” Cécile Tormay, just lately elevated to the national curriculum, called Endre Ady, one of Hungary’s greatest poet, “the singing gravedigger of the nation.” These right-wingers bemoaned the fact that Hungarian literature seemed to be following Western models. Just as Kerényi in the same television appearance complained that the Hungarian National Theater’s performances are not Hungarian enough. The performances are indistinguishable from others elsewhere in Europe or North America.

At least in the 1920s some of the critics of the Western model admitted that Hungarian conservative literature didn’t really have outstanding writers “with the exception of Ferenc Herczeg and Ottokár Prohászka.” The latter, as you may recall, was the founding father of the idea of Hungarism later adopted by Ferenc Szálasi. Cécile Tormay’s “rehabilitation” as a great writer is especially amusing considering that her own conservative or right-wing contemporaries found her untalented. Dezső Szabó compared her to Renée Erdős, the author of light novels much favored by middle-class ladies of no great literary refinement.

Gyula Pekár, a mediocre writer and politician, was certain that there were “two Hungarian literary canons that are engaged in a life and death battle.” He, as undersecretary in charge of cultural affairs in the early 1920s, made sure that the “national side” would emerge victorious. The Hungarian writer Sándor Márai, recently discovered in international circles as a great writer, complained  in 1932 about “the ideological terror of a reactionary minority.” He added that “not liking Pekár but reading [Gyula] Krúdy is considered to be treason, but even then we cannot agree to make the mistake of mixing up Hungarian literature with national literature.”

The Orbán government’s cultural policy is practically a carbon copy of the Horthy regime’s attempt to force “national” literature on the country’s literati. The interesting thing, in my opinion, is that Kerényi most likely knows very little about what András Nyerges is talking about in this essay. His own instincts are simply guiding him down the same path. There is nothing new under the sun.

Advertisements

43 comments

  1. “A Hungarian member of parliament in 1920 expressed his view that “national literature went to the dogs and anyone who tried to follow the national or religious path was branded. A new kind of literature was born: the literature of Pest, an anti-literature.” And he went on to list the names of those “from whom the national feeling died out”: Ferenc Molnár-Neumann, Mór Szomori-Weiss, Sándor Bródy, Ernő Szép-Schőn, Lajos Bíró-Blau.”

    One needs to understand that the listed writers did not use the names listed after the hyphen. Those were probably their names before they magyarized them, and the emphasis on these non-Magyar names was to show that they were all Jews.

  2. Yes! Yes! There is something new under the sun and it is as glaring and as phoney as a five-dollar diamond ring.
    Kerenyi, the former theatrical director, who started his “distinguished carrier” in the communist party, is true to his renegade self. He is a holier than thou right-winger and since he is spending almost unrestricted amounts of money, that make him loose any measure of moderation and taste. He feels no compulsion to be discreet, or tasteful, in fact he finds pleasure in throwing his weight around and the grater consternation he can cause, the happier and more bellicose he is.
    This was not typical of the post-war right in the twenties and thirties. Ferenc Herceg, Dezso Szabo, Jeno, and Viktor Rakosi were all gentlemen. They may have spoken out agains the others, rejected liberalism all together, but had good taste to be smooth, and detached.
    This entire regime of Orban is particularly notable for its crude, unbridled hatred and their brazen avarice. This is new.
    Hungary has never been under the heals of such an uncouth bunch of yahoos since the Turks left in the XVIIIth century, with the possible, but not certain exception of the Rakosi boys.
    That reminds me: this present-day machinations with the tobacco licenses is eerily reminiscent of the 1949-1950 expropriations ie. “nationalizations” without compensation.
    Oh! Well! Something old, something new.

  3. Note on the cookbook: I wonder if it is Az Inyesmester Nagy Szakacskonyve. I actually love that book including the charming illustrations. I have the copy I grew up with. The author is somewhat eccentric in his hatred of garlic.

  4. Nyerges is great, his findings in old newspapers are very often uncanny.

    As to Kerényi, repulsive though he is to the extreme (as well as crazy), remember that the whole thing is not just about the canon and jobs, but also, in fact foremost, to make the urban, liberal, educated, western-oriented intellectuals/elite livid. To thoroughly humiliate them and to make them really understand that they have been triumphed over, their era is over for good. For a real victor does not just want to win, he has to humiliate the losers.

