Back to the Middle Ages: Viktor Orbán at the Christian Democratic International

I have been wondering for some time when it is that the media “experts” in the Prime Minister’s Office decide to publish his speeches in full on his own website and when they are satisfied with only a summary. Lately I’m coming to the conclusion that they opt for a summary when the exact words that were uttered are not really suitable for a wider audience. Or perhaps when the prime minister’s speech was delivered at a conference where others also had a chance to talk and might have voiced opinions that are not in line with those of Hungary’s prime minister.

I suspect the latter may have been the case with the speech delivered by Orbán at the conference (“On the Road to a Stronger Europe”) of the Christian Democratic International held in Budapest on October 11. At the core of the speech was Orbán’s belief that “the denial of work and prayer is the reason for the decline of Europe.” Or at least this is what the Prime Minister’s Office decided was worth promulgating.

According to the prime minister, Europe will be strong again if Europeans return to the path of Christianity and work. In fact, he talked about St. Benedict’s dictum “ora et labora” upon which medieval monasticism was based. In the early Middle Ages the Benedictine monasteries were indeed key centers of cultural life, perhaps the only centers. Church and state were one and the same, and the king, for example, Orbán’s idol, King Stephen I, could force his people to attend church every Sunday. But many centuries have passed since then and the world has changed a bit. Orbán, however, longs for the days of “ora et labora.” He went so far in this speech as to claim that the economic crisis that befell the world was caused by modern man’s abandonment of his inherited faith, which is the basis of all good in life: human dignity, freedom, duty, work, family, and nation. Including nation on this list is truly odd because, after all, the Catholic Church stands for universality as opposed to particularism.

The Rules of Saint Benedict / Wikipedia.org

The Rules of Saint Benedict / Wikipedia.org

Not only is it the case that Europeans in the western half of the continent are faithless but there is “today a veritable manhunt against those, mostly central-European politicians who dare to talk about the values of Christian Europe.” Surely, Orbán here is talking about himself. In this connection he mentioned the fact and called it a “gross falsification of history” that the European Constitution make no reference to the Christian heritage of Europe. But as Ferenc L. Lendvai, a philosopher, rightly pointed out, the EU Constitution doesn’t mention the humanism of antiquity either, although it is equally part of Europe’s heritage.

Orbán’s other complaint was that European countries, including naturally the European Union’s superstructure, have no leaders of quality. The institutions they head run on autopilot or, as he put it, they “resemble computers which work very nicely as long as the programs are good.” The world is still “waiting for the mathematicians with their new programs.” I suspect he now thinks of himself as a computer scientist of great mathematical skill. Europe needs leaders who can make brave decisions and who exhibit real commitment. He concluded with the pronouncement that “Europe must be liberated from the mistrust of the liberals and from the grips of greed.”

It looks as if other speakers didn’t quite agree with this not at all Christian Democratic speech. How could they when it is a commonplace by now that in Western European countries there is little difference between the left and the right when it comes to social policy? In this respect both the socialists and the Christian Democrats are “liberals.” So, attacking liberalism is not necessarily popular in parts west of Hungary.

Moreover, Viktor Orbán’s “teachings” have nothing to do with conservatism. He offers up hard right-national talk masked with fake religiosity in the belief that this will be enough for him (and Fidesz) to be accepted in the family of conservative European parties.

I’m almost certain that the majority of European politicians, including those sitting in the European People’s Party’s caucus, are sick and tired of the lectures Orbán frequently delivers. I also wonder what they think of his ill-disguised self-praise of his political abilities and the sharpness of his vision. As if he had the answers to all of today’s economic and social problems which others lack. This must be especially annoying to those who are familiar with the meager achievements of Orbán’s government. Starting with an inherited 1.5 percent economic growth, he led the country back into recession by 2012. Admittedly, if he keeps lying about economic figures abroad, just as he did in London only a few days ago, perhaps the truth can be hidden for a while. But not for ever.

