Saturday, May 16, 2020

Subaltern II, etc.

"Read this before you write about Hungarian democracy"
Why Western progressive media is to blame?
For essentially a decade now, the public discourse on Hungary has been trapped in an ever-repeating vicious circle. It’s a postmodern spectacle where each party tends to confirm their own narratives through the actions of the other. The screenplay goes something like this:
Orbán accuses Western liberals of attempting to take away Hungary’s sovereignty. Orbán infringes on the abstract ideals of liberal democracy. Orbán gets criticised for infringing upon said ideals. Orbán accuses Western liberals of attempting to take away Hungary’s sovereignty.
It’s a self-reinforcing process. Each op-ed published on prominent newspapers on the state of Hungarian democracy becomes propaganda material for the government. Their content confirms the median voter’s anxiety of losing grasp over their community to foreign powers. In a way, conservatives in Hungary want to “take back control”. Remind you of anything?

To someone unfamiliar with the intricacies of Eastern European history, this can easily seem absurd. “What is it about liberal democracy that would make one lose control? The whole point is to gain control over the government’s actions.” Such a reading misses three essential points, however.

a. Liberal democracy as a colonising force
On one hand, liberal democracy is not native to Hungary. It’s an exotic foreign good. An import that was extremely popular for a very long period nevertheless: for much of the three decades following the regime change in 1989, the Hungarian electorate was fairly enthusiastic with Western values. Orbán himself championed some sort of classical conservative-liberal stance in 2006, often criticising then Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány for his involvement with Russia and the wave of police violence that flared up in response to protests against his government.

But all foreign things eventually go out of fashion. Perhaps made worse by the painful hangover of unfulfilled expectations, Hungarians turned away from Western values. Liberal democracy came to be associated with the shock-therapy privatisation of the 90s, the political and fiscal crisis of 2006, and the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. Made worse by the mishandling of the Eurozone in subsequent years and the mass-migration of 2015, progressivism became synonymous with instability, unpredictability, and precarity. But most of all, it came to mean something alien. A colonising force.

b. The new privilege of national self-determination
We thus get to the second important factor in Hungary’s reluctance towards liberal values: sovereignty. This may escape many Western commentators, but national self-determination is a relatively new privilege for Eastern European countries. Perhaps there is no better way to put this than to use the words of Branko Milanovic:

When one draws the line from Estonia to Greece […], one notices that all currently existing countries along that axis were during the past several centuries (and in some cases, the past half-millennium), squeezed by the empires: German (or earlier by Prussia), Russian, Habsburg, and Ottoman. All these countries fought more or less continuously to free themselves from imperial pressure […] Their histories are practically nothing but unending struggles for national and religious emancipation […].

[The 1989 revolutions] were often interpreted as democratic revolutions. Thus the current “backsliding” of East European countries toward overt or covert authoritarianism is seen as a betrayal of democratic ideals or even, more broadly and extravagantly, of the ideals of the Enlightenment. […] This is however based on a misreading of the 1989 revolutions. If they are, as I believe they should be, seen as revolutions of national emancipation, simply as a latest unfolding of centuries-long struggle for freedom, and not as democratic revolutions per se, the attitudes toward migration and the so-called European values become fully intelligible.
remember, this is the new Branko talking, not the old one.
He approves the essay, and he still can't see the conflict.

Owen Paine, AKA Pinky, Poète maudit of economics (Maxspeak and Mark Thoma) replies
A liiberal - corporate elite

That is the self contradictory
Ever struggling duality
  Of the United States

Bourgeois hegemony here
As everywhere comes with internal struggles and outside challenges

Trump straddles away
Part back lash demagogue
Part corporate rustler
Prban is clever like PERON
He has a base among wage earners

And appears to be the guardian of.magyar self determination.
Against trans national corporate
  Interests
 smuggled in as
Cosmo values
Like minority rights
And mushy features
Like
Erasmusian  global values

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