The man behind Viktor Orbán’s political ideas: Gyula Tellér

An English-language article on Viktor Orbán’s infamous speech of July 26 claimed that Orbán has a brilliant mind. I don’t know on what basis the author came to this conclusion because most people find Orbán’s ideas incoherent and confused. Moreover, it seems that some of his closest associates considered his “philosophical reflections” on the state of the world unnecessary, perhaps even dangerous. But Orbán defended his decision to deliver the kind of speech he delivered because he as prime minister of Hungary has a unique view of the world which he ought to share with the people.

Here I venture to suggest that it is not his unique political role that has given birth to his “revolutionary” ideas. The “birth mother” is instead a trusted adviser who is described by those familiar with his work as an ideologue. Few people even know his name, although it is becoming ever more apparent that Viktor Orbán’s “system” in large part stems from his adviser’s harebrained ideas.

Who is this man? His name is Gyula Tellér. He is apparently an excellent translator, but his real passion is political theory. He started his political career in SZDSZ but soon enough switched allegiance to Fidesz. Tellér was one of the authors of SZDSZ’s party program of 1990; a few years later he had a hand in formulating Fidesz’s program. To understand this man’s thoughts one ought to read Zoltán Ripp’s excellent essay “Color changes of an éminence grise” (Egy szürke eminenciás színeváltozásai).

Gyula Tellér, the man behind Viktor Orbán

Gyula Tellér, the man behind Viktor Orbán

I cannot summarize Ripp’s long and sophisticated essay in a few paragraphs here. Instead I will concentrate on some less weighty articles that appeared after Gyula Tellér’s ideological influence on the prime minister was discovered.

Ilidkó Csuhaj, who is a political reporter for Népszabadság and therefore not a historian or political philosopher, simply said that “Orbán recited a study of Gyula Tellér in Tusnádfűrdő.” According to Csuhaj, Viktor Orbán was so taken with an article Tellér wrote in the March issue of Nagyvilág (“Was an Orbán system born between 2010 and 2014?”) that he assigned it as compulsory reading for all his ministers.

Unfortunately, the connection between Gyula Tellér and Viktor Orbán goes back much farther than March 2014. From a careful reading of Ripp’s essay and Tellér’s own works it is absolutely clear that Viktor Orbán has been mesmerized by this man’s confused and dangerous ideas.

One of his “theories” explains the force of so-called “solidified structures.” Tellér here refers to the Kádár regime: both its elite and its social structure remain part of life in Hungary. No real regime change, he argues, will take place until those remnants of Kádárism are destroyed on every level: in science, in culture, in art. Everywhere. Anyone who achieved anything in the old regime must be stripped of his position in society. An entirely new middle class has to be created. That’s why for Tellér and hence for Orbán the so-called regime change of 1989-1990 is an increasingly insignificant event.

Another theory of his is that in Hungary there are three societal groups: (1) the old feudal Hungary and its later offshoot, the Hungarian upper middle classes; (2) the bourgeois Hungary; and (3) the old Rákosi socialists who simply changed their colors to become leaders and beneficiaries of Kádár’s Hungary. Initially he was critical of feudal Hungary, but as time went by he began to look upon the Horthy regime as an acceptable and perhaps imitable system.

Tellér started embracing international conspiracy theories, plots hatched abroad against Hungary. He became an enemy of globalization and capitalism. The mover and shaker of Hungarian life in his view became the foreign “investor.” From here Tellér easily arrived at anti-Semitism and is thus considered by Ripp, for example, to be a successor to István Csurka. That’s why Ripp colors Tellér “brown” at the end of his essay. Others are less polite. One blogger (orolunkvincent) calls Tellér “a Nazi madman”  and compares him to Aleksandr Dugin, the man behind Putin’s ideas. The blogger quotes extensively from Tellér’s writings and speeches in which he exhibits fervent anti-Semitic views.

Another blogger (democrat) complains how unfortunate it is that “a single man is behind the whole concept” of Viktor Orbán’s political agenda. Behind Orbán’s “grandiose plan” is Gyula Tellér, whom some people call a crackpot. In Tellér’s paranoid worldview, “the world is against Orbán, who is ready to make the country successful with a brilliant new system, but he is oppressed by the ugly and evil foreign (and Jewish and Marxist) capitalists.”

And here is the latest Tellér gem, uttered at a conference only yesterday. He delivered a long lecture on his interpretation of Hungarian history and politics over the last 50 years. He claimed that “the change of regime began in 1955” when “a well-informed group of people” realized that socialism cannot survive in its present form. Who were they?  They were representatives of “a well-known and significant sub-culture” whose task was “running the economy, the financial system and the press.” He continued by saying that the “members of this group had numerous offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990. So, these people are still with us.

Although Tellér does not name this group, anyone who knows anything about the political culture of the Hungarian right knows that this was an anti-Semitic harangue. Of course, the whole “history” is outright crazy because it assumes that some people are blessed with extraordinary insight into the future. They know exactly what will happen in forty or fifty years and prepare themselves as well as their children for this eventuality.

