Viktor Orbán's favourite film and Hungary's rural, grievance-filled subculture - László Kéri part II
In their own words - Political scientist László Kéri sheds more light on the thinking of student Viktor Orbán and his entourage at the university hall of residence in the 1980s.
Photo: László Kéri, during an interview on TV13 in the Bánó és Bolgár show, 9th December, 2020
Continued from part 1, published in this blog on December 30, 2021
I'm absolutely sure, because of this third element, this emotion-filled, Hungarian grievance political culture, I don't know the phrase to describe it in English … It's typical Hungarian and Polish [inferiority complex].
You know, the most important elements of that kind of way of thinking is that the west … we have to be … not simply jealous, … but the west is a little bit of another type of world. We cannot make any good impressions, or [take] good influences from the west because because the west is all the time ... how to say this in English?... We are always giving to the west, and they are not giving back, they are always taking from us.
For me, this is a rather familiar political culture in private life, but as an official policy, it is ridiculous.
But sometimes, Orbán makes mistakes, he starts to behave this way in Brussels and in Strasbourg as in the pubs here in Hungary. In the pubs here, it's a very acceptable, familiar [behaviour], you know. But as the prime minister's [belief], it could cause [problems]. That's why this third element is very popular here in Hungary, whenever Orbán starts to speak that kind of language.
I'm absolutely sure at least one third of Hungarian society is ready to accept this. It's so familiar to us to overvalue this Hungarian [importance], together with the grievances. We have to demand from the west, because we defended the west for centuries!
This is stupidity, but they believe this seriously. It comes from the early childhood culture, and to my surprise, and I learned that lesson in the [university] dormitory, [the hall of residence].
I grew up here, my cultural background is in Budapest, because my parents divorced, that's why I moved to the dormitory, because I had no family background here. As a Budapest person, I was so surprised in the first years in the dormitory, I spent more than eight years there, but it was for me a more important lesson than the university itself – to get to know that way of thinking, how the people who grew up, like Orbán, in a small village.
My closest colleague, [István] Stumpf, was also born in a small village, near Sárospatak, and all the key persons of Fidesz came from the countryside; [József] Szájer was born near Sopron, [now Hungarian President János] Áder was born in Csorna, a small town between Sopron and Győr, Stumpf came from Hercegkút, Lajos Kövér [Speaker of Parliament] was born in Pápa, a relatively big town in Dunántúl [western Hungary].
So, what does it all mean? The general political culture, and their background? And the wives also came from that culture. For example, Orbán's wife, Anikó [Lévai], she is an excellent person, she's far more talented than Orbán. She was born in Rákóczifalva, not far from Szolnok, in a typical kulak family. What does kulak family mean? An enemy of the Socialist order!
Her family still lives there today. For example Anikó's father is a typical type of Hungarian smallholder, ... with this personal hate against the communist regime, it's a very deep family impression and family experience in Anikó's family.
All the other wives came from typical Hungarian middle-class or peasant families. So, together, the wives also graduated at the dormitory, Stumpf, Kövér, Áder, Szájer, Orbán's wife, all graduated together with them.
What does it mean? I want to emphasize that strength of this private-political cultural background which is rather typical in the provinces and it has strong roots in the inter-war period. And it has survived, to my surprise!
Question: You never met this in Budapest?
No, here in Budapest, when I grew up in the university years it was completely unknown for me, because I was a secondary and elementary school student here. And when I moved to the dormitory, [I thought]: My God, where did they grow up? Was this on another planet?
The language itself was another [world], the emotions were [something else], the values were [something else].
So, that's why I absolutely considered myself a very lucky person because I have learned two different Hungarian political languages and political cultures. Perhaps I'm the exception to the rule to understand the logic of Orbán and his circle.
But as a political analyst, I consider this as the largest and biggest danger to Hungarian democracy. ... As a private culture, it's one element of the over-coloured political culture. Hungary's political culture today has a hundred different values and sub-cultures.
But the problem is that they want to establish this political subculture as the official, obligatory culture, both in education and in the constitution.
Let's suppose you browse through the preamble of the constitution, it is the worst version of the 20s and 30s [thinking] – emotional, grievance-full culture, it is so ridiculous. It's just like … a film of the 1920s or 30s.
The problem is this kind of sub-culture could belong to certain parts of Hungarian society. For me, as a sociologist, this is acceptable, but to accept this as the official policy of the Hungarian Republic, this is outrageous and dangerous.
For me, this one and a half years after the election speaks about this grandiose attempt, how to establish and how to move this special, political subculture to the centre as the nationwide confessed, political religion.
But I'm absolutely sure that the majority of Hungarian society is already far from that. A certain part of the right confesses that, probably one third, not more
That two-thirds majority which Orbán is so proud of, ... does not share that value. The two-thirds is already far from that, because of the forty years after WW2, the 20 years of Republic experience, because of the complete changes in education.
The two-thirds majority came from the disillusionment and disappointment of the other side. So, I think Orbán has made a big mistake in evaluating that the two-thirds majority is ready to accept that subculture
Eighteen years ago I spent some weeks with Orbán, in 1993 – I did an interview book with him, the first book on Orbán, called Orbán Viktor.
At that time I put many, many private questions to him. Most interesting for me, once I asked him, Viktor, what was your favourite film in your childhood? He was silent, and then in a very, very, serious voice, he told me: Once upon a Time in the West. It was made in the early 70s. Together with Charles Bronson and the old Fonda.
I asked him: My God, Viktor, you are not serious? What the hell do you like about it?
And he told me: A little child … at the end of the movie, makes everyone pay … The little child takes [revenge]. Revenge is the end of the whole thing.
I said: Viktor, did you watch that film as part of the party programme? He got so angry because of this remark.
But, in my mind, to understand the thinking of Orbán, I think this is a rather important element. To understand that it was the most important movie for him. Later, he told me, I watched that 14 times, in his secondary school, and also as a student.
Later on, his closest friend, Andor Nagy, he was chief of cabinet in the first Fidesz government, I asked him this May about that film, and he said: Yes, when we were students it was our favourite thing, to see this movie, again and again.
You can't imagine it, to watch that 14 times! I think, for me, culturally, this might be the most important element to understand [Viktor Orbán].