The Goulash Archipelago EU Remains Silent as Hungary Veers Off Course
Part 3: 'What Is Now Taking Shape Here Is an Operetta Dictatorship'
Where is the country headed under this government? "I don't believe that Hungary is on the path to a dictatorship, although this is perhaps what Orbán would like," says the professor. "But our people tend to be somewhat relaxed, and our greatest contribution to European culture was probably the operetta. What is now taking shape here is an operetta dictatorship."
Many intellectuals and scoffers say that Orbán's plan to bring about an intellectual and moral transformation will not fare any better than all the other revolutions of the last few centuries, and that every large-scale movement tends to be deflected by the flexible nature of the Hungarian people.
'Checks and Balances Are Being Eliminated'
Writer and philosopher Agnes Heller has her own take on Hungary's current situation: "Under Kádár, we had communism without communists, starting in 1989 we had democracy without democrats, and for the last year we have had conservatism without conservatives. It's a reflection of the nature of the Hungarian, eternally chosen and misunderstood, sitting in his corral and unable to make up his mind, because his biggest concern is to survive in the midst of the enemies surrounding him."
Heller, 82, her mobile phone in a Mickey Mouse case dangling from a chain around her neck, was a favored student of the philosopher Georg Lukacs. She experienced the end of the war in Budapest with her mother. She emigrated to the United States in 1977 and, since her return to Budapest, which anti-Semitic hate publications have recently begun deriding as "Judapest," enriches Hungarian debates with her life experiences.
It isn't necessary to smell fascism behind every bush, says Heller. "The worst thing is that the checks and balances are being eliminated in this country, and that the rule of the yes-men has begun." In fact, she adds, now dissidents are even being treated as criminals.
The Hungarian authorities are investigating Heller and some of her philosopher friends, known as the "Heller gang," for alleged embezzlement of research funds. But Heller, sitting in her apartment high above Guttenberg Square, laughs off the accusation.
What is most troubling to Heller, who survived both the horrific regime of the Hungarian version of the Nazi Party and the communists, is the disquieting feeling that the clique now running Hungary does so without "responsibility" -- and without a sense of the "danger that violence could erupt." "Orbán is extremely sure of himself," says Heller. "It's a typical characteristic of dictators."
- Part 1: EU Remains Silent as Hungary Veers Off Course
- Part 2: A Purging of Editors in Hungary's Public Media
- Part 3: 'What Is Now Taking Shape Here Is an Operetta Dictatorship'