Black shirts and paramilitary formations

It is hard to decide whether one ought to take this latest piece of news terribly seriously: the Jobbik (Party for a Better Hungary) is organizing a Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard). Any man who considers himself Hungarian and who is over eighteen can be a full member; those younger than eighteen can also join but they will be called cadets. According to Gábor Vona, president of the Jobbik, members will have military training. This training can be obtained only on an individual basis in different clubs, but the upshot is that the members will be taught how to handle and, if necessary, use weapons. The first fifty-six members will be initiated into the Guard on August 25. If one can believe Vona, there is a similar paramilitary organization, called Nemzetőrség (National Guard), in Northern Hungary. Vona also claims that there are already two hundred applicants and that by the end of the year there will be at least one thousands guardists. All this may be just a lot of talk, but one thing is sure: the Hungarian socialists and liberals don’t consider it a joke. Especially since there is nothing in the current Hungarian legal system that could stop the establishment of this organization since they call themselves a "cultural organization and guardians of tradition."

The Jobbik is now a political party, but it started off as a right-wing youth organization at the University of Budapest (ELTE). Jobbik is not only an acronym for "Jobboldali Ifjúsági Közösség" (Community of Rightwing Youth) but also means "better" in Hungarian. More about the Jobbik here: The original leader of the movement was earlier a member of MIÉP, but the leaders of the Jobbik claim that they although they might be right wingers they are not antisemitic like the MIÉP. In this company Gábor Vona, the current leader, is kind of an odd ball since he began his career as a devoted follower of Viktor Orbán. For example, he was one of the founding members of the very "civic cell" that Orbán himself joined. According to newspaper reports, Vona kept in touch with Orbán through László Kövér who is, according to some, the real mover and shaker within the Fidesz.

In any case, by 2004 Vona was disillusioned and resigned from the Szövetség a Nemzetért (Association for the Nation) civic cell, claiming that the Jobbik’s bylaws forbid membership in another party and that the civic cells are really part of the Fidesz. The Jobbik became a party in 2003 and has been very active ever since. Their first move was to set up hundreds of huge wooden crosses all over Budapest for the Christmas season. (Oh, how jolly! A birth celebrated by the symbol of death!) This was supposed to be the answer to a menorah that was displayed somewhere in Budapest for the season.

It is becoming clear that the Jobbik is trying to take over the striped flag of the Árpád House as their own symbol; a few days ago they distributed about one hundred flags to different localities. In some communities these flags are flying next to the official Hungarian flag and the flag of the European Union. The red and white stripes of this flag will also appear as a heraldic insignia on the guardists’ black shirts. A picture can be seen here: On the four red stripes there are altogether nine lions who symbolize virtues of a guardist. The first three lions symbolize military virtues: bravery, strength, discipline. The next three so-called civil virtues: honesty, diligence, and pride. Then civil servant virtues: loyalty, accuracy, and finally the virtue of a leader: wisdom. The guardists will greet each other thus: "Adjon Isten! Szebb Jövőt! (God, give us a better future!)

When Vona was asked why "black shirts," the answer was very simple: they liked the color. No reference to Italian fascism here!