Cold Civil War in Hungary

In Hungary, a deep rift in society arose, which entered a very aggressive phase. There is a completely neurotic atmosphere in our country.

A cold civil war is raging, says Hungarian writer György Dalos in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

Mr. Dalosh, on the eve of the Hungarian parliamentary elections, the differences between the government and the opposition seem insurmountable. The polarization in the country is extremely strong. What is your opinion?

– There is a completely neurotic atmosphere in Hungary. Cold War reigns – this is the official doctrine of the Orban system.

Hungarian Parliament Speaker Laszlo Kover used the term “cold civil war” a few years ago.

– Yes. That’s exactly what he said. It was not a spontaneous outbreak, it was just that this war had indeed been declared at some point. Politically, on the one hand, we have a nationalist and authoritarian current that is against the EU, and on the other, those who believe in Europe are not nationalists and, of course, are a little more tolerant than the former. Thus, unfortunately, a real rift in society arises, which has already entered a very aggressive phase. When you talk to someone in Hungary today, whether it’s a new film, a new book, or whatever, you’ll immediately run into this deep rift. And such aggression poisons the entire social climate.

But what is it really about? What lies beneath the surface?

– I think it is an ideological ghost created by Orban and his party “Fidesz”. On the question of who is Hungarian and who is not Hungarian. According to the simplest explanation, a true and respectable Hungarian is the only one who supports Orban’s government. And whoever is against, just can’t be a real Hungarian. At its extreme, this interpretation acquires a nationalist and even racist character. Because when you are Hungarian and not Hungarian – what are you like? This is part of a long tradition that non-Hungarians are Jews or Gypsies, ie. Roma. Or agents of some foreign power.

As early as the 1990s, there was a split in Hungary between a national and a liberal camp. Isn’t one of the reasons for the bad change in the system after the end of the real socialist dictatorship?

– Hungary’s biggest problem is that change has become too easy. It was not only peaceful but even consensual. This consensus was: We are Hungarians, we can solve all problems, as long as, first, the Soviet army withdraws from our country, second, Hungary becomes an independent republic, and third, to find its place in the EU. Most of all, people expected the EU to solve almost all of their problems. They believed that there would be a real boom when Hungary finally embraced the political and moral values ​​of the free world. But that did not happen. The same is true for the other Eastern Bloc countries. Expectations were high. And the public split was programmed.

And what role did the unjust redistribution of the former so-called national property play?

– From 1989-to 1990 new foundations were laid for the distribution of property. At that time, the property was just rolling on the ground – you just had to bend down and take it. The big question was: Who will be the new owners? As elsewhere, a strong group formed in Hungary, which took most of the property. These were the younger former functionaries, the technocrats, not the ideologized communists. It was this type of privatization in the post-communist Eastern Bloc countries that ultimately proved to be the main cause of all subsequent conflicts.

At the moment, the Hungarian front line seems insurmountable – and this is the work of the Orbán government since 2010. In Orban’s previous term from 1998 to 2002, he could still talk to the government, although this was not always pleasant.

And after 2010?

– No. Until 15 years ago, it was perfectly normal for a government politician to have coffee with the opposition. Today, this seems completely impossible. There is no conversation between them. And the worst thing is that it has become a kind of automatism: the division is already functioning regardless of the battles between the parties.

And what are the consequences?

– It is dramatic when the government is faced with a problem that it cannot solve on its own, but it no longer has any interlocutors. Let’s say – a serious conflict with the EU. Or if we look at Ukraine: Hungary can easily fall between the two blocs, between Russia and the West. This is the historical role of Hungary: to be between two strengths. In such a situation, everything can suddenly become explosive.

Can this division in society be overcome in the foreseeable future?

– This is not just a question of whether the opposition will win the election. Yes, the chances of overcoming the division will be greater if the current rulers step down. However, we must first end this Cold War and restore balance to society. Let there be two political blocs in the future, but they must be able to compromise with each other. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, I think that in Hungary, strategic victory will be won by those who manage to restore peace. Except I don’t see who can do it.

György Dalos was born in 1943 in Budapest. He is one of the most famous Hungarian writers. During the Eastern Bloc, Dalosh was involved in building the democratic opposition in Hungary, and the dictatorship banned him from writing. Dalosh currently lives in Berlin.

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