||Speech delivered by Mr Viktor Orban at the 17th Congress of Fidesz upon his election as president of Fidesz - Hungarian Civic Union
17 May 2003
Freedom requires at least two persons. A human being in himself is not free, but lonely. In the past few years, many have been searching for companion for freedom, and, as far as I can see, many have succeeded in this effort here this evening.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me welcome you all to the congress.
First of all, let me extend my thanks to the delegates and the national leadership for nominating me for the party presidency. As time has come, I feel honored by the nomination which I humbly accept.
So, why did we come together, why are we here today? We have gathered here to forge a Union. The authority and beauty of the word 'Union' have also been battered over the past fifty years. Back then, the recipe for happiness was to search for individual leeway, to enter into personal little bargains leaving the world unchanged, and in exchange you would get the tranquility and opportunities of the happiest barrack, that of 'goulash communism'. Although all this might not look too compelling now, when compared to life in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania or Bulgaria, it was understandably an attractive alternative on behalf of the establishment. Following the change of the political regime in 1989, we founded parties, and having done so good-heartedly, we locked ourselves in the ferris-wheel and trap of four-year election cycles in a race for power, for power's sake. It's well worth recalling the attempts by the writer Sándor Csoóri and his followers to submerge into ethical and spiritual values in order to soar to higher strata in political practices. This was sadly doomed to failure under the weight of the overburdening miserable heritage of the regime being cast aside. That is why the presence of Sándor Csoóri carries weight and that is why is significant that he is here today with us.
We can agree that significant alliances happen only on exceptional occasions: such as a marriage or when it is forged as an act of faith with the church. Although marriage, just as the confirmation of one's faith, have their precisely defined aims, we feel nevertheless that the meaning of this act is more important than the aim itself. Although this occasion today may not be compared to the aforementioned events of our lives, yet it ranks indeed as a profound and solemn moment, to which a statement by the writer and philosopher Béla Hamvas is well applicable: a union "does not only have an aim, as it is primarily the meaning that matters." So why should we have come together in this way, Ladies and Gentlemen? Well, we can perhaps all sense this gathering being of an unusual kind, as we have aspired to more than we used to earlier. We have reshaped the statutes of Fidesz Hungarian Civic Party, we extended the party, by having transformed it into a broadly based Union. In there we welcomed with friendship and courtesy the hundreds of people knocking on our doors, we drafted our Foundation Manifesto, and many thousands of people from the realm of 'civic circles' are with us today, as well.
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends, dear Delegates,
Think a minute about the essence of politics, as it has already been said by many a previous occasions, in the end as to be considered a duty. Truly it is just that. Following this line of reasoning, public life with only politicians participating would be very much like a banquette with only the waiters present. This analogy ought to be understood by those who want to restrict politics to within the confines of Parliament. For such reason alone we can claim that what is being born here today is more than just a political party: it is a Union, and that's why this occasion today is more than a congress - it is a quintessential public gathering.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With whom are we entering into this new union? If we read the Foundation Manifesto closely, we find that we are not signing up to an alliance with an organization or a party, but rather, with each other. It is easy to see that to enter into a union with ourselves we first have to come to terms with ourselves. Let us quote the late Hungarian writer-in-exile, Sándor Márai's edict: "Everything the world will ask of you is necessarily a compromise and incomplete answer. The only thing that counts is the contract you draw with your own self, in which instance there is no room for compromise." Well, this is how one can be clear about oneself and can enter into a union with others, as we together have done it here today. But why do we feel that time has come to enter into a union? The Foundation Manifesto puts it clearly. Like Einstein who said, "The existence of time has but one reason: everything cannot happen at the same time." True indeed, a new era has come, as the Charta says, not only in Hungary but in the whole Western civilization. For, we can no longer be satisfied merely with finding the answers to the traditional questions of the past, but increasingly we have to face the challenges of the future. As a contemporary English playwright had put it, "The bulk of what is today considered as happiness is nothing else but reading newspapers instead of experiencing, watching television instead of living the real life, and having hazy fantasies instead of a moment of reality." In our own Hungarian style we would rephrase it this way, and I am quoting the Charta, "The temptation to deal only with what can be grasped fast, for which no thinking, no profound emotion, no self-sacrifice, no commitment, no fidelity, no love of others and no trust in others is called for, is forever growing."
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is such a grave and difficult issue begetting further grave and difficult questions that it is high time to admit that we can only hope to find the answer in a joint effort, and that is why the time has come now to forge a union. So, what are we signing up to? The Charta ties it up in nine clauses. To sum up, I might say that we are signing this union in order to make this society that we live in to be organized and operated according to the principles we hold dear. These principles should define the course of the laws we are drafting, the chances we are taking and the decisions we are making. What is more, our aim is to feel day by day that these principles and the decisions based on them are present in our own lives, as well.