Today an article appeared on ATV’s website in which Gábor Gavra, its author, gives a list of Tellér’s ideas that can be found in Orbán’s “national system.” The list is too long to repeat here, but it is frightening. Almost as if every aspect of Orbán’s system came straight from Tellér’s ideas. I think it is time to reevaluate Viktor Orbán’s ideology because its origins can be traced to the ideas of a man who holds far-right and anti-Semitic views.

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49 comments

  1. For us Brits, there are depressing parallels here with Thatcher and her mentor Keith Joseph (equally as loony as Tellér).

    Thatcher, like Orbán, was a gifted political operator, tactically very able and successful, but too intellectually limited and narrow-minded to have any real long-term or strategic vision, or the ability to carry it out. But Joseph gave her that vision and its ‘justification’, and, such was her hero-worship of her intellectual mentor, that she followed his strategic vision to the letter. Leaving Britain with the long-term social and economic problems it has today (and will continue to suffer for generations).

    Thatcher and Orbán are examples of perhaps the worst sort of leaders – too limited themselves to govern strategically, but so in awe of someone they regard as their intellectual superior, that they are mesmerised into carrying out their programme instead – unquestioningly.

    Thinking about it, much the same was true of Blair (although there were several mentors in his case), or, in the US context, Reagan and GW Bush.

    God save us from small people thrust into situations that demand great leaders.

  2. It is a scandal.
    A gamble of few on account of an unfortunate nation.
    Historical crime.
    Impeach them.

  3. “But Orbán defended his decision to deliver the kind of speech he delivered because he as prime minister of Hungary has a unique view of the world which he ought to share with the people.”

    This would make sense to Gábor Széles, since in his opinion Orbán has reached a “higher spiritual plane” since winning the Parliamentary elections. I kid you not.
    http://hu-hu.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=609883095794842&id=336958929753928

    Isn’t this the kind of stuff that people wrote about Rákosi when he was alive?

  4. The Treatment of Kertesz and the Hungarian Mind at Work

    After infuriating ‘true Hungarians’ by, a) having the temerity to accept the Nobel Prize, b) leaving Budapest for Berlin, c) declaring that Berlin was a better place for his literary papers than Budapest….the time to get even has come. A sickly Kertesz has checked into the Pecs hospital for treatment. Now the Fidesz/Orban boys had him: they would hoist a demeaning ‘Horthy’ award on him and if he should refuse…well, we know that the Pecs Hospital would, unaccountably, have no longer have room for Mr. Kertesz…

    Dastardly, Dirty, and Despicable…and totally in keeping with the style and ethics of Orban/Fidesz.

  5. And, now I’ve actually posted on-topic for a change, I feel slightly less guilty about veering right off-topic…

    One of the signature images of the former Soviet satellite states for us in the west, is the large number of ‘panel house’ estates that ring the large cities – estates built in the 60s and 70s in an attempt to solve the housing crisis, and consisting largely of blocks of prefabricated concrete apartments, anything from 4 stories high, up to 10 or more.

    Because of their size and number, and because they were invariably made from unpainted concrete, they dominate the towns or cities they are attached to. In Debrecen’s case, for instance, because it sits on the Great Plain, it was said that you could see the towers of the Nagytemplom from many miles away. But today, your first site of the city is the towering white walls of the panel house estates. In the West these estates are often used as visual shorthand for the discomfort and depravation of life under the old regimes.

    In fact, of course, that is far from true, as these developments were actually quite remarkable achievements, providing comfortable, modern, homes for hundreds of thousands of families who otherwise would have been condemned to a life without running water or sewage (often not even electricity and gas), or would have had to continue to live two or three families in one small house. In Hungary, one million new homes were built in just 10 years – an incredible achievement. (Although they were not without fault, as anybody who has experienced the ‘too hot in summer, too cold in winter’ community heating systems will tell you!)

    They were also often very well planned, and created, not just as housing estates, but as functioning communities, with shops, children’s playgrounds, doctor’s surgeries, schools, public transport, etc. And, equally important, intelligent landscaping – so well thought out that many of these estates now look as if they were built in leafy parks. Instead of criticising these developments as “typically soviet”, as we did in Britain, we should have used them as a blueprint for our own mass housing estate development in the 60s and 70s. Had we done so, they would still be desirable places to live, and not the windswept, desolate, “sink estates” many of them have become.

    But to get the point of this ramble – when I first came to Hungary, nearly 13 years ago, only 11 years since the change of regime, we knew many people who lived on the panel house estates. Often, when visiting friends or relatives, the address we had been given would turn out to be a panel house apartment. But it suddenly struck me the other day, whilst cycling through our neighbouring estate (short-cut to Lidl!), that I no longer knew anyone who still lived in a panel house.

