We’ve moved: Our new site is hungarianspectrum.org

The day has arrived: we’ve moved on to a new and improved site, hungarianspectrum.org. I hope there won’t be too many initial hiccups. Many thanks to everyone who made this possible.

From here on, with nested comments you will be able to have more orderly “conversations” with your fellow readers. There is a reply button under each comment which allows you to answer it. I tentatively set the depth of nested comments to 3.

Have fun, and let me know about any glitches.

American rapprochement with Viktor Orbán’s Hungary?

While readers of Hungarian Spectrum continue to discuss the possible reasons for André Goodfriend’s departure, let me share one right-wing Hungarian reaction to the exit of the former chargé, István Lovas’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Magyar Hírlap titled “The Bell Change.”

One could devote a whole series of posts to István Lovas himself, from his brush with the law as a teenager to the open letter he wrote recently to Vladimir Putin in which he asked him to start a Hungarian-language “Russia Today” because the Russian propaganda television station is actually much better than BBC. Lovas lived in Canada, the United States, and Germany, where he worked for Radio Free Europe. He was considered to be a difficult man who caused a lot of turmoil in the Hungarian section of the organization.

For many years Lovas was a devoted Fidesz man. He already held important positions in the first Orbán government (1998-2002). For years he worked for Magyar Nemzet, most recently as its Brussels correspondent, but a few months ago Lovas, along with a number of other Orbán stalwarts, lost his job. Mind you, the European Parliament had had enough of Lovas even before he was sacked by Magyar Nemzet, especially after he presented a bucket of artificial blood to Sophie in ‘t Veld, the Dutch liberal MEP. The bucket of blood was supposed to symbolize the Palestinian children who were victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lovas, himself of Jewish descent, is a well-known anti-Semite.

After having lost his job at Magyar Nemzet and after Putin failed to respond to his plea for a Hungarian “Russia Today,” Lovas moved on. Gábor Széles, who owns Magyar Hírlap and EchoTV, offered him a job. Now he has a weekly political program called “Fault Lines” (Törésvonalak) on EchoTV, and he also writes opinion pieces for Széles’s newspaper.

So how does István Lovas see American-Hungarian relations in the wake of the arrival of Colleen Bell and the departure of André Goodfriend? To summarize his opinion in one sentence: from here on the United States and the Orbán government will be the best of friends.

According to Lovas, André Goodfriend was the darling of those lost liberals who have been wandering in the wilderness “ever since SZDSZ was thrown into the garbage heap of history.” They are still hoping that nothing will change. Originally they were certain that Goodfriend would run the embassy while the newly arrived ambassador would be its public face. Meanwhile, Goodfriend would continue visiting “left/neoliberal SZDSZ or MSZP politicians and intellectuals.”

These liberal hopes were dashed soon after Colleen Bell’s arrival. The new orientation was clear from day one. Bell went and laid a wreath at the statue of the unknown soldier on Heroes’ Square. She visited the Csángó Ball organized every year to celebrate a fairly mysterious group of Hungarians living in the Romanian region of Moldavia, speaking an old Hungarian dialect. These are important signs of the new American attitude toward things dear to the current government: fallen heroes and national minorities. Certainly, says Lovas, Goodfriend would never have been found in such places. Yet liberals don’t seem to have grasped the significance of all this. They think that more Hungarians will be banished from the United States and that Hungary will have to pay a high price for peace with the United States. Most likely, Orbán will have to compromise on Paks, on Russian-Hungarian relations in general, and/or will have to buy American helicopters.

But Lovas has bad news for them. There will be no more talk about corruption cases, and Hungary will pay no price whatsoever. Colleen Bell realized that Goodfriend’s methods had failed. Of course, Lovas is talking nonsense here. Even if Lovas is right about a change in U.S. policy, it was not Bell who decided on this new strategy but the United States government.

Lovas is certain that the change has already occurred. It is enough to look at the new website of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. There are no more programs on tolerance, on Holocaust events, “all those things that are kicks in the groin of the Hungarian people and their elected government.” A drastic change occurred in U.S.-Hungarian relations which even such liberal-socialist diplomats as Péter Balázs, foreign minister in the Bajnai government, László Kovács, foreign minister under Gyula Horn, or András Simonyi, ambassador to Washington (2002-2010), couldn’t explain away.

This change couldn’t have taken place if Goodfriend had stayed or if the Orbán government had conducted “the kind of servile atlantist policy recommended by Géza Jeszenszky,” foreign minister under József Antall and ambassador to Washington during the first Orbán government. Jeszenszky, who just resigned as ambassador to Norway, had a long interview in which he expressed his deep disappointment with Viktor Orbán and his foreign policy, especially with his attitude toward the United States.

According to Lovas, what happened recently is a victory for Orbán’s foreign policy, a feat that “could be achieved only by the courage and tenacity” of the Hungarian prime minister. The United States government tried to mend its ways by sending someone to Budapest who is not worried about such things as tolerance or the Holocaust. From here on the Budapest embassy will function just as American embassies do in other capitals. The U.S. Embassy in Vienna, for example, does not report “breaking news” about the Anschluss.

Lovas might exaggerate, but something is going on. When was the last time that Viktor Orbán called together the whips of all political parties for a discussion on Hungarian foreign policy? As far as I know, never. As Magyar Nemzet put it, “Viktor Orbán asked for the support of the political parties in reaching the nation’s foreign policy goals.” Among the topics was the objective of “strengthening the American-Hungarian alliance.” Péter Szijjártó, who was of course present, claimed that “political relations with the United States are improving” and that the Orbán government “will take further steps toward the restoration of earlier economic, political, and military cooperation.”

The meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary delegations  Source: MTI / Photo Gergely Botár

The meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary delegations convened by Viktor Orbán
Source: MTI / Photo Gergely Botár

I’m sure that we all want better relations between Hungary and the United States, but the question is at what price. The United States can’t close its eyes to Viktor Orbán’s blatant attacks on democracy, the media, human rights, and civil society. And then there is the timing of this alleged renewed love affair between Budapest and Washington. If true, and that’s a big if, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hungarian democracy–yes, liberal democracy. Just when Viktor Orbán’s support is dropping precipitously and when it looks as if he may lose his precious two-thirds majority in spite of all the billions of forints he promised from taxpayer money to the city of Veszprém to buy votes. When a large part of the hitherto slavish right-wing media at last decided to return to more critical and balanced journalism.

No, this is not the time to court Viktor Orbán. It would be a grave mistake. It is, in fact, time to be tough because the great leader is in trouble. Trouble abroad, trouble at home. Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, in a speech to the European Parliament said the following without mentioning Viktor Orbán’s name: “We cannot let our societies imperceptibly slip back; we cannot allow illiberal logics to take hold. There is no such thing as an illiberal democracy…. We are keeping a close eye on all issues arising in Member States relating to the rule of law, and I will not hesitate to use the [EU Rule of Framework established last March] if required by the situation in a particular Member State.”


In order to expand the reach of Hungarian Spectrum and to make the blog more accessible to its readers, I have been thinking about making some changes, which unfortunately will cost money, both a one-time fee to make the changeover seamless and a yearly fee.

What will we get in return? For starters, an individual domain name that will allow Hungarian Spectrum to be more easily recognized by Google Alerts. Although I’m pleased with the success of the blog, I think it is vital that it reach as many people as possible. With the appearance of the state-sponsored Hungary Today, Hungarian Spectrum was unceremoniously dropped from Google Alerts.

In addition, we will be able to have many features of WordPress.com that either we never had or that disappeared. For instance, if we change to the paid version, nested comments will once again be available. And I will be able to get technical help if something goes wrong which, as you know, has been happening a lot lately.

I’m going to put up a PayPal button. With this button you can either make a one-time donation or opt for a monthly subscription. (You can pay with any recognized credit card.) This blog, I should emphasize, will remain open to everybody. Subscribers won’t get anything special, not even a tote bag.

Enough panhandling. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Suffice it to say that if you think this blog is worth supporting, I’ll make the changes. And I’ll be very grateful.

The Orbán government is at a loss: Which way to turn?

Today even Válasz had to admit that the Hungarian government’s PR stunt that followed the less than successful Merkel-Orbán meeting was a mistake. Referring to the false news about mega-investment,” Valóság, after an earlier glowing report, had to retreat and acknowledge that “there is no BMW, there is no new Mercedes factory and Fidesz doesn’t seem to be successful in the RTL Klub affair either. This wouldn’t be drama if the government had the guts to deny Vs.hu‘s news. But now we do have a small drama.”

