After last year’s meeting, Gábor Vona again invited intellectuals interested in his ideas and debate-launching speech. The meeting was held in the town of Soltvadkert on Saturday, with at least 150 participants. The purpose of the speech was to lay out the objectives of modern conservatism. Jobbik’s president emphasized the need for turning a losing attitude into a winning one and explained his views on how to take up the fight against hopelessness, misery and lack of freedom so that a proud, liveable and independent Hungary could be created. The president urges to build bridges within the society and is aware that he might fail his attempt. The list of participants was confidential but some of them did answer our questions about their experience.
Held in Soltvadkert’s Anna Restaurant and Hotel with a strict access control, most of the attendants were well-known and influential people with high positions in the areas of science, arts and sports, but their identity was not revealed to the public this year, either. As we were told, the reason for the confidentiality was that the purpose of the programme launched last year with the idea of establishing a tradition was not to build up a “Jobbik-related intelligentsia” but to enable real intellectuals interested in the thoughts of the leader of a prospective governmental force to get to know the party president’s objectives from a presentation specifically designed for them as well as to debate the presented ideas in the Q&A session or directly and freely discuss them with Gábor Vona or each other all day afterwards.
The Tapolca Discussion was a milestone
Last year’s presentation focused on positioning a national people’s party in a 20th-21st-century matrix, defining the role of a critical-minded Hungarian intelligentsia that is truly independent from all political parties and discussing the concept that the values of Christian conservative thinkers were better represented by Jobbik than Fidesz.
At around 10.30, László Szávay, the moderator of the president’s lecture and the follow-up discussion gave the floor to Gábor Vona who delivered his speech in front of a “We Build Bridges” banner, a key message of his State of the Nation Address held in January. The topic of the presentation, as Gábor Vona put it, was not to outline a party programme or a governmental strategy but to lay out the objectives of modern conservatism.
In his view, the token of survival for the Hungarian nation lies in modern conservatism as an approach to life. It is our ancestors’ spiritual knowledge combined with the problems and challenges of the present – this is how he defined the term.
The conference tent was filled with the participants, including current and former prominent representatives from nearly all professional areas and they could always feel involved in the interactive discussion just as Jobbik’s president had declared that the purpose of his speech was to launch a debate. The confidential ambiance indeed gave ample opportunity for constructive debates, which was highly appreciated by the participants, according to the repeated statements of the ones who answered our questions.
Hopelessness, misery, lack of freedom
“Hungary is dominated by a general bad feeling of suffocation.” This is how Vona began his speech, explaining that he had drawn this conclusion from his personal interactions with citizens during his tour of the country. As he put it, he also asked them about the reasons for these feelings and he was told that it was mainly misery (low living standards) and the lack of freedom that gave rise to these emotions. The party president complemented this picture with hopelessness which, in his view, significantly determines public sentiment.
He recalled the three adjectives that his party used for describing the kind of Hungary they wanted to work for back in 2003, when they founded Jobbik: proud, liveable, independent. He emphasized that these three characteristics are the positive counterparts of the country’s current state. Pride is opposed by hopelessness, liveability is opposed by misery while independence is contrasted by the lack of freedom.
Going on, he organized his speech along the topics of hopelessness, misery and lack of freedom, starting with the first one, which he called the ancient, debilitating curse that prevents any community from progress. It is best demonstrated in our daily lives by the public sentiment that politics cannot change, “you can’t really replace the government but even if you do, everybody keeps stealing”. In his view, all previous governments have always been interested in maintaining this attitude. He called this phenomenon “political trench warfare”, where citizens are either threatened that “if you don’t vote for us, the Nazis will return,” or “if you don’t vote for us, the Communists will return”. In his opinion, neither of these predictions have any credibility but the deep division keeps urging voters to choose between the lesser of two evils. Thus citizens can never feel there is a good choice, therefore the country keeps sinking back into the abortive confrontations of the 20th century.
Referring to this general hopelessness, he called it a mental distortion of the Hungarian nation, the reasons of which have been researched by so many thinkers all their lives. He also emphasized that analysis without a solution is not enough, i.e. the sentiment must be turned into hopefulness. This is not at all impossible, considering how enthusiastically the nation responds to any success achieved by creative Hungarian people, including the fervent reception of the national football team’s Euro campaign, the Olympics or “The Horsearcher” movie.
Taking risks and leaving the comfort zone
To solve these problems, you need to build bridges. You must leave your comfort zones, the war trenches. This is what the president does now, although he is fully aware that he might fail in his attempt.. The goals of his effort is to find out if a political community can step out of its own shadow and to make the community understand that he wants to represent them, but others, too.. “Is there a need for that at all?” He asked the pressing question which he illustrated with an expressive image. Building bridges is a tough thing, it might as well be called a radical act. Furthermore, people trying to connect two riverbanks are often accused by one side as “traitors” while those on the other side keep yelling “don’t you dare to come here”. In his view however, building bridges is the token of the Hungarian nation’s survival..