    As prosperity increased, those who could afford to, bought or built their own place and moved out. This was especially true of the early years of the new century, prior to the 2008 collapse. Within about 5 years, everyone we knew who had lived in a panel house had moved out. Which of course begs the question – who has moved in?

    And in Lidl and on my way back through the estate, I discovered the answer – Gypsies. Not just Roma, of course, many poorer ‘white’ families as well, and many of life’s cast-asides. But what were once mixed estates or the working and lower-middle classes are now almost entirely peopled by what the Victorians called ‘the lower orders’ – the people unable to afford the same comfortable suburban life that the previous owners or tenants now have – the people society doesn’t want to know about.

    The panel house estates are turning into ghettoes of the people Orbán and his supporters don’t want to think about and whom they don’t care about. If there ever is going to be any sort of insurrection against this morally corrupt government, don’t look for it amongst the comfortable intellectual elite in Budapest – keep an eye on the panel house estates in the cities out East.

  6. @Paul

    Re: “Panel” apartment blocks.

    These apartments, at least in Budapest, have high overhead, like district heating – this prevents their “ghettoization” (in the American sense)

    Who lives in them?
    1. The original owners, the working class of the “socialist” system – now retired and old.
    2. Young, working couples with children. This is because kindergartens and schools are available within 200 meters from the apartments

  7. Sorry, Paul, I do not view the panell lakes-es the same way you do. You are correct in saying that people in the 60s and 70s moved in to escape living with their aging parents in squalid village houses. But these places were cramped, poor-quality dwellings and few people were happy about living there, even under communism.

    Today, government subsidies and mortgages have allowed well-to-do people to own more comfortable houses. Still, plenty of non-Gypsy people live in the panells, as tappanch noted.

  8. Back on topic:

    “…representatives of “a well-known and significant sub-culture” whose task was “running the economy, the financial system and the press.” He continued by saying that the “members of this group had numerous offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990. So, these people are still with us.”

    If you remove “the economy, the financial system and the press” and replace it with “mines, public administration and 3/3,” you could be describing Orban’s and Kover’s families.

  9. This is the huge-huge difference between Orban and any of his “heirs apparent” (Lázár, Rogán, Szijjartó, etc.) and any of the opposition figures on the left. These people have no grand visions at all and are not even looking for one either. They just don’t care. They are not revolutionaries, they are conformists, aren’t intellectuals in any sense of the word and lack historic ambitions. That is why Orban does nor respect them (ie. not even his fideszniks underlings) and will never transfer power to them, ever. They would spoil that grand construction Orban has been building all through his life.

    Orban is still, after so many years curious and is looking for “answers” and “theories”. He wants desperately to understand the world, just as he did at the age of 18-19 when he got into Bibo college.

    Unfortunately for us he went crazy in the meantime. But. He should not be discounted or underestimated. With the op-ed in WaPo yesterday it is good to know that it is increasingly clear to Western observers (whom Orban could successfully dupe for many-many years) that the real face of Orban is really the Tellér-inspired one (though Tellér is only one among many such “intellectual gurus” operating around Fidesz).

    Orban really does believe these theories (which come in handy too when he has to intellectually justify his unprecedented, I would argue dictatorial power-grab).

    In fact he is extremely tired by trying to be diplomatic (yes, despite all his blunders he has been very diplomatic by his standards) and wants to come out, but does not yet dare.

    He is also a bit like the serial killer who is so proud of his “work” that subconsciously wants actively to get caught so these act could become famous. He is extremely proud of his achievements so far, but he cannot yet present the new narrative openly (only in quasi-private speeches and obscure articles).

    That is why he lets, bit by bit, more of his ideas known to the world. He is proud of his ideas, but don’t think those are politically correct in the West and he understands that – for the time being – he is dependent on the West (ie. EU subsidies). But he desperately wants to be free from these shackles.

    He keeps appearances, but he is increasingly tired with this double life he has been leading. It is not just double speak in a PR/marketing way, he really has to actively force himself to talk the political language of the European mainstream. He wants to come out as an unabashed “leader” of the nation, who admires Russia and is repulsed by the “weakness and decadence” of the West.

    The West, if it is not blind can see all the data supporting this pro-Russian, paleo-conservative, quasi-dictatorial image of his and in a way he helpfully left clues for us to pick those up. By our standards Orban is indeed deranged, and it is good to see that most observers are starting to realize that.

    Having said that, many of his ideas have some roots in normal criticism which the mainstream discourse unfortunately suppresses in the West. It is clear, for example that the EU’s economy (include Japan, UK, US etc.) has huge structural problems and there is no hope for it to ever improve without some new debt-euro crisis (and although most EU economies reached their 2008 peaks, they did so with adding way too much extra and unsustainable indebtedness). Orban hopes that soon the West will have a similar crisis like the one in 2008 and that it will happen earlier than any potential Russian crisis (about which nobody would hear in Hungary given his lock on the media). At such point, he will switch allegiances openly, denounce the West and come out finally. He, like a hedge fund manager, is shorting the EU and actively longing Russia.

