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Hungary Shows the West the Path to Survival

A specter is haunting the European Union—the specter of Eastern Europe. Hungary is a country slightly more populous than Virginia, and its population diminishes slightly every year. It receives substantial subsidies from richer EU countries, produces nice wines, but has little industry not tied to German auto plants. Its military has roughly zero external intervention capability.

And yet in Europe, Hungary is always in the headlines. The glossy French center-right weekly Le Point warns with alarm that Hungary’s president Viktor Orbán “outlines the shape of another Europe.” A few months ago, the European Parliament subjected Orbán’s government to a sort of trial under “Article 7,” a process that could lead to Hungary being denied its parliamentary voting rights. Le Point (again) speaks ominously of a menacing “axis” between Poland, Hungary, and the new populist government of Italy.

It might be difficult to place Orbán’s government precisely on a political freedom scale. It has taken measures against Hungary’s judiciary and opposition, which have enhanced the power of the ruling party. But people still vote in meaningful elections. Political opponents are not killed or jailed. Unlike France, it is not using brutal measures against demonstrators, though also unlike France, it is not faced with persistent and sometimes violent demonstrations. If you visit Budapest, you will hear soon enough that Orbán has a weakness for crony capitalism: his government’s recent effort to raise the limits on overtime work a company could demand produced some vocal and vigorous opposition. Overall, I would conclude that Orbán isn’t a model democrat or technocratic open economy exemplar, but he also isn’t any sort of aspiring dictator.

Orbán’s notoriety ultimately has little to do with his arcane transgressions against what Western Europe’s rulers consider good government. It exists because he addresses, in language stunningly clear for a politician, the key civilizational questions facing Europe, those that richer countries are loathe to hear.

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For starters, he talks about demography. Like many countries in Europe, Hungary’s birthrates have plummeted. Orbán has commenced a campaign to raise them, with measures including generous maternity and paternity leave stipends, subsidies of up to 50 euros a month per child, tax write-offs, and housing assistance for couples that have three or more children. The government has also sent out questionnaires asking Hungarians whether they think the solution to Hungary’s demographic crisis is stronger support for families or higher immigration. Katalin Novak, Orbán’s minister of family and youth, explained unabashedly that the purpose of this was “to send a clear message to Brussels: the renovation of Europe is impossible without support for families and Hungary wants neither immigration nor a modification of its population.” This sort of frankness from leaders in the wealthier West is inconceivable. At a press gathering I recently attended, a Macron minister holding a comparable post focused most of the conversation on the expansion of gay rights.

Of course, the other half of the demography subject is immigration. In an address during the fall of 2016 that still resonates, Orbán proclaimed that Europe is “in mortal danger”:

The danger is “not attacking us the way wars and natural disasters do…mass migration is a slow stream of water persistently eroding the shores. It is masquerading as a humanitarian cause, but its true nature is the occupation of territory. And what is gaining territory for them is losing territory for us. Flocks of obsessed human rights defenders feel the overwhelming urge to reprimand us…. [A]llegedly we are hostile xenophobes but the truth is that the history of our nation is also one of inclusion, of the intertwining of cultures. Those who have sought to come here as new family members, as allies, or as displaced persons fearing for their lives have been let in to make a new home for themselves. But those who have come here with the intention of changing our country, of  shaping our nation in their own image, have been met with resistance.”

Faced with the Merkel Million Man Migration, Orbán ordered Hungary’s army to build a fence.

Slovakia similarly refused to take in a quota of migrants dictated by Brussels and Berlin. The former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, wrote a short but excellent book, Europe All Inclusive, about the migration crisis in which he charged that Europe’s western elites were supporting mass immigration explicitly to smash the remaining power of nation states so full European unification could be achieved. Poland has likewise refused EU demands to resettle refugees from the Mideast and North Africa.

It is clear that on immigration, Eastern Europe differs from the rest of the continent—attitudes represented politically only through the populist right in the west are thoroughly mainstream in the east. This difference in political culture is so vast, it can be traced to many sources. A similar divergence surfaced before, during the Cold War, when Eastern Europeans stubbornly refused to allow Western European intellectuals to forget or ignore that communism was a malign and murderous system. Today, Eastern Europeans note that they have been already been the subjects of utopian projects to remake society according to a progressive vision—and they have no desire for a repeat.

Encountering Eastern European resistance to progressive dogma for the first time is a bracing experience. I first had it during the mid-’70s, in a grad school lecture class at Columbia. A charming and generally well-liked democratic socialist professor would take admiring students through various sophisticated Marxist readings, leading inexorably to the conclusion that the collapse of “late capitalism” was inevitable and to be welcomed. This semester, there happened to be two Poles taking the class, one of whom was a woman who had been an imprisoned dissident. They seemed to know their Marx as well as the prof did: they were smart, they were vocal, and they were having absolutely none of it. It made for an exciting several months, and for me a memorable demonstration that Eastern Europeans were more or less immune to the guilt and self-hatred permeating much of the West.

Perhaps we are in for a reprise, when the people of the west learn once again from the east what is true and essential about their own societies. Of course, there are parallels between the communists’ aspirations and the open borders diversity project. Both are genuinely revolutionary in their desire to destroy and remake Western societies according to models that have little viable precedent in human experience. Under this logic, the ’60s and ’70s can be seen as a kind of transitional phase, during which Western socialists looked longingly towards various Third World models—China, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua—after they gave up on the Soviet Union and their own proletariats as viable revolutionary agents. Now progressives hope that social justice will bloom from the political chaos generated by demographic shifts.

Without the voices of Eastern Europe, the West might not have successfully resisted the first progressive onslaught. Once again, it needs the voices of the east to illuminate its path to survival.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Ex-Neocon: Dispatches From the Post-9/11 Ideological Wars.

63 Comments (Open | Close)

63 Comments To "Hungary Shows the West the Path to Survival"

#1 Comment By István Kocsis On February 11, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

“This is just the umpteenth serving of this website’s standard anti-EU smear. Since next to nobody in Europe visits these American website and those of us who do know that what’s been peddled is a load of nonsense, I always wonder what the point of such articles is.”

As you can see the other comments too we from east or rather from central Europe are quite well informed. 🙂
And this is because we are using different sources of news and of course our common sense mostly based on historical experiences.

I strongly recommend everybody to do the same, checking original sources, doing own rechearches and analysis because there exist no objective report or article. This one too represent the knowledge of the writer wich is of course not absolute.
To understand politics one need to understand the many-many connection between politics, economy, history etc. wich is not or only partly teached in schools or elsewhere.

#2 Comment By voxpo puli On February 11, 2019 @ 1:36 pm

FYI, budapestbeacon.com is the No1 leftist-liberal anti-hungarian foreign language political propaganda site in Hungary

#3 Comment By George Lazar On February 11, 2019 @ 2:52 pm

Pro-Iranian Orbán shows the West the path to survival… Really?

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#4 Comment By sglover On February 11, 2019 @ 3:28 pm

Mass immigration has been pile driving wages into the ground, while decreasing the quality of life and services for the native.

Long before Salvadorans gave right-wingers night sweats by offering to do masonry and landscaping, U.S. businessmen were happily decamping their shops to the promised land of the American South, where a docile and unorganized workforce and race-to-the-bottom politics offered cheap labor. The “pile driving” took off under St Reagan, and Republicans have done nothing but applaud, then and now.

But sure, blame it on brown people. It feels better, doesn’t it? And “conservatism” is all about what feels good, really — right?

#5 Comment By Petrus On February 11, 2019 @ 4:49 pm

Re: Hector_St_Clare

I wrote: Up until then all these countries and nations were organic participants sharing all Western-European thoughts and ideas (including renaissance, humanism, reformation of Roman Catholic church and enlightement).

Your response: I don’t think this is at all true- the ethnic and cultural divide between eastern and western Europe is very, very old and you can see it long before the twentieth century.

I think it is very much true. Let’s see:

Magna Carta od 1215 – [2]

Martin Luther in 1517 – Jan Hus in 1415

Universities: Prague, Krakow and Pecs/Hungary: all of them in middle of 14th century;

Renaissance: Copernicus in Poland, or King Mathias in Hungary from the 1450s.

Reformation: simultaneously with Switzerland and Germany, throughout the 16th century – earning Count Stephen Bocskai of Hungary a statue at the [3] in Geneva

Religious tolerance – [4].

So all those main thoughts and spiritual movements that shaped W Europe, were also there in the East, at the same time, or in cases, even earlier. Yes, ethnic differences have been there, just as much as between Saxons, Franks, Latins, etc. in the West. But then… why would that matter?

#6 Comment By Intelliwriter On February 11, 2019 @ 5:38 pm

Orban had to introduce mandatory overtime because they don’t have an adequate workforce. So the answer is to turn women into broodmares. In turn, they’re leaving for freer countries within the EU.

Smashing freedoms for women is not the solution. Around and around they will go until those fences are being used to keep the Hungarians in.

#7 Comment By Petrus On February 12, 2019 @ 3:04 am

Re: James Griffitts

The idea that Orban’s Hungary is a model for the world to follow is laughable to anyone with a passing familiarity with the state of the country, and no one knows this better than the Hungarians themselves.

Exactly – so they/we keep on voting for Orban to win 2/3 majority in elections, for the third time in a row.

#8 Comment By Janos Tuza On February 12, 2019 @ 8:24 am

hungary europe poor zone, EU development aid disappears state corruption is boundless.there is no safety of life, wages are low. an average of $ 600 per month. the Hungarian population flees to the west in the hope of living.
this crisis is exploited by Russian and Chinese capital to enter the country and gain influence. the Hungarian government has no resistance it fails without the intervention of the West
before Moscow’s will …

#9 Comment By Andrew G. Benjamin On February 12, 2019 @ 2:06 pm

At the heart of antisemitism is and has always been envy, jealousy, resentment. That has not changed. The entire BDS movement is the politically correct version of antisemitism targeting Israel, THE nation of JEWS. It’s about envy, jealous, resentment, for Israel born upon sand dunes and malaria-infested swamps, into the mega-technological, scientific, agricultural, military, a democratic government, humanitarian-in-nature, the modern metropolises it’s cities are, the Middle Eastern super-power it was transformed into by holocaust survivors that lost everything, the tortured and persecuted souls that found few havens anywhere else in the world. They, and their descendants transformed their indigenous Homeland, from the Jews’ own hard work, their own intellect and judgement, into their magnificent home! But, still they contend with the same jealousy, envy, resentment, they have always been forced to reckon with. Their antisemitic foes are arising once again.
Wendy Gilmore Pollack

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#10 Comment By Zeb On February 12, 2019 @ 4:08 pm

@neo cordero
You should get your History straight before basing your biases on your knowledge. The Huns dissipated long before the Magyars occupied the Carphatian basin. The name Hungary is from a French pronounciation of On Ugor, a tribe that the Magyars were mistaken for.

#11 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 13, 2019 @ 10:37 am

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And you actually think that’s a bad thing?

I think the hysteria about Iran on the part of the US and other western powers is insane, and if Hungary is cooperating with Iran and trying to encourage development there that’s a very good thing.

#12 Comment By Digby On February 24, 2019 @ 4:01 am

@Andrew G. Benjamin

If I recall correctly, the BDS movement strives to shine light on Israel’s apartheid-like policies towards the Palestinians and have Israel comply with international law. Some backers of BDS happen to be Jewish as well; are you going to accuse them of self-hatred too?
Not to mention, in all the wars waged by the USA in the Middle East, Israel, the defense of which we waste billions of dollars on, has not stepped up to help out. Not so much an “ally” as a parasite. Why else do we have a $22 trillion debt?

Accusing gentiles of envy/jealousy is the height of arrogance, since it implies that gentiles are inferior, especially the WASPs who sycophantically kiss Israel’s arse.

Sorry, hasbara troll, but none of us is buying this victim-playing anymore. Your link to the American Thinker article, a neocon rag, isn’t helping.

#13 Comment By David Larsen On February 25, 2019 @ 7:53 pm

What a boatload of nonsense! The open borders diversity crowd trying to remake Europe. How, to destroy native European cultures by overwhelming them with immigrants who want to remake Europe in their own image? You are buying the right wing “populist” balogna hook, line and sinker!

“But those who have come here with the intention of changing our country, of shaping our nation in their own image, have been met with resistance.” I don’t know, but this statement by Orban sounds like xenophobic hate speech to me.