I am travelling to Budapest later this month and I’m scheduled to give two public talks in Hungarian, to very different audiences, yet on interrelated topics. Both events are open to the public and all are welcome!
- On Saturday, June 18th at 2:00 PM in Budapest’s Köztársaság tér, or Republic Square (now formally re-named II. János Pál pápa tér, after the late Pope John Paul II), I will participate in a panel discussion that explores the current situation and the future of the Hungarian left-wing press. I will be speaking alongside Máté Csókás, the Editor-in-Chief of the Munkások Újsága online publication. The outdoors event, organized by Hungary’s fledgling Left Party (Balpárt), will also include a panel discussion on the state of civil society in Hungary, with speakers focusing on the Roma community, activists engaged in social justice and anti-poverty groups from the northeastern industrial town of Miskolc, as well as those who have been particularly active in working with Hungarians who had amassed large debts in foreign currencies. A third panel discussion promises to be especially interesting, as it will include philosopher Gáspár Miklós Tamás. Mr. Tamás is a former MP, who served in Parliament from 1990 to 1994, with the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). Mr. Tamás now identifies as a Marxist and publishes widely on websites such as hvg.hu. One of his more recent English-language pieces is actually an exhaustive interview, published in the New Left Review.
When asked to characterize Hungary’s quarter century since the fall of the one party state in 1989, Mr. Tamás said this:
First, the moment of independence and freedom: liberal effervescence. Second, privatization and the dismantling of the remains of the ‘socialist’ welfare state, along with the realignment of the former ‘communist’ state parties, which enthusiastically accepted the neo-liberal agenda as befits their positivist, progressivist and modernizing tradition. Third, a right-wing corporativist backlash against this, largely unsuccessful, with the result: disappointment and rage. Fourth, the frittering away of constitutional systems, civil rights, pluralism and toleration that yielded, in the case of Hungary, a stiff, nationalist order and, in the rest of the Soviet-bloc countries, chaos.
Organizers of the June 18th event are erecting a tent in Köztársaság tér (they refuse to refer to the square by its new name), and at 6:00 PM, once the panels have concluded, they will broadcast the live soccer match between Hungary and Iceland on a large screen. As such, the day will end with some lighter entertainment! (See the Facebook event page here.)
- On Tuesday, June 28th at 8:00 PM, I will be giving a talk in Liberty Square (Szabadság tér), as part of an on-going lecture series organized by the Living Memorial (Eleven Emlékmű) group. These are the activists who have been out in one of Budapest’s most frequented downtown public spaces protesting the Orbán government’s Monument to the German Occupation, and caring for their own, alternative Holocaust memorial, which we have written about before in HFP. My talk is entitled “The Regime’s Diaspora,” I will be speaking about the Orbán government’s diaspora policies, within a historical context, exploring how other authoritarian regimes (namely the Horthy, Rákosi and Kádár regimes) aimed to use diaspora communities for political purposes. Many thanks to civil rights activist Eszter Garai-Édler, who has already appeared before on these pages, for organizing the talk! (See the Facebook event page here.)