Jobbik breeding grounds: The student associations in Hungarian universities

Early yesterday morning an incredible news item appeared on ATV’s website. It reported that for years the Hallgatói Önkormányzat (HÖK) of ELTE’s faculty of arts (BTK) has been keeping tabs on incoming students’ alleged religious affiliation, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and political views. For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. What one ought to know about this particular HÖK is that it has been a breeding ground for Jobbik politicians and activists. But if for years no one got wind of this group’s illicit activities, why it is that someone, undoubtedly from the inner circle of BTK HÖK, decided to spill the beans?

I guess because someone decided that HÖK is supposed to represent the interests of the student body and not go to the president of the university and complain against student activists and those faculty members who are siding with them. Because this is what Ádám Garbai, the present chairman of BTK HÖK, did. By the following day ATV had access to a spreadsheet compiled by BTK HÖK on the salient qualities of incoming freshmen from 2009.

I must admit that I was unfamiliar with many of the descriptions. Although I could figure out what “cigó” and “libsi” could mean, when it came to “ratyi” I had to look it up on the Internet. Among the notations: “atheist, acquaintance of Demszky” (SZDSZ mayor of Budapest between 1990 and 2010), “stupid Lutheran girl, revisionist, Transylvanian picture,” “he has an ugly Jewish head,” “ugly broad who bicycles,” “little liberal fag,” and so on. I urge people who know the language to take a look at the original text. Some of the notes also described actions of the student association. For example, the almighty HÖK leaders who decide whether someone can have a room in the dormitory remarked that “we aren’t going to give him a place.”

Beside each name there was a hidden question whether the person is Jewish or not. Answer: I for igen and N nor nem. Party preferences were noted too: A = MSZP; B = LMP, C = Fidesz, D = Jobbik.

Every year the great minds of BTK HÖK created this kind of Excel spreadsheet on the incoming freshmen. In 2009 Ádám Garbai, the current chairman, was only a freshman. Máté Silhavy was in charge of the spreadsheet. Silhavy doesn’t deny that he compiled the list, but he claims that the obscene, degrading, and illegal comments on the personal habits of students were not his. They were added to the list later, he claims. Garbai yesterday still loudly proclaimed that he was going to sue ATV. I somehow doubt it.

Both the university and Attila Péterfalvy, the government official in charge of privacy issues, are taking the case very seriously because what these young student leaders did is a crime. The university this afternoon suspended HÖK activities at ELTE”s BTK.

I find it hard to imagine that the university’s administrators didn’t know what was going on in BTK’s HÖK. Moreover, they had to know that ever since 2005 the chairmen and all the important leaders of HÖK have been either Jobbik party members or activists. The current chairman, Ádám Garbai, is expecting to hear shortly whether he can be a full-fledged member of the party. His predecessor, László Nemes, was a member of Jobbik. So was his predecessor, István Szávay. According to an article that appeared in Magyar Narancs in May 2012, Garbai’s election in January 2012 was most likely fraudulent: his predecessor, Nemes, fired the top student leaders who were opposed to Garbai’s election. The election had to be repeated because the first one was a draw. Yet after this disgraceful election, the dean of the faculty, Tamás Dezső, delivered a laudatory speech and bestowed a commemorative medal on Nemes who organized the fraudulent election. Or at least this is what one could read on BTK’s HÖK web site before the section on Ádám Garbai was taken off .

ELTE BTK HOK

The illustrious members of HÖK at ELTE’s Faculty of Arts
In the middle of the first row in the dark blue shirt is Ádám Garbai / btkhok.elte

Here is a brief curriculum vitae of István Szávay who today is a Jobbik member of parliament. He finished high school in 1999 but graduated with his first degree in history only in 2008. So, it took this fellow nine years to receive a diploma. He was so attached to university life that he immediately pursued a second degree in political science which he received two years later in 2010. In 2012 he received another diploma in pedagogy and psychology. He is currently a PhD. candidate, but apparently he didn’t get there exactly fair and square. His credentials for entering graduate school were not in order, but one of his professors helped him out by changing a grade or two. Because of his great academic accomplishments he was the recipient of a “Republican Scholarship.” But he was not simply a perpetual student. In 2009 he was on the board of Duna Televízió!

