The first Hungarian guardist and Gypsy confrontation: Sajóbábony

Lately my knowledge of Hungarian village names has been expanding greatly. I must admit that although the Hungarian school system in my days at least was enamored with geography, I was never personally enthralled with the subject. We memorized the names of rivers, mountains, and towns without learning a darned thing about them or even seeing pictures of those famous rivers, mountains, and towns. The authorities especially wanted us to know every corner of Hungary that, during my first four grades changed borders often enough. That was of course very good for Manó Kugotowicz, the cartographer whose wall maps were used in all Hungarian schools.

Even with such minute study of the geography of Hungary I don't think we ever encountered the names of villages that had no distinctive features. Here, for example, is Sajóbábony. I never heard of it although I suspected that it had to be close to the River Sajó in the northeast corner of the country. And indeed, it is a village with a population of 3,000 only 13 km. from Miskolc, a large industrial town. According to the official statistics only 6% of the population of the village described their ethnic background as Gypsy or Roma, but most likely this is not an accurate reflection of the composition of the village. In Hungary relatively few people admit that they are Gypsies. Added support for my supposition comes from a Roma woman from Sajóbábony who several times made the distinction between the "poor" and the "better off" Gypsies during an interview. I suspect that the better-off Gypsies failed to advertise their ethnic background.

So, why is Sajóbábony in the news in the last two or three days? Because the antagonism between the Jobbik/Hungarian Guard and the village's Gypsies almost escalated into a physical confrontation with hundreds of people on each side.

It all started last weekend when Jobbik held a town hall meeting (in Hungarian, lakossági fórum) in the local school building with the permission of the mayor. The mayor claimed later that when the arrangement for the meeting was made there was no mention of any participation by the Hungarian Guard in the event. (Pardon, the New Hungarian Guard! Because Jobbik insists that this is not the guard that no longer exists. Only their uniforms and the persons wearing them are the same!) I should add that at the European Parliamentary elections, Jobbik received 29.61% of the votes in Sajóbábony. So surely the meeting was jam packed.

The local Roma heard about the affair and decided that they would like to attend the meeting, but they were stopped by the guardists who were called there to defend the speaker, a young man from Jobbik's leadership in the county. A scuffle ensued, but luckily the police that had been alerted earlier appeared in full force. Forty some police cars, dogs, and hundreds of policemen arrived in Sajóbábony and almost hermetically sealed entrances to the village. The above mentioned "better-off" Gypsy woman's daughter who lives in Miskolc and was going home to visit her parents was stopped and was allowed to proceed only when she could show her ID, according to which she was registered at her parents' address.

A few people were arrested. All of them Roma because a small group attacked the car of one of the Jobbik supporters. The government is happy that no greater tragedy took place, but the mayor of Miskolc (MSZP) talked about "an impending civil war." One thing is sure: if Jobbik's provocation continues, sooner or later there will be trouble. It seems to me that Jobbik organizes these town hall meetings in villages with large Gypsy populations. The speakers and their entourage bring along members of the Hungarian Guard who arrive in civilian clothes but then change into their uniforms. In Sajóbábony there were 600 of them! With this kind of force and another large group of Roma (apparently the locals used their cell phones and soon enough several hundred outsiders arrived before the police blockade) trouble is almost unavoidable.

But Jobbik doesn't let up. Gábor Vona himself went to Sajóbábony Tuesday morning where he was supposed to give a "press conference." However, according to the mayor of the village, it was not so much a press conference as a campaign speech. According to Vona "someone" incited the Roma against the Hungarian Guard because surely there is no reason for anyone to be afraid of them. According to Vona that "someone" is the men of "the national security office." That is, the government. Jobbik is not against the Gypsies per se but only against criminal elements. When they form a government they will enlarge the police force, organize a gendarmerie, and legalize the Hungarian Guard. The Guard would serve as the party's police force. Sounds idyllic, don't you think?

