Hungarian anti-fascist demonstration: Speech of Gordon Bajnai

The debate over what really happened yesterday is raging. First, there were those who strenuously objected to the presence of Antal Rogán, leader of the Fidesz caucus. By now, however, the attention has shifted to the fundamentalist Hit Gyülekezete, one of the organizers of the demonstration. I suspect that many of those young people I extolled came at the call of Sándor Németh, the head of the church.

Zsófia Mihancsik pointed out that the crowd we saw yesterday was very different from the ones that normally go out to demonstrate against the government.  They looked different and they behaved differently. Every one of them had a Hungarian flag in hand, which they waved furiously. And yes, they shouted slogans in unison. But what can we do if  Hungarian parties are incapable of organizing a larger demonstration? Obviously, this church, which is committed to Israel as practically all fundamentalist Christian churches are, knows how to organize.

Some people complained that the people were asked not to boo during Rogán’s speech. It was construed as obstructing free speech. On the other hand, if you read Gordon Bajnai’s speech you may notice an equal restraint when he talked about not complaining about the wrongdoings of the government.

As for the numbers. Interestingly, the Ministry of Interior, unlike after the Peace March, didn’t make an official estimate of the size of the crowd. When asked, the answer was that it is not their duty to count heads. Interesting! The latest estimate is 50,000 people.

Viktor Orbán didn’t do what Attila Mesterházy asked him to do. He didn’t explicitly and clearly distance himself from Jobbik and condemn them. He refused to dismiss Zsolt Németh because of his inadequate answer to Jobbik parliamentarian Márton Gyöngyösi. He talked about the incident in a roundabout way by saying: “As long as I stand in this place, no one can be attacked because of his faith or origin. We Hungarians do protect our Jewish compatriots. The Hungarian nation suffered through dictatorships. We will not allow anyone or any kind of ideology, economic interest or foreign power to divert Hungary from its democratic conviction and the respect of human dignity.” I might add that Orbán read the above from a prepared text which is not his wont during parliamentary debates.

There are at least two problems with this short reference to the event of last week. One is that Orbán speaks of “we Hungarians” protecting the Jews. The implication is that Jews are not Hungarians, not part of the nation. It is worth quoting here from Gordon Bajnai’s speech where he talks about the “Hungarian Shoah [as] fratricide.” The other problem is that unfortunately there was a time when “we Hungarians” failed to protect “our Jewish compatriots.” The promise therefore sounded hollow.

Below is my translation of Gordon Bajnai’s speech which, according to Origo, the crowd liked best. The same article claimed that the listeners were not at all enthusiastic about Mesterházy’s speech. I must say that I didn’t notice any change in the mood of the crowd.

A democrat not only is not afraid but he is someone who doesn’t strike fear in others.

A democrat not only is not afraid; he does not strike fear in others.

* * *

My dear compatriots, my dear fellow citizens!

The organizers asked each speaker, myself included, to be brief. They are right and not just because of the cold. There is no need to speak at length to explain why we are here.

We want to live in peace! We want to live in a world where problems are solved not by force but by common effort. We want to live in a place where upon encountering difficulties people look for solutions and not for scapegoats.

I’m forty-four years old: my generation grew up without experiencing war. I want my children to be given that privilege. It is critically important how we react to the hatred of Jews, the hatred of Gypsies, and how we respond toward those whose lifeline is hatred itself.

We, the many thousands of us here and those who are watching the event on television in addition to the millions across the country, want to live in a country where life without fear is an entitlement. An entitlement which cannot be taken away from anyone regardless of where he was born or whose child he is.

We want to live in a country without fear, in a normal country. In peace, not in war. And not in ceaseless domestic warfare.

Hungary today, however, is not functioning as a normal country. Start with the fact that the public considered it a sensation that diverse representatives of public life today at last, together and not against each other, are standing up against hatred. Civic representatives and politicians. Right wingers, left wingers, and centrists. Members of the government party and the opposition.

In a country that functions normally this shouldn’t be news. What would be news in those countries is if representatives of democratic parties didn’t act this way. A democrat is not afraid and he does not strike fear in others.

Yet this demonstration will make banner headlines in Hungary. This is not the media’s fault. This is our fault. The fault of all of us.

