In their Own Words - a Glimpse into ... Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - 23 October, 2021
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s commemoration speech on the 65th anniversary of Hungary's 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight - and more
Photo: Only in the best light: PM Viktor Orbán woos the crowd at this year's "Peace March" - pic Gov't Website.
I suppose it's the journalist in me that felt a little uneasy about the first three in this series of "In their Own Words" focusing on just two of the opposition's most prominent leaders, with no balancing copy from the government side. That, plus the fact that I haven't had time/energy to follow up on other posts (apologies Mr Rimner) made pushed me into a (relatively) easy solution this weekend - to post something by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
There was a time - certainly up to 1994 - when "Viktor" would sit down with the foreign press corps and chat over a beer or two. And even during and after his first spell at the helm (1998-2002) he would occasionally address the Hungarian International Press Association.
But such days are long gone: the last time the foreign press corps received a general invitation to meet the prime minister was eight weeks before the pandemic hit Hungary, in January 2020, when (it must be said) the Fidesz leader spoke and answered questions for a mammoth 2 hours 45 minutes.
(Not mine though - and we were asked to submit questions beforehand. I only sent in a modest one, hoping that by being undemanding, I'd be given the green light. Zoli, if you're reading, I think that was most unfair, since you allowed several others three-four questions. Obviously I should have sent in 20, and will next time.)
Perhaps I should go back to that event one day, but for now, I'll put out here some excerpts of the prime minister's speech on October 23 this year. It contains some fiery stuff.
In particular the concluding remarks indicate that critical media and their [that is our] "international backing" and "money" constitute "a formidable force that can only be defeated and driven out of the country by the collective action of millions of Hungarians".
For the leader of a country which is a member of the European Union (and receiving more per capita in annual subsidies from European taxpayers than any other member state), I'd say those words tell you much of what you need to know about this former anti-Communist student activist's understanding of democracy and European values.
Oh, and to explain for those not familiar with recent Hungarian history, the prime minister here repeatedly refers to both the 1956 revolution and the events of October 23, 2006, when police, trying to control unruly demonstrators*, also clashed with peaceful crowds and caused some injuries. I'd say conflating the two events is absurd - one was over in a matter of hours, the other took days and many lives. But that's modern politics for you, certainly Hungarian style.
(*As an example of the unruliness, one demonstrator climbed into a tank on display, started it up and drove it wlldly into a scattering crowd before, thankfully, the fuel ran out.)
This text is the work of the official government translators, who I must say do a magnificent, if sisyphean job every day converting the original Hungarian into smooth, readable, English.
So here you have [a good chunk of] it.
Good afternoon, Hungarians. Good afternoon, Poles. Good afternoon, Italians.
Greetings to the people of freedom in the nation’s capital. It’s been a long time since we last saw one another. We have a lot to talk about this afternoon, but first of all, let us remember: let us remember those days sixty-five years ago, and that afternoon fifteen years ago. This is no ordinary place: here on the corner of Andrássy út and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út, at around this time fifteen years ago, the past and the present came face-to-face.
Fifteen years ago the young communists turned 23 October into 4 November. On one side there were tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, steel batons, water cannon and uniforms without identification numbers. On the other side was a nation hoodwinked and humiliated, which after fifty years had to hear again that it had been lied to “morning, night and evening”. On one side there was power acquired and held through hundreds of tricks and defended tooth and nail. On the other side there were embittered people lining up behind giant letters spelling “freedom”.
There are moments in the lives of nations when suddenly everyone feels “Enough is enough, things can’t go on like this any longer.” We have to decide, and our decision shows who we really are. The worth of an entire nation is revealed: it remains silent or protests; it acquiesces or rebels; it averts its gaze or stands tall; it slouches away or fights. You cannot hide, because you are confronted by the revelation of a higher truth which brooks no argument: you must either stand on this side, or over on that side. In an instant it becomes clear who is good and who is bad, who stands on the right side of history and who stands on the wrong side.
We Hungarians made the right decision: we protested, we stood tall, we rebelled and we fought. Freedom pitted against slavery, independence pitted against occupation, Hungarian patriots pitted against communists. We remember that wonderful day when we Hungarians showed the world and our enemies who we really are. We remember the day when we asked ourselves not whether God was with us, but whether we were with God. We were imbued with enormous strength and it shook the pillars of communist rule. We remember the moment that will live forever in the memory of the free nations of the world. In the blink of an eye, the nation of the Hungarians found itself, and once again the name of Hungary lived up to the great acclaim it commanded in bygone days. We remember the moment when one longing was shared by all: by the cardinal and the lathe operator; by academics and lads from Pest; by the archduke and the partisan who became defence minister We remember the force which penetrated the iron curtain dividing the nation, and which flowed through student assemblies in Transylvania and into the cells of prisons in Szamosújvár [Gherla]. Mansfeld, Wittner, Szabó, Pongrátz, Nagy and Mindszenty: we look at them but we see one nation. A proud Hungarian nation, to which we all belong. Glory to the heroes!