What does the union change in us? What does the union change in our own lives? To make it clear let me just tell you a few words about freedom. Over the last sixty years, Hungarians have been taught so many things about freedom that frankly we are unsure how to interpret it. Like for example in the case of the so called liberation. In a well-know novel, an old friend of all of us, Svejk wonders aloud after his adventures in World War One, "How come that certain people came here and liberate me from time to time, only to find myself inside a prison." Svejk then looks deep into his beer mug and concludes, "I tend to say that man is either free or is liberated." Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is easy to see that freedom is not synonymous with being liberated. There was a time when Hungarians were taught that if there was no war, they were free. We were often explained in lessons of music, history and literature, as I well remember it myself, that we were living in a free world because the Soviet army had brought us peace and did not let the wicked capitalists take it away from us. Even the loyal primitive chant recalled from childhood memories, ran something like this: No wheat, no maize / We have eggs but the hen is dead /
Russians took the cow / But we are free. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, after a while we recognized that peace did not equals freedom. Later during the change of the political regime in 1989 we thought that people were free because they were no longer oppressed. We thought the essence of freedom was being free of something oppressive. And now, thirteen years after the changes we have started to grasp that mankind is not necessarily free just because it is not being oppressed. We have started to understand that the absence of oppression is but one precondition to liberty. We are just learning that freedom is not a value in contrast to oppression, but rather a value in itself. Maybe we know that a free man is the one who can make use of the opportunity to choose the best he knows, to pursue what he wants and where he is heading. But we have not yet come to the heart of the matter of freedom. Towards that end we have to take one more step together, we have to understand one more thing as yet. We have to understand that a free man is the one who belongs somewhere by his own will, as a minimum of two people are required to constitute true freedom. For the person alone cannot be free in a real sense, as I said, he can only be lonely. What is more, the pseudo-freedom of the lonely man evaporates quickly: for the one who belongs nowhere, who lives but for himself, and who is driven only by his own interests may only rely on himself. But should trouble come in his way, this same lonely man will suddenly become depending on everyone.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Perhaps you have the impression that I am theorising without a point, and I am talking about private affairs unrelated to public life. Quite the opposite is true. I am trying to touch upon one of the probably most important questions of public life. If it holds true that to at least two people is be needed for consuming freedom, than we may also hold true inasmuch that the love of liberty is nothing else but the love of all others, and the love of power is in fact loving ourselves. One who does not understand this, is doomed. By contrast, one who can grasp this message will rise to the occasion. Perhaps that is how we should read the thousand-year old intonations handed down by the Founding King, Saint Stephen of Hungary: "There is nothing to raise a person higher than his humility". We may conclude than that "the quality of humility is in fact being nothing else but liberty itself". This is what our new union is going to be all about.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
By following this line of reckoning we have reached the point at which we must admit that liberalism as an instrument to achieve universal freedom has lost its significance a long time ago. For time has passed it by. It fulfilled its task. In the course of its rampage through history, it has brought down what it wanted to be destroyed: the authority of the Church and the aristocracy, ancient taboos and spent moral obstacles. Yet now, at least in Hungary, instead of triumphantly rejoicing over its doubtless success, Liberalism is shouting on the ruins of its local bastille, screaming to be let out. This is more than amusing. The values liberalism gave to the world have already been incorporated among the principles of civilized society. No more destruction is needed. No more destruction is needed in Hungary, either. Time has come to build. For man can destroy blindly, even instinctively and in the name of aimless progress, whereas construction can only be made consciously, on the basis of a plan, according to values and within an appropriate context. We may destroy everything individually, but to build a community and a common homeland is only possible by joining forces.
