Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking in Tusnádfürdő on July 26, 2014.

On July 26, 2014, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán proclaimed during his annual speech at the Tusványos Summer University and Student Camp (Tusványos Nyári Szabadegyetem és Diáktábor) in Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tușnad), Romania that the new state that we are building in Hungary is an illiberal state, not a liberal state.”

Prime Minister Orbán maintained during the speech that “we regard the great financial, global-economic, global-trade, global-power, global-military redistribution of strength that became obvious in 2008 as our point of departure,” citing China, Russia, India, Turkey and Singapore as examples of systems “which are not western, not liberal, not liberal democracies, perhaps not even democracies at all, and nevertheless make nations successful” in the post-2008 world. 
 
Prime Minister Orbán identified the activity of non-government organizations (“the civil sphere”) in Hungary and the control that European Union bureaucracies exercise over the distribution of the country’s EU funding as obstacles to the building of the illiberal state. 
Below are a video of Prime Minister Orbán’s speech and a verbatim Orange Files translation of the portions of the speech (roughly one-half of it) related directly to its main theme building illiberal democracy in Hungary (see transcription of speech in Hungarian). 

The translation begins at the 3:20 point in the above video with Prime Minister Orbán articulating his premise that the global financial and economic crisis of 2008—which he referred to as the fourth “major world system-change” in the past century after the First World War, the Second World War and the collapse of communism—necessitated the transformation of the liberal-democratic Hungarian state into an illiberal Hungarian state.  

. . . 

. . . at the same time, a change of just as much significance is taking place in the world as the experience of the System Change. Therefore the task that stands before us intellectually in connection to the debates regarding an understanding of the future and the designation of the roads leading to the future is to use the System Change as an experience, but no longer as a reference point. Much rather, we regard the great financial, global-economic, global-trade, global-power, global-military redistribution of strength that became obvious in 2008 as our point of departure. . . . Therefore I believe it would be of more use if we would regard the System Change as a closed historical process and a storehouse of experience and not as the point of departure for thinking about the future.

. . . 

The contention that intended to serve as the point of departure for my presentation today is that a change of similar weight and importance is taking place in the world today. We can identify the time when this manifested itself and became obvious as the 2008 global financial crisis, more precisely the financial-West crisis. And the meaning of this change is not so obvious because people perceive it differently than the previous three. It was not obvious at the time of the western financial collapse in 2008 that we are going to live in a different world from this time on. The change is not so sharp as took place at the time of the first three global system-changes. But it is unfolding slowly in our minds, somewhat as when fog settles on the landscape, the awareness is slowly descending upon us that if we really take a look around, if we thoroughly analyze all that it taking place around us, it is a different world from that in which we lived six years ago and if we project these processes on the future, which of course always entails some risk, though it is fundamentally justified intellectual work— if we do this, we see clearly that the changes will be even more vigorous.

. . . 

There is an even more important race. We would put it this way—a race to discover the state that is the most capable of making a nation successful. Since the state is none other than the mode of organizing the community, which in our case sometimes coincides with state borders and sometimes not—I will get back to this later—perhaps the most significant theme in today’s world can be can be expressed as a race that is taking place between community-organization modes to come up with that state which is best able to make a nation, a community internationally competitive. This is what explains, my honored ladies and gentlemen, that today the hit theme in thought is understanding those systems which are not western, not liberal, not liberal democracies, perhaps not even democracies at all, and nevertheless make nations successful. Today the stars in international analyses . . . Singapore, China, India, Russia, Turkey. And I think that years ago our political community correctly felt, correctly put its finger on this challenge and perhaps even processed it intellectually and if we think back to what we did over the past four years and what we will do over the next four years, then it can be understood from here as well. Breaking away from western European dogmas and ideologies, making ourselves independent of them, we are seeking, we are trying to find that community-organizational form, that new Hungarian state, which over a range of decades is capable of making our community competitive in the great global competitiveness race.

My honored ladies and gentlemen!

