This blog was inspired by the recent far-right gathering at the controversial statue of the mythical eagle that ostensibly gave birth to the founder of the House of Árpád, the ancestor of the first kings of Hungary. Fortunately at this gathering there was no major violence although two newspapermen were roughed up a bit. Predictably there was a lot of verbal abuse against Jews and others who aren’t protected/endorsed by the eagle. What was interesting and unusual about this particular gathering of the extreme right was that for the first time Fidesz and KDNP (Keresztény Demokrata Néppárt/Christian Democratic Party) politicians could be seen among the demonstrators. The best known among them was Béla Turi-Kovács, a member of parliament since 1998. In his first four years he represented the Smallholders’ Party, a coalition partner of Fidesz. After 2001-2002 when Viktor Orbán managed to get rid of József Torgyán and with him the Smallholders, Turi Kovács abandoned his old party and joined Fidesz. As for the Christian Democrats, it’s true that no KDNP member of parliament was present; however, the party was represented by several of the local council’s KDNP’s delegation. In addition, one could find in the crowd Zsolt Lányi, a former Smallholder member of parliament and undersecretary of defense in the Orbán government.
That was one source of the inspiration. Another was an old article from 2003 that appeared in Hetek (Weeks), a publication of the fundamentalist Hitgyülekezet (Assembly of God) which is in Hungary somewhat surprisingly politically liberal. An internet friend of mine sent me the link, adding: “Sometimes it is worth reading old articles.” The piece in Hetek (2003) is an interview with Tamás Szemenyei-Kiss who claims to be the last director of the Hungarist Movement’s News Service (Hungarista Mozgalom Hírszolgálata [HMH]). I did a little research on Szemenyei-Kiss and he is certainly a controversial character. Recently he has published in Sófár, a Jewish media site, about members of the network of Hungarists all over the world. How does a former director of HMH end up writing in Sófár? A far-far right-wing site called Metapedia brands him a turncoat, a communist spy, a Romanian agent, an alcoholic homeless person, someone who had to flee Germany because he was going to be arrested for larceny. Maybe, but Metapedia ‘s mission is to set us straight about all the liberal lies that have been fed to us. They also want “to defend Europe [not the European Union] from the brown, black, and yellow hordes.” Anyone who’s interested in this garbage can go to: http://hu.metapedia.org/ However, László Bartus, currently the editor-in-chief of Amerikai Magyar Népszava Szabadság, while still living in Hungary published a book entitled Jobb magyarok: A szélsőjobb útja a hatalomhoz, 1990-2000 [Budapest: 2001] which relied on some of Szemenyei-Kiss’s information about the Hungarists abroad. Szemenyei-Kiss claims that he has a 3,000-page archive that he is organizing at the moment and that this archive is deposited in the Hungarian National Library. I simply cannot make a judgment on who is right, who is wrong, but some of Szemenyei-Kiss’s information sounds plausible. At least the names and dates seem to jibe.
According to Szemenyei-Kiss among those who left Hungary in 1945-46 and ended up in western countries there were a fair number of Arrow Cross leaders, members, and sympathizers. Quite a few of them ended up in Venezuela–for example, Árpád Henney, deputy to Szálasi, and Zoltán Nyisztor, a Catholic priest. These two men organized the HMH, whose mission was to keep Hungarist sympathizers in touch with one another through publications in Australia, South America, and Canada. When in 1990 Hungary joined the family of democratic nations, the Hungarists became active in Hungary. According to Szemenyei-Kiss the plan was to help the Smallholders become sufficiently important to be part of the government. Two wealthy American-Hungarian businessmen financed the undertaking: Sándor Pákh and Géza Bánkuty. In 1997 Pákh and Bánkuty visited Hungary urging cooperation with the Smallholders, but, again according to Szemenyei-Kiss, the Hungarists (200-300,000 strong) could not work with Torgyán. If Zsolt Lányi had been the leader the party it would have been a different story because he is a Hungarist. [Here let me interject that I have also read quite a bit about Lányi and I can only say that he is so far to the right that his appearance at the demonstration at the Turul statue is not at all surprising.]
Szemenyei-Kiss claims that several million dollars were sent to the Hungarist cause from abroad. In 2003 he asserted that since 1990 there had been at least 25 Hungarist members of parliament. One of the people who was financing the Hungarist movement in Hungary, Bánkuty, met Viktor Orbán several times when Fidesz was still in opposition. Once Orbán won the election with Smallholders’ help Bánkuty was received in the Parliament. A picture was taken which didn’t not appear in any Hungarian paper but only in the extreme right-wing paper Szittyakürt published abroad and financed by Bánkuty. According to Szemenyei-Kiss this picture also appeared in Spotlight, the American Nazis’ official publication. Apparently it was at that time that Orbán’s chief of protocol was sacked because he was responsible for the pictures taken at the meeting. Szemenyei-Kiss thinks that the appearance of this picture in an American Nazi publication had something to do with the fact that Viktor Orbán became a persona non grata in Washington.
How much of is this true? I don’t know. However, the appearance of two former Smallholders, Turi Kovács and Lányi, at this gathering of the extreme right is certainly interesting.