Hungarian skinheads: An old story and a sorry end

László Bartus, currently owner and editor-in-chief of Amerikai-Magyar Népszava, the oldest Hungarian-language paper on the North American continent, wrote a book in 2001 entitled Jobb magyarok: A szélsőjobb útja a hatalomhoz, 1990-2000 [Better Hungarians: The Far Right's Road to Power, 1990-2000]. At that time Bartus was still a journalist in Hungary, working for such liberal papers as Magyar Hírlap and 168 Óra. Bartus was most likely considered a man prone to exaggeration in portraying the country as already in the hands of the far right. After all, when the book was published the country's prime minister was Viktor Orbán.

The political right claimed that the book was a pack of lies. However, in light of recent events it is a "must read." I bought the book shortly after it appeared and read it with great interest, flagging certain passages for future reference. But I had no way of knowing whether the often shocking details of how political parties were making deals with young skinheads were in fact true. Alas, we now know that Bartus's account was all too accurate. A chapter entitled "The Smallholders and the National Youths" is especially relevant from our point of view. As Bartus said today on József Orosz's Kontra, "Jobbik is the most successful skinhead organization to date. It is a direct descendant of the original skinhead organization sponsored by the Smallholders in the mid-1990s." Let me add to this that József Torgyán, the fallen leader of the Smallholders, only the other day said in a television interview that "the old supporters of the Smallholders' Party are today voting for Jobbik."

It's difficult to summarize the story but I will try because the events that transpired about fifteen years ago are relevant to today's headlines.  First, atrocities against Gypsies were frequent even in the 1990s. Second, we talk about the popularity of the far right among the youth as something relatively new. Yet already in 1994 according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Welfare approximately 40,000 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 identified with the skinhead ideology in its entirety (although they were not necessarily active in the movement); 160,000 identified “to some extent” with skinheads. Police estimates showed that there were roughly 4,000 youths who, on the basis of some past contact with the police, could be considered skinheads. The skinheads were a mixed lot. Some of them simply believed what right-wing politicians like István Csurka and József Torgyán told them. These were kids who had no clue about right, left, liberal, conservative, or anything else but believed what adults told them. And the right-wing politicians told them that liberals were traitors, that Jews were responsible for the country's troubles, and that Gypsies were parasites on the body of the nation. Others were real vandals and hooligans who were even prepared to kill. Openly these parties never admitted any close connection with these potential murderers, but secretly their goal was to "tame them" and use them to advance the cause.

The Smallholders' Party tried to create a national organization, the Association of National Youths, out of the various skinhead groups. If people think that paramilitary organizations like Magyar Gárda or Nemzeti Őrsereg are something new, they should read Bartus. He quotes from the police confession of a young man in 1992 who admits that he was member of a "paramilitary organization … sponsored by the Smallholders' Party." It turned out that there was a whole slew of local cells of this far-right youth organization recruited from skinheads. The Association of National Youths within a few months after its foundation became an important factor in national politics. With the help of Smallholder politicians these skinheads were transported to Budapest to disrupt the official 1992 celebration of the anniversary of the October Revolution. Their effort was successful: Árpád Göncz was unable to deliver his speech. This event is especially memorable because it was the first occasion when the red and white striped flag of Ferenc Szálasi's Arrow Cross Party appeared in public.

Among the cells the Eger group became especially infamous because their leader, Tamás Sneider, who was also the head of the youth organization of the Smallholders in the county of Heves, was involved in a Roma beating on the streets of Eger. The very same Tamás Sneider today, seventeen years later, is Jobbik's representative on the city council of Eger. Or at least he was until a week ago when he was arrested by the police. Reasons for the arrest at the moment are unknown.

The Association of National Youths disappeared soon enough. Its members simply became part of the the Smallholders' Party youth organization. They grew their hair longer and tried to look respectable. But new ones arrived whom the Smallholder politicians wanted to incorporate into their ranks. Some of them came from the county of Hajdú-Bihar sponsored by Mihály Kapronczi, head of the party in the county. These were the ones who formed the Keleti Arcvonal Bajtársi Szövetség in 1995. It is somewhat surprising that the courts that granted a permit for this new organization didn't seem to pick up on the fact that the name was associated with  Ferenc Szálasi and his party. It seems that they were also oblivious to the fact that the new organization's logo incorporated the old Arrow Cross emblem. As if that weren't enough, the judges didn't think that it was odd that the organization was established to "eradicate the parasites" of the country. This was the group that broke into the synagogue and burned the Torah in January 1995, four days after their "legalization," on the anniversary of Szálasi's birthday. One of the people involved in the Torah burning is among the accused in the Gypsy murders. But in 1995 the Hungarian judges after some tortuous legal reasoning decided that members of the Keleti Arcvonal Bajtársi Szövetség were not guilty. It was only a "prank."