    It started to dawn upon these urbanites that they will forever remain in the minority and in the present election system the “people of lesser literary tastes” will always decide and send people to the National Theatre and suchlike.

    So Orbán and his friends simply don’t have to care about these urbanites. And if he can afford not to care about them, he will do what he loves best: he will tease them with crazy people like Kerényi (who is considered insane even by many right wingers) so that the urbanites will feel that they are outraged but are also powerless and will forever remain so.

    It is bullying par exellance. But it is a very strong undercurrent in Fidesz politics.

  5. It’s not just about literature. The music for which this government uses taxpayers’ money is just as dreadful, shallow and tasteless. Watch and listen: the new “Song of Sticking Together” (Az összetartozás dala), http://youtu.be/37JUDApcVVg , which the Hungarian nation is supposed to sing together on Trianon Day, June 4th.

  6. @LOLcats

    “…he has to humiliate the losers.”

    This is the Hungarian mindset: it typifies every aspect of Hungarian social and economic and political activity. It precludes cooperation; win/win situations; and democratic political activity. In Hungary, someone must win…and the real pleasure is driving the other’s nose into the mud. Thus, there’s no possibility of political trade-offs. (But there is political buy-offs, of course.) In business, rarely is a deal long-term, or repeated–one-side can’t restrain itself from getting the better of the other…and bragging about it.

    Eleven year olds; the country is made up of belligerent kids. At some point, all muddy and dirty and bleeding, they’ll wish to go home and ask the grown-ups to clean up after them. But they’ll find that the adults had left the country.

  7. Petofi: Orbán was humiliated, deeply, Gyurcsány won over him once in an election and especially when he came to Budapest he was treated as a worthless country bumpkin (or a redneck, a hick) by urban people (SZDSZ, MSZP).

    He, along with his close friends of similar background like Szájer, Simicska, Áder etc. are now taking revenge.

    The urbanites at least now know how did it feel to be humiliated back then for so long. Only Orbán and friends are savvy lawyers who made sure the competition is eliminated for good (and in a legal way, which is the best).

    This is war (they certainly see it that way) and in war you need a complete victory. You don’t deal with the enemy, you finish them. That is what they are doing on every front (and even if there will ever be a new enemy, it will be a different, a new one, the old one, they killed it). Sorry, but this is how they think, I know it for a fact.

  8. @trespasser
    “This is war”

    Fidesz & Orban wage war against Hungary. They were elected to be servants, but they soon became oppressors.

    “legal way”

    Orban swore to uphold the Constitution in 2010, then abolished it in 2011.
    Since then he is an illegal usurper.

  9. @trespasser

    I have to agree with tappanch: beat down the enemy–and I have no sympathy for MSZP, although I like Gyurcsany–but don’t kill off the country while doing it.

    There are many problems with Orban, but the biggest in my book is that he bears ill-will to the country and its citizens–that’s unforgivable in a country’s leader. That his fellow Fidesz politicians abide this is disgusting: that the Fidesz faithful disregard this is abysmally saddening.

  10. My impression (I was last there for a few weeks in 2010) is that the Fidesz government seems to think the people need to be punished, like bad children who have been indulged for too long. A narrow minded nationalism is being promoted, and groups are set against each other in a divide and conquer scenario. This is happening in other countries as well. In the case of Hungary, restrictive cultural and social legislation is added to the economic austerity, giving the punishment a unique flavour.

  11. Off: If anybody’s looking for some cheap entertainment, apparently Kanye West took the liberty to take some free creative inspiration from Omega. Check out the racist Hungarians vs. American supremacist showdown in the comment thread. I can’t make up my mind whose English is worse..

  12. One of the first things the Nazis did after getting in power in 1933 in Germany was to burn books – now should we wait for Fidesz to do something similar ?

    Of course nowadays we other media and other ways too …

    What a horrible situation – I can’t write down the curses that my wife just taught me, those Orbán henchmen are unbelievable!

  13. @tappanch: It’s hard to justify keeping Hungary under the excessive deficit procedure if Orban, no matter what, keeps the deficit under 3% to get the EU money. It’s not so difficult to levy new taxes if you have unlimited power (as Orban now does).

