The significance of today’s demonstration in the Hungarian capital

This afternoon’s demonstration was impressive. At least in my opinion. Some people are disappointed that only 6,000 people showed up, but I don’t think that numbers are the most important consideration. Yesterday we didn’t even know who those handful of people were who occupied the courtyard of Fidesz’s party headquarters. A few hours later their numbers swelled to 1,000. Less than 24 hours later this unknown group managed to stage a demonstration in which thousands participated.

And this crowd, both yesterday and today, demanded “Constitution, Democracy and the Rule of Law.” These are exactly the kinds of values that European politicians cherish and that they demand from Viktor Orbán. The crowd was mixed: young, middle-aged, old, all mingled together, and there were a lot of sympathizers cheering them on. It is also significant that 110,000 people watched the live stream of the event.

Most likely Viktor Orbán thinks that because the numbers are still relatively small, eventually the whole movement will peter out. I predict that the trend will be just the reverse. Some of you already sensed a different mood on the streets today. In any case, it seems to me that Fidesz is preparing itself for the possibility, even if to some of them an unlikely possibility, of rising dissatisfaction. The party’s organizers and spin doctors are heading in the wrong direction, however, in devising ways to combat dissatisfaction.

Let’s start by recapping yesterday’s response to the demonstrators at the Fidesz headquarters. First, András Bencsik, one of the Peace March organizers, mobilized those Fidesz supporters who are hard-core “professional” demonstrators. Their primitive behavior, their obscenities, and their stupidity will turn more and more people against them. Videos abound on YouTube of these people’s unspeakable behavior. Moreover, they didn’t even realize that the students on the balcony were reading Fidesz’s party program from 1989.

Then came the second mistake. Gábor Kubatov, Fidesz party manager who in his spare time is the president of the board of the Ferencváros Football Club, called on some heavies from the ranks of the Fradi football hooligans who tried to remove the protesters by force. It turned out that one of the hooligans spent ten years in jail  for murder.

And what is Kubatov planning now? He is trying to mobilize the faithful by painting a picture of the imminent danger facing the government and the party. He sent a letter to party members in which he outlined the “damage” and “physical abuse” allegedly committed by the protesters. According to Kubatov, the demonstrators “attacked” the building, “tried to break into it,” but thanks to the the staff ‘s “firmness of purpose” they were thwarted in their attempt. “Meanwhile they broke into smithereens whatever was in their way” (törtek-zúztak) and “maltreated the employees of the party headquarters.” (Don’t try to find any logic here because if they didn’t manage to get into the building how could they have smashed things into smithereens or maltreated the employees who were inside?)

In the future, Kubatov maintains, the employees of the offices of Fidesz must be ready to defend, peacefully of course, their buildings. He called on Fidesz members who are ready to come to the rescue of Fidesz buildings to sign up at riadolanc@fidesz.hu. (“Riadó” means “alert” and “lánc” “chain”.) These people should be ready on an hour’s notice to be “on the scene of aggression.”

Some people on the Internet compare Fidesz’s hard core defenders to either the Sturmabteilung (Storm troopers/SA) or the Workers’ Militia of the Kádár regime. The blogger who compares Kubatov’s defense force to the SA quotes the appropriate passages from the Hungarian edition of Wikipedia, which describes the chief function of the SA  as defending the national socialist party’s meetings from attacks by the opposition.

Kubatov’s guards reminded Vastagbőr (Thick Skin) of Kádár’s Workers’ Militia whose duty was “the defense of the socialist achievements of the Hungarian People’s Republic.” Each workplace, including collective farms and offices, had a number of volunteers who were supposed to defend the buildings and the employees inside.

Now let’s see what the pro-Fidesz media is up to. Magyar Nemzet published a detailed article about today’s events. The author of the article called the organizers “members of the Bajnai Guard” but otherwise gave a fairly objective report on the demonstration. Heti Válasz claimed that “several  activists with a loudspeaker surrounded and insulted the camera man and Boglárka Bartus, a reporter for HírTV.” Maybe, maybe not.

And let’s see how Zsolt Bayer sees the situation. Fidesz supporters, however sadly, must realize that from here on there will be first weekly and later daily demonstrations. He calls the members of civic groups “the children of Saul Alinsky,” a well-known American community organizer and writer. What is so bad about following in the footsteps of Alinsky, who after all worked for the improvement of living conditions in poor communities across North America? Only Bayer knows. But he claims that he is “too lazy, too tired, and too skeptical to loathe” Alinsky’s offspring. Perhaps one could talk to them if there was anything to talk about. But there isn’t. “At least we should force ourselves to be patient because they will be coming and coming. First only a few dozen, but always. They will jump over the fence, climb into our headquarters, our houses, our dreams, our desires. We will smell their halitosis. And we will retreat and retreat because we can hardly bear it. And we would gladly trample down all of them. Let’s be honest with ourselves at least once. This is what we would like to do.” But they cannot do it because the other side is waiting for aggression on their part. Don’t fret. After the elections “they will disappear forever, but until then it will be very difficult.”

One final note on the road Fidesz traveled in the last twenty-five years. Once upon a time Viktor Orbán, László Kövér and their friends did exactly the same thing that today’s college students are doing. Protesting injustice, lack of democracy, lack of transparency, lack of dialogue between the rulers and the ruled. In the courtyard of Fidesz party headquarters the students found discarded campaign literature from 1989. They demanded democratic, ideology-free education and university autonomy. And, what I like perhaps best, they demanded “fear-free life.” With Viktor Orbán’s government fear returned.

I don’t think that László Kövér wants to remember his old self squatting on the ground with a poster hanging from his neck:

In a police state the policeman's salary is higher than that of a teacher. In a democratic country the opposite is true

In a police state the policeman’s salary is higher than that of a teacher. In a democratic country the opposite is true.

How would today’s Fidesz faithful greet the man above? Would they threaten to pour acid on his face? Most likely. What’s going on in Hungary today is really shameful.

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36 comments

  1. “Don’t fret. After the elections “they will disappear forever”

    Wishful thinking or threat? What are Fidesz planning for after April 2014?

  2. What they should do is make the 89 Fidesz demands the “12 points” for the united opposition.

    We may not agree with every one in detail and some are a little out of date, but overall they are still pretty sound. And even Orbán’s propaganda machine would have problems with this!
    _

    And, of course, they could add a few more:

    Removal of the Orbán government

    Restoration of the old constitution and annulment of all laws since April 2010

    Establishment of a representative committee to draw up a new constitution – to be voted on by referendum.

    Immediate elections once the new constitution is in place.

  3. Mutt–you are getting very clever. I saw that woman in another video and knew, without hearing, what she was doing. How sad that she cannot be polite enough to listen. And the men, they all remind me of my father saying “The nonsense of the young!” And he was born in 1903. They look frightened. It is difficult to engage anyone who is fearful.

  4. “What is so bad about following in the footsteps of Alinsky,[…]? Only Bayer knows.”

    Let me guess…
    Bayer, Orban’s close friend is single issue-minded…
    Hmmm.
    Weren’t Alinsky’s parents Russian Jews by any chance?

  5. @tappanch
    Yes, you are right. Alinsky is the new Cohn-Bendit approved by Magyar Hírlap.

  6. Nightmare scenario for 2014: Fidesz comes out with more votes than Bajnai, Gyurcsany, LMP I and LMP II, but not enough to have a simple (let alone 2/3) majority of Parliament. So they form a coalition government with Jobbik, with Elod Novak as Minster of Justice.

    Cute, isn ‘t it???

  7. Sackhoes: Thanks, but we don’t need nigtmare scenarios. Things will not and cannot change without huge conflicts. We know that. It will turn uglier before it gets any better.

    Gretchen is right, people are afraid, but not because of the young demonstrators, or anything specific, but of everything, generally. Called anxiety. Fidesz gives them a real community, if you are part of their community (meaning you are absolutely loyal) you are protected, fed, given jobs, status, given state business, they care for you, or at least have the image that they care for you and protect you (against ‘post-communists’ and suchlike).

    These people need it, because their life is hard (I suppose those in the Riado-lánc, or Alert-chain, will not be the same people who show up the annual Orbán speech from the rich Buda district XII. – they already have a role in the more peaceful GOTV organisation). Granted some join real and useful organsiations, not a party like Fidesz, but Fidesz is able to harness this very profound need for a community much better than the current left which – these days – values individual rights, the right to be left alone or opting out, much more.

    This is not new, Hitler, Stalin etc. used it, hell, all good politicians use it as well.

  8. tappanch :

    “What is so bad about following in the footsteps of Alinsky,[…]? Only Bayer knows.”

    Let me guess…
    Bayer, Orban’s close friend is single issue-minded…
    Hmmm.
    Weren’t Alinsky’s parents Russian Jews by any chance?

    You got it right!

  9. Bowen:

    Never forget the László Kövér has the informal control over the Hungarian intelligence services.

    That has been his personal preoccupation or rather mania (as he is real a maniac) since the very early 90’s.

    So he gets some petty tidbits of rumours and creates a story out of those.

    The only problem is that it is a non-issue politically. While in 1950, if you were a ‘spion’ (ie. you personally knew foriegners) that was a huge issue, we now live in a globalized world, so much so that 500k Hungarians live abroad, all with foreign friends.

    So, politically when all said and done, Bajnai will not be labeled as a spy, but simply someone with American connections.

    In Hungarian political discourse, reference to ‘American connections’ simply means extreme capitalist (lover of corporations and money, as opposed to the people), liberal and Jewish. And you don’t vote for such people, now do you?

    Kövér likes to be individualistic (likes to display and feel that he has – minimally – more freedom in Fidesz than most others), but he will be told to follow the media party line and simply refer only to Bajnai’s US connections (which is what already happens in the Fidesz media, repeated ad nauseam).

  10. Bowen :
    What’s also significant about yesterday’s demonstration is that it is being reported in the international media (whereas the Hungarian media seemed more pre-occupied with Laszlo Kover labelling Bajnai as a foreign spy).

    Where did Kover labelled Bajnai as foreign spy? I did not came across with that. I know he said that the “Bajnai kind of group receives money from the United States”, but I did see any reference for being a spy. If there is a link it would nice to see this, if you misunderstood something, it would be important to clarify, as I believe that is important that that any opposing voices remain truthful, so it cannot be accused wit the same as we accuse the Fidesz and its Troopers, constant lies.

  11. I honestly think that Fidesz’ 1989 demands should be on the cover page of every single liberal publications as well as on posters for this upcoming week. “We want now what Fidesz wanted in 1989” should be the headline and a photo of the original document.

  12. Crepuscular: “In Hungarian political discourse, reference to ‘American connections’ simply means extreme capitalist (lover of corporations and money, as opposed to the people), liberal and Jewish. And you don’t vote for such people, now do you? ”

    But this is a matter of the past five years, or not? It is quite difficult to imagine that this was widespread twenty years ago or even during the later Kadar years. It sounds as if it were taken from some Communist propaganda book. I believe that those who think or say so are currently too visible, not that they were overwhelming in number.

    To Sackhoes: As far as I understood, LMP II is already with Bajnai.

  13. http://www.kormany.hu/en English version:

    Hungary is committed to EU norms on the constitutional amendment

    March 9, 2013 12:47 PM

    Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has written to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission to assure him of Hungary’s commitment to European norms with regard to the amendments to the Fundamental Law.

    http://www.kormany.hu/hu/hirek Hungarian…no metioning of it at all.

    Am I making a mistake or….???????

  14. It is too ugly in Hungary. Stinking ugly.

    99% has lost honor and dignity.

    Even Freud would be overloaded by such a misery.

    The few honest ones must be found.

    I would not mind if the new savior would be a 14 year middle school student. Maybe a girl.

    The Joan D’Arc of HU.

  15. “Most likely Viktor Orbán thinks that because the numbers are still relatively small, eventually the whole movement will peter out. I predict that the trend will be just the reverse. Some of you already sensed a different mood on the streets today. In any case, it seems to me that Fidesz is preparing itself for the possibility, even if to some of them an unlikely possibility, of rising dissatisfaction. The party’s organizers and spin doctors are heading in the wrong direction, however, in devising ways to combat dissatisfaction.”

    Sorry, Eva, I do not share your optimism. You saw the popularity bump Fidesz experienced when they cut utility prices by 10%. They are going to repeat this several times before the election. They are going to continue to amend the constitution to their liking. They are going to appeal to Hungarians’ sense of xenophobia and their penchant for conspiracy theories. They are going to do play every single dirty trick in the book, perhaps even fudging the vote tallies on election day.

    On top of that, the opposition is already talking as if they have lost the 2014 election.

    Sure as the sun rises tomorrow, Fidesz wins in 2014. The best the opposition can hope for is to drive Fidesz and Jobbik together below 2/3 of seats in parliament.

  16. Bartus László wrote a frighteningly detailed description of FIDESZ connections to the Fradi Sector 2 hooligans squad – of which Kubatov was a longtime member – in today’s American Hungarian Nespszava. Fradi is famous for its Ultras, hooligans who are rewarded with good paying underworld jobs in money laundering, drug and gun running. Just last year there was a drug bust at a stadium bufe run by Sector 2 members. Bartus writes : „Ferencváros egy kicsit mindig tükörképe volt a magyar társadalomnak. Aki látta a Fradit, látta a magyar valóságot”. Ez most is így van. A Fradi ma nyilas és maffiaközpont, ahogy ez az országra is jellemző lett.” [“Ferencvaros was always a reflection of Hungarian society. Whoever understands Fradi understands Hungarian reality” And so it is today. Today Fradi is an Arrow Cross and mafia center, which is also what the nation has become.” http://nepszava.com/2013/03/velemeny/bartus-laszlo-szoke-feri.html

    And… the Fradi – Újpest match starts in an hour. It should be an interesting weekend. http://sportgeza.hu/futball/2013/03/10/rendorokre_tamadtak_ujpest-szurkolok/

  17. “They are going to do play every single dirty trick in the book, perhaps even fudging the vote tallies on election day”.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/
    Just in:
    “We trust that these contacts will ensure that our concerns are taken into account,” commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told The Associated Press, adding that the intention was to avoid facing “any vote that would result in incompatibility with EU law … and would make the time ahead more difficult.”
    Likely Fidesz will win the next elections..at the same time…the regime can not survive without EU money.

  18. OT: Meanwhile the Facebook page “Friends of Hungary” today announces solidarity demonstrations for Szekely Land Autonomy in Romania, Austria, Hungary (4 sites), Finland, England, the Netherlands, Germany (2 sites), Switzerland, Sweden, Canada (2 sites), and the USA (3 sites). Distraction.

  19. Paul Wal:

    Paul Wal :
    http://www.kormany.hu/en English version:
    Hungary is committed to EU norms on the constitutional amendment
    March 9, 2013 12:47 PM
    Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has written to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission to assure him of Hungary’s commitment to European norms with regard to the amendments to the Fundamental Law.
    http://www.kormany.hu/hu/hirek Hungarian…no metioning of it at all.
    Am I making a mistake or….???????

    Ha-ha.

    Yes, that is what a real European politician does, isn’t it?

    If there is a concern raised, well, Orbán will politely and dutifully reply.

    He will assure Barroso that the amendents will comply EU law — why, he is being told by his own legal advisors that the amendments comply. Why would anybody worry?

    After all, who is to say that such amendments don’t comply?

    And how can provisions – out of the 14-page-long amendments – be established as contrary to EU law?

    I hear, the EU is based on the rule of law, isn’t it?

    So, either there is a legal procedure at the end of which there is a court, which could establish the breach of EU law (ie. one provision at a time re the new 14 pages — and we don’t even deal with the current text of the constitution) or the EU may not even have a jursidiction to decide.

    So, let’s wait for those decisions, and until those decisions it would be a terrible prejudice contrary to the spirit of the EU to condemn and accuse the amendments or the intention of a member state government. Please don’t do it.

    well, again, the late prime minister Antall József is right: “you should have staged a revolution”. Or made the EU a stronger entity, and given more power to its institutions.

    Until such time, Orbán and his loyal circle of laywer friends will have a another fun weekend.

  20. “Germany has “much better” understanding of Hungarian priorities, says Kumin
    March 1st, 2013

    Hungary’s German partners now have a “much better” understanding of the Hungarian government’s measures taken since 2010, Ferenc Kumin, deputy state secretary in charge of international communications, told MTI after talks in Berlin on Friday”.

    They DO have a “much better” understanding of the Hungarian government…that is why:

    “In a statement reflecting deep-seated anxiety at the direction in which Orbán is taking Hungary, Germany and three other EU countries called for Brussels to be given new powers allowing it to freeze EU budget funds to a member state in breach of Europe’s “fundamental values”.

  21. I would like to bring it into everyone’s attention of one of the witness’s account about how the employees of the Fidesz headquarter treated the young protesters. THis account is 180 degrees from what Kover and Selmeczi claims. The original post is in the HVG comments. (I know there are some grammatical issues, bit I tried to stay close to the original.)

    “The employees of Fidesz are not reflective of the big boys fradists, they “were just doing their job” – in the way how they treated the protesters. About that they pulled one of the protesters hair, and about the one who’s arm was twisted for minutes. About that an employee’ kept flashing in the eyes of one of the protesters at close range. About that they were [protesters] who [Fidesz employees] kept hitting his head, because why he isn’t studying instead, or simply beat and kicked them, or asked how much Gordon Bajnai pays? – Then they tossed on a man sitting on the ground some small change. That there is a medical record about injuries sustained that would heal beyond eight days, but the list could go on ”

    “a Fidesz alkalmazottai –nem a nagy darab fradista verőlegények, ők csak “végezték a dolgukat” – miként bántak a tüntetőkkel. Arról, hogy a tüntetők közül volt, akinek a haját húzták, volt, akinek percekig csavarták ki a kezét. Arról, hogy az egyik alkalmazott percekig vakuzott az egyik tüntető szemébe közelről. Arról, hogy volt akinek a fejét ütötték, hogy miért nem tanul inkább, vagy csak szimplán ütötték és rúgták őket, vagy megkérdezték, mennyit fizet ezért Bajnai Gordon? – majd rádobtak egy aprópénzt a földön ülő emberre. Arról, hogy nyolc napon belül gyógyuló sérülésről látlelet is van, de a végtelenségig lehetne sorolni ”

    Simply, Selmeczi and Kover are both liars. (Well Selmeczi is also a thief, so what to expect.)
    Fidesz employees indeed physically and mentally abused the protesters, as well their civil paratroopers they called in to help them are convicted criminals. Fidesz makes these criminal elements descend on peaceful university students, so of course they do not need the police.

  22. Orban has pumped money into the various football “projects” not because he believes it will suddenly get all the fatties up and doing exercise but because it will help him build up a loyal paramilitary force of brainless thugs a la Arkan who can intimidate the soft left when they dare to raise their head.

  23. The many stupid Hungarians, who support this regime are shameless brain-dead people.
    Empowered they are, to hate the Hungarian freedom.

  24. oneill :
    Orban has pumped money into the various football “projects” not because he believes it will suddenly get all the fatties up and doing exercise but because it will help him build up a loyal paramilitary force of brainless thugs a la Arkan who can intimidate the soft left when they dare to raise their head.

    Good point. He has Fradi and some other clubs’ football hooligans backing him as he paid for them from taxpayers money.
    I also love how Fidesz said that Bajnai paid for the students to protest… I would like to bribg up the pad extras Orban hired regularly for his speeches like March 15.

  25. LakeviewSabi :So in two sentences or less… what was the demonstration for?

    To call attention, via a mediahack (the takover of the Fidesz HQ), to the oppressive authoritarian regime (almost a mafia state) that is now Orbán’s Hungary.

    Saturday’s demonstration was to show that there are at least some people who deeply care about the planned constitutional amendments (and the existing consitution) and they are absoluately against those.

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