Hungary – On 19–20 May, the American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which is the most important conservative event organised annually in the United States, was held in Budapest, Hungary. This was a first, as CPAC had never been held in Europe before. In a tense international context, where Orbán’s Hungary and Biden’s United States do not have the best of relations, the two-day conference bringing together conservatives from both sides of the Atlantic carried great significance.
After the opening ceremony, which was blessed by the Chief Rabbi of Hungary, a Catholic bishop, and two pastors, Viktor Orbán was among the first ones to speak. Here is his full speech in English:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear American Friends, and Conservatives fromall over the world,
I welcome you all. And a special welcome to my friend Václav Klaus. It is no surprise that he is the most intellectually courageous man in Europe, as he is rich in years; but what is a surprise to us all is that he is still the most youthful and the freshest among us. Dear Klaus, thank you so much for coming and being with us.
I know that you all deserve a better speech than this, but we all know that one cannot swim or run a world record time in the morning. Please bear this in mind as you listen to my thoughts. Anyway, it is great to have you here. The timing is a happy accident: a month ago we scored our fourth election victory in a row, and four days ago I formed my fifth conservative, Christian government; and now I am here with you. It is always good to be able to talk among friends, and it is especially good to have something with which to back up one’s words; and we Hungarians rightly feel that we have something with which to back up our words.
We have come a long way. In the 1980s we read about what was happening in the United States from samizdats illegally distributed in the former Eastern Bloc; and now here we are, with Hungary hosting the most important political gathering of the Republican Party, the Grand Old Party. I clearly remember well how we envied you back then: we envied your culture of democratic debate; the freedom in which you arranged public affairs in America; we envied your President Reagan for his charisma, his drive, his wit and his policies – and, of course, we rooted for him. All we had were the grey-suited communist functionaries and their political Newspeak, a stifling atmosphere and hopelessness.
Dear American Friends,
If you have seen the series “Chernobyl”, you may have an idea of what I am talking about. We had forty long years of that. And today we are hosting this great event, for which I would like to thank the organizers – but most of all you, who are honoring us with your presence. On behalf of every Hungarian, I thank our American friends and those from other countries for honoring us and coming here to Budapest.
How can I contribute to today’s gathering? Perhaps if I tell you how we won: how we first defeated the communist regime; then how we defeated the liberals; and then, most recently, how we defeated the international liberal left when they combined their forces against Hungary in the election. I will tell you now how we defeated them for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth time – and how we will defeat them again. As the supporters of Fradi [Ferencváros soccer club] chant: “More, more, more, there’s still more goals to score!” I will tell you how fervent university students succeeded in dismantling a dictatorship, then in breaking the hegemony over opinions enjoyed by the returning communists and liberals, and how they managed to end the dominance of progressives in public life. I will tell you how Hungary became a bastion of conservative and Christian values in Europe. Instead of my long speech, of course, all this could be done briefly and simply. We learned from General Patton that battle brings out all that is best and removes all that is base. This is also true on the political battlefield. Here, my friends, only the best remain standing – or, in short, the ultimate condition for victory is that we must become the best. You can win if you are the best.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let us start by saying that you politicians who love your country face a problem that we Hungarians have already tackled successfully. This problem – if I am not mistaken, both in America and Western Europe – is the domination of public life by progressive liberals. The problem is the fact that they hold the most important positions in the most important institutions, that they occupy the dominant positions in the media, and that they produce all the politically indoctrinating works of high and mass culture. They – the progressive left – tell us what is the truth and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. And as conservatives, our lot is to feel about our nations’ public life as Sting felt in New York: like a “legal alien”.
Dear American Friends,
This was also the situation in Hungary. Thirty years ago, the Left was also in power here – and there was even a communist dictatorship. The entire machinery of the state worked to entrench the power of the communists. Strange as it may sound, we – and I – grew up in a “woke world”. Only back then critical race theory was called “scientific socialism”, and was taught at university in the same way that woke is taught in your country. Everyday socialist dictatorship: that is what we grew up in. Political correctness, Orwellian Newspeak, state control of the public square, expropriation of private property and stigmatization of the Right.
