Its being Monday, at first I thought that I would skip writing today, but then I saw a picture of the huge crowd that took part in Sunday’s March for Life (Az Élet Menete) commemorating the Holocaust. Even before I read the article describing the event my first thought was that it was really remarkable that this commemoration managed to attract several thousand people while all other demonstrations organized lately by left-liberals were very small. Only a few hundred people took the trouble to raise their voices against intolerance and the visible growth of the far right. And behold, here is this huge crowd. Maybe it means that in the future we will see more vigorous political participation on the part of the left.
The march was obviously more than a commemoration of the Holocaust. It was also a demonstration against the growing Hungarian Nazi movement. Because, let’s face it, it is a Nazi movement although in Hungary most people don’t dare to label it as such. When I wrote an article in Hungarian about the international reaction to Jobbik and mentioned that foreign commentators call them fascists, my editor wrote back expressing her hope that I could footnote that claim because otherwise Jobbik will sue the paper.
This is the eighteenth time that the march has taken place. In the first year only 400-500 people bothered to gather to commemorate the death of about 400,000 Hungarians in 1944-45. Last year there were more than 10,000 participants and this year their number might have been over 20,000. Among the marchers were several socialist and Fidesz politicians, including Péter Kiss, Ildikó Lendvai, Attila Mesterházy, Katalin Lévai, Ferenc Gyurcsány with his family, Antal Rogán (Fidesz mayor of the fifth district), Zoltán Balog (former chairman of the parliamentary committee on human rights), Gábor Kuncze (former chairman of SZDSZ), and Gábor Iványi, a well known Methodist minister. Apparently several members of the diplomatic corps also took part. I definitely saw the U.S. ambassador.
The march began in St. Stephen Park in District XIII and the crowd completely filled the New Pest section of the bank of the Danube.
Although there were several speeches the most interesting was the one given by Sándor Németh, head of the Hungarian chapter of the Assembly of God. This church is a very curious phenomenon. One would think that it would be politically conservative, but the Hungarian fundamentalists are a liberally minded lot and the church has long been associated with the liberal party. For instance, ATV, a liberal television station, is owned by the church.
Most commentators noted approvingly that Sándor Németh at last didn’t mince words and called Jobbik what it is, a neo-Nazi party. It is the shame of Hungary, he continued, that members of this party will be sitting in the Hungarian parliament. And, yes, the Jobbik parliamentary members will be sitting in the very same chamber where the laws against the Jews were enacted in the late thirties and early forties.
To finish this short piece on an upbeat note: I consider this very large demonstration a clear sign that the until now not very active left-liberal voters of Hungary will not be taking any anti-democratic shift in Hungarian politics lying down.
I am pretty sure that Faith Church (Sándor Németh’s church) is not the Hungarian chapter of the Assemblies of God, though it is fairly similar to a US Pentecostal Megachurch. Historically the church was an indigenous Hungarian foundation, not a branch of an American denomination.
Now that Orban is back in power it is only a matter of time before the state attempts to introduce restrictions on non-historic churches aimed at Faith Church.
When it comes to the political views of Faith Church, well both the US Republican Party and the US Democraic Party are varieties of what would be thought of as Liberalism in Europe.
The Hungarian style right, consisting of anti-capitalist ethnic nationalism which is suspicious of imagined worldwide Jewish conspiracies has few US parallels outside the pre-Oklahoma bombing militia movement.
The Hungarian “Socialist” left with its oligarchic nepotism probably is most similar to the US Tammany Hall.
In other words a person who could hold the same views in the US and Hungary and be regarded as left wing in Hungary and right wing in the US.
you are correct to point out that comparing political “wings” across vastly different countries is, in reality, a futile and useless process. current conditions in hungary are unique and have consistently defied attempts to “pigeonhole” certain parties on the political spectrum.
for example, jobbik are described as “far-right” by media outlets, yet much of their program (particularly economic policies) fall to the left of the “socialist” party, who have brutually privatised hungary wherever possible, and allowed a growing divide to form between the urban employed and the impoverished or working-poor lower classes (often rural). a contradiction in terms there perhaps – the privatising socialists.
gabor vona has rejected the left/right wing labelling altogether and suggests instead thinking of an internationalist/nationalist spectrum (obviously jobbik at the nationalist end, mszp at the internationlist end, and fidesz somewhere in between), based on parties’ loyalties to the hungarian national interest as opposed to the EU/multinational agenda.
to me, this analysis seems to fit the hungarian case better than the left/right labelling which is more appropriate to older, more stable democratic systems (US, UK, Germany etc), where parties have a more clearly defined position.
