Ignatieff’s last stand in Budapest

Former Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff was not alive on April 4, 1945, when the Russian Red Army liberated Hungary from the remaining elements of a dogged, pro-Nazi resistance. That liberation was the start of a 45 year long period of Russian led, anti-liberal rule in Hungary, which only ended in 1990.

On April 4, 2017, as Rector of Hungary’s highest ranked University – the Central European University (CEU) – Ignatieff was personal witness to the second liberation of Hungary. He watched helplessly, as the Hungarian Parliament passed a law that will shut down his university, in an effort to save Hungary from liberalism.

Michael Ignatieff, Rector of CEU

Hungary’s second „liberation” didn’t require Red Army troops. While it was undertaken at the request of Vladimir Putin, it was executed by a sovereign Hungarian Parliament, in which Putin’s best Hungarian disciple, Viktor Orbán, enjoys overwhelming support. Ignatieff’s Liberal Arts University, founded by Holocaust survivor George Soros, was sent packing from Budapest, without any consultation or debate. CEU is seen as a menace to Hungary’s Christian values. Its founder is portrayed by Hungary’s Prime Minister, as a man, who wants to destroy European civilization.

Three years ago, and in a public speech, Viktor Orbán swore to reshape his country’s political system according to an „illiberal” blueprint from the Kremlin. By now, Hungary is a pale shadow of its former democratic self. According to a press release, on March 21 of this year, Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union, and more than one hundred of the country’s top non-government organizations notified the world, that the Orbán regime has declared war on Hungary’s civil society. The rule of law has been savaged, the freedom of the press is virtually gone. Two years ago, Republican Senator John McCain, referred to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a “neo-Fascist dictator”. Things have become even more desperate since then. By now, many agree, that Orbán is Putin’s Trojan horse within the Western alliance.

The sustainability of the regime that sent Ignatieff packing faces much better prospects than the one installed by the Kremlin 70 years ago. Hungarians, for generations, have been told that liberalism is a Jewish, anti-Christian conspiracy. Antisemitism in Hungary is at its highest level since World War II. This time around, even the President of the United States is a Soros opponent. But what’s best of all is, that Donald Trump is enthralled by the aroma floating westward from the Kremlin’s kitchen.

It is sad, but true, that the former Liberal Party of Canada leader, and the former Liberal Foreign Minister, M. Stéphane Dion, didn’t say a word from their positions of authority against Putin’s Trojan horse within the trans-Atlantic alliance. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has still not spoken out in defense of his Party’s former leader or in defense of those people in Hungary whose civil liberties are being abused, even as I write these lines. The Liberal Party of Canada, as its conservative predecessor, has chosen to keep its lips tightly sealed, and if anything, has praised the champion of „illiberalism” in Central Europe, albeit in a more understated way, than J.D. Gordon, the National Security Advisor to the Trump campaign who said: “The team of President-elect Donald Trump deeply admires the Hungarian leader. With Trump in the White House, a new chapter will be opened in American-Hungarian relations. Mr. Trump and Mr. Orbán will become good friends.”

With Trump in the White House, the road to lasting power for many illiberal wannabees around the world has been cleared of any American obstructions. Egypt’s Sisi has come and gone. France’s populist Marine Le Pen has been given a pat on her bum by the man who is famous for his roamin’ hands, rushin’ fingers. Erdogan has been embraced with open arms. Orbán has been told to wait his turn, until public attention fades from The Budapest Bridge, and Mr. Gorka comes out to play. Now it’s finally up to the local populations to show what they are made of. Their road will not be an easy one. They have stood up to the bullies in Austria, and Holland. We’re holding our breath for France. But as Syria’s Assad, or Hungary’s Orbán have shown, the anti-liberal forces, emboldened by Trump, will be throwing more than the kitchen sink at their democratic opponents.

Mr. Ignatieff and the current leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada should do more than exercise understated language in opposition to the forces that seek to undermine democratic principles the world over. They must demonstrate with bold actions and words that they learned something from the great Karl Polányi who wrote 70 years ago the following scathing condemnation: “Nowhere has liberal philosophy failed so conspicuously as in its understanding of the problems of change.”

András Göllner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *