Jobbik is not a neo-Nazi party. At least not according to a Hungarian judge

First, before I recount the encounter of László Karsai with Jobbik, I should perhaps refresh your memory of the man. He is best  known as a historian of the Hungarian Holocaust, but his field of competence is much broader. He even wrote a book about the nationality question in France and another on the Flemish and the Walloons in Belgium. He studied the question of the Hungarian Gypsies between 1919 and 1945. If  readers of Hungarian Spectrum know his name it may be because I wrote about a controversy that erupted as a result of his refusal to attend a conference in Norway on Raoul Wallenberg. Karsai was one of the invited guests, but he backed out after he learned that Géza Jeszenszky, Hungarian ambassador to Norway, was one of the sponsors. Géza Jeszenszky wrote a university textbook on national minorities in East-Central Europe, and his chapter on the Gypsies was full of inaccuracies and reeked of prejudice.

Karsai can be controversial. For example, at the moment he is working on a biography of Ferenc Szálasi, the founder of the extreme right-wing Arrow Cross party. He discovered a number of new documents that prove that the generally accepted scholarly opinion of Szálasi might not be accurate. Especially with respect to Szálasi’s views on the Hungarian Jewry. On the other hand, he is convinced that Miklós Horthy knew more about the death camps than he later claimed. So, he does what a good historian should do: he tries to seek the truth even if it might not please some people.

As I noted earlier (more or less in passing), László Karsai is once again in the limelight. This time Jobbik sued him because in December 2011 Karsai called it a neo-Nazi party. He made the statement in the course of an interview on ATV’s early morning program called “Start.”

Jobbik’s leadership took its sweet time before deciding to make a court case out of the “incident.” It took Jobbik half a year to discover that its good reputation had been damaged by Karsai, but then they demanded satisfaction. One reason for the delay may have been that Karsai uttered his half a sentence on Jobbik’s ideological makeup in the course of discussing the emerging Horthy cult. The discussion wasn’t so much about Jobbik as about Jobbik’s attitude toward the Horthy regime.

Jobbik sought a verdict that would find that the party’s reputation had been impinged upon by Karsai; moreover, they demanded an apology from the historian. Karsai’s lawyer, on the other hand, argued that the nature of a party’s ideology is not a question that can be decided by court proceedings. It belongs to the free flow of scholarly debate within the historical community.

Jobbik tuntetok

Jobbik categorically denies that it is a Nazi or neo-Nazi party although there is extensive proof that the leading members of the party made no effort to hide their racism and anti-Semitism. Some of the organizations Jobbik has strategic alliances with proudly call themselves national socialists. Kuruc.info, which may be Jobbik’s publication, often talks about Adolf Hitler in laudatory terms.

The real question, however, is not whether Jobbik is a neo-Nazi party but whether this historical question can be debated publicly and whether judges are the ones who should decide this issue.

The historical community itself is divided on the question. Rudolf Paksa, a historian who wrote a book on the history of the Hungarian extreme right, claims that “Jobbik is definitely not a neo-Nazi party in the scientific sense. It is anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic and chauvinistic, but all these together still do not make it a neo-Nazi party. After all, there are no indications that Jobbik wants to establish a totalitarian dictatorship, which is an absolutely essential characteristic of national socialism.” At the same time Paksa found it outrageous that Jobbik wanted to decide the issue in a court of law. Paksa testified back in January that he hoped the judge would respect the freedom of expression and opinion.

After hearing the arguments, the judge decided to postpone the decision. It wasn’t until March 22, 2013 that the verdict was handed down by Péter Attila Takács, the presiding judge. According to Takács, Karsai besmirched the good name and reputation of Jobbik by calling it a neo-Nazi party. Karsai will have to pay 66,000 forints in court costs and within fifteen days he will have to apologize in writing, an apology that Jobbik may make public.

Why did Takács rule this way? The rationale for the verdict is, to my mind, peculiar to say the least. The problem, Takács wrote, is that the characterization of the party by Karsai didn’t take place as part of a scholarly discussion about the ideological makeup of Jobbik but in the context of the developing rehabilitation of the Horthy regime. Therefore it cannot be considered part of a scientific exchange.