We already know, or at least we can already feel, I hope, what our union is going to change in our minds. But what does this union change for the country? What does it change in the minds of other people? We do have to recognize that in spite of having enlisted respectful and good values here, not everybody is in this hall, and even if everybody were here, it is by no means certain that they would all want to make the same union with us, to say the least. The legitimate question therefore arises: what does this union, born today, change for the country? What does it give to those who are not here with us? I do hope that it can give a lot. First of all, it can convincingly prove that public life is not beyond us but amongst us. Our union brings responsible officials and those electing them, that is, the public at large within an arm's length of one another. Putting it another way, the aim of our union is not victory, although we do not shy off from it either, but rather the creation of a real public life. So what else does our union change? I believe it sustains and reinforces people's faith in their future. Even if we happen to be in opposition as of now, we are still working, even allowing for the fewer and lesser means at our disposal, for the benefit of the entire nation. Today we are not here, dear Friends, to govern together - although if the time comes, we will do so -, but rather to act in unity in the interest of the nation. We feel responsible for our country. Therefore no matter who the initiative comes from, be it even that of our opponents, we shall support decisions serving the benefit of Hungarians in the hope of making life easier for people. We know that a dedicated soldier does not fight his enemy out of hatred but because he is determined to defend what is dear to him in his own hinterland. We will not act, ladies and gentlemen, as the average citizen back in the years of oppression, when he was asked why he would not visit the dentist to fix his teeth. Fixing my teeth? For them? Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not think this way. We want to emulate the example of the grass-roots Hungarian farmer. He milked and continued to milk his cow even when he knew that he had to surrender the milk produced to the state. He took care of his cow even when he knew that the next day the cow might be driven away by the authorities. Let us see what does our union change for the country, what does it offer to the rest of the people? It is my conviction that it gives sensible and feasible plans, and the view of a future within our reach.
Nowadays I often have the feeling that our country is like a man who went on a cruise on the Adriatic to see the costal isles. But the ship in which he sails was pitching and being tossed on the open seas. People on board felt helplessly at the mercy of the elements, they were discontent with their voyage. But the skipper told them every day to be happy because even though they had been sailing dangerous waters, he had everything under control and as a proof of his navigating skill, he pointed out that the vessel had not run aground on that day either. That the passengers would not reach their destination had bothered him none. We can also learn from our erstwhile navigators that the international situation is getting tenser and the only chance to survive is to follow closely the orders of experts handling the crisis. And this happens day by day. But, dear friends, people did not get on board that ship to be led into danger by the captain, but rather, to get somewhere. Avoiding getting shipwrecked is not a goal in itself but the mandatory minimum requirement for safety at sea. There are reefs aplenty, and to avoid them is the basic task of all soundly trained captains. There will always be reefs lurking below the surface and safely finding one's way through them will be a daily task. A license of demonstrated nautical skills to ensure safe handling of boats and passengers on the high seas should be a pre-requisite for anyone in charge on board. Not values, but rather, technical skills are needed for it, a precondition to driving license. Crisis management is not a constructive process, as it does not entail a plan, nor an objective, nor does it make sense to most people in their everyday lives.
Let us now imagine together what would have happened if our ancestors had acted like a team of crisis managers. Let us picture the Creator's place filled by this hapless navigator - our crisis manager - sitting in the cold and darkness of outer space before those six days of his toil pondering what to do next. It would have been cold as well as dark out there and he would have tried to keep his composure somehow by pulling his cloak tighter around him. Preoccupied with himself nothing might have come of the creation of this Earth of ours, its flora and fauna, nor for that matter of the rest of the universe and its splendid constellations. Or let us imagine by the same token that our afore-mentioned first King, Saint Stephen and his father, Prince Géza both having been replaced by mere ministers of finance, and I dare not mention names here, while churches needed to be built, or that the army had to be equipped, or schools had to be erected. Well, they might have slipped into this jargon to the effect that "we will outsource the army". The Germans, the king's enemies at that time surely could have been counted upon to payroll the king's army or to build the fortifications. Meanwhile, schools and churches, that were to cost more than a pretty penny would have been entrusted to the pre-christian practitioners of pagan rights, as a cost cutting measure. In the same manner, our ancestors would have had to cease offering white stallions as sacrificial animals to their gods because the same bloodstock could have fetched a good price in Italy. In the same casual way of the free port of Csepel along with the sword-smith's works on the Danube would have been put up for privatization so that there would be that many fewer vital enterprises for them to worry about. As far as the Kings precious crown and his coronation vestments were concerned, well? The reply predictably would have been: "Oh yes, we do not spend on jewelry and clothing unless it is demonstratedly for the common good".
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, obviously it could not work this way.
When entering into a union, we swear that whenever a crisis arises in the future we will do our best to counter it. But this will not be the reason for our existence, as we do not accept our life being degraded to solving real or artificial problems. We help to keep people's faith in themselves alive that we are not helpless victims of outside forces, be it poverty, prejudice, faceless foreign bureaucracy or characterless big companies. What our union will represent to those who are not with us today will be the proof positive that by holding the compass of our values we can sail our ship into safe harbor because we are aware of the right direction.
