The reactions to what happened today in front of the Hungarian parliament building naturally vary. There are those who consider the size of the crowd small while others are pleased that not only the square itself but the streets leading to it were full of people. I was, for example, gratified that the crowd came from all over the country. I was also very happy about the number of young people in the crowd. No longer can one see only geriatrics at such demonstrations. The enthusiasm was also a welcome change. One had the feeling that these people really mean that they are ready fight against this neo-Nazi blight in today’s Hungary.
As for the speeches, the reactions depend on one’s political views. Those people who have an aversion toward MSZP found Attila Mesterházy’s too belligerent or too political. Mind you, Fidesz commentators’ reactions after the demonstration were very similar to some of the commentators on this blog: they liked Gordon Bajnai’s speech. Those who have perhaps stronger views against the current Hungarian government found the former prime minister’s speech far too tepid. As a friend of mine said, “even Rogán’s speech was stronger.”
There were a lot of people in Hungary I know who refused to attend the demonstration because of Rogán’s presence. Their fear was–and in my opinion it was not unfounded–that Fidesz by joining the demonstration will “get out of a sticky situation.” After all, Viktor Orbán said nothing of the incident in his usual Friday morning radio interview and the initial government response was pro forma. The usual “terse” communiqué appeared that announced that the government defends all citizens of the country. The Fidesz leadership might think that a speech by Antal Rogán, who after all is the head of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, will solve all their problems. It will be a face saving move. Perhaps people will forget how Jobbik came into being and how Fidesz in the last two and a half years has been “stealing” Jobbik’s nationalistic ideas in order to get the votes of the Jobbik followers.
But, in my opinion, that fear was averted. Rogán’s speech concentrated on his personal experiences and his own beliefs. He didn’t try to speak in the name of his party. Only the last sentence was jarring as he repeated the government propaganda about defending all citizens from any attack.
The hero of the day, in my eyes, was Attila Mesterházy, who made it clear that Fidesz has to assume its share of responsibility. He reminded Fidesz-KDNP that without them nothing will change. They are the ones who have that magic two-thirds. It is time to join the opposition and do something about the shift to the extreme right with Fidesz assistance. It was especially good that he called on Viktor Orbán to distance himself from Jobbik, which he has always steadfastly refused to do.
Here is the complete text of Attila Mesterházy’s speech. The translation is my own.
My dear friends and compatriots,
When this morning we lit the first candle on the Advent wreath we talked with the children about the fact that this demonstration wasn’t organized for just any day. For Christians this day means a lot. And it is important for me too that my seven- and eight-year old children should learn why we are here today. I’m not in the habit of taking my children to political demonstrations, but the situation today is different. Because this is not a political gathering. To be here is not a political statement but a moral obligation.
I’m teaching my children that it is their moral obligation to stand up for those who are stigmatized, threatened, attacked.
As a father and as a politician I feel the same kind of obligation: to do everything in my power to make my country and the lives of my children better. It will be decided here and now what kind of country my children will live in. In a country where anyone can threaten others or in a country where no one has reason to be afraid.
The country has drifted toward fascism
A few months ago I told an Italian newspaper that one can sense a drift toward fascism in Hungary. There are signs in the parliament that indicate that the country is moving toward fascism. After the interview became public knowledge in Hungary a member of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus called me a traitor to my country.
Because I told the truth. I say the same at home as abroad. I say the same on this podium as in the parliament building behind me. This week unfortunately it became clear who told the truth.
Because let’s not mince the words, let’s not be delicate: what the Jobbik member of parliament said in parliament was fascist speech pure and simple.
The last time such words were uttered inside the walls of the Hungarian parliament was during the Shoah. It was then that members of parliament talked about Jews who threaten national security. It was the last time that lists were compiled of Hungarian Jews.
At that time there were not enough people to nip the hatred in the bud and stop those who spread it. But now we are here! And there are many of us. Here and now we send the message to the fascists that it was enough! It was enough!
Fascism is a virus and we are its antidote
Last Monday was one of the most shameful and darkest days of the Hungarian parliament. But let’s not forget that all this didn’t start on Monday. It didn’t even start in parliament. And it will not be solved and ended by itself.
Because fascism is a virus. And the host is Jobbik.Every one of those guardists marching in uniform is a carrier of this virus. As are those who yell anti-Semitic slogans from the bleachers at football games. The ones who flourish red-and-white striped flags at party demonstrations. Also those who extoll writers and politicians who used to cheer for the fascist Arrow Cross Party.Even the one who at social gatherings makes offensive remarks about someone because of his origin.
This is a virus and we are its antidote. We, all of us here. We can stop the spread of this virus.We must fight against it because this is the real danger for national security, for Hungary, for democracy! Today it is the Jews, tomorrow you, then we, all of us. Therefore it is our duty to put a stop to this.
Today is not the end of something but the beginning of something new: the beginning of the common war against the fascists. From this moment on nothing can proceed as before. From now on nothing can proceed as in the past. Today, we need action!
I declare today that I will support the suggestion of DK to quarantine Jobbik in Parliament.
I call on the government to use its two-thirds against the fascists at last. This is what I’m asking from the leader of the Fidesz caucus.
Because let us not forget that hateful thoughts and words are always followed by vile deeds. The thoughts have already spread. We will not wait for the deeds. Therefore we ourselves need more than words. Deeds are necessary!
Deeds we take upon ourselves and expect from others
It is important and wonderful that the head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation came among us. I thank him in the name of all those present.But Mr. Rogán, your responsibility is more than delivering a single speech. Why? Because behind you are two-thirds of the parliamentary members. That super majority goes hand in hand with responsibility.
1. I declare right now that we, socialists, support quarantining Jobbik by all possible means.But without the assistance of Fidesz-KDNP there is no chance of that. Until now you have been able to do absolutely everything you wanted to with the two-thirds majority. Here is the time to use it against the fascists.
2. MSZP has decided not to take part in discussions of the Foreign Affairs Committee as long as Márton Gyöngyösi participates as deputy-chairman of the body.
3. I demand from the government that the place on which we are standing not be converted into a memorial to Horthy. It should remain Kossuth Square, the square of Attila József and Mihály Károlyi. Moreover, if necessary, bring more statues of humanists and democrats here. But not those of József Nyirő and Ottokár Prohászka.
4. I demand that tomorrow’s parliamentary session start with a speech by the prime minister at 1:00 p.m. So that at last just once in his own voice he would explicitly and clearly distance himself from Jobbik and condemn them!
For us, sober democrats on the right and the left, there can be no question that if the Nazis are on one side, our place is on the other side. Our morals dictate thus.
We, freedom loving Hungarians on the right and on the left, will show that we are not a half-Asiatic nation but wholly European. Proud Hungarians, democrats who don’t tolerate anyone terrorizing us!
Therefore everybody must spread the message of today. Everybody must take his or her own part in this fight.Because we can stop the spread of fascism only if we don’t allow our country to be infested any longer. Here and now let’s make a promise to each other and to the country: We won’t allow it! We won’t allow it!