Before I tackle today’s topic I would like to call everybody’s attention to Professor Kim Scheppele’s article on the Hungarian government’s attempt to silence the Hungarian Constitutional Court, which lately has found several pieces of legislation unconstitutional. The title of her piece is “Constitutional Revenge”; it appeared on Paul Krugman’s blog in The New York Times. You can read it at
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I’m afraid I have to write again about the infamous Zsolt Bayer, a scribbler of extremist views. There are tabloid journalists like Bayer everywhere, but Zsolt Bayer is not a run-of-the-mill hack. He holds the #5 membership card of Fidesz. (László Kövér, president of the Hungarian parliament, holds the #1 card.) So, he was one of the original members of the tightly-knit group that eventually transformed their student association into a large and powerful party.
On February 27 Tamás Fellegi, former minister of economic development and minister without portfolio in charge of the nonexistent IMF negotiations, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs (Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations) about “Anti-Semitism: A Growing Threat to All Faiths.” The complete text of his testimony can be read on this blog. Here I would like to quote only a couple of sentences from Fellegi’s testimony:
One should not really argue that certain writings by journalists associated with the center‐right, such as the infamous commentaries of Zsolt Bayer, cannot be deemed as racist. It is also a fact that there are people associated with the center‐right political community who support the rehabilitation of the historic period of Admiral Horthy. I am personally against his rehabilitation, and that applies to a wide range of political and literary figures of that era.
Please pay attention to the careful wording. He admits that Zsolt Bayer is considered to be associated with Fidesz–in Fellegi’s word “the center-right”–and that he is a racist. Mind you, Fellegi’s sentence construction is rather complicated, most likely in order to muddy the waters. He also makes it clear that this opinion is his alone. He didn’t say what I think he should have said, that “my party considers Zsolt Bayer a racist and therefore the leadership decided to disassociate itself from him.”
On the very same day that Fellegi testified in Washington about the excellent record of the Orbán government in its resolute fight against antisemitism, Zsolt Bayer celebrated his 50th birthday with friends at the Barabás Villa in Budapest. László Kövér delivered a toast to Bayer, stating that they “had spent twenty-five years together, through thick and thin and in sadness and joy. Not once have we disowned each other, and we never will.” That is clear, isn’t it.
Zsolt Bayer, who played a key role in organizing the Peace Marches that Viktor Orbán found so critical to his political self-preservation, is an important man as far as the Orbán government is concerned. And if Bayer didn’t know that before Kövér’s endorsement, he certainly knows it now. And he became emboldened. Three days later came a new article in Magyar Hírlap where Bayer is a senior contributor.
As usual, translating Zsolt Bayer is hellishly difficult. The title of the article poses problems already. “Önsorsrontás” is close to untranslatable as one word. Basically it means that “we ourselves are responsible for our future demise.” The “we” here is “the white, Christian race.” Although Bayer never uses the words “Jew” or “Jewish,” he notes that those who have been doing everything in their power to ruin that white Christian race have been at it ever since 1919. I think the date is significant. After all, this marks the short rule of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, which is considered by the right a “Jewish affair.”
And there is another sinful group in every country–the generation of the 1968 “mummies” who complain about the “fascism that is living with us.” Their complaints about the far right and its dangers are merely a “self-justification” for their existence. These people (Jews, liberals?) organize themselves “in packs and attack their victims like loathsome drooling hyenas.” And here comes a typical Zsolt Bayer sentence: “For you only death is the proper punishment. Because you believe in death, in public executions while your victims are left alone, go bankrupt, their friends deny them, they lose their jobs, and come to a sorry end. This is your goal.” Therefore their sins are immeasurable and they will be punished. Because these mysterious people don’t realize “what monster [they] are trying to resuscitate. In fact, [they] woke him up already.”
All that sounds pretty threatening, but then comes the twist. “You don’t foresee yet that it will be only we who raise our voices in your defense. We, the marked victims. We are the only ones to whom you can turn for help. It will be only we who will hide you. Because we are good to the point of ruining ourselves. And take this all very seriously. You miserable ones.”
This is not Jobbik speaking but one of the founders of Fidesz who is assured that he will always be among the chosen. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter what Tamás Fellegi personally thinks of Zsolt Bayer or how much János Martonyi complains about “the anti-Hungarian hysterical propaganda that tries to make Fidesz an extension of the racist Jobbik.”
Only recently Ian Kelly, American ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, stated that the American government expected the Hungarian government to condemn Zsolt Bayer for his antisemitic and anti-Gypsy writings because of the documented connection between hate speech and crimes against humanity. The Hungarian government didn’t move a finger. Fellegi’s testimony therefore is worth absolutely nothing. Can you imagine what the members of this subcommittee would think if they could read the writings of the owner of the #5 membership card of Fidesz, the party of the “center-right” Fellegi is so proud of?