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Head-on confrontation rather than fair competition

August 12th, 2013

A left-wing sociologist suggests that intellectuals who ceaselessly complain about the warlike atmosphere which dominates Hungarian politics fail to find a new language that could help society overcome its paralysing divisions.

In Élet és Irodalom, Pál Tamás, former director of the Institute of Sociology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences suggests that while the governing right wing is flexible in its struggle with the opposition, the left wing is trapped in its old formulae and is therefore doomed to the role of the underdog. Tamás describes the political struggle in Hungary as sterile, because both sides consider the other as the absolute evil, a perception that was common in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the great wars of religion were fought. As a result, whenever one of them is beaten in an election, masses of people are evicted from their jobs, mainly in public service. The acrimony this causes further deepens the divisions and the desire for revenge. However, unlike in the 16th and the 17th centuries, today ideology has disappeared from the scene and the deftly manoeuvring right wing has introduced efficient surrogates, like the Trianon narrative (in the post-World War I peace treaty Hungary lost two thirds of its territory and half of its population, including one third of ethnic Hungarians.) The left, on the other hand, has no such surrogate ideology to keep its folk together. Another problem Tamás raises is the myth of invincibility which the right wing has managed to build during the past three years. The left must find a way to “bless the dragon” somehow, i.e. it should score a symbolic victory to show that it is worth voting for its candidates. When that is done, a more reasonable discourse will become possible. Until then, the sociologist predicts, “the usual hate speech” will continue to dominate.

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