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8 Apr, 2014 13:33

Hungary’s elections: Don’t be fooled by the labels

Hungary’s elections: Don’t be fooled by the labels

On the one side we have a government that has carried out renationalization, which has confronted the greedy foreign-owned energy companies, and presided over a rise in real wages and a fall in unemployment.

Also, this government imposed a bank tax and implemented other measures to help ordinary people – including a government-decreed cut in energy bills.

On the other side, there is an opposition alliance that supports further privatization, wants more policies to benefit global “investors,” which is unashamedly pro-banker and pro-globalist and whose main alliance partner when last in government imposed swingeing cuts in public spending, destroyed state-owned companies including national airline Malev, and left millions of ordinary people worse off.

Now, you'd probably think that the government is question was “socialist’ or “leftist” and the opposition “conservative.” But in fact, it is the other way round. The Hungarian government, which has just been returned to power with around 45 percent of the vote, has undoubtedly done more for ordinary people that the “socialist” opposition did when in power from 2002-10 (and I say this as a lifelong socialist, not as a supporter of Fidesz).

Hungary shows us that we should beware of “labels” when it comes to elections in the era of neoliberalism and globalization. For sometimes it is “conservative” parties who can – and do – offer ordinary people far more than “socialist” ones, or ones which claim to be on the “left” or “center-left.”

‘Fake’ left

Across Europe in recent years we've seen so-called “left’ or ‘center-left” parties support illegal NATO wars, implement privatization, austerity and other “reforms” aimed at benefiting the 1 percent. When people in France voted Socialist in the 2012 presidential elections they probably didn't think they’d get a president who was even more of a warmonger than Nicolas Sarkozy, the bomber of Libya, but that’s exactly what they got.

Neither could British voters who voted for Labour in 1997 have predicted that Tony Blair would lead the country into a succession of illegal aggressive wars, or that under Labour the gap between rich and poor would continue to rise as it had under the Conservatives.

Nor for that matter would Germans who voted for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1998 have believed that the party would introduce neo-liberal reforms which went beyond anything that the previous Christian Democrat-led administration had brought in.

The European left is most certainly not what it was 40 years ago, when we had genuinely socialist parties led by genuine socialists. When we vote in elections today we need to be fully aware of the “fake left” and how left-wing parties in Europe have, in recent years, been taken over by pro-war, pro-globalist, pro-neoliberal forces whose mission is to destroy any last vestiges of socialism and social democracy – to tie the country‘s foreign policy firmly to the US, while showing total compliance with the EU too, as well as strong support for Israel.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (C) chats with an election officals as his wife Aniko Levai (R) holds ballot papers in a polling station of a local school at12th district of Budapest on April 6, 2014.(AFP Photo / Attila Kisbenedek)

The labels

In order not to be fooled, it’s important that we don’t judge politicians or parties by the names they give themselves but what they do. While Hungary’s “right-wing” Prime Minister Viktor Orban was taking on the energy companies, former PM Gordon Bajnai, his “left-liberal” opponent, was calling for a return of a “rational” i.e. foreign capital-friendly, economic policy.

“We must offer a deal to investors: tax cuts in exchange for investment.” Bajnai said.

And while Hungary‘s Economy Minister Mihaly Varga has warned that sanctions on Russia would not be in Hungary’s national interest, (which they most clearly are not) Bajnai and other members of the “progressive,” “left-liberal” Unity Alliance, have blasted the government for failing to “stand up” for Ukraine and condemn Russia. The agenda of the Hungarian opposition is there for all to see.

The Hungarian people, to their credit, weren't fooled by the pro-big business globalists masquerading as “progressives” in their election: the opposition bloc only got around 25 percent in the election.

The international reaction to the Hungarian election result is revealing too. Already we've seen lots of tweets and articles from establishment commentators in the West expressing alarm over the rise of Jobbik, a radical ultra-nationalist party which received around 20 percent of the vote, about 4 percent up on four years ago.

Yet, interestingly, the same band of establishment commentators who warn us about the dangers of Jobbik in Hungary, just a few weeks ago supported a violent far-right/neo-Nazi-led coup against a democratically-elected government in neighboring Ukraine. It seems we weren't supposed to see the coming to power of racists, anti-Semites and homophobes in Ukraine as a problem. But we are expected to have sleepless nights over the support for Jobbik in Hungary, even though that party won‘t have any members in the new government, as far-right groups in Kiev currently do.

Supporters of the FIDESZ party attend a meeting after winning the parliamentary election on April 6, 2014 of Budapest.(AFP Photo / Attila Kisbenedek)

Unpopular popular

Why the double standards? Well, Jobbik is anti-EU, but not anti-Russian, unlike radical ultranationalist groups in Ukraine. In other words, western elites base their views on ultranationalist parties not on an objective assessment of the groups concerned, and how extreme and neo-Nazi they actually are, but where they stand in relation to Russia and whether they can help them achieve their geo-strategic objectives. We’re all meant to hate Jobbik with a vengeance, but were not meant to hate more extreme and more violent far-right groups wearing masks, throwing Molotov cocktails and forcibly toppling a democratic government in Ukraine. In fact, we’re not even meant to notice them.

The negative coverage that the Hungarian government receives in western elitist media has the same cause.

Hungary's government gets a bad press because it has become increasingly EU-skeptic, has edged away from neo-liberalism, has imposed taxes on foreign multinationals and – arguably its greatest “crime” – it has pursued closer financial ties and greater cooperation with Russia.

Orban’s policy is to stay in the EU but to reject EU bullying and have Hungary do what’s best for Hungary. It’s a stance which is clearly popular with electors, but not with Brussels. The western elite not only hate socialism – proper undiluted socialism of the Venezuelan variety – but any government which combines moderate nationalism with economic populism, as Orban’s does. Big business had it easy in Hungary in the period 2002-2010 when the “Socialists” were in power, selling off the country’s assets and taking an IMF loan the country didn’t need; now global capital is not so happy with Budapest’s more independently-minded direction.

Far from being downcast at the return of a “Conservative” government in Hungary, the genuine left should be happy that the fake variety has been roundly trounced again, as it was in 2010. There is a chance now that a genuine anti-imperialist, anti-globalist, anti-neoliberal and anti-elitist left opposition can emerge to challenge the government and Jobbik from a socialist position at the next election. In any case, going from the record of the past 12 years, a Fidesz government is likely to benefit ordinary people more than the hard-core neo-liberal government we would have gotten if the opposition had won.

Taking a look at the bigger picture, the hope must be that the smashing of the fake left in Hungary can lead to its destruction in other countries too; with phony socialist/progressive parties replaced by genuine ones that put majority interests first. In Germany, that process is well under way with Die Linke (the Left Party) posing a strong challenge to the collaborationist SPD.

Meanwhile, we can expect the western attacks on Hungary to continue. It is, after all, the treatment given to any country where an election does not go the way the 1 percent wants.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.