Hungary: Politics in the trap of History

by Tamás Krausz (*)

The results of  yesterday’s Hungarian parliamentary elections outdid even the most pessimistic expectations of the Left. Fidesz, the ruling conservative party, managed to gain a two-thirds majority once again with about 2.8 million votes, while the parties of the opposition lost about 1 million votes compared to the former elections in 2018. Such a sweeping victory of the Orban led party can be explained by two basic factors:

1.   The chaotic coalition of the oppositional parties  did not formulate any clear social message – from the right-wing  prime minister candidate, Péter Márki-Zay, a political charlatan, adventurer and dilettant politician to the old-new liberal left organizations including the massively compromised Hungarian Socialist Party –  while sinking into middle class values and pledging allegiance with the European Union. By returning to the old neoliberal commitment they have lost their basis. 

 On the other hand Orban – whom the opposional parties portraid as a classical representative of capitalist banditry, corruption and authoritarian state-power centralization – in his social-populist way suggested a kind of security unlike the chaotic opposition who wanted to win the elections with formerly failed liberal politicians. But they did not have the faintest idea about how to free Hungary from Orbán’s authoritarian system.

2. Days before the war, the agreement on gas transports between Putin and Orban was interpreted by the opposition as a betrayal of both the EU and the NATO, though the agreement offers extremely favourable conditions for Hungary. At that time and later, at the outbreak of the war Orban presented himself as the embodier of peace, stressing that Hungary wants to stand away from the war. In contrast, the oppositon seemed to support the war with their strong commitment for the NATO. In his last propaganda speeches Orbán heavily exploited this factor. The majority of voters honestly made a stand for peace and rejected further supplying Ukraine with weapons – so to say, voters did not want to pour more petrol on the fire, since they were afraid the conflict would further widen.

As a matter of fact, in Budapest the opposition has gained  landslide victory winning almost all the consituencies in the capital. The  urban middle classes and certain intellectual groups are strongly  committed to liberalism and oppose authoritarian governing.  On the other hand there traditionally exists a wide cultural gap between Budapest and the rest of the country that strengthens the commitment for bourgeois democracy in the cities.

The anticapitalist, humanist, system-critical left has practically disappeared from the political map of Hungary. As a consequence, the radical opposition is represented in the parliament by a neo-fascist, extreme right party, Mi hazánk (Our Home-country) with seven parliamentary seats.

I have only been repeating my old thesis since the authoritarian turn in 2010: in this small country it is either external pressures or a popular uprising that can push Fidesz out of power.

(*) Leftist intellectual, Historian specialized in Soviet and Russian History, professor emeritus at Budapest University Eötvös Loránd, Tamás Krausz is Professor of Russian History at the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences in Budapest, and Head of the Department of Eastern European Studies. One of the best-known radical intellectuals and political activists in Hungary, he has published widely throughout the world and is the President of the Editorial Board of Eszmélet, the sole Marxist theoretical and political quarterly in Hungary, founded in 1989.He is the author of Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography  (https://monthlyreview.org/product/reconstructing_lenin/)

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