But what does Vona define as “national” and what is in his “national” interest? Is it ethnically defined Hungarianness – because that is totally irrelevant to the condition of Hungary’s poorest. Does he want a return to the “good old days”? When were they? To simplify hugely, Hungary’s always been a country largely comprised of poor peasants living in quite nasty conditions. Or does he want a return to the Kadarist system, when Hungary was dominated by the Soviet Union?
Actually, what in the hell does he want… other than power? Maybe you can help me out, Paul.
“On April 11, we must bang on the table,” Vona says. “And the world will tremble.”
whoever – this is another quote from one of Vona’s speeches. If he thinks the world will tremble if Jobbik come to power, he is clearly deluded and way out of touch with reality. The world will not tremble – it will simply ostracise Hungary and life will become really miserable for everyone. That this guy portrays himself as a patriot makes me feel sick. Potentially, his recklessness could destroy the country.
This is indeed good news. Perhaps it will also lead to some changes in the socialist party or the rebirth of a liberal movement in Hungary.
Matt: “This is indeed good news. Perhaps it will also lead to some changes in the socialist party or the rebirth of a liberal movement in Hungary.”
Yes, I’m hopeful. I know the Fidesz style. Very irritating and very soon there will be a reaction.
I would doubt that the March for Life is a sign of much “life” on the Hungarian left, after all it was attended by Antal Rogán, hardly a liberal/left icon.
The Hungarian left has basically committed political suicide due to its inability to keep its hand out of the cookie jar.
Vona’s version of the “national interest” is denouncing imaginary enemies based on increasingly paranoid Jewish conspiracy theories. After all the Jews want to take over Hungary because Simon Peres joked that Israelis were buying up the country.
David: “The Hungarian left has basically committed political suicide due to its inability to keep its hand out of the cookie jar.”
The other side is no better, believe me. Perhaps even worse judging from past performance. But the courts don’t do anything when it comes to corruption on the right and immediately act when someone reports something fishy on the left. Thus, my feeling is that we receive a very lopsided picture of political corruption in Hungary. And this will be the case as long as the courts and the prosecutor’s office is not really independent.
“well both the US Republican Party and the US Democraic Party are varieties of what would be thought of as Liberalism in Europe.”
“In other words a person who could hold the same views in the US and Hungary and be regarded as left wing in Hungary and right wing in the US.”
You are mistaking here. Both of these US parties stand to the right of the Hungarian centre. You cant compare a Hungarian post-communist party like MSZP to a US south born capitalist party like the Democrats. And the anti-abortion, ultra-conservative parts of the Republicans are way more conservative than any of the Hungarian Christian-democrat KDNP.
What you are missing is that the basic Hungarian thinking is still influenced by the socialist past, on every level. The view of the state and the government is very different.
Just look at the whole smear campaign against the healthcare reform of Obama. I find it funny for Americans to call their leader a “socialist”, as they don’t have a clue what socialism is, since they newer ever had lived in it.
I don’t think the MSZP (or any left/liberal party) in Hungary can get away with just voicing their liberal ideas. The whole left/liberal side in Hungary has so discredited itself, that people actually connect those ideas to the whole mess the government had done. It must first come a party who shows some good credibility in the parliament before they can present themselves as a genuine liberal party. Just look at the LMP. Its goal is to get into parliament and gather some credibility before presenting itself as a liberal party. But not before that.
I think the debate over Jobbik’s status is decided even to those who had previously doubted:
I presume since they actually got less votes as they hoped for, and they know very well, that the Fidesz government will get them to where they belong, now they are arriving to an all-or-nothing situation. Since the elections are almost over, and they can’t hope to improve on their results, they are loosing all their constraints. And as the link shows, their internet site now glorifies the nazi dictator openly.
