Young Jobbik and Fidesz sympathizers have a great deal in common

An article appeared in Friday’s Népszabadság that summarized the findings of a sociological study about youthful adherents (ages 15-29) to the ideology of the far-right Jobbik party. Unfortunately, it turned out that the report is two years old, and since then Jobbik has become a much more powerful political movement. The study by Anikó Félix and Anikó Gregor, for example, still talks about Jobbik’s strength being in the least developed eastern regions, although by now we know that Jobbik did equally well at the last election in Transdanubia. There are, however, a few points that are worth contemplating.

In a 2012 survey Jobbik enjoyed 10% support among young people between the ages of 15 and 29. Fidesz led with 14% while MSZP brought up the rear with 6%. The rest didn’t answer. Late 2013 polls put Jobbik support at 14% in the 18-29 age group, significantly smaller than some people imagine. Fidesz and even the left liberals did considerably better than Jobbik in these surveys.

Worrisome signs emerge, however, when we look into some of the details of the Félix-Gregor study. The young men and women who support Jobbik “under certain circumstances” accept the idea of establishing a dictatorship; they consider membership in the European Union outright harmful to the country; and they are leery of government in general. And now comes the most remarkable feature of the study: the authors found that “there is no significant difference in the estimation of dictatorship and their attraction to ‘esoteric beliefs’ between young Jobbik and Fidesz supporters.” There is also no difference between them when it comes to the question of nationalism.

Let’s first take a look at nationalism or chauvinism as it informs these young people’s worldview. The study tries to make a distinction between “proud positive nationalism” and “chauvinism or a belief in national superiority.” The distinction, in my opinion, is not so clear as our authors seem to think because among the many definitions of nationalism one can find several that essentially conflate the two. Here are a few: “excessive patriotism; chauvinism,” or  “exaggerated, passionate, or fanatical devotion to a national community.” In any case, these young people seem to endorse the chauvinistic version of nationalism. A rather bad piece of news.

Definitions of chauvinism often contain references to militarism. For example, “militant devotion to and glorification of one’s country” or “zealous and aggressive patriotism or blind enthusiasm for military glory.” So, it’s no wonder that one of Jobbik’s early decisions was to set up the Magyar Gárda, a paramilitary organization. Weekend gatherings and the comradeship experienced there greatly add to the cohesion of the group. They create a community to which young people in particular feel comfortable belonging.

Boys in Magyar Gárda uniform

Boys in Magyar Gárda uniform

And now we can turn to the subject of esotericism. These gatherings also include “lectures,” mostly on what the authors call “esoteric topics.” As these youngsters usually discard anything that is official or mainstream, they often reject whatever was taught to them in school. If their textbooks said that Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language, they will instead be attracted to any zany pseudo-linguistics that glorifies the Hungarian language. It wasn’t the speech of some humble hunters and fishermen from the Russian steppe but the language of the Sumerians. This is just one example, but right-wing groups closely associated with Jobbik hold weekend schools where bogus scholars pour utter nonsense into young heads. These esoteric beliefs are also a common bond that hold the groups together. Their beliefs distinguish them from the rest of society. They think that secrets have been revealed to them that are unknown to others.

The important message that we get from the study that questioned 8,000 young men and women is that chauvinism and a belief in esotericism have a strong hold on both Jobbik and Fidesz sympathizers. And Viktor Orbán must know this because he loves to catalogue the unique virtues of Hungarians: they are clever, inventive, chivalrous, and hardworking.

If I had to pick the most important political weapon in Viktor Orbán’s arsenal, I would say that it is nationalism/chauvinism. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who said it, but it was some well-known Hungarian personage who claimed that “a person can cut firewood on a Hungarian’s back as long as he invokes nationalism.” Alas, it seems to work. What Viktor Orbán has done in the last four years to the majority of his own people would have caused riots in many other countries. Or at least serious opposition. But not in Hungary.

So what can the left-liberal opposition do under these circumstances? Resort to nationalism as a political gimmick? Surely, they could never outdo Jobbik and Fidesz. Moreover, no responsible politician should preach unbridled nationalistic, chauvinistic propaganda in the 21st century. The only solution to me seems to involve changing young people’s attitudes. Admittedly, this is a very difficult proposition when Viktor Orbán has tightened his hold on Hungarian education, but a way must be found because otherwise Jobbik-Fidesz will be in the saddle for decades to come. Since the European Union seems to be a willing partner of Viktor Orbán and keeps supplying him with the money that keeps him power, we can’t expect a collapse of the regime any time soon. The Hungarians themselves have to vote the regime out. But first they must reject the chauvinistic opiate Orbán and Jobbik are feeding them.