Thus this is how after years of the courts' lackadaisical attitude toward the extreme right Jobbik ended up with an almost 15% of the votes in the European parliamentary elections. And this attitude is all persuasive. Just to give you an example. One of the accused, a certain István Cs., a former professional soldier and a great lover of motorcycles using the handle "csontrabló" (bone napper), recently wrote quite openly at www.sportmotor.hu: "I'm telling you, we Hungarians ought to kill the Gypsies, women, children, old ones, and everyone else who defends a Gypsy." What kind of list owner allows such messages to be published? Well, I guess one who follows the Hungarian Constitutional Court's reasoning. The court's position has been that words, unless they cause imminent harm, don't matter. Well, words matter as we can see, even if belatedly.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Sophist
Guest

“The very same Tamás Sneider today, seventeen years later, is Jobbik’s representative on the city council of Eger. Or at least he was until a week ago when he was arrested by the police. Reasons for the arrest at the moment are unknown.”
Wearing Garda uniform, perhaps
“Morvai and Hegedus said they were wearing the vest in solidarity with 18 people who were apprehended at an event on Wednesday in Eger, N Hungary, for wearing the uniform.”
http://www.politics.hu/20090824/mep-krisztina-morvai-makes-speech-wearing-banned-paramilitary-outfit

Odin's lost eye
Guest
I was still basking in the result from the Oval and winning the ‘Ashes’ and England holds the ‘Calcutta Cup’ (who says I am not a nationalist) when I read this piece. I became interested in the ‘why’s’ and ‘wherefores’ of the structure of Hungarian political parties. The great ‘why’ is why do some Hungarian political parties have to recruit ‘muscle’? And what is it for? Can any one tell me this? It seems to me to be a sort of a Hungarian tradition, but why? And why is it necessary? Is the Hungarian state so immature that its leaders (and potential leaders) have to have their own security/enforcers? Or do they wish to emulate people like Mr Mugbey of Zimbabwe (whose flag is similar to that of Hungary) and have a ‘Goon Squad’ at their beck and call to do their dirty work? Of the last four regimes in Hungary the ‘Dual Monarchy’ founded the Magyar Királyi Csendörség in 1881 probably to deal with the increasing unrest and agitation originating from the minority nationalities who wanted self determination. The Regent Admiral Horthy seems to have inherited them after he took over from the Romanian army who had ‘done for’… Read more »
Member

Odin, Is it not highly likely that Putin is funding the Hungarian far-right? It is strange, given 1956 and all that, that a Hungarian nationalist group is pro-Russian, but Jobbik certainly seem to be. This is why I wonder whether this is the influence of the Kremlin chequebook.
The Smallholders situation shows exactly what is likely to happen if Jobbik and its ilk get into power. Corruption on a scale that even the current and previous encumbents would blush at; and remember anyone who shows the infallible Dear Leaders with their hands in the metaphorical till is a traitor/Zionist or whatever.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

David your question about Putin is very valid. In geostrategic terms Russia has a barrier of states between its self and NATO except in the north where the ‘Baltic States’ are NATO members. If Putin could divorce Hungary from NATO this would put the Ukraine straight back into the ‘Russian bear’s pocket’. Russia’s buffer state would then be Austria who must be by its peace treaty neutral. But it is right next door to NATO’s heartland. However I do not think this is the whole story. Russia is in none too good a position economically could she afford to carry Hungary and pay off its huge debts? Remember corruption on the scale you are discussing would shut off all European cash and turn off the IMF guarantees.
My real question is why the ‘Hoods’?

Bob
Guest

Odin, fantastic post! First I think your example of Mugabe is excellent. Orbán is a Hungarian Mugabe – will win the elections at home, but he is unacceptable for the “civilized West”.
Look at it this way. Hungary is not a democracy, it is a tribal society where the “silent majority” goes with the highest bidder. The Germans or Russians had nothing to do with keeping Hun Governments in power. Hungarians today would gladly support Putin, if he would offer free bread and circus to them. Szálasi remained in power because the Hungarians took the kitchen furniture of the murdered Jews, Horthy survived because he instituted the worst feudal exploitation of peasants and workers by the his half-educated, corrupt aristocracy..

icr
Guest

To place this in some sort of context: the major West European parties have links-or at least extraordinary tolerance- for the the violent actions of the “anarchist” Antifa. In the UK the violent UAF is tolerated by the major parties.
In the US traditional organized crime (e.g. the “Mafia”) has been an integral part of many big-city political machines for at least a century. More recently black and Mexican street gangs have utilized by the Democratic Organization in Chicago. See John Kass’ columns in The Chicago Tribune for extensive documentation.
Also see this:
http://www.ipsn.org/hired_truck_scandal/hdo_grows_into_political_powerho.htm

Member

UAF? What is that? University of Alaska Fairbanks?

cheap louis vuitton
Guest

It’s difficult to summarize the story but I will try because the events that transpired about fifteen years ago are relevant to today’s headlines. First, atrocities against Gypsies were frequent even in the 1990s. Second, we talk about the popularity of the far right among the youth as something relatively new. Yet already in 1994 according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Welfare approximately 40,000 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 identified with the skinhead ideology in its entirety (although they were not necessarily active in the movement); 160,000 identified “to some extent” with skinheads.

Belstaff Clothing
Guest

Love those! I enjoy following your posts on facebook and rss!

wpDiscuz