by Rodney Rios
Although in many countries around the world, liberal political views are dominant, some nations in Eastern Europe have notably resisted the left-wing ideology. One of the most criticized among the latter is Hungary.
The Hungarian government stands for national sovereignty and conservative values among the world’s nations.
In a Heritage Foundation event on Monday, “Promoting Conservative Values in Modern Europe,” Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga offered a timely perspective on protecting and representing conservative values in modern politics and the future of European conservatism. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
According to Varga, the left-wing trend that dominates the European Union infringes on member nations’ sovereignty.
That argument is reminiscent of Rod Dreher’s book “Live Not by Lies,” which discusses the cultural shifts that have occurred in the West against traditional values and how a “soft totalitarianism” seems to have taken over Western societies.
The characteristic of that soft totalitarianism is the desire to remake the world, to incorporate all areas of life and culture into the scope of woke ideology, to create new forms of language and thought, and even to force people to lie to conform to left-wing dogma and doctrine.
Moreover, the woke view bluntly seeks to destroy cultural memory and tradition. If viewed separately and apart from one another, the various aspects, such as cancel culture or the taking down of statues, seem unrelated.
Nonetheless, if viewed as a whole, one can see that it’s all part of an integrated worldview. The radicals of another age have spread their ideology and ideas into academia, business, and politics. As such, that soft totalitarianism can take over governments and clash with traditional values and conservatives.
In her timely speech, Varga spoke of how when Hungary returned to freedom after the fall of communism, Eastern European nations realized that Western Europe had changed dramatically in terms of culture. She contended that Hungary did not recognize Europe. In contrast to those problems of cultural displacement and birthrates, according to Varga, Hungary decided to take another path in terms of policy and governance, which has led to success.
Varga said that Hungary’s success is based on three things: 1) protecting its sovereignty; 2) the consistent presentation of conservative values; and 3) sovereignty and conservative values are compatible with the democratic state governed by the rule of law.
These principles are threatened not only by the expanding bureaucracy of the European Union with unelected bodies that try to govern all member nations, but also by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trying to prevent that nation from freely associating with whomever it wishes in international relations and illegally annexing Ukrainian territory.
In fact, all this is very similar to the arguments former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made in her speech at the CNN World Economic Development Conference back in 1992, and they have proven to be correct. In her remarks, Thatcher warned that a single currency, along with the increasing centralization of the European Union, would produce unemployment, mass migration across open frontiers, and the alienation of people from their governments, which would lead to “the growth of extremist parties.”
Time has proven these warnings to be correct. Nonetheless, Hungary remains an example of another path that could be taken to preserve cultural memory and national sovereignty. The electoral success of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban demonstrates that his party’s approach of applying conservative values and using power to defend Hungary’s identity can, in fact, produce not only policy results, but achieve electoral success.
Orban’s party, Fidesz, won with over 50% of the popular vote, which marked the highest vote share by any Hungarian party since the fall of communism in 1989. In other words, the policies followed in Hungary have produced a mandate from the Hungarian people.
In short, conservatives around the world would do well to learn from each other by taking a close look at countries that have strong, lasting, conservative coalitions and governments in power.
Going forward, conservatives should not be afraid of fighting the culture war, nor should they surrender such things as sovereignty, the rule of law, and cultural memory.
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Rodney Rios is an intern with the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation and a member of the Young Leaders Program at Heritage.
Photo “Budapest, Hungary” by Thomas Depenbusch (Depi). CC BY 2.0.