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41 comments

  1. It is always a pleasure to read your incisive comments. With nearly surgical precision V. Orbáns views are put into perspective. And his vision seems to be one of somebody who sees himself in a feudal position, with of course Orbán V. as the visionary leader at the top and the rest of social classes well aligned. The cronies are leaders of the pack, too bad for the poor that they don’t fit into the picture. And what a pity for Hungary’s youth: what hope can there be if you’re stuck with a leader who wants to take your country back to feudalism?

  2. To my German friends I’ve described it like this:

    Orbán’s policies can be seen as a movement in time: 200 years back into feudalism or
    as a movement in space: 1000 km east into Belorussia …

    And don’t forget his maxim:

    If you have nothing then you are nothing!

  3. I didn’t particularly like your post, Wolfi, I just wanted to see what this new ‘Like’ button did!

    (The answer is the little star goes red – rather fitting in an ironic sort of way…)

  4. Sign of the future?

    The opposition candidate for a by-election in Bekescsaba is rejected to be on the ballot by the local election commission.

    She is the joint candidate of the MSzP, E14, PM, DK.

    Because PM (who split from LMP) turned in a certificate that they are a party, dated August 1, the joint candidate cannot be on the ballot. According to the commission, the PM should have certified that they are a party with a document dated later than August 31.

    To summarize, the Fidesz super majority in the election commission prevented the opposition candidate from running using ridiculous, formal arguments.

    http://nol.hu/belfold/formai_hiba_miatt_nem_indulhat_ez_ellenzeki_jelolt_bekescsaban_

  5. OT, as always, but at least on ‘theme’:

    My daughter has to write about a saint of her choice for a school project, and she chose Szent István. She asked me to print out a picture of his tomb, but I have failed totally because he doesn’t seem to have a tomb!

    He was initially buried in the Szent István bazilika in Szekesfehervar, but his body was later ‘translated’ to somewhere else (at which point his right hand was found to be intact). But I can’t find out where his body was moved to!

    The best I can come up with is that his body (except for the Szentjobb, of course) had mysteriously completely decomposed, so there was no body to move. But surely, even in the worst conditions, bones don’t decompose this quickly?

    Can anyone enlighten me on this?

    (My apologies, Éva.)

  6. tappanch :
    Sign of the future?
    The opposition candidate for a by-election in Bekescsaba is rejected to be on the ballot by the local election commission.
    She is the joint candidate of the MSzP, E14, PM, DK.
    Because PM (who split from LMP) turned in a certificate that they are a party, dated August 1, the joint candidate cannot be on the ballot. According to the commission, the PM should have certified that they are a party with a document dated later than August 31.
    To summarize, the Fidesz super majority in the election commission prevented the opposition candidate from running using ridiculous, formal arguments.
    http://nol.hu/belfold/formai_hiba_miatt_nem_indulhat_ez_ellenzeki_jelolt_bekescsaban_

    Loading…

    Indeed. Be prepared for a lot more of this.

    If they wanted to, Fidesz could find a ‘reason’ to exclude just about any candidate they didn’t like. And if they can’t, they can always change the laws so that they can.

    When will people accept that we have moved a long, long way from fair and democratic politics? We are now firmly in the formatives days of a one-party state. If you read up on how the communists took control of the Eastern European states after the war, you’ll find an eerily similar situation and sequence of events.

  7. Re writing about a saint’s life: and how do the Lutheran children feel about this? And the Reformista kids? If I had been given such an assignment, my Lutheran (very anti-Papist) parents would have had a fit!
    Re the ‘like’ button: I actually often wished for one to click on, but now that there is one available–wish it were gone.

  8. It appears to have gone, Gretchen! I suspect Éva is trying things out…

    As an atheist (if not an antitheist) father, I feel very strongly about any religious elements in my children’s education. With my first family, I opted them out of all religious ‘education’ and assemblies, and to my surprise it worked – all three have grown up entirely non-religious.

    But this time around, having married someone who believes in a God (even if only in a very confused way) and who grew up in a country which, culturally, is stuck in the 50s, I was too old and tired for the fight, and gave in. I now have a daughter who proclaims herself a ‘christian’, even though she knows almost nothing about Christ or Christianity…

    Still, reading up on Szent Pisti was a good chance for me to refresh my knowledge of Hungarian history (which, one day, I’ll be teaching her), and to discover just how many huge gaps there were in my knowledge.

  9. “I suspect he now thinks of himself as a computer scientist of great mathematical skill”

    He has recently retired from football. This “8-1” just can’t be him, therefore it must be that his real talents and interests have always rested somewhere else.

    “Including nation on this list is truly odd because, after all, the Catholic Church stands for universality as opposed to particularism.”

    And that’s not a minor issue for the Catholic Church, but I guess that lecturing them on the sacredness of the Turul-bird would have not worked much better.

  10. Thanks, Éva – just the job. I still don’t understand what happened to the body, but at least I now have the photo of the ‘tomb’ that I promised her!

  11. Eva S. Balogh :
    Just a little game: how many languages can you recognize?
    http://greatlanguagegame.com/

    Staggered that I got so many right – 500 points! Mind you some of that was more ‘educated’ guesses than anything else – I hadn’t even heard of some of the languages. Deeply ashamed I didn’t recognise Portuguese though – did it sound like Portuguese to anyone else??

  12. “I still don’t understand what happened to the body”
    In 1085, his grave was opened and his entire right arm cut off. His upper arm is now in Lemberg (Ukrain), his lower arm in Vienna and his right hand in Budapest (after detours to Dubrovnik and Vienna). I don’t know either about the rest of the body. But picture catholics calling others “superstitious heathens.”

  13. We also visited the little chapel in Székesfehérvár once with my sisters – I could even take our dog into the “ruin garden”. The walls of the chapel were painted with primitive scenes from “Hungarian life” – it looked so funny I had to leave for fear of laughing my head off …

    Totally OT:

    Did you read about that German Catholic Bishop Tebartz-van Elst who had a kind of mansion built for him for more than 30 Mio € ?

    The media really went wild when every day news appeared about him – it started with him flying first class to visit the starving children in India (Claiming under oath that this was a lie seems to have been his first sin …) and then details came out about his “house”.

    The funniest one (at least for me):
    Besides having the carpenters build a dining table for about 20 000 € he asked for and got a free standing bath tub designed by Starck for 15 000 € – with two headrests …

    Now the question is: Who will use the second headrest – the Holy Ghost ?

  14. wolfi :

    Did you read about that German Catholic Bishop Tebartz-van Elst who had a kind of mansion built for him for more than 30 Mio € ?

    The media really went wild when every day news appeared about him – it started with him flying first class to visit the starving children in India (Claiming under oath that this was a lie seems to have been his first sin …) and then details came out about his “house”.

    The funniest one (at least for me):
    Besides having the carpenters build a dining table for about 20 000 € he asked for and got a free standing bath tub designed by Starck for 15 000 € – with two headrests …

    Now the question is: Who will use the second headrest – the Holy Ghost ?

    I did. Actually from yesterday’s ATV World News. Your remark about the bathtub is hilarious.

    ATV in this new season came out even more news than before because MTV”s news is distorted and the other commercial stations barely talk about anything else but crime. So, now there will be a program on Sundays in which they talk about foreign news just about how the world sees Hungary (ATV Newshour). They will come out with a dubbed German program about the EU (EU Journal). Surely, they think that Hungarians ought to know more about EU to counterbalance Orbán’s picture of Brussels.

  15. Tappanch: re Békéscsaba.

    Yes, this is the beginning, but the thing is that all this grand coalition between them does not have a single smart lawyer.

    It might well be that even the court will be on the side of the local election board as it seems the opposition just missed an explicit prescription.

    It seems to me that the opposition cannot attract real tough and smart lawyers, as lawyers especially in the provinces are Fidesz-leaning and hate communists.

    Even though lawyers were a privileged bunch before the fall of communism, most of them remain an old school, conservative citizen (polgárok). These people just don’t like the international, European, capitalist, cosmopolitan, Jewish bunch, they like their quiet community. One important rule of thumb is that in the country people in the traditional intelligentsia jobs as as teachers, doctors, lawyers (including prosecutors, judges) are all conservative and hate the urban modernist left.