In order for us to be capable of this in 2010, and especially these days, we have had to boldly utter a phrase similar to those previously quoted that belonged to the category of sacrilege in the liberal world order. We had to declare: a democracy is not necessarily liberal. Just because something is not liberal, it can still be a democracy. Moreover, it was necessary, it was possible to say that, in fact, societies built upon the state-organizational principles of liberal democracy will not likely be able to maintain their global competitiveness over the coming decades, rather they will suffer a reversal if they are not capable of changing themselves significantly. 

My honored ladies and gentlemen!

Things are such that if we look from here at the events happening around us, then we usually choose as the point of departure that until now we have known three forms of state organization: the nation-state, the liberal state and the welfare state. But the question is, what will take place now? The Hungarian answer is that an age of the work-based state can begin, we want to organize a work-based society, which, as I mentioned previously, accepts the odium of declaring that, with regard to its character, it is not liberal in nature. What does all this mean?

My honored ladies and gentlemen!

This means that we must break with liberal social-organization principles, methods and the entire liberal understanding of society. I will only touch upon this in two dimensions, I don’t want to go into a longer presentation, I just want to touch upon it so that the gravity of the situation becomes apparent. The point of departure of liberal social organization with regard to the relationship between two people is built on the notion that we are free to do anything that does not violate the freedom of others. Twenty years of the Hungarian world prior to 2010 was built upon this conceptual-ideological point of departure. Accepting, by the way, a general principle in Western Europe. However, 20 years were necessary so that in Hungary we could express the problem that intellectually this is an exceptionally appealing thought, though it is not clear who will say from what point something violates my liberty? And since it is not a given, somebody has to determine this, to decide this. And since we did not designate anybody to decide this, we continually experienced in everyday life that the stronger decided it. We continually felt that they trampled upon those who were weaker. Conflicts arising from the mutual recognition of one another’s freedom are decided  not according to some abstract principle of justice, but what happens is that the stronger is always right. It is always the stronger neighbor who says where the gate is, it is always the stronger, the bank that says how much the interest rate is, which it changes along the way if necessary. And I could otherwise continue to list the examples that continually impacted the defenseless, the weak, individuals and families with smaller economic defense forces than others as a life experience over the past 20 years. To this we propose and are trying to build Hungrian state life on the thought that this shouldn’t be the organizing principle, the organizing principle of society. This cannot be enacted into law, here we must speak of an intellectual point of departure. Don’t let the organizing principle of Hungarian society be that everything is permitted that does not violate the liberty of others, but that of don’t to do others what you wouldn’t want done to you.  And we will attempt in Hungarian public thought, in the education system, in our own behavior through our own examples to place the world that we can call Hungarian society on this theoretical foundation. If we look at this same idea with regard to the individual and the community—because I was now speaking of the relationship of individual and individual—then we see that the Hungarian liberal democracy built up over the past 20 years was not able to accomplish a good many things. I made a short list of what it was not capable of.

Liberal democracy was not capable of stating openly and obliging—even with constitutional force—governments that they serve the national interest with their work. Whatsoever: to debate the notion of the existence of national interest. It did not oblige governments to recognize that Hungarians living throughout the world belong to our nation, to the Hungarian nation, and to attempt through its work to strengthen this affinity. Liberal democracy, the liberal Hungarian state did not protect communal property. . . . Then the liberal Hungarian state did not  protect the country from indebtedness. And finally, it did not defend families, here one can think about the foreign-currency loan system. It did not defend famiies from debt servitude either. Consequently, the interpretation of the 2010 election—particularly in light of the 2014 electoral success—could admissibly sound like this: that in the great world competition that is taking place in the interest of establishing the most competitive state, the Hungarian citizens expect the Hungarian leaders to find, to form, to forge the new Hungarian state organization that, following the era of the liberal state and liberal democracy—of course maintaining respect for the values of Christianity, freedom and human rights—can again make the Hungarian community competitive and carries out and honors those unfinished duties, neglected obligations that I listed.