What else could our union change in our country? For example, what could it provide to those who are not here today? Well, it can give a helping hand to a great many of them. We can all recall that the country got divided into winners and losers, of 'haves and have nots' in the wake of the change of regime, some 13 years ago. Ever since than, many people has attempted to define who is on which side? The way I feel is that the winners of the changing of the regime became those for whom the changes meant opportunities. Such people trust their own capabilities and for them, only further opportunities must be provided to succeed. However, many have ended up among the losers of the changing of the regime, and they continue to be there as of today. I am surely not the only one to be familiar with the situation when for example at a local public hearing we were discussing the opportunities faced by the country together with our national goals. When someone stood up declaring: "Don't talk to me about nation! Tell me how to live with my family on HUF 50,000?" Ladies and Gentlemen, there are indeed many whose lot is to bear the weight of problems and difficulties instead of availing themselves the opportunities inherent in their freedom. These are people who, when listening to the government, feel with reason similarly to when Santa Claus goes to the school, lays out his wares only to tell the incredulous wild-eyed children, "Let's have your bids for the goodies here."
Well, Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, our union is intended as the helping hand for these people, and what is more, a helping hand that can be grabbed, it is within reach, as proven by today's events. In other words, to make it clear, our union is to mean: higher pensions, lower gas utility bills, job opportunities, higher wages and cheaper schools. As well the feeling to belong to a community, a sense of belonging to the nation. As the notion of "nation" is not restricted to the past but designates the plans for the future also. The losers of the changeover process are very much part of that future.
Well, Ladies and Gentleman, as we all know, crisis managers tend to speak about a shortage of funds. All that can be said about this issue was already heard in an earlier presentation by our colleague and by my former finance minister Mihály Varga. What I would like you to know in addition is that the accumulated state debt has grown by three hundred, that is, three hundred billion Forints in the first quarter of this year. This enormous sum is made up of new credits the Hungarian government has taken, and this means that every single Hungarian citizen, babies and the elderly included, is stuck individually with thirty hundred thousand Forints additional debt. Let's not speak about the shortage of funds then.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what else does our union hold in store for the country? I think it will help to keep Hungarian farmland and agriculture in Hungarian hands. We shall help because we know that human culture is based on land. We also know that farmers have taught us the respect of private property and I also believe that it was while working the land that the human kind organized its first communities, settlements, and in the end, its nations. Nation and land cannot exist without each other. He who loses his land is driven out of his nationhood as well. We have to respect farmers because they are the living bond between land and nation. If land gets into the hands of people not born here and who therefore cannot love and serve this land as the land of their ancestors, then the bond gets broken between nation and its land.
Dear Friends, what else can Hungary expect from our union? I consider it important that there be a public force, impossible to ignore, in our country which could prevent the nation from splitting up into a new round of losers and winners after the accession to the European Union. As we will all be the citizens of the European Union, we want all Hungarians to be winners. And we will work for that goal, to make winners out of farmers, small entrepreneurs, those living in housing estates, the youth and the pensioners. But for this, dear Friends, we have to go our way and to protect our national interests within the Union. Please never forget that we have never been colonisers nor colonists, therefore it is of little use to us to follow the example of the social and economic policies of countries and empires which became powerful through colonisation. We know, Ladies and Gentlemen that if we want Europe to be free than it must remain the community of free nations. Since it is not Europe that holds the nations together but the nations keep Europe united, and we know that it is not globalisation that ties nations together but Christian values. This is our Europe, dear Friends, and we do not have a reason to approach the European Union with a sense of inferiority. We can trust the power of Hungarian spirit, thinking and creativity, and we can proudly say that if all goes well, we can be that extra dose Vitamin C for Europe.
Well, Dear Friends, I would like to draw your attention to one final issue. Today, we have closed a chapter. We no longer have to win the past. We no longer have to win the past, we no longer have to triumph in debates about the past four years. Our, not even nearly faultless, four years will stand the test of time. We are sailing upon other seas already, where we must find the answers to the questions of the future. I would like to thank you all for being able to count on you while searching for the answers over the past years. I thank you all for the work of these years. I especially thank János Áder, 'Janó', for carrying the weight of Fidesz affairs untiringly and, I might say without exaggeration, night and day over the past difficult year. Let me wish good luck for all of us together. Do not forget that the archer who shoots for pleasure to show his prowess is in his true element. It is when competing for rewards that his concentration can slip and he misses his target. That is because when shooting for the prize he is beset with doubts over his own ability. The reward starts to count. He thinks more of the trophy than the sport. Striving for victory deprives him of his skills. Therefore, dear Friends, we must not think about the rewards and the prizes, and not even about victory itself, but about the work to be done together. This latter is what can make us strong.
Come on, Hungary, come on, Hungarians!