    In any case, the left lacks smart lawyers and are no match to Fidesz which is literally made up of lawyers, even their oligarchs are lawyers. So too bad that in real life everything gets decided in the prosecution, in the courts and the constitutional courts. But we talked about the left lacking long term vision…

  16. Gizike, but for using the judiciary for power purposes as Fidesz does, you do not need “good lawyers”. You need people who are willing to interpret (whatever) the law in the “required” manner and also who do not know much about economic crime etc. so that they depend entirely on “expert opinion” provided by Fidesz. So spitting at Roma is an “accident”, insulting Roma or Jews is “free expression in a democracy”, returning the insult to a true magyar is “hate speech”, journalists or other troublemakers are fired due to “economic reasons” and so forth. I have not yet understood what outstanding law experts there are in Fidesz, instead it appears that there are people who just excel in misinterpreting and twisting the idea of a state of law, constitutional democracy and so forth. But I read here frequently that they are “good lawyers”, which for me only proves how successful Fidesz propaganda is.

  17. btw, as you can see from their homepage, the cdi calls itself “Centrist”, no longer “Christian”!
    actually the name change already happened in 2001 – but of course some people still prefer “Chriszian”, centrist anyway is a misnomer for many of the participants like Fidesz!

  18. Kirsten, yes, Fidesz controls the courts and they can amend any laws within a day or two, these do help.

    But believe me Fidesz’ lawyers are also smart, compared to the slowness and carelessness and intellectual hairsplitting of the left in legal questions. Worst of all, leftist lawyers have no legal imagination (vision) and are too compromising (in other words they are like the rest of the left).

    Fidesz’ establishment is made up of really passionate lawyers who make sure that they do all paperwork for all public procurements, which are all – down to the smallest local kindergarten renovation – centrally decided by Simicska’s/Nyerges’ people. That is just one example.

    Or see what happened to Feri Papcsák, who was practically accused of corruption in district XIV? In 5 minutes he – as a smart and connected lawyer – shot back that those accusers have actually committed a crime themselves of ‘failing to notify the police about a probably corruption’ which also carries a couple of years. Not surprisingly, despite the tape the matter will go nowhere.

    Or remember that he so-called Kaya Ibrahim method of making problematic companies disappear for good was also invented by Fideszninks. And the list goes on. One cannot understand Fidesz really if one cannot understand what it is to be a lawyer and what it is to be a small-time lawyer dependent on cronies and “legal street-smarts.”

    Fidesz’ lawyers can find out arguments on which the court can at least reasonably base their Fidesz-favouring decisions, without looking too obviously Fidesz-leaning.

  19. Thanks, commart!

    And I’ve found on your blog something about Putin that might apply to Orbán too:
    http://conflict-backchannels.com/2013/10/13/putin/
    “I have wondered if dictators on their way to becoming so have not in their zest to acquire power found novel ways of trapping themselves in their own wires.
    Consider for Putin what any form of retreat would mean as regards arrangements with Kadyrov in Chechnya, the FSB in Moscow, the happily patronized of the “new nobility”; consider for Russia what effects Putin’s absence from power would have on arrangements around the “vertical of power”.
    Putin has weaved a web with himself essential to it.
    One worries that it might not let him go even if he should wish to move sideways into some other and more noble life.”

  20. Gözeke: “Or see what happened to Feri Papcsák, who was practically accused of corruption in district XIV? In 5 minutes he – as a smart and connected lawyer – shot back that those accusers have actually committed a crime themselves of ‘failing to notify the police about a probably corruption’ which also carries a couple of years. Not surprisingly, despite the tape the matter will go nowhere.”

    I believe that an efficient judiciary knows how to reduce this playing around and concentrate on the essence of the matter. The judges should be able to discard some accusations if they are raised only to generate confusion and hinder the investigation of the main point. What you describe is that the judiciary does not want to become more efficient, certainly not the “smart lawyers” of Fidesz who gain so much directly (by not being prosecuted) and indirectly (reputation as smart lawyers).

  21. Hank :
    “I still don’t understand what happened to the body”
    In 1085, his grave was opened and his entire right arm cut off. His upper arm is now in Lemberg (Ukrain), his lower arm in Vienna and his right hand in Budapest (after detours to Dubrovnik and Vienna). I don’t know either about the rest of the body. But picture catholics calling others “superstitious heathens.”

