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Viktor Orbán’s Soros Problem

Where there are refugees and asylum seekers, there will be the assistants, the exploiters and the opportunists. The global anti-refugee sentiment has become an industrial complex, well-funded, sharpened and vicious. The richer the state, it follows, the more developed that complex.

In that regard, the Hungarian case has a distinct, rancid flavour to it. For some years, the billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros has loomed as a target for the politics of the Orbán administration. Since 2015, the Fidesz party has been mining that particular quarry for rhetorical gain, depicting Soros at stages in company with opposition leaders armed with wire cutters at the border fence.

In a speech in March this year, Orbán was in blisteringly populist form, one assured by a sketchy historical account. “We sent home the [Ottoman] sultan with his army, the Habsburg Kaiser with his raiders and the Soviets with their comrades. Now we will send home Uncle George.”

The lead-up to April’s parliamentary elections saw the Soros bogeyman make another stellar appearance, a figure portrayed as distinctly against Hungarian interests, but more importantly against the Hungarian political system. Being a Hungarian Jew, and child survivor of the Holocaust, was not earning the philanthropist much sympathy. Nor was the niggling fact that Orbán had been a very direct beneficiary of Soros’ largesse, going to Pembroke College Oxford in 1989 on a scholarship after his benefactor’s name. In politics, patricide is a given.

Never keen on keeping matters purely rhetorical, Orbán has also adopted a legislative dimension. Stop Soroslaws have been passed by Hungary’s parliament criminalising individuals or groups who assist illegal immigrants claim asylum. In the justification appended to the draft legislation, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér explained that, “The Hungarian people rightfully expects the government to use all means necessary to combat illegal immigration and the activities that aid it.”

Not content with targeting Soros on the refugee front, Orbán has also added another poisoned tip to his arsenal: education. The Soros-funded Central European University has featured as part of a broader strategy to tighten regulations pertaining to foreign universities. While the CEU’s Board of Trustees has insisted it will not close its Budapest operations, preparations are being made to open a campus in Vienna.

CEU’s board chairman Leon Botstein was hoping that that the university had seen off the challenge in making appropriate legal adjustments. “The Hungarian government has repeatedly said that once we fulfil the conditions of the new law, we will be fairly treated and that CEU will be able to operate in Hungary.” Such pluckiness against the Hungarian government raises the question as to whether the school’s operating license will be renewed by year’s end.

As with all exercises in venomous propaganda, a sliver of truth might be gleaned from the otherwise intemperate subject matter. Orbán is not tilling virgin soil. For years Soros has been an irresistible hate figure for demagogues. He famously reaped $1 billion in a single day in 1992 by moving against the British pound and breaking the Bank of England. Some years later, in the course of the 1997 Asian crisis, Malaysia’s prime minister Mahathir Mohamad shook a furious finger at the man for doing what was claimed to be the same against the ringgit. The criticism also came with its distinct anti-Semitic additive.

By 2006, Mahathir had changed his tune, burying the hatchet with Soros in accepting the explanation that “he was not involved in the devaluation of the Malaysian currency and that other people were involved.”

Soros has also had his own change of heart about the ravages of a financial system that is fundamentally anti-democratic, taking a dimmer view about globalisation and its discontents. “It is a sort of disease when you consider yourself some kind of god, the creator of everything.”

Such gains in wisdom have not prevented Soros from playing god in some instances, having weighty financial stabs to change peoples’ minds, though many are laced with trimmings of conspiracy. He has been accused of throwing money at causes like a drunk lord in search of trends, all ostensibly to “bring down” some corrupt order. In the United States, the Black Lives Matter and Antifa movements have featured in the rollcall.

US Presidencies have also been a subject of interest to his pocket, with Soros once stating he would trade in all his wealth to prevent the re-election of President George W. Bush. In a country where billionaire donor meets bought politician in so overt a way, this could hardly shock, though it did make the financier an open target for conservatives and reactionaries. He has since been accused by various outfits of influencing the likes of former CIA director David Petraeus and former Trump National Security advisor H.R. McMaster.

Nor has the donation streak been philosophically consistent. While Soros proudly markets himself as a pro-democracy figure, he has riled the British (again) with efforts to seek a second referendum on the issue of Brexit, which might be said to fly in the pockmarked face of democratic sentiment.

