The Dissidents' Dissident - on the 33rd Anniversary of the Foundation of Fidesz, one Founder Laments
József Kardos attended the inaugural meeting of Fidesz - an acronym for Alliance of Young Democrats - on 30th March, 1988. He signed up as one of the original 37 founding members of what, at the time, was a radical student dissident movement striving to force the MSzMP - The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (as the communist party was known after 1956) - out of power. To mark the occasion, he sent an open letter to another of those who were there that day - János Áder, President of Hungary since 2012.
Photo: In March, 1988, József Kardos was a final year student studying forestry at Sopron University, western Hungary, when a friend asked him to come along to a student meeting in Budapest. It turned out this was something historic - the founding meeting of Fidesz, the party governing Hungary since 2010. Kardos spent some years working in support of József Szájer (who was then a Fidesz MP and hails from Sopron), but quit the party in 1998, when it won power as the leading party of a coalition government. The Fidesz of today has nothing to do with the party he helped found back then, Kardos laments.
Below is a translation and slightly edited version of the letter he had sent by courier to President Ader yesterday. Kardos has not been invited for some years to the annual Fidesz party held (pre-Covid) every year on March 30.
“The Inevitable Fall of Arturo Ui”*
[*An allusion to the 1941 Berthold Brecht play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.]
Open letter to Mr. János Áder, President of the Republic of Hungary
Distinguished Mr. President, Dear János,
On this birthday of Fidesz, I write to you as one of its founding members. Having known each other for decades, please allow me to address you informally.
Without meaning to harp on them, here are facts which are evidently clear to everyone by now: the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz), founded 33 years ago fails to even remotely resemble the Fidesz of our days, concerning its politics, objectives or its democratic internal functioning.
How a formerly democratic and liberal party has become an extreme rightist organization raises even more questions, however I will leave that for historians and political scientists to analyze.
I am much more curious about how You – whom I always considered an upstanding, honest and decent person – feel about this about-face, this turnaround, and why you silently tolerate that its brain – someone that clearly and visibly gets mixed up in his own lies – pushes the entire country to the brink of catastrophe.
Yes, I mean Orbán, the person who – among others – we helped to gain power 33 years ago. Do you recall how enthused we were in the early years about building a better Hungary for the coming generations, to develop and flourish?
Our basic objective was that after an oppressive regime, human rights would be completely accepted and guaranteed in the country’s Constitution and in its laws. We objected to, and, with varying levels of success, put forth our best to undo the accumulated fortunes under and by the former one-party state, and to dismantle the corruption.
We were thinking in terms of a secular state, where the state and church are completely separated while the freedom to exercise religion is guaranteed, and everyone is free to decide what to believe or not to believe in.
We envisioned a state “where the appropriate set of institutions provide for the long term equilibrium of economic efficiency and social equality of chances in the broader sense – achieved through constant conflicts – hence enabling the support of groups left behind in economic competition so that they can catch up based on the principle of social solidarity” (quote from the Founders’ Declaration).
33 years is a long time and a lot of things have changed since then in the world around us, therefore it is no surprise that parties, views and political agendas also have changed, trying to adapt to the changing world. I can accept that a person at a young age is typically of liberal orientation, while in time, one’s value set often shifts towards conservatism.
This however can’t explain someone spitting in the face of their own young self. What has become of this kind-of-a-party since its inception? I refrain from calling it a party, because it is not one any more, in the true sense of the word.
Today’s Fidesz members only act as extras in a film or play, while in fact their president runs everything. There is no internal democracy whatsoever, no more debates, no conflicting opinions. There is no democratic hierarchy, no fair procedural justice. The leader makes the decisions, while the others execute them, without even thinking.
They don’t even adhere to the rules they themselves created, a perfect example being the most recent decision to exit the European People’s Party. That decision was made without authorization or approval by any board. The boss plays his infantile games both domestically and in the international arena. Members only serve as a backdrop, while he references the “Hungarian electors” only as a term to hide behind. I am incredibly irritated by the misuse of false rhetoric like “this is what Hungarians want”, “Hungarians are being humiliated”, “respect for Hungarians!”, etc.
All these statements reveal only how much those who say them look down on those spoken about. “Birds of a feather flock together” has never been more precisely relevant.
Let’s just see, who the friends of this man are: autocrats and populist leaders, dictators who in their home countries put opposition party members in jail, cheat the elections, oppress free press, explode war conflicts or take part in genocide. Congratulations! Great company.
This in itself would not even be a problem, because Orbán fits in well with his false ideas about democracy – but unfortunately this is shameful on us, on the country as a whole.
Dear János, Hungarian people are not born Fidesz-believers and Orbán-adorers. We are already accustomed to Hungary not having a prime minister since 2010. A true prime minister – independent of party affiliation – puts the interest and dignity of every Hungarian citizen first, not only considering half of the Hungarian population, or even just a select layer of that half.
Who would have thought 33 years ago, when we founded the party, that in time, somebody would monopolize first the party and then the entire country? How could all this happen? Why did we let it happen? Why did we accept opportunism, day after day? Was it worth it?
During his reign we have slid from the top league of Central-European [countries] to the bottom of the list. We succeeded in spending the majority of thousands of billions of euros’ worth EU subsidies on pointless investments. He has constructed under-utilized, totally superfluous stadiums all around the country. He has privatized every high-value, state-owned real estate and business enterprises for peanuts, distributing [these assets] among his friends.
Corruption, once again, has evolved as the key to one’s prosperity. Never before has so much taxpayers’ money been stolen as during his reign. Take the former gas-fitter becoming a billionaire, as well as his NER (Hungarian abbreviation for System of National Cooperation) companions who have gained fortunes; a bitter joke, one might even laugh out loud if it was not so disheartening how all that money was taken away from the public, from opportunities to develop those billions' worth of properties over the years for the public’s benefit.
Everyone is taken for a complete idiot. Fidesz has built perfect “lie factories” – surpassing even the wildest imaginations of Orwell – using our money. Taking over public television and radio stations, national and county papers as well as online media, they can forward untruthful messages day after day, just by the push of a button, brainwashing people with a turn-key solution.
The few independent media outlets retaining the ability to criticize are in agony, fighting for survival. However, the Orwellian machinery is hunting down those remaining one-by-one. We will never forget what they did to Népszabadság or to Index, and what they are currently doing to Klub Rádió.
Should anyone attempt using a critical word or even just a critical approach, then character assassins will immediately fall upon us, murdering the reputation of those who dare make a stand. Anyone having a different opinion will be accused of treason, dismissed from their jobs – just as happened to two sports journalists, János Hrutka and Viktor Lukács. Hats off to the two of them!
Paid trolls are instigated against those thinking differently, in order to annihilate their moral character.
I would not be surprised to learn that these trolls are paid out of the taxpayers’ billions channeled to Fradi [Ferencváros FC] and other football clubs – similarly to the recent case of an exposed troll. This way, at least I can begin to comprehend why Hungarian football is given so much money ☺.
All the slap-dash, abrupt actions we experience in the inconsistent and dilettante way the pandemic is managed are the consequence of the past 10 years. Fidesz has succeeded in demolishing the entire state administration. Ten years of self-serving, adverse selection has yielded its consequences.
All significant positions have been filled by incompetent persons through blatant nepotism and as a reward of blind loyalty. An epidemic of this proportions, this pandemic cannot be handled by a totally incompetent minister and a chief medical officer.
As a result of the past ten years, the healthcare system has now fully collapsed. The hasty actions of today cannot replace the money (squandered on now-empty stadiums) taken from an overloaded healthcare system.
Moreover, few dare even mention that the current high level of the epidemic is partially a consequence of Viktor Orbán’s football mania.
In late August and early September of last year, experts had already warned of trouble to come. Yet football matches were still being played with crowds attending – including the so-called Super Cup Final, which had 20,000 spectators attending, in late September.
Closure was only ordered in early November, so that part of the championship matches could still be held with spectators. Had they ordered a more drastic but shorter closure in time, the second wave could have been prevented, and possibly the third wave would not have hit us either, in the very midst of the raging second wave.
Football nevertheless reigns supreme, no matter how many people are put at risk and how many lose their lives.
In addition, they cannot resist profiteering, even in the field of pandemic related procurement, for example, in procuring ventilators or and the Chinese vaccine. It is plain to see that Orbán even uses this difficult situation for his own political objectives.
What they are doing to the opposition-led municipalities is unprecedented and outrageous. They let them bleed, although they are in need of resources to manage problems locally, more than ever before.