Dear American Friends and Visitors from Abroad,
Under communism we had a joke about whether it was possible to joke under communism. And the joke was that a political joke contest was held in the Soviet Union, with the following conditions: the contestant coming third would win an all-inclusive trip to Siberia for two weeks, the runner-up for a year, and the winner for life.
If you feel that this joke is becoming ever more meaningful to you, the time has come to start taking action. At all events we rose up, and in the late 1980s we decided that enough was enough. We wanted to regain our country and our freedom; we wanted to regain our country’s freedom. The communists did not let this pass without response: police attacks, bans, wiretaps, infiltration by state agents, threats and blackmail. But we persevered, and we won. Soviets out, communists down. We thought we had finally got what we wanted, but we were wrong: under the dictatorship liberals and conservatives entered into an anti-communist pact, but at the first subsequent opportunity the liberals sided with the communists. It turned out that in fact they were natural allies. If I am not mistaken, this kind of sinful covenant has also been seen in the United States. Summa summarum, public life after the first election [in Hungary after communism] was dominated by post-communists, liberals and progressives, and the Hungarian right was floored. When my friend Donald Trump won the US presidential election in 2016, one of his main promises was about the need to “drain the swamp”. President Trump has undeniable merits, but nevertheless he was not re-elected in 2020. He ended up like our first conservative, Christian government in 2002: we governed outstandingly – after so many years I can perhaps indulge in that much immodesty – but we were dragged down by the swamp of the Hungarian left. And then, between 2002 and 2010, we saw what generally happens in such circumstances: the socialists spent the people’s money. Hungary sank into debt, the economy fell into recession, inflation ran out of control, unemployment rose and people were unable to pay their bills. Street violence broke out and paramilitary groups were on the march. It was a long time ago, but let us not forget: strings of ethnically-motivated murders outraged public sentiment. The Left had cut back spending on the police so much that they were unable to maintain even the pretense of order, with the law protecting perpetrators rather than victims.
Dear American Friends,
I think you have seen the likes of this. The Scriptures say the following: “every tree is known by its own fruit.” Well, the fruit of progressive government speaks for itself: economic ruin and street violence. When a left-wing government comes to power, the story almost always ends in the same way. But, Dear Friends, in 2002 we organized a popular movement and intellectual resistance with the troops left to us after our electoral defeat. We did not adopt a defensive attitude, and we did not resign ourselves to our minority status; we played to win and proclaimed the Reconquista.
The plan succeeded. In 2010 we came back. We had worked for eight years: step by step, brick by brick, we had fought and we had built. The formula is complete. Hungary is the laboratory in which we tested the antidote to dominance by progressives. We have hung up our lab coats, this spring Hungary has received its fourth dose, and I can report the following: the patient has been completely cured. The medication is open-source, free of charge, and comprises twelve points – which I will share with you now. For the benefit of our foreign friends, twelve is Hungarian freedom fighters’ lucky number.
The first point in the Hungarian formula is to play by our own rules. The only way to win is to refuse to accept the solutions and the paths offered by others. As Churchill said, having enemies is a sure sign that you are doing something right. This is why we should not be discouraged by being defamed, by being branded as deplorable, or by being treated abroad like troublemakers. In fact, it would be suspicious if none of this happened. Please remember that those who play by their opponents’ rules are certain to lose.
The second point: national conservatism in domestic politics. The cause of the nation is not a matter of ideology, nor even of tradition. The reason that churches and families must be supported is that they are the building blocks of the nation. This also means that one must remain on the side of the voters. We decided to stop migration and build the wall on our southern border because Hungarians said that they did not want illegal immigrants. They said: “Viktor, build that wall!” Three months later the border barrier was up. The secret is not to overthink things: the Hungarian fence is a simple chain-link structure with motion detectors, watchtowers and cameras; but this is enough, provided people want to protect their country. The Achilles heel of progressives is precisely that they want to impose their dreams on society. But for us that danger is also an opportunity, because when it comes to important issues, in reality people do not like left-wing fever dreams. One must find the issues on which the Left is completely out of touch with reality and highlight them – but in a way that can be understood by people who are not eggheads.