  10. Alert: acceleration towards bankruptcy:

    Central government debt, as of 06-30-2014 [12-31-2013]:

    Gross: 32,464 [28,536] billion HUF, an increase of 13.76% in the last 6 months
    Net: 24,704 [22,531], an increase of 9.64%

    Net debt of the total government = central+local government + Social Security fund

    22,817.5 [21,230.8], an increase of 7.47%

    “Consolidated” debt of the total government:

    25,431.6 [23,081.9], a 6-month growth of 10.18%

    Source:

    http://www.mnb.hu/Root/Dokumentumtar/MNB/Statisztika/mnbhu_statisztikai_idosorok/mnbhu_hazt5/ahtadatok_hu.xlsx

  11. Comparison of the numbers of the National Bank (MNB) vs the State Treasury (AKK)

    Gross debt of the central government:

    2013-12-31: 28,536.1 vs 21,998.6
    2014-06-30: 32,463.9 vs 24,786.9

    Growth: 13.76% vs 12.67%

    Share of foreign denominated debt (AKK): 40.55% [40.48%]

  12. Paul,

    You’ve made an interesting observation about the pre-fab estates, something to look into further, perhaps. However, the situation there is not as simple as it appears.

    As tappanch and Seal Driver noted, many people could not afford to move out of these buildings, while other people actually liked the lifestyle of living there (as you noted, very nicely planned, in many respects). What I’ve also noted is that beyond the young couples with children who like their safety and convenience, some also use the panel apartments as “starter” homes, where they can have a spacious apartment they can afford while they are building up their savings and earning power. Another group of people who have moved into them, at least in Budapest, are the working class from other cities or from smaller towns, who used to live with their parents. The relative unpopularity of these apartments makes them very inexpensive, despite the shared costs, and there are quite a few which are available for leasing. Finally, there are people who just want to live near their families and friends, most of whom remain in the estates for various reasons. When they get enough money to leave their parents’ homes, they often buy another apartment in the same building. At least they know what to expect, and the insides can be renovated quite nicely if you have a significant amount of savings left after the sale (or they can be renovated over time).

    I’ve never lived in one, but everyone I’ve spoken to complains about how unpleasant it can be. The lifts often don’t work, the stairways can be dirty and dark (the architects were not as enlightened as the landscape designers), and the panels themselves were not affixed in an airtight manner, so they allow drafts and dirt inside. The buildings themselves were built in the typical communist manner, meaning very little attention was paid to quality and durability, so many parts of these buildings are falling apart.

    We shouldn’t generalize too much, though, because some of the housing estates have been fixed up quite nicely (inside and out). In fact, there seems to be an interesting pattern to this – one large housing estate could be full of fixed-up buildings, while another one close by will have almost none (the residents of a building have to agree to “tax” themselves to come up with the money to fix up the whole building, and almost everyone is expected to contribute). The pattern seems to have some connection to what district the building is in (historically wealthier districts have nicer housing estates, generally), but even then, there are many exceptions. I’ve noticed that, oftentimes, those areas that are almost devoid of renovated (and insulated) buildings have an unusually high percentage of Roma. That’s just a personal observation, but worth looking into. Of course it makes sense, since Roma are much poorer than average, and so are less likely to be able to come up with the extra common costs. Another possible factor is the distance (time-wise) to the city center, or to good transportation (usually a metro stop).

    One other observation, less obvious, is that some apartments under communism were owned by their residents, while others were rented from the state. After the change, the rentals were almost all sold to the tenants (or to a third party), so it’s hard to see how well the renter/owner divide held up over the last quarter-century, but if I had the time I would consider doing a study on that.

  13. Zala – @ August 18, 2014 at 4:05 am – it is a huge insult to find positive feature in today’s Orban.

    Try to read the Human Rights First report on Hungary. Under Orban, the nation was further polarized, and ruined.

    The crime of Gyula Teller is that he plants even more destructive material in the head of Orban.

  14. I am not sure how OT: (Back from North)

    As we all know those who helped Orban to get back on power after his huge defeat were able to do so by a “staged” protest of the crowd. (What I mean by staged is that although the protest had some organic elements the “police violence” was clearly provoked by extremist who infiltrated the crowd. THe members of this group were football hooligans who Fidesz later hired to “defend” their headquarters from peaceful university students.)
    Now the same group that Fidesz kept in payroll attacked the peaceful protesters of the memorial Orban erected to falsify history. This is the same group Fidesz acquitted from all charges when they staged the riot at MTV in 2006. When Teller calls for “new oder”, these are the people who he supports. These are the people who Orban favours, and keeps around to make sure he can keep his power.
    http://www.politics.hu/20140817/far-right-sympathizers-clash-with-protesters-at-ww2-monument/

    On a side note if Teller believes “members of this group had numerous offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990. So, these people are still with us.” it is time to Orban and the rest of the Fidesz members to reevaluate their role, and admit that they “are guided by their parents secret plan”, as the sane Hungarians are all aware where this new Fidesz group all came from.