    Thanks Hank. Made me laugh as well.

  22. Hungarian football isn’t getting any better…

    To stand a chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup, Hungary need to win tonight (the last qualifying game) and hope that both Romania and Turkey lose. Turkey are currently losing 2-0 against Holland, so there’s still hope there, but Romania are winning against Estonia 1-0, with 60 minutes gone (a game Romania were favourites to win anyway).

    But all this is irrelevant if Hungary don’t win their game. They are playing Andorra at home – the easiest possible game (Andorra have lost all their games, without scoring a single goal!).

    At half-time it was 0-0, but Hungary have just scored (50 mins) – so at least they have been spared total humiliation…

    So far.

  23. 2-0 after 77 minutes – but only by an own-goal! This really is bad.

    Romania 2 up, with 10 minutes to play, so it’s all pretty irrelevant, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Orbán has the whole Hungarian team shot after this!

  24. Well, that’s it – another international football competition without Hungary.

    Romania winning meant it was all academic anyway, but only getting 2 goals against Andorra at home is just appalling (especially when one was an own-goal). And just to add injury to humiliation, Andorra even had a player sent off!

    OV’s high-budget football project is really working well…

  25. Gőzeke

    Re the regime’s “street smart lawyers” maybe you can tell me this.
    Why does the Orban Regime continue to tolerate the joke that is Peter Polt’s office?

    Time after time political and pure personal vengeance cases instigated by Orban have floundered due to the sheer incompetence of the Prosecutor’s office. It is widely regarded as a joke in legal circles with the lowest of the low (and considering the amount of brain-dead morons that infect middle management level in the state-apparatus that really is saying something) being employed there.

    It has lost Orban cases, why does he permit it to continue? He can bring all the cases he likes to Polt and I know Pete is a loyal Fidesz Poodle but if the staff there are basically incapable of even writing their own name, what’s the point?

  26. Oneill: Why does Orbán continue to tolerate Polt??

    For Orbán it does not matter if the accused opposition people don’t get sentenced. It is enough for Orbán and Fidesz to put the accused into a 7-8-year long legal process, complete with perp walks, case sent back to retrial, appeal, second appeal, extraordinary judicial review etc.

    It costs a lot, please see the MDF people in the UD Zrt. case in which the MDF politicians were the victims but now are the accused. After five years, after the appeal, they will start the whole process anew at the first instance (i.e. a real trial plus two appeals). Meanwhile they are politically finished. Not everybody can continue to work while being a charged person in a criminal trial (unless he is Zsolt Hernádi, although he is not officially charged yet).

    But most important is that Fideszniks will not be charged. Ever.

    Do you think that with all the pre-arranged public procurement tenders going on for years, even with the best paperwork (lepapirozas) the prosecution could not get something against Simicska and his couterie? Smart prosecutors could get enough to put Simicska and others into jail but they never will.

    And the best: if there would such enormous pressure (smoking gun evidence made public and legally unassailable) that the prosecutors would have to start a procedure, then the prosecution will obviously choose a charge (the public anyway will not understand the difference between potential charges) that the case will not stand before the court. Polt is the insurance policy. He is fine where he is.

    In addition, look how efficient Polt was? From 2010 until present the mere existence of Polt, the possibility of an investigation, however baseless, was so strong that the MSZP was in eerie silence. MSZP is still very quiet, but up until a couple of month ago they had not said a peep, as if they simply did not exist. That was mainly because all MSZP politicians were so afraid that if the get tough as opposition they find themselves in a legal process (like a number of MSZP people from that and that local municipalities) and maybe 8 years later they will be acquitted, but that will be a bit too late. The potential of a credible threat (Polt) was just one method with which MSZP was completely silenced and castrated and coopted (Puch and the treasury department, and note that Mesterhazy is a Puch protegee).

    So, Oneill, you are not a politician it seems, as these are just a small number of obvious arguments. I will not continue.

