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The Fidesz Government in Hungary: a parliamentary coup d'etat!

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Democracy in Hungary is under attack as the government implements extraordinary new constitutional changes, writes Tobi Hanse

In recent years, Leftist commentaries on the situation in Hungary have generally focused on the development of the racist Jobbik movement and its fascist Magyar Guard. This movement continues to be responsible for incitement of rioting and pogroms against the minority of Roma and Sinti. There has been less focus on Fidesz, the party which, since 2010, has had a two thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament and is also a member of the European People's Party. Its leader, Orban, is now prime minister for a second time. From 1998 to 2002, he had to govern with the support of smaller bourgeois parties in a coalition but, since 2010, he can push through his own programme.
Last year, the Hungarian government took over the presidency of the Council of Europe, at the same time, at home, it adopted a highly repressive media law which, for the first time, provoked some response at the European level.
Hungary is currently the focus of the EU debt crisis because loans from the IMF and the EU have to be repaid. The ratings agencies have now classified Hungarian debt as “junk" and have criticised the “unorthodox" economic policy of the Fidesz government. That government has recently placed the central bank on the same status as the Financial Services Authority, in practice, this means direct control of the central bank by the government.
In the imperialist heartlands it is normal for the central bank to implement the policy of the government, this can be seen with the massive “Quantitative Easing" shifting of debt by the American Federal Reserve and the US government and also by the way “rescue" funds have been issued by the European Central Bank. However, in the capitalist semi-colonies of the EU, the central banks function primarily as institutions serving the interests of the EU and the dominant German imperialism. Recent moves by the National Conservative Fidesz contradicts this by giving power to the central government. This is the real problem that the EU has with Hungary, whatever may be said about the media laws which were enacted a year ago.
Democracy, freedom of the press and Parliament
The approach of the Hungarian government shows all too clearly the reality of bourgeois democracy and parliamentarism. The illusion of a neutral, participatory democracy dissolves when the ruling class is in crisis, then they have to dispense with such illusions. Under the pretence of making financial savings in the public sector, Fidesz is leading a fight against the public media and, using regulatory bodies like the National Supervisory Authority, it is intervening directly in the private media. In December, the government revoked the licence of the last nationwide oppositional radio station, “Klubradio", justifying its decision by reference to the “transition from communism to democracy".
In the public media, there has been a wave of redundancies; critical editors and even so-called “impartial journalists" were sacked en masse and those who have kept their jobs are subject to new regulations requiring them to strengthen “national identity".
At the same time, the government is planning to transform both the legislative and the judiciary, thereby strengthening the executive and determining which political force will control it in future. A new electoral law will further strengthen the role of majority voting, as against proportional representation, and constituency boundaries have been reorganised in the interest of Fidesz. By deletion of far reaching powers, the composition of the Constitutional Court has been fixed for the next 9 years. There is also to be a so-called “Budget Council" which is actually superior to both parliament and government and can reject the budget and call new elections. Finally, this transition to Hungarian “democracy” finds it highest expression by classifying Communist organisations as criminal, that is what democracy looks like in Hungary today.
This “democratic" coordination of laws, institutions and the media is being driven through by a sister party of the CDU and the Tories, who have no more spoken out against it than have the EU Commission or Parliament.
Fidesz has also showed itself to be particularly repressive in the field of welfare cuts. In future, it will be possible for the unemployed to be sent across the country as forced labour accommodated in labour camps.
Fidesz has shown only what a bourgeois party is capable of doing when it needs to defend bourgeois rule. On the one hand, Hungarian capital will now have political control over the central bank, so that, like other central banks, it can serve political interests and, on the other, this fraction of the ruling class wants to ensure its own long term power. With its two thirds majority, Fidesz can change the constitution of the country without infringing on formal parliamentary rules. This also shows the “dual character" of bourgeois democracy; the possibility of an authoritarian national government being created by democratic means. Until his resignation, Berlusconi's regime was a prime example of such a “post-democratic" development, where coordination of the media and the judiciary took place on a large scale and profits and posts were distributed among the regime supporters.
In Greece and Italy, governments were removed by the EU bureaucracy and replaced by “technocratic" regimes. In this way, the interests of German imperialism were protected by the direct elimination of two national parliaments, showing just how hollow democracy can be. The situation in Hungary shows just what kind policy ruling classes all over the world need in crisis. It is a programme of welfare cuts and cuts in the public sector, with further privatisation and further attacks on workers and the poor and the strongest measures to deal with any opposition.
There is also an extension of the executive structures; from “savings Sheriffs" in US communities who can impose the privatisation of entire sectors, all the way through to the installation of “government by experts” as with Monti in Italy.
Ultimately these developments pose the question who is to pay for the crisis, which capitals can maintain their profits, or even expand them, at the expense of working class, to achieve that all “democratic" means are justified, even up to the direct capitalist dictatorship, dominated by fascists.
In Hungary, the force necessary for such a transition is already to hand, Jobbik. Although it should not be regarded as simply a satellite of the Fidesz party (like some Conservative parties in their electoral alliance) it would nonetheless be available for any national government to use as a Fascist militia against the left in Hungary.
The resistance in Hungary and the EU left
The opposition parties in Hungary, the “social democratic" MSZP and the liberal-ecological LMP, boycotted the vote on the new electoral law and instead held a demonstration in front of Parliament. This is all that these parties can do. Against the austerity measures and the debt crisis they have no alternative, they only moved when their own electoral chances were threatened. The MSZP was in government at the time when Jobbik became a mass movement and pogroms took place against Roma and Sinti and as the Magyar Guard grew to several thousand. The neoliberal MSZP proposed nothing more than a banning of the organisation and then came the electoral success of Jobbik. The MSZP embodies the crisis of leadership of the Hungarian working class; unable to make a stand against nationalist and fascist mass movements, their weakness actually encouraged the growth of these movements.
However, the thousands who demonstrated in December opened up a new chance of a struggle for more democracy. Even if the crisis has demonstrated the emptiness of capitalist democracy, the democratic mass movements in North Africa, the Middle East and the Occupy movement have shown the great revolutionary force that can develop in a battle for democracy.
The question now is how to broaden the fight against the Orban government across the country, both geographically and politically. For this there needs to be a fight against the social cuts and the mass layoffs just as there must be a fight against constitutional “reforms” and the new electoral law.
To think that it is necessary to conduct this struggle within purely “democratic” procedures would be to blur the real conditions in which we are fighting – we need to involve trade union and workplace organisations in order to fight back effectively against the cuts.
The attacks in Hungary, Greece, Italy, Great Britain, Portugal and Spain show the need for a co-ordinated European anti-capitalist left, the internationalisation of the struggle and the development of a common programme to combat the crisis. This will include the struggles for basic democratic rights as well as the struggle against social attacks, cuts and lay offs.