Rudolf Ungváry discussed his new book on ATV’s Szabad Szemmel yesterday in which he argues that Hungary’s political system has become “fascistoid” or fascist-like. The father of historian Krisztián Ungváry said that Hungary’s government can neither be called “center-right”, “conservative” nor “right-wing” because it bears certain traits characteristic of fascist systems.
Ungváry believes that such systems cannot be labelled as “fascist” or “national socialist” because those terms are reserved for the political systems that were defeated at the end of the Second World War. Consequently, the re-emergence of such systems today takes place behind the mask of democracy, by which he means the characteristics of fascism and national socialism are smuggled back into political life behind a democratic facade. Ungváry believes the attributes of fascism and national socialism, while not present on the surface, manifest themselves through a hidden ideology whose characteristics are apparent throughout the government and society.
Can we call Hungary’s political system fascist?
He thinks it is counter-productive to label the government as fascist because there are no concentration camps in Hungary, there is no violence against the Jews and there are no mass exterminations. However, Hungary does “display characteristics representative of fascist systems” says the author, adding that “these terms make a stronger case for suggesting that Hungary has some kind of fascist system” as opposed to simply being a “mafia state” run by kleptocrats.
So what are the characteristics we see in Hungary today?
Submissiveness to the leader
“This isn’t codified but it’s understood without having to be written down,” Ungváry says. “Everything depends on the toxic leader Orbán whose poisonous behavior constantly generates conflict with, for example, the United States currently.”
Ungváry calls this another typical characteristic of fascism and quotes a Hungarian politician as saying, “I’d rather depend on one person rather than on many institutions.” Ungváry calls such statements absurd because the essence of democracy is the actualization of institutional independence.
Rule of the Strong
“Orbán himself stated that the strong will stay and the weak will fall out,” says Ungváry, pointing out that such statements are “unbelievably cruel, especially coming from a European politician”. He suggests that such characteristics have been integrated into Hungary’s current system of government together with the total disappearance of checks and balances, pointing out that under the current Fidesz-KDNP government the ranks of government employees have been filled with ideological loyalists. Furthermore, Ungváry argues, many of the exclusionary policies of fascist systems are also evident in the government’s actions. But such policies are not explicitly targeting Jews, for example, but rather are manifested in the demagoguery which targets “those who are not like us.” He says this allows the government to arbitrarily pick-and-choose who to target with such exclusionary policies.
And finally…. endless national self-victimization
In Ungváry’s opinion none of characteristics cited above support the notion that Hungary’s current political system is “fascist”, “fascism” being a historical term used to label the failed governments of the Second World War according to the writer. Instead they are indicative of a fascistoid system of government.
How this relates to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s statements about creating an “illiberal democracy”
Ungváry dismisses the notion that Orbán’s system is democratic and for this reason believes the term “illiberal” to be irrelevant. “In reality, any prefix and suffix Orbán attaches [to the word ‘democracy’] is [Orbán’s] attempt to talk around the issue.”
“What chance do Hungary’s opposition parties have for any kind of politicizing in Hungary today? The electoral system in Hungary is such that the current system is virtually impossible to replace. They will always be able to write the kinds of laws that completely avoid seeking social consultations, with which they can prevent themselves from being removed from power. In such situations the political opposition simply serves a statistical function but has virtually no other purpose.”
“Just the tip…”
Ungváry believes that Senator John McCain’s recent statements on the floor of the Senate regarding Orbán’s regime is “just the tip of the iceberg” in terms of what the US has to say about Hungary. Conversely, the European Union has much closer ties with Hungary geographically, economically and politically, and therefore cannot risk immediate sanctions against Hungary because the fallout would be much harder felt.
Ungváry compares modern-day European conservatives’ quiet acceptance of Orbán’s regime to the “peace-making” policies of European conservatives before the Second World War. “The European conservatives and those on the European right … who are democratic groups and taking part in democracy … aren’t recognizing the dangers of the Orbán-style of government which can gain a footing within the European Union,” he says.
Why has there been such an erosion of democracy in Hungary compared to its neighbors?
Being on the losing side of the Second World War, Hungary could not point to a collaboration of non-partisan governments-in-exile recognized by foreign states. Ungváry believes that Hungary’s political elite couldn’t do this because they themselves were adherents to an “inherently false version of history”, something he says is true for the Orbán government. Ungváry believes that because Hungary’s political elite was never able to come to terms with the country’s actual situation, they were only able to bring about a semi-democratic system where no one actually knew how a democracy really worked.
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