I don’t know whether we can call it a drama, but that the Hungarian government’s already tarnished reputation now has an ugly rusty spot as well, that’s for sure. AFP picked up the news about the gigantic German investments that were agreed on during the meeting between the German chancellor and the Hungarian prime minister, but unlike András Kósa, the author of the Vs.hu article, AFP, before publishing the article, did go to the “spokesman for the Hungarian government [who] declined to comment.” Not did the spokesman not deny the story, as Válasz would have suggested, but he purposely spread the disinformation. That leaves me to believe that this PR stunt was concocted by the large communication team around the prime minister’s office.

What can one say about a government that engages in such cheap tricks? Keep in mind that the team around Viktor Orbán was handpicked by the prime minister himself. The members of this team are the ones who manage “communication,” which seems to be the most important aspect of politics for Viktor Orbán. He is like a salesman who has only one goal: to sell his wares regardless of their value or even utility.

What were these communication wizards thinking? Surely they had to realize that sooner or later reporters will ask these companies about their alleged plans and the truth will be revealed. Indeed, Mercedes and BMW have already denied the leaked information about their plans to build factories in Hungary, and this morning we learned from the Siemens spokesman that Siemens is no longer active in industries connected to nuclear energy and therefore the news about their involvement with the Paks Nuclear Power Plant is untrue. As far as the helicopters are concerned, apparently no decision has been made. It is possible that after the meeting Airbus, the French-German company reported to have won the contract, might not be the favorite.

I can only hope that the story of this ruse will reach Angela Merkel’s office, not that I have any doubt about her assessment of the Hungarian prime minister’s character. In any case, the Orbán government’s courting of Germany as a counterbalance to the United States did not work out to Orbán’s satisfaction. Of course, he himself is partly to blame for the fiasco with his public defense of “illiberal democracy.” Even Gábor G. Fodor, a right-wing “strategic director” of Századvég, a Fidesz think tank, said that Viktor Orbán made a mistake when he openly defended his vision of “illiberal democracy.” In fact, he went so far as to say that “this debate cannot be won,” especially not before a western audience. If this absolutely devoted Orbán fan considers the prime minister’s defense of his ideology to have been a mistake, then, believe me, the mistake was a big one.

So, here we are. After all the effort the government put into good relations with Germany, it looks as if Angela Merkel was not convinced. So, where to go from here? There seems to be a serious attempt at improving U.S.-Hungarian relations. This effort was prompted by the long-awaited arrival of the new U.S. ambassador, Colleen Bell, who shortly after her arrival began a round of visits and attended to a number of official duties. Her first trip was to Csaba Hende, minister of defense, which was reported by Hungary Today, a  newly launched, thinly disguised government propaganda internet site. The news of her visit was coupled with the announcement of Hungary’s plans to purchase a new helicopter fleet. The fleet will consist of 30 helicopters that will cost 551 million euros. Discussing the helicopters and Colleen Bell’s visit in the same article was no coincidence. Most likely, the Hungarian government wants to give the impression that there is a possibility that the helicopters will be purchased from the United States.

Even more telling is the paean on the Hungarian government’s website to “successful Hungarian-U.S. economic cooperation.” The occasion was the opening of Alcoa’s “expanded wheels manufacturing plant in Hungary.” It is, if I understand it correctly, an expansion of facilities that have been in place ever since 1996. The construction cost $13 million, and it will create 35 new permanent jobs. The facility was officially opened by Colleen Bell and Péter Szijjártó. Szijjártó was effusive: “with Alcoa’s new investment, a new chapter has opened in the success story of Hungarian-U.S. economic cooperation.” We also learned that the Hungarian government “granted one billon forints for the project.”

Photo by Márton Kovács

Photo by Márton Kovács

Bell, for her part, appealed to Hungarian pride by reminding her hosts that, although Alcoa has existed for 125 years, “this is not very long in terms of Hungary’s 1000-year-old history, but for the United States, a 125-year period covers half of its existence.” Music to Hungarian ears. Of course, she also promised that in the future she will work hard to create new opportunities for both U.S. and Hungarian businesses and to further improve their cooperation. The mayor of Székesfehérvár, the city where the Alcoa factory is located, announced that the wheels of buses in the city will gradually be replaced with Alcoa products.

I somehow doubt that courting the United States in this manner will make Washington forget about the anti-American rhetoric of  pro-government papers or the incredible performance of the Orbán government in connection with the U.S. banning of Hungarian nationals because of corruption charges. Somehow I have the feeling that courting the United States without changing government policies will be just as unsuccessful as Orbán’s earlier efforts in Germany.

And one final note. Today Orbán announced that the fate of cheaper utility costs depends on his successful negotiation with Vladimir Putin on the price of gas and oil to Hungary. If he is unsuccessful, the current low utility rates cannot be maintained. The message? The Hungarian people should support his Russia policy. If not, their utility bills will rise again. Let me add that the team that came up with the idea of reducing utility prices hit a gold mine. The Orbán government’s popularity in 2012 was even lower than it is now. Yet a year and a half later the popularity of the party and the government soared. For Orbán utility rates are terribly important, and therefore I suspect that he will do everything in his power to strike a deal with Putin. The question is at what price.

József Debreczeni on the Roma question

After describing Bishop Miklós Beer’s efforts on behalf of the Roma minority and publishing the English translation of an article by Aladár Horváth, a Roma activist, I think I should mention a book by József Debreczeni entitled Ne bántsd a cigányt!: political vitairat (Don’t hurt the Gypsies: A polemic). A rather odd title that needs some explanation. It echoes the name of a book by Miklós Zrínyi/Nikola Zrinski, a Croatian-Hungarian politician and writer (1620-1664), Ne bántsd a magyart – Az török áfium ellen való orvosság (Don’t hurt the Hungarians – An antidote to the Turkish poison). In his book Zrínyi wrote: “How it is that you, Hungarians, can see the danger with your own eyes and yet are not awakened from your deep sleep.” Zrínyi was referring to the Turkish danger, but Debreczeni finds the quotation equally applicable to the danger that exists in Hungary today as a result of an uneducated, unassimilated, poverty-stricken underclass with a very high birthrate.

Debreczeni is neither a sociologist nor a historian of the Hungarian Roma. After getting an M.A. in history, he taught high school for a while but then became politically active in the late 1980s. After a short stint as a member of parliament (MDF), he became a freelance writer. He is best known for his biographies of József Antall, Viktor Orbán, and Ferenc Gyurcsány. In fact, he wrote two books on Orbán. The first appeared in 2002 a few months after Orbán lost the election and the second in 2009. The title of the second, Arcmás, means “portrait” but the word has two parts: “arc,” “countenance” and “más,” “other.” The message was that the Orbán of 2009 was very different from his earlier self.

Debreczeni considers the “Gypsy question” to be the greatest problem threatening “the existence of Hungarian society,” in which he includes the Roma minority. He highlights three aspects of the problem. First, the increasingly hopeless socioeconomic situation of the Gypsy minority. Second, the growing geographical isolation of Gypsies from non-Gypsies. Third, the demographic problem. The average Hungarian woman bears 1.3 children, a statistic that includes Roma women. Without them, that number is only around 1.0. Gypsy women have on average more than three children, and among the least educated and the poorest that number goes up to more than four. Given the low employment figures among the Roma, if these demographic trends continue Hungary will become “a third world” country. That is, if Hungarian society does not do something to answer the Gypsy question in the next decades.

After the regime change the new political elite was unable to handle the growing problems of the undereducated, unemployed Roma men and women. Just to give an idea of how little attention the new democratic parties paid to the Gypsy question, it was only SZDSZ that mentioned the problem at all in their first party program. But, in Debreczeni’s opinion, they went astray when they looked at it as simply a human rights issue. To “left-liberals” the fault lay only in prejudice and racism. This view became a “dogma,” which in turn became an obstacle to facing facts.

Meanwhile came Jobbik, a far-right party whose popularity was based in large measure on its anti-Gypsy rhetoric. At the EP election in 2009 it got 400,00 votes or 15% of the total. In the same election SZDSZ got a mere 2.16%.

“The democratic, left-liberal, anti-racist Roma politics has failed,” Debreczeni contends. He believes that the continuation of “the intolerant, confrontative, and by now unproductive liberal human rights approach” will lead nowhere and that Hungarians should find a new avenue to offer “a decent, democratic discourse and politics that would assist the integration of the Roma.” “If we can’t find it, we are lost.”