Anyone who wants to learn more about some of these characters might want to look at a good article about them in Népszava from 2010.

Why didn’t the universities and the governments do something about the whole student self-government system a long time ago? The problems were known. HÖKs were captured by extremists who most likely used the organization for recruiting purposes. They misappropriated money given to them by the government. We are talking about millions which they could distribute as financial aid. Some of the money went for lurid parties where, for instance, Szávay was caught in a most embarrassing sexual pose. So, all this has been known for a very long time.

The whole system should have been reorganized. But it seems to me that the socialist-liberal governments were too timid while some of the right-leaning faculty sheltered the HÖOK-Jobbik students.

Will the Orbán government take this affair seriously? I doubt it. After all, as is clear by now, Viktor Orbán doesn’t want to alienate Jobbik. He might need them one day.

55 comments

  1. “For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. ”

    What does this mean? Evaluation of capacity for breeding good quality Aryans? Just like their predecessors in Hitler’s Germany…

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  2. The student organization, Hallgatói Hálózat, have published a post on Facebook where they outline the potential legal implications of this list. They claim this list violates laws regarding personal data, is libelous, and defamatory. They include references to Hungarian law and give contact information for making reports with the goal of activating legal proceedings.

    What can we do about the list?
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/hallgatói-hálózat/mit-tehetünk-a-listázás-ellen/595387940474968

    I have not found any international news items on the story. However, the Budapest Business Journal has a short piece: http://www.bbj.hu/life/elte-locked-in-list-making-scandal_64826

    At an accredited US college or university this activity would likely result in student suspensions and likely expulsions (there have been recent cases of expulsions for violations of campus hate speech codes at several US institutions of higher eduction). The organization would probably loss its institutional affiliation and its charter to operate on the campus would be revoked.

    Sad to see another blow to Hungarian higher education. This calls for a forceful government condemnation and investigation.

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  3. gdfxx :
    “For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. ”
    What does this mean? Evaluation of capacity for breeding good quality Aryans? Just like their predecessors in Hitler’s Germany…

    To me it looks like it was sexist male banter. Not anything regarding breeding, just plain sex. Several women were praised for being decent Hungarians, and in at least one case for being a folk dancer. It is a shame that Hungarian folk music and dance have been misappropriated by the far right.

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  4. Pete H. :

    gdfxx :
    “For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. ”
    What does this mean? Evaluation of capacity for breeding good quality Aryans? Just like their predecessors in Hitler’s Germany…

    To me it looks like it was sexist male banter. Not anything regarding breeding, just plain sex. Several women were praised for being decent Hungarians, and in at least one case for being a folk dancer. It is a shame that Hungarian folk music and dance have been misappropriated by the far right.

    Interestingly, at least according to ‘The Social Network’ (the Facebook film), you’ll find this is more or less how Facebook began! The loony-right doesn’t have a monopoly on stupid, school-boyish, misogyny and sexism. Unfortunately that’s a ‘man thing’.

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  5. Jobbik is an extreme right party, with a lot of racist, homophob, sexist, anti-Semitic functionaries. So we should not be surprised about their doings.
    However the Hungarian censorship authority called also Media authority has warned ATV not to qualify again Jobbik as an extreme right party. So while abroad to a gullible audience Fidesz pretends to be a conservative party, it is in reality protecting Jobbik.

    By the way today Népszava is informing about another condemnation of ATV by the Hungarian Censorship because somebody in a live interview said something not flattering for Jobbik and they were not allowed to reply at once.
    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=623794

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  6. Jobbik IS nothing more than a more extreme variety of Fidesz.

    The two are absolutely the same, they work together all the time, they help each at other in so many ways (even if on the surface there is a purported competition), but for marketing reasions they are separate (like Fidesz and KDNP, the latter being the christian democrats, but KDNP does not and could not even exist on its own).