Vona also announced that today's Hungarian jails resemble "wellness centers." They certainly would do something about that. In addition, the inmates will have to work to earn their keep and attend to the maintenance of the jail. Jobbik would also stop the "baby factories." I have been thinking pretty hard but I am not sure how anyone can stop families, Gypsy or not, from having children. Or, rather, there are methods, but they are not tolerated in civilized, democratic societies.

What happened in Sajóbábony was too much even for Viktor Orbán who, as we know, is afraid of Jobbik although he pretends not to be. He announced yesterday morning on TV2 that private armies cannot be tolerated and that the government must do something soon. The government felt the same way and this morning issued a decree that forbids wearing the uniform of a forbidden organization. I understand that the fine for wearing such a uniform would be 50,000 Ft. ($270.00). I'm not sure whether a fine is a severe enough punishment.

The government and its opposition might be ready to do something about Jobbik and the Guard, but Gábor Vona is not moved. He refused to shake hands with one of the Gypsy leaders, saying "I will shake hands with Gypsies when they show that they are worthy of it. At present why should I shake hands with them?"

It is clear to me that Jobbik is trying to provoke a really serious situation which, according to one "political scientist," might help their popularity. I have no opinion on that, but I'm glad that these latest events strengthened the government's resolve. After all, it was more than ridiculous that the Hungarian Guard that no longer exist could march up and down in uniform without the slightest reaction from the authorities. No wonder that a large segment of the population considers the government weak and impotent. It would help the socialists' popularity if they showed some guts.

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Thrasymachus
Guest

“Because the antagonism between the Jobbik/Hungarian Guard and the village’s Gypsies almost escalated into a physical confrontation with hundreds of people on each side… …The mayor claimed later that when the arrangement for the meeting was made there was no mention of any participation by the Hungarian Guard in the event… …All of them Roma because a small group attacked the car of one of the Jobbik supporters… …The government felt the same way and this morning issued a decree that forbids wearing the uniform of a forbidden organization.”

Pat
Guest

“Or, rather, there are methods, but they are not tolerated in civilized, democratic societies.”
Is the Hungarian Guard something one encounters in a civilized, democratic society?
Roll the clock back 70 years…

PR
Guest

“by morning we shall kill all Hungarians.”
versus
“We’re here to clean out the gypsies- or at least the lowest scum.” Guard member according to eyewitness in Klubrádió.
The majority of the Roma inhabitants was cooperating with the police, the few young men who attacked the car were arrested.
Mind you, only Roma were arrested, not Guard members.
The police protected members of a banned organization, who came in big numbers from outside to provoke the locals, that’s my impression. The police chief of Miskolc said, he had to send so many troops to Sajobábony that they had none left in Miskolc, if something had happend there they would have been in trouble.
All Jobbik has to do is having parallel meetings like that in each county, and the country breaks down.
And that’s just the beginning of the election campaign period.
I’m from Germany, to me this is all very familiar. Nazi campaigning by the book.

Thrasymachus
Guest

@PR
“All Jobbik has to do is having parallel meetings like that in each county, and the country breaks down. And that’s just the beginning of the election campaign period.
I’m from Germany, to me this is all very familiar. Nazi campaigning by the book.”

Öcsi
Guest

Thrasymachus wrote: “The point is this, if you wish for an equal society, the first thing to do is to apply the same laws to all communities: EQUALLY.”
Sounds good to me. So you would agree that same-sex marriage should be allowed in Hungary?
And when a Roma gets turned down for a job because they are Roma, discrimination charges should be laid?
And when an illegal organization shows up in uniform all their members should be arrested forthwith?
You will agree to the above, yes? And you will henceforth advocate for an end to discrimination against the Roma, support same-sex marriage and imprison the Gárda?
If you don’t, then I will call you a neo-Nazi or, at the very least, a neo-Nazi sympathizer.

