“Fascist Zombies” From Hungary Threaten EU
Published on: December 22, 2011
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  • WigWag

    I wonder whether Professor Mead is personally acquainted with Kati Marton. M’s Marton is the wife of the late Richard Holbrooke and an excellent journalist. She also happens to be Hungarian by birth and two years ago she wrote a fascinating memoir about her experiences growing up in Hungary. The book is entitled “Enemies of the People” and it is available for the Kindle. The book focuses on the jailing of her father, a prominent dissident Hungaian journalist be the Hungarian communist regime in the 1950s.

    It would be interesting to know what Ms Marton thinks about what is happening in contemporary Hungary.

    For those who haven’t read her book, it is well worth the purchase price.

  • joe

    “Csurka apparently believes that the Zionists, not content with Israel, are looking to establish a “second homeland” in Hungary.”

    Can you prove this isn’t true?

    For those interested, thera are two complimentary blogs on the Hungarian problem that are worth reading: the Hungarian Spectrum (esbalogh.typepad.com) and a round-up run by the director of Princeton’s Law and Public Affairs Institute, Ms. Kim Lane Scheppele, who is, happily, an expert on Hungarian constitutional law.

  • Steve

    Yeap, send in the army in the name of Democracy (?).
    That’s the fascist American way of dealing with renegade countries and this arrogance will eventually bring America down.

  • Luke Lea

    What is driving this move towards extremism? I know nothing about Hungary. But somehow the factors you mention don’t quite explain it. I’ll report back in 30 minutes.

  • Anthony

    “Many Hungarian politicians know what needs to be done; what they don’t know is how to get reelected after they do it.” Troubling times WRM…and 1930s’ solutions have been rendered both absolete and incorrect. What is happening in world suggest…and it is equally important for future of globe.

  • Luke Lea

    Well, it has been more than 30 minutes and I confess I could not identify any major additional factors to explain the situation, unless you count the absence of a conservative, pro-market political party in opposition. All four major parties are officially “socialist.”

    I did see one hopeful sign however. The new constitution seems designed to insulate the present party from voter discontent, but only within limits. The IMF has Hungary by the short hairs. Without outside help the economic situation seems sure to deteriorate much more than it has, which means the present party in power is likely to be voted out despite all the gerrymandering. A new party committed to market reforms might be in a stronger position to put into place the kinds of fundamental changes Mead advocates, which would be ironical.

    I also noticed the Hungarian mortgage debt (like that of Poland I believe) is denominated mainly in Swiss franks, not Euros.

    Does that mean Switzerland would bear most of the burden of default instead of the Euro? Would the chance of financial contagion be less than in the case of Greece. I really don’t know, but maybe. Otherwise why do bankers seem a lot less worried about the situation in Hungary?

    Hungary also has a very strong export market, a favorable balance of trade, and smaller annual deficits as a percentage of GDP than many of its neighbors. There must be some good news hidden in there somewhere.

  • JeremyR

    I’m sorry, but the US is not a country to talk at all.

    We’re in debt as much as any country in Europe, really. We have more people in prison than any country in the world, a disproportionate number of which are minorities put away in the name of the drug war. Inflation on food and fuel is going through the roof, mostly thanks to government policy, which is making life for poor people very unpleasant. Not to mention, the same thing that driven health care costs for all but the insured or rich to leave a good deal of the country without any access to doctors (unless you want to wait for days at a free clinic or emergency room).

    And lets not forget the increasing militarization of the police and the whole TSA thing where sexual assault is not considered “normal”.

  • Luke Lea

    Here is some more hopeful commentary (25 July 2011, Hungarian Review) on the present regime. If true (or is it just official propaganda??) Mead may have to modify his views somewhat:

    “Over the course of the past several years, under the governance of the liberal left-wing, Hungarian economic policy was often criticized as unstable and unpredictable. The new bases of the economic system will be regulated by the so-called cardinal laws (which require a two-thirds majority), as provided for by the new Constitution.

    In a recent television interview Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke of how in the future some of the basic regulations of the pension system, the tax system, and the budget would be determined by votes requiring a two-thirds majority, not the traditional simple majority.

    By the beginning of 2011, the government had formulated the main outlines of the promised (and urgent) structural reforms. The essential thrust of the plan, which is named after early 20th century Prime Minister Kálmán Széll, and many of the elements of the programme have been described as promising by economic experts, including the permanent representative of the IMF in Hungary.

