I cannot give a full description of the results of a sociological study about Hungarian radicalism in speech and action conducted by researchers of the Institute of Sociology because the results have not yet been published. I am reporting on the basis of an interview I heard with Pál Tamás, the head of the team, on Klubrádió.
The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 1,500 people, and the results are somewhat surprising. First, the researchers concluded that the Hungarian people loath the idea of any visible protest, demonstration, any kind of force, chaos in general. They even dislike strikes. Seventy percent said that they wouldn’t take part in one.
On the other hand, the findings of Tamás and his colleagues tell a more frightening story. What we considered a few years ago to be slogans and causes of the far right have found a home today in the middle of the political spectrum. Hungarian society has been radicalized. Among the many questions there were twenty-two that were provocative in the sense that the answers would give a fairly clear idea of feelings on such issues as antisemitism, xenophobia, hatred of Gypsies, Trianon, the Árpád flags, and so on. For instance, six questions were designed to elicit opinions about Jews. People were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement on a scale of 1 to 5 with such statements as “There is too much talk about the holocaust” or “Jews have too great a role in business, culture, and education.” Among those who vote for right-wing parties the percentage of antisemites is 50%. Among the left-wingers 20%. In the population as a whole 30% is strongly antisemitic (Tamás called it “harcos antiszemita). Only 20% indicated strong disagreement with these statements. Trianon is another important indication of radicalism. Here 20% of the sample believed that the lost territories should be taken back, if necessary by force. What is even more disconcerting, this number is 40% among those aged 15 to 29. Sixty-five percent are openly and unabashedly anti-Gypsy. Fifty percent said that one shouldn’t just talk but do something against Gypsies. Forty percent think the red and white striped flag is perfectly all right. They don’t understand what all the fuss is about. (It was a historical flag used by the Hungarian Nazis in the 1940s.)
The sociologists who worked on the study don’t think that this radicalization of attitudes will translate into action because Hungarians not only have a horror of demonstrations and chaos but they are also “afraid to act.” So for the time being talk remains only talk. This afternoon I heard an interview with Albert Takács, former minister of justice, who reminded us of the often causal link between talk and action. But let’s hope that the Hungarian phobic reaction to mass movement will prevail. It certainly has until now. Despite the opposition’s nudging citizens to participate in widespread mass demonstrations that would topple the government, nothing materialized.
But it’s not enough to hope that Hungarians will stay at home, go about their normal routines, and harbor ugly thoughts. Somehow attitudes have to change. For instance, I don’t expect to see a Gypsy prime minister in the near future, but providing an environment where this is conceivable would be a worthy, if daunting, undertaking.