    It’s called segmentation. (See the above ruling by the Fidesz-arm media authority stating that Jobbik is not an extreme-right organisation. It is a nice gesture for Jobbik’s support of the higher education legislation through HÖK.)

    So Jobbik voters may be counted simply as reserve Fidesz voters, by any other approach we would be just deluding ourselves.

    BUT Fidesz and Jobbik are organised and managed well. Meanwhile liberal kids don’t care
    — and now you see the results with HÖK.

    Btw HÖK yesterday denounced teachers sympathetic to HahA students, and wanted to break the strike (demonatration of HaHA students) with a contingent of 50 black-clad students (!). HÖK’s strike breakers openly supported the government’s policy. I mean when was it last time that young people openly demonstrated to other youngsters in order to promote governments’s policy? In the 1950’s, thats when.

    Unless the Western oriented students and voters organise themselves with discipline, they will be outmanouvered and outplayed by the smarter and more disciplined agressive rightwinger who are planning for the long-term .Fidesz and Jobbik literally take over ELTE from the inside (the supposedly liberal bastions, which is a complete lie). And liberals and leftists give up everything, they don’t care.

    From now on we should use the term Fidesz-Jobbik, as they are one conglomerate, in order to remind ourselves that they are one entity for all political purposes.

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  7. There are two strategies re dealing with/for Jobbik.

    (1) Sanitise them (deny that they are extreme right people) in order to prepare for a future cooperation with Fidesz. Many Jobbik people already feel power (like Szávay at Duna TV), and for them a deputy state secretary position or regional commissariate would be fantastic, so the majority inside Jobbik would be happy to work together with Fidesz in a more formal manner.

    (2) Get more extreme (use antics like the infamous recent idea to list Jews – to create controversy and media exposure) if Jobbik indeed wants to be a separate organisation with a separate identity. They have to differentiate themselves, otherwise voters will choose Fidesz (so their votes don’t get lost in a first past the post system), especially as Fidesz has its own radical wing (KDNP-Kövér-Kocsis line).

    I think Fidesz will pursue the first option, especially as these younger HÖK-originated and other Jobbik functionaries like power and influence better than ideology or independence, so the middle-ranks will support Fidesz in a more institutional manner.

    Jobbik’s leadership – if the party wants to be independent – will have to use the second starategy.

    But I guess the net result will be that Fidesz as the dmoninant party on the right will take huge advantage of the Jobbik voters.

    But whatever happens the Fidesz/Jobbik block has aneytremely disciplined national organiation with an ability to deploy a 100 young people at a whim (and thousands if they have a coupel of days and 50.000 if they have a week). Compare that to the Socialist or Bajnai’s Együtt.

    Also note that it is different to organise a 100 people for an open air evening demonstration that to enter a closed space with much lighting and so that other people around you will look at you from above (as happened with the 50 black HÖK/Jobbik/Fidesz kids who went to the ELTE lecture hall where other students were demonstrating against the government).

    HÖK/Fidesz/Jobbik kids and voters know it for a fact that behind them there are Fidesz, Jobbik and all other power constitutents supporting them (who do not ‘leave anybody behind’ and will protect anyone if that person is loyal enough).

    Who is protecting Haha or the DK voters?

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  8. gdfxx :

    “For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. ”

    What does this mean? Evaluation of capacity for breeding good quality Aryans? Just like their predecessors in Hitler’s Germany…

    Not really. Rather whether she would be good in bed.

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  9. Pete H. :

    ATV only has excerpts and no link I can see to the whole list.
    The whole list is here: http://mandiner.blog.hu/2013/02/19/igy_listaztok_ti#more5092434

    Thank you for the link. To my great surprise I see that Mandiner’s editors moderated the comments. This is a first, as far as I know. They believe in absolute freedom of expression and the most awful comments are allowed. For example, at one time a commenter stated that too bad that Charles Gati survived the Holocaust. I complained and received their stand on the issue as an answer. But I didn’t leave it at that. I asked what they would do if I wrote as a commenter that I wish Viktor Orbán were dead. At this point they took off the comment about Charles.