This is the Hungary that the new generation of communists provoked once more in 2006. Their ascent to power was paid for in lies. They bewitched us with the promise of tax cuts – and then raised taxes. Hospital fees, copayments in doctors’ surgeries, skyrocketing utility bills. They took away the 13th month’s pension and abolished family benefits. In collusion with the world of international banking they lured hundreds of thousands of families into the trap of foreign currency debt. The country was sold off, everything was sold to foreigners: airports, national energy companies, public services.
And after they had looted it, they bankrupted the whole country and attached an IMF leash to our necks: “So you’re limping Hungary; take this hump for your back too.” And when we raised our voices in protest, they responded with tear gas, with rubber bullets and with attacks by mounted police. They had people’s eyes shot out and batoned defenceless women and elderly people. Fifteen years ago, here where we stand now, the streets of Pest were soaked in violence, blood and tears. All this happened on the fiftieth anniversary of the ’56 Revolution, and was seen by the world. I will say this slowly, so that everyone understands: we shall never forget what they did!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to the wits of Pest, the right time to be offended isn’t when you have just cause, but when it’s worth your while. We waited for the right moment. For four long years we waited – patiently, ready to settle the account. God was fair, and what they received in punishment, we received in reward: our two-thirds election victory. We united as we had in ’56 and swept away socialist Hungary. In 1956 Ernő Gerő and his crew fled headlong to Moscow, but in 2006 we were not so lucky: the socialists and their leader were left hanging round our necks. He remained, and has been wandering among us ever since, haunting our public life as the Phantom of the Parliament. Recompense can be gained in a single euphoric moment, but it took years to make good what the Left had destroyed. It was a great mercy that national unity was preserved throughout, and that the ruins could be cleared with the united efforts of workers, engineers, farmers, the owners of businesses small and large, scientists, teachers, nurses and doctors.
We [have] put Hungary back on its feet. We created one million new jobs. We got rid of foreign currency loans, we crushed taxes, and next year the minimum wage will be higher than the average wage was under the socialists. We reacquired the utility companies, banks and the media, and increased national wealth by 50 per cent. We have taxed multinationals, protected families and cut household utility bills to the lowest level in Europe. Hungary is now strong enough to honour both its old and young people at the same time. The 13th month’s pension will be restored, and next year young people in work will pay no tax. And families raising children will get back the tax they have paid this year. We have our own Hungarian world and our own Hungarian life, and we have a constitution which guarantees that never again can they do what they did to us in ’56 and 2006. We have transcended the borders that have separated the parts of the nation and we have reunited the Hungarians. This required the united will and hard work of many millions – of those who believed in the power of love and unity. Theirs is the glory, and they deserve the credit. It’s true that it did no harm for us to have an able-bodied government capable of action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
<Clip section here that, among other things, equates "Brussels" to "echoes of the Brezhnev Doctrine". >
...Today what matters is not what is wanted by Brussels, Washington and media controlled from abroad. Now, too, the fate of the Hungarians will be decided by the Hungarians. What 23 October reminds us is this: to never forget our own personal responsibility. One thousand one hundred years have burned into our DNA the realisation that here in the Carpathian Basin we must fight for freedom every day, again and again. The fight for freedom demands not only heart, not only brains, but also strength. Our strength,
... It is true that there is no need for so many of us to assemble here just because of a few failed left-wing parties; but nobody of intelligence should be under any illusions. We should not be fooled by the sputtering judgement and spectacular floundering of the Left in Hungary. None of that matters. What matters is the power of the international actors who are behind them. What is powerful, what is the real challenge, and even a threat, is their international backing: the money, the media and the network behind them. This is a formidable force that can only be defeated and driven out of the country by the collective action of millions of Hungarians. We are putting them on notice: so far those who have bitten into us have come out of it with broken or blunted teeth. Regardless of the might of the enemy, we did not run away; and neither will we back down now, because we know that we will see this through together. Look at the person standing next to you: if you look into their eyes, you will see that you can count on them. They will do everything possible for us to break through even the thickest wall. This is our strength, this is our power base; and not even all the dollars or euros in the world could take it away from us. We came, we saw, and we will conquer again!
God above us all, Hungary before all else! Go Hungary, go Hungarians!
For the full text - it is 2,700 words long - see:
Disclaimer: Abour five years ago I edited a text for a George Soros-backed organisation for, if I remember correctly, about HUF 35,000. In 1990-91 I taught communications skills once a week at what was then called "The International Management Centre" - the first business school in the region, largely funded by George Soros to support central and eastern Europe's transition to modern, democratic states with competitive economies.
Other than for these tasks, I have received no other payments from the Hungarian-born American financier-philanthropist (unfortunately).