I hope Fidesz gets the 2/3 of the parliament seats, so it is not eroded in fighting with MSZP from one side, and the Jobbik on the other. Neither of those are worthy of making any deals with.
steve, kuruc.info is not an official or affliated jobbik website in any way. krisztina morvai recently lambasted a distasteful article on that very site. im glad you agree with her.
kuruc.info is the mouthpiece of the truly extreme right in hungary. although they support jobbik (over fidesz, lmp or mszp), their views are far more radical thans jobbik’s own. stupid stories on kuruc.info say nothing about “jobbik’s status” at all.
“The other side is no better, believe me. Perhaps even worse judging from past performance. But the courts don’t do anything when it comes to corruption on the right and immediately act when someone reports something fishy on the left.”
The MSZP have been in power for the last 8 years. Even if you are correct and both sides are equally corrupt, the MSZP have had a lot more opportunities recently because they have had possession of the biggest cookie jar. I am not living in Hungary at the moment, but I lived there long enough to realise that corruption at all levels is a bigger part of life than it is in western Europe.
I studied in Ireland in the 1980s when there was a lot of corruption around the Fianna Fail party and Charles Haughey. Everyone knew that FF were corrupt to the core, but they expected more of Fine Gael, the main opposition party. One irony of this situation was that FF never lost votes due to any corruption scandal, no matter how bad (because people expected it) but FG always lost votes for its corruption scandals, no matter how minor, because they expected better.
“You are mistaking here. Both of these US parties stand to the right of the Hungarian centre. You cant compare a Hungarian post-communist party like MSZP to a US south born capitalist party like the Democrats. And the anti-abortion, ultra-conservative parts of the Republicans are way more conservative than any of the Hungarian Christian-democrat KDNP.”
In my opinion different countries regard different political issues as being important. It is a largely artificial exercise to try to force all of these varied opinions into a nice neat universal spectrum of “right wing” to “left wing”.
Look at some of the issues in Hungarian and US politics:
Support for the state of Israel: in the US this tends to be a right wing and Republican Party stance (albeit the Democrats are also largely supportive) in Hungary this is largely a left wing issue. The right in Hungary has a similar analysis of Israel to the far left in the US: the apartheid state, the coloniser of the Palestinians etc.
Anti-capitalism: this is a feature of the Hungarian right, it doesn’t even appear on the radar in US politics.
Gay marriage and abortion seem to be a pretty big issues in US politics, yet they barely feature in political debate in Hungary.
Healthcare: well in Hungary the MSZP, ie the Left, wished to privatise parts of healthcare, the right opposed this. I suppose in US terms this means that the Right are more Socialist than the Socialists.
In one sense Paul’s analysis of the Hungarian political spectrum from nationalist to internationalist is actually a bit more accurate than the standard Anglo-American idea of left-right, though I would be sceptical of claims that nationalism is “in the national interest” and I would say that the other end of the spectrum is non-nationalist, not internationalist.
“What you are missing is that the basic Hungarian thinking is still influenced by the socialist past, on every level. The view of the state and the government is very different.”
I agree with this entirely, but I think that the effects are much deeper than a different view of the state. Communism turned politics from a dull argument over the most sensible policies into a grand saga of good versus evil; the struggling proletariat fighting against evil capitalism and the corrupt kulaks. This was basically the political equivalent of a fairy story, with stock characters, easy solutions and convenient scapegoats. The primary hangover from communism is a susceptibility to similar political fairy stories and the extreme right are providing such a fairy story now.
This is why the post communist world is much more amenable to far right views than the west.
David: “Even if you are correct and both sides are equally corrupt, the MSZP have had a lot more opportunities recently because they have had possession of the biggest cookie jar.”
Corruption is most rampant on the local government level and there, in most cases, Fidesz is in charge.
Sándor Németh is a common criminal. Listen to any of his “sermons” and tell me how this guy managed to brainwash 60,000 Hungarians. He is seriously undereducated and unprepared for public speaking, so what’s his secret?
Why do his people get high on singing the praise of Israel?
I’ve met a few of his followers, but they seem to be too fanatic to see Nemeth for what he is.
There’s no need for any anti-fascist parades in Hungary. The real danger is not the few “nazis”, it’s religion, corruption and all political parties. The perpetual Jewish victimhood is getting old, no need to celebrate the Holocaust all the time. Find something reasonable to believe in, start rebuilding the country before its completely destroyed.
I am an editor for Christian.com which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I’m sure our Pentecostal audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.
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