Ne bantsd a ciganytDebreczeni’s book, published two months ago, caused an upheaval in those “left-liberal” circles he criticized. A Roma activist, Jenő Setét, a close collaborator of Aladár Horváth, was the first to speak out against Debreczeni’s book. He complained about the very notion that Gypsies “are different.”

Indeed, Debreczeni, relying on research done by others, does claim that ethnic groups carry cultural baggage that may make them different from other folks. For example, he thinks that Hungarian-Germans are harder working than Hungarians. Gypsies, who until quite recently were self-employed, have a rather lackadaisical attitude toward time since they could work at their leisure. But critics charge that Debreczeni didn’t stop with a description of cultural differences. What upset people most is that he seems to make a value judgment: certain cultures are superior to others.

The second critic was István Hell, who belongs to the group of left-liberals Debreczeni criticizes. He wrote on Galamus that “we have created the current socio-cultural state of the Roma,” and he cites “segregation, limited educational opportunities, and not doing anything about these problems in the last twenty-five years.” The last and most outraged critic, Magdolna Marsovszky, expressed her surprise that such a book, which she considers racist, can be published at all.

Debreczeni answered all three. See his answer to Jenő Sötét in HVG and his article on Hell’s criticism in Galamus. István Hell wanted to continue the debate, but Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus, put an end to it, claiming that it is not fair to criticize an author for the opinions of others that he quotes.

Most likely not independently from the appearance of this book, Sándor Friderikusz decided to have a three-part series on the Roma question on his excellent program, Friderikusz, on ATV. The series aired on October 7, November 4, and November 18. I highly recommend these programs, which point out the complexities of the issues.

József Debreczeni is one of the vice-presidents of Demokratikus Koalíció, and therefore some people might consider the opinions expressed in the book to be DK’s position on the issue. However, I’ve seen no sign of either an endorsement or a criticism of Debreczeni’s suggestions on how to handle the Roma question.

Viktor Orbán and László Kövér on the warpath against Washington

While we were snooping around in Felcsút and downtown Budapest over the weekend, Viktor Orbán and his old pal from college days, László Kövér, were working hard to make American-Hungarian relations even worse than they already are.

The offensive started with a letter that László Kövér addressed to American Vice President Joe Biden. In it he complained about Senator John McCain’s speech in the Senate, in which McCain called Viktor Orbán “a neo-fascist dictator.” McCain with this unfounded statement “violated the sovereignty of Hungary.” The lack of respect McCain showed toward one of the leaders of the trans-atlantic alliance is unacceptable, said Kövér. But, he continued, McCain’s outburst is not just the single misstep of an ill-informed senator but “a brutal manifestation of a process which is becoming evident by the statements, gestures, behavior of government officials and persons who are in contact with the Hungarian government.” Kövér in the letter asked Biden to use his influence to temper the statements of government officials. In plain English, Kövér demanded a change in U.S. policy toward Hungary.

Kövér’s letter to Biden was followed by a Sunday interview with an MTI reporter in which Kövér expressed the same opinion, but even more forcefully than in his letter. From the Hungarian government’s perspective, American-Hungarian relations can be improved only by a change in U.S. policy. Hungary is an innocent victim, and therefore its government has no intention of changing its current posture in either foreign or domestic affairs. In this interview he actually accused the United States of playing a concerted “geopolitical game”  in which the U.S. “is using us, the Czechs, the Romanians, and the Slovaks for their plans ‘to make order’ in the immediate hinterland of the front line.” In his opinion, the situation is worse than it seems on the surface because “on the intermediate level of the State Department there are people who have been the opponents and enemies not only of Hungary but also of Fidesz-KDNP.” Fidesz politicians are absolutely convinced that Hungary’s bad reputation at the moment is due solely to antagonistic liberal critics of the Orbán regime who influence the middle stratum of government officials in the State Department. His final word on the subject was: “The key to the normalization of the bilateral relations is not in our hands.”

Today, echoing Kövér’s tirade, Viktor Orbán delivered a speech in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at a conference commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Timișoara/Temesvár events in December 1989 which eventually led to the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu. I must say one needs quite a fertile imagination to smuggle an attack on the United States into a speech on such an occasion, but Orbán managed. He quoted László Tőkés, the Calvinist minister who was the hero of the Romanian revolution, who apparently said on some occasion that “words uttered at the right time and place equal in value the Word of the Creator.” From here, with a sharp turn, he got to those “words uttered not at the right place” which produce destruction. Because calling another country a dictatorship, especially when uttered by those who have never in their lives lived in anything resembling a dictatorship, is wanton destruction. “Yet they think they are in possession of a description of a phantom picture of dictatorship, when they don’t see, they don’t know its essence.”


From here he moved easily to Yalta and Potsdam where “the representatives of the western world were not too worried about checks and balances” and “offered the people of Eastern Europe tyranny on a platter.” In 1989 each of those countries alone had to get rid of the shackles that were put on them in 1944-1945.

Checks and balances had to be on the Hungarian prime minister’s mind throughout the weekend because earlier he gave a very lengthy interview to Zoltán Simon of Bloomberg. Here I will summarize only those parts that have a direct bearing on U.S.-Hungarian relations. According to Orbán,”the U.S. in response to the geopolitical situation, has come up with an action plan, which they recently announced publicly, and it involves two dozen countries. This is fundamentally trying to influence alleged corruption in these two dozen countries.”

I suspect that the interview was conducted in English, a language in which the prime minister is no wordsmith, because these two sentences make no sense to me.  Perhaps what he wanted to say was that the United States is using the “fight against corruption” as an excuse to influence other countries’ foreign policies. But “this is the land of freedom fighters. And there’s public feeling in Hungary that sees a sovereignty problem in all of this. It feels that this is an attempt to influence from the outside the sovereign decisions of a freely elected parliament.”

Moving on to the U.S. criticism of Viktor Orbán’s “illiberal democracy,” he delivered the following history lesson to ignorant Americans:

Checks and balances only have meaning in the United States, or in presidential systems, where there are two identical sovereigns, that is a directly elected president and legislature. In Europe, this isn’t the case, there’s only one sovereign, there’s nowhere to “checks it or balance it,” because all of the power is delegated by parliament. In these instances it’s much more appropriate to talk about cooperation rather than checks and balances. Checks and balances is a U.S. invention that for some reason of intellectual mediocrity Europe decided to adopt and use in European politics.

Poor Montesquieu, who coined the term “checks and balances.” Or the ancient Greeks, who are generally credited with having introduced the first system of checks and balances in political life.

As for the American and European criticism of the illiberal state, Orbán’s answer is: “Hungarians welcomed illiberal democracy, the fact that in English it means something else is not my problem.”

Finally, an update on Ildikó Vida, who filed a complaint against an unnamed person who just happens to be M. André Goodfriend, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Budapest. Everything is proceeding apace. She filed the complaint on Friday, December 12 and by today the prosecutors are already investigating. Magyar Nemzet speculates that the investigators will call in “witnesses,” but the paper admits that it is possible that “Goodfriend will easily get off.” The Hungarian judicial system, which is normally slow as molasses, can be very speedy when Viktor Orbán wants to expedite matters.

The Hungarian government under domestic and foreign pressure

As I’m writing this post thousands are again demonstrating against the government. The crowd gathered in front of the parliament, which one of the organizers called “the puppet show,” and then is heading toward the Castle District, where Viktor Orbán is planning to move. The move will cost an incredible amount of money but, as one of the undersecretaries in the prime minister’s office said, the citizens of Hungary will be really happy once the prime minister moves to quarters befitting his position. Given the mood of these crowds, I very much doubt that that will be the case. The good citizens of Hungary who are out on the street actually wish Orbán not to the Castle District but straight to hell.

The demonstration was organized against corruption but, as usually happens at these mass demonstrations, the crowd went beyond the limited goal of the organizers and demanded the resignation of Viktor Orbán and his government. Fidesz politicians, it seems, have been caught flat-footed. They surely believed that these demonstrations would peter out. Winter is approaching and Christmas will soon be upon us. It was hoped that people would be busy shopping and preparing for family gatherings. But this time they were wrong. Suddenly something inexplicable happened: the totally lethargic Hungarian public was awakened. What happened? After all, the misuse of power and the network of corruption have been features of the Orbán regime ever since 2010 and yet the public was not aroused against its unrelenting abuse of power. Most people knew that Fidesz politicians are corrupt and that they stuff their pockets with money stolen from the public, but they felt powerless to do anything about it.