Mine too.

Because it is true that it gives us hope that today, on the first day of Advent, at the most important site of the country’s capital, Hungary is functioning the way it should be functioning every day…

However, we should feel guilty that we haven’t been here in the past years. At the very least when Róbert Csorba and his five-year-old son Robika were killed in Tatárszentgyörgy. Mrs. Tibor Nagy and József Nagy in Nagycsécse. Jenő Kóka in Tiszalök and Mária Balogh in Kisléta.

Six Hungarians just because they were Gypsies. They were killed because of their origin.

And we didn’t come out here and didn’t ask each other how such things could happen in our country…. We didn’t ask their forgiveness for not being able to defend them. There was no national mourning.

This was a grave mistake and Hungary can never make such a mistake again! This event is also about that.

My compatriots!

Lately one often hears that if a frog is dropped into hot water he will jump out because his vital instincts work. However, if the temperature of  water around him is raised slowly, he will be cooked to death without moving a muscle.

In the past few years, we Hungarians were getting used to higher and higher degrees of hate. We no longer even winced. But at stake is our national survival and leading lives worthy of a human being.

In this country there cannot be innocent anti-Semitic talk [zsidózás] and there cannot be innocent anti-Gypsy rattle [cigányozás] because the Holocaust is our national tragedy. In Hungarian Shoah there are not only victims but guilty compatriots. This was a fratricide that must change forever our relations to the words and deeds of hate.

Not long ago a member of parliament made a speech that cannot be explained away. It was an anti-Semitic speech full of hate. It was also a speech that revealed his own being, his party Jobbik, and the whole Hungarian extreme right.

He said that Hungarian Jews must be listed because they are a national security risk.

I fervently want to believe that this country, this nation learned its lesson. That we learned that the national security risks are those who want to compile lists on the basis of origin, worldviews, or beliefs.

Once was enough. We don’t forget! And we won’t let anyone forget!

That’s why we are here, this is what I hope. Because of our reawakened vital instincts. Because we want to make it clear that we don’t want to step into the same river twice. Into the same river at whose banks orphaned shoes—shoes of Hungarian men, women, and children—will lie to the end of times.

This troubled, wise and great river, the Danube, is our witness that we don’t forget and don’t let others forget!

My compatriots!

Anti-Semitism is not about Jews. And the hatred of Gypsies is not about Gypsies. It is about us, all of us, about Hungary, about the nation.

The future of the Hungarian community depends on our solidarity with each other.

Nazism is incompatible with life. The Nazis, those who discriminate, the neo-fascists bring only devastation. And once the country is in ruins they think they can rule it. In a normal country they wouldn’t be able to achieve this.

But Nazism is like most pathogens. It is able to attack only those with a weak immune system. It can defeat only sick countries.

That’s why this virus likes economic difficulties, societal crises, division within the nation. Because it is in that kind of environment that it thrives and multiplies.

And therefore symptomatic treatment of it is not enough. Prevention is a must.

Good governance, a strong societal center, and a healthy political culture are necessary to make sure that these pathogens don’t show up in our cities and villages again. That they are forced back to where they belong: to the pages of historical works on great epidemics, between the chapters on cholera and the bubonic plague.

My compatriots!

Today in a way is also a day of awakening. Politics–as it has been practiced in the last twelve years, which consisted of a kind of domestic cold war—made us blind and irresponsible.

We became blind because we didn’t realize that the unscrupulous power struggle, the division of the nation, the debasement of politics only assists the Hungarian extreme right.

And we became irresponsible because during our fanatical political struggles we too easily branded each other. “If you are on the left, you are a communist. If you are on the right, you are a Nazi.”

It is not in our interest to drive away from the middle of the political spectrum any of our compatriots by attaching unfair and rash labels on them.

By now this mutual branding game has divided and weakened Hungary. It has sent bad messages to everybody.

It told the real Nazis that their presence is acceptable because after all one half of the country calls the other half Nazi. … But the truth is that the presence of Nazis is unacceptable.

People on the right felt that they have more understanding from, have more in common with the far right than with the middle. But the truth is that the far right denies everything they believe in. National unity, Christian teachings, the inheritance of St. Stephen. Faith, hope, and love.