Thrasymachus
Guest
In answer to your first point: Yes Öcsi I am not a homophobe. I am all in favour of what the Brits call civil partnerships. But I do not think the word “marriage” applies because this is an institution between males and females that has hundreds of thousands of years of history. The term therefore is not correctly applied. Simply put, you can make the law say what you want it to, you cannot so easily change the meaning of language. But co-habitees regardless of gender should have equal protection before the law: I am thinking here of pension provision for example. It is for exacty the same reason, for that of equality, that I oppose the gay pride parade. Because there is not, and would not, be a heterosexual equivalent in Hungary, for reasons of public decency. In answer to you second, about discrimination charges against not employing Romani, I can answer in one word: ABSOLUTELY. In answer to your third, I would begin by asking why it is you felt yourself justified in inserting a false-choice here, and what it is you thought you’d accomplish by doing so. Let us look at your phrasing, you no doubt thought… Read more »
Öcsi
Guest
Well, Thrasymachus, we agree on only one of the points above: those who discriminate against the Roma should be charged and punished. As for same-sex marriage, it’s interesting to see how you backtrack on your statement that we “apply the same laws to all communities: EQUALLY.” You understand, do you not, that different is not equal? If the state allows heterosexuals to marry the state must allow homosexuals to marry. It’s that simple, really. By the way, there is no historical evidence to back up your statement that marriage is an “institution between males and females that has hundreds of thousands of years of history.” It’s just not true. As for the third point about the Gárda, I have never seen such a convoluted attempt at obfuscation. The Gárda are not the Falun Gong, for god’s sake. Regardless of what other governments declare illegal, it has no bearing on the fact that the Gárda are an illegal organization in Hungary. You can change the laws if you want but, at the moment, they are an illegal organization. If you are serious about your statement “to apply the same laws to all communities: EQUALLY,” surely you have no choice but to… Read more »
PR
Guest

Öcsi, full agreement here.

Thrasymachus
Guest

As for same-sex marriage, it’s interesting to see how you backtrack on your statement that we “apply the same laws to all communities: EQUALLY.”

However
Guest

@Thrasymachus
“By the way, there is no historical evidence to back up your statement that marriage is an “institution between males and females that has hundreds of thousands of years of history.” It’s just not true.”
— “If this is really what you believe. You’re a loon. Sorry.”
How so?

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Mr Thrasymachus – The Magyar Gárda aka Hungarian Guard is totally illegal in Hungary. For two reasons, one which you have already mentioned the European Charter of Human Rights. The second and much older reason is the Treaty of Paris, by signing this treaty the Hungarian Republic bought PEACE. It is for BOTH these reasons that the Hungarian courts banned it! So far as I know it is not illegal to be Romany (Roma) anywhere in Europe.
What on earth have same sex marriages to do with the nasty punch up in Sajóbábony. What ‘dickens’ do either Saudi Arabia or China have to do with the law of Hungary/.
I read in another blog that the leader of the new Gendarmerie/Hungarian Guard said that they were ready to ENFORCE the law all over Hungary. In that case the first thing they must do is to disband them selves!

Thrasymachus
Guest
@However Because, guess what, I do not need any historical evidence. Or archaeological proof, or anthropological theory or mitochondrial DNA analysis or any such stuff to prove me right. I have the much more persuasive simple fact of: the word. Marriage. And the institution will, by definition, be at least as old as the word itself. No-one would have any problem whatsoever in understanding this if what we were discussing instead was the word, or concept: “chair.” Where clearly, the thing is going to be at least as old as the word, and probably older. An agenda is being peddled here, pure and simple. And not by me. And such an agenda is being peddled to change the subject away from Sajóbábony. If you advocate legal equality. Which everyone else is doing so here: forcefully. Then you cannot, as I said earlier, argue that what we should “do is understand the commission of violence on one side, while condemning the wearing of clothing on the other.” Just stop for a second and ask yourself how differently you’d all be behaving, if the Roma were wearing the clothes and it was the Magyars who were wielding the axes screaming, “by Morning… Read more »
icr
Guest

It was Öcsi who first brought up the diversionary issue of same-sex marriage.
Classical liberals and libertarians oppose anti-discrimination laws-or pro-discrimination laws-because they support freedom of association . Though many are reluctant to bring up the subject for obvious reasons.
Is the Guard illegal simply because of the clothes they wear and the fact that they purport to represent an unfashionable ethnic group ? Sounds odd to me.

Öcsi
Guest
Thrasymachus wrote: “I have the much more persuasive simple fact of: the word. Marriage. And the institution will, by definition, be at least as old as the word itself.” The OED has this to say: “1 a The condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between married persons; spousehood, wedlock. 1297 R. Glouc. (Rolls) 1499, & [he] sede þat it was to him gret prou & honour To be in such mariage alied to þe emperour. C. 1400 Maundev. (Roxb.) xx. 89 In þat cuntree es na mariage betwene man and womman. 1456 Sir G. Haye Law Arms (S.T.S.) 21 marg., The mareagh of kyrk men. 1513 Bradshaw St. Werburge i. 1754 Many dyuers persones..Refused this worlde..Renounsynge vayne pleasures ryches and maryage. 1567 Gude & Godlie B. (S.T.S.) 202 Mariage is ane blissit band. 1606 B. Jonson Hymenæi, Barriers 39 Marriage Loves obiect is. 1624 Donne Serm. ii. 17 Nor does he dishonour Marriage that praises Virginity. 1647 Cowley Mistr., Constant ii, All Love is Marriage on thy Lovers side, For only Death can them divide. 1767 A. Young Farmer’s Lett. to People 189 Marriage will ever flourish, when there is no danger of children proving an incumbrance.… Read more »
Thrasymachus
Guest

@Öcsi
“The rest of your arguments are equally empty and fatuous, bereft of meaning or significance. Now, go and put on your uniform!”

Thrasymachus
Guest
@icr If you’ll permit me to answer you, though you did not ask me directly. And I will endeavour to make my response brief and my last one on this topic: as I am feeling a Yale PhD about to breath down my neck and tell me to sling my hook because I have committed some form of etiquette infraction. Without conceding the legality of the ban on the MG, in answer to your question the judges felt justified in issuing it for two reasons. First the constitutional issue of the necessity of the state having the monopoly on violence. This is all in order but how did they justify this assertion when the MG had not broken a single low or dished out so much as a wedgie? The truth is that they didn’t. But what moved them was the mooted (in some cases shouted), allegations in the press that the MG were responsible for the spate of Roma killings. You will recall that alleged suspects, most probably responsible, are now in custody: and no link to the MG has been found in any of them whatsoever. And if it had been, BOY would they be screaming it from… Read more »
PR
Guest

Interesting spam-robots they make these days.

Goteborg
Guest
“Pat “Is the Hungarian Guard something one encounters in a civilized, democratic society?” Yes, when the government turns against it´s own people and the police no longer care. It´s called self protection. Besides are gangs of murdering minorities encountered in a civilized, “democratic” society? @PR “Mind you, only Roma were arrested, not Guard members” Usually it´s not the victims getting arrested it´s the attackers, in this case gypsies. That eyewitness of yours might just as well say they where shotting at as us because the western media don´t care about the truth anyway. “I’m from Germany, to me this is all very familiar. Nazi campaigning by the book” People from Germany tend to see Nazis everywhere. Jobbik and the Guard never said they wanted to exterminate the gypsies. Besides when did SS try to protect gypsies, Jews, etc from their own kind? @Öcsi “So you would agree that same-sex marriage should be allowed in Hungary?” Should we allow pedophiles, necrophiliacs, etc to do what they want to do as well while we are at it? They are humans as well are the not? And when a Roma gets turned down for a job because they are Roma, discrimination charges should… Read more »
PR
Guest

“People from Germany tend to see Nazis everywhere.”
Not everywhere. In Hungary now, yes. Couldn’t be more obvious.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Mr Thrasymachus I do wish you would not use the phrase ‘the Liberal Left’ this is an oxymoron. Neither the left nor the right are ‘liberal’ that is believe in right to have personal freedom expressed the ‘European Charter of Human Rights’. Both the Left and the Right are saturated in their theoretical dogma which takes precedence over the rights of others. The only real ‘Liberals’ are people like me from the Centre (in my case from the right of Centre). You also remark that * “So what you are saying, is that because the Gárda are illegal the Roma had every right to go marauding around smashing up cars and threatening people with extermination while carrying axes: are you?” Two wrong do not make a right and those who caused criminal damage to one car (if the press reports are right) were arrested and will be subject to due process of Law. They have a defence which is they were threatened by an illegal meeting of an illegal organisation. Cause and effect. The reasonable actions of a reasonable man under the circumstances. Remember if you stick your finger in a wasp’s nest you will get stung and you would… Read more »
Thrasymachus
Guest

@Odin’s lost eye
“No Mr Thrasymachus I detest what you say but I will defend with my life your right to say it. I suspect that is something which you and yours would not reciprocate.”

Andras
Guest
Hungary is facing with an unfolding social tragedy.About 5% or more of her population is living in extreme poverty, partly due her own culture, but partly due to discrimination. This is a very complex problem, difficult to solve own its own. Unfortunately, the political and economic crisis and the radicalisation and brutalisation of Hungarian political culture, together with the crumbling of power of institutions have intensified the roma problem. I think the right is wrong when it blames the human rights left-liberal activists and intellectuals for the mistreatment and of the problem. Not left liberal intellectuals living in Rózsadomb, but the Hungarian Constitution, the Hungarian legal system stipulate non-discriminaton policies, equal rights for all citizens etc. The Hungarian right asks for more law and order, not to speak of teh extreme right which fostering paramilitary organisations, like Magyar Gárda. No question, there is really need for more law and order, better functioning of institutions. But the problem is that we have at least half million people, out of the jobmarket, without capital and social capital which they could use to re-enter into the job-market. This problem could not be solved by better policing. Simply, the modern institutions, legal system are… Read more »
Pat
Guest

@goteburg, in response to “Is the Hungarian Guard something one encounters in a civilized, democratic society?” : “Yes, when the government turns against it´s own people and the police no longer care. It´s called self protection. Besides are gangs of murdering minorities encountered in a civilized, “democratic” society?”
Well, yes they are in fact! Unfortunately most civilized democratic societies tend to have gangs – America if you consider that a civilized democratic society, is full of gangs formed from minorities. But there is a large distinction between an organized private army and “gangs of murderers”. I don’t like the way Hungary is being run one bit, but organized private armies are not and can never bring a positive solution for anyone. As an Irishman who saw 30+ years of misery and deaths because of private armies, that’s something I have experienced at first hand.
Hungary is – not for the first time – going down a mistaken road that will only result in misery for this country. History repeats itself.

Mark
Guest
Thrasymachus: “Seriously, can’t you conceive of why Nationalists might have just a little trouble over adherence to two Treaties that Hungary was forced to sign after being the dejected and impotent loser in two World conflicts?” I can see why some nationalists might have “just a little trouble”, but I suspect not all nationalists in Europe are united on this point. It is a fact that Hungarian nationalists are not happy with this; but I suspect that Romanian, Serbian, or (especially pertitent in the case of the Treaty of Paris) Slovak nationalists might not agree with them. This is the point about peace settlements; they are about determining whose claims have some validity, and are about relations between states – not all nationalists are going to be satisfied (and if they were there would never have been a need for a peace settlement in the first place). In so far as being on the losing side in conflicts is concerned, I would merely note that among the great powers at Paris laying the foundations of the peace were no states that had a seat at the decision-making table when Austria-Hungary sent its ultimatum to Serbia in 1914. At least with… Read more »
Thrasymachus
Guest
@pat When will people get their head round the fact that to have an “army” you must, necessarily, have “arms.” Hence the name. Why is that coming here I’m made to feel like a weirdo for suggesting that words should be used to mean what they, erm, actually mean? Even the term paramilitary (in between police and military) or militia (again you need weapons) are not accurate ones for the description of the Hungarian Guard. It’s not that we escaped, by a whisker, the prospect of one of the Guard members in the car being axed to pieces by the Roma in Sajóbábony losing his cool and spraying the collected gypsies with his AK-47. They don’t have any such things: remember? Those guys that did were caught and NO connection has been found to the Hungarian Guard: at all. It is not merely, either, that language fails us in adequately describing what the Gárda are (Cue snide comment by smart aleck, saying, “Yes there is: Nazis.” Oh-so-predictable. How lovely it must be, to be allowed to use words without proving their relationship to any facts). There has been deliberate and intentional scare mongering about the Gárda and those who have… Read more »
Thrasymachus
Guest

@Mark
You make a very coherent point, and have given me much to think about.
But my point is this. Frankly, nobody could give a flying stuff about the Paris Treaty for at least 40 years after it was signed. Why? Well because Hungary was under a powerful sphere of influence which would have told anyone enquiring where they could stick it. The freedoms it was supposed to defend could happily be ignored then by the international community.
But now, you see, you (indeed anyone) gets to push Hungary around just as much as they please. And gets to drag its nose to a document which back when it was inconvenient, was happily considered irrelevant.
I’m happy to concede that in making their point the Nationalists are tilting at windmills: aren’t they all really given the current globalised world? But it doesn’t mean they don’t have a point.
And anyway, some of us soft headed fools read Don Quixote less as a satire and more of as an instruction book.

Tihu
Guest
The guard is something that HAS a place in today’s Hungarian society. You liberals are the biggest deceivers with your “you can do anything as long as it`s what we say is right” attitude. Did any of you notice that a large percentage of the guards are older people? Did you ever wonder why is that? I mean democracy is the 3rd type of brainwashing Hungary`s been through in the last hundred years. We were Nazis, than communists, than democrats. NONE of them is something you can choose. If the country Nazi so are you if the country communist so are you. Now we are democrats and the country gives you no choice. you are democrat. And it ALL comes with it`s own brainwashing technicks. Did it ever occurred to any of you that those older people actually know about all these things? Maybe that they have a right to decide what they want to do? Or that none of you can mention a single thing where the guard actually did something illegal? They clothing is frightening you say. Well i say it is not Vona or Morvai said one of these days, that this is how villagers dressed going… Read more »
PR
Guest

Tihu, how do you know you’re not being brainwashed by Jobbik?How do you know they are new and not just warming up something old again (1930s) ? Just because they say “We say the truth and everybody else is lying”?
How can you be so sure?
And what is it your older people remember? I know older people too, and what they remember shouldn’t happen ever again.
To all the others: I know many young people in Hungary think like Tihu. Jobbik/the Guard are doing very effective “community work”, “educating” children, teenage kids, young adults. They’re just buying it, and there is nobody who can explain them otherwise (“lying”). I wonder who will be able to get this junk out of the minds of this generation.

Viking
Guest

“The best description of the Hungarian Guard I have heard, and the most accurate in terms of nomenclature, is the one currently being using by MTI: Jobbik’s uniformed wing. Nothing else, nothing more”
Thrasymachus | November 20, 2009 at 03:39 PM
—-
So, with the later comments of Tihu and PR
– What kind of historical associations should we get when we see the photos on (http://galeria.index.hu/belfold/2009/11/22/a_gardat_levagtak_a_feher_lovas_horthyemlekezesrol/?current_image_num=9&image_size=ms)?
I am thinking especially on the photos 7-10/10.
– Black Parachute Trooper Boots
– Black dress
– Red/White Arpad-stripes
Change the Arpad-marks to Red-Blue-Yellow or the Czech colours. What would you call those people?
If the Garda has never ever broken the Law, what is the need to organise it, with the uniforms and military formation?
It is hardly to help out in the local library (or wait, maybe that will be one of the tasks in the future? At least one time).
Why let the Party’s Uniformed Wing take care of the Security and Safety of the citizens, why not actively help people organise local Neighbourhood Watches, so some of the locals can leave their houses with out being afraid of getting burgled?

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