Orbán’s (Counter-)Revolution of the Voting Booth and How it was Made Possible

Guest Post by ANDREW ARATO, Professor of Political and Social Theory at the New School for Social Research in New York.

During the age of great revolutions, Joseph de Maistre distinguished between counter revolutions and the contraries of revolutions. Fearing, rightly, that counter revolutions may have the same horrible consequences as the Jacobinism that he witnessed, he expressed his preference for the contrary of revolutions, but never really explained how it would work. If we take the Bolshevik type revolutions of 1917 and after as the baseline, the self limiting, velvet, peaceful, negotiated revolutions, “refolutions” or “reforradalmak” of 1989, 1990 and in South Africa a bit later supplied the answer. Where there were previously dictatorships linked to party or parliamentary sovereignty, or their combination, they established constitutional democracies through round table led negotiations, and legal continuity. The legal continuity itself rested in part on the fiction that the previous regimes had real law, and in part on the possibility that part of that fiction, and in particular the amendment rule of constitutions (Art 15 (3) in Hungary originally) could be turned into workable mechanisms.

The problem De Maistre articulated returns if we take the negotiated revolutions or changes of regime as our revolutionary baseline. Those who wish to reverse the outcome, namely constitutional democracy, always had a choice: break with all white gloved legality and establish a new regime of their choice through revolutionary rupture, or use the mechanisms of constitutional democracy to abolish the very system according to what Goebbels already considered the best joke about democracy. Again the choice: contre-revolution or le contraire de la revolution ...

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