The Phony Realist

The author: István Bibó.

The author.

Hungarian lawyer and political scientist István Bibó published a book in 1946 entitled The Misery of Small Eastern European States (A kelet-európai kisállamok nyomorúsága) in which he employed psychoanalytical precepts to determine the cause of “the adulteration and corruption of democracy in its most diverse forms” in the states of central and eastern Europe, specifically Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Bibó’s diagnosis: political hysteria stemming from unresolved historical traumas—in the case of Poland, partition of the Russian-Prussian-Austrian partition of the country beginning in 1772; in the case of Czechoslovakia, the German-Hungarian partition of the country in 1938–1939; and in the case of Hungary, defeat in the 1848–1849 revolution against Habsburg rule and partition of the country’s Dual Monarchy-era territory via the 1920 Treaty of Trianon.

Bibó determined in The Misery of Small Eastern European States that Hungary’s defeat in the 1848–1849 revolution had had two primary effects: first, it prompted Hungarians to conclude that “Europe had abandoned Hungary in its fight for independence”; and second, it initiated “the developmental path that distanced Hungary from democratic ideals, because following the 1848–49 catastrophe the fear took root in Hungarians that assumption of all the consequences of democracy would lead to the secession of nationality-inhabited regions [of the country].”

See entire article.


In Defense of Illiberal Democracy

Zsolt Bayer (left) receives a piece of cake from Viktor Orbán at Fidesz's 21st birthday celebration in 2009.

Zsolt Bayer (left) receives a piece of cake from Viktor Orbán at Fidesz’s 21st birthday celebration in 2009.

Zsolt Bayer is one of the most prominent pro-Fidesz journalists in Hungary. He is one of the 37 founding members of the party along with Viktor Orbán, László Kövér and other high-ranking officials in the country’s current political administration. Bayer is one of the main organizers of the pro-government Peace March demonstrations that have taken place in Budapest since 2012, walking in the vanguard of the massive processions each time. He is known for his unswerving pro-Fidesz partisanship and steadfast loyalty to Prime Minister Orbán as well as his caustic attacks on the West, domestic political opponents and, occasionally, Jews and Gypsies (see The Same Stench and Who Should Not Be?).

Neither Orbán nor Fidesz have ever distanced themselves from Bayer’s fulminations. Speaking at Bayer’s 50th birthday celebration in February 2013, National Assembly Speaker Kövér said “We have lived together through good and bad, trouble and joy. Not one single time have we disavowed one another, nor shall we” (source in Hungarian).

Below is an Orange Files translation of an editorial that Bayer wrote in defense of Prime Minister Orbán’s proclaimed illiberal democracy (see Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State) published in the pro-government newspaper Magyar Hírlap on July 30, 2014 (source in Hungarian). 


Now then, here you go: The ridiculed failure of liberal democracy that you put together over the past 30 years is living its final hours. And everybody knows it besides you Pangloss masters of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism. By now it is only you who are having a fit and proclaiming that this is the best of all worlds.

It is not that. The final symbol of free-market capitalism is Detroit. The onetime industrial center and bastion of American automobile manufacturing that has become a ghost down. Where besides the homeless only rubble and ruin have found a home. The middle of nowhere, the branch of nothing—the end of free-market capitalism, that is Detroit.

The other symbol of free-market capitalism is the everyday tragedy of refugees arriving to the island of Lampedusa. As they drown on the shores of the Promised Land or get into Europe and become both part and cause of Europe’s ultimate decline.

Capital is hauling work ever further to the east in the name of efficiency because the Earth still contains hundreds of millions who perform work at the conveyor for a bowl of rice for which the eastern European slaves have already begun to ask for “too much.” The work is going, the production is going, the capital is going east, while from the east and the south the labor force and the misery and the untreatable, unbearable foreignness is streaming to the west. A true danse macabre. But back in the day participants in this dance knew what the end was. However the miserable wretches reeling in today’s danse macabre all believe that they have discovered a solution for their lives.

There is no solution. There isn’t anymore. Under the circumstances that the Pangloss masters imagine it, there isn’t anymore.