It sent a message to the people on the left that anti-fascism and a culture open to the world is their exclusive domain… But the truth is that to contrast the right-wing worldview with anti-fascism is to commit the same sin as to contrast left-wing views with patriotism.

We are patriotic Hungarians—and therefore anti-fascists—before we are right- or left-wingers.

Many people suggested that I use the occasion to castigate the complicity of the government parties and/or the impotence of the left-wing governance. I will not oblige!

I fought the regime yesterday and I will fight it again tomorrow because it gives ample reason to do so every day.

But today is not a time of normalcy in Hungary. Our first commandment is: “Everybody must cooperate against the Nazis. One must not collaborate with them for any reason.”

It doesn’t matter what party or what politician you vote for at the next elections, we will be deciding on the future of Hungary.

So, let’s send the message together: No one will frighten us! Let’s send the message that no one must be afraid in Hungary! Because together we are louder than any word of hate and together we are stronger than any deed of hatred.

We are Hungarian, we defend each other, and we are not afraid!

Thank you for listening.

61 comments

  1. There was a time, some years ago, that one saw flags everywhere in the US–gas stations, grocery stores, everywhere. It felt like a rising nationalism and I became quite averse to images of my flag. That said, in any gathering that I attended to protest an action by a representative or intention of my government, I would make sure to have a flag: as a sign of my allegiance to the US and its government. I take all the Hungarian flags in this latest demonstration the same way.

  2. Laszlo: “You say Jews are just a religion, but there are only a few thousand Jews by religion, however there are around 50 000 to 150 000 Jews by ethnicity, how come they dont see themselves as Hungarians?”

    No, I’m not saying this. I gave examples outside of religious groups also. If you simply don’t want to understand what I’m saying because you don’t want to. But here is another example: “We the original German settlers in Pécs have been here in the last three hundred centuries.” Do you want to say that therefore I’m for example not a Hungarian?

    Otherwise, I’m just amazed how much you know about the Jewish community. Sorting them into several groups. Real talent. Perhaps first you should learn a thing or two about Hungarian Jewry’s history. The literature is vast.

  3. Eva, its not about how *I* perceive them, but about how they see themselves, and how they act.
    How many Hungarians with German ancestry see themselves as Germans, and not Hungarians?

    Another problem of mine are the Roma. When a Roma does something bad, he is a Hungarian, but when something bad happens to him (say, Guardsmen scare him), he is a Roma.

    I also have a question about this:
    “At the very least when Róbert Csorba and his five-year-old son Robika were killed in Tatárszentgyörgy. Mrs. Tibor Nagy and József Nagy in Nagycsécse. Jenő Kóka in Tiszalök and Mária Balogh in Kisléta.”
    How come no mention of Kata Bándy, Marian Kozma, Lajos Szögi (Olaszliszka lynching) and plenty of others.
    How come the Left, or Jews never protest against this, but if a Hungarian even looks at a Roma in the wrong way, it is classed as “neo-nazi hate crime”?

  4. I never felt like Petofi is looking down on me. Also I agree with almost everything what he says.

    WE, the people under the red, white and green flag killed 500k of our countrymen.

  5. Laszlo: “How come no mention of Kata Bándy, Marian Kozma, Lajos Szögi (Olaszliszka lynching) and plenty of others.

    Again you are mixing up the hokedli with the nokedli. Kozma was killed in a brawl in a disco. It wasn’t a hate crime. Kata Bandy was killed late at night not because she was a Hungarian. The serial killers of those Gypsies mentioned by Bajnai were killed because of their ethnicity.

  6. Laszlo :
    Another problem of mine are the Roma. When a Roma does something bad, he is a Hungarian, but when something bad happens to him (say, Guardsmen scare him), he is a Roma.

    1. If they commit a crime, who are they if not Hungarian?
    2. Can you please remind me why are the guardsmen are “scaring” them?

  7. Eva S. Balogh :
    The serial killers of those Gypsies mentioned by Bajnai were killed because of their ethnicity.

    Were they? If a Hungarian commits a crime against a Roma, for whatever reason it might be, the press will always report is as an anti-Roma neo-nazi hatecrime, always.

    “WE, the people under the red, white and green flag killed 500k of our countrymen.”
    We didn’t, Horthy his best to protect them, Hungary was a safe haven for Jews, many seeked refuge here from anti-Jewish pogroms in Romania.

    Horthy had NO choice, if it wasn’t for him, Hungary would have been attacked, annexed and treated just like Poland or Yugoslavia here, and no Jews would survive.
    The Jews who are still alive in Hungary today can thank their existence to Horthy, who dragged out the deportations until they were simply unavoidable.
    If he outright refused to comply, and didn’t pretend to be anti-semitic, the Nazi backed Arrow Cross would have come into power MUCH sooner, would you want that?

  8. Mutt :

    Laszlo :
    Another problem of mine are the Roma. When a Roma does something bad, he is a Hungarian, but when something bad happens to him (say, Guardsmen scare him), he is a Roma.

    1. If they commit a crime, who are they if not Hungarian?
    2. Can you please remind me why are the guardsmen are “scaring” them?

    1) If they do a bad deed, the press, the news, etc say they are Hungarians, if they do a good deed, they are reported as Roma.

    2) The thing is, they aren’t, those events were blown out of proportion. Old ladies who live in North East Hungary on the other hand, are very scared at night.

  9. I believe in equal rights for everybody, but right now there is too much positive discrimination for Roma and Jews in Hungary.

    1. Oh, my God! Positive discrimination for those miserable Gypsies? You must be kidding. And what you mean by positive discrimination for people of Jewish background?

  10. Please don’t feed the latest troll aka Laszlo!

    It’s always the same: Jews, Roma, Gays etc are the problem – never the “Christian Hungarians” …

  11. It’s always the same: Jews, Roma, Gays etc are the problem – never the “Christian Hungarians” …

    Don’t put words into my mouth, “Christian” Hungarians, like this ‘Hit Gyülekezete’ are indeed a problem, since there is nothing Christian, or Hungarian about them.
    Ottokár Prohászka must be rolling in his grave by now if this is what passes off as “Christianity” these days.

  12. Laszlo :
    I believe in equal rights for everybody, but right now there is too much positive discrimination for Roma and Jews in Hungary.

    … said sergeant Kovacs and slammed the boxcar door.

  13. László: “Were they?”

    Yes they were, didn’t you read the news? There were killers who went out to kill random Roma’s. Kata Bándy was killed by a murderer happened to be a gipsy because she refused to have sex with her attacker, not because he was Hungarian. Marian Kozma was killed because a mobster who happened to be a gipsy picked a fight with him, not because he was Hungarian (which he wasn’t, he was Romanian). Maybe Szögi Lajos is the closest to a hate crime but yet again it was an aggressive family’s (happened to be gypsies) rage, not a racial attack. These are all unspeakable acts in general and I’m all in for a demonstration against violent crimes in general, but that’s still a different category than hate-crimes.

    By the way, the fact that we do know the racial origins of the criminals in the above cases contradicts your claim in the first case.

    There was a gypsy hate crime, when a family was attacked by a group of gypsies shouting death to the Hungarians, guess what, they were arrested and convicted, actually being the only ones so far (at least to my knowledge). So what exactly are you talking about?

  14. Laszlo :
    Steven, do you have a problem with the Hungarian flag?
    Are you one of those liberals who wants to erase history, historical figures, national symbols, and eradicate national identity, all in the name of “fighting racism”?

    Too funny.

  15. Laszlo is the typical Jobbik troll – very similar to “szebbjovot” on pol.hu – just look it up!

    Not worthy to spend your time on …

  16. Laszlo :
    Steven, do you have a problem with the Hungarian flag?
    Are you one of those liberals who wants to erase history, historical figures, national symbols, and eradicate national identity, all in the name of “fighting racism”?

    It always amuses me when the far-right reveal how little they know of their own history.

    Although the colours of the Hungarian flag are historical and date back before Kossuth’s time, the fact that it is a tricolour is a direct reflection of its origins as a revolutionary, and more importantly, republican, symbol. It is modelled directly on the flag of the French Republic, seen then as the beacon of freedom and progress.

    When Orbán parades in front of a wall of Hungarian flags, he is actually standing in front of massed republican symbols!

    But then László probably also believes that St István was crowned with the Holy Crown and all white Hungarians are directly descended from Árpád and the ten tribes.

  17. Just to give you an idea here’s a comment from pol.hu when these guys feel free to say what they are “thinking”:

    “That was Christianity, not “judeo-Christianity”, which is not a religion btw, but a Zionist satanic cult.”

    Nice, isn’t it ?

  18. I don’t normally encourage troll-bating, but “if a Hungarian even looks at a Roma in the wrong way, it is classed as “neo-nazi hate crime”” floored me completely.

    We are beyond politics and straying a long way into psychiatry.

  19. wolfi :
    Just to give you an idea here’s a comment from pol.hu when these guys feel free to say what they are “thinking”:
    “That was Christianity, not “judeo-Christianity”, which is not a religion btw, but a Zionist satanic cult.”
    Nice, isn’t it ?

    It must real twist these loonies up that Christ was a Jew!

  20. Paul :

    Laszlo :
    Steven, do you have a problem with the Hungarian flag?
    Are you one of those liberals who wants to erase history, historical figures, national symbols, and eradicate national identity, all in the name of “fighting racism”?

    It always amuses me when the far-right reveal how little they know of their own history.
    Although the colours of the Hungarian flag are historical and date back before Kossuth’s time, the fact that it is a tricolour is a direct reflection of its origins as a revolutionary, and more importantly, republican, symbol. It is modelled directly on the flag of the French Republic, seen then as the beacon of freedom and progress.
    When Orbán parades in front of a wall of Hungarian flags, he is actually standing in front of massed republican symbols!
    But then László probably also believes that St István was crowned with the Holy Crown and all white Hungarians are directly descended from Árpád and the ten tribes.

    http://images.wikia.com/althistory/images/1/1b/Flag_of_the_Kingdom_of_Hungary.png

    Ps. Kossuth was a far cry from the the MSZP-SzDSz-DK.
    In fact, I am waiting for the day when Gyurcsány protests to have “Nazi Kossuth” banned…

    And Kossuth was a Regent, and Hungary was still a Kingdom, but you are right, I need an ignorant Brit to tell me about my history.

  21. “but you are right, I need an ignorant Brit to tell me about my history”

    Unfortunately, you do, and I’m afraid you are far from the only one.

  22. Pity he’s gone, he was by far the best Troll we’ve had in ages, almost as much fun as ‘Johnny’.

    I shall miss such gems as ““That was Christianity, not “judeo-Christianity”, which is not a religion btw, but a Zionist satanic cult.””

    Do these people actually understand a fraction of what they are talking about? (rhetorical!)

  23. It’s really amazing, that whenever any kind of wrongdoing comes to surface which could be connected somehow to one or other politic- ethnic- or religious groups, the next thing is, that the opposing side start drawing parallels, counting and weighting every aspect immediately – as it would make any difference, regarding the subject at hands..!

    Why should the killing of one innocent [ethnic Hungarian] justify the killing of another innocent [ethnic Roma], while killing anybody at all is terribly wrong, regardless of the reason?

    Why should PM Orban’s ignorant remark be accepted, just because there are- or aren’t some of the Jewish people who has kind of identity-problems, – let alone the half-wit categorizing above:“There are 3 types of Hungarian Jews” – what nobody should have in a sane society?

  24. Paul: Do these people actually understand a fraction of what they are talking about? (rhetorical!)

    But how sophisticated and wise they sound. As if it was a genuine observation nobody has ever considered before… No wonder they fall in love with their own (imagined) intellectual greatness.

  25. spectator :
    It’s really amazing, that whenever any kind of wrongdoing comes to surface which could be connected somehow to one or other politic- ethnic- or religious groups, the next thing is, that the opposing side start drawing parallels, counting and weighting every aspect immediately – as it would make any difference, regarding the subject at hands..!

    This is one of the typical logical fallacies like “ad hominem”. My favourite is: Stalin and Hitler both say thattwo and two makes four – I can’t believe that …

    Some times ago I found a list on this site:
    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/
    BTW the site is maintained to teach about the Holocaust …

  26. Hi wolfi,
    Thanks for the link!
    I remember having the app too a few hundred years ago ;)

    Honestly, I’ve expected that some of the ‘experts’ on the field going to explain in earnest, how they thinking. And no, I don’t believe in Santa Claus (either)!

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