Since then the verdict has become available in Beszélő (March 26, 2013) and I read with some interest that the judge, among other things, forbids László Karsai “from further infringement of the law.” How can one interpret this? Does it mean that in the future he cannot call Jobbik a neo-Nazi party if the conversation is not about Jobbik itself? Or that in certain circumstances he can label it as such without breaking the law? It’s hard to tell.

The important thing is that the judge found Jobbik’s arguments well founded and cited two paragraphs of the 1989 Constitution that was in force at the time of the incident. Paragraph 59(1) stipulates that “in the Republic of Hungary everyone is entitled to the protection of his or her reputation and to privacy, including the privacy of the home, of personal effects, particulars, papers, records and data, and to the privacy of personal affairs and secrets.” In addition, the judge cited paragraph 61(1)  that states that “in the Republic of Hungary everyone has the right to the free declaration of his views and opinions, and has the right of access to information of public interest, and also the freedom to disseminate such information.” I find the second line of reasoning truly outrageous. Jobbik has the right to the free declaration of its views and opinions but not László Karsai. Absolutely brilliant.

Naturally, László Karsai is appealing the verdict. Reading it, I had the feeling that Judge Takács might not have been the most impartial judge. Here are a couple of telling details from the verdict. Jobbik’s history is described in the most benign terms as a youth movement whose goal was “to unite young people committed to the national ideal.” “Well known people supported them: Mária Wittner, Gergely P0ngrácz, Gy. László Tóth, István Lovas, Mátyás Usztics.”  The judge forgot to mention that these well known personalities all belong to the extreme right. Jobbik wanted to offer “an alternative for radical right-wing voters.” Jobbik’s parliamentary caucus is the second largest after Fidesz-KDNP, and they have representation in the European Parliament. So, there is nothing wrong with it, I guess. This decision is a boost to Jobbik and the extreme right.

I might also mention that unfortunately Hungarian courts do not subscribe to the tenets of case law. If the judge had followed precedent, Karsai should have been exonerated because in 2010 Gábor Vona sued László Bartus, editor-in-chief of the Amerikai-Magyar Népszava published in New York. Bartus called Jobbik “a rotten, fascist, Nazi” party. The court dropped the case against Bartus, claiming that the editor simply exercised his right to free expression. The vagaries of Hungarian jurisprudence. It will always remain a mystery to me.

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34 comments

  1. Dear Eva,

    These are only some photos of what I found in the “remainings” of the former Rákosi labour camp in Mihályhalma(Hortobágy). Now a hidden, in the middle of nowhere meetingplace of a “knitting-circle” and “book club”.

    Best and thank you for all your efforts! FransJ

  2. “The vagaries of Hungarian jurisprudence. It will always remain a mystery to me.”

    What jurisprudence? There is no precedent: hence past jurisprudence is considered useless and inapplicable.

    But in any case, it’s all politics anyway: judges must sing and dance for their supper. They are puppets. Karsai was made an example of. Forget about justice: it’s just politics.

  3. London via Győr Calling!

    Surely if Karsai prefaces, even now, his belief with ‘I believe…..…Jobbik is a neo-Nazi party” then he is untouchable legally?

    If I say “I believe Jobbik is a neo-Nazi party” (and I do – I signed the declaration that I think Mutt asked us to sign!) then am I breaking Hungarian law?

    The law is an ass!

    Regards

    Charlie

  4. So, If I say that Orban is stupid, am I breaking the law? If Orban decides to sue me, will the judge decide if Orban is truly stupid in a medical sense or that broad category can be held up?

  5. London via Győr (still!) Calling!

    Eva – I have just read Kim’s defence against the tirade of Fidesz and the Government’s PR offensive against her.

    A very interesting read which can be accessed via your sidebar.

    Published under Paul Krugman’s blog, it is a formidable piece.

    Anyone who mentions Janis Joplin is a Zeitgeist!

    “As Janis Joplin famously sang in the song “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    However it was written by Kris Kristofferson, Kim, to give the full attribution – he who wrote ‘Help Me Make it Through the Night”.

    I have only one thing to add!

    “Orban – get out of that!”

    Regards

    Charlie

  6. Karsai will lose in the end before the Kuria (Supreme Court). He can go to Strasbourg and get EUR 3000.

    But no judge will decide against such a popular party in ideological questions.

    Especially as it would be terrible for Fidesz (most judges have been Fidesz-leaning even before the takover of the judiciary by Orbán-cronies) if a court would declare Jobbik a neo-nazi as Fidesz and Jobbi work together already in numerous municipalities and will most likely after 2014 in government.

    Timing is everything and it is a bad timing for Karsai.

    So, Jobbik may be anti semite, racist but it will not be neo-nazi. Sorry guys, this is not the time for liberals.This is the time for right wing conservatives who are serious about Hungary and Hungarians.

  7. How can a judge refer a decision to the privacy provisions of the constitution when talking about a political party? This isn’t a private party…

    Megall az e’sz! How do you translate this into English?

  8. I think – ‘My brain stops’! as in – deeply shocking! – I can’t believe it – possibly!

    (How did I do?)

    Regards

    Charliekad

  9. gdfxx :

    How can a judge refer a decision to the privacy provisions of the constitution when talking about a political party? This isn’t a private party…

    Megall az e’sz! How do you translate this into English?

    I would translate it as “it boggles the mind.”

  10. “Karsai besmirched the good name and reputation of Jobbik by calling it a neo-Nazi party.”

    Did he glance up at that moment and notice playing cards painting white roses red, or babies turning into pigs…

  11. The Karsais are telling us that abut 1/3 of their students slipped into the Jobbik’s territory.

    Organization not ideology can be the cause.

    Jobbik is acting as a surrogate parenthood.

    The young and immature kids are attracted by this loving umbrella.

  12. That is how you build your media empire (see link).

    A state managed venture capital fund (from taxpayers money, but who cares?) invests in a Győr-based regional media portal.

    Fidesz knows that in a couple of years it will be more important than radio or newspaper: MSZP and Bajnai are so dead in the water.

    These guys are playing for the long term with a strategy and are executing ruthlessly. Meanwhile the left has no idea, they never given a thought about media. What is that? Poor us.

    http://vallalkozoi.negyed.hu/vnegyed/20130409-gyori-mediacegbe-fektet-az-allami-alap.html

  13. Prescott :
    Karsai will lose in the end before the Kuria (Supreme Court). He can go to Strasbourg and get EUR 3000.
    But no judge will decide against such a popular party in ideological questions.
    Especially as it would be terrible for Fidesz (most judges have been Fidesz-leaning even before the takover of the judiciary by Orbán-cronies) if a court would declare Jobbik a neo-nazi as Fidesz and Jobbi work together already in numerous municipalities and will most likely after 2014 in government.
    Timing is everything and it is a bad timing for Karsai.
    So, Jobbik may be anti semite, racist but it will not be neo-nazi. Sorry guys, this is not the time for liberals.This is the time for right wing conservatives who are serious about Hungary and Hungarians.

    I don’t think that it is fair to Conservatives to describe Fidesz or Jobbik as conservative parties, particularly the day after the passing away of one of the greats, Margaret Thatcher. I am a life long member of the British Conservative party. There is very little that Fidesz stands for that most Conservatives (at least in the Western European sense) would agree with. Fidesz and Jobbik are nationalist parties, plain and simple.

    I agree with your point about timing though.

  14. % %

    % :
    The Karsais are telling us that abut 1/3 of their students slipped into the Jobbik’s territory.
    Organization not ideology can be the cause.
    Jobbik is acting as a surrogate parenthood.
    The young and immature kids are attracted by this loving umbrella.

    Back in my university days, I studied the history of Medici-an Florence. The Medici had great PR down through the years–they supported artists; built Florence; were often elected to the papacy; and had members of the family marry into royal houses around Europe. Quite an organization, but papa Cosima realized back in the 14th century that one had to enter politics or be left out of the Florentine decision-making process and suffer financially. Well, thereafter, the Medici organized their backers into a party and Florence was in their iron-grip for over 200 years.

    Fidesz is on their way to accomplishing this for all of the country.

    Now, students are not dumb: they know which way the wind blows and if they have to join Fidesz or Jobbik (a barely disguised arm of Fidesz) to get ahead, by golly, they’ll do it. It’s not ideology–it’s Reality.

  15. tappanch :
    Prof Scheppele’s answer to Hungarian gov’t:
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/guest-post-hungary-the-public-relations-offensive/

    Failed Democracy

    If the cynical Fidesz spinnaker manages to steer the Hungarian electorate against the headwinds of democracy domestically, Hungary will become a pariah state internationally for years to come. A heavy blow for Hungary’s non-barbarian plurality, under the fist of the Fidesz/Jobbik supermajority’s unchecked power to re-write history, justice and reason.

  16. Think. Think. Think.
    The plan of O stinks.
    Rhodesia Mugabwe comes to my mind.
    A financial intervention to support the silent suffering majority could be a way to kill plan O.
    The team O must be put on an international financial boycott. No bank is allowed to release their deposited funds.

  17. Check this out. They are setting up, organizing and maintaining a powerful network of Fidesz-loyal activists. The power is with those united and operating under a clear command. Not with liberals acting alone and debeting things back and forth endlessly.

    While Fidesz does not waste a minute to set up and use these network and harness the enthusiasm and resources of its supporters the left is sleeping. They are hopeless. Hopeless.

    http://polgarportal.hu/civilosszefogas/cof/1599-egy-civil-honvedo-hadsereg-all-most-fel

  18. “A kiáltványt a marxista nézeteiről elhíresült dramaturg, Klaus Pierwass szövegezte, melyben a szélsőbaloldali és a balliberális nézetek egybefonódnak. Íme, újra összenőtt, ami összetartozik: az internacionalizmus és a globalista kozmopolitizmus.”

    Translate: it’s the Jews once again, who else, who are trying to overthrow the government. As a result, the right needs and army, no less, to defend Hungary. Nice.

  19. @Juj
    The slogan “szellemi honvédelem” (spiritual home country defense) was reinvented by Jobbik (I found it in a 2008 link, for instance). The Fidesz fake NGO “Civil Osszefogas” just co-opted the term.

  20. tappanch :
    @Juj
    The slogan “szellemi honvédelem” (spiritual home country defense) was reinvented by Jobbik (I found it in a 2008 link, for instance). The Fidesz fake NGO “Civil Osszefogas” just co-opted the term.

    I think it’s rather translates to “intellectual home defence”.

    They will not let you “insult Hungary, the Hungarian government and ignore our history and culture”.

    Great. If the hordes of turul troopers will flood the Net with comments that will be the coup de grace to the intellectual reputation of the country. God save us!

  21. Hungarian politics is not very sophisticated. They donot know what PR is, or how
    to use it. Still, I would venture to say that the USA Republican Party is far more
    to the right than Jobbik.

  22. Joe Simon :
    Hungarian politics is not very sophisticated. They donot know what PR is, or how
    to use it. Still, I would venture to say that the USA Republican Party is far more
    to the right than Jobbik.

    This is probably true. But let’s add quickly that Jobbik is far more Nazi than the GOP 🙂

  23. FIDESZ and Jobbik have charmed some decent and some indecent citizens.
    All Hungarians must show flexibility, and obtain information from studied, and honest people.
    Browse history, and find knowledge at Oszkar Jaszi, Ferenc Deak, Istvan Bibo, Endre Ady, Krisztian Ungvary, Janos Gyurgyak.
    Do not fall in traps like Albert Wass, Dezso Szabo, Istvan Csurka.
    My estimation is that 2/3 of the Hungarians do not know any history.

  24. “Goy motorists” announced that they are not the “National motorists”, and the latter organized the “Push more gas” march.

    My apologies for mixing up the two – but they are really similar in ideology.

    “Goy motorists” are close to Fidesz, while “National motorists” are close to Jobbik – that is the main difference.

  25. Joe Simon :
    Hungarian politics is not very sophisticated. They donot know what PR is, or how
    to use it. Still, I would venture to say that the USA Republican Party is far more
    to the right than Jobbik.

    Wrong venture…

  26. tappanch :
    “Goy motorists” are close to Fidesz, while “National motorists” are close to Jobbik – that is the main difference.

    In other words, not much more than nothing.

  27. Mutt :

    tappanch :
    @Juj
    The slogan “szellemi honvédelem” (spiritual home country defense) was reinvented by Jobbik (I found it in a 2008 link, for instance). The Fidesz fake NGO “Civil Osszefogas” just co-opted the term.

    I think it’s rather translates to “intellectual home defence”.
    They will not let you “insult Hungary, the Hungarian government and ignore our history and culture”.
    Great. If the hordes of turul troopers will flood the Net with comments that will be the coup de grace to the intellectual reputation of the country. God save us!

    What intellectual reputation? Do you know of one famous professor under 50 years of age with an international reputation?

    The profs are mostly quacks from Debrecen or some catholic university or other with nary a reputation outside of the country. I think the top Hungarian university ranks something like 550th. Nice. But what’s new? Most degrees have been paid for. How many of those ‘doctorates’ possessed by Fidesz politicians could stand up to any sort of vetting? Few, if any. I remember looking up Kovacs’ cv and noting time at British U’s but never a degree. Same for Orban. They went to ‘listen’…so that they could put on their cv’s that they ‘attended’ a Brit U. Laughable.
    They’re all poseurs.

  28. Petöfi: “Now, students are not dumb: they know which way the wind blows and if they have to join Fidesz or Jobbik (a barely disguised arm of Fidesz) to get ahead, by golly, they’ll do it. It’s not ideology–it’s Reality.”

    I should start to collect these sentences. Just to be prepared for the moment when people start to wonder why Hungary – with people who want just something as natural as a decent life and who have always behaved “decently” – is in such miserable condition.

  29. §§§ :
    FIDESZ and Jobbik have charmed some decent and some indecent citizens.
    All Hungarians must show flexibility, and obtain information from studied, and honest people.
    Browse history, and find knowledge at Oszkar Jaszi, Ferenc Deak, Istvan Bibo, Endre Ady, Krisztian Ungvary, Janos Gyurgyak.
    Do not fall in traps like Albert Wass, Dezso Szabo, Istvan Csurka.

    Full agreement with the second part of your message, but “charmed” is very difficult to believe. “Fooled” sounds better for me. Some people in Germany speak about “temptation” when it comes to what led people to support Hitler, I am not sure whether this is even understood in other countries.

  30. Joe Simon :
    Hungarian politics is not very sophisticated. They donot know what PR is, or how
    to use it.

    With all due respect, I disagree.
    What Fidesz doing is the textbook example of a political PR campaign – à la Goebbels, mind you, but still.
    Not to mention, it’s working just beautifully, on the Hungarian population definitely!
    Otherwise give me one good reason, why the measurable majority of the people still supporting the Orbán-autocracy, after all these years?

    By the way, there is a significant difference between the Republicans and the Jobbik – as I see it. The biggest is, that in the case of the latter the direction isn’t the question anymore, being right- or extreme right, or whatever in between has no real meaning to me – they are simply a bunch of retarded and ideologically properly confused wannabe nazis, nothing else.

    It doesn’t make them less dangerous, though, on the contrary.

  31. It is very sad that so many jewish folks are still misguided and small minded. Some members may have their backwards beliefs against jews, but the same can be said about LAPD, NYPD, LA Sheriffs etc. Just because some individuals in a group have their beliefs, does NOT mean that the whole group feels the same way. Nazi’s don’t like black people, but the Jobbik loves US President Obama. Nazi’s don’t like jews, but many, including myself have family living in Israel. The Jobbik just wants the Hungarian countries government to be Hungarian, not any other nationality. Hungary is not a melting pot like the US, so just because the people want their own people representing them in government not a good enough reason for others to be threatened and offended. If your not Hungarian, mind your own business and go govern your own country and your own people.

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