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Response to IstvánDeak ³A Threat to Whom?

´ Dear István, Ensconced in your ivory tower on Morningside Drive and West 118th Street, your article ³Hungary: The Threat´ in the New York Review of Books was for me a great disappointment. I have followed your writings and been an admirer of your scholarly work and many of your thought provoking essays, but this latest piece (April 28, 2011, vol. LVIII, no. 7, pp. 35-37) was to say the least, a great let-down. Why? Because you haveuncriticallyjoined the pack of denigrators who attempt to present the current Orban government in Hungary as a sinister threat to European and democratic values. You have taken over hook-line-and-sinker the accusations, the labeling and the mood of the discredited and defeated MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) and SZDSZ (Free Democrat Party) activists. These parties used their time in power ± particularly from 2002 to 2010 ± to fill their own pockets and continue the failed policies of the Horn, Medgyessy and last phase of the Kadargovernments and have kept Hungary indebted to Western bankers. Both the SZDSZ and MSZP were parties composed mainly of opportunists who used their power positions for selfaggrandizement and not the ³good´ of the commonweal. Ideological commitments either to Socialism or Liberalism were lip-service commitments. Most of the members of these parties were the privileged children of the pre-1989 ruling class who grew up during the years of the ³soft´ dictatorship of Kadar¶s Gulyas Communism. Many of them were sent to Western universities for their education and they had the best of both worlds ± paid for by the loans of the IMF, or grants from the Soros Foundation on the short-run, but the Hungarian tax-payer on the

long run. As beneficiaries of this system they saw no need to bring about real reform. And when they were swept out of power by Orban and Fidesz in 2010, they saw their world of privilege evaporate. Their bitterness, sour-grapes, led them to orchestrate a campaign on the international front to discredit the Orban government. Unfortunately, they have also ensnared you in this campaign. Some of their tactics of disparagement already were used right after regime change in 1990, when the Jozsef Antall government was their target. But these tactics have now been taken off the shelves, dusted off, and are used with a vengeance against Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. What are these tactics? You sum them up quite well in your initial statement on page 35 so I will not repeat them here. Instead, I will reflect on some of these charges and provide a little background so that the readers of the NY Review of Books receive a clearer picture about the nature of the ³Hungarian Threat.´ The Orban government has accurately diagnosed that Hungary¶s problem has been overspending. This was a consequence of the desire to solve all problems by borrowing from the banking establishment of the West and the IMF, and selling off critical parts of Hungary¶s economy at cut-rate bargain prices. While on the individual level living off credit or going to the pawn-broker, may spur consumerism that contributes to the growth of the overall economy, when a political system falls into this trap, it becomes a part of the neo-serfdom of the new global economy, controlled by the haves and subjugating the have-nots. To Orban¶s credit, not only did he recognize this subjugation, but he took steps to break free from it. First, he ended the IMF¶s ³controlling´ role in the Hungarian economy. Second, he increased the taxation on the

multinational corporations that have been destroying the Hungarian small and middle-level economic enterprises and at the same time taking their profits out of the country rather than reinvesting in its domestic development. These corporate centers have been the major supporters of the attack against Orban in the European Parliament. It is hard for them to swallow the demand that they pay a fair share of taxes from their profits. As in the individual states of the U.S.A. the preferential taxes are a constant source of ³blackmail´ (we will go elsewhere) or of corruption. Thirdly, he has also addressed the domestic sources of this problem by confronting the gross inequalities of wealth distribution that you also note on p. 37. The Orban government has addressed this in three ways, first by putting a ceiling on C.E.O. salaries who are employees of the state (e.g. President of the National Bank), by nationalizing private pension funds into one unified national social insurance system like the American Social Security system, and he has also begun reassessing and curbing Hungary¶s retirement system abuses. Finally, Orban has also put brakes on the cut-rate ³privatization´ of Hungarian enterprises and the sell-off of agricultural land to foreigners. Since I have just returned from a five month study tour in Hungary, I have had the advantage of witnessing developments on the ground there. Hence my opening observation that you may be isolated from real events and are taking the testimonies of disappointed and disgruntled opposition politicians as reality. Although you are a master of stating your position in a low-keyed analysis, your approach is still extremely one-sided overall. This is manifested in a number of techniques you use to achieve your objective, including word use and occasional backhanded compliments. For instance you claim Hungary has become a virtual one-party state. Furthermore, that it is run by a right-wing coalition of populist conservatives. Don¶t you feel that this is an unfair and perhaps

contradictory generalization? While you do admit that the coalition represented ³merely´ 53% of the voters in the last election youview it as a threat because it¶s a clear-cut majority! Aren¶t majorities supposed to govern in a democracy? And opposition is still present, although divided between 17% of the Socialists and the 16% of Jobbik (far rightist party) and the 6% of LMP (Politics Can Be Different). But it is an opposition on both the left and the right. Furthermore, since Hungary has a Parliamentary system rather than a Presidential system, the checks and balances are the voters themselves. In a Parliamentary system it is the majority in that chamber that calls the shots! This too is democracy at work and even the 53% is the result of compromise between Fidesz and its KDMP (Christian Democratic) coalition partner. This brings us to the point of Hungary¶s newly adopted Constitution. You present this Constitutional engineering as if it were ³quite new in the history of the European Union´ (p. 37). How so? It actually helps Hungary rejoin Western Europe by abandoning the Soviet imposed ³Stalin´ Constitution of 1949 and its patched-up revision of 1989. In the process the new preamble actually emphasizes the Christian values of the European continent which include the sanctity of the family, faith and order as you point out. Furthermore, the legal legacy of the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen provides a link of continuity with the Hungarian state¶s 1000 year plus historical existence that the previous two documents ignored. You, as a member of the American delegation that returned St. Stephen¶s Crown to Hungary in 1978, as I remember, made statements to the same effect both in conversations at the Hungarian Parliament and in subsequent comments justifying its return at the time. We in the scholarly community applauded these comments, but these same comments made you and the Carter Administration the target of bitter attacks by much of the Hungarian emigree community in the USA.

The newly adopted Constitution is not only a European basic law, but a truly Hungarian document as well. A greater involvement of the Hungarian public was generated prior to the over 2/3rds adoption vote by Parliament, then was the case for either of its predecessors. For the past six months a constant informational campaign was undertaken by Jozsef Szajer (the Fidesz faction leader to the EU) and Katalin Szili (the former Socialist Speaker of Parliament) the cochairs of the Constitutional Coordinating Committee to involve the public. To this end all eight million adult Hungarians were mailed a questionnaire asking them to register their opinions about the proposed constitutional document. The questionnaire was returned by over 980,000 citizens, an over 15% return, which is an excellent response rate for such a mass mailing. These questionnaires were tabulated and the open ended responses were also analyzed, to help decide the final content of the basic law. Earlier in your article you accused Fidesz of walking out of Parliament whenever Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany (MSZP) attended sessions. To my knowledge such a massive walkout occurred only right after Gyurcsany¶s ³celebrated´ speech of sz d to the MSZP party faithful, where he labeled Hungary a whore of a country, and admitted that ³we´ lied to them (the Hungarian voters) day and night to win the elections in 2006. Otherwise, walkouts were done by individual representatives, not all Fidesz Parliamentarians. You said this was a patently undemocratic tactic ³even´ in Hungarian Parliamentary practice. Since the Parliament has been debating the Constitution, the MSZP and LNP party members have been responsible for just such walk-outs en masse, and for the duration of these sessions. Yet you do not say that this is ³undemocratic´? Is this not a double standard of some sort?

Now let me turn to the media law and the concern you voice for the rights of Jews and Roma (Gypsies) in Hungarian society. As you Yourself admit Orban has assured Hungarian Jews (and Roma!) that their freedoms and rights will be protected. His government ³has repeatedly paid homage to the memory of Auschwitz and the Holocaust in Hungary.´ Yet later you write that Hungarian society is unable to confront the Holocaust. What else are they supposed to do? It is already commemorated publicly, it is part of the school curriculum, memorials for Wallenberg and the murders carried out by the Arrow Cross hoodlums (1944) are acknowledged in a memorial on the Danube waterfront. Wartime reparations have been paid to the survivors of the death camps. Yet you use a broad brush and contend that this is a widespread problem. You link Orban to Zsolt Bayer¶s (editor of Magyar Hirlap) diatribe which calls individuals who criticize Hungary as ³stinking excrement´. Why should Orban lower himself to distance himself from this kind of gutter journalism?He (Orban) did not associate himself with this piece in the first place. You also make unsubstantiated statements that ³the far right´ is responsible ³for hysterical calls for violence against the Roma and the Jewish population´and argue that at present perhaps the media is ³a little too free´. I have not encountered this type of call to violence in any of the organs of the right or even the far right. Even in the graffiti that adorns the highway underpasses and the public walls along the railroad stations, I have almost never seen anti-Jewish symbols or statements; unfortunately I have seen such anti-Roma manifestations. Please do not misunderstand, I do know that Hungary has an undercurrent of racism present in some sectors of the population at large, but it is not more extensive than in any other European state, or for that matter the United States. However, their manifestations appear on the internet, where any moron can find a nitsch, and not in the printed or refereed media. At any