For Orbán, Soros has been worth his weight in gold. He has been packed together in the same show as the EU, twin demon motifs appropriated for political gain by various European countries who have fallen out of love with the European project, or at the very least the idea of a central European project dictated by the western portion of states. Hungarian politicians have rediscovered their self-proclaimed historical importance, becoming the knights in rusty armour holding forts before the barbarians of Africa, the Middle East and Brussels. Not one for the human rights books, but certainly something for the dog-eared nationalist tales for the future.


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  1. David Bruce

    Nice work, Dr Binoy! You have opened a tin of worms here and George (Swartz) Soros has also been exposed in the shorting of the Ringgit and the Malaysian Airlines tragedies. Soon there will be a crowd funded docudrama to join the dots for the whole world to see…

  2. helvityni

    If I were a Hungarian citizen, Orban would be my problem. He obviously (sadly) isn’t a problem for the majority of Hungarians… .

    I like your style of writing Dr Kampmark: “….the Hungarian case has a distinct, rancid flavour to it. ”

    It’s a pity that ‘rancid’ is spreading, here and there and then into some more places…

  3. guest

    “Rancid’ is an interesting word, helvetyni. There was an article about the mother of a suicide refugee on Nauru asking, “Do you hate us that much?”

    I read about the same item on other sites, and the answer is, “Yes, some of us do hate you and your family and other refugees “that much”!

    Some of the replies to these articles are harrowing and horrific, “rancid” even. So much for the great Western Civilisation here in this outpost of the Empire and its Christian values honed by the glorious Enlightenment!

  4. helvityni

    Guest, I cried when reading the stressed mum’s letter…

    I hope I don’t turn ‘rancid’ (whatever bad connotations that word has), and start hating the haters…

  5. paul walter

    Soros is punished for being urbane, rational and (relatively) objective on the machinations of oligarchy, he being one who understands and communicates these things from experience yet is not bothered with offering excuse laden and ideological snivelling apologies for the system.

    In other words, his sin is that he won’t booster capitalism but just says it like it is.

    He got fantastically rich not believing others or his own bullshit.

    No frills here, unadorned.

  6. Andrew Smith

    The enigmatic Orban, in addition to accepting a study opportunity from Soros, also has had quite good relations with the Jewish community in Hungary, one of his best friends Tamas Deutsch is of Jewish heritage, he deported US nativists (whom are welcome to visit Australia and present on MSM ) and he is open about his grandmother being of Roma heritage.

    Culturally and politically Hungary has returned to the pre socialist 1930s Horthy nationalist black and white view of the world and more so the nation (or think locally Job Bjelke’s QLD), where one is either conservative, Christian and possibly anti-Semitic or left, socialist and pro-Semitic. Further, while the left is divided, opinion polls showed more bigotry from the left while many vote for Orban and Fidesz while holding their noses (and not necessarily approving of Orban, oligarchs, corruption etc.).

    A Hungarian acquaintance, no fan of Orban (but Fidesz voter), open minded, educated, considered hosting Syrian refugees and being brought up by diplomat parents in various parts of the world, hence multilingual, explained why Soros is suspicious: ‘the post WWI Communist Bela Kun regime or Soviet included many Jews in positions of power, while many conservative nationalists were executed, therefore Jews cannot be trusted’ (without commenting where that left nominal Christians in the same regime? Many became committed nationalists overnight for the Horthy regime)

    This is backgrounded by classic gerrymandering at regional and demographic level ie. ageing demographics and declining populations in regions dependent upon the state (including neighbouring countries where ethnic Hungarians have citizenship and right to vote), while 1 million youth and working age (out of a population of 10 million) have emigrated temporarily and/or permanently (mostly EU), with obstacles to voting.

    Shocking statistics: 1 million Hungarians already left the country

    There are (too) many commonalities and coincidences of political media strategy, architecture and tactics that have become globalised and like elsewhere, Orban had availed himself of the advice of (another…) former Republican GOP operator (who passed away last year in Vienna) called Finkelstein on political, PR and electoral strategy inclusing dog whistling Soros, refugees etc.. Interestingly Finkelstein was openly gay, married and Jewish.

    An excellent well researched depositary of analysis and articles can be found on US based Eva Balogh’s (one of the few remaining reasonable voices) blog including Soros, Orban, Finkelstein et al.

    Maybe it’s a cunning plan of Orban’s, in two generations it’s possible that the majority or at least much more significant ethnicity of the population will be Hungarians of Roma background.

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