Are the Hungarians at it again? Fifty-six years ago Hungarians landed what was ultimately the fatal blow to Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Thousands took to the street — and thousands died — to expose and oppose the hypocrisy of the “people’s republics” under Soviet control with their partner domestic communist parties. Communist rule limped along for some three decades after the Hungarians rose up, but after 1956 communism was never the same in Europe.
Are Hungarians about to do the same to the hypocrisy of European Union rule over Europe?
More than 100,000 Hungarians (Update: I am told the Hungarian Interior Ministry puts the number at over 400,000) braved the cold Budapest winter on Sunday to demonstrate in favor of their government and against the European Union’s sovereignty-threatening claims over Hungarian domestic laws. That would be the equivalent of three and a half million Americans marching on Washington, D.C.
The Hungarians are infuriated over the European Union’s demands that their government, led by the Fidesz party of Viktor Orban which received an enormous two-thirds mandate in parliament in 2010, scrap recently passed laws that bring the Hungarian central bank under control of elected representatives, lower the mandatory retirement ages of judges, and establish a new data protection authority.
It seems petty but is in fact deadly serious. As if to underscore the warning that Fidesz had better not wander too far off the reservation, an attack on the currency, the forint, recently shot up bond yields and threatened to bring the country to its knees. It is a risky game for a Eurozone seeing its pillar countries’ credit ratings downgraded, as much of the debt amassed by Hungarians — under the reckless policies of the then-ruling ex-communists (2002–2010) — was foreign currency debt. However, the shot across the bow had the desired effect, leading Orban to send a negotiator directly to the IMF and EU to smooth things over.
When that extracted pound of flesh did not satisfy the rapacious Brussels bureaucrats, Orban himself appeared before the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week to issue forth mea culpas and promises to revise the laws in question. He should not hold his breath that any such moves will satisfy the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, which launched legal proceedings last week over Hungary’s “violations.”
The European Commission is concerned that Hungary might be threatening democracy by passing the above three laws, which is ironic considering that the Commission itself is appointed rather than elected and conducts its business in secret. Current head of the Commission is José Manuel Barroso, a Portuguese politician who spent his youth leading the Maoist Communist Party of the Portuguese Workers. After Barroso’s “youthful indiscretion” — fighting for a philosophy responsible for a hundred million deaths in the 20th century — he did not don a hairshirt or other signs of penance but rather continued his struggle for power over the lives of others.
In that, he was not alone among Orban’s critics in the European Union. Whereas Orban was being arrested by the Hungarian communist police for resisting Soviet occupation, many of his critics now lavishly appointed in Brussels were singing the praises of their comrades to the East. Take Daniel “Dany the Red” Cohn-Bendit, whose own background was in the Marxist “22 March Movement” and later the extreme left “Revolutionärer Kampf (Revolutionary Struggle)” movement in Germany. He had the gall to lecture Orban on democracy on the floor of the European Parliament last year, screeching that Orban engages in “national populism” which has “ruined his appetite.” How little “Dany the Red” (now a Green — does that make him “Brown”?) has changed…
Incoming president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz was also in solidarity — from the safety of then-West Germany — with his comrades to the East. Now a politician in the cleaned-up-in-name-sounding Socialist group, he has seemingly transferred his affection for an unelected Soviet Union to an unelected European Union. Indeed, his “election” had been prearranged by the two largest factions in the European Parliament, the Socialists and the Liberals, two years ago and his cabinet had been named six months ago. As in the old Soviet Union, his actual election was a mere formality. Schulz’s views are clear: “My position is that I am a completely convinced European, in favour of European integration. We cannot continue to cling to the idea of the Nation State.” His disdain for the free market and free trade has also been noted.
A Daily Mail profile of Schulz completes the picture of a man who hates it when the people are allowed to vote:
“On the Irish ‘No’ vote to the Lisbon Treaty he said: ‘We must not bow to populism’. He calls those who ask for referendums ‘mentally weak’ and likens them to ‘Hitler and the Nazis in the Reichstag’.
“Mr Shulz also called Dutch MEP, Daniël van der Stoep, a ‘fascist’ for asking Mr Barroso, President of the EU Commision, to publish details of his expenses accounts in 2010. What shock horror that the EU taxpayers would want to know how 2000 euros per day are spent by Mr Barroso.”
Orban’s Hungarian critics are not much more savory. Much-vaunted “dissidents” like Miklos Haraszti are quick to activate their hyperbolic criticism of the current government, their amplifiers always set to “11” screeching that Hungary is lurching toward dictatorship, always lurching toward dictatorship. Of course Haraszti was a persecuted dissident under the Hungarian communists and was kicked out of the university — because while the party was moving toward reform, he was, like his comrade Barroso, embracing the warm tender mercies of Chairman Mao.
Haraszti and his other colleagues among the left-wing dissidentia issued a statement as the new Hungarian constitution took effect at the first of this year: “Never since the regime change of 1989, when the communist dictatorship was crushed, has there been such an intense concentration of power in the region as in present-day Hungary.” Yes, well of course the difference between the communist rulers and the current government that Haraszti fails to mention is rather significant. (Miklos: it has to do with a little thing called a free and fair election where most of the people voted against your favorite parties. These things tend to happen when you have the kind of economic failures as did the previous government.)
Honestly, one wonders why the Hungarians want to be part of this mess at all — which brings us back to the hundred thousand on the streets of Budapest on Sunday. They were there to urge their government and Prime Minister Orban to not sell out their hard won sovereignty to the kinds of people who run the European Union. Orban may believe he is dodging a bullet by agreeing to change whatever law the European Commission demands, but the bullet he dodges in Brussels or Strasbourg may turn into rather more serious ordnance when he returns to Budapest. Hungarians are not stupid: they look to Greece and elsewhere and realize very well that the only “bailout” plan offered by the EU (with generous and covert US Federal Reserve participation) is a plan that bails out the foreign speculators at the expense of the increasingly impoverished population. It really is the equivalent of blood-letting, the medieval practice where the patient is expected to recover strength all the while he is being drained of that which makes recovery possible.8:43 am on January 23, 2012 Email Daniel McAdams