Third point: the national interest in foreign policy. Progressives always think that foreign policy is a battle of ideologies: a battle between good and bad, in which the course of history will be decided once and for all. But as I see it, Dear Friends, there have been at least four such “last great battles” over the past hundred years. Something is wrong with that concept. Our response should be a clear and simple antithesis to the progressives: the Nation First! Hungary First! America First! We need foreign policy based on our interests. This is not always easy, because the world of foreign policy is often a complicated one. Take the war in our neighboring country. Russia is the aggressor, and Ukraine the victim. We condemn the aggressor and help the victim of aggression. But at the same time we know that Ukraine is not defending Hungary. That is a nonsensical idea! Hungary can be defended by NATO and the Hungarian Defense Forces. As a proportion of our population, we have taken in the largest number of refugees, and the Hungarian people are happy to help. They are glad to help, but they do not want to pay the price of the war, because it is not their war and they will not benefit from it. They know full well that war is accompanied by sanctions, rampant inflation and economic stagnation; they know that war always impoverishes people. We must not yield to the siren voices, however tempting they may sound. Our aim is to restore peace, not to continue the war, because that is what is in our national interest. Hungary First!
Fourth point, Dear Friends: we must have our own media. We can only show up the insane ideas of the progressive Left if we have media that helps us to do this. Left-wing opinions only appear to be in the majority when the media helps to amplify them. The root of the problem is that the modern Western media aligns itself with the views of the Left. Reporters were taught at university by people with progressive left-wing views. And as soon as a conservative figure appears in the media, they are criticized, attacked, defamed and vilified. I am familiar with the old ethos of Western democracy, according to which party politics and the press must be separated. That is how it should be. But, Dear Friends, the Democrats in the US, for instance, do not obey such rules. Just try to count how many media outlets are in the service of the Democratic Party: CNN, The New York Times, the list goes on – I could carry on into the night. Naturally, the Grand Old Party, too, has allied media outlets, but they are no match for the liberals’ dominance of the media. My friend Tucker Carlson stands alone and immovable. His show has the highest audience figures. What does this mean? It means that there should be shows like his day and night – or, as you say, 24/7.
Fifth point: expose your opponent’s intentions. As a condition for victory, media support is necessary, but not sufficient. We must also break down taboos. Perhaps I do not need to introduce this to my American friends, because what breaker of taboos is greater than President Donald Trump? But one can always raise the bar: we must not only break down today’s taboos, but also tomorrow’s taboos. Here in Hungary we expose what the Left are preparing before they even take action. At first they will deny it, but success is all the sweeter when it emerges that we were right all along. For instance, there is the issue of LGBTQ propaganda targeting children. This is still a new thing over here, but we have already destroyed it. We brought the issue out into the open and held a referendum on it. The overwhelming majority of Hungarians have rejected this form of sensitization of children. By revealing at an early stage what the Left were preparing for, we forced them on the defensive, and when they attacked our initiative they were eventually forced to admit the reality of their plan. Allow me to quote General Patton again: “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Sixth point: economy, economy, economy. We all know that the Left want to operate the economy according to abstract notions. This is a trap for the Right. Never fall for it! When we came to power, we decided that we must only pursue economic policies that benefit the majority of voters. Here in Hungary we have a motto about this: “Even those who did not vote for us end up better off.” In this, we are the polar opposite of the progressives: even those who voted for them end up worse-off. In the final analysis people want jobs: people want jobs, not economic theories. People want to take a step forward in life, and people want a better life for their children than the life they have had. If a government of the right is unable to deliver all this, it is doomed to failure.
Our seventh point: do not get pushed to the extreme. I say this because extreme conspiracy theories rear their heads from time to time on the right – just as extreme utopias regularly rear their heads on the left. If we take a deeper look, we see that in fact people want neither. But, Dear Friends, what is the difference between the denial of science by the extreme right and the denial of biology by LGBTQ movements? The answer is simple: there is no difference whatsoever. We must render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, unto God the things that are God’s, and unto Science the things that are Science’s. We may gain immense popularity on internet forums by promoting conspiracy theories – and indeed sometimes there is truth in them; but in reality we will alienate a large proportion of the electorate, find ourselves pushed to the margins, and eventually we will lose.
