Polls indicate the ever growing popularity of the Hungarian far right that seems to threaten the overwhelming majority Fidesz is hoping for at the national elections on April 11. The latest poll by Nézőpont, a Fidesz-financed polling company and think tank, actually shows Jobbik ahead of the socialists. I usually take Nézőpont’s results with a grain of salt because I don’t quite trust their independence. No other pollster came up with such results and one suspects that Nézőpont may have an ulterior motive. The most obvious would be that under these circumstances people will consider a vote for Fidesz rather than the very weak and therefore ineffective socialist party. In fact, some liberal commentators like László Kéri keep urging people to do just that because, in his opinion, Fidesz’s two-thirds majority is the only guarantee of putting Jobbik in its place. One problem I have with that line of reasoning is that I don’t quite trust Fidesz’s commitment to democracy. In fact, there are signs that the ideology of the two parties is not that terribly far apart. Yesterday in Galamus Csoport I compared parts of the speeches given by Tibor Navracsics (Fidesz) and Krisztina Morvai (Jobbik) and found striking similarities. For example, both think that Hungary today is neither independent nor free.
I carefully read the speeches of Gábor Vona, Krisztina Morvai, and Loránt Hegedűs, all three leading Jobbik politicians. Of the three Vona’s was perhaps the least bellligerent. The Reverend Loránt Hegedűs delivered a largely incomprehensible anti-semitic harangue. Within the party he is the spokesman of the openly anti-Jewish faction. He seems to have a fairly large following including the new editor-in-chief of Barikád, the party’s official paper.
The latest cover of Barikád depicts the famous statue of St. Gellért
overlooking the city but in place of a cross in his right hand Gellért is holding up a menorah. The caption reads: Wake up Budapest! Is this what you want? Well, this is fairly explicit and it reminds people of the worst Nazi period of Hungarian history but with a twist. The anti-semites in the 1930s didn’t use religious items as weapons.
Although Morvai also alludes to Hungarians being Palestinians in their own land, her message is much more political than racist. Her speech consisted of a rejection of everything Hungary has managed to achieve in the last twenty years, including membership in NATO and in the European Union; she also rejects the free market economy.
No Morvai speech can be imagined without some reference to the “half-witted Nero and his depraved companions” who, according to Morvai, ordered an attack on peaceful demonstrators with rubber bullets which cost several people their eyesight. The numbers quoted by her vary but the whole incident is greatly exaggerated. The half-witted Nero is Ferenc Gyurcsány and the peaceful demonstrators were actually rock throwing vandals whose favorite pastime was setting fire to cars, garbage cans, and anything they could lay their hands on. In her version of the story, “these people had the right of national resistance against colonization, against stealing our land, our national wealth, and our future.”
According to Morvai it is the duty of Jobbik to open the eyes of the Hungarians and the whole world. She promised that as soon as she becomes a member of parliament (and surely she will unless some miracle happens between now and April 11) she will hold an international press conference and will outline “what is going on in this country.” I assume a Fidesz victory will not change her plan. As for the international press conference Ms. Morvai is well qualified. She speaks accented but fluent English.
She considers Hungary to be in “extreme peril.” In such a dire situation the question is what they could do “to take their freedom, their honor, their country back.” Here Morvai made a gesture toward Viktor Orbán by pointing out that lately the head of Fidesz has also started talking about “taking our country back.” Surely a good sign in her eyes.
In order “”to take the country back” they have to see clearly who took it away from them. The problem began already in 1989-1990, which “was the beginning of the plunder of the nation’s wealth.” That’s not all. Hungarians were were not allowed “to pass the gate to freedom, to build an independent, successful and prosperous country.” Hungarians actually lost “even the illusion of freedom and independence together with [their] national wealth, [their] factories, and [their] economy.” The thiefs were the communists who “on Monday were preaching Marxism to the workers but by Friday were interested only in capital.” As an example of these robber barrons Morvai brings up the case of the present prime minister. In fact, Fidesz tried to find some dirt on Gordon Bajnai but eventually its politicians gave up. Bajnai was clean. However, that doesn’t seem to deter Morvai from making accusations and launching tirades about the “workers whose factory was stolen from them” by Bajnai and his friends.
“But no, and no, and no! They cannot take away the pensions of those workers whom they threw out on the streets, they cannot take away the salaries of teachers and nurses. On the contrary, stolen goods should be returned to the rightful owners.” It’s simple: today’s rich should be dispossessed and their money should be given to the rightful owners of the nation’s wealth that was taken away from them after 1990. Once upon a time something like that happened in Hungarian history. It was in 1948. Morvai seems to think that the present difficult economic times are due only to the communists’ greed and all could be remedied if these people just returned the stolen goods. Therefore there is no need for austerity programs.
But the communists committed other sins as well. They not only stole for themselves but they passed the country on to foreigners. For example, “the world-famous Hungarian food industry” was sold to foreigners who then closed the factories in order to create markets for their own products “that are inferior to our own.” They took away the livelihood of the Hungarian peasants and the Hungarian merchants. Instead came the foreign chains where “Hungarian workers deprived of their rights are working like slaves for shamelessly low salaries.” Morvai is outraged that the “present political elite” allows the exploitation of the Hungarian workers by foreigners. “As if [Hungary] were not a member of the European Union but a defenseless third-world colony.”
Morvai, and therefore Jobbik, doesn’t care about the rules and regulations of the European Union. Hungarians must be protected against foreign invasion. “After all, Hungary belongs to the Hungarians.” As for the loans given by the IMF, the EU, and other foreign banks “we should declare at last that we had paid those loans back many times over and that we are not paying a cent more.” Moreover, the national wealth that was purchased for peanuts should be taken back from these foreigners.
Hungary is a country of wondrous endowments “even in its mutilated state.” Hungary has excellent soil, a good climate, is exceptionally rich in its waterways, the countryside is beautiful, the Hungarian people are hard working and efficient. Therefore our future should be bright. This is our road to the future and not tightening of belts…. Those people have who led the country until now not only didn’t know how to but actually didn’t want to make it thrive. And do you know why? Because they don’t love this country…. They didn’t honor this land, they didn’t respect the Hungarian people…. They didn’t want our freedom, our dignity, our better future…. Those who love the Hungarian people, love their Fatherland should lead this country.”
You may recall that Viktor Orbán plagiarized a bit from Péter Róna when in his “state of the country” speech he talked about the problem with Hungarian foreign policy. The passage that was plagiarized was this: “According to myth our country is small and depends on exports and because it is lacking natural resources and endowments it must defer to others…. [The authors and propagators of this myth] don’t talk about the fact that half of the countries in the European Union are smaller than Hungary. They don’t talk about it because this compulsion toward deference is a characteristic basis of the political elite’s legitimacy.” So, from Róna to Orbán and now to Morvai. If I were Róna I wouldn’t be too proud because Morvai said the following: “Instead of fawning, instead of deference to others, and instead of this polite diplomacy we should demand our rights. We must make it clear that we are not second-class citizens of Europe.”
Reading these lines one is not surprised that Jobbik rhetoric resonates well with about one million Hungarians. It sounds good to take money from the rich, get rid of the foreigners and explain that the country’s only problem is that some corrupt former communists stole the country’s citizens blind. Far too many Hungarians, more than the ones who will vote for Jobbik, believe that there was a thriving industry and agriculture in the Kádár regime that was wasted. They simply refuse to believe that Hungarian industry was not competitive and with the collapse of the Soviet market Hungary couldn’t find an alternative market for its, let’s face it, inferior products and produce. Too many people firmly believe this myth. These people love to hear all this instead of the truth.
Today, for some strange reason, a lot of people believe that Fidesz will be able to fix everything overnight. Obviously those of us who are familiar with the economic situation of the country know better. And what will happen if the Fidesz voters will also be disappointed soon enough? Will the Jobbik remedy sound better?