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No students for politics and no jobs for commies

by DoDo Thu Mar 19th, 2015 at 02:31:59 AM EST

On the national holiday today [15 March], it was another day of grim protests in Budapest. For the first time in five years, hecklers attended the speech of right-populist prime minister Viktor Orbán, and there were some fights between pro- and anti-Orbán protesters. However, what I want to tell more about is a new low in authoritarian behaviour preceding the protests, and the fate of an acquaintance I ran into at the main opposition protest.


Over the past three years, a special power instrument of the Orbán regime was pro-government mass protests: using the data on voters illegally gathered by Orbán's Fidesz party and logistical help from pro-Fidesz oligarchs, up to hundreds of thousands of the most reliable Fidesz voters (the lowest-information rural old) were gathered, to counter the anti-government protests and reinforce the community feeling. Over the last year or so, even these crowds dwindled, what's more, Fidesz had difficulties recruiting young people for those illegal voter-data-gathering campaign operations. (It's tragicomic, however, that all of the pro-Orbán protesters who physically insulted the counter-protesters today in the videos I saw were at least 50 but usually older.)

By all appearances, some Fidesz spinmeister thought to solve both of the above problems in one fell swoop, which became the second-biggest domestic scandal in March (after the collapse of three fraudulent brokerage firms, the last one of them with strong Fidesz ties). An educational authority under the horribly named "Ministry of Human Resources" sent a letter to all of the over 300 highschools, demanding that they choose one teacher and ten students, mail their personal data to the government, and send them to attend Orbán's 15 March speech. Also, the directors were forbidden from publishing this letter.

Well the operation didn't really work out: 85% of the highschools simply refused to follow suit, the letter was leaked to a blog, and one highschool in the city where I live even publicly declared that they reject "the political instrumentation of students". But this wasn't the end of the story: in reaction, the Fidesz-supported major of my city ordered the director of the highschool into his office, where he shouted abuse at them for "failing to teach children patriotism", wanted to know which teacher initiated the protest letter, told he would fire them if he could, and said he'll boycott their school (although his own son attends it).

:: :: :: :: ::

At the main opposition protest today, I ran into an acquaintance I haven't met in years. He is a 35-year-old media specialist who was politically active during the last five years: he ran for local councillor for the Socialists in 2010 and worked on the campaign team of a smaller left-of-centre party in 2014. Although he came away with strong negative opinions about the capability of the leadership of both parties, he is still a committed leftist.

He is also jobless for a year now. And he told that one employer he had an interview with sent him an email rejection with the justification "this job is not for commies".

[EDIT] I should make it explicit that, ironically, both of these incidents bring up associations from 'communist' times. Back then we had those giant May Day parades. For these, a high turnout was secured by ordering people to 'volunteer' at their workplaces, and that included schools. Also back then, in the 'light' dictatorship of the seventies-eighties, taking away and denying jobs was a key method of dealing with political dissidents.

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Meanwhile, the oligarch who fell out with Orbán claimed that back in the eighties, during their military service, Orbán confessed to him (the two were close friends) that he consented to a request to report on fellow soldiers to the secret service. Whether that's true or not, the close-knit circle of friends who founded Fidesz weren't exactly from a dissident background (the father of Orbán himself was a mine boss who'd gain ownership of "his" mine in 1990), in fact one of them was the son-in-law of the interior minister.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 15th, 2015 at 03:41:02 PM EST
It's very sad to see. But what are the EU saying ? I find it hard to believe that a country can descend into authoritarianism right in the heart of Europe, yet all other countries look away and either pretend it isn't happening or claim that it's nothing to do with them as it's internal domestic politics of another country

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 03:15:58 AM EST
All institutions of the EU huffed and puffed at one time or another, but, ultimately, the Commission only got seriously involved when ideology (central bank independence) or business interests in another state (for example the media tax the Commission forbade just last week) are involved.

But don't be that surprised: look at Greece before Syriza, there was plenty of authoritarianism there ignored by the media in the creditor nations, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 01:45:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He is also jobless for a year now. And he told that one employer he had an interview with sent him an email rejection with the justification "this job is not for commies".

They are just following in the footsteps of Germany. And given that ECtHR voted for Vogt 10 to 9, Berufsverbot isn't that controversial, at least where 'commies' are involved.