I see a number of reasons for this change in the Hungarian political atmosphere. I would start with the influence of the book Hungarian Octopus: The Post-Communist Mafia State, edited by Bálint Magyar, in which dozens of political scientists, economists, sociologists, and media experts published articles that presented for the first time a comprehensive picture of the institutionalized corruption which is the hallmark of the Fidesz regime. Fairly quickly the terms “mafia state” and “mafia government” became part of everyday vocabulary, and the government’s dealings came to be understood within the context of The Godfather. The sinister nature of the enterprise was slowly grasped.

A second reason for the optimism and activism was the success of the first two mass demonstrations against the “internet tax.” Viktor Orbán had to retreat. If he retreated once, more demonstrations might force him to reverse earlier decisions. The success of the first demonstrations gave impetus to the others.

Last but not least was the Hungarian government’s own stupidity when it decided to leak the news about American dissatisfaction with the National Tax Authority and the corrupt officials who tried extract kickbacks from at least one American company. Hungarians expected their politicians to be corrupt, but the news that high officials at the Hungarian Tax Authority were also on the take was too much for them. Moreover, they felt that they now have an ally, the United States of America.

According to most observers, U.S.-Hungarian relations are at their lowest point since the post-1956 period. U.S. policy toward Hungary seems to me at least to be finely calibrated. At the beginning we were told about the six unnamed people who were barred from entering the United States. A few days later we learned that the president of the Tax Authority was definitely on the list. A few more days and we were told that the president is not the only person on the list, there are a couple more. Another week went by and André Goodfriend, U.S. chargé d’affaires, indicated that there might be more Hungarians who would face the same fate as the six already on the list. Another few days and we learned from the American chargé that he had given the Hungarian government all the information necessary for investigating the cases. And it was not the “useless scrap of paper” Viktor Orbán pointed to. In plain language, we found out once again that the Hungarian government lies. And yesterday we learned from an interview with Goodfriend that the sin of Tax Office Chief Ildikó Vida goes beyond not investigating obvious corruption cases within her office; she herself was an active participant in the corruption scheme at her office. Of course, Vida is outraged, but she cannot do more than write an open letter to Goodfriend claiming innocence. As time goes by the Hungarian government is increasingly embroiled in a web of lies and Orbán’s regime comes to resemble ever more closely the government of a third-rate banana republic.

The good old days: George W. Bush in Budapest, June 22, 2006

The good old days: George W. Bush in Budapest, June 22, 2006

While the State Department is using the corruption cases as a club, Senator John McCain is pursuing his own individual crusade. The senator, who is no friend of Putin, has been keeping an eye on Viktor Orbán’s illiberal state and found it to be troubling. What we saw two days ago was his frustration that Hungary will again have a political appointee as an ambassador. As he emphasized over and over, Hungary is a very important country that deserves a professional diplomat. His outburst about Orbán as a “neo-fascist dictator” was a bit strong, although Orbán’s system does have features in common with some of the fascist regimes of the past. But the Hungarian charge that McCain is ignorant of the Hungarian political situation is entirely baseless. Once he calmed down, he put it into writing what he finds objectionable about Orbán’s illiberal state. At the time of the release of his statement on Hungary he wrote a brief tweet saying, “Deeply concerned by PM Orban eroding democracy, rule of law, civil society & free press in Hungary.”

Below I republish Senator McCain’s statement on Hungary because I find it important and because it proves that, regardless of what the Hungarian government says, McCain (undoubtedly with the help of his staff) knows what he is talking about.

Since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came to power in 2010, antidemocratic constitutional changes have been enacted, the independence of Hungary’s courts have been restricted, nongovernmental organizations raided and civil society prosecuted, the freedom of the press curtailed, and much more. These actions threaten the principles of institutional independence and checks and balances that are the hallmark of democratic governance and have left me deeply concerned about the erosion of democratic norms in Hungary.

These concerns are shared by many. A ruling by the Venice Commission in 2013 found that Prime Minister Orban’s constitutional changes threaten democracy and rule of law in Hungary, stating that the amendments ‘contradict principles of the Fundamental Law and European standards,’ and ‘leads to a risk that it may negatively affect all three pillars of the Council of Europe: the separation of powers as an essential tenet of democracy, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.’

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Committee to Protect Journalists have condemned Hungary’s media laws, saying that they create a climate of fear and media self-censorship, even after critical changes were made to account for previous complaints from the European Commission. ‘The changes to the Hungarian media law only add to the existing concerns over the curbing of critical or differing views in the country,’ said Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE’s representative on Freedom of the Media.

The European Central Bank has repeatedly warned that Prime Minister Orban’s government is encroaching on the independence of its central bank, calling for him to respect the independence of monetary policymakers and condemning attempts by the government to threaten central bankers with dismissal if they oppose government policy.

And just last month, six Hungarians were banned from entering the United States over alleged corruption. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires André Goodfriend reportedly called the ban a warning to reverse policies that threaten democratic values, citing ‘negative disappointing trends’ in Hungary and a ‘weakening of rule of law, attacks on civil society, [and] a lack of transparency.’

Democracy without respect for rule of law, separation of powers, and the protection of economic, civil, and religious liberties is not only inadequate, it is dangerous. It brings with it the erosion of liberty, the abuse of power, ethnic divisions, and economic restrictions – all of which we have witnessed in Hungary since Prime Minister Orban took power. Prime Minister Orban has justified his actions by calling for a new state model based on ‘illiberal democracy,’ but his vision defies the core values of the European Union and NATO. These alliances are founded not only on the principle of democracy, but also rule of law and the protection of individual liberty and fundamental freedoms. All members must remain committed to these values.

Meanwhile both Hungarian and foreign newspapers are full of stories about the demonstrations and about McCain’s characterization of Orbán as a “neo-fascist dictator.” As the Hungarian prime minister continues to come under attack, both from within and from without, it’s unclear how he will fight back and how effective his counterattack will be. If the proposed Sunday store closings are any indication of the government’s new game plan, the counterattack will be a colossal failure.

Sándor Kerekes: Is the Orbán regime fascist? The answer is yes

This essay is based on a survey conducted on Szabadság tér, a historic square in Budapest, to inquire into whether the Orbán regime can be characterized as fascism or not.

The survey followed the criteria of the Italian historian and eminent expert in the field, Emilio Gentile.[1] The questionnaire listed his seventeen points as to what is required to qualify a system as fascist. Nobody expressed any doubt as to whether there are signs of fascism at work in Hungary; the question is only its extent. Following a short discussion of each item, the participants graded the Orbán regime on that particular item. The marks were given as a percentage, from zero to a hundred. The principle of evaluation, as discussed in advance, was to what degree, in the opinion of each participant, the criterion had already been accomplished. This, of course, included the supposition that fascism, to whatever degree, is already established in the system.

Of the large number of people present, only fifty chose to submit their questionnaires. Even the guarantee of anonymity was not enough to convince everybody, so, the number of questionnaires containing the gender and age of the person was only forty. Nevertheless, I included the ten genderless and ageless sheets as well. A few, however, either misunderstood the method of marking, or intentionally sabotaged it, so, those sheets I discarded. There was one individual who filled out only the first half and another who filled only the second half; those two, I regarded as one questionnaire. There were some also who gave either only their age, others only their gender; therefore, the evaluation based on age is based on 43, while the evaluation based on profession is based on 40 answers.

Although it has little relevance, nonetheless, there were 21 women and 29 men in the sample. The age groups may be subdivided thusly: 30-40 years – 3, 40-50 years – 3, 50-60 years – 10, 60-70 years – 19, over 70 – 7, and over 80 – 1 person.

What is the importance of the basic question? The efforts to define the nature of the system go on almost continuously. Some call it autarchy, dictatorship, corporatist state, or the return of the Kádár-era. One such attempt to find a definitive description is the recently published book of essays, edited by Bálint Magyar, Hungarian Octopus, the Postcommunist Mafia State.[2] This set of essays provides a truly ingenious analysis of the corrupt and self-serving regime, providing much-needed original thinking and expert contribution. However, its main goal is to define the system, to give it a name, because, as it claims, as long as the system doesn’t have a name, it cannot be discussed effectively. The new invention, this new name, is extremely apt and convincing too, but the authors are still reluctant to face reality and rather invent the new theory just to avoid the reckoning. The authors chose to go as far as naming the system, but did not face the implications of reality: that the object of their theorizing is the revival of the fascist monster.