  15. Some1:These children of communist parents therefore became liberals and had a large role to play in 1989-1990.

    I noticed that most of these children are right wing Fidesz or Jobbik. A notorious (ex-)Jobbik and founding member of the Magyar Garda is running for Mayor of Szentendre, as Independent candidate. Dr. Filo Andras (although he denied any involvement in the Politics of his parents), he benefit from communism and have apparently a lot of land.

    http://gondola.hu/cikkek/70507-AVH-s_csemete_a_Jobbik_kepviselojeloltje.html

  16. Growth of the net debt/GDP under Orban II:

    2010-06-30: 62.4%
    2014-06-30: 76.3% + 10% (nationalized and spent private retirement accounts)

  17. @Eva: Yes, I did get that but wouldn’t in Teller’s mind would be even a bigger sin to “conspire” with these “foreign” powers? I mean if you follow Teller’s logic (if there is any) anyone who worked for “a well-known and significant sub-culture” whose task was “running the economy, the financial system and the press” who served them and allowed them to exist must been in cahoots. If Orban, Kover and the others are so smart, they should of known. Even if their parents served them according to Teller they must been “offspring who learned from their moms and dads that socialism is kaput.” On the other hand if they are not so smart are they worthy enough to save the nation?

  18. Paul (did you see my long “essay” on the educational system?)

    It’s not just gypsies and the very poor who live in panels. I’m familiar with the Debrecen ones, and especially the newer ones (Ujkert, Tocoskert) are not populated by the lowest of the lowest. Single-parent families (including teachers), university students, divorcees, young couples with or without children. Often it’s the original, now retired elderly owners, whose children have left, and who live on very low pensions – they like the fact that they don’t have a garden to look after, enjoy the proximity of GP surgeries, shops, smallish markets, direct bus connection to the city centre etc. And they like chatting to each other, they have known each ther for 40 years, it’s a community if you like.
    You are right, in communism these flats represented a huge step-up. I grew up in one, and we had moved from a run down house at the muddy, dirt-road edge of the city, which had no bathroom, no running water, no toilet and no gas heating. It was luxury for my parents! In socialism, these were very democratic dwellings, because the differences of income were very small: doctors lived next to unskilled factory workers on the 7th floor, and felt very equal.
    It had a charm, and we were not ashamed of living there.
    I was very surprised when I first heard Westerners say how nice it is to see that such normal people (me :-D) grew up in those horrible estates. Or that my English in-laws wanted to whisk my mum out of her flat and into a house – she will not move!

    On the whole, it’s difficult to explain to Westeners how socialism wasn’t as bad as they think. I measn it was awful, but not the way they think and not that much.
    (But I know, you were talking about the present. )

  19. @Zala:

    many of his ideas have some roots in normal criticism which the mainstream discourse unfortunately suppresses in the West. It is clear, for example that the EU’s economy (include Japan, UK, US etc.) has huge structural problems

    Huh? These structural problems have been the top of the mainstream discourse since 2007 (even before the collapse of 2008).

  20. @Gardonista

    Not true. The default thinking has been that the ECB will print money (though it took time to convince the Germans), Germany would not have to alter its economic structure and that the Southern European countries will over time miraculously grow out their debts. Growth will restart (just because that is the nature of growth, it always restarts) and everyone will be happy. (And people will move to the more efficient countries like Germany and depopulate the loser ones, like Michigan lost out to Texas and South-Carolina).

    If one really wants to be honest, though, then nobody really did anything other than the ECB has been printing money like the Fed. And here were some bailouts, but it does not look like growth is returning to Greece, Ireland or Portugal big time or that the economic structures would have changed, only some social costs were cut. But by and large Merkel’s policy of waiting things out prevailed.

    But things will not solve themselves.

    We see all the cracks, one by one they do appear, but nobody knows what to do and so nobody dares to say it loud that things just cannot go on as they did so far.

    That perhaps the best case scenario is a Japan-like economic weird black hole (in the sense that textbook theories just don’t apply there, with 250% debt rate and nobody understands how it did not collapse years ago etc.), only Japan is almost homogenic ethically, while in Europe this is not the case.

    Maybe this is not so bad after all and certainly it would still mean a 2-3 times higher average living standard than in Hungary for most white Western European people, but it will be messy as we saw from the political consequences at the EU elections.

    Germany stalled, France too but on a lower level and Hollande will not do a thing, Italy is in downright recession but Italians will not do a thing structurally even with Renzi etc. but there are household debt issues in the non-Euro zones too like Denmark or Sweden. It does not look like we will grow out the debt and that the employment rates will get better. (And on top of that real estate prices, due to QE increased all over Western-Europe which will mean higher rents for young people or they stay at home for longer).

    Add to that the energy issue, which is too complex to deal with it here.