“Apart from us, who else would be willing to risk their political capital to attempt overcoming the nation’s hopelessness?” he asked, adding that, beside Jobbik, perhaps András Schiffer (the former co-president of the Politics Can Be Different party) was the only one who wanted to prove that “politics could be different,” but he finally failed due to the limitations within his own party.
A nation that does not believe in itself will never win, that’s why its so important to overcome hopelessness. In other words, the losing attitude must be turned into a winning one. This is purely a matter of choice, he said, as the historical facts allow for both conclusions, i.e., either that we are losers or that we are winners. The only question is whether we decide to abandon the losing attitude and we can look ahead in the future with a winning one.
A more democratic, more civic Hungary
After overcoming hopelessness, the next step will be to improve low living standards. Jobbik’s goal is to achieve honest pay and high-quality labour force. In order to do so, the three most important tasks are to eliminate corruption, refit healthcare and improve education. No wonder these are the topics in the Real National Consultation questionnaires to be delivered to all Hungarian households in October.
The parties of the left were operating a global corruption system, while Fidesz has installed local corruption mechanisms, he pointed out. The former was designed to tap the pipelines of multinational capital (with the clandestine agreement of its operators) under the aegis of “pressure for integration”. On the positive side, this system was dissolved by Fidesz but, despicably enough, the current government party distributes national assets to its clientèle under the slogan of “creating a national capitalist class”.
As for refitting our healthcare system, Vona says it should be focusing on physical and mental prevention , and really become HEALTH care instead of the 95% DISEASE care which it is now. He firmly believes in what he later jokingly called Vona’s first axiom: 1 unit of winning attitude would save 2 units of healthcare spending and generate 3 units of economic growth.
Talking about education, he emphasized that 26 years after the collapse of Communism it was high time to actually start planning the future and then follow the planned course. It’s time to “skate to where the puck is going to be,” he quoted Gretzky, the famous ice hockey player. When we think about our future, the two most important things are to imprint individuals with the need for constant development (”lifelong learning”) and to induce initiative and boost cooperation within the community so that we don’t consider communal cooperation as a burden. As a believer in the power of symbols, he reflected on the alliance of the seven ancient Hungarian leaders which clearly indicated that even the birth of our nation was built upon cooperation.
After overcoming hopelessness and misery, the final step is to eliminate the lack of freedom. However, the former two do need to come first since we all know that “you can’t sing the national anthem when your stomach rumbles”. It is so, even though the Hungarian soul is characterized by a desire for freedom. The extent of our misery determines how much we can lead a human life while the extent of our freedom determines how much we can live as a Hungarian. The goal of modern conservatism is to create a balance between order and liberty so that we could achieve external and internal freedom.
External freedom was blocked by the left-liberal governments while internal freedom was eliminated by the current government which had intended to create a Civic Hungary but achieved quite the contrary. This is not just Vona’s opinion, but several key figures of Fidesz’ foundation have stated the same, as we presented in earlier articles. He also delivered a strong statement:
“If Jobbik gets into government, we will create a more democratic, more civic Hungary.”
The winning attitude
The second Soltvadkert discussion was an excellent manifestation of Jobbik having grown up. In reference to Jobbik’s progress into a people’s party, we have repeatedly been told that Gábor Vona’s organization has turned from adolescence into adulthood but now we could see the process with our own eyes. The question is no longer whether we can trust its ability to hold its ground or whether yesterday’s adolescent Jobbik could make the world believe that it has grown up. Now the world does believe it, as it was shown by the responses made by the participants of Saturday’s meeting as well as by the commenters of the president’s article “Where has Jobbik’s soul gone?” posted last week. By the way, the article was at least as popular and appreciated a topic for debate among the participants of the Soltvadkert Discussion as the speech itself.
So the only remaining question is how to overcome the government. No wonder Parliamentary faction leader János Volner gave this title to his speech at the party’s August 20th event, and most roundtable discussions were focusing on the matter this time as well. It is a difficult question as we keep getting information on the government’s repeated measures to secure its power, including such ideas as the establishment of a public administration court which seems perfectly suitable for hushing up Fidesz’ corrupt dealings or the latest attempts to expand Fidesz’ media empire by engulfing the daily paper Népszabadság this time.
Naturally, Gábor Vona also reflected on this question: referring to the upcoming elections in 2018, he said that the government party’s leading position in the polls was much more an indication of the opposition’s weakness than that of Fidesz’ successful governance. “We have one and a half years to change that,” he emphasized. Commenting that international surveys show 53% support for Jobbik in the age group below 35, he pointed out that his party had the best position in terms of political organization.
He also expressed his hope that the policy built on hope, a winning attitude and positive energies would overcome the policy of fear, and the principle of “what goes around comes around” would prevail. In response to a question, he added he was fully aware that 51% of the citizens would not become national radicals but he also believed that modern conservatism was the approach that could help the country move forward. Especially if this radicalism is not dominated by anger but by a will to dig down to the roots to achieve a true change.
To sum up, we can state that both the idea of modern conservatism and the will for a real, radical change had a positive reception in the Soltvadkert Discussion. We experienced that each participant went home with a little stronger winning attitude than they had arrived.
Photo: Balázs Béli, alfahir.hu