Anti-fascist demonstration in Hungary

The reactions to what happened today in front of the Hungarian parliament building naturally vary. There are those who consider the size of the crowd small while others are pleased that not only the square itself but the streets leading to it were full of people. I was, for example, gratified that the crowd came from all over the country. I was also very happy about the number of young people in the crowd. No longer can one see only geriatrics at such demonstrations. The enthusiasm was also a welcome change. One had the feeling that these people really mean that they are ready fight against this neo-Nazi blight in today’s Hungary.

Anti-Nazi demonstration / Népszabadság /  János M. Schmidt

Anti-Nazi demonstration / Népszabadság / János M. Schmidt

As for the speeches, the reactions depend on one’s political views. Those people who have an aversion toward MSZP found Attila Mesterházy’s too belligerent or too political. Mind you, Fidesz commentators’ reactions after the demonstration were very similar to some of the commentators on this blog: they liked Gordon Bajnai’s speech. Those who have perhaps stronger views against the current Hungarian government found the former prime minister’s speech far too tepid. As a friend of mine said, “even Rogán’s speech was stronger.”

There were a lot of people in Hungary I know who refused to attend the demonstration because of Rogán’s presence. Their fear was–and in my opinion it was not unfounded–that Fidesz by joining the demonstration will “get out of a sticky situation.” After all, Viktor Orbán said nothing of the incident in his usual Friday morning radio interview and the initial government response was pro forma. The usual “terse” communiqué appeared that announced that the government defends all citizens of the country. The Fidesz leadership might think that a speech by Antal Rogán, who after all is the head of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, will solve all their problems. It will be a face saving move. Perhaps people will forget how Jobbik came into being and how Fidesz in the last two and a half years has been “stealing” Jobbik’s nationalistic ideas in order to get the votes of the Jobbik followers.

But, in my opinion, that fear was averted. Rogán’s speech concentrated on his personal experiences and his own beliefs. He didn’t try to speak in the name of his party. Only the last sentence was jarring as he repeated the government propaganda about defending all citizens from any attack.

The hero of the day, in my eyes, was Attila Mesterházy, who made it clear that Fidesz has to assume its share of responsibility. He reminded Fidesz-KDNP that without them nothing will change. They are the ones who have that magic two-thirds. It is time to join the opposition and do something about the shift to the extreme right with Fidesz assistance. It was especially good that he called on Viktor Orbán to distance himself from Jobbik, which he has always steadfastly refused to do.

Here is the complete text of Attila Mesterházy’s speech. The translation is my own.

* * *

My dear friends and compatriots,

When this morning we lit the first candle on the Advent wreath we talked with the children about the fact that this demonstration wasn’t organized for just any day. For Christians this day means a lot. And it is important for me too that my seven- and eight-year old children should learn why we are here today. I’m not in the habit of taking my children to political demonstrations, but the situation today is different. Because this is not a political gathering. To be here is not a political statement but a moral obligation.

I’m teaching my children that it is their moral obligation to stand up for those who are stigmatized, threatened, attacked.

As a father and as a politician I feel the same kind of obligation: to do everything in my power to make my country and the lives of my children better. It will be decided here and now what kind of country my children will live in. In a country where anyone can threaten others or in a country where no one has reason to be afraid.

The country has drifted toward fascism

A few months ago I told an Italian newspaper that one can sense a drift toward fascism in Hungary. There are signs in the parliament that indicate that the country is moving toward fascism. After the interview became public knowledge in Hungary a member of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus called me a traitor to my country.

Because I told the truth. I say the same at home as abroad. I say the same on this podium as in the parliament building behind me. This week unfortunately it became clear who told the truth.

Because let’s not mince the words, let’s not be delicate: what the Jobbik member of parliament said in parliament was fascist speech pure and simple.

The last time such words were uttered inside the walls of the Hungarian parliament was during the Shoah. It was then that members of parliament talked about Jews who threaten national security. It was the last time that lists were compiled of Hungarian Jews.

At that time there were not enough people to nip the hatred in the bud and stop those who spread it. But now we are here! And there are many of us. Here and now we send the message to the fascists that it was enough! It was enough!

Fascism is a virus and we are its antidote

Last Monday was one of the most shameful and darkest days of the Hungarian parliament. But let’s not forget that all this didn’t start on Monday. It didn’t even start in parliament. And it will not be solved and ended by itself.

Because fascism is a virus. And the host is Jobbik.Every one of those guardists marching in uniform is a carrier of this virus. As are those who yell anti-Semitic slogans from the bleachers at football games. The ones who flourish red-and-white striped flags at party demonstrations. Also those who extoll writers and politicians who used to cheer for the fascist Arrow Cross Party.Even the one who at social gatherings makes offensive remarks about someone because of his origin.

This is a virus and we are its antidote. We, all of us here. We can stop the spread of this virus.We must fight against it because this is the real danger for national security, for Hungary, for democracy! Today it is the Jews, tomorrow you, then we, all of us. Therefore it is our duty to put a stop to this.

Today is not the end of something but the beginning of something new: the beginning of the common war against the fascists. From this moment on nothing can proceed as before. From now on nothing can proceed as in the past. Today, we need action!

I declare today that I will support the suggestion of DK to quarantine Jobbik in Parliament.

I call on the government to use its two-thirds against the fascists at last. This is what I’m asking from the leader of the Fidesz caucus.

Because let us not forget that hateful thoughts and words are always followed by vile deeds. The thoughts have already spread. We will not wait for the deeds. Therefore we ourselves need more than words. Deeds are necessary!

Deeds we take upon ourselves and expect from others

It is important and wonderful that the head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation came among us. I thank him in the name of all those present.But Mr. Rogán, your responsibility is more than delivering a single speech. Why? Because behind you are two-thirds of the parliamentary members. That super majority goes hand in hand with responsibility.

1. I declare right now that we, socialists, support quarantining Jobbik by all possible means.But without the assistance of Fidesz-KDNP there is no chance of that. Until now you have been able to do absolutely everything you wanted to with the two-thirds majority. Here is the time to use it against the fascists.

2. MSZP has decided not to take part in discussions of the Foreign Affairs Committee as long as Márton Gyöngyösi participates as deputy-chairman of the body.

3. I demand from the government that the place on which we are standing not be converted into a memorial to Horthy. It should remain Kossuth Square, the square of Attila József and Mihály Károlyi. Moreover, if necessary, bring more statues of humanists and democrats here. But not those of József Nyirő and Ottokár Prohászka.

4. I demand that tomorrow’s parliamentary session start with a speech by the prime minister at 1:00 p.m. So that at last just once in his own voice he would explicitly and clearly distance himself from Jobbik and condemn them!

My friends!

For us, sober democrats on the right and the left, there can be no question that if the Nazis are on one side, our place is on the other side. Our morals dictate thus.

We, freedom loving Hungarians on the right and on the left, will show that we are not a half-Asiatic nation but wholly European. Proud Hungarians, democrats who don’t tolerate anyone terrorizing us!

Therefore everybody must spread the message of today. Everybody must take his or her own part in this fight.Because we can stop the spread of fascism only if we don’t allow our country to be infested any longer. Here and now let’s make a promise to each other and to the country: We won’t allow it! We won’t allow it!

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Paul
Guest

Good speech. I must admit I didn’t expect that.

I wonder is ‘that’ speech in parliament will come to be seen as a turning point for Hungary and the beginning of the end of Orbán’s thousand year Reich?

As for the size of the crowd – “not only the square itself but the streets leading to it were full of people” is what Fidesz call 500,000 people.

Guest
London Calling! Many thanks Eva for the translation – much appreciated. (From the English end of Europe it made a change from trying to guess what was said from Google translate!) It is so encouraging to hear the young being prioritised in such a way in Mesterházy’s speech – a very rare consideration in many of Hungary’s political machinations. And yes – ‘quarantining Jobbik’ (and the Hungarian Guarda) is a good idea. Unfortunately they represent a sizeable proportion of the electorate, so he (or DK) mustn’t alienate them so much that it polarises their potential voting intentions. And keeping Kossuth Square and rejecting Horthy (and Nyirő – I’ve never heard of Prohászka, sorry!) – Alleluya to that. His speech seemed to be a summary of many of the contributor’s of your blog, Eva I’m sure it resonated with all the decent and dignified people of Hungary – who might be braver now in showing their disdain at hate speech and racism. I hope so. This is a speech that Orban should have made many moons ago – if he loves his country. But instead I think Orban will be showing signs of being cornered – at his most dangerous. I… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
I will have to read the full speech of Gordon Bajnai. I think his concept is different from Attila Mesterhazy’s. MSzP may consider the political landscape (except for Jobbik) as sufficient, while the new organisations cannot imagine proper change without new people (not only the younger generation of MSzP). It is quite a success to mobilise that many people for this demonstration, and the presence of Fidesz is positive as well – so there are topics where they cannot ignore a public outcry. It would be good to continue with this, the implicit cooperation with Jobbik is a good target. But now that I write it, Fidesz could of course also use this opportunity to toughen some laws, and strengthen the authoritarian tendencies. Then the speech of Mr. Mesterhazy could backfire – he asked for more action, he may get it. To emphasise that the whole system is wrong currently, as I understand the speech of Gordon Bajnai, and that people themselves must contribute if the society should be different may sound “weak” but this is what is indeed needed. What remains, however, is that this speech of Mr Gyöngyösi came so “timely”. It is good to see broad consensus… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Oddly (for me!), I share Charlie’s optimism. I still can’t see a way around the fact that OV can (and will) do anything to win in 2014, but it’s good to be getting some positive stuff coming out of Hungary for a change.

gdfxx
Guest

Interesting opinions on the Galamus website: some people believe that the whole Gyongyosi outrage was based on a carefully compiled Fidesz-Jobbik screenplay, the goal was to deflect everyone’s attention from the just adopted new election law.

I wouldn’t exclude that they are right…

gdfxx
Guest

“Today it is the Jews, tomorrow you, then we, all of us. Therefore it is our duty to put a stop to this.”

This is a sentence, an idea that appears in various forms, over and over in other places too. I disagree with it. In my opinion it is every decent human being’s duty to put a stop to this because that is the decent thing to do. Not because he/she is concerned about being next.

Member
Eva S. Balogh : gdfxx : “Today it is the Jews, tomorrow you, then we, all of us. Therefore it is our duty to put a stop to this.” This is a sentence, an idea that appears in various forms, over and over in other places too. I disagree with it. In my opinion it is every decent human being’s duty to put a stop to this because that is the decent thing to do. Not because he/she is concerned about being next. I don’t believe that. I will explain tomorrow why not. i’ll be interested in what Eva says tomorrow. There’s something much more fundamental at issue beneath this: Whether people behave decently (and ought to behave decently, and can be persuaded to behave decently) only out of self-interest — or because it is decent. There is, of course, the Golden Rule that tries to unify these two, but I think it’s not enough: opportunists (and psychopaths) don’t comply with the Golden Rule: they just invoke it when convenient for them, against others. Those who are persuaded by the Golden Rule are persuaded because they feel it is decent (just), not because it is a rational or even a… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Nazi boy promotes Iranian press TV, no wonder Iran is the big friend of Hungarian nazi,
a country where women are stoned and homosexuals are hanged is their ideal.
Nazi boy promotes also David Irving who wrote a book about the uprising in Hungary and was helped by a former ÁVO man. Irving is not a trained historian and his book on Hungary is full of mistakes. Irving keen on showing that all the rulers of Hungary where Jews, wrote after the name of the politician Ferenc Erdei “Jewish”. András Hegedüs told me, if Erdei would know that, he would turn in his grave, he was a typical leftwing anti-Semite.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Nobody should be mislead by this demonstration organized and financed by the evangelical Christian community Hit Gyülekezete. It is of course a good thing that young Christians demonstrate. However if the Government and Fidesz is not changing its policy, then it was only a PR exercise permitting Orbán to say, we defend the Jews, we are against hate speech, while in reality encouraging with “peacedemonstrations” those who preach hatred.
It could be, that this demonstration was only arranged, so Orbán can hold a speech today not saying a word against Jobbik but showing the stupid foreigners that he is doing páva tánc, making the naive foreigners accept his antidemocratic policy.

GoodHungary
Guest

Ungvari Tamas greeted Nemeth Sandor just like MAZSIHISZ Zoltai Gusztav.
All identified themselves as: Magyar Vagyok.
This could be the slogan of the uprising against the Vona-Orban trash.

Member

It is my understanding (based on my morning reads) that so far Orban is keeping his mouth shut. He said nothing. At the same time Vona got the floor first and expressed that maybe they choose the wrong words but the HUngarians with dual citizenship in the Parliament should come forward. He also summed up the anti-Jobbik (anti-nazi) demonstration proved that in order to protect the Jews the MSZP and Fidesz can form a coalition, but if it is for standing up against the Jews buying up Hungary they cannot do the same. Orban is still quite like (it is a Hungarian expression) shit in the grass.

Member

PM OV had no comment so far on recent anti-semitic speech in the Hungarian Assembly (“before agenda”)

Breki
Guest
The whole current anti-semitism issue is approached wrongly. Coincidentally Schiffer seems to be the only one who sees at least the issue (if not the solution), and he should be given credit for that. It is not like the hundreds of thousands of Jobbik voters in Eastern-Hungary are anti-semites in the sense Budapest-based conservative szalon-antisemites are. The rural voters have not met people with any kind of Jewish identity and they do not think about Jews in any capacity (granted you can be an anti-semite even in the absence of Jews, but this is not the issue here). Rural voters simply support Jobbik because it is the only party which positions itself as the defender of the rural people — who are otherwise completely ignored by all other parties and the government. (This is partly an organisational issue, ie. if you are a more sophisticated party, it is quite difficult to find a local party head in a small village, but this is of course only one reason). The rural way of life (at least as it exists in Hungary) is completely unsustainable in the modern world. You simply cannot attract good enough doctors, teachers etc. to a rural community.… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

Breki, excellent post!!!

Member

I have to admit: I did not expect that. Mr Rogán served as senior substitute… Its hard to perform before a crowd not really dedicated to the government with peers speaking such as Mr Bajnai or Mr Mesterházy

Guest
When we visited my wife’s small home town in East Hungary a few weeks ago and walked the dog to the river I really was shocked to see a lot of dilapidated houses where nothing in repairs seems to have been done in the last fifty years … So I have to agree with Breki on the situation in rural Hungary that (like in Germany) the Jobbik vote may indeed be partially just a protest vote against the established parties which don’t care for the poor. A bit OT: We brought a lot of used clothes from Germany and my wife said her sister would give them to her former colleagues – retired teachers, women who get a pension of may be 70 000 HUF a month or even less! How are you supposed to live on that amount, even if you own your own little old house ? One of them has a small apartment on the fourth floor in one of those “panel blocks” – in winter she can’t get the heating to warm the room to more than 18 degrees … So when the pensioners meet there for their weekly game of canasta, they sit around the… Read more »
gdfxx
Guest

The situation of the rural areas described by Breki is not unique to Hungary. But, generally, it does not lead to neo-nazis being the only alternative to be elected.

gdfxx
Guest

wolfi :
Even more OT:
We’re in Germany now and when shopping this morning at the door of the Aldi and another supermarket again there was sitting a guy from Romania – speaking Hungarian …
They used to be around only in summer, some begging, some playing music, but now they come in winter too …

There are between 1.5 and 2 million Hungarians in Romania…

Member

Breki :
The whole current anti-semitism issue is approached wrongly.

There’s no “approaching” antisemitism like there’s no “approaching” cancer either. We hate it and we want to get rid of it.

JOBBIK has about 10% support support among the active voters. Yes, you are right. They are more popular on the east side of the country, in poor areas and very likely their voters not buying fully into their fascist ideas – they are just willing to compromise for the perceived intentions of help. By the way my wife’s relatives live in Bekes county. While I was visiting this summer I talked to a few people who liked the JOBBIK for being “radical” and they already learned very well the antisemitic slogans. I few years ago I don’t remember them saying the same things.

Nobody said that the main characteristic of the Hungarian racism is the relatively high number of JOBBIK voters. We have listed already many things here on this blog that is not connected directly to the JOBBIK. Everything from the little guy all the way to president of the parliament.

Breki
Guest
Mutt, I know what you mean. That said, you can treat cancer in many ways, though perhaps it is best to prevent it (if you know what causes it). I also said that I completely support the efforts – however what I wanted to call attention to is that things are more complex than the binary approach: I don’t like it because it’s bad so I want it to go away. Racism, anti-semitism etc. are wrong and need to be fought, but you also need to do a lot of other things which are not fightig per se, because issues are complex. For example it is always very easy to use laws to solve issues ie. outlaw anti-semitic statements (I personally support such laws). But what people should also realise is that a complex approach is needed, just to say out loud something (like yesterdays’s statements) and enact a couple of sentences of law will not do. And in that more comprehensive efforts, all political parties seem to have failed, again and again. In addition, we completely fail if we go to sleep in the knowlegde that we again did everything we possible could ‘cos we went to demonstrations and… Read more »
Member

In the eastern parts of Hungary it is rather question of educational deficit, according to my best (worst) experience…
In Budapest sometimes even roma folks join anti-semitism (“there are populations who eat pork meat, and there are folks who do not”)

gdfxx
Guest

Breki :
It is clear Fidesz is and alwys been against anti-semitism).

It is not clear at all. Until their leader is best friends with people like Zsolt Bayer I submit that actually the opposite statement would apply.

Member

Breki, This is a double-decker country! Imagine triple deckers!

Breki
Guest

gdfxx:

I was being ironic in that section (ie that is what Fidesz could say). I hoped it went through.

Member

On yesterday demoonstration, Mr Rogán spoke in 1st person, singular only. There was no real hint on eg. his boss. As a matter of fact.
For PM OV it us very difficult to say something on his own frankly in the very right moment without risking the loss of much hoped potential voters from jobbik

Member

Breki,

Part of the problem isn’t really complex to me. Antisemitism never was this much in your face in Hungary since since the 40s. This virulent racism is the consequence of the policies of the present Hungarian government. These things come down to simply to “dos or don’t”.

Now the “complex” part. It’s like – terrible analogy – bad manners. It can be be cured with good examples and good influence. Dang. I’m back to the government again …

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