    If you look at it, even though the European populace voted very significantly against the EU mainstream, nobody will experience anything from it, the mainstream left/right/liberals continue with the same as before as if nothing happened. As we have forgotten immediately what big discontent there is all over Europe.

    So there are areas where open and frank discourse was needed to counter the craziness of Dugin-Tellér-Orbán type of criticism (which in Europe manifests in Jobbik/Fidesz/Le Pen/Golden Dawn etc.) but which nonetheless has some roots in reality.

  21. Tellér’s ideological victory may become Fidesz’s problem. Right wing intellectualism or pseudo-intellectualism attracts attention. Orbán’s speech has now made the editorial pages of the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hungarys-illiberalism-should-not-go-unchallenged/2014/08/16/b2dc72d4-1e5c-11e4-82f9-2cd6fa8da5c4_story.html

    The editorial concludes “The (European) union, which has promised Hungary $20 billion in aid over the next seven years, must make clear that member nations cannot reap the benefits of membership while violating their treaty commitments to freedom of expression and the rule of law. The United States, too, should downgrade relations with Mr. Orban’s government. Mr. Orban has excluded himself from the democratic West; he and his government should be treated accordingly.”

    Effectively my reading of this editorial is that the Post is writing off Hungary and welcoming Orban to join the Putin camp. I personally am sympathetic to that perspective. But the break would need to be implemented in stages: (1) Removal of all US assets and forces from Pápa AFB, (2) a request to NATO to remove all its assets from the base, (3) call a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) with an agenda point for suspending Hungary from NATO.

    Removing Hungary from NATO technically would be easier than from the EU and that should be the first step. Do I think that will happen anytime soon, I doubt it.

  22. Istvan, shouldn’t your step (1) be?: “Removal of US assets, spying equipment and paid agents from Budapest and stopping mass surveillance and spying against Hungarians”

    “Today an article appeared on ATV’s website in which Gábor Gavra, its author, gives a list”

    Wasn’t Gabor Gavra the one who was fired from HVG for falsifying evidence? When he presented a tape as authentic, a tape which he personally received from the MSZP Party headquarters. Apparently during that time it was common practice for HVG people to report to MSZP the HQ for briefing.

  23. @conclusion: “Wasn’t Gabor Gavra the one who was fired from HVG for falsifying evidence? When he presented a tape as authentic, a tape which he personally received from the MSZP Party headquarters. Apparently during that time it was common practice for HVG people to report to MSZP the HQ for briefing.”

    And?

  24. Conclusion: I doubt the US would spend money on surveillance against Hungarians in mass, even though I suspect the US has the technical ability to do so given the information Edward Snowden has made public. But Hungarian communications with Putin’s agents about NATO matters are more than fair game and I hope personally it is being done.

  25. conclusion
    August 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm
    Istvan, shouldn’t your step (1) be?: “Removal of US assets, spying equipment and paid agents from Budapest and stopping mass surveillance and spying against Hungarians”

    You mean the Russian paid agents and surveillance? You are mixing up things my friend.
    Hungarian far-right MEP suspected as Russian spy
    http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-elections-2014/hungarian-far-right-mep-suspected-russian-spy-302185
    “It turned out that on June 16, 1989, when Viktor Orbán was sending the Russians packing, Tasnádi [currently undersecretary in the Ministry of the Interior] was waiting for the reports of two of his agents, Amur and Vera. ”

    http://mno.hu/magyar_nemzet_belfoldi_hirei/egyre-aktivabbak-az-orosz-hirszerzok-1224342

    Yes, let the Russians remove Paks. I am with you!

  26. Zala, interesting observations about the problems of the euro area and Japan. Also in the previous post, your observations were cunning: “Orban hopes that soon the West will have a similar crisis like the one in 2008 and that it will happen earlier than any potential Russian crisis.” What do you think does this all mean for Hungary? That Orban himself will be safely in exile in Russia before the crisis sets in there too so that he will move to the Seychelles? Leaving Hungary in exactly which constitution? As a part of the Eurasian Union? Or that Orban has found for Hungary far better solutions in that he lets the MNB print money to buy art and unmarketable real estate and build football stadiums?

  27. The right-wing literary critique who was of the view that Imre Kertész was not Hungarian and who regularly speaks highly of the revived fascist/nazi writers (who are just bad writers) also gets a decoration, though a lesser one than what Kertész will receive.

    The show must go on and the Fidesz/Jobbik cultural universe must be rewarded.

    This shows that Kertész is only a puppet, a theater prop in this game, nothing more.

    http://vs.hu/kiegyensulyozottan-dijaz-kormany-0818

  28. @Toboz

    “Kertész is only a puppet” – he is very, very ill. It must be his wife’s decision to accept the award or not.

  29. @Kirsten

    I agree that in that case Hungary would follow the EU, no question.

    But Orban – having a lock on the media – will blame any negative consequences in Hungary on the EU and will argue that, “see we cannot be like them because then we will also ‘collapse'”(let’s ignore the fact that the old-EU would have to collapse more than after/due to the WWII and even so it would still be much richer). So Hungary will then need a new role model, and “see how Russia is so strong, proud, resilient, how it alone dares to stand up against the decadent, gay-rights promoting US/West?”.