    In particular, the reform of the welfare system was seen as positive. Benefits became more target-based, promoting the sustainability of the system. (Hungary spends more money on such benefits than the other countries of the region.) At the same time, according to expectations these reforms will encourage people to return to the labour market, and this will favourably influence employment, the development of the budget, and economic growth.

    It is worth noting that owing to an irresponsible early retirement policy introduced in 1995, Hungary has the lowest employment rate among the active population in the European Union, about 61 per cent. One could compare this with the American employment rate of nearly 80 per cent. One hardly need list the far reaching, disastrous social and economic consequences of this policy.

    The transformation of the welfare system, so often a topic of discussion, means first and foremost the fundamental reform of the big social network systems, in other words the transformation of health care, health insurance, and the pension system. In the long run, today’s Hungarian pension system, which is part of the social network, is simply untenable, for essentially the same reasons as in France. Its basic pillar, the pay-as-you-go system, is showing fissures.

    The specific details of the transformation of both the health care system and the pension system have not yet been worked out, and experts are still examining several concrete European models, for instance the system in Sweden, and in all likelihood by the beginning of next year some of the most important outlines will have emerged. (The conceptual framework of the so-called Semmelweis-health plan and several of its particulars are already known, such the creation of a state health care system founded on regional units, the assumption by the state of control over twelve of the hospitals of Budapest, and the intention to reduce the expenditures related to the provision of medications over the course of the next two years.)

    In the meantime, in practice, reforms of the welfare system have already begun. For instance, pay for sick-leave has been reduced, the period of eligibility for unemployment benefits has been cut, allowances and entitlements in some sectors have been cut, and the whole pension system is being re-examined, including disability pensions and early retirement. The intention is simply to put more people back to work. Of course the plans and the decisions of the government are also responses to the urgent need to reduce expenditures. (And the need to reduce expenditures is by no means unique to the social sphere…)”

  • Mike

    Steve,

    There are other sites for people who don’t know what fascism means. Could you please spend you time there? Or better yet, learn what the fascists professed and how they came to power. A would-be informed citizen should learn it the same as a doctor studies diseases.

  • Toni

    “If voters refuse to make sensible choices, sooner or later they will lose the power to choose.”

    Does that principle hold true on this side of the Atlantic? *gulp*

  • I tend to be skeptical of fears of resurgent European Fascism precisely because it was so destructive that Europeans should be very vigilant in that regard. Seen through the lens of Der Spiegel I don’t know what to think. What I do notice is that anti Semitism is resurgent and both on the left and the right. The former commonly masquerades as anti Zionism while evidently the latter is having a love affair with the idea that the Jews are cooking up a plot to cleanse out a bit of lebensraum in Hungary. Yup, that’ll work!

  • Cunctator

    I have always thought Orban was inclined to go too far in his politics and he is doing so again.

    That said, Americans need only look to their northern neighbour to see a new authoritarianism, where democratic institutions are being effectively stifled by a “conservative” government (hyphens because they are too unprincipled fr such a label). Perhaps in our current age, when most right & centre-right political leaders present themselves as populists, authoritarianism is a natural consequence. Lacking the moral compass of a well-understood cnsevative philosophy, they naturally emphasise control. Just an idea.

  • Kris

    Look at the bright side. At least this isn’t Germany.

    “The laws and regulations of the EU fill thousands of volumes and binders”

    One might wonder whether these laws and regulations are strangling democracy and (unintentionally) laying the groundwork for an alternative…

    [email protected]: “Can you prove this isn’t true?”

    I can’t actually prove it, but it stands to reason. After all, they’re have enough of a problem with the Arabs; why on Earth would they want to deal with Hungarians?!
    [/hum]

    [email protected]: So when our host voices concern about actual fascist developments in another country, your response is to attack Americans. But of course!

  • ErisGuy

    Inadvertent comedy: which EU sub-national entity has an army that could conquer Andorra, Greece, or Italy?

    In European culture the only viable forms of government are fascism and communism, which are popular with both the people and the intellectuals. Let Europe be EUrope.

    If Obama can bring our army home from Iraq after 10 years, he can bring our army home from EUrope after 65 years.

