Living in an illiberal democracy

Submitted by Matthew on 25 September, 2019 - 10:17

A reader reports from Hungary

One of the perks of living in Hungary is not having to ask your grandparents: “What was it like living in a one-party state?” — because you already know.

You see outrageous government propaganda everywhere. You see the posters of the crowds of refugees – excuse me: “migrants” — which would have you believe that they are out for Hungarian blood. You hear the endless droning speeches denouncing the treacherous liberals, and the sinister conspiracies trying to undermine Hungary.

You turn on the TV, switch to the right wing propaganda channel of your choice, and you can watch Serious Men expose the latest anti-government protest as a Soros plot – with participants flown into the country from abroad, of course – or demonstrate how a derailed train in Austria was a terrorist act orchestrated by liberals in order to... well, I'm sure they had their reasons.

Depending on the nature of the particular fever dream they're trying to push, you either laugh, get angry, incredulous, or just plain horrified. But as the years go by, your capacity to react diminishes.

You've seen and heard too much. A kind of detached resignation seeps in. There they are, lying again, with impunity. No force yet exists in Hungary to do anything about it.

And yet Fidesz – Orbán's ruling party – is obliged to manufacture conspiracy theories in order to keep power. Their grifting is too blatant and shameless to be done indefinitely. To prevent an opposition from coalescing, they have to make up fictional treats from which they can pretend to protect the nation. Luckily, there happen to be both enemies within, and enemies without.

There's Gyurcsány, the extremely unpopular former prime minister, whose horrible image can always be conjured up as a justification of Orbán's power. The fact that Gyurcsány's current party only received 308,161 votes during the last election seems to pose no problem for the faithful.

The other enemies within are the “liberals”, meaning, of course, everyone to the left of Horthy. After all, they are Orbán's main threat to power, besides Jobbik, an other far-right party. Since he can't afford to alienate his right-wing base, he mainly focuses his attacks on liberals, while pandering to the prejudices of his fellow reactionaries.

As for the enemies without, there are of course the refugees. The racist hysteria whipped up against them has proved very successful. Not that appealing to the people's racism has been especially difficult. Hungary has quite a deep reserve of bigotry. As for how this rhetoric effected people of colour living here, I can only speculate.

And there's of course the sinister puppet-master behind it all, the archfiend Soros. Name anything you care to, and if Gyurcsány isn't responsible for it, Soros probably is. Protests against the closing of the Central European University? Soros! Demonstrations against climate change? Soros! Refugees looking for a better life? Do you even have to ask?

It's interesting to note that — as you may know — the obsession with Soros did not originate in Hungary, but in the United States. What does it say about our nativist propaganda-mongers that they can't even invent their own conspiracy theories, but have to import them from abroad?

I believe that it's justified to draw connections to an other piece of Jew-baiting slander, that also spread across the globe over a hundred years ago.

I'm of course talking about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabrication created by the secret police of Tsarist Russia. Without it, the campaign against Soros would not exist.

While the Protocols attempt to frame all Jews as conspiring to extend their influence, gain power, undermine nations and morals, and control the media, the fictions surrounding Soros accuse only him.

But this superficial difference shouldn't fool us. The accusations against Soros are an appeal to the Protocols by proxy. But resorting to open Nazi propaganda is still frowned upon in respectable circles, hence the (not too subtle) winking and nodding.

Lastly, there's the EU, against which Orbán pretends to wage a war of national liberation. Voters are bombarded with “national consultation” letters exposing the plans of “Brussels”.

Of course, Orbán needs the EU – or rather, he needs the funds it provides. He needs them both to keep the economy afloat, and to enrich himself and his circle.

He also needs the investments from German capital. Hungary doesn't have a corporate income tax rate of 9%, the lowest in Europe, by accident. The recent “slavery law”, which raises the maximum amount of overtime from a yearly 250 hours to 400 hours also exposes the class character of Fidesz.

Of course, voters can't be allowed to make the connection between their declining living standard and Orbán's rule. So the fight against the Sorosist-Gyurcsányist-Zinovievist Terrorist Bloc must go on.

Seeing its shameless lying, its fusion of party and state, and the methods it's willing to employ to keep power, a lot of people view Fidesz and the Stalinist leadership of yesteryear as essentially the same. Certainly, they both function as a parasitic ruling class. And indeed, a lot of people in Fidesz were members of the old ruling party, MSZMP. Orbán himself was a secretary of the Hungarian Young Communist League (KISZ).

Whether Fidesz ever had any true principles, I cannot say. But looking at their evolution, one gets the impression that its defining characteristic is opportunism. They were formed as a liberal opposition group in the last years of a dying system, before turning into a bourgeois-conservative party, which then mutated into the fascistoid defenders of Christendom that they are now.

By now, you have some idea about the situation in Hungary. In fact, you may have noticed some uncomfortable similarities between what's going on in Hungary with what's going on in the United Kingdom.

And indeed, our new Genius of the Carpathians should be viewed in the context of the disturbing rise of the far-right globally. All over the world, barely veiled racism and xenophobia are employed by cheap hucksters and dime-store fascists, while people's rights are being tread upon, and the planet burns.

To think that this can be remedied just by voting the right way is an illusion. We need an international workers' movement that's capable of defending its interests, and that requires an explosion of class consciousness among the people.

The class war has been one-sided for too long. Everything depends on changing that.

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