BTW, the same Wikipedia article also says that Bavaria continues to have Berufsverbot in its law books. Human rights forevar!

by Sargon on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 08:19:19 AM EST
not forgetting HUAC of course

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 12:49:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those employment bans, while ridiculous political discrimination, were aimed to keep 'extremists' from civil service. The de-facto employment bans in Fidesz-Hungary are aimed at people who aren't extremists by any measure (while real extremists like loud anti-Semites can keep their jobs) and its enforcement extends into the private economy.

BTW, the same Wikipedia article also says that Bavaria continues to have Berufsverbot in its law books.

This seems rather sloppy. Berufsverbot in general remains on all law books and not just in Germany, for cases like banning doctors convicted of malpractice from continuing elsewhere or keeping convicted child molesters away from education jobs. Regarding political job bans, the big issue was the Radikalenerlass ('extremist directive'), a law ordering an automatic background check to keep members of organisations listed as extremists from public service. According to the German Wikipedia, this was abolished everywhere, including Bavaria, which was the last one to do so in 1991. However, Bavaria created an alternative (called neither Berufsverbot nor Radikalenerlass) in the form of a questionnaire for new recruits where they have to declare whether they have membership in an extremist organisation. The list infamously still includes the Left Party.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 02:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see very little difference between declaring someone 'extremist' and keeping them from obtaining work, or just slurring them 'commies' and doing the same. But that's the difference in personal legal culture, I guess.

Interesting - if a person is denied a job or a promotion in Bavaria after declaring themselves being a member of the Left Party, should we assume that everything was perfectly kosher just because they weren't told it was because of the party affiliation?

by Sargon on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 02:50:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see very little difference between declaring someone 'extremist' and keeping them from obtaining work, or just slurring them 'commies' and doing the same.

Well I certainly don't want committed Nazis as history teachers: that would be a legitimate case for of "extremist". While the troubles started in Germany over the issue of where you draw the line, in Hungary, the people called "commies" can be to the right of Sigmar Gabriel. Furthermore, if it's a law, you can at least bring lawsuits, but what I described for my acquaintance [and there have been several cases like his in the news BTW] is an employer acting on information it received who knows where, something resembling the treatment of dissidents by Brezhnew-era Warshaw Pact countries rather than the Radikalenerlass.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 03:46:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps it's worth to point out that there have been multiple types of job bans in the communist era. I think from around the end of the Stalinist era, there was the practice to explicitly ban distrusted people from certain jobs where they could cause trouble, or even force intellectuals into physical jobs to get some 'working-class re-education'. What I spoke about came later and was more insidious: there was no explicit job ban, the secret service would just order the dissident's employer to fire him, and tell others to reject him. So existential angst could indirectly do what an official ban would have done.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 04:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Furthermore, if it's a law, you can at least bring lawsuits

This is operational difference between us - frankly, I don't care if I could bring a legal suit and lose because might makes right. If it's right, it should be so from the beginning.

On Nazis, I'd tend to agree, but who's defining what a Nazi sympathizer is? I still have colleagues refusing to accept that there are sympathizers fighting on Kiev side in Ukraine, despite all the articles about battalion Azov and Right Sector in the Western press. If we cannot agree about such basic things, how could one trust that a particular designation of an "extremist" is legitimate? Short of emigration on ideological basis, I can't really see a solution.

by Sargon on Wed Mar 18th, 2015 at 12:49:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany has been wrestling with the definition of "extremism" since after WWII, and Lustration laws are in vogue in Eastern Europe. One may not like them on liberal political principles, but that's the world we increasingly live in.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 18th, 2015 at 01:13:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From where I sit, people are pretty cynical about lustration laws - they were mostly used for infighting among different unsavory personages. Fortunately, citizens seem to have lost taste for "he was a commie!!!" shouts. Mainstream media still cares, but that's what they are paid to believe.
by Sargon on Wed Mar 18th, 2015 at 03:29:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
frankly, I don't care if I could bring a legal suit and lose because might makes right.

The assumption on your part is of a legal system subservient to political power. In the EU, this is undoubtedly the case to some degree in every country; nevertheless, the right of appeal to a European court establishes the legal notion of the rule of law.