Similarly, Rudolf Ungváry, one of the most relentless and consistent critics of the system, on similar grounds, calls the Orbán system a fascistoid mutation, because, as he explains, we must give it a name to know what we must fight against. He also goes some distance, pointing out a certain group of parallel characteristics with fascism, but recoils from making a final judgment.[3]

As far as the suggestion of Ágnes Heller is concerned, namely that the Orbán system is Bonapartism, some similarity cannot be denied. But there is only a partial resemblance, and the suggestion falls short of covering all aspects of the system.

The vast majority of the critical intelligentsia, however, hasn’t even begun to recognize any of this. They bashfully turn away, or even protest as soon as the word fascism crops up. (Such an example is György Bolgár, the respected and very popular host of a daily talk show on Klubrádió, who protests immediately as soon as the subject crops up. And it does crop up with increasing frequency.) They do so mostly because they have a general, fabulistic, superficial idea of what fascism actually is, thereby making them unable to identify fascism when they see it. And then there are others who are simply unwilling to face the facts.

Regarding the nature of fascism, the specific differences of its numerous permutations and the differences between them are much less important than their similarities. Namely, the goal of forcing the country and society into the service of the State, commanded by the ‘Leader.’ And the final result of this is always, without exception, social and economical disintegration. With the narrow exception, of course, of those operating the stratagem, at least until the system itself inevitably collapses.

Examining and evaluating this phenomenon is invariably subject to the shortsighted mistake, at least at the present time and at least in Hungary, that most people look at the system and take cognizance of its state. As if taking a snapshot: what is the state of the country at the moment. In fact, the question is not the state of the country, but rather the process that is taking place, where we are coming from and where we are headed. This is a process that has been going on relentlessly for some time, reached a certain stage, and that must be recognized and evaluated. But the process is not yet complete; and the purpose of the discussion was to reveal how this circle of participants sees its progress towards becoming a fait accompli. The ordinary viewer, as much as he or she knows of fascism, forms a judgment accordingly. Considering, however, the familiarity of the populace at large with history, perhaps not too farfetched to say that the opinion based on such superficial ground, must also be quite superficial as well.

Our instinctive reaction to the process rolling on in front of our eyes is that we seem to already envision on the horizon a country doomed, and above it the specter of the single Ruler. It is not surprising, therefore, to call this emerging system, most aptly, fascism.

Let us return to the aforementioned explanations!

Bálint Magyar’s well-founded theory, formulated over several years of experience, incisively describes the nature of the system and its social conditions recognizing its structure as a mafia organization, and although he gives an excellent description of this social construct and its processes, remains within his self-imposed sociological limits. Thus, although the theory is quite wide-ranging, it doesn’t reach far enough; instead of calculating the prospective political implications, it mostly settles for the “money for power and power for money” formula.

Rudolf Ungváry is far more pessimistic and while he searches farther and deeper, he also remains within his own preselected limits. The conclusions he draws are from the historic predilections of Hungarian society to lean towards right-wing ideologies, a paternalistic state, a traditional distaste for, and general fear of democracy.[4] This allows him to go as far as the conclusion of “fascistoid mutant.”

Both authors explicitly insist, however, that their main motivation in developing their hypotheses is to find the language and definition that will ultimately help in naming and confronting the system they describe.[5]

I find both theories valuable, in fact fascinating. Yet, they confirm my conviction that there is a definite need for a list of criteria encompassing most versions of fascism, applicable to any time and place. I find the most suitable ‘shopping list’ in Emilio Gentile’s summary. Of course, the application of the list may turn out to be less than airtight, but to the extent that it is applicable, the suspicion that we are faced with fascism is justified.

Finally, it is essential to remember that the participants in this survey represent only one segment of the Hungarian public, in that they are in opposition to the Fidesz government. Therefore, the results must be taken with a degree of reservation. Even if an automatic “discount” is not recommended at the evaluation of the results, a sober skepticism is certainly necessary in viewing the outcome. Also quite important to consider are all the historical, economic, social, political, and most of all, technological progress, that have taken place since the era of ‘classical’ fascism. Thus, it is necessary to interpolate each individual criterion to today’s conditions. If I should refer to such an adjustment, I shall call attention to it.

So, what are the requisite conditions of fascism, on a scientific, historical basis? What does the angry crowd of Szabadság tér think about this? And how creditable is the opinion of this mostly intellectual company, concerning the criteria and their applicability to the actual facts?

1. coercion, imposed through violence. Repression and terror are considered as legitimate instruments for the affirmation, defense and diffusion of the prevailing ideology and political system;

Aggregate mark: 55.5%, Men: 66.6%, Women: 46.81%

Clearly, the women were more forgiving than men in this case. The marks given are somewhat lower than would be justified, because the participants didn’t take into account the countless refined techniques applied by the regime that are making redundant the presence of black-shirt squads on the streets. Nevertheless, the memories of the street brawls in the fall of 2006 are still alive, plus the fact that the government is outsourcing the violence to football hooligans and sundry right-wing guards, and the fact that the police looks away when those guards are on their threatening marches. Beyond that, the government is applying a countless variety of economic threats. Starting with the fining of ‘unruly’ members of Parliament, through the tendentious expropriation and redistribution of businesses and markets, to the use of the Tax Authority and other public institutions as instruments of threat, as well as the establishment of exclusive ‘professional chambers,’ with mandatory membership for the professions, all are intended to increase society’s feeling of fear and insecurity.

The only way to escape the general climate of fear (short of emigration) is to fall in line with the system. This doesn’t eliminate the cause of fear but simply palliate its effect temporarily until the next attack begins.

2. demagoguery exerted through constant and all-pervasive propaganda, the mobilization of enthusiasm, the liturgical celebration of the cult of the party and the leader;

 Aggregate mark: 83.08%, Men: 96.30%, Women: 84.19%

It’s clear that both genders are equally aware of the permanent demagoguery. They see and understand the participation of the churches, the relentless self-congratulatory propaganda of the government and the governing party: “Only the Fidesz!” goes their slogan. This is further boosted by the constant flood of ‘communication’ hammering home the greatness of the Leader, stating, or implying that the exclusive representation of national interest rests only in his hands and his mind. Beyond that, the religious propaganda is also increasing, stressing that there is no possible alternative leader to the Leader. Interestingly, even the opposition parties are falling for this pious adulation, so they often speak of the Leader as  “Viktor Orbán miniszterelnök úr.”

3. capillary organisation of the masses, that involves men and women of all ages, in order to carry out the conquest of society and a collective indoctrination;

Aggregate mark: 72.19%, Men: 78.52%, Women: 69.29%

Some of the examples of this are the professional chambers for entrepreneurs, teachers, the Academy of Art, etc. The same strategy is used to concentrate the government’s power by centralizing public education, the students’ organizations, and the countrywide emergency services. This runs concurrently with the emasculation of the trade unions to prevent the operation of any parallel organization protecting group interests against government intrusion in competition with the ineffectual, official chambers. The test of acceptability for these chambers is to prove constantly how faithful they are to the Party, and, by extension, to the Leader. To insure their ‘functionality’, the government dictates their bi-laws; makes membership mandatory for the practitioners of each profession; and jobs are available exclusively to their members.[6] The government invests substantial efforts in organizing and expending financial resources in these chambers (mostly the humiliated members’ money), while obstructing the parallel organizations. The official chambers are scaring away and luring the prospective members at the same time. Also manifest here is the ‘modern’, refined version of fascism: realizing the desired goals by economic pressure and legislative means, without resorting to violence.

4. totalitarian pedagogy, carried out at high level, and according to male and female role models developed along the principles and values of a palingenetic ideology;

Aggregate mark: 72.98%, Men: 76.67%, Women: 73.84%

For those who followed the invasion and expropriation of the education system in the last two years, it is clear that the concentration of power over elementary schools and the sudden hamstringing of secondary and postsecondary education serve precisely this purpose. The introduction of mandatory religious or morality classes, concurrent with the vast increase of gym classes has been achieved by sacrificing humanities classes: less education for more indoctrination. The obvious goal is the urgent dumbing down of the curriculum in order to dumb down the students. The principles and values of indoctrination are the constant references to Hungarian historic and prehistoric national greatness, pagan and Christian ideals, and the persistent sycophantic reference to the Leader. The severe curtailment of the subjects available to students is intended to eliminate classic education and substitute it with government-issue propaganda. The alumni of these schools will be at a severe disadvantage when applying to higher institutions, should there still be any in existence later. The System will have completed its destruction of education, and the remaining institutions will either have shrunk, or have gone out of business altogether: in any case, they won’t be able to provide quality education.

