The Hungarian president, the Gypsies, and the Nazis

My head is spinning. President László Sólyom has become hyperactive. The man who for a whole week said nothing about the series of attacks against the Hungarian Roma population suddenly got wings. The last time I touched on the topic I mentioned that some people were so upset about his behavior that they demanded Sólyom's resignation; they considered him unfit for his position. People were surprised that he didn't attend the last victim's funeral or visit the thirteen-year-old girl in the hospital. When György Bolgár interviewed Ferenc Kumin, the president's advisor flatly denied that the president had any obligation in this regard. Furthermore, he indignantly rejected any suggestion that Sólyom was not deeply interested in the fate of the Roma population and that he was not worried about the recent attempts on their lives. He in fact claimed that the president talked about all this repeatedly and added that it's enough to go to the website of the Office of the President and type in the keyword Roma or Gypsy (cigány in Hungarian); it will be clear how preoccupied Sólyom is with the topic. Being a curious sort, I put in the search tag and found practically nothing. But perhaps the search engine of the website is poor.

When I saw calls for his resignation or for him to at least visit the young girl in the hospital, I said to myself: Sólyom is a very stubborn man. Surely, he will do none of it. I was wrong. This time it seems that he finally realized that his way of handling the Roma question was so outrageous and upset so many people that he shifted tactics. It is hard to say who changed his mind. On Monday morning he met Gordon Bajnai, the prime minister, and later Ernő Kállai, the ombudsman in charge of national and ethnic minorities. My guess is that it was Kállai who was most influential. (Kállai is a 40-year-old Roma intellectual with degrees in history, journalism, and law. Before being named ombudsman in 2007 he worked as a researcher in one of the institutes of the Academy. He is a quiet and impressive man.) After Kállai emerged from the palace he said that "we agreed that the president would take all necessary steps to calm the whole population." He added that "in the long run democracy must come out of this situation victorious."

Soon afterwards Sólyom made a terse annoucement that most people greeted with satisfaction. He stressed that this is not just a "Roma question" but that it affects the entire country. Tension within the country is high, and the whole population must show solidarity toward the Roma. The stability of the country is at stake. The defense of the Gypsies is a question of honor. What happened must not be belittled. One mustn't find excuses. Of course, some people thought that Sólyom should have said all that a week ago, but they were nonetheless pleased that he made a speech that was clear and couldn't be explained away.

This morning Sólyom, accompanied by Kállai, visited the young girl who is still in intensive care in a hospital in Nyíregyháza. Sólyom spent about twenty minutes with her doctors, about half an hour with the girl's grandmother and aunt, and eventually–gifts in hand–met with the girl herself. He reported that the girl is doing well and most likely will fully recover because of her strong will and her desire to get well. Apparently the girl is a good student and wants to continue her studies. Sólyom promised financial help to the family that will look after the orphaned child. Kállai, who spent a few hours with Sólyom in the car, announced this afternoon that "more steps will be taken by the president soon" toward the solution of the Roma problem in Hungary.

Yesterday Sólyom made another important announcement about an international Nazi demonstration planned for August 15 in Budapest to commemorate the death of Rudolf Hess. Sólyom was "outraged" hearing about the wrangling between a Hungarian Nazi group (NS Forum) and the Budapest police. The police currently has no legal means to prevent such a demonstration other than resorting to the ruse of "hindering traffic." Inventive persons behind this planned demonstration offered nine different locations, and the police decided in each case that the location was unacceptable because it would hinder traffic. Of course, this is not only nonsense but is also dishonest. However, the Hungarian law governing freedom of assembly is so lax that the police can't find anything else on the books.

International lawyers reminded the public that Hungary is a signatory to international agreements that forbid Nazi propaganda and hence such demonstrations. Sólyom, who until recently was a champion of the widest interpretation of both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, suddenly changed his mind. "His decided opinion is that no Nazi demonstration should be held in Hungary." He added that he "trusts that the Hungarian public rejects the exultation of Nazi ideology and the celebration of a Nazi leader." Gordon Bajnai a day before said basically the same thing, but I suspect that Sólyom's unequivocal words on the topic gave the police some added courage. Not only did they reject the tenth application for a permit to hold a Nazi demonstration but, if the demonstrators gather anyway, the police have every right to disperse the crowd.