    Polt is a jolly good fellow, I foresee many more successful years for him in his position. And remember, the whole of prosecution was filled with trusted Fideszniks in the last couple of years, it is almost impossible to get rid of them, they will protect Fidesz (at least the current generation of important people) for ever.

  27. Thanks for the language game. We were entirely distracted at work today. I guess we cheated. One employee is from India, the other is Polish and I’m Hungarian. So after much listening we managed 1550. But really? I visualize a roomful of people from all over the world listening through speakers and watching a big screen scoring 15,050. I just cannot believe that any one human being could score like that. The game is wicked. I think it selects out for languages a person can easily identify because we had options that included Croatian, Serbian, Slovak and Czech all in one. Phew. I think I can now identify Shona. 🙂

    Btw we cheered when we got a difficult answer and I’m sure the neighbour office people were wondering if we were watching hockey or something.

    On the bright side we’ve sent the game around to people worldwide and this thing is becoming a language virus. LOL! Great stuff. Thank you.

    Eva, nice way to get your lurkers to show up. I’ve been reading your blog on and off for quite some time. I think you are doing a great job and a great service. Thank you for all you do.

  28. I wondered how the scoring worked. I was really proud of my performance (I think I only got three wrong), but I only got 500!!

  29. Reznor (the commentator formerly known as Gozeke),

    “So, Oneill, you are not a politician it seems, as these are just a small number of obvious arguments. I will not continue”

    Yes, you are 100% on the button there I am most certainly not a politician and whilst I appreciate the obvious time and effort (and certain amount of glee) which you have put into your kind (and long) response you have completely failed to answer my question.

    I know rather well how Orban and his pet boot licker Polt well. But I also know (as you do not apparently) that the Prosecutors Office is regarded as a joke not only by lawyers but also by many of the regime’s enforcers.

    Why? Because the people who work in it are, to put not too fine a point on it, incompetent imbeciles who continually have let Orban down, not because of their political allegiance but basically because they are too thick to do their job properly.

    Now…. my question is this.

    Having a Prosecutors office full of incompetent loyal fools is better than having an office full of competent loyal workers who have a grasp of not only the law but also basic principles of literacy?
    How does that work?
    Why does Orban let this situation continue?

  30. Oneill: “Having a Prosecutors office full of incompetent loyal fools is better than having an office full of competent loyal workers who have a grasp of not only the law but also basic principles of literacy?”

    The “competent workers who have a grasp of not only the law but also basic principles of literacy” need not be loyal :-).

  31. Anywhere else, other than Orbanistan, yes.
    Here, the main qualifications for working in Polt’s office
    1. Loyalty. 2. Legal Incompetence. 3. Illiteracy

    Point is that there are enough competent and literate Fidesz boot-lickers who could do the job better (both in Orban’s terms and on an actual day to day basis) than the present numbskulls.
    Now in some ways, it is to democracy’s advantage that the present situation continues, I just don’t genuinely understand Orban’s motivation for letting it do so.

  32. Oneill, those people that you consider bright AND “loyal” could change their mind (and would, judging from what I heard about “loyalty” in Hungary) if a better offer were made. They could be useful also in other circumstances, which is quite a risk. So being “competent” and “literate” should disqualify people in certain places. Also, shady business is done best when there is general confusion about the rules and procedures, and when it is kind of unclear who bears responsibility etc. Do you need people who see through? I just wonder why those bright and “loyal” continue supporting that…

  33. Back to the subject: just why should any kind of fundamentalism accepted in the present day Europe, if I may ask?

    Let alone, that personally I don’t value any religion over the other – and be honest, why should I as long as there’s supposedly is only one God – if I counted right, that is…
    (Well, your conclusion may even be right: I don’t value any religion per se, I may- or may not value the person, who may- or may not being religious – and that’s the full extent of it.)

    So, Orbán’s claim for respect based on his (pseudo)religious stance just won’t work in Europe today.

    Tough luck, Viktor, you may even try to update your calendar in order to catch up little…
    Some of the other countries already passed the threshold of the ninetieth century, and believe me or not, a few of them even reached not only the twentieth, but even the twenty-first too!

    Simply put a way to go, dear…

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