Thursday, 22 July 2010

Don't Go Hungry, Go Hungary

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

At first sight, Hungary and Britain have much in common. Both started the year being led by men called Gordon B. Both have seen unpopular nominally left-of-centre governments replaced, after spring general elections, by the conservative opposition. Both have relatively large government deficits. But when it comes to dealing with the deficit, the approach of the British Conservative-led government and their Hungarian counterparts could not be more different.

In Britain, David Cameron's government plans major cuts in public spending, despite warnings of a double-dip recession - including one today from Tory MPs on the Commons Treasury committee, which believes a second recession is more likely as a result of Chancellor George Osborne's recent austerity budget. But the Hungarian government's talks with the IMF and EU over deficit reduction broke down at the weekend, with finance minister Gyorgy Matolcsy saying that further austerity measures were "out of the question".

Instead, Viktor Orban's Fidesz administration is going for growth. It is breaking with the policies of the previous 'Socialist' government which followed the IMF/EU austerity programme to the letter, to the great hardship of millions of Hungarians.
Confused that Hungarian rightists are behaving like leftists and vice versa? Welcome to the new politics of the second decade of the 21st Century. What Hungary demonstrates is that the big divide in European politics today is not between 'left' and 'right', but between those who support radical deficit reduction - like the British ConDem coalition and the Hungarian liberal-left - and those who oppose further austerity such as Hungary's Fidesz, and to a lesser extent, the British Labour party.

Fundamental to which side of the divide we find ourselves on is our view of the 'markets' and the influence they should have over government policy. The Hungarian government, whose economic policies are more Gaullist than Thatcherite, has said it will govern in the interests of the Hungarian people, increasing support to families and small businesses and making the financial sector pay for the economic crisis, by means of a new tax. It's clear that to Viktor Orban, pleasing the international money men comes second to pleasing those who voted for him.

By contrast, everything the new British government has done so far has been done to appease the 'markets'. The markets want radical cuts in public spending, and an ultra-slimmed down state - and that's what Cameron and Clegg are delivering to them.
'The Big Society' programme, unveiled by Cameron on Monday, is only the latest government initiative designed to remove the state from all aspects of our lives and open the field to private capital. Cameron and his fellow 'small-state' deficit hawks claim that there is no other alternative to major cuts and that we will have to accept the fact that over the next few years hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs will be lost.

But Hungary shows that there is another way. If we accept the premise that in a democracy governments should govern on behalf of the majority, isn't Fidesz's pro-growth approach the right one? Over the next few weeks we can expect the Hungarian government to come under enormous pressure from the IMF, the EU and the 'markets' to change course and introduce swingeing cuts, drop its financial sector tax and privatise state-owned assets (on Monday the forint fell by more than three per cent against the euro).

The neo-liberal propaganda machine has also been quick to put the boot into Orban: the Hungarian prime minister, we are told, is a 'populist' - the globalist's standard term of abuse for a politician who puts the interests of ordinary voters before that of international capital. The Economist, in a piece subtitled 'Worries about Hungary's new government', says that "concern is justified" over the Hungarian leader's "impulsive and headstrong habits". Chris Bryant, the FT's central and eastern Europe correspondent, wrote: "There also remains an inescapable feeling that Orban and his inner circle simply do not get it. Last month's market turmoil was not apparently enough."

In other words, Orban should expect further assaults on his country's currency for having the temerity to stick two fingers up at the 'markets' and reject austerity. Let's hope that Hungary's conservatives can withstand the pressure and that other governments around Europe start to follow their example. For what's at stake here is nothing less than democracy itself: after all, unlike the IMF, EU or 'the markets', the Hungarian government was elected.

Gordon, eh? There is apparently an emerging, very white, mostly male, at least broadly working-class subculture of Scotophilia (as so often the way with philias, not terribly realistic, but there we are) in parts of Northern Europe. Nothing more than the British taste for Italian coffee houses in the Fifties, or for Chinese food today? Perhaps. But there really must be Scots-descended people in much of the Teutonic, Nordic and Slavic worlds, and thus throughout the former Austria-Hungary, in many or even all parts of which German, Magyar and Slavic surnames are all still found as a matter of course.

Scotland was a member of the Hanseatic League, and, while everyone eventually came to accept that there as going to have to be a Union with somewhere, England was by no means the only suitor considered. Union with France floundered on the question of religion. Union with the Netherlands, however, very nearly happened. Links were as strong as that. No less than one would expect a fully functioning Irish community in Glasgow, or Liverpool, or London, one would have expected, and found, a fully functioning community of Scots in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, or indeed any Hanseatic port such as Hamburg, and thus within the wider world of which German was the
lingua franca and of which present-day Hungary was part.

No comments:

Post a Comment