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31 comments

  1. I agree that esoteric beliefs are a major problem in Hungary. There is a movement that opposes vaccination and apparently, it is common for people to go to certain Doctors who give out fraudulent paperwork that certifies a vaccination has been given when it has not. It is scarey. What I strongly disagree with is the breezy assertion that this is somehow the domain of the Right. It is rife across the political spectrum. I know liberals who believe that homeopathy can cure autism (!!), the a man could sprout leaves and the Egyptian hieroglyphs are actually coded Hungarian. It is a huge national problem, the result of a failure in science teaching but also of society to adopt a scientific view (and Hungary is certainly not alone in this). This are problems that need twenty years to solve so I’m not optimistic.

  2. Where the fathers lied, sons can not be too different.
    The West must intervene, and forge a freedom loving progress oriented generation from the intelligent graduates of socialism allied with the remaining decent independent constructive conservative, patriotic elements of Hungary.

  3. The left just cannot win against Fidesz and Jobbik. Case closed. People should realize that. This is not the West, the “pendulum will never swing back”.

    Of course nobody will intervene, and nobody will change these kids.

    The only way the situation may change is if the economy improved, but which would then be attributed to Fidesz.

    But until the economy is sluggish at best, kids (just like their parents) will need an ideology that provides them with an escape from reality.

    The left-wing ideology, however, is always based on rationality and in time of failures people do not want to be rational and face their own inadequacy. They are anyway not that rational, but certainly not when there is a general feeling of decline.

    Therefore the left just cannot provide a successful ideology even if it had anything to say.

    (Of course the Hungarian left-wing is also divided, hopelessly indecisive, without vision, lacking perceived leadership etc.).

    So get used to the fact that we will still discuss Orban’s corruption and idiotism 15 year from now. When he is gone (which will only be when he won’t be able to talk any more, like Janos Kadar is his last speech), there will be a short opening — mainly for Jobbik. And until Jobbik fails, nobody from the left can ever win any political position in Hungary (all based on first past the post).

    The success of Fidesz and Jobbik is a symptom. Until there is no change in the underlying trends the left cannot win. It’s like in Budapest trying to make the homeless disappear from the city, without trying to solve the underlying causes. It just won’t be successful. Of course, opposition parties cannot solve the underlying issues and they are limited by their rationalist ideology, but until they realize the real issues, they are surely doomed to fail.

  4. kocsi3 is comparable to petofi.

    the observations are very correct.

    the hungarians are either too passive, or too isolated to object their misery.

    let us pity hungary.

  5. “Never rid anyone of an illusion, unless you can replace it in his mind with another illusion” (by NNT). How true. There is a way to go for the Hungarian left wing, a long way to go.

  6. European green card for loans to Hungary program
    (officially named: “Residency Bond Program”: http://immigration-hungary.com/ )

    Each green card nets about 70,000 euros to selected off-shore companies (which would not be needed to carry out the program)

    So the 703 takers so far have yielded 49 million euros in profits to these companies selected by Rogan.

    http://www.napi.hu/magyar_gazdasag/elozonlik_a_gazdag_kinaiak_magyarorszagot.581288.html

    http://index.hu/gazdasag/2013/09/03/letelepedesi_allamkotveny/

  7. Molnar (MSZP), the head of the Parliement’s national security committee announced that somebody blackmailed him with a recording which was allegedly taken when he and Csaba Horvath (another MSZPnik and MSZP’s long time candidate for the Budapest mayoral position) was on a holiday together. The question is of course: is there anything with which he can be blackmailed? I mean he is supposed to be the head of the national security committee. Anyway, while Bela Kovacs’s case will not affect Jobbik’s results, this idiocy played by assorted MSZPniks will of course result in a further decline of the left. The lefties, yet again, have zero campaign, now for the upcoming EU elections. It’s incredible to see how empty these parties are really. I think at Fidesz they are equally stunned to see this impotence and cluelessness, they just can’t believe their luck.

  8. Without going to these extremes, I am surprised to hear most Hungarians tell me with great pride how unique and difficult their language is, how many Hungarians became great inventors, etc. A little humility wouldn’t hurt… If Orbán manages to appeal to so many Hungarian people, this is certainly part of the reason.