    Maybe the EU could start an excessive democracy-deficit procedure against Hungary? 🙂 (just dreaming)

  14. Bullying? Orban?
    The Hungarian 99% which doesn’t see it, must be so scared that only foreign help will liberate them from their prison.
    Local forces are not sufficient to achieve it.
    I think the activities of the legal teams, which work for this regime, account to crimes against humanity.
    They must be litigated in the Hague, before Srebrenica will happen in Budapest.

    Srebrenica: A Cry from the Grave – PBS
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/cryfromthegrave/‎
    The companion Website for the documentary film Srebrenica: A Cry from the Grave, presented by Thirteen/WNET New York, features eyewitness accounts, …

  15. Tresspasser :
    Petofi: Orbán was humiliated, deeply, Gyurcsány won over him once in an election and especially when he came to Budapest he was treated as a worthless country bumpkin (or a redneck, a hick) by urban people (SZDSZ, MSZP).
    He, along with his close friends of similar background like Szájer, Simicska, Áder etc. are now taking revenge.
    This is war (they certainly see it that way) and in war you need a complete victory. You don’t deal with the enemy, you finish them.

    That’s the way, indeed.
    Unfortunately Orbán remained that very redneck who he ever was, his grasp on liberal arts in general practically nonexistent. Obviously he just can not comprehend the value – and consequently – the importance of culture, education, literature and such, as it clearly manifested even in his government’s actions – just look at the budget cuts all over cultural, educational costs versus soccer for instance.

    I guess, this is one of the reasons why lunatics like Kerényi been let out to run amuck, the other reason clearly is the brainwashing propaganda technique what Wolfi mentioned above, never mind the rotten stench…

    Brave new world!

  16. @Sentrooppa Santra and Wolfi

    I got very upset when I heard about, and then listened to this new “National Cooperation Song”. It’s about a peach tree that Hungarians should dance around, and about ripening peaches, which are the fruits of the blessed earth.
    I was born during the cold war, and as children we were indoctrinated, already in nursery school, to celebrate the regime with colouring red flags and singing such pathetic songs in choirs. We were so happy when it was over, and in the 90s we could show the American friends around the open-air museum (graveyard!) of cold-war public sculptures. And now this. We’ve got the books, the paintings, now we have the music.

  17. On the original topic: it seems to me that in a way, it was always the case.
    Throughout Hungary’s history, the leading social, political and indeed cultural elite was divided on which way Hungary should develop.

    Hungary was always more or less behind Western-Europe and always wanted to be more developed. The question was how. One idea was to follow and copy the achievements of Western civilization as much as possible. Eg King Stephen’s heritage of agreeing to take up Christianity and the Western state organization, get a German princess for a wife, get a crown from Rome etc. Or Austria-Hungary. Or the “Nyugat” generation of literary movements, poets, writers, journalists a bit later.
    On the other side there were the ones who saw these directions as giving up the sovereignity and own characteristics of Hungarians. They felt the price for developing was to high if it meant a slave-like copying of Western countries, and accused the Nyugatists with treason. They felt Hungary had to find her own solutions, her own way, building on her own ancient roots, rather than copy the west. The national writers’ movement (against the Nyugat movement) in the early 20th century wanted to harness the talent of the uneducated, devastatingly poor masses of pheasant children in the countryside.

    Nowadays the struggle is manifested in the pro-EU vs pro-Hungarian “we won’t be a colony” tendencies. Many people argue eg for removing Alfoldi’s leadership from the National Theatre by saying, “well, in the past 8 (20) years the theatre was under left-liberal rule, now it is time for the Hungarian national side to have a chance. ”

    It’s easy to see the point in both arguments. But it seems to me that throughout history, Hungary usually benefited more from compromising with the West, and following their civilization. In a way, genuine Hungarian cultural and economical boost, international influence and reputation was more striving when in tune with the west.
    You will see the same if you look at other countries in similar situations, eg Poland and Estonia (historically AND now), more recently Finland.
    Hungary always seems to run into a dead-end street when it wants to show how well it can do on her own.

    (Partly because a country of its size etc, might fall into Russia’s lap if not following the Western path, again see Finland, Estonia, Poland etc. It would be better to figure out how to stand for Hungary’s interests as complying members of the EU, see the above 3, but this is already a different topic.)

  18. Tappanch:

    the EU never had and never will have any tools against Hungary. It’s been a myth for liberal dreamers.