    Robert Mugabe won a rather fair election recently even though he engineered probably the 3rd/4th biggest inflation ever in the history of mankind and devastated his country in every way possible, but people still hate the “white colonizers” and that does the work every time (and the opposition was coopted and neutered, just like MSZP/Együtt-14 were).

    These white colonizers and Jews or the EU are nothing more than useful names and concepts which people can fill up with their otherwise undefinable anxieties. There are countless of fears and anxieties and this way all of them can be collected into one concept. In Hungary it is jews/liberals/EU/US depending on how hardliner right-winger you are, but there must be a limited number of them, because the point is to simplify the messiness of everyday fears. Fidesz, selling itself as a moderate right wing party will openly use only liberals and the EU (while its media empire will also target the US and the jews).

    But these are too sophisticated arguments you raise. I think he made up his mind, he thinks the West is over, it’s not worth to deal with it lest we sink together with them on the sea of history. He probably regards people’s envy/admiration of western countries as a Kadarian thought-structure, which shall be overcome. I have no doubt that Orban in his head has been planning Hungary’s exit from the EU and NATO (I can well imagine that he has been paying legal experts to think about/prepare the issue), he as a lawyer always plans many steps ahead. The only question is when are these exits feasible given that so many “Kadarian people” still aren’t anti-EU/anti-West enough and they may get upset?

    There is one more thing. Orban, I think, desperately wants to be loved and admired, as all leaders wants to be, this is natural. And he doesn’t get that from the West (he can still deal with some second rate German or Italian politician, but they hardly love Orban). The Russians can charm Orban very easily, and they provide sweeteners for him on the gas deals, on Paks 2, fund Hungarian movies (on Kincsem), help organizing Terror Háza exhibition on Solzenitzin, they are here to help and Orban just likes that, see, these Russians aren’t so scary after all.

  30. Zala, what I do not get is why are long thoughts about what Orban might think, whether he might indeed believe that the West is “done”, whether he indeed harbours any hopes (other than for his own power) with regard to Hungarians following Russian examples (towards what exactly? Poverty and mass emigration? You hear so much Russian in the streets of nearly any EU town that you believe Russia is already depopulated.), so why are such thoughts much more interesting than the factual issue of how according for instance you and your friends or family should Hungary’s future look like? Do you think the West is “done”? Do you hope that Russia will “save” you with its oil money? No matter what the problems of the other EU countries are, in most countries there is some debate going on about the sustainability of the “European” model, be that about some “social model”, about EU membership yes of no, or energy issues and currently also about the relations to Russia. Why do you believe there is no awareness about that among citizens of the EU? It is not only the politicians that decide about that, you can find a number of situations when even the “all-mighty” Angela Merkel changed course under the impression of public opinion (energy policy, most recently perhaps the support for Juncker etc.). So why this would-be learned pondering about OV’s plans, no matter how weird (or do you believe these are automatically “best” for Hungary and all Hungarians or that “nothing can be done about that”?) instead of thinking about for instance your wishes or ideas about what Hungary’s future might look like.

  31. Zala seems to drive a campaign of deceit.
    Can Zala ever tell us clearly what he thinks of Orban?

  32. I remember well a few years ago when the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, dismissed Germany, France, Italy and a few other countries as “old Europe”, preferring to work with the upstart “new Europe” countries of the East and South, like Poland, Hungary and (perhaps) Spain. He was as prescient in this regard as he was about success in Iraq, and Orbán reminds me of him in many ways. It doesn’t make sense to try to predict the future by looking at present trends, because they usually don’t go forward in straight lines. Russia is already showing weakness (even before the Ukraine situation started), and it has now shown definitively what can happen when the “West” is properly provoked. Orbán and his friends in Jobbik will hopefully also overplay their hand, but not so badly that Hungary suffers much.

  33. Hungary leaving NATO seems quite unplausible to me.

    I don’t now about the Hungarian military command, but the level of trust in NATO among the general population was quite high (50% vs 30%, better than in Poland) in the last two Eurobarometer surveys containing the question (2008, 2009). A reversal of those figures in the last five years would be quite extraordinary; otherwise, such a move would be very unpopular, except among Jobbik voters of course. The undertaking of Slovenia and Croatia’s air policy by the Hungarian Air Force has decidedly been publicized by the Government, and I’m not sure it was only to hint at those (in-)famous Gripens being useful after all…

    From the alliance’s point of view, expelling Hungary would also be a very bad move. I don’t see Italy nor Greece at the moment taking over Hungary’s role in NATO’s Balkans strategy. There is no need to create a second Austria, let alone to risk, through spite, playing Jobbik’s game and throwing Budapest in Moscow”s basket.