    EUropa delanda est.

  • teapartydoc

    Socialism leads to fascism, a police state, and eventual dictatorship. So, what else is new? Perhaps Wig Wag can explain to us all how this isn’t true, and that the sky isn’t really blue after all.

  • Steve W from Ford

    “If a Hungarian government were to announce cuts of just 25 percent to current subsidies for health care, higher education and the pension system over a five-year period, there would be riots”

    Well it takes considerably less than a 25% cut !!! to get the US riled. Cuts of this magnitude would have the OWS crowd swelled by the left to a point that would shut down most cities. We are not immune to irrationality in voting as the repeated re-election of Barney Frank proves.

  • Guess they forgot that they already shipped all their “Zionists” to Auschwitz, like my wife’s great grandfather, her great uncle and his entire family. The EU did impose sanctions on Austria when Jorg Haider’s neo-fascists were in government there. They’ll have to do the same here.

  • Twobyfour

    Cunctator says: “That said, Americans need only look to their northern neighbour to see a new authoritarianism, where democratic institutions are being effectively stifled by a “conservative” government (hyphens because they are too unprincipled fr such a label). Perhaps in our current age, when most right & centre-right political leaders present themselves as populists, authoritarianism is a natural consequence. Lacking the moral compass of a well-understood cnsevative philosophy, they naturally emphasise control.”

    What a load of bologna! Provide examples how “democratic institutions are being effectively stifled”, will ya? If attempts to dismantle the vestiges of leftist authoritarianism like HRC is your example, then double bologna!

    Also, the old canard put out by the left that fascism and derived ideologies are “right-wing” should be put to sleep. When you analyze the political manifestos and the methods implementation of the left (the only diff is whether to do it gradually or not so), authoritarianinsm and totalitarianinsm always creep behind.

    The only difference between nominally left and the crypto-fascists is the form of the scapegoat. Nowadays, the propensity of fascists to scapegoat Jews is not only apparent in their respective movements, the left all over seems to develop lately a voracious appetite for the same. It shows that the roots are the same. Left’s scapegoating just has a wider berth to include “enemies” de jour as required by the expediencies. The left has been always more inclusive in their modus operandi.

  • Attila Kolovrat

    It is true “Nobody can be prophet in his own country”
    I whis it not to be true this time!
    A hungarian
    AK

  • Jim.

    The scary thing is, the United States also needs to make 25% cuts to Social Security, and possibly deeper cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, or we face similar budgetary collapse.

  • Cunctator

    Twobyfour — you must be a Canadian and I daresay a supporter of the Conservatives, because that is exactly the type of emotional over-reaction one gets whenever Harper and his ilk are criticised. As a small “c” conservative, I am appalled by the government’s disdain for parliament, parliamentary traditions, parliamentary oversight bodies, for the media (of whatever stripe), the electorate and also our Constitution (that the PM himself has consistently misrepresented top an otherwise ignorant public).

    However, that aside, my point was that in this day and age most Conservative Party leaders wherever have no underlying philosophy, and rely on populist appeals — and that leads to authoritarianism. I don’t think that fascism necessarily springs from that same vein, but it might. In Orban’s case, it is a much deeper nationalist streak that he is tapping in to, and that inckludes a traditional anti-Semitism that is still present in Hungary today (and that I have seen up close, although I am not Jewish, in a visit a few years back to Budapest).

  • Certainly jews are canaries in the coal mine regarding a country flirting with fascism but they are not the only one. Gypsy policy is similarly indicative which is why the case of the Fidesz MEP Lívia Járóka (the 2nd ethnic gypsy MEP ever) really needs to be addressed. Is she window dressing or is she a real world sign that the fears of Fidesz fascism are overblown?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @TMLutas: or does the word “tokenism” also exist in Magyar?

  • Russ

    Used to be you had to hunt and hunt to find a copy of Magyar Nemzet in all the fashionable places. Now you have to hunt and hunt to find Nepszabadsag. Same story, different day — Orban’s simply clumsier about it than Gyurcsany was.

    Each “side” has played a miserable game of beggar-thy-neighbor for years, where picking the right side has been an important part of whether you happened to be successful or not if you were anywhere near sniffing distance of the public sector.

    Sadly, like Ireland, the secret to being a successful Hungarian remains “you have to get out in time.”

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