    In the history of the EU they never used any real power and Orbán knows well that they never will (and can’t, it’s legally and politically too complicated).

    The whole EU is a toy of spoiled Western intellectuals who don’t have the slightest idea about life in the East. They just watch Orbán as in a spectacle but really haven’t got a clue and never will, such is the distance between West and East.

    By the way, if Hungary gets out Orbán will soon increase pensions and the like, and he will get 60% of the votes (remember he has not been below an overall 40% in the last 12 years and below 30% perhaps since 1994 which will be 20 years in 2014) which would translate into 85% (if not more) of the mandates.

    We have seen only the first act.

    Orbán has been just getting warmed up.

    Once having free rein over the economy and able to spend 2-3 GDP% more (and increase debt in the meantime) he will “restructure everything” (continue with his Bolivarian revolution) and stay on for ever.

    Liberals (me included) will soon remember the 2010-2013 years as the good times.

  19. @Frog
    Your numbers are wrong.
    The most Orban got was 33% of the electorate in 2010. It is down significantly since then.

    The majority of the people want a change of government.(see poll a few days ago)

    The lack of unity and lack of leadership skills in the democratic opposition that makes Orban feel comfortable.

  20. Here is the next step in the Fidesz takeover of the rest of the media.
    Tax on commercials to be paid by the owners of television/radio channels or newspapers.

    The tax will be highly progressive.
    Upto 5 billion HUF= 1%
    5-10 billion HUF= 10%
    over 10 billion= 20%

    This has nothing to do with the EU. Orban’s real goal is

    1. to force out foreign owners of media from Hungary, then
    2. oligarchs indebted to Fidesz will take them over for very little money, then
    3. Orban will cancel the tax.

    The result will be Fidesz media empires with no opposition

    http://www.kormany.hu/download/4/75/e0000/Javaslat.pdf

    Targets:
    owners of the 2 commercial television channels (TV2 and RTLKlub), owners of the daily Nepszabadsag, owners of newspapers in the countryside not owned by this mafia yet.

    http://privatbankar.hu/ado/reklamzabalo-brutalisan-megadoztatjak-a-hirdeteseket-258088

  21. Frog: “The whole EU is a toy of spoiled Western intellectuals who don’t have the slightest idea about life in the East.”

    Why do you think so? I do share your feeling that often not much is known about “the East” in the Western EU countries but your comment for me suggests that you do also not have much of an idea about the West and the history and workings of the EU project. Otherwise you could (at least) acknowledge that there are countries in “the West” with also still quite recent authoritarian experience, that there are countries that also wish to preserve their “sovereignty” and struggle with the unfortunate fact that they are not strong enough to match the US or Asia on their own, that there are countries that also know political interference in areas which should not be too politicised. The EU project is perhaps wished for by some “intellectuals” (but I think this quite negative connotation of the word is already some misunderstanding, because in a free society, what is the problem with an “intellectual” with “crazy” ideas?) but it is also about rather down-to-earth business, the common market. Actually, the economic side of the whole project appears to be one of the most advanced – which then leads to the fact that politically, the tools to keep Orban in check are underdeveloped. You are of course free to remind the West of its lack of knowledge about the East, but that could be accompanied by more understanding of the West than the assessment it is some crazy “intellectuals” that force a weird liberal programme on stupid masses.

  22. Oh, but Kirsten is completely right, Frog!

    The EU has not been dreamed up by liberal intellectuals from the flower power 60s. The Eu nowadays is based on the hard rational fact that a small continent, consisting of fragmented little states occasionally at each others’ heels, cannot compete in an increasingly globalised world economically. The euro was not created because daydreamers like the sound of it, but because a common economic market works much smoother with a common currency, it stabilises prices, no pressure from exchange rates etc. All the “stupid” ideas about the sizes of hencages are not about animal welfare but about having necessary common standards.
    The Eastern European countries were welcome partly because of hardcore security reasons.

    Your other point about what the EU can do about Orban. You must remember that the EU is Hungary+26 other countries and member states have veto rights. But the usual superpower responsibilities and rights for some of them, like Germany, still exist, within or without the EU. These countries will have to deal with Hungary – eventually.