    However, there is another possibility, and that would be Hungary opting out of the integrated command structure, like France in the 60s or Greece in the 70s. In my opinion, that would be in line with the ‘third way’ discourse. Though unfortunately, it wouldn’t be as funny as A tizedes meg a többiek

  34. Let me share with you the results of my Hungarian debt analysis.

    MNB, the National Bank has erased the old numbers from its website.
    Fortunately, I saved them.

    I will also give the debt in billions of euros, using the June 30 exchange rates of each year.

    Gross central government debt on June 30
    2010: 78.502
    2011: 81.742
    2012: 80.850
    2013: 86.074
    2014:104.817, 33.52% above 2010 level

    Net central government debt
    2010: 56.637
    2011: 55.476
    2012: 56.136
    2013: 64.126
    2014: 79.763, 40.83% above 2010 level
    [+ about 9 billion from the private retirement funds spent in 2011-2013]

    Net (central+local governments + social security fund) debt
    2010: 56.328
    2011: 55.839
    2012: 54.991
    2013: 60.120
    2014: 73.672, 30.79%

  35. Googly Sec of a Defense Rumsfeld was truly disliked by the US Army Central Command, he was incredibly arrogant and dismissed the opinions of officers with decades of knowledge. As for not being able to predict the future you are right but I have to say I am enjoying watching the Russians get their ass kicked in the Ukraine right now but I do feel sorry for the citizens trapped in this hell like situation that Putin created. I hope the far right Ukrainians can be contained because like the Jobbik they are a scary bunch, but at least they hate the Russians which elevates them slightly above the primeval slime. I wouldn’t want to be a Russian speaking Ukrainian when the Right Sector comes to town or a Hungarian speaking Ukrainian either.

  36. @KissEmber

    What are you looking for? Wasn’t it clear that I detest this cleptocratic gulash-dictator? Does this change anything I wrote?

  37. @Kirsten

    With all due respect, it seems to me that it took many long years for the international community to realize who Orban was — these WaPo and NY Times opeds could have been written three or four years ago too and they would have been spot on even then. He and his minions were the darlings of the foreign embassies and he was treated as the new savior of Hungary, when it was abundantly clear for all who dared to look that he was a dictator in the making. I tried to add some background info on how he thinks, from the info and rumors I hear. So far, I have not been been ‘disappointed’ at all by him whereas it seems many voters and foreign observers have. I perhaps wasn’t entirely clear, these lines of thought are not mine, I don’t believe most of those (but like I said there are things which he sees to which the west better have some answers soon), but I wanted to tell how he and the people around him think and what they are totally convinced of. This effort of mine may or may not have been useful. Having said that and with all due respect if you can still compare Merkel (a polite, free from corruption, democratic leader of a country which has thoroughly divided powers and is the one of the very last real bastions of democracy) to Orban in any respect, then I am afraid you still haven’t woken up to reality.

  38. Zala: He probably regards people’s envy/admiration of western countries as a Kadarian thought-structure, which shall be overcome.

    Yet, it has been written before here and elsewhere that one of the basic Fidesz creeds – ‘distil pálinka at home and let the big boys play politics’ – is pretty much Kádárian.

    Now, about OV’s perception in foreign countries: when in comes to party politics, there is no such thing as an ‘international community’. In particular, American reactions cannot be mixed with European ones. Their respective domestic political landscapes and their criteria for judgement are too different for that.

    At the moment, the European’s analysis grid of what is happening in Hungary is still in my opinion dominated by the re-composition of both Right(s) and Left(s) that has been happening everywhere on the continent since the fall of the USSR. And while left-wing and some liberal parties have been protesting OV’s authoritarian drift for years, right-wing parties have supported him: there was no consensus, and we’ll see this fall in Strasbourg and Brussels if a new one emerges, but I doubt it.

    The American grid when it comes to Europe has more to do with political and economic stability, and strategic interests. OV delivered the first two, or the apparence thereof in the short term, and didn’t initially raise any suspicion about the third. Why should they have cared? Only now that Russia’s ambitions have become a major concern do we see such criticism.

  39. @Istvan

    I understand that cold-war instincts give bipartisan US support for the effort to keep Ukraine united, but is it fair to the Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians to keep them in a nationalist Ukrainian state?

    Perhaps, an independent East Ukraine would serve the local population and “world peace” better.

  40. Tappanch,

    You wrote: “is it fair to the Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians to keep them in a nationalist Ukrainian state?”

    I would say that, while polls cannot be fully trusted, they showed that the vast majority of people in the areas currently being contested preferred to stay in Ukraine, for whatever reasons. The only place that was clearly pro-secession was Crimea, though there was a large minority there who were against being part of Russia (particularly the Tatars, who remember still what being part of Russia really means).

    I would have supported an internationally-monitored referendum on the question of secession in Donetsz and Luhansk, but both sides were against such a thing happening, especially Russia (which would certainly not have gotten the result it sought). I’d be very interested to see the result of a free and fair referendum now or immediately after the end of hostilities, but I doubt that will happen.

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