To the Budapest Station

To the Finland Station is Edmund Wilson’s magnum opus about the long train of revolutionary thought and action stretching from Jules Michelet to Lenin, culminating in the October revolution in 1917 that gave birth to Soviet Russia. It has an especially vivid account of the journey of the sealed train that delivered Lenin—”like a plague bacillus,” as Churchill put it in The World Crisis—to Petrograd.

Yesterday I arrived for a month in Budapest, though without the trappings of Lenin’s triumphant arrival of 1917. While here I am booked to speak at five conferences, and to give four (and counting) standalone lectures. I really must speak to my agent about this kind of overscheduling. (Oh, wait: I guess that means I’ll have to fire myself.)

Hungary has become the front line in the resistance to the forces of global centralization, of the designs of the Davoisie (my shorthand for the World Economic Forum crowd). I’m used to the frenzy of conferences and public events in the think tank community in Washington DC, but the level of intellectual and political activity here more than matches the DC scene when adjusted for population and other differences.

Hungary, and its prime minister Viktor Orban, get a lot of bad press from the usual suspects, like the New York Times. I figure if the Times is after him, he must be doing something right. The late Norman Stone, long time professor of history at Oxford (and chief teacher of Andrew Roberts, among other things), notes in his very fine Hungary: A Short History one reason why the Davoisie hate Hungary:

But in the summer of 2015 came another headline moment [in modern Hungarian history], when hundreds of thousands of refugees or migrants from the Middle East trudged into Hungary, making for the Austrian border. They were doing this because the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had invited them. She did not ask the Hungarians’ opinion. Overwhelmed by (mostly) young men trudging through from Serbia, Viktor Orban famously put up a razor-wire fence to keep them out until they could be registered. Official Europe howled with rage, and the Austrian Chancellor, according to a Reuters report, likened Orban’s refugee policy to Nazi deportations—not an obvious comparison. Orban vigorously defended himself; later on, he said that many places in western Europe had become unrecognizable—he could have mentioned Brussels—and that in fifteen years’ time an adolescent born then would ask how this could have happened. No one had voted for it.

Would that our government took the hint for how to handle a “migrant crisis” instigated by President Biden’s invitation for “migrants” to come across our border.

There’s a lot more going on in central Europe today than just the controversy over migrants. Wilson’s To the Finland Station was partially a recording of Wilson’s own slow disillusionment with Marxist radicalism. On the last page he wrote:

The formulas of the various Marxist creeds, including the one that is common to them all, the dogma of the Dialectic, no more deserve the status of holy writ than the formulas of other creeds.

Today we should paraphrase this, and say that the dogmas of the administrative state, and its pretense of a right to rule because of scientific expertise, also do not deserve the status of holy writ. The fight against European decline is identical to our fight against the same forces in the United States.

Yes, I’ll be filing regular dispatches, most of them, I hope, from Cafe Scruton. And likely several podcasts—perhaps from one of the city’s terrific whisky bars. Stay tuned.

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