  9. I don’t think that the expression ‘esoteric beliefs’ is a good label for the jumble of conspiracy theories, evolution denial, history denial, democracy denial, numerology, crystal and pyramid power, healing, and so on, including specific Hungarian varieties, that so many people prefer to rationality.

    These ideas are abundantly present all over the world, and they are rather harmless in countries where the politicians shy away from taking advantage of them. Such countries and such politicians exist.

    Hungarians may not be more gullible than other people, but their politicians are less restrained, if restrained at all.

    A learned essay on esotericism:

    http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/Hanegraaff.html

  10. 1st quarter results, 2014-03-31 vs 2013-12-31

    Growth of the gross central government debt: + 9.3% (28,048.4 billion HUF) according to the National Bank

    Growth of the gross central government debt: + 10.3% (24,255.9 billion HUF) according to the Treasury

  11. Theestampe: this is again a symptom of underlying problems. A reaction to the fact that the reality is exactly the opposite, no glory, full of failure, problems, decline, anxiety. People need myths, that’s all. In Hungary, the myths are about the inventors and Nobel-prize winners. At least everyday people can feel a bit proud, otherwise how could they? When they work for semi-illegally, for minimum wage at CBA (the Fidesz-loyal grocery chain)? Do they feel proud with what the left wing provides them? More rule of law, more EU, more homosexuals? (sarcasm). The right-wing have been superbly supplying those myths for a generation now, while the left-wing just cannot, they have no fantasy. As a result of this inability to supply narratives, stories through which history can be interpreted and understood, the left, for all practical purposes, will disappear on Sunday. So expect more such myths in the future.

  12. Kids in garda uniform…

    When was this photo taken? I thought these outfits were barred…no?
    Anyway, lovely stuff to fill kids’ heads with. No wonder Hungarians can’t tell right from wrong.

  13. If the ethnic Magyars in Ukraine receive Hungarian citizenship, Orbán will never be voted out.

  14. Eva writes the study: And now we can turn to the subject of esotericism. These gatherings also include “lectures,” mostly on what the authors call “esoteric topics.” As these youngsters usually discard anything that is official or mainstream, they often reject whatever was taught to them in school. If their textbooks said that Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language, they will instead be attracted to any zany pseudo-linguistics that glorifies the Hungarian language. It wasn’t the speech of some humble hunters and fishermen from the Russian steppe but the language of the Sumerians. This is just one example, but right-wing groups closely associated with Jobbik hold weekend schools where bogus scholars pour utter nonsense into young heads. These esoteric beliefs are also a common bond that hold the groups together. Their beliefs distinguish them from the rest of society. They think that secrets have been revealed to them that are unknown to others.

    Young Hungarians have been taught these things not just by Jobbik summer camps, but also at family dinners. There is very little in the passage above that wasn’t taught to me in Saturday Hungarian school here in Chicago in 1959 and 1960 at our church. The same types of things were taught in the Cleveland area because as children we went to Hungarian jamborees together in the Midwest USA and we shared these ideas. We were taught that some of those the Romans called barbarians were freedom fighters like 1956. We were taught that Hungarians are a unique people who have been hated for that by Slavic nations from time in memorial. The truth is that the Hungarian national myth Jobbik markets has been transmitted from generation to generation.

    While that reality is part of my life I declined to make it part of my own children’s lives and did not send them to Hungarian school which still does exist. My own children have of course visited Hungary and to be honest they consider it to be a very odd and alien place indeed. They do not identify themselves in any way as Hungarian Americans and sometimes that does make me sad.

  15. Istvan’s (6:45) reporting confirms that a web of fake glory is nurtured in Hungarian education and political indoctrination.
    A plain delusion characterized these church and school materials.
    Believing in Hungarian Exceptionalism is a tragedy, and a receipe for conflicts.

  16. OT, Here are some pictures of Debrecen. Especially for Paul.

    ww.boomsbeat.com/articles/4138/20140518/35-photos-of-debrecen-hungary-the-most-important-city-in-hungarian-protestantism.htm

  17. @thestampee

    “A little humility wouldn’t hurt…”

    Acutally, I’d say a little more self confidence is what we need. All this BS with Sumerian language relatives (which has been around way before Jobbik was even a naughty thought in Vona”s mind) and other self delusions is just a compensatory symptom of a very deeply ingrained inferiority complex. Many smaller countries struggle with this, it’s a feeling of being perceived less important by the world because of where you were born.

