Letters to the Editor: Mar. 2012

The Vienna Review welcomes letters from its readers

In response to Anton Pelinka’s tendentious and insulting article on Hungary, [“Victor Orban: Amateur or Autocrat”, TVR Feb. 2012] please allow just three comments in the interests of free speech, which indeed Pelinka and your excellent journal are very concerned to uphold.

Pelinka objects that the new Hungarian constitution “defines the country no longer as a republic but simply as ‘Hungary’.” The difficulty he imagines is entirely invented, since Article B, Clause 2 of the new constitution states that “Hungary’s form of government shall be that of a republic.” But we have had so many “Soviet Socialist” or “German Democratic” republics in recent history that it seems strange to insist on the word, while concealing that Hungary’s republican status is codified in its constitution.

On the new law on recognised religions, Pelinka is even more disingenuous. He himself says that “over 300” religious denominations have been excluded. Three hundred? One would need a lexicon of world religions to identify them all, but even that probably would not help locate the “Worshippers of the Womb”, most likely invented one afternoon by a couple of tax advisers over a glass of palinka. But I suspect Pelinka knows full well that a huge number were simply devices to get the government subsidy. Still, he can be confident that his readers won’t know that.

The number of recognised religions has been fixed at fourteen, all of them mainstream in Hungarian terms. Prof. Pelinka affects to be outraged. He should glance at Wikipedia’s entry on religion in Austria, [listing] thirteen “religious societies” with recognised status. Moreover a 1998 law, infinitely more rigorous than the present Hungarian one, requires a 20-year existence and “membership equalling 0.2% of the population,” i.e. around 16,000 people; 16 times the Hungarian criterion.

So the situation, on the face of it, is considerably worse in Austria than in Hungary. Personally I don’t agree with that, but in any case, why is a more liberal law in Hungary attacked as inherently undemocratic, while Austria practices the same, only more so…

Lastly Pelinka claims that “Hungarian democracy has its best friends among those European actors who are the most outspoken critics of the current developments.” The hypocrisy is breathtaking. These “friends” kept silent through eight years of Socialist/Liberal “plunder and squander” because those doing the plundering were of the same persuasion.

With “friends” like Prof. Pelinka, Hungary certainly doesn’t need enemies.

Nicholas Parsons, Vienna

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