Eighth point: read every day. A book a day keeps the defeat away. I know that this sounds strange. I am not an academic myself, but the fact is that no invention has yet surpassed the book as a vehicle for understanding and conveying ideas. The world is becoming increasingly complex, and we need to dedicate time to understanding it. I, for instance, set aside one whole day every week for reading. Reading also helps us to understand what our opponents think and where their thinking is flawed. If we know that, the rest is mere technique. We must translate all this into the language of everyday action and political communication. It is true that the spin doctor is a useful species; but understanding the problem is something that must be done by us as policymakers.
Ninth point: have faith. A lack of faith is dangerous. If you do not believe that there will be a final reckoning and that you will be held to account for your actions before God, you will think that you can do anything that is in your power. So let us encourage prospective young conservative politicians to engage with faith. Initially I did not see this as a priority, but I learned that if we devote time to our faith, success will come more easily. I have been a Member of Parliament for thirty-two years, and I am beginning my seventeenth year as Prime Minister. I heed the words of Prophet Isaiah, who said: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” In politics, Dear Friends, this is the law.
Tenth point: make friends. Our opponents, the progressive liberals and neo-Marxists, have unlimited unity: they have one another’s backs. By contrast, we conservatives are capable of squabbling with one another over the smallest issue. And then we wonder at how our opponents corner us. We do indeed possess intellectual sophistication, and we care about intellectual nuance. But if we want to succeed in politics, we should never look at what we disagree on, but instead look for our common ground. I will give an example. The Vatican is one of our most important European allies. It is an ally as a guardian of Christian values, in the support of families, and together we affirm that a father is a man and a mother is a woman. We stand together for peace and for the refugees from Ukraine. But on illegal migration our thinking diverges. One should not look at the issues on which we can engage in heated disputes, but look for ways in which we can work together. Believe me, if we do not, our opponents will hunt us down one by one.
Eleventh point: build communities. My Friends, over the years I have also learned that there is no conservative political success without functioning communities. The fewer communities there are and the lonelier people are, the more voters go to the liberals; and the more communities there are, the more votes we get. It is as simple as that. I do not need to explain this to you: the United States has the world’s best-functioning clubs, societies and communities. What we need to understand is that a political entity must encompass such communities.
And finally, the twelfth point: build institutions. For successful politics, one needs institutions and institutes. Whether they are think tanks, educational centers, talent workshops, foreign relations institutes, youth organizations or whatever, they should have a political aspect. Let us not forget: politicians come and go, but institutions stay with us for generations. They, the institutions, have the capacity to renew politics intellectually. New ideas, new thoughts and new people are needed again and again. If they run out, we will run out of ammunition, and our opponent will show no mercy in laying us low.
The whole world is undergoing huge changes. It is strange but true that the destructive ideologies of fascism and communism originated in the West. We never thought that communists could return not only from the East, but also from the West. Now we see that the progressives are threatening the whole of Western civilization, and the true danger is not from without but from within. You, Dear American Friends, are confronted with this in the United States, while we are confronted with it in the European Union. We are dealing with the same people: faceless, ideologically trained bureaucrats sitting in Washington DC and Brussels. Progressive liberals, neo-Marxists intoxicated by the dream of wokeness, those in the pay of George Soros, the advocates of the open society. They want to abolish the Western way of life that you and we love so much: what your parents fought for during World War II and the Cold War, and what we fought for when we drove the Soviet communists out of Hungary.
We must take up the fight, and in this fight we can only succeed if we are together and organized. We must take back the institutions in Washington and Brussels. We must find friends and allies in one another. We must coordinate the movement of our troops, because we face a great challenge. The decisive year will be 2024: you will have presidential and congressional elections, and we will have elections to the European Parliament. These two locations will define the two fronts in the battle being fought for Western civilization. Today we hold neither of them. Yet we need both. We have two years to prepare. The Hungarian lesson is that we have no silver bullet. We only have work. We need to do it. Let’s go out and do it! Thanks and good luck!
Translation provided by the International Communications Office of the Hungarian government.