Parties on the left are united: they don't want to see a Nazi demonstration in Budapest. Fidesz as usual is less forthright. Károly Konrát said nothing about this particular demonstration. Instead he repeated the untruth that during the Orbán government there was no such demonstration and that Nazi demonstrations occur only when the socialists govern. Fidesz doesn't want to commit itself because its politicians don't want to alienate Jobbik, and Jobbik is at best tolerant of Hungarian Nazism, at worst a champion of Nazism. Gábor Vona was a guest on Nap-Kelte's Kereszttűz (Crossfire) where János Betlen, a journalist, asked him about the party's attitude toward the Nazi demonstration planned for the weekend. At this point Vona suggested to Betlen that he emigrate to Israel if he is so interested in Jewish questions. Well, this is what happens when the country's public television station feels compelled to invite Gábor Vona. The producer's excuse that according to the media law public radio and television stations must invite all legally functioning parties during election campaigns sounds hollow. There is no campaign at the moment. And the producer added this studipity: "Of course János Betlen is staying in Hungary."  Let's hope so!

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Thrasymachus
Guest

“Fidesz doesn’t want to commit itself because its politicians don’t want to alienate Jobbik, and Jobbik is at best tolerant of Hungarian Nazism, at worst a champion of Nazism.”

Sandor
Guest

There would be scarcely any need for argument unless first there were a statement.
Allegation? Better? Only in the eye of the beholder.
So, what was your argument?
Here is my statement: Jobbik actually IS Hungarian nazism.
Let your argument come.

Thrasymachus
Guest

@Sandor
Here is my statement: Jobbik actually IS Hungarian nazism.
Let your argument come.

Sandor
Guest
Well, my verbose friend, you were indeed complaining and bitching about those complaining and bitching about the hungarian nazis, that is true. I know someone, close to me, who also says that to be a nazi, one must be a member of the ominous German Party. I beg to differ. Your main problem is the lack of credibility. You are running around in great circles of syllogisms, producing amazing feats of circular arguments, believing that a circular one is better than no argument at all, however, all these contortions of yours are falling on your face, because you are short on definitions. In your unrelenting pursuit of correctness and distinctions there is not one scintilla of credibility, because you should define precisely what the criteria for nazi is and then go on to make the comparisons to prove or disprove your, or my point. Therefore, the onus is actually on you to present the distinctions, proving why the Jobbik is different from the old-fashioned nazis. You are also mistaken thinking that there is any emotional satisfaction involved in discussing these lowlifes. Or as you put it: “they love to.” No, I personally loath to bother with them, despise their activities,… Read more »
Gheorghe Stoica
Guest

Jobbik is Hungarian fascism just as the New Right (Iron Guard/Legionary) is Romanian fascism and BNP is British (anglo-saxon) fascism. It is obvious, plain clear, for everybody.
Even to themselves is clear but they don’t care they are happy with it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gheorghe Stoice: “Jobbik is Hungarian fascism just as the New Right (Iron Guard/Legionary) is Romanian fascism and BNP is British (anglo-saxon) fascism. It is obvious, plain clear, for everybody.
Even to themselves is clear but they don’t care they are happy with it.”
Fully agree with you with one additional comment: Jobbik’s politicians steadfastly refuse to admit it. Nazi, fascist? Oh, no! Not them! Even the left-liberal media are afraid to call them Nazi. Just today I read about Jobbik as “national radical.”

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Sandor in answer to your questions about what is National Socialism. The ONLY difference between a National Socialist and a Communist state is the ownership of the means of production. Communists take it into government control but National Socialists leave it in private hands. Otherwise both want to control everything!.
Mr Gheorghe Stoica The BNP is a weird conglomerate of skinheads, and other mal-contents who gain votes from those who are disgruntled with Labour/Lib Dems in constituencies where it would be a mortal sin to vote Tory. At important elections (general elections) the generally loose everything they have gained (and their deposits).
What Jobbik is you must judge them by their pronouncements against the above criteria. I do not know who said it but “Nationalism is the last refuge of fools and scoundrels”.

Thrasymachus
Guest
@Sándor For all your talk of my verbosity, and given all these myriad supposedly circular syllogisms you object to, you curiously neither mention, nor endeavour to refute, even one of them. You then go on to have the “chutzpah” as you put it, of asking, “What is your personal interest either way in this matter?” Subtle, really really subtle. Not that I could have seen that one coming a mile off. You want to know my personal interest, Sunshine? It’s the interest of a person who thinks that a word, Nazi, given that it is associated with the wilful brutal murder of at least 10 million, their cremation and then cremulation; must be used with a little more care, attention and intellectual rigour; than just willy-nilly: as it is, all the time here, by people who just happen to dislike Jobbik. Shame on all of you. You then confirm this contempt for veracity by going on to say “What you did prove so far was only the fact that you don’t care about facts …” [Where? No I disagree with people like you who think “facts” are whatever come out of their mouths.] …and you use biased opinions… [You mean… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
Well, all right, I can afford to make one more extra step. Not because there is any value in what you are saying, or anything worth considering, but because by doing so I can reassure all that Jobbik is nazi, in case there would be any doubt. For your convenience, and to make do with the modest room left in your brain, I am going to proceed based on the definitions offered by Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism • The mixing of right and left political aims. • The pursuit of autarchic, ethnic state. • The racial superiority of the party members and with it the “race” whose supremacy they aim to enforce. • The “defense” of their own race against everything and everybody, whether there is a threat, or not. • The demand that a strong Leader, a Fuhrer to unify the folk. • Consequently the complete rejection of democracy. • Total intolerance towards any different creed, political opinion, or any mentality that is outside their own. • The constant threat and frequent application of violence. Paramilitarism. • The demand of additional territories at the expense of other nations, surely to be inferior ones. • Hysterical anti-communism. • The condemnation of, and… Read more »
Sophist
Guest
Sandor, relying so much on Robert Paxton’s “Anatomy of Fascism”, it’s good to read another definition of Nazism. But this definition still indicates why Jobbik is not Nazism as much as it is, especially “The constant threat and frequent application of violence. Paramilitarism” “The apogee of Nazi Street violence in Germany came after June 16, 1932 …. During severeal weeks, 103 people were killed and hundreds were wounded.”(Paxton, 95). The Nazi use of violence was “neither random nor indiscriminate. It carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that communist violence was rising, that the democratic state was responding to it ineptly, and that only the facsists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terrorists” (84). Finally, at a rhetorical level establishing that “if the nation… was mankinds’s highest atainment, violence in its cause was ennobling” (35). Jobbik and MG hasn’t shown any commitment to violence, even to the level of normal street protests in UK or France, let alone to Nazi standards. Their “gypsy crime” program has failed dismally to engage gypsy retaliation, which is odd in itself if you believe Hungarian folktales about gypsies defending their own in all circumstances. Neither have I heard of any rhetoric… Read more »
Thrasymachus
Guest
@Sándor “Feverish denials”? Nothing of the sort. I’m delighted you’ve decided to step up to the plate. “I am sure that even you will find some familiar characteristics in this list that fit the Jobbik.” So how many of these 21 features must a political movement have to be classed as “Nazi” then? Ten? Twenty? In which case I look forward to your vociferous condemnation of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party as Nazis; given your excellent description of them. They tick ALL your boxes, apart from “Hysterical anti-communism.” Oh. You want a sound-off by the numbers about Jobbik? Ok. 1. The mixing of right and left political aims. Nope. Jobbik actively reject both. Listen to Vona himself here at 01:26-02:21 2. The pursuit of autarchic, ethnic state. [sic] Well given that a Jobbik economic policy would be so reliant on tourism and agrarian export, then autarky’s definitely out. As for ethnic?… 3. The racial superiority of the party members and with it the “race” whose supremacy they aim to enforce. There is no Hungarian race to be superior. One Hungarian can look like a Celtic redhead the other like an olive-skinned Greek. Replace “racial” with “cultural” however and you’re… Read more »
Sandor
Guest

Atta Boy!
I feel not only vindicated but outright spoiled.
As I predicted, your contortions would put to shame an olympic gymnast, I got what I expected and got it in spades.
Don’t give me Draskovics! Whatever he is doing, won’t change what the Jobbik is doing.
I have given up the expectation of honesty, because, as Laplace would say: “the system works without that assumption.”
So, we have a lot of self-satisfied nazis in our midst. Woopee!

Sophist
Guest

I’m beginning to think this reflex classification of Jobbik as Nazis/Fascists is actually to their advantage. It deflects any serious analysis of their policies – which I suspect wouldn’t bear much serious analysis. And it makes them more attractive for protest voters and the rebellious young.

Sandor
Guest

That may be.
Should we rather be quiet, for god forbid, some people may like and embrace the nazis? I don’t think so.
They are not embraced because of my opinion, but because that is the disposition of the embracers. It is their taste, not mine that is twisted.

Member

I tend to agree with Sophist on this point. The Left (of which I am not a member) has a tendency to shout Nazi at everyone who disagrees with them. It gets a bit like the boy crying wolf.
It seems to me that corrupt politicians thrive on manufactured political controversies over symbolic issues, as it diverts attention from their pilfering and gets their supporters to feel that covering up the misdemeanours of their leaders is a necessary part of keeping “the other side” out and thereby saving the country.
I would be hard pushed to find a massive number of policy differences between the Orban government and the Megyessy/Gyurcsany/Bajnai government, though clearly the political rhetoric claims that these exist. The main differences seem to be whose relatives get the government contracts and plum government jobs.
Looking at Jobbik it is difficult to imagine them being any less corrupt than the current crew, and easy to imagine them being a lot worse (remember the Smallholders anyone?).

Sandor
Guest

I agree with you to a degree.
The difference here is not a matter of context. Indeed the rest is just as distasteful. However, the fundamental distinction must be that all the other scum-bags are operating within the democratic framework and abuse it, while the nazis are operating outside and to boot against the democracy and abuse it in their own way.
My assertion that there is no place for nazis in the body politic is by no means an endorsement of any other party on the scene. Nor can I accept the duplicitous contortions of Thracymachus about how bad the other parties are, as if that would excuse the nazi threat.
In my estimation there must be a threshold of legitimacy, a social and political minimum, or if you please, a line drawn in the sand: nazis are not allowed.

Mark
Guest

David: “The Left (of which I am not a member) has a tendency to shout Nazi at everyone who disagrees with them. It gets a bit like the boy crying wolf.”
That some people cry “Nazi” for their own self-serving political purposes (just as many on the right are happy to shout Communist when it suits them), doesn’t mean there is no danger. Having studied Arrow Cross grass roots organization in the late 1930s, there are some uncomfortably close parallels between the techniques and political language in evidence then, and that used by Jobbik. Is the situation the same? Of course not, no two situations ever are. Is it likely to end as badly? I don’t know, but I’d rather not have to find out. Therefore I’m with Sandor, we need “a line drawn in the sand: nazis are not allowed.”

Gheorghe Stoica
Guest

Mark “Having studied Arrow Cross grass roots organization in the late 1930s, there are some uncomfortably close parallels between the techniques and political language in evidence then, and that used by Jobbik.”
Nothing new under the sun. The Romanian equivalent of Jobbik is “Noua Dreapta” (new right)and they are busy re-printing the 1930s books and manifests of the Legionary Movement/Iron Guard.
Even their code of behavior and organizational structure is by definition exactly the same as that of the 1930s Iron Guard.
Two years ago they were nothing, today
(maybe because of the economic crisis just as during 1930s) they have grown to thousands of members and dozens of centers-cells ( “cuib legionar”) thoughout all Romania.
They are obssesed with the Gypsies and their clans and crimes and with the Jews ( though there are no more than 5000 Jews left in Romania, it doesn’t matter perhaps, for them even one is “too many”). And they don’t like the hungarian minority either.

Member

Mark, I am not suggesting that all is rosy with Jobbik. In fact it looks likely that they will be a lot worse than the current choices of Fidesz/MSzP.
When it comes to the “Nazis are not allowed” line, I think to myself what does that mean? Not allowed where? Who will do the “not allowing”? What does this mean in practice?
If previous experience is anything to go all that “Nazis are not allowed” will mean is that instead of listening, analysing and refuting the nationalist right and its legion of lunatic ideas, the political left will just resort to shouting “Nazi” at them.
So far as I can see one of the main tactics of the Left in dealing with Fidesz has been to denounce Orban as a Nazi. Now he is at 60% in the opinion polls, so that hasn’t worked so well.

Gheorghe Stoica
Guest

>main tactics of the Left in dealing with Fidesz has been to denounce Orban as a Nazi.
Fidesz is a right-wing party but not a fascist party. In some sense Jobbik is a caricature of Fidesz. Unfortunately people don’t laugh, to the contrary they take Jobbik seriously.
Orban should get rid of Jobbik as soon as he gets in power. But it won’t be easy, such extreme parties want to govern and they tend to enter in conflict with the more to center parties with which they initially team-up to from the Govt.
See the Horthy-Arrow Party relation (or Atonescu-Iron Guard in 1940 Romania)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

David: “So far as I can see one of the main tactics of the Left in dealing with Fidesz has been to denounce Orban as a Nazi. Now he is at 60% in the opinion polls, so that hasn’t worked so well.”
I would like to see examples: when did the liberal right ever call Orbán Nazi? I don’t remember one instance. What they do say and what’s true is that Orbán in fear of losing a good portion of his followers refuses to distance himself and his party from Jobbik and the far right in general. This is a very dangerous game and it’s a disaster for the country.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gheorghe Stoica: “Nothing new under the sun. The Romanian equivalent of Jobbik is “Noua Dreapta” (new right)and they are busy re-printing the 1930s books and manifests of the Legionary Movement/Iron Guard.”
That’s exactly what the Hungarian extreme right has been doing for a number of years. There are bookstores specializing in the stuff. By the way, did anyone read a book by Nicholas Nagy-Talavera, The Green Shirts and others? I read it a long time ago but perhaps I should reread it. Nagy Talavera concentrates in this book on the Romanian and Hungarian extreme right in the 30s and 40s.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gheorghe Stoica: “Fidesz is a right-wing party but not a fascist party. In some sense Jobbik is a caricature of Fidesz.”
I just read an article reporting on an speech by Zsolt Semjén, Christian Democratic Party chief in name only but in fact second man in Fidesz. His speech differs little from what Gábor Vona and the extreme right says. “Hungarians will be hired hands in their own country,” “foreigners colonize Hungary,” “foreigners take away the land from under our feet,” and he finally asked: “Where would Europe be if we haven’t existed for one thousand years, bleeding while fighting Tartars, Turks and other Eastern pagan formations.” Isn’t it difficult to draw a clear line between the Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik?

Member
“I would like to see examples: when did the liberal right ever call Orbán Nazi? I don’t remember one instance.” They didn’t in so many words. But what they did do was say how he refused to distance himself from the neo-Nazis, how he was happy to benefit from neo-Nazi support etc., etc. I notice more of the same in your more recent post about Semjen. Essentially it is much the same thing as calling him a Nazi. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the Hungarian right is too nationalistic; I just cannot see anything being suggested here that is trying to change this as opposed to merely moralising about it. In the sort of polite liberal circles in which you mix perhaps being thought of as a Nazi is a great shame, for most on the nationalist right they don’t seem to worry about it that much, some even pride themselves in it. Hungary is a democracy. Voters need to be persuaded by arguments, not preached at. The “Nazis are not allowed” approach makes the serious mistake of assuming that everyone agrees that your opponents are Nazis, presumably most of those who vote for them do not. If… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

David: “They didn’t in so many words. But what they did do was say how he refused to distance himself from the neo-Nazis, how he was happy to benefit from neo-Nazi support etc., etc. I notice more of the same in your more recent post about Semjen. Essentially it is much the same thing as calling him a Nazi.”
I quoted what he said. Where would you put Semjén after reading these lines? OK, let’s not call him Nazi, but that he belongs to the extreme right is sure.

Member

If somebody from the US Republican Party told you not to vote for Obama because he is a socialist, do you think that you would find it a persuasive argument? If you are a Democrat probably not. If you are a Republican you are likely to find it more persuasive. This is because it is a “preaching to the converted” argument. You have to already think that 1. there is a high chance he is a socialist and 2. that this is about the worst thing possible to be. If you do not think either 1 or 2, then the argument just comes across as hot air. This is really the substance of my point.

Sophist
Guest
Mark, “we need “a line drawn in the sand: nazis are not allowed” It would be nice if such a line could be drawn – but Sandor’s 20 point definition of Nazism suggests that no such line is available. After all I support the ” The mixing of right and left political aims … Opposition to Capitalism and Finance … Extolling the virtues of law and order… and the need for strong national leadership”: I don’t think that makes me a Nazi. Instead, we need to define piecemeal what standards of political behaviour are expected in a liberal democracy, and enforce them by law. After the traumatic experiences of the 20th century, most liberal democracies have done this, unfortunately Hungary came late to this process and it is still not complete, a situation which radical nationalists are exploiting, though by the standards of fascists rather luke-warmly and ineptly. The laws guaranteeing freedom of speech and freeedom of assembly need to be reviewed, though this is difficult in a recently post-communist society. It is also necessary to review our understanding of gypsies as the main percieved threat to the nationalist program. It used to be the case that Jobbik proudly proclaimed… Read more »
Gheorghe Stoica
Guest

Eva S. Balogh : “Isn’t it difficult to draw a clear line between the Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik?”
Yes I agree, but the recent pollsters (Szonda Ipsos, Tibor Závecz) show that Jobbik mostly takes voters away from Fidesz rather than the Socialists.
In this situation Fidesz is acting pragmatically, logically, by stepping up the right-wing rhetoric (the “Nonchalant use of outrageous rethoric, regardless of reason” mentioned by Sandor in his post above) so as to keep it its voters from straying.
The difference between Fidesz and Jobbik is that the first are cynical but lucid
demagogues while second are
sincere lunatics, dangerous “true belivers”.

Sandor
Guest
I assure you, I had no idea that the “nazis are not allowed” phrase would have such resonance. However, if you ask what it means, it means what the people meant when they signed the Paris Peace Treaty, that forbade nazis. I also mean the poor little Constitution that allows only democratic parties. And I also mean the Criminal Code that forbids incitement and hatred against others. I know, and it was discussed already in these pages that the prosecutorial offices are jam-packed with the sympathizers of the Right and they are protecting the bastards against prosecution. But I also know that this disgusting deluge will have to pass, thanks to the general corruptness and impotence of the political elite, before the slate can be wiped clean. My opinion however, is that the Hungarians have it coming to them for their short-sightedness, corruption and stupidity. They won’t be able to escape this anymore, regardless what Orban may, or may not say about it. He is also beholden to these bums and there is nothing he could do about it. His hands are also tied. The only thing that could stop them would be the uncompromising observance of law on the… Read more »
Sophist
Guest

“The only thing that could stop them would be the uncompromising observance of law on the part of the executive.”
Hear, hear!
“Fat chance!” – I remain optimistic on this, and increasingly so, it took a long time coming but the MG has now been banned, and ban has been enforced. Likewise nothing came of the planned multiple ‘celebrations’ of Hess’s Birthday – it was good to see the Hungarian establishment line up over this.
As in the 1930’s the main driver is not Hungarian domestic politics but international economics, as long as liberal democracy delivers an improving standard of living over the long term people will support it. If the German economy really has turned, the Hungarian economy will follow.

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