rate, the Orban government has done more to combat this in an intelligent way than any of its predecessors. The government has both Jewish and Roma members at the highest level (e.g. Gy rgy Sch pflin, Livia Jaroka) as EU representatives, Cabinet members and advisors. This government has initiated the most ambitious program as President of EU to deal with the very complex question of Roma socioeconomic integration in allEuropean societies. And this stance has been backed up by the government¶s promise to provide 10,000 scholarships to Roma youth and 100,000 jobs in Roma areas of unemployment. On the basis of my scholarly focus on minority-majority relations I can agree that not everything is acceptable in this sector of our existence (American, European or Hungarian.) However, I would also contend that since World War II Roma and Hungarian minorities in the region have been the butt of abuse much more frequently than anyotherminority in the region, including the Jewish population of Hungary, Slovakia or elsewhere. The abuse of Hungarian minorities is much more widespread and measurable if we tabulate the hate graffiti that gets onto the walls of Hungarian churches in the Vojvodina or certain cities in Slovakia or Transylvania in Romania. Yet no tears are being shed for them and the human rights establishment still ignores the fate of the ³Temerin Five´ in Serbia!1 The charge of ³anti-Semitism´ is a dangerous charge! Even in some American universities (University of California ± Berkeley, University of California ± Santa Cruz, Rutgers University) such charges linking criticism of Israel¶s human rights record to ³anti-Jewish´ comments, can lead to unforeseen consequences. Crying wolf once too often is not something that does any good either for the Jews of Hungary or for Hungary as a whole!

1

The Temerin Five are five Hungarian young men in Vojvodina who have been incarcerated since 2005 in Serbian jails based on trumped-up charges for the attempted murder of a Serb drug dealer.

This brings us to the issue that is the other side of the coin, the granting of Hungarian citizenship to Hungarians who want it and reside outside Hungary. Why has this become necessary now? Because finally Hungary has a government that is committed to defending the interests and rights of Hungarians living as minorities in neighboring states. These minorities constitute almost 1/4th of the Hungarian population in the Carpathian basin. Since the Treaty of Trianon (1920) they have been subjected to second rate citizenship and persecution in most of the successor states. The international organizations of the Entente after W.W.I. and the Allies after W.W.II. did not do anything to enforce the minorities treaties or the human rights requirements of the League of Nations or the United Nations. Finally, Hungary has a government that is resolved to end this institutionalized discrimination based on the antiMagyarism of the Little Entente and their enablers. The solution is extending the rights of Hungarian citizenship to all Hungarians who desire to formalize their membership in the Hungarian nation without threatening existing state borders. This kind of dual citizenship, by the way, is already established for many Slovaks, Croats, Romanians and Serbs. (The only reason the Hungarian case has raised eyebrows is because of the large number of Hungarians living in the successor states.) The media law and the Constitutional Court were two other issues that you raised in ³The Threat´ essay! Both areas had to be addressed by the Orban government because of the imperfect regime change of 1989-90. Too much of the baggage of the previous Kádár years was brought into the ³new order.´ On the one hand, the entrenched existing personnel in both areas (media was a high priority control area as was the judiciary by the Communist Party) enabled former party apparatchiks to occupy influential, controlling posts after ³regime change.´ (Prime Minister Medgyessy was involved as a prominent ³Security Agent´ of the Party, Prime Minister

Gyurcsany had been leader of the Communist youth organization, Prime Minister Horn had been an active member of the Workers Guards that helped to stifle the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom struggle of 1956.) Furthermore, these carry-overs also enriched themselves with the privatization process that swept Hungary after regime change. The same applied to personnel continuity in the media. And it is this one-sided media that made possible the MSZP/SZDSZ victories of 1994, 2002, and 2006. The media along with Gyurcsany lied to the Hungarian voters day and night. The new media law is not an attempt to stifle freedom of press or communication, but an attempt to level the playing field so that the media provides access to dependable information for all sectors of Hungarian society. In conclusion I would also reflect on word use and your tendency to give back-handed compliments. In your only critical comments of the Gyurcsány era (p. 36) you mention that the ³Socialists were plagued by corruption scandals and among other failures, refused to investigate seriously acontroversialcase of police brutality at a 2006 nationalist demonstration.´ There are just two problems with your critique, first that it was not just ³a controversial case´, but an endless list of brutalities. Second, that it did not involve a ³nationalist demonstration,´ but a national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution and freedom struggle. The police were ordered to use all necessary force by the Gyurcsány administration against a peaceful commemoration. Rubber bullets, tear gas, massive charges by mounted police, unrestrained us of the ASP-baton and mass arrests and brutalization of hundreds of participants followed. This has since been documented on film and in numerous written commentaries. Yet Agnes Heller, one of the ³best-known Hungarian liberal philosophers,´ (your words) went to Brussels and addressed the European Parliament on March 2, 2011, claiming that

no one was shot or tortured, that these are simply the inventions of Fidesz politicians to discredit the MSZP/SZDSZ governance. Unfortunately Agnes Heller is not alone among the discreditors. The list includes many others, including Imre Kertesz, Gy rgyKonrad, Paul Lendvay, Laszlo Kovacs and now also Istvan Deak. It contradicts your role as a bridge-builder between Hungarians of different religious persuasions. After all, you personally contributed a pearl missing from the Crown of St. Stephen at Fort Knox, just before it was returned to Hungary. This Crown now includes an imbedded Jewish American-Hungarian part. I see this as the avenue of friendship that can overcome the abuses of the past and the potential self-fulfilling prophesies of the present. That pearl creates a bond that must not be broken. Andrew Ludanyi Emeritus Professor of Political Science Ohio Northern University P.S. For verification or questions about my response you can reach me by phone at 419/772-2097 (office) or 419/634-4478 (home).