Viktor Orbán has delivered many distasteful and disgraceful speeches, but what he gave on October 23 as prime minister of Hungary, surrounded by members of the armed forces, was perhaps the most disgusting of all. He did that in front of “representatives of foreign countries, guests, and ambassadors.” I do hope that the government provided the opportunity for those who don’t understand the language to judge for themselves what kind of a man Viktor Orbán is. If not, here is a summary of the most upsetting parts of his speech.
Here I’m not going to recount all of the historical inaccuracies in the speech. Perhaps I will say a few words about them at a later time. Instead, I want to focus on the frightening message he sent to those who don’t support his government.
As far as the size of the crowd is concerned, people who have been following Fidesz mass rallies claim that this was perhaps the smallest crowd Fidesz activists managed to drum up. And one must take this phrase literally. Buses stood by in provincial towns while activists tried to entice people to board and go to Budapest to hear the great man. I hate to think how much this celebration of the greatness of Hungarians and the prime minister cost the taxpayers. Yet the crowd, despite claims to the contrary, was apparently not bigger than the rally of the democratic parties in Buda.
Both the military accoutrements and the choice of the location were deliberate. As for the trappings, although it is true that October 23 is a national holiday and a military parade is usually part of official programs, I don’t remember another occasion when a whole line of soldiers stood behind the prime minister while he delivered his speech. Given the content of the speech, one must postulate that giving a military flare to the occasion was deliberate. To demonstrate strength and make sure that everybody understands in whose hands lies the only power in the country.
So what was Viktor Orbán’s message on this October 23? The prime minister, who allegedly represents the whole nation, sent the message that those who don’t share his vision don’t belong to the Hungarian nation. He transitioned easily from 1956 to 2013.
We know that the Hungarian freedom fight had not only heroes but also traitors. We know that all our wars of independence were defeated from abroad. We know that there were always people who helped the foreign enemies. Those who helped the Muscovites, men in Russian-type quilted jackets, red barons–depending what was in fashion. We know that in 2006, after sixteen years of democracy, on this day they were hunting us with guns. They led a cavalry charge against us, they beat peaceful celebrants with the flat of their swords. We know that this could only have happened because they had the government power in their hands which they used against their own people. We know, there is no question, that they would shoot at us today–hopefully only with rubber bullets–if they could…. The only reason they don’t is because at the last election the overwhelming majority of the people pushed them aside. We also know that the communists sold Hungary, the Hungarian people to speculators and the international financiers. We know that they were and always are ready to sell Hungary to the colonizers.”
Orbán continued his attack. They knew in 1989 that the people of the past were already organizing and getting ready to salvage their power. Just as they did in 1956 when it almost looked as if at last we were free. They were already organizing the recall of the Soviets and the retributions that followed. In brief, people of the democratic opposition and the newly formed MSZP that four years later, in 1994, received an overwhelming majority of the votes were no better than Ferenc Münnich, János Kádár, István Kossa, Antal Apró who on November 4, 1956 announced the formation of a new government under the protective umbrella of the Soviet troops.
But in the case that wasn’t enough, he added that they changed their quilted jackets to suits, and tovarish to Tavares. The quilted jacket (pufajka) was part of the Soviet military uniform and was used by the newly formed paramilitary force that was set up by Ferenc Münnich since neither the members of the military nor the police were considered reliable enough to be entrusted with keeping public order. Tovarish in English means “comrade” and the similarity of the word to the family name of Rui Tavares, the Portuguese member of the European Parliament who is critical of the Orbán government, gives the Hungarian right an excellent opportunity to equate the European Union with the Soviet Union as the enemy of the country.
I could quote more of Orbán’s accusations against the European Union and the Hungarian opposition, but it would be repetitious. Instead, let us see what Viktor Orbán has in mind for the future. Especially for the next few months leading up to the election that almost certainly will be held in April. I can assure you: nothing good.
We are not ostriches. We will not bury our heads in the sand. We see that they are organizing again, they are set against us, they again ally themselves with foreigners. We can see that they again sow the seeds of hate, discord, and violence. Anyone who followed the events in Baja knows how ludicrous these claims are. It was the local Fidesz politicians who cheated twice and who before the repeated by-election frightened the locals by driving through the district day and night and taking videos of everyone who exchanged a word with the candidate of the democratic opposition.
As opposed to the hate mongering democrats are the peace-loving Fidesz forces. There are no coincidences. The Peace March was called by that name not by accident. Because we, all of us, want a gentle, serene, peaceful life. However, peacefulness is not the same as simple-mindedness and being half-witted. It is not the same as inactivity. Because there is no peace without truth. Never was. And for the truth one must do something. That’s why the Peace March did the right thing when it repelled the colonization attempt. Thanks for it!
So, what do they have in mind? First, we will not watch idly and will uncover all their lies, all their falsifications, and the hundreds of their new tricks. It will be a hard fight but in this land freedom has a high price. Here Orbán interjects and warns his followers that they cannot rely solely on their government. They shouldn’t believe that the government alone will be able to defend the accomplishments hitherto achieved. Instead everybody in his place and in his field must complete the necessary work. Start organizing, come forward, join forces with us! There is no reason to be in a panic, but slowly we will have to start our machinery, must set up our troops in battle array just, as we did in 2010. Get prepared! Now we will finish what we started in 1956. We need everyone. The teacher, the physician, the shopkeeper, the worker, the truck driver, the university professor, the butcher and the owner of the flower shop, the young and the old. We need everybody. The most important thing is that we should get started. So you would know, as we knew in 56, that there is no middle road. Either we free ourselves or we will not be free.
Let me share a couple of reactions to this speech, starting with an older woman who this afternoon phoned into Klubrádió’s talk show with György Bolgár. She was extremely upset. What caused her anger were Orbán’s references to the people like herself who don’t stand in the admiring crowd. But she watched Orbán’s performance on television and was horrified. She saw small children sitting on the shoulders of their fathers who heard the prime minister say that there are people in this country who would shoot at those present on that square. What will happen if these children the next day in kindergarten or in elementary school ask her grandchild whether his grandmother is planning to shoot him or his parents because she attended the opposition parties’ rally? This is criminal, what this man does not only to the adults but also to children. He sows the seeds of hatred against those who are not his followers.
The other reaction came from Gordon Bajnai, who objected to the fact that Orbán under the guise of an official state occasion with all the trappings of his office and financed by public money basically delivered a party and campaign speech. Bajnai continued: The followers of the government party are not the same as the nation. Orbánország is not the same as Magyarország. Fidesz, for the time being, is not the only party as in socialist times. You may well be the perpetual chairman of Fidesz, but even the perpetual chairman of Fidesz cannot be the perpetual prime minister of Hungary…. Many people felt aversion, some fear when you in front of a row of soldiers delivered your speech. Don’t try to recall the heritage of inauspicious times and don’t try to explain it away by recalling the customs of other nations. In Hungary and on the day celebrating 1956 this was more than tasteless!…
But the greatest indignation was caused by the content of your speech. You excluded people from the nation who are increasingly dissatisfied with your politics…. You have no right and no basis to brand any of your political opponents as the descendants of murderers. And it is truly shameful to claim that any democratic political group would shoot into the crowd…. This speech that incites hatred is unacceptable, especially from the prime minister who is supposed to represent the nation. This is perhaps the greatest scandal of free Hungary. Shame on you and if you still have just a little left of your former democratic self, ask forgiveness from those voters not present at the rally and who are as full-fledged members of the Hungarian nation as your followers.