  23. Sorry, I was provoking on purpose. First, to tappanch: it does not matter what percentage of electorate supports a party (especially in the current system, as there is no minimal level which was 50% earlier), anyone can vote and if they don’t, well, that is their problem. Of the votes cast, which matters, my figures are correct.

    Kristen, Cheshire Cat, true, you are right, but what I was alluding to was how Orbán thinks and in a way I think he is right in his assessment.

    It is not the exact ideology according to political scientist that matters anyway, but more like that fact that from Hungary anyone is a liberal, hell, the Finnish or Flemish nationalists as well, certainly a Merkel’s CDU would be socially and in every way more liberal than anybody in Hungary. They debate and think things over and are constrained by a lot of laws and moral rules — as opposed to Orbán who has 100% complete power like any nice authoritarian ruler and does things right away. He decides something in two days its law and assets and rights are taken away. That’s that.

    The people who dreamt up the EU were old school gentlemen who behaved in a certain way and these manners and constraints are absolutely not respected by Orbán, who is a zealous lawyer. Is something written and prohibited or not? That is what he asks first (then how can we change the law, how can we change the judge etc.).

    This aggressiveness displayed by Orbán and his friends is completely unknown in the EU, but just because something was a custom so far, it does not mean it will survive.

    Orbán does not care and he can afford not to care (given his internal support).

    In fact he wins again and again vs. the EU (he is out of the deficit procedure and can spend as much as he thinks he should to win the next election). He can expropriate everything (see the new advertising tax on RTLKlub TV) and Merkel cannot and will not do a thing, it’s not the German’s style.

    But if you see from close: why should Orbán not tax and expropriate the German’s assets? He can keep the money and will not lose anything, it’s free money in his view (see, in the long run investment falls etc, but in the long run we are all dead, politics is always about winning lot of short term battles).

    The Westerners are naive (ignorant) and do not get what makes people like Orbán and Szájer and Martonyi tick. We also cannot understand Venezuelans who voted for Chavez because we cant speak Spanish, are not indigenous people living in a traditional society with local landlords etc. Sorry, but we have to face this reality. (If you were right, we would not be here by the way, exactly because I am right and I can say how Orbán and co. think supports our current position, sorry for being so arrogantly smartass, I also assume a lot of things, but Ialso think I have more direct knowledge of their minds).

  24. tappanch :
    @Frog
    Your numbers are wrong.
    The most Orban got was 33% of the electorate in 2010. It is down significantly since then.
    The majority of the people want a change of government.(see poll a few days ago)
    The lack of unity and lack of leadership skills in the democratic opposition that makes Orban feel comfortable.

    What makes Orban ‘comfortable’…is the 500,000 votes from Erdely; and the fact that he’s going to steal the election anyway…

  25. @Frod:

    “The people who dreamt up the EU were old school gentlemen who behaved in a certain way…”

    That’s right, as diplomats they acted in a diplomatic way vis-a-vis their colleagues. Orban, like a chimpanzee on speed-he goes careening about causing mayhem to the astonishment of the professionals who surround him in Brussels. The schmuck thinks he’s being given a ‘respectable distance’, whereas they just think him manic and crazy.

    The EU, I would guess, knows how to go about ‘taming’ Orban, but for the time being, they’re keeping their powder dry.

    (Love those Old West sayings.)

  26. Frod, thank you for these longer comment. I think there are a few points where we might indeed speak about rather different things. The first is the notion of ‘liberal’. It was raised here on the blog already earlier that there appears to be some very specific interpretation of this term in the Hungarian discourse. From what you write I understand that ‘liberal’ could mean anything related to a basic recognition of or even respect for an individual’s rights even if these concern people that I otherwise do not agree with. If that is considered to be kind of frivolous, I will indeed be necessary to reconsider how to address Hungarians when asking for such basic norm. My impression so far was that Hungarians generally do understand the concept and would not even consider it excentric, they just do not believe this could work also in Hungarian circumstances. But this is a different problem in my impression. Seen from outside, the current problems are not caused by specifics incomprehensible to foreigners but by well-described problems of societies that are (out of different reasons) unable to force rules on its rulers. You believe that governments or politicians behave more or less decently because they are gentlemen, while I would say that such behaviour is the consequence of public pressures, probably invisible for outsiders as long as public life runs smoothly but immediately visible when it does not. Media are alarmed, people are in the street demonstrating, and not to forget, the public does not just say in fatalist fashion that nothing can be done about it. Examples for this are the recent affair of French budget minister Cahuzac but also a year earlier German president Wulff. There is no mystery to it, the mystery for me is why it is so difficult in Hungary to break the belief that ‘nothing can be done’ by the people themselves.

  27. Two remarks on the history and the power of the EU:

    Though the first step was just an economic cooperation (Montanunion), the basic idea of de Gaulle and Adenauer was very simple:

    Break that chain of regular wars every generation between the European powers!

    Though I did not like the very conservative politics of those statesmen two I must admire them for this, they paved the way for peace and prosperity in Europe.

    And the EU is not powerless – remember that crazy Austrian Haider ?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6rg_Haider
    Though the activities of EU politicians were rather symbolic, in the end Haider had to leave the Austrian government and return to his local state Carinthia, which really is a hotbed for rightwingers …

  28. TGM said it right: in Hungary everything that is from the West, however conservative it is and irrespective of what it is we actually talk about, is liberal by definition.

    Liberal, of course, also means Jewish (and as such undesired, bad).

    Petofi: you are completely right, but Orbán does not care at all what the Western gentlemen think about him for his only constituency is the conservative plurality, which until Fidesz remains the dominant party of the right, he will hold given the election system. None of us is so shameless and we are not politicians, but I guess this is rule no. 1 in politics: you must learn that many people will hate you and that you should only concentrate on your constituency.

    It would be high time for the EU to act, the only two reasons I can think of why they don’t are that (i) they don’t really care and/or (ii) they realize that they cannot do anything.

    Kirsten, yes, but in Hungary it is really almost impossible to do anything so lethargy is actually justified. See, in the West nobody wrote a new dream constitution and election law (and media law, and acquired media, appointed pals etc. – of course power wielded not only through laws) to benefit from, Fidesz did. In this system a legal change of power (with power to govern) is almost impossible. It is like in Russia (although perhaps in Russia it is even more hopeless, but not much more). This is the big difference, and people so are resigned (and many of course actually like it).

  29. wolfi :
    Though the activities of EU politicians were rather symbolic, in the end Haider had to leave the Austrian government and return to his local state Carinthia, which really is a hotbed for rightwingers …

    In fact, Haider’s retiring to Carinthia and turning into a “rank-and-file member of the party” (einfaches Parteimitglied) was a matter of endless jokes in Austrian public discourse throughout those years. Everybody knew he was the Leader all the time. But at least after his death his party has almost completely discredited itself, with all of its leaders before court for diverse corruption charges – and for ruining the economy of their “hotbed”.

    Which makes me wonder whether Orbán, or should something happen to him, his successors will finally be stopped simply by a total economic collapse. Chavez had oil to support his unorthodox policies, but how long can these Hungarian guys continue buying naïve seniors’ votes and robbing the country?

  30. As far as I know, national literature had more succesful poets and writers than the leftist-liberals. Forexample: Petőfi, Arany, Vörösmarty, Jókai, Madách etc…

  31. @Durickoci

    Are you joking?

    Take Petőfi.

    Petőfi was a leftist liberal [of course, these words were not used then],
    just read his poems.

    You see, the revolution in 1848 was not only against the Austrians, but against
    the Hungarian feudal system as well.

    Orban is bringing back a version of this oppressive feudal system.

    As for Jókai, read Rab Ráby, or watch the movie.

    Talented people want meritocracy, they did not and will not join a kleptocracy like Orban’s.

  32. I think Frog is right when he says for SOME Hungarians liberalism has come to mean ” everybody can do whatever they want, and if you commit a crime, you will not be punished”.
    Nowadays, liberalism has even started to mean the same as “democracy” – a negative term.

    A lot of Hungarians got tired of this whole “democracy” business in the past 20 years, they think it is a waste of time, it’s about pointless arguing and disorder. “Look at the EU, it is falling apart, the whole overdemocratic, overliberal freedom of theirs.”

    It is also true that for many Hungarians “nothing can be done anyway”. Even if they genuinely tried, they would have no idea how they could do something about Orban. It’s a symptom of dependent personality disorder with individuals, to reply to every suggestion with “yes, but…”. When my English husband lived in Hungary, he often went ahead and fought for things that I told him would be “no missions” – but I was often surprised how skilled standing up for yourself worked in Hungary. Not always, not smoothly, but often.
    Even Hungarians who see this loose canon government for what it is, haven’t got the skills, the confidence and the arguments to do so. But they have FEAR, fear of the type you might not have experienced if you have always lived in the West.