In my opinion, the marks given to this item are presupposing the latter development. So far, the process hasn’t reached this degree of completion, but because of the numerous teachers amongst the participants, they apparently interpolated this inevitable outcome from the present trends.

5. discrimination against the outsider, undertaken by way of coercive measures, that range from exile from public life to physical elimination of all human beings who, because of their ideas, social conditions and ethnic background are considered inevitable enemies, because they are regarded as undesirable by the society of the elect and, duly, incompatible with the objectives of the totalitarian experiment.

Aggregate mark: 74.66%, Men: 79.00%, Women: 74.19%

This policy has been in effect for a long time. This may have been the earliest step Fidesz took on the road to power: “The Nation cannot be in opposition!” Their opposition was “alien in their hearts,” they said; they grabbed onto the idea of “Gypsy crime;” identified the persons and the names of socialist and liberal politicians to criminality; and fostered the double talk implying anti-Semitism. It is possible that the first act of separating all others from their own followers was the refusal to celebrate national holidays together with others. The result by now is that society is cloven in two. Considering all this, the marks that were given are perhaps too low.

6. a mass movement, with interclass aggregation but in which, in the military and directional cadres, young middle class generation new to political activity are organized in…

Aggregate mark: 59.85%, Men: 63.89%, Women: 59.67%

The attempt to create a mass movement was done via the organizing of Civic Circles following Fidesz’s loss of the 2006 election. This network originally fulfilled Fidesz’s expectations, but because of society’s resistance that it was intended to conquer, has proven to be quite feeble indeed. The organization wasn’t worth maintaining, given the necessary investment; Fidesz was able to succeed without them.

The Hungarian military is pretty well insignificant; and so, the government embarked on the consolidation of the security establishment and augmented it by creating numerous quasi-military and uniformed police forces, amongst them, the Terror Prevention Police (the prime minister’s Praetorian guard), the Parliamentary Guard (the Speaker’s Praetorian Guard), the Budapest public transit police, the uniformed Civil Guard and many others, created by local municipalities. At the same time, the government also increased the number of secret services: the military, the National Investigation Service, and the Constitution Protection Service, which are all working independently of each other. But also belonging to this movement are the countless private security services that work in tight cooperation with the official police forces and which serve the goals of the system. There was also a semi-private secret service in Fidesz’s employ, UD Zrt. It was rescued from its original semi-legal status and with an unseemly amount of financial ‘compensation’ its personnel was reentered into the official secret service after Fidesz was reelected.

The creation of a new young middle class is noticeable everywhere and every time when any change of cadre happens. And since it happens continuously, the Fidesz-friendly alumni of the church run universities, the soon-to-arrive graduates of the new Public Service University, and the withering, or suitably transformed higher education are all in the service of creating an ‘acceptable’ supply of faithful cadre intended to fulfill the role of the new, national middle class.

7. … a militia party, that bases its identity not on social hierarchy and class origin but on sense of comradeship and which invests itself with a mission of national regeneration and considers itself to be in state of war against political adversaries and aims at acquiring…

Aggregate mark: 59.06%, Men: 63.70%, Women: 58.33%

The Fidesz has so far neglected the establishment of a militant organization. Instead, militancy was outsourced to Jobbik, the various Guards, the Outlaw Army, and the Sixty-four Counties Youth Organization, some of whom are regularly holding armed “exercises.” Nevertheless, the system is in a permanent struggle, even without its own militants.

The government, the Fidesz, that is, conducts a permanent, multilateral struggle against its opponents and its allies, picking the enemy of choice as they please and as the daily necessities require for the best effect in the propaganda war. In order to nail down its enemies, Orbán was forced to come up with the idea of a new, almost singular form of state, the “illiberal state,” providing an unlimited opportunity to choose any social formation as the enemy, be that foreign or domestic. Every battle report, of course, is a glowing boast of success, leaving the purported enemy oblivious of having been the object of the battle.

8. … the monopoly of political power, using terror, parliamentary tactics and the compromise with the leading class to create a new regime, destroying parliamentary democracy;

Aggregate mark: 89.46%, Men: 90.26%, Women: 93.33%

This item received the highest mark of all. Accordingly, the system has almost completely solidified its grip on power. The impoverished society, partly due to its innumerable disappointments, has become very sensitive to intimidation, so, the relatively modest economic threat is enough to accomplish the desired retreat of any group so far. In the invention of parliamentary tricks, Fidesz has proven to be immensely creative, and not only in qualitative, but in a quantitative way it has been prodigiously productive, sweeping all opposition aside. Coming to terms with the economic upper class was not necessary, because after their accession to power, they ‘appointed’ a new upper class of a handpicked few. They were tamed already to support the government. The newly invented System, the “illiberal state,” is intended to take the place of democracy, whose existence was intolerable to Fidesz and Prime Minister Orban already in the previous four years.

9. an anti-ideological and pragmatic ideology that proclaims to be anti-materialist, anti-individualist, antil-iberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, populist and anti-capitalistic, expressed more esthetically than theoretically through a new political style and through myths, rites and symbols of a lay religion, established to favor the process of acculturation, socialization and fideistic integration of the masses in order to create a “new man”.

Aggregate mark: 81.13%, Men: 82.74%, Women: 84.05%

Here, near unanimity was reached. Fidesz is very active in the fields of political culture as well as in cultural politics. It is frequently reaching back for examples to emulate to the times of the early 1800s, the era of ultramontane, aristocratic, Catholic privileges. A large number of Fidesz politicians imagine themselves as aristocrats, and in the absence of a real aristocracy, attribute the ancient privileges to themselves and their coterie. This is where they find their legitimacy for their discriminative social policies. The myth of this continuity failed in 1848, but there is the convenient connection in the person of István Széchényi whom Fidesz misuses as the seal of legitimacy on their own myth. The steady propaganda of a tragic national ethos of eternal misfortune and enmity from every quarter is supported by the application of a selective and tendentious version of history.

The deceitful boosting of the curse of the Paris Peace Treaty – Trianon – serves to make the claim that Hungary and Hungarians have ‘always’ been victims, as they are today, and the government uses this supposedly tragic fate to support its own legitimacy, as well as for nationalistic propaganda. However, it does it in such a manner that it expropriates Trianon exclusively for themselves as their own, as if Fidesz were the only institution entitled to govern. Fidesz in fact denies that the opposition could possibly relate to Trianon in any sensitive manner.

This attitude is tightly connected to belittling the importance of the Holocaust, partly because that is the “enemy’s” problem, not theirs, and at the same time to buttress their own position in the eyes of their followers, as was seen in the case of the Cursed Memorial.

Fidesz’s policies towards youth are in a state of flux at the moment, but its contours are becoming slowly apparent. The education system, gradually integrated into one state-run organization, with the cooperation of the churches, has already been transformed. The production cycle of producing subjects, victims, and zombies takes a while to produce results, although some are already evident. But the vision of their intended society is clearly visible in the government’s educational policies.

10. a culture based on the mythical thought and on the tragic and activistic sense of life, seen as manifestation of the will power, as the myth of youth creator of history, as wanly model of life and collective organization;

Aggregate mark: 76.79%, Men: 75.30%, Women: 83.57%

The ideology of the system does not rest on any particular theory, or program. It is rather characterized by frequent occasional extemporaneous statements in the populist vein. However, the government, while constantly referencing Christian principles (without really applying them) finds therein the grounds for rejecting materialism and for the bristling opposition to liberal ideals. The lack of a program is helpful to the government because it saves them from expanding financial resources to implement and maintain them.

The so-called new style, be it verbal, or the exercise of power, is dumbed down to the deepest extent, thus appearing that the system, but most of all, the Leader, has descended to come and dwell amongst his People. Symbols long out of use, such as the Royal Crown and the Turul,[7] and the retelling of heroic national deeds, do not only serve as identity-boosting devices to the masses and inducements to unite, but also help to create the illusion of a false historical continuity and exclusive legitimacy.

However, the husbanding of a “New Man” hasn’t occurred to anyone yet. Instead, Fidesz experiments with the creation of a new society, inasmuch as they forcibly legislate a new, restrictive family model, new religious and church system. So far, there has been quite slim support from society.