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  10. Tyrker :

    Just curious, how did you discover that they have moderated the comments?
    Did you spot a comment that you couldn’t see on a subsequent visit?

    Well, when it says “törölve” I think it is quite obvious that they erased the comment.

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  11. Off-Topic: ANOTHER FIDESZ FUD CAMPAIGN (THIS TIME AGAINST MNB)

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-21/hungary-police-probes-central-bank-over-data-handling.html

    Be forewarned: The current Hungarian government now has a long and shameful record of initiating groundless legal proceedings against individuals it regards as standing in the way of its increasingly undemocratic policies. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s longstanding opposition to the independent policy of MNB President Andras Simor is just one of many such conflicts between the government and the kinds of independent checks and balances that are crucial to a democracy. With its supermajority, the government is systematically eliminating these checks and balances by radically (and repeatedly) re-writing the Hungarian constitution. Where this is not sufficient, or not fast enough, the government starts a FUD campaign, which is sufficient to discredit the opponent in the press (mostly government-controlled), and then, after a period of legal and press harassment, the charges are dropped, without ceremony, explanation, apology or redress. That’s what looks to be yet again afoot here — probably as a subterfuge for appointing Orban’s man, Matolcsy, to replace Mr. Simor, who has done a monumental single-handed job in trying to preserve and assert the independence of the Hungarian National Bank (MNB).

    For a signature example of the Fidesz government’s legal harassment tactics (likewise eventually dropped without comment) see the government’s campaign against its critics in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Philosophy section : http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/02/hungarian-academicians-blast-government.html

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  12. “From now on we should use the term Fidesz-Jobbik, as they are one conglomerate, in order to remind ourselves that they are one entity for all political purposes.”

    Someone else not been reading my posts?!

    But I fully agree – it should be a standard opposition tactic.

    The Loyalists did the same thing in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin desperately tried to position themselves as a legitimate political party, with no connections to the IRA (even though they originally proclaimed themselves as the political wing of the IRA, “with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland”). But the Loyalists undermined this sleight of hand completely by consistently referring to them as Sinn Féin-IRA.

    One of the things I find so depressing about the current situation in Hungary, is that the opposition don’t come up with ideas like this themselves. They are letting the Fidesz-Jobbik PR machine run the whole show. They’ve watched Orbán build and improve his propaganda/PR system over the years, and yet they have learnt nothing from this. It’s ‘men v children’ politically in Hungary – and the fact that it is still this way after three years of Fidesz-Jobbik ‘government’ is a damming indictment of the ‘opposition’.

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  13. Thanks, Eva!

    That article (and also the first comment) is really scathing:

    “Studentenlisten im Nazi-Stil an der Philosophischen Fakultät Budapest”

    Student lists in Nazi style …

    That really tells us all about the real Jobbik – if you don’t believe it, read the comments on pol.hu

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  14. Paul,

    the opposition (thus not including Jobbik, given the above arguments) consists of conformists — all of them are.

    Members of the Hungarian opposition think of themselves as reasonable, civilised, open-to-debate, European people and want to retain this image of themselves.

    They never oppose the rules of the game, only want to win the game based on how the rules are presented to them.

    Whereas Fidesz always opposes the very ground-rules — whether it is the constitution itself, or it is capitalism, international-relations, or the media-system.

    It’s not just a good negotiations tactic, it is an important power strategy vis-a-vis political opponents.

    And Fidesz knows they can always force the Hungarian opposition to accept the rules set by Fidesz, because the left (i) is always a wuss and divided (hell, just the Socialits alone are hopelessly divided) and (ii) does not even realise that they are forced to enter Fidesz’s game on Fidesz’s terms (whether it’s the elections or the day-to-day political discourse).

    This has always been so and will remain so.

    Right now, only F. Gyurcsány understands the nature of the game, nobody else.

    So Fidesz will prevail.

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  15. Pondich :
    From now on we should use the term Fidesz-Jobbik, as they are one conglomerate, in order to remind ourselves that they are one entity for all political purposes.

    Many of us have been suggesