One of the founding members of the SZDSZ party, György Konrád wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times today. Konrád, who also held a leading position inside SZDSZ (as a member of the part’s national council) and was also on the party’s electoral list now claims to be a devotee of “neither right nor left”. This ignores the twelve years his party spent governing Hungary in coalition with MSZP, the main force of the left, and the legal successor (as determined by the Constitutional Court) of the Communist MSZMP. SZDSZ suffered the first crushing blow in the 2009 European elections: the party received 2.2% of the votes and lost all of its representation in the European Parliament. As the 2010 elections came about, the party’s fate was sealed, it came nowhere near the 5% limit. Konrád’s article contains pretty much everything that led to the destruction of the SZDSZ party. Would the electorate be happy to hear their homeland to be called a “junk country”? Or to hear the dismissal of 80% of the country living outside the capital as “Rural Hungary” who are unable to comprehend the superior thoughts of the leftist “urban intellectuals”. Konrád, being unable to cope with the reality of his party’s defeat, retreats into taking “satisfaction in fantasies of revenge.” His fantasy world however conducts war not only against the evil right wing, but against the facts as well.
All major cities including the capital, Budapest, supported Fidesz overwhelmingly in the 2010 election. The times when the cities were strongholds of the left are long past. Confident in his ability to mislead western readers, Konrád at times lies so transparently that it becomes easy to spot. In this short part of his article, he drops two big ones: “100,000 people demonstrated out front along Andrássy Boulevard. But state television showed nothing of this.” – writes Konrád. Within literally a minute of googling, one can found this video of the evening news from the Hungarian state television. The protest is the absolutely first, leading news, with five minutes of straight coverage. While there were issues with one earlier report, for which the TV apologized, saying that they “showed nothing” of the events is pure fabrication. The second falsehood is where Konrád speaks of 100,000 demonstrators, while even other left wing sources are satisfied with a more moderate number of 30,000. Realistic estimates ranged from 20 to 30 thousand, and after some calculations were done on the space covered by demonstrators, even the official page of the protest modified their estimate down to “several tens of thousands”. Other smaller claims like “absolute authority” over citizens (impossible when the government can be voted out) or statements like “Orbán is the head of the Media Authority”, are barely worth mentioning.
Accusations of fascism also fly high in Konrád’s world. According to him Hungarian intelligentsia is “neo-populist, sometimes neo-fascist”. Miklós Horthy, who was thrown in prison by Hitler –and was supported by wealthy Jewish families in his exile– is “quasi-fascist” according to Konrád. Handing out appropriate “labels” was a favourite SZDSZ tactic. We can also learn that Klubrádió is “independent”, while Konrád also delves into family backgrounds of opponents with sentences like “The main players are the children of mostly small-time rural party cadres”. Konrad should remember his own outrage when in the first half of the 1990s political opponents tried to make similar investigations into the family background of SZDSZ members.
The sentence that illustrates the best that 79-year-old Konrád is living in the past is this one: “the country is consumed by a civil cold war between the pseudo-right and the pseudo-left”. Konrád, unable to cope with the fact that SZDSZ and the ideology it represents, was rejected by the Hungarian voters, takes the fight to the international arena. But this does not mean that there is an actual “civil cold war” going on, only that Konrad is eager to fight in one.
If the New York Times and other western outlets rely on and follow the lead of old SZDSZ warriors like Konrád, they can gain the support and admiration of 1% of the Hungarians. Those who still support SZDSZ to the bitter end. However the other 99% (including most on the “pseudo-left”) might watch these articles with growing distaste and concern.