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Fighting for sovereignty: The Lie Behind the Right-Wing Populist Nationalism in Hungary

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This is a lecture at Sovereignties in Contention: Nations, Regions and Citizens in Europe 26th International Conference of Europeanists, which takes place between June 20-22, 2019 at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

It seems to be that Hungary under the Orbán-era has become one of the main fighters for sovereignty in the EU. In this paper I am trying to challenge this over-simplification and show the many faces of the system. According to my hypothesis under the populist-nationalist surface of the Orbán-regime there is disappointing compromise between the government and the globalized capitalism. The most state direct (subsidies, tax benefits) and indirect (labour law against the employees) aids have been given by the “nationalist Orbán’s governments” since the regime change. In this sense I put an emphasize on the investigation this new form of post-modern nationalism, which is based on discursive fight for sovereignty, but at the same time sacrifice it in the context of neoliberal capitalism. In this sense, I will analyse the pact between the Orbán’s governments and neoliberal (especially German) companies. Emphasizing and analysing this embarrassing phenomenon, the abdication of sovereignty and the brutal fight for it, are the main goals of this paper. I am dealing with this paper the discursive and economic nationalism as crucial factors of sovereignty.

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Fighting for sovereignty: The Lie Behind the Right-Wing Populist Nationalism in Hungary

  1. 1. Sovereignties in Contention: Nations, Regions and Citizens in Europe 26th International Conference of Europeanists | June 20-22, 2019. Universidad Carlos III de Madrid FIGHTING FOR SOVEREIGNTY? The Lie Behind the Right-Wing Populist Nationalism in Hungary Attila Antal Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Law Institute of Political Science and Social Theory Research Group at Institute of Political History antal.attila@ajk.elte.hu antalattila.hu The research is financed by EFOP-3.6.3-VEKOP-16-2017-00007
  2. 2. Overview Introduction 1 The Captured History: Discursive Nationalism 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism Conclusion
  3. 3. Introduction Orbán regime: fight for sovereignty? Challenge this over-simplification Compromise between the authoritarian government and the globalized capitalism Case studies Discursive fight for sovereignty (in hostorical sense) Pact between the Orbán’s governments and neoliberal companies
  4. 4. 1 The Captured History: Discursive Nationalism „Populism and nationalism have been closely related” (De Cleen, 2017) Discursive struggle for hegemony Imagined concept of nation Orbán’s historical predecessor: interwar right-wing nationalist regime Horthy’s regime: right-wing (and elitist) populism, a highly conservative ruling elite, anti-communism, clericalism, increasing authoritarianism
  5. 5. 1 The Captured History: Discursive Nationalism Retelling and manipulation of the past Seeking historical legitimacy Tragedy for Trianon Virtual new nation-building (new Citizenship Law, National Unity Day) Hungary lost its self-determination This nationalism is absolutely self- serving and embodies mere power interests Electoral rewards from these strategies (Toomey, 2018)
  6. 6. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism Cooperation of authoritarian neoliberalism and populism Pseudo „Freedom Fight” How the “German Empire” Finances the Orbán’s Regime
  7. 7. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.1 Pseudo „Freedom Fight” Crisis of 2008: Orbán argued that the moral foundations of western capitalism were shaken and strongly criticized the hegemony of neoliberal solutions Speculative capitalism vs productive capitalism Struggle between the Hungarian government and the IMF/World Bank/EU “Economic freedom fight” and “unorthodox economic policy” Get back the financial sovereignty to make a pact with the banks and companies of global capitalism
  8. 8. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.1 Pseudo „Freedom Fight” Special tax Demonstration of government political power in the financial (primarily banks, insurers) and corporate sectors Blocking the negotiations with IMF New tax pacage: bank tax, flat tax, the new 16 percent personal income tax and the reduction corporate tax from 19 to 10 % (later 9 %) Put the (selected) multinationals and the national oligarchs into position Orbán as a “a modern Robin Hood”?
  9. 9. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.2 How the “German Empire” Finances the Orbán’s Regime The regime is financed by EU’s neoliberal framework especially by the German automotive companies Market driven political authoritarianism (Bloom, 2016) EMU as a German economic empire (Streeck, 2016) Hungary as a “good province” of this neoliberal empire Deep tensions inside the liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism Autocracy in neoliberal framework
  10. 10. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.2 How the “German Empire” Finances the Orbán’s Regime Compromise with neoliberal capitalism Suitable legal environment for neoliberal capital Direct and indirect state support to major partners Strategic partnership agreements
  11. 11. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.2 How the “German Empire” Finances the Orbán’s Regime Compromise with neoliberal capitalism: strategic partnership agreements between the government and the companies, providing direct and indirect state support to major partners, creation of a suitable legal environment for neoliberal capital Strategic partnership agreements: grey zone between authoritarian state and globalised capitalism; 81 between 2012 and 2019; 15 were concluded with the German companies’ Hungarian subsidiaries
  12. 12. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.2 How the “German Empire” Finances the Orbán’s Regime State aids provided by individual government decisions Before 2010 the social-liberal governments spent HUF 133 billion on non-refundable state aids (the German companies got HUF 40 billion) Between 2010 and 2018 the nationalist Orbán-governments expended HUF 288 billion for the same purpose (the German interest is more than HUF 100 billion)
  13. 13. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism State subsidies of German-related companies in proportion to the subsidies of all state-supported companies in Hungary (2004-2018) (thousand HUF) 0 20000000 40000000 60000000 80000000 100000000 120000000 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 German Summary The Hungarian province aided in last 14 years the more than HUF 140 billion (which is one third of the whole money) the German enterprises
  14. 14. 2 The Cooperation of Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Populism 2.2 How the “German Empire” Finances the Orbán’s Regime Hungary as a „tax haven”: because of the various tax- reducing factors and discounts the 9 % corporate tax is reduced approx. 7,5 % (Effective Tax Rates, ETRs)
  15. 15. Conclusions Nationalism as purpose of the political leader Fidesz strives to channel extreme political messages Lie of „economic freedom fight” Hungarian economy depends heavily on the players of neoliberal capitalism Further investigations: energy policy, Orbán-Putin relationship, geopolitical context Declining sovereignty
  16. 16. References Bartha, A. (2014): Lifting The Lid On Lobbying – National Report of Hungary. Transparency International Hungary, Retrieved from https://transparency.hu/wp- content/uploads/2016/03/Lifting-The-Lid-On-Lobbying-National-Report-of- Hungary.pdf Bloom, P. (2016). Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Globalization. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing. De Cleen, B. (2017): Populism and Nationalism. In: Kaltwasser et al., 2017, 342–362. Enyedi, Zsolt (2016). Paternalist populism and illiberal elitism in Central Europe. Journal of Political Ideologies, 21(1), 9–25. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Strategic Partnership Agreements. Retrieved from http://www.kormany.hu/hu/kulgazdasagi-es-kulugyminiszterium/strategiai- partnersegi-megallapodasok (the site is Hungarian) Toomey, M. (2018). History, nationalism and democracy: myth and narrative in Viktor Orbán’s ‘illiberal Hungary’. New Perspectives: Interdisciplinary Journal of Central & East European Politics and International Relations, 2018(26)1, 87–108.
  17. 17. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!

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