The revolt against liberalism: what’s driving Poland and Hungary’s nativist turn?

For the hardline conservatives ruling Poland and Hungary, the transition from communism to liberal democracy was a mirage. They fervently believe a more decisive break with the past is needed to achieve national liberation

In the summer of 1992, a 29-year-old Hungarian with political ambitions made his first visit to the US. For six weeks he toured the country with a coterie of young Europeans, all expenses paid by the German Marshall Fund, a thinktank devoted to transatlantic cooperation.

America had long fascinated Viktor Orbán, but he seemed disengaged and unaffected as the group walked around downtown Los Angeles, which was still reeling from the Rodney King riots two months earlier. One Dutch journalist on the trip recalled that the eastern Europeans in the group preferred to spend their daily stipends on “a Walkman and other electronics” rather than on food or fancy hotels. The free market and cutting-edge technologies certainly appealed more to Orbán than American debates and struggles over equality, justice or the rights of people of colour.

Related: The conspiracy theorists who have taken over Poland | Christian Davies

Related: How liberalism became ‘the god that failed’ in eastern Europe

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