    So I’m afraid Kirsten, when you say a lot of Hungarians don’t understand the concept, you are right.
    “You believe that governments or politicians behave more or less decently because they are gentlemen, while I would say that such behaviour is the consequence of public pressures” is another thing that most Hungarians don’t realize.

    So yes, Hungarians need some education on the basics. And it is because of that, I think, that Orban’s government is not an isolated only-in-Hungary-can-it-happen case. As Poles say, if the Kaczynski twins had been more charismatic, Poland could be Hungary now. And all the other ex-Soviet block countries could be prone to the same tendencies.

  33. Which makes me wonder whether Orbán, or should something happen to him, his successors will finally be stopped simply by a total economic collapse. Chavez had oil to support his unorthodox policies, but how long can these Hungarian guys continue buying naïve seniors’ votes and robbing the country?

    Actually I seriously doubt that there will be any successor at all. The guys are kept at bay by Orbán himself, without him the whole house of cards will tumble down within weeks – at the most. They will turn on each other in a heartbeat.

    Presently the Fidesz goes on belief and/or shear greed: there are the masses, mesmerised by one charismatic leader, then those who goes along for a price, – and that’s about it. The really hardcore right-wingers already joined to Jobbik, the rest is the “undecided”, whit clear enough mind not to join to these “nationalist’s”, but sceptical enough to ignore the so called left,- the liberals presently practically invisible in Hungary.

    If you look at it this way, to the Fidesz there is no reason of existence without Orbán, if no preacher, (“Spiritual Leader” to the feeble souls) no dough, what else is there?

    Let me know, if anyone figured it out!

  34. I was reflecting on the comment of Sentrooppa-Santra – missed my quotation marks (among others;)

  35. Cheshire cat, valójában I wrote this: “My impression so far was that Hungarians generally DO understand the concept … they just do not believe this could work also in Hungarian circumstances.” Of course, I have limited information. But I believe immediately that your husband, asking decidedly but in a fair manner, achieved what he wished to achieve. (Because the concept IS understood, even if perhaps not generally applied.) I do not live in Hungary, and I do understand that people despair, and yet it is not true that what you see currently is the only manifestation of the Hungarian “way of life”. I read here of the many peculiarities of “planet Hungary”, but these have existed before also, without distorting public life to the extent that is the case now. Which is why I am trying to repeat that yes, it looks bleak currently, but NOT because it could never change, or because Hungarians are unsuited for democracy etc. No, it looks bleak because people such as Frog, with a Western outlook, cannot imagine that it makes sense to steadily work on a Western programme for Hungary, and steadily work for support for this programme among people, who – according to the polls – are NOT all sure that OV has been doing a great job during the past three years. As you write also, the tendencies are similar in the countries in the region – but this means also that Hungary could be Poland if people realised that resignation is no solution either.

  36. “Hungarians are unsuited for democracy”…

    This is correct, and will remain so as long as the Catholic Church has as much influence in education as it does now. But that’s not the only problem: education at every level is suspect, and I’m not even thinking of the popular practice of buying degrees.
    A “Hungarian Mind” as currently exhibited by that staunch member of Hungaricum–Schmidtt Pall–believes that there is nothing wrong with plagiarism, indeed, the fault lies with the University for not discovering it!

    But let’s, for the nonce, go afield from Hungary–the notion of exporting Democracy is a particularly simplistic and vile extract of capitalism. Sorry, but you have to live the struggle; the classes must rub up against one another; respect must be earned; institutions must be built; precedents established and intelligently used. That takes time and effort. You can’t just ‘ship’ Democracy to Afghanistan…or Hungary for that matter. (Is that the smell of Trolls fuming?)

  37. The conservative Hungarians must let some fresh air into their brains.
    The liberal Hungarians need some new muscle cells.
    The two could meet in the middle, if the ultra-crooks will be sent to old Recsk, or to new prisons in deep mines.
    All other options are depressing. Hungary’s masses have self-destructed before, and I hope it will not repeat it again.

Comments are closed.