11. a totalitarian view of the primacy of politics, as integral experience and continuous revolution, to enact through the fascist State, the fusion of the individual and of the masses in the organic and mystic union of the nation, as racial and moral community, adopting measures of discrimination and persecution against those considered outsiders of this community, because enemies of the regime or because they belong to races considered either inferior or dangerous for the safety of the Nation;

Aggregate mark: 70.38% Men: 70.11%, Women: 75.86%

For the government’s System of National Cooperation (NER), not only is politics most important, politics is all there is, but only its own kind of politics is admissible. Negotiation, conciliation, or alteration of policies is out of the question, even if the predictable outcome of a policy would make it necessary. Permanent revolution and political overreach is present at all times, from the granting of miserable public works jobs, through the choice of state procurement suppliers, to the granting of state monopoly licenses. Be it a small issue, or a great one, all decisions are made on the basis of Fidesz’s perceived interests. A large part of Fidesz’s politics is defining who is included and who is excluded from The Nation. Although the discrimination of the Roma people, for example, is a clear case of racial discrimination (with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Jobbik party), the list of those being discriminated against is far larger: the increasing numbers of poor are automatically included, as are the dispossessed agricultural workers and the struggling civic organizations. Those professing liberal ideas are automatically stamped as being Jews, and therefore, also are considered enemies. Everybody is an enemy – internal or external (the European Union and the United States) – who is endangering The Nation in their view. But who the Nation is, is being decided by the Leader on a contingency basis. Since, however, the numbers of enemies are increasing prodigiously, and elastically extending to ever newer groups, The Nation is proportionately shrinking. If this process continues, soon the Fidesz hierarchy will remain alone to represent The Nation.

12. a civil ethics based on the absolute subordination of the citizen to the State, on the total dedication of the individual to the national community, to discipline, to virility, to comradeship, to warly spirit;

Aggregate mark: 70.17%, Men: 69.26%, Women: 76.33%

With respect to ethics, Fidesz submits to the ‘superior’ strictures of the Christian Democratic People’s Party and its coalition partners, and by doing so, they can masquerade as practitioners of good, old-fashioned, Catholic morality. In fact, it demands moral submission from the citizenry while in its own conduct tends to distance itself blithely from any morality. I refer here most of all to the burgeoning corruption practiced by Fidesz and the State, virtually without any self-restraint. Meanwhile, for the populace, Fidesz mandates an increasingly rigorous morality in their policies towards the family, and are preoccupied with hypocritical prudery towards sexual mores, and a distinct animosity towards single people and singledom.

Otherwise, there are still processes that are incomplete: the promulgation of the “warly spirit” is not yet on the agenda. In view of that, the mark appears to be more severe than would be justified.

13.  a single party which covers the function of organ of the “continuous revolution”, of providing for the armed defense of the regime, of choosing the directive cadres and of organizing the masses in the totalitarian State, making them part of a process, both emotional and fideistic, of permanent mobilization;

Aggregate mark: 68.75%, Men: 67.78%, Women: 75.00%

Orbán’s invention of the “Revolution of the Voting Booth” is still in effect, and keeps society in a state of permanent agitation. Augmented by the institution of the System of National Cooperation (NER), it is the tool of reorganizing the entire society according to the retrograde ideas of Fidesz under the constant pressure of existential fear. Although popular support for Fidesz and the government is in steady decline, the determination and arrogance of the remaining supporters and the hierarchy are steadily increasing; they have no choice but to participate, even if somewhat reluctantly, in the permanent mobilization and in the enmity. Concurrently, they must persist in their declarations of fidelity, because not only their advancement, but their very survival within the hierarchy depends on it.

14. a police apparatus, which prevents, controls and suppresses, even appealing to terroristic measure, dissension, and opposition;

Aggregate mark: 56.50%, Men: 56.90%, Women: 56.90%

This mark is decidedly low, perhaps because it originated before the assault of the police against the civic organizations. It is unnecessary to enumerate the countless police and quasi-police organizations created by this government, just as it is needless to point out the politically directed, pro-government bias in their operation. It is more important to realize that apart from the police, the administration of the justice system is under increasing government pressure and influence.

As is frequented mentioned in defense of the Fidesz government, there are no journalists in jail. So, how could it be fascist? Perhaps this is the moment to point out that silencing the voice of opposition and dissenting voices by stifling some individuals would be an inefficient, ‘retail’ method. This is why there are no precedents for the ‘traditional’ harassment, or jailing of individual journalists. The ‘modern fascism’ operates in an industrial, or wholesale manner, by intimidating the entire media by way of legislative means. In this case, there is no need to bother with journalists one by one.

 15. a political system ordered in a hierarchy of functions, nominated from above and dominated by the figure of the “capo”, invested with charismatic sacrality, who commands, directs, and coordinates the actions of the party, the regime, and the State;

Aggregate mark: 86.35%, Men: 87.56%, Women: 89.81%

Shoring up arguments to prove this point is almost superfluous. It is enough to point out that within this hierarchy is the inception and completion of the Mafia State. Consequently, there is no conflict between this and those two attempts described above (see page 2, f.n. 2, 3) defining the Fidesz phenomenon; the existence of mafia is a reality, however, not as its inverse, but merely part of the larger fascist system as its organizing principle.

Here, the marks given probably correctly register how far the ultimate goal of the fascistic reorganization of society is complete.

16. a corporate organization of the economy, which eliminates union liberty, enlarges the spheres of intervention of the State and aims at achieving, on the basis of technocratic and solidarity principles, the collaboration of the productive classes under the control of the regime, in order to reach its goal of power while preserving private property and class division;

Aggregate mark: 76.92%, Men: 75.67%, Women: 83.38%

It is hard to miss the conglomerating intentions in the government’s economic policies. The expropriations and purchases under the guise of the national interest; the secret “strategic contracts” with certain corporations; the frequent inexplicable cadre changes; and the government’s equity purchases in strategic sectors,[8] are all evidence of the assembling of Magyarország Zrt.[9] (Hungary Inc.) — of course, in accordance with the interests and decisions of the Leader. Naturally, in this process, the public support is courted by shameless propaganda, constantly invoking the “National Interest.” In many cases, it is hard to tell whether there is, or isn’t, public support for government involvement in business, but, the government ploughs on regardless. The government spends exorbitant sums of money on popularizing such involvement. Although this propaganda is not really necessary, the goal is obvious and the campaign would work fine without it.

As a result, the ‘protection’ of private property is realized so that the right to property is more assured for some than for some others. In this respect, the modern Hungarian fascism doesn’t honor the established rights of all, but prefers to respect only the property rights of those expropriated properties slipped into the hands of their adherents. A specific internal contradiction of this system lies in the insistence on redistribution of ownership even if it results in manifest losses and disadvantages. In these cases, despite the losses, they still insist upon the expropriation, because it is justified by ideological principles, the national interest. This is well exemplified by the redistribution of the tobacco licenses, that led to a 40% reduction in the over-all turnover of the tobacco market; the forcible intrusion of the banking sector that led to an almost complete secession of lending in the country, or and many others, that all lead to substantial losses to the state and to those industries. In reality, behind these redistributions there is always the favoring of some in the Fidesz hierarchy who eventually receive the right to those properties. The question, whether the Leader personally benefits from these property redistributions, is, for the moment, subject to guessing.

17. an imperialist foreign policy inspired by the myth of national grandeur and of the New Civilization, aiming at supranational expansion.

Aggregate mark: 58.81% Men: 64.52%, Women: 56.24%

The people giving these marks, in my view, did not quite appreciate how timely and important this point. They took the limited view of military expansion only and thus marked it too low. Of course, the minuscule Hungarian military, and the peaceable policies of the European Union absolutely preclude any possibility of armed conquest beyond Hungary’s borders. But that says nothing about ideological expansion. Fidesz is hard at work building bridgeheads in those countries where Hungarian ethnicities dwell, by creating and supporting Fidesz-clone parties in most areas. In these intentions, they are competing with even long-established local Hungarian political organizations, trying to replace them with Fidesz creations. This is an effort to break the independence of those local parties, so far, with pitiful results. The goal is to export Hungarian nationalism. To that end, the government extended Hungarian citizenship and voting rights to ethnic Hungarians of those territories: a quid pro quo.

This is the pipsqueak imperialism of a pipsqueak country’s pipsqueak government.




[1] http://www.oslo2000.uio.no/program/papers/s12/s12-gentile.pdf or elsewhere:    http://www.libraryofsocialscience.com/ideologies/docs/fascism-and-the-italian-road-to-totalitarianism/

[2] Magyar Polip A postkommunista maffiaállam, ed.  Bálint Magyar (Budapest: Noran Libro, 2013. The book has received wide attention and a second volume was published in September 2014.