This is what Viktor Orbán was talking about. That it isn’t going to continue this way. Yes. And the work-based society is the opposite of the parasitical society, not the elimination of liberal freedoms. Nobody has eliminated these here and has not even thought of doing so. Although you eliminate liberal freedoms and place them into parentheses any time you want. America has been spitting upon all of this for years. When it watches and conducts surveillance on not only its own citizens (this is also an atrocious crime!), but on anybody in the world. This is the elimination of liberal freedoms in itself. When it holds people captive without trial and verdict amid indescribable conditions at Guantánamo, this is the elimination of liberal freedoms. But you never blather or throw a fit about this you cretins, paid panic-mongers, you unmitigated scoundrels. And at such times you keep quiet and explain: because we must fight against the terrorists. Oh, of course! It is always necessary to fight against somebody, this is the nature of dictatorship.

Your liberal democracy and your free-market capitalism are dictatorship themselves. You only give them the nickname freedom and with the help of the knowledge industry working under your command and pay make people believe that the essence of freedom is none other than the marriage of “queers.”

This is how much has remained of freedom. Ugh.

This is how much has remained and the putrefied educational system that has become a caricature of itself, where today a university degree is worth a high-school diploma fifty years ago. Or even less. And if somebody mentions this they are immediately accused of élitism. There is not one segment of western societies that has not become infected, unbearable, that hasn’t begun to rot and become condemned to destruction. And meanwhile you are horribly afraid of dictatorship, which there is not of course, but at least it’s necessary to paint it on the wall because how else are you going to sustain your own miserable, good-for-nothing and totally useless existences?

I say it one more time via Canetti: “To the crowd in its nakedness everything seems the Bastille.”   And if it doesn’t see it on its own, well then there is you to channel its thoughts in the suitable direction. At any cost, with lies of any magnitude, that doesn’t matter. Orbán says in Tusnád that the president of the United States was condemned for exceeding his authority, moreover this took place several times and everybody imagine what would happen if he WERE condemned for this reason, then how long COULD he remain in office. This means that, in fact, the United States is the true country without consequences, the showcase democracy, but if he were to exceed his authority and were condemned for it, then he would have to go right away. From this the scoundrels’ media army manufactured the following interpretation: with this Orbán wanted to say that, contrary to the president of the United States, he cannot be condemned. The cloaca called Index expounded upon this for a long while, there are more refined and vile swine than Népszabadság, they simply forged it into Orbán’s words so that the concept would be more salable. They cap off Orbán’s conditional mode (would condemn) with a can/may deverbal verbum derivative (could condemn) in order to make it possible for them to lie. Here is how the portrait of the cynical dictator is prepared for the cretins in the world of paid panic-mongers and unmitigated scoundrels.

But all of this is really secondary.

The point of the matter is that your world is drawing to an end. And you are such idiots that you are not aware of it. Because you don’t know The Tragedy of Man. But we are so good, merciful and liberal that you will have a place in the new world as well. At most you will have to quit lying. In exchange, you will be free too and, if you work, you CAN get something to eat. Scram!


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!


Prophetic Words from 1989

György Konrád.

György Konrád.

The following paragraph is from author György Konrád’s 1989 essay “Jewish-Hungarian Reckoning” (“Zsidó-magyar számvetés”): 

All forms of anti-democratic anti-communism, all revenge-inspired rightism, are contrary to the enduring interests of Hungarian Jews. If a considerable portion of the Hungarian middle class for some reason decides it does not want liberal democracy after all, then the only thing remaining for it would be some type of peripheral amalgam of nationalism and communism, some kind of national-communist authoritative state endowed with its own unique brand of paternalism. 


Konrád wrote this paragraph before Hungary’s first democratic elections, during the final year of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party dictatorship. It is a farsighted reflection on the consequences of the possible failure of Hungary’s transition to democracy—a failure that, unfortunately for all Hungarian citizens, non-Jewish and Jewish alike, took place in precisely the manner he envisioned with Fidesz’s election victory in 2010.     

Note: This is an Orange Files translation of the paragraph, which appears on p. 59 of a collection of Konrád’s essays called Zsidókról [About Jews]. This essay was published in English translation in the 1999 book The Invisible Voice: Meditations on Jewish Themes, to which Orange Files does not have access.