    Ironically, the inventors and scientists you mentioned is something we really could be proud of. As a mathematician in the US, when people say I’m Hungarian, they automatically assume I know everything in graph theory and functional analysis. If only… It’s a different unfortunate question of history that in the 20th century, these geniuses had to leave the country.

    The language is unique but I’d argue that it’s hard on an absolute scale. It’s hard for Westerners because it’s structure is alien to them and some of the sounds (have you tried teaching a native English speaker the sound ‘gy’?) they have barely ever heard, but once you get past that, it has no more inherent difficulty than most of the languages on Earth.

  18. @Istvan: This always stuns me so much. We do have lots of real cultural achievements that we could base a confident well founded non-chauvinistic national identity on. Yet most of us goes ahead and picks the most ludicrous crazy things to brag about.

    I think the left is also to blame to some extent, as they repeatedly refused to establish their relation to the questions of nation and country. If anything, their attitude was that we should be apologetic for being on the face of the planet. I don’t think I have to explain why wasn’t that very appealing. No country can really function without some sense of patriotism, there’s just nothing really to move forward for otherwise. It’s a different question if you decide to develop a healthy form of inclusive patriotism or you fall into the trap of chauvinistic nationalism. By refusing to even address the question, the historical left left this up to the right and the extreme right who mostly throughout the past century opted for the latter. This is indeed very sad.

  19. I agree with Jano. The reality is that Jobbik and Fidesz “stole away” all the national symbols, and now MSZP is worried to touch them even with a ten foot pole. It is not only the country but it is the symbols (materialistic or otherwise) the left should take back.

  20. Sorry Eva. Since I deal with wordpress a lot, it is evident to me that the name of the themes are at the bottom of each blog. The one you currently use called, Skeptical and it is written on the right bottom. T he one I suggested also lists it’s theme name at he bottom (in the middle). I shouldn’t expect everyone to know this. I appreciate the time you are spending with all this.
    You are also right about assuming that everyone has favourites, and you could not please everyone with each theme. Of course I am coming her for the content, I just tried to help to give a clearer option. whatever will be will be.
    Here is the link again to those who care at all. hahaha
    Ooops, I would like to note although, the Header would be 1/3 taller then the current area. http://anyhow.wordpress.com

  21. The picture reminds me of the Arab children wearing a suicide belt!

    Carl Flesch

    Realpstr. 61

    CH-4054 Basel

    Tel: +41(0)61 3017740

  22. @Éva: “I don’t think that citizenship in Ukraine will be enough.”

    Giving dual citizenship to Ukraine’s Hungarians would only add to the fiercely pro-Fidesz vote from those living outside of Hungary, who are not affected by Fidesz policies and don’t pay taxes in Hungary, either. Orbán is already virtually prime-minister-for-life. Adding more grateful voters would only further seal the deal.

  23. Just heard (more or less) today: a blogger in the Emirates got jail- and flogging sentence, a thousand strike and several years in the can for criticising the regime. On top of all this he’s been declared faithless by some imam, so he can be killed by anyone – or something along these lines.

    I wonder, how long it takes till the Hungarian government going to join up with similarly advanced solutions in order to “consolidate” the populace…

    You think, I’m exaggerating? Just wait and see, its only question of time before any criticism toward the government becomes a criminal offence.

    One “must”have respect in a certain position in Hungary, regardless worthiness nowadays, just read the billboards.

  24. By and large Fidelitas is comprised of the same type of apolitical, amoral, selfish opportunists who used to join the Young Communists pre 90. They have zero political convictions but they know that in today’s Hungary only those who worship the Orban Cult will be rewarded by the mafia regime and its local gangster bosses which control most Hungarian towns and villages.

    Jobbik are different in that there is a political philosophy of sorts there (albeit an obnoxious & abhorrent one). It will be really interesting in ten or so years time when today’s genuine genuine Nazis and the fascist-lite Fidesz opportunists are starting to compete for the levers of power.

  25. Let’s throw out some speculative ideas…

    The Russian KGB Pavlovians have discovered that right wing elements are superior to left-ideologues in furthering Russian expansion.

    Russian imperialism is not only necessitated by the wish to control surrounding countries and to extend Russian influence; but with a rapidly declining population, Russian needs to add new territories and its inhabitants. So, Russia can only maintain its strength, and to further it, by adding surrogate states like Hungary to its fold.

    If Russia doesn’t maintain population and strength, in time, Chinese liebenstraum will eventually gravitate to the void in the north, turn on them, and swallow them up.

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