The war of words between Fidesz Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Hungarian-American billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros continues to take on certain attributes of literal war as Orbán and his party’s most recent round of anti-immigrant legislation, expanding the ability of the military to detain undocumented foreigners, gets referred-to with greater frequency by supporters as the “Stop Soros Bill.” All the while large threatening billboards lining the streets of Budapest warn of the supposed nefarious plans of Soros to “settle millions of African and Middle-Eastern migrants” in the country, occasionally getting further decorated with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Orbán has spent most of his political career railing against greedy bankers and “liberal elites” in economically populist screeds against “politically correct” Liberalism. From this perspective, George Soros is almost too perfect of an enemy for Orbán, Soros having spent a significant amount of his immense fortune funding enterprises that seek to further progressive political interests in former Soviet states through his Open Societies Foundations. Amusingly, the two men were once on the same side of history, fighting, in their own ways, Communism in late 1980s, despite having very different opinions on what a post-Soviet Hungary should look like.
Orbán’s open hatred of Soros and the kind of Liberalism he embodies, the use of banking fortunes to push foreign countries towards progressivism in the name of free trade and market capitalism, holds fascinating implications for the relationship between Leftism as a whole and the brand populist nationalism currently on the rise in Eastern Europe, one that I hope to interrogate further as the semester continues.