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Ádám C. Nagy The Taming of Civil Society In a speech delivered at Tusványos, the Free Summer University and Student Camp held in Tusnádfürdő (Bâile Tuşnad, Transylvania) in July 2014, Viktor Orbán stated: If I look at the civil society of Hungary, … I can see that it consists of paid political activists. Moreover, these paid political activists are paid by foreigners. Activists sponsored by well-definable foreign interests … intent to exert influence on Hungary’s governmental life at a particular instance and regarding particular issues… That’s why a committee was set up in the Hungarian parliament dealing with the continuous monitoring , tracking, and publishing of foreign attempts at gaining control. Before long, on the opening day of the parliament’s fall season, on 15 September of the same year, the prime minister did not hesitate to refer to the same group as “civil mercenaries in foreign service.” Let us bracket off the factual error—no such parliamentary committee was created, although the government majority could have set it up at any time. Yet, it would be wrong to view the prime minister’s pronouncements as an abrupt aboutturn without antecedents. His “procurator” dealing with the distribution of government funds for civil organizations—as the appointed chair of the Nemzeti Együttműködési Alap (National Cooperation Fund; NEA), as well as the organizer of the “peace march”1 —had preceded him with similar statements, although producing less of a reaction at the time, about how i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 559 2016.12.07. 15:47 560 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE the task of civil society is “the support of the government” and the “intellectual defense of the homeland.” The 2014 speech held at Tusványos made widely available to the public knowledge that had already been evident to the close observer. One of the most distinctive chapters of the Nemzeti Együttműködés Rendszere (System of National Cooperation; NER)2 is the state’s handling of civil society, more specifically, the nonprofit organizations, associations, and foundations. This was understandable, considering the reigning octopus’s repeated attempts to strangle independent associations: from the media, to the cultural and the for-profit sectors, in virtually all walks of public life its primary aim was to create dependence and co-opt civil organizations into a vassal-type system. Civil society, however, cannot exist without autonomy, collaborating networks, and self-governance. In order to do its work it embraces limited and accountable public power; the undertaking of tasks outside of the scope of the state and the business sector; participation in the public sphere; and the exercising of civil rights. Civil society presupposes a political culture, a kind of “civilized” public life, which in turn is grounded in democracy, civic responsibility, and tolerance. This is not covert behavior; all of this entails a commitment to certain values and norms. In other words, the cohesive force of this realm is the manifestation of what may be termed the “mindset of the citoyen,” at times organizing itself into nonprofits, while on other occasions remaining at the level of loosely organized civil collaboration. To do away with this autonomous world, to regiment its participants and narrow their space of activity is a pressing necessity for the adopted political family’s—the octopus’s—mode of exercising its power since civility and the mindset of the citoyen would allow for free deliberations. The mafia state—a peculiar form of autocratic rule—is corrupting this civil world as it infringes on the latter’s legal sphere, distorts its sponsorship, and appoints “exemplary” leaders to run it. The Janus-Faced Legal Material Reregulating the Civil Nonprofit World One of the main goals of the so-called Civil Law3 codified in 2011 was to establish a kind of civil-legal codex in which the entire legal material regarding the operation of civil organizations could be localized. Although i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 560 2016.12.07. 15:47 561 The Taming of Civil Society this was overridden by the revised Polgári Törvénykönyv (Civil Code), or rather by the underlying interests, the approximately dozen confusing laws previously regulating the civil sphere could still be compacted into manageable lengths. At present the legal foundation of the workings of civil organizations is contained, in effect, in the Civil Code and the Civil Law. Yet, this 2011 law has been modified four...


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