Therefore, I will always prefer to be subject to a contestable discrimination rather than an arbitrary one.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Mar 18th, 2015 at 02:40:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On purely probabilistic grounds you might be (conditionally) right - even with an unfair coin, losing after one toss doesn't mean defeat if you have another attempt. On the other hand, unconditional probability of winning decreases with number of tosses (layers of courts).
by Sargon on Wed Mar 18th, 2015 at 03:25:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's be clear. If Hungary had a law on excluding certain people from certain jobs because of their politics, and it had been applied to Dodo's acquaintance, he could have gone to the Hungarian courts, lost, appealed to the European court, and won. Hungary's law would have been condemned. (Bear in mind that at 35, he can't have had a political history under the previous regime).

Excellent odds, if you're tenacious enough.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Mar 19th, 2015 at 06:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's good to have a court well disposed to you. But we do know that being on the right side of (some) authority is always good.
by Sargon on Mon Mar 23rd, 2015 at 12:09:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On another thought: just finished reading this on the way they were doing things in the UK. Probably a more relevant example, given the whole discussion below.

Very revealing quotes from the article:

In April 1949, the central council of the John Lewis Partnership voted `to exclude communists from membership and to ask present and future staff to sign a declaration that they are neither members of the Communist Party nor in sympathy with its doctrines'. A second resolution recommending similar action in the case of fascists was defeated.

In time - and one is left to ponder whether or not Orwell's approval would have been withheld - `communist' came to be viewed as coterminous with membership of, inter alia, CND, Friends of the Earth, the National Council for Civil Liberties, the Fire Brigades Union, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, even the Seventh Day Adventists.​15 As the colour red spread like a disease on the retina of the security services, so a peculiar blindness to right-wing organisations developed. According to Cathy Massiter, who worked at MI5 from 1970 to 1983, `there was only one person covering all of right-wing subversion,' while there were `many dozens' dealing with communism. Across Whitehall, secret committees tasked with developing national security procedures chose to simplify their reporting by following `the common practice of using the phrase "communist" throughout to include fascists.' Yes, well, that should deal with it.

So, yes, we could be concerned about Nazi sympathizers as teachers. Apparently, they never were.
by Sargon on Fri Mar 27th, 2015 at 01:42:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...up to hundreds of thousands of the most reliable Fidesz voters (the lowest-information rural old) were gathered, to counter the anti-government protests and reinforce the community feeling. Over the last year or so, even these crowds dwindled, what's more, Fidesz had difficulties recruiting young people for those illegal voter-data-gathering campaign operations. (It's tragicomic, however, that all of the pro-Orbán protesters who physically insulted the counter-protesters today in the videos I saw were at least 50 but usually older.)

This is hopeful. It is very similar to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html?_r=0 the local Arkansas population of Tea Party supporters who had grievances based in the genuine consequences of the US political process but were co-opted by our own oligarchs, especially the Koch brothers acting through Dick Armey and Freedom Works, along with PR provided by Rupert Murcoch and Fox News, largely took over local politics in 2010 based on that organization, PR and money. Small rebound locally for Democrats in 2014, big win in 2016, despite growing disillusionment.

Now the Republicans are in control and pushing the rollback of anti discrimination laws, cutting any funding that might help Family Planning, etc. The only save has been for the Arkansas Private Option for Medicare expansion. They had to keep that or deal with the crushing costs of health care for all of the prisoners in state prisons and county jails and to keep the state's hospitals from bankruptcy. And taking away the new coverage from hundreds of thousands of Arkansans looked to do them great damage. So they voted to drain the reserve funds in some of the state backed insurance plans instead and leave funding to the next legislature. Depending on the Democratic presidential candidate, 2016 could be a good year for Democrats in state and local elections. I expect a lot of disillusionment from the base and lots of opposition within Republican ranks from the more business and country club set.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 16th, 2015 at 11:32:48 AM EST
Being old enough to have understood the evils of McCarthyism in real time, I despair for politically involved people, what with the ease of googling people on the Internets.

Even having an opinion of any kind is subject to trolling, doxxing, and twitterstorms. I myself offended a mental case, now deceased, and he invented an elaborate chain of improbable events tying me to crazy cultists in San Francisco, which due to his obsessive iteration of my name comes up very high when I'm googled.

Strangely, I also accumulated quite an FBI dossier during COINTELPRO, mostly by running an alternative newspaper in a very rightwing town, Spokane. Pretty much worth it, but I feel for those without my combination of high technical skills and frugal lifestyle.

Enjoy your data-scorched lives, folks. It ain't gonna get better...

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Fri Apr 17th, 2015 at 02:39:42 AM EST


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