[3] In point of fact, Rudolf Ungváry’s book on this subject just has been published a mere days before writing this summary. In this book he is mining to a much deeper degree the phenomenon and provides a much more detailed analysis. Rudolf Ungváry: A láthatatlan valóság; fascistoid mutáció a mai Magyarországon (Pozsony: Kalligram, 2014) (The invisible reality: a fascistoid mutation in today’s Hungary)

[4] Historian Zoltán Ripp has provided a remarkable analysis and critique of “ungvárysm” in an article: Ripp Zoltán: Jobb- vagy balmagyar – Az ungváryzmus téziseiről. (Right, or left Hungarian – about the theses of Ungvárysm) Mozgó Világ (July  2010). http://mozgovilag.com/?p=3593

[5] Laszló Kálmán expresses his reservations about the efficacy of this debate and the competition for the winning name for the regime. Élet és Irodalom (November 2014)  http://www.es.hu/kalman_laszlo;elnevezesek_es_hasonlatok;2014-11-14.html

[6]The worst example of this presently is the Chamber of Teachers, but a Chamber of Bailiffs and a Chamber of Notaries Public are in the process of being forcibly created.

[7] The symbolic, mythical bird of the fighting Hungarians of the prehistoric and medieval age.

[8] There is an increasing activity in share purchases, or full expropriations, such as the oil and gas market and the recent drive to buy out as many foreign-owned banks as possible.

[9] Zrt. is a Hungarian acronym, used for ‘closed’ private corporations, which operate without publishing reports, not traded on the stock market, and whose ownership is determined either in private negotiations or by government fiat.

Mysterious trips of Viktor Orbán and János Lázár to Switzerland

Today I will have to pull up my socks if I want to give even a semi-coherent summary of the growing scandal surrounding a company called MET Holding A.G. with headquarters in Switzerland. The holding company, established only a couple of years ago, is partially owned by MOL (40%) and partially by Hungarian individuals–people formerly employed by MOL and businessmen with close ties to Viktor Orbán.

First of all, it’s hard to decipher the company’s structure which is, as is often the case with enterprises like MET Holding, extremely complicated. Second, since it is likely that MET Holding, in addition to its regular activities, also serves as a money laundering operation for Fidesz as well as Viktor Orbán and his friends, those involved do everything in their power to conceal the company’s business activities, ownership, financials, and so on.

I should go back a few years to February 2010, only a month before the national election and the birth of the two-thirds majority, when the U.S. Embassy in Budapest compiled a report entitled “Allegations of political corruption surround unbundling law.” From the lengthy report we learn that “it is an open secret in Hungary that MVM and MOL provide significant funding to the two main political parties, with MVM rumored to favor the Socialists and MOL favoring Fidesz.”

MET Group predated this U.S. report. According to its promotional material, it began operating in 2007 “in the natural gas retail and wholesale sector benefiting from the market liberalization starting in 2004.” Currently it is active in wholesale gas trading in the European market as well as in the retail sale of natural gas to industrial customers in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Croatia. Five years later, in 2012 MET Holding was established with the objective of being “a central holding organization to manage and support all the subsidiaries of MET Group.” (If you want to know why MET Holding might have been layered on top of MET Group, I suggest you take a look at “How a Holding Company Works.”)

Shortly after the election in 2010 Orbán promised cheaper energy to consumers. In order to lower prices the state-owned MVM (Magyar Villamossági Művek) was allowed to dip into its gas reserves which it could then replenish with cheaper gas from the open market. MVM could have bought the necessary gas directly from Austria, but instead it purchased gas through MET. According to the figures that are available about the transaction, MVM gained little while MET made about 50 billion forints on the deal.

The owners of MET, in addition to MOL, are István Garancsi, a personal friend of Viktor Orbán and owner of Orbán’s favorite football team, Videoton, and György Nagy, one of the founders of Wallis Asset Management Co., a private equity/venture capital firm. Both men have close ties to Zsolt Hernádi, the beleagured CEO of MOL who is accused of bribery in Croatia, and to Sándor Csányi, his deputy and the CEO of OTP, Hungary’s largest bank. Heading MET Holding is Benjamin Lakatos. He expects sales this year to total some 3.8 billion euros.

Most likely nobody would have cared about this Hungarian company with headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, if Hungary’s prime minister hadn’t been so involved in negotiations with Putin as well as with Russian energy companies, in particular Gazprom and Rossatom, the Russian company that specializes in building nuclear power plants. Rossatom was chosen to construct two extra reactors at the Paks power plant. Given the widespread concern over Viktor Orbán’s dealings with the Russian autocrat, Swiss journalists started probing into this mysterious MET. A  well researched article appeared on November 3 in TagesAnzeiger, which was later reprinted in Basler Zeitung. According to the Swiss paper, MET Power, MET Marketing, MET International, and MET Holding all share the same Zug address. Benjamin Lakatos is the CEO of all of them. Zug, by the way, is about 20 km south of Zurich.

I understand that the company’s management is made up of former MOL employees who know the energy business inside out but who found greater opportunities outside of MOL. Lakatos is very proud of his achievement of building MET Holding in two years from practically nothing to a sizable player in the energy business, though one cannot help but be suspicious of a such a sudden rise in fortune. Moreover, given the cozy relationship in the past between MOL and Fidesz, one wonders what role MET may play in the possibly continued reliance of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán on MOL as a source of illicit money. With István Garancsi’s name in the cast of characters, one becomes doubly suspicious since he is often portrayed in the Hungarian press as Orbán’s front man.

And now let’s move to more recent events that might have something to do with MET Holding. I’m patching the story together from several sources. You may recall that the editor-in-chief of Origo, an online news portal, was dismissed because one of the reporters of the internet site was too curious about a couple of very expensive trips János Lázár, the most important member of the Orbán government after the prime minister, made to Great Britain and Switzerland. Lázár for a long time resisted revealing any details of these trips but eventually after a court order the prime minister’s office released some information. Among the bits and pieces of information that Origo received, there was one item that might be relevant. Origo was informed that János Lázár during his Swiss trip “held conversations with a German citizen about German-Hungarian and Russian-Hungarian relations.”

More than a year later there was another trip to Switzerland. This time it was a private affair. Viktor Orbán and his wife and János Lázár and his wife spent a weekend in Zurich. First they stopped in Germany to visit a “family friend” and then off they went to Zurich, allegedly to attend a concert given by a children’s choir from the Szekler areas of Romania. Quite a lame excuse for traveling to Zurich because earlier this same group gave three concerts in the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. There was also a side trip to visit a friend in Germany. Is he perhaps the same man Lázár held talks with in March 2012?

About a week ago Viktor Orbán made another trip to Switzerland. This time the occasion was a family visit (including his wife and their two youngest daughters) with Rachel, who is enrolled in a fancy, expensive hotel management course in Lausanne. Since, again, this was a private visit, the prime minister’s office refused to release any information about the trip. However, thanks to an eagle-eyed person, Orbán was spotted at the  Zurich railroad station having a beer with an unidentified man. Since the Orbáns decided to travel back to Hungary by train, a stopover in Zurich was unavoidable since there is no direct train from Geneva, a forty-minute train ride from Lausanne. But why did he choose to go by train from Lausanne all the way to Budapest, a trip that takes altogether 16 hours and 22 minutes? He said that wanted to spend more time with his children. Well, I could imagine many more pleasant ways of spending time with my family than sitting in a second-class train compartment. Suspicious Hungarians already have their own theory: for one reason or other, Orbán chose to travel by train because there is no inspection of either persons or luggage on trains. I find that difficult to believe. I hope that we are not at a point that the country’s prime minister is carrying millions of euros in his suitcase.

Although one can probably discard such speculation, one should take more seriously the information received by the Demokratikus Koalíció that while in Zurich Orbán met representatives of Credit Suisse and Pictet Bank. Pictet is a private bank which in 2012 was the target of a U.S. probe into the use of foreign banks by wealthy Americans seeking to avoid paying taxes. Pictet specializes in “wealth management.” As for Credit Suisse, which is one of the most powerful banks in the world, it also had its problems with the law. In July 2014 Credit Suisse reported a loss of $779 million because of the settlement of a tax evasion case in the United States. Zsolt Gréczy, the spokesman for DK, emphasized that they are not accusing Orbán of anything; they simply want to know whether he met with representatives of these two banks as the prime minister of Hungary or as a private individual.

All in all, the picture that emerges from the few pieces of information we have is not pretty. Orbán has enough trouble as it is. Tonight another 10,000 people demanded Ildikó Vida’s resignation–and his as well.