Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the 12th Congress of the Federation of Christian Intellectuals (KÉSZ)
14 September 2019, Budapest
Good morning, Your Excellency, Your Graces, Honourable Speaker of the House, Ladies and Gentlemen, Father Osztie, Brothers and Sisters,
Thirty years is a long time, and we have gone through that time together – indeed, we’ve fought all the way through it together. Although we’ve had our differences, we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder, bound together by a brotherhood-in-arms and camaraderie. Thank you for these thirty years – it has been good fighting alongside you. Thirty years, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a good incentive to look back and take stock. The ten short minutes allotted to me is not enough for this. These thirty years deserve more, much more: conferences, analyses, joint reflection, volumes of thought and opinion. What I can offer here today – if not in ten minutes, then in fifteen – are just a few thoughts, drafts, sketches and outlines if you like; but I hope that they’ll be of interest to you. Thirty years through the eyes of one of your brothers-in-arms.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Speaker,
It is now abundantly clear that in Hungary we’ve created a new and authentic model of state and political theory. We’ve created a specifically Christian democratic state. It’s also abundantly clear that to arrive at this position we’ve taken two great strides forward. For this we needed two political transformations. The first political transformation in 1990 put an end to the Soviet world. I could also put it like this: “Soviets out, communists down, freedom up”. This was the first political transformation, and was, if you like, the liberal transformation: liberation, freeing ourselves from oppression. It was the era of liberation from something: from occupation and dictatorship. It was a liberal political transformation. As a matter of course, this resulted in a liberal democracy, with liberal freedom and liberation from something at its heart. Already back then there were some who recognised, knew and said – you did so earlier, and I later – that this would not end well; or, to put it more precisely, that this would not be enough. It would not be enough to merely say what we want to be free from. We would also have to answer the question of why we want to be free: how do we want to use our freedom? What kind of world do we want to build by using our political and constitutional freedom? This is why, in 2010, a second political transformation needed to take place. To follow on from the Cardinal’s words, and invoke the memory of József Antall, we did what he advised us to do: in 1990 he said, “It would have been good to carry out a revolution!” Well, in 2010 that is what we did: we carried out a constitutional revolution with a two-thirds majority. The direction of the second political transformation had not been backwards, it has not been a reversal, and it has not been a political counter-transformation. The direction of the second political transformation is forward: it adds to the first one, correcting and completing the first one; in fact it gives meaning to the first political transformation. What should we call this second political transformation?
This has not yet been decided – or, to be more precise, everyone says all sorts of things, but as yet there’s no broad, stable consensus. We could call it a national political transformation, but it also wouldn’t be unjustified to call it a Christian political transformation: a Christian political transformation which has resulted in a Christian democracy, with Christian freedom at its heart. The Easter Constitution adopted at Easter 2011 – the Fundamental Law – provides a description of the Christian democratic state conceived in the spirit of this Christian democracy, and provides its pillars and framework.
Perhaps I still have enough time to say a few brief words here about the difference between liberal freedom and Christian freedom, as seen from the office of the Prime Minister. Liberal democracy teaches that an individual should have the freedom to do anything that does not violate the freedom of another individual. Christian freedom teaches that you should not treat others in a way that you would not want others to treat you – and this can also be expressed as a positive, as well as a negative. Liberal freedom envisages society as an aggregation of competing individuals who are held together only by the market, economic self-interest and laws. According to Christian freedom, however, the world has been divided into nations, and a nation is a culturally and historically defined community of individuals: an organised community, the members of which must be defended, and must receive guidance to enable them to collectively stand their ground in the world. This is what truly binds them together into a society, into a community. According to the precepts of liberal freedom, an individual’s contribution – a productive or an unproductive life – is a private matter, which must not be subject to the moral judgment of the community; and likewise it must not be allowed to fall within the ambit of politics. The concept of Christian freedom holds that recognition is due to those individual achievements which also serve the common good: self-reliance and work; the ability to create and sustain a livelihood; learning; a healthy lifestyle; the payment of taxes; starting a family and raising children; the ability to orient oneself in the affairs and history of the nation; and participating in the nation’s self-reflection. These are the qualities and achievements that Christian freedom recognises, supports and regards as morally superior. According to the teachings of liberal freedom, liberal democracies must eventually merge and create a world government: a global government in the spirit of liberal internationalism. This conception sees the European Union as the European pillar of this new world government, linked to a United States following the principles of Soros and the Clintons. This would be the liberal empire built solely on common sense as advocated in his time by Kant, by Immanuel Kant. This is clearly an old story. According to the teachings of Christian freedom, nations are just as free and sovereign as individuals, and cannot be forced to submit to the laws of global governance. According to the Christian way of thinking, empires necessarily oppress nations, and are therefore dangerous and not desirable.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable President of KÉSZ,
Today the liberal zeitgeist still dominates our lives. In the 19th and 20th centuries the liberal zeitgeist created the West’s hegemony over the entire world. Now, however, other winds are beginning to blow. This world order has been shaken, and a geopolitical and strategic realignment is taking place. We are also witnessing a technological revolution, the like of which we have not experienced before: a revolution on the internet, and in the fields of social media and artificial intelligence. As the French president said the other day, “this technological revolution is resulting in economic as well as anthropological imbalances”, and there is “a major anthropological change” taking place within Europe, and perhaps also beyond it. Changes are occurring in the realms of “imagination, emotions, violence and hatred, contributing to a more savage world”. This is what the President says, and I think he’s right. European civilisation is indeed on the threshold of decisive change. Liberal democracies built on liberal freedom are no longer able to provide Europe with a sense of purpose, and are no longer able to give it meaning. They are unable to identify the deeper meaning of Europe’s existence. What is it that Europe alone represents, and that would be lost to the world if the continent sank without trace? What is Europe’s civilisational plan? The response to this new situation offered by Christian democrats of our kind is that Europe has a clear civilisational mission: Europe’s mission is to create and perpetually recreate Christian freedom and the way of life that is built upon this Christian freedom.
In contrast to liberal democracies that have lost their sense of purpose, in Central Europe today there is a cultural and civilisational life-force which clearly springs from Christianity. This is becoming increasingly obvious; perhaps it’s complicated, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious. Thus far in Central Europe we’ve successfully warded off the attacks of liberals who pose a threat to Christian freedom and who want to surrender Europe’s Christian culture. In Central Europe we’ve also hitherto managed to curb the external danger that poses a threat to Christian freedom: the danger that is migration. This is a widely known fact. This provokes anger in some, recognition in others, and still others see it as encouragement and inspiration. Let’s not be afraid to declare this, as now everyone can see that Hungary is a city set on a hill, and we all know that it cannot be hidden. Let us rise to this mission, let us create it for ourselves and let us show the world what a true, deep and higher order of life we can build upon the ideal of Christian freedom. It might prove to be a lifebelt which even a confused, disoriented Europe plagued by fatal afflictions will reach out for. Perhaps they, too, will see beauty in work which serves one’s own interests, the good of one’s country, and the glory of God.
Happy thirtieth birthday, and God bless Christian intellectuals.
Go for it, Hungary, go for it, Hungarians!