Putting it simply, this is a crime. It is clear, though, that this regime intends to cooperate with no one, even if it becomes evident that they are unable to tackle the problem alone. They are unwilling to partner with anyone who is not a satellite of the government. They treat everyone as an enemy, which truly reflects on how they manage the whole pandemic.
As for the economic stimulus package – it is hard not to think that their agenda is to drive ever more enterprises into bankruptcy, allowing the richly subsidized NER knights to buy them out at bottom low prices.
Will these people be ever enriched to satisfaction? Have they not stolen enough? Once a system is built on corruption, stealing and lying, scrounging and never ending theft will inevitably continue to sprout from its very nature. It is like pouring wheat in a leaky bag.
Dear János, what are your thoughts regarding how this regime has treated George Soros? Soros, who was supporting Fidesz and its politicians from the very start? Soros, who at the time of the political regime change in Hungary was the biggest supporter of all movements fighting for democratic changes in the entire East European region?
A philanthropic person has been demonized as the government built one of the most shameful and most untruthful campaigns in Hungarian history. We all know that George Soros poses no danger to anyone. The only trouble with him is that he still stands for the same core principles and values characteristic of Fidesz at the outset, but which the latter has shamelessly abandoned since.
It is not George Soros who has changed, but Fidesz and its leader are the ones who went into a totally different direction. The Soros story devised by the Orbán circle is so absurd that it is not even worth talking about.
And what is the problem with Gábor Iványi and his church? Same as with Soros: he remained faithful to his principles and did not hide them. But what kind of a person demonizes his own and his party’s former benefactor? What kind of a person attacks the very priest who baptized his children, diminishes him and cripples his institution of religious life and badly needed charitable activities?
Such a person is completely devoid of morality. We must realize that this person has no moral compass, he stampedes over everything and everybody on his way, with only his own interests providing direction.
For quite a long time, we tried to convince ourselves to accept that, while often awkward, “the goal justifies the means”. Well, no, dear János! No goal can ever justify the means! János, I have missed you speaking up so many times in these past 10 years! Where were you when this soulless regime attacked the homeless? Where were you, when they demolished MTA’s (Scientific Academy of Hungary) network of research institutes? Where were you, when NGO’s were harassed unjustly? Where were you when one of the best universities in Hungary (CEU) – and so considered internationally – was chased out of the country, merely out of sheer viciousness?
Where were you when innocent families, seeking refuge, were made to starve in penalty compounds called “transit zones”? Where are you now, as local governance is abolished in municipalities? Where are you now, as universities are deprived of their autonomy? Where are you now, as single persons and same gender couples are denied the possibility of adopting children? Where are you at all, as outrageous injustices are done and vicious laws are passed, one after the other?
Once a public dignitary, why don’t you stand up for the oppressed, as well? Dear János, I am aware that your role according to the illegitimate Fidesz Principal Law is merely a matter of protocol. However, you could have and still could do a lot. Remaining silent, you are actually playing a role in this madness which is called Hungary today. You assist this lying, autocrat person, full of himself, rapturously running amok with power, unchecked, holding an entire country hostage.
We need sober minds who can stop this imbecile-despot, before we fall off the cliff
Before he waltzes out – and takes us, our country along with him – from not only the European People’s Party but also the European Union, efore he is embraced by the European neo-fascist and extreme rightist parties: before he irrevocably puts the country on the wrong one-way track.
I have no desire for a political career. I have no such ambitions, however as one of those persons who at a time believed in this man and assisted him to gain power, I feel it is my moral duty to express my thoughts.
By now, we need to see clearly who we are facing and the extent of the huge damages he causes every single day, as long as he remains in power.
Viktor Orbán must go! Viktor Orbán has failed both morally and intellectually, and is harming each and every one of us daily by manifestations of his insatiable thirst for power.
Change requires a new, legitimate Constitution based on comprehensive social reconciliation and consensus, as well as fair elections based on equal conditions for all to participate. I hope that the opposition will be wise enough to carry through with such policies.
There is only one thing I would like to see in my remaining life. To see the eventual fall of this sinful, inhumane, corrupt and untruthful regime. I have no illusions concerning my letter. I will already consider it successful if you read it and possibly think it over: being Hungarian is not identical with being a Fidesz supporter.
And, by the way: “family is family”!
Wishing you all the best! József Kardos, one of the 37 Founders of Fidesz