So, Honored Ladies and Gentlemen!

Namely, what is taking place in Hungary today can be interpreted as the political leadership having made an attempt to make it so that the individual work and interest of people, which must be recognized, stands closely interconnected to the community, the life of the nation and that the connection endures and that this connection strengthens. That is to say, the Hungarian nation is not a mere agglomeration of individuals, but a community, which must be organized, strengthened and, in fact, built. In this sense, therefore, the new state that we are building in Hungary is an illiberal state, not a liberal state. It does not deny the fundamental values of liberalism, such as freedom, and I could bring up a few more, but does not make this ideology the central element of state organization, but contains a unique national approach that diverges from it.

Honored Ladies and Gentlemen!

After this, I must speak about what obstacles must be overcome in order for this to take place. It may easily be that what I say seems evident within this circle, however when all of this must be elevated to the level of a political program and work, then it is not this way whatsoever. I will not enumerate all of the obstacles, I will just mention few, more precisely two of them, not even the most important necessarily, but the most interesting. The relationship between professional political officials versus those operating in the civil sphere. That is to say, somebody, leaders empowered and elected to do so, must organize and govern the state. However, civil organizations appear at the periphery of state life. In Hungary the civil world is showing a very unique face. Those operating in the civil sphere—contrary to the professional political official—are individuals, are a community that is organized from below, stands on its own financial feet and is naturally voluntary. Now in contrast to this, if I take a look at Hungary’s civil sphere, that which plays a regular role in public affairs—the controversy surrounding the Norway Fund has brought this to the surface—then I see that we are dealing with paid political activists. Activists paid by identifiable foreign spheres of interest . . .

And these paid political activists are, moreover, political activists paid by foreigners. Political activists paid by identifiable foreign spheres of interest about which it is difficult to imagine that they regard this as a social investment, rather the notion is much more justified that through this system of means they wish to exercise influence over Hungarian state life at a given moment and with regard to given issues. Therefore it is very important if we want to organize our national state in place of the liberal state to make it clear that here we are not standing opposite people from the civil sphere, it is not people from the civil sphere coming at us, but paid political activists who are trying to assert foreign interests in Hungary. This is why it is very correct that a committee was established in the Hungarian parliament that is engaged in the continual monitoring, recording and publicizing of foreign influence gathering so that everybody, you as well, can know precisely who the true characters are behind the masks.

I will mention another example that is another obstacle to the reorganization of the state. When I bring up the European Union, I don’t do it because I think that it isn’t possible to build an illiberal state standing upon national foundations within the European Union. I think this is possible. European Union membership does not exclude this. It is true that many questions arise, many conflicts develop, you could follow this over the past years, many battles must be waged, but now I am not thinking of this, but about another circumstance with which you are likely unfamiliar in this form. When the agreement expired between Hungary and the European Union that stipulated the financial relationship between the union and Hungary for seven years, it expired this year, and the conclusion of a new agreement for the next seven years appeared on the agenda, which is taking place right now, then a dispute erupted. . . .Now a dispute has developed between the union and Hungary because we changed this system and the government made a decision according to which it will have control over European Union money, in this new state conception, in the illiberal state conception . . .

. . .

Now the only question is, my honored ladies and gentlemen, though here the answer is not incumbent upon me, that in a situation like this in which anything can happen if we should be afraid or rather if we should be filled with confidence. Since the current order of things in the world does not exactly suit our tastes, I think that we should think that the anything-can-happen age that stands before us, though according to many it carries insecurity and could cause trouble, that it holds at least as many possibilities and chances for the Hungarian nation. Thus instead of fear, withdrawal and crawling into a shell, I recommend courage, forward-looking thought and sensible though bold action to the Hungarian community of the Carpathian Basin, in fact to the entire Hungarian national community spread out across the entire world. It could be that after anything happens, our time will come. 

Thank you for your respectful attention!

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