It’s time to talk about the Solidarity Movement (Szolidarítás Mozgalom) because I have the feeling that we will hear more about it in the near future. The organizers have been very busy ever since October 1, 2011 when the movement came into being. The most active among them is Péter Kónya, a former army officer and trade union leader. He is an energetic, articulate, and likable fellow who finished high school in 1987 and went to military academy. So, he is relatively young. Since he decided to take part in anti-government activities he is no longer a member of the Hungarian army. The other organizers are all trade union or former trade union leaders with a good sense of humor and great inventiveness. It was this group that organized the “revolution of the clowns,” a reaction to a comment by Viktor Orbán that only “an undersecretary of clowns would sit down and negotiate with the trade union leaders.”
Shortly after its establishment Solidarity’s leaders moved into action and took part in all demonstrations until, on March 10, 2012, Solidarity managed to stage a demonstration on its own in front of the parliament building. It was large enough to be noticed by the foreign press. Reuters reported that there were about 10,000 people present and that Solidarity was a grassroots organization that “sprang up last year to fill the vacuum when the main opposition Socialists could not capitalize on the ruling party’s loss of support.” On March 15th Solidarity joined Milla in organizing another mass demonstration. The Solidarity leaders also put together a “democratic round table” (DEKA) that was joined by 300 civic organizations. Meanwhile they organized cells all over the country. They even publish a modest two-page pamphlet called “Dear Neighbor, Fellow Apartment Dweller” that informs people of the latest news and plans. Solidarity has a website where one can download their publications. Solidarity wants to turn the Orbán government out of office “based on the widest cooperation and with the active participation in defense of democracy.”
So, it seems that Solidarity is capable of getting a large crowd out on the streets. This time we’ll be able to judge its popularity because Solidarity supporters will start their demonstration on Adam Clark Square at 1:00 p.m. Once their program is finished, the participants will cross the Lánchíd (Chain Bridge) and will join Milla at the bridgehead of the Erzsébet híd (Elizabeth Bridge). Milla’s demonstration begins at 3:00 p.m.
The Solidarity leaders are good to their word. They are promoting the widest possible cooperation against Orbán’s undemocratic regime, and that includes the parties as well. Therefore party slogans and party logos are welcome at their demonstration. Moreover, unlike the Milla platform, there is no blanket condemnation of the 1990-2010 period in Solidarity’s manifesto.
What else can we expect tomorrow? MSZP told its supporters to attend the joint Milla-Solidarity demonstration, but officially the party will not be represented. Today an official MSZP delegation will visit Imre Nagy’s birthplace in Kaposvár and tomorrow morning Attila Mesterházy will place a wreath at the Imre Nagy House, the former prime minister’s residence before 1956. There will be a small gathering of the Budapest section of the Imre Nagy Association on Vértanúk tere (Square of the Martyrs) where there is a statue of Nagy. The Demokratikus Koalíció officially announced that they will not join Milla because of this civic group’s populist anti-party stance and because of its negation of the democratic achievements of the period between 1990 and 2010. However, DK’s own demonstration will take place at 11:30 a.m., so if DK supporters want to join Solidarity and later Milla they can certainly do so.
In addition, there are other opposition Facebook groups that are totally independent and their members number in the thousands. I understand they will join the demonstrations. All in all, my feeling is that the crowd will be large.
Jobbik will have several gatherings throughout the country as well as in Budapest. Jobbik’s “central demonstration” will take place at 3 p.m. on Deák Square, a location that I consider too close to the Milla-Solidarity gathering, especially if the latter is as large as in the past when the crowd spread all the way to the Astoria Hotel. However, I have the feeling that Jobbik will have fewer people at their demonstration than the organizers hope. Lately, Jobbik has not only lost a lot of supporters to Fidesz but the party has been unable to turn out big crowds in Budapest.
The pro-government Peace March will start at 2:00 p.m. on Széna Square in Buda. The crowd will move from there all the way to Kossuth Square where the supporters will most likely hear another harangue against the European Union by Viktor Orbán at 4:00 p.m. The organizers compare the importance of their January Peace March to 1848 and 1956, a bold assertion. The goal is “to break out from the shackles of debt” and therefore they will endure “temporary poverty.” I am not sure whether this slogan will resonate, although since this Call was composed Orbán himself claimed that he would have been toppled by unnamed forces abroad if the first Peace March hadn’t demonstrated the strength of his support. So, it is possible that the faithful will march out again to defend Viktor Orbán. But one of the organizers, Zsolt Bayer, admitted that he doesn’t think that the size of the crowd will match the last one.
The petition on the Internet entitled “Support Hungary! Save Europe!” spells out an assortment of goals for the march. This document states that the supporters of the government are not only demonstrating to break out of the debt spiral but are also fighting for “freedom, cultural integrity, traditional values, and moral worth.” Hungary is portrayed as a symbol of resistance in Europe against an “oppressive empire,” the European Union. According to the authors of the petition, as far as the EU and the Western media are concerned, “the real crime of the Hungarian government is not so much its inept economic strategy as its promotion of cultural and political values that run counter to what is deemed correct in Brussels.” The document is full of references to the democratic Hungarian government and, by contrast, to the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. These unelected officials are unaccustomed to a country that tells “the IMF, the EU and Uncle Tom Goldman to get stuffed.” Why not a little antisemitism while we’re at it?
Of course, the above accusations are either based on ignorance or are designed to mislead. For instance, the “unelected” officials of the European Commission are nominated by the member states’ democratically elected parliament and approved by the European Parliament, whose members are also democratically elected by the people of the member countries.
There is practically nothing in the couple of documents I read about the details of the government’s plans to reduce the country’s sovereign debt except for half a sentence that mentions hope in Hungary’s recovery “if the bank system helps alleviate the current economic crisis.” Given the circumstances, I found that line hysterically funny. As for the rest of the government’s steps toward reducing the deficit, they all run counter to the promises Hungary made when it signed the EU 2020 Strategy in June 2010 during the Hungarian presidency. For a detailed list of obligations see a well-informed blogger’s post.
These political enthusiasts don’t really care about facts. Their attachment is emotional. The question is how long they will be ready to stand behind a government that brings them mostly material hardship. Nationalist slogans can wear thin after a while.