Recently, President Jair Bolsonaro stated much identification with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He is considered far right wing and was present on Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremony on January 1st. The Hungarian congratulated him for the electoral victory and the Brazilian ensured they would be “great associates in the future”.
By Mikos Puzser, from Munich
Regarding the restrictive measures against migrants, the Brazilian president stated he “opposed our last immigration bill, which turned Brazil into a country without frontiers”. On his side, Orban, in mid humanitarian crisis in Europe, in 2015, had barbed wire fences built throughout the frontiers with Serbia and Croatia to stop refugees from entering.
A Victory of the Far Right Wing
Viktor Orbán and his right wing nationalist party Fidesz (Alliance of the Young Democrats) – Hungarian Civic Union, was reelected for a third consecutive mandate in 2018, with almost 50% of the votes. Almost 70% of the population participated in the elections. With this victory, along with the Christian People’s Democrat Party, they control two thirds of the parliament. However, not everything is good news for him. Orban faces serious corruption and public fund deviation accusations, favoring his son in law, several ministers and entrepreneurs from the Fidesz.
The history of the Fidesz is related to the restoration of capitalism in Hungary, in the late 1980s and 1990s.
The Stalinist regime in Hungary was one of the first ones to open to capitalism, when the very “communists” ousted Janos Kadar from the Communist Party (CP) leadership and new leaders entered office. This transition, despite it avoided an uprising as in Rumania, meant no stability. Since restoration implied the return of capitalism with all its evils, the Hungarian workers and people had to face a drop in their living conditions and several crises. In other words, the opposite of the development they expected in the Hungarian economy.
Ever since, several parties attempted to capitalize social discontent and the hatred towards the CP regime. They attempted to appear as ‘nationalist’ or liberal outings, but each one only made the situation worse and led economy deeper in to submission to imperialism (particularly European imperialisms, led by Germany). The drop in the living conditions of the population met no end.
In the path of Orban’s party, they obtained 9% of the votes in 1990 and fell to 7% in 1994. However, in this epoch, the factories and farmlands, the woods and enterprises were privatized. Along with foreign investment and the destruction and shutting down of factories came unemployment of up to one million people. Many of the new poor, who resulted from the return of capitalism, became nationalists and liberals. They realized that the privatizations had been too much and national wealth was lost. Orbán attempted to build his political platform on this policy. He attempted to appear as “nationalist”, despite being submitted to international capital, thus justifying an authoritarian regime to be able “to defend the nation” from the attacks.
This set the bases for Fidesz to prevail in the 1998 elections, forming a coalition government that prepared the entry in the European Union. However, they lost the 2002 elections to the socialists.
Orbán re-entered office in 2010, pushed by a radical speech before the 2007-2008 world economic crisis. Since, he achieved a two third majority in parliament. With this he reformed the Constitution and emphasized the Christian-conservative values, he restricted freedom of press, through a new bill of communication means he turned public television, radio and state news agency into speak persons of the government, and through centralizing constitutional reforms he focused power in the Judiciary and the Central Bank. The Parliament adopted the bill of the “new courts” that supervise the public administration and labor cases. With this, the Fidesz increased its influence in office, mainly in the Judiciary system.
In the last years, Orbán adopted a similar speech to current Polish leaders and Salvini from Italy. He blamed the loss of jobs of the natives on the migrants. In other words, he adopted a xenophobic standing, defender of sovereignty, deceiving his voters with false rhetoric, since it is completely dependent on the European Union. He argues with the European Union on the rejection to a common migratory policy, this is his “registered brand”. He opposes the quota system, agreed upon by majority, rejecting the exiled who live today in Italy or Greece. Orbán considers irregular migrants as “invaders”, “a threat to the sovereignty of Hungary and the preservation of its identity”, which may be invaded by “hordes of undocumented Muslims”. There are only 1.5% of foreigners in the country.
The State reforms granted him judiciary conditions to develop his migration policy, which foresees systematic detentions and deportation of the arrested. To help immigrants and refugees is considered a felony. Besides, he has the policy of surcharging the NGOs that support immigrants in any way.
The government also supports conservative actions like the cancelation of the musical Billy Elliot in Budapest, after denouncing it could “turn Hungarian children into homosexuals”.
With this, he became a reference for his neighbors: Italy and Matteo Salvini’s League and the Five Star Movement, the far right wing Party of Freedom in Austria, the far right wing AFD in Germany, and the extremely conservative Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland. In this same sense, he reinforced the so-called Visegrad Group (V4), which includes Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
“Nationalism” sustained by the European Union
Orbán brags about his economic measures, which he calls “Orbanomics”. They led to a GDP growth (4%) and the reduction of unemployment (it went from over 11% to 3.8%), mainly thanks to a public employment program, in tasks such as cleaning schools and streets where people receive a little more than unemployment insurance. However, it is also because the country has the lowest wages in the European Union, including highly qualified professionals. Laws limit, almost forbid, the right to strike and there was a tax reduction for enterprises, which was already the lowest in the region. Orbán promised a million jobs in 10 years, and he said he already reached 740,000.
Despite the lies of the nationalist speech – he states he faces the empires (“fighting the empires is a Hungarian tradition. First against the Turkish, then the Austrian empire, the Nazis and Communists in the XX Century, and now the European empire”) -, the truth is that the financial equilibrium of Hungary is due to foreign financing, and therefore, they have a high dependence on the foreign nations. The European Union funds sustain the country, with up to 5 billion dollars per years. Evidently, this is no ‘help’. German and French multinational earn much with this. Without mentioning that 25% of Hungarian exports go to Germany, and the 300,000 people that work for German companies in Hungary. But Orbán says he is ‘independent’ and uses nationalist rhetoric.
On the other hand, Orbán attempts to strengthen the links with his neighbors of the east who have the same political profile. By late 2009, Orbán went to Saint Petersburg to attend to the “United Russia” congress, led by Vladimir Putin. With this, he attempts to hold good relations with the Russian autocrat and blackmail the EU, since he has plans to ask Russia, China and Turkey for money. Today, the country depends on Russian energy, mainly oil and nuclear energy.
Authoritarian and Xenophobic
Viktor Orbán, 54 years old, was a student leader who fought the Stalinist dictatorship. Therefore, during the first years after the fall of the regime, he appeared for some time as the great ‘liberal’ promise of the new democracies in Western Europe. Today, this politician held as campaign axis “to protect Hungary from immigration and refugees”. He stands as the defender and savior of the “traditional Christian values”, conservative, nationalist, euro-skeptic, defender of the “anti-liberal state”, of an authoritarian, xenophobic and nepotistic government. From his position within the state, Orbán became one of the wealthiest men in Europe (he owns a communications conglomerate with 176 companies and means of communication).
He says he is the enemy of bourgeois imperialists, considered democratic, like Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel. His archenemy is George Soros, Hungarian multimillionaire linked to the USA Democrat Party, whom he accuses to be a ‘capitalist Jew’. Equally, he denounces the “star” of the Heineken brand, a Dutch multinational, for being the symbol of “communism”. According to his chief of staff, Janos Lazar, there is a “fever of sensibility” of the Hungarians, who “suffered with communism and its dictatorship”. Actually, this is part of his current far right wing rhetoric, because he has no problem with dictatorships like the ones of Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Xi Jinping in China.
The EU co-exists with Orbán
Even the European Parliament, known for its negligence of the defense of human rights, decided to open a process against Hungary for “risks of serious violations of fundamental values and rights”, at least to sustain appearances. The process could lead to the loss of the right to vote in the decisions of the European block, but this would not be the main sanction. Hungary and Poland stand between the countries of the block who benefited the most of the European community funds.
If in fact, the European Union wanted to exert some pressure, it could cut the funds. However, this would cause prejudice for European multinationals, mainly the French and Germans. However, as Michael Ignatieff says, president of the Center-European University (forced to move to Vienna due to the government’s persecution), the European Union holds “complicity and conformity” with Orbán. For example, his party the Fidesz, continues to be a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), which is Merkel’s administration sustain.
Protests in Hungary
Due to the poor labor conditions in the country, 600 thousand workers migrated to other European Union countries, which combined with the end of the immigrant flux, it generated the need of labor power.
For this, the Orbán administration pushed a labor reform, which is known as the “Bill of Slaves”. It increases from 250 to 400 the maximum number of overtime allowed in a year, a six-day labor week and it authorizes entrepreneurs to pay overtime in up to 36 months. The bill comes from need due to scarce labor power, and it seeks to benefit great international manufacturing enterprises. In 2015, the government had carried out a program to motivate young people to return to their homes, offering houses and making labor promises, better labor conditions, although more precarious than in the rest of the continent, but it did not work.
Therefore, the patience of the workers and the youth with this model began to run out. Protests began when the opposition representatives began to claim in the building of the state television and were brutally repressed and expelled by the security forces of a private company, owned by the Interior Minister, general Pintér. Street cuts and demonstrations summoned via Internet, with leaflets, pamphlets, songs, video clips, gifs and memes. They reached their peak on Sunday December 16, 2018, with around 20 thousand people marching in Budapest. Besides, there were protests in other cities like Szeged, Békéscsaba, Debrecen, Miskolc, Veszprém, and Györ. Polls showed 83% of the population stands against this “Overtime Bill”.
The government argues that if they work more, they will earn more, but… only in a few years. It denounces the protests as work of foreign mercenaries paid by George Soros, as part of a “Jewish-Mason-illuminate plot”, caused by “cultural Marxists”, “feminists”, “cosmopolite globalizers” and by “Gay lobby”.
Workers in Hungary are showing the Path
We may draw some conclusions about the experience in Hungary that may help for Brazil. One of them is that despite the electoral victories of far right wing organizations and parties, workers make their experience from the measures these governments adopt regarding their living and labor conditions, and they fight for their rights.
As the Hungarian philosopher Gaspar Miklós Tamás says, “After the bitter disappointment of the past 15 years, electoral politics remain in a second level, no one seems to be interested in it”.
Bolsonaro believes he is joining a growing wave that will send him to the top of an international ‘anti-globalization’ phenomenon, and he was pleased with the presence of Orbán, Netanyahu and Trump’s Secretary of State in his inauguration ceremony. However, when this government’s attacks begin to affect the rights of the working class, there will be a reaction, and Bolsonaro will have to face growingly organized struggles, as it happens in Hungary today.