Washington, DC – The “Hungarian Review”, the English-language affiliate of the bi-monthly journal Magyar Szemle, edited by Gyula Kodolányi and John O`Sullivan, has published its fifth 2014 issue.
On the cover: Symbolism at the railway station. Keleti Railway Station, Budapest 2011. “The Birth of Steam”. Photo by Alida Kálmán.
As the editors write in the editorial note, “there is more than a touch of the political science seminar about this issue.” The periodical discusses important topics as the nature of human rights in current international relations or the emerging dispute over the character of ‘liberal democracy’ in European politics. Recently, the interpretation of liberal democracies got relevant in Hungarian politics, especially after Viktor Orbán’s speech in which he proposed the controversial concept of ‘illiberal democracy’ and caused furor, according to O’Sullivan. In his introductory article, Orbán’s Hungary: Image and Reality – Whose Democracy? Which Liberalism? he explains:
“For the moment, however, all attention has been diverted from other questions to the Prime Minister’s recent speech in which he seemingly repudiated liberal democracy and embraced what he called “illiberal democracy” as his favoured political system. Those remarks were interpreted, not unreasonably, as a justification for a more authoritarian form of government. They seemed to confirm the hostile critique of Orbán that is current in the European Left. And they added weight and force to all the other criticisms of him, his government and Hungary. My own feeling when I read the speech was slightly different. I was overcome by a feeling of déjà vu. For I was an advisor to Margaret Thatcher when she made her famous remark – “There is no such thing as society” – to a women’s magazine. I recall thinking that she would never escape from that remark or, rather, from a grotesque misunderstanding of that remark. For that sentence meant the opposite of what it seemingly said when it was wrenched from context. What she was saying was that society was not a “thing” – an abstract independent entity out there – but that it was composed of the ordinary men and women, and their families, and their various associations from churches to tennis clubs. If “society” was to take collective action, therefore, it would have to come ultimately from ordinary people, herself included, who would have to provide resources or themselves and for those less fortunate than themselves. These explanatory thoughts were not the implications of her remark on society. They were said quite clearly in the few sentences that followed it. But they were never quoted.”
The ‘Current’ section is continued by Christiaan Alting von Geusau’s article, Human Rights, History and Anthropology: Reorienting the Debate, which is raising a similarly serious issue:
“In the history of mankind, by far the most human rights abuses were and are in fact perpetrated by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances – not by monsters, and despite international treaties.”
Referring to the economic evolution of the last two decades, this Review features Péter Ákos Bod, the economist’s analysis, entitled Why There Was No Marshall Aid after 1990. Quoting the author:
“Textbooks at the University of Economics in Budapest referred to East Germany (GDR) as one of the ten most powerful industrial nations of the world, on a par with South Korea. Western analysts generally concurred. The Soviet Union was considered, right up to its disintegration, as a highly industrialized country; although whether it was termed an advanced nation is another matter.”
Géza Jeszenszky’s discussion on Hungary, NATO and the War in Ukraine completes the first section.
Nicholas T. Parsons’ essay on Populism and the Failures of Democracy is an interesting addition to the previous issues. The ‘Histories’ section comprises the article of Gyula Kodolányi: August-September 1944 – A mosaic selected from diaries, memoirs and histories III.; Attila Balázs: Socks on the Chandelier, Lives by a Thread – (On Tibor Várady’s book by the same title, and a little about myself) and Tibor Várady: Socks on the Chandelier, Lives by a Thread – File No. 12 198. And finally, this ‘Arts and Letters’ section is written by Clayton Eshleman and Dávid Bán.