Zsolt Enyedi at UC Berkeley – Hungary’s challenge to liberal democracy

Zsolt Enyedi, Professor of Political Science at Central European University Budapest, will speak at the University of California at Berkeley on September 2, 12-1:30 p.m., 270 Stephens Hall. (Details here.)

For some of us it is becoming clear that Fidesz is pursuing the same far-right policies as Jobbik, Hungary’s neo-Nazi party, and the country is slowly becoming a totalitarian state. Institutionalized racism and open anti-Semitism are hallmarks of Viktor Orbán’s policies.

Enyedi’s talk is about the Hungarian paradox. The country is a member of the European Union, it is located in the middle of Europe and is one of the most globalized countries in the world, yet, about two-thirds of its population supports parties which reject liberal democracy and are typically described as populist and authoritarian.

Zsolt Enyedi

Zsolt Enyedi

Here is Enyedi’s take on Fidesz vs. Jobbik. “Fidesz and Jobbik agree that once the most fundamental human rights are taken care of, the collective interests of the national community trump the interests of individuals and of minorities. They both reject multiculturalism, expect the government to represent the values of the majority and seek to restrict the presence of non-conventional subcultures (e.g. gays and lesbians) in the public space. Differences between the two parties are politically significant, but are related more to the degree of radicalism than to substantive positions. For example, while Jobbik promises to ban the annual Gay Pride, and the leaders of the party often participate in anti-Pride demonstrations, Fidesz treats the representation of minority norms as objectionable but legitimate.”

The summary of Jobbik’s extremism is sobering: “In the case of Jobbik the existence of the second layer is particularly visible: various speeches, public gestures and leaked internal communications of the party leave no doubt that a considerable part of the leadership — and probably of the membership — is racist (particularly anti-Roma and anti-Semitic) and ultra-nationalist. Speeches by parliamentary representatives attest that many party leaders believe in blood libels (that Jews used to kill Christian children); do not accept the current borders of Hungary; and consider the Gypsies to be tools in the hands of Zionist conspirators against the Hungarian nation.”

“Fidesz can be considered as being more purely nationalistic than Jobbik. Apparently Fidesz, in spite of claiming to be a Christian Democratic party, never accepted the reservations of classical Christian Democracy against nation-states and nationalism.”

*His paper is entitled Paternalist Populism and Illiberal Elitism in Central Europe (Click here).

György Lázár


  1. Charlie London says:

    I’m afraid I question the authority of anybody pontificating on Politics with a background in the Budapest university with it’s concomitant relationship with the Communist elite in the past and its – now – relationship with the government-of-the-day.

    With history professors in Hungary prepared to rewrite history to the agenda of their ignorant Premier – where is the educational integrity?

    Where is their independence?

    And above all where is their respect in their place in Global education? You won’t find a Hungarian University in the top 500 Universities.

    And Hungary’s expenditure on education drops year on year.

    As a professor of politics the professor quotes the required Fideszbbik mantra that Orban has a two-thirds mandate!

    And from a ‘Political Scientist’ too.

    No – too much interference from Church and State in Hungary’s education system to pass any integrity test.

    Now where’s that poem by Albert Wass I was reading?

    (If you Google the professor there is a warning that some content has been removed under EU law. What’s being hidden? Those Communists were so good at ‘changing’ the truth. Have you seen ‘The Witness’?)

  2. András B. Göllner says:

    Charlie London

    The Central European University of Budapest is a private University, not dependent on FIDESZ funding. It’s faculty is by and large independent minded and not under the thumb of the government. The CEU did not exist in the communist era. There are many things one can say about that University and Prof Enyedi but to suggest that they are proponent’s of the FIDESZ Party line is preposterous. Please calm down and demonstrate a bit of sobriety.

    • Charlie London says:

      Thank you, András! I stand corrected.

      Apologies to Zsolt Enyedi – sorry Zsolt.

      The CEU of Budapest sounds so Communist – and my detestation of establishments like Pázmány (not to mention the Pal Schmidt shenanigans and Semmelweis) and so-called ‘Dr’ Fodor-like contributors on here put me in knee-jerk mode.

      I actually read the paper and even on it’s own standing is a work of scholarly endeavour

      Even if half of the Wikipedia entry is true – then it is indeed an institute of integrity.

      And endowed by George Soros. A person I admire, even if he nearly broke my country’s currency!

      Originally in Prague? There’s a story there – I hope the trade-off was worth being categorised with Hungary’s dreadful education administration which some in ignorance (!) might make.

      I’m off now for a large portion of humble pie.

      Thanks again.

    Orban’s cruelty to refugees will now be an eternal sequel to 1956, when the world welcomed the Hungarian refugees with kindness and generosity. How the Hungarian government reciprocated in 2015 should be included in the Ottawa “Memorial to the Victims of Communism” (on which so much money that could have been used to help current victims of oppression is being spent). Orban’s proposed contribution to the Ottawa Memorial is $100,000. The razor-wire fence intended to keep out refugees has already cost millions of dollars.

  4. András B. Göllner says:

    Charlie London

    Things happen – we can all make mistakes. Forget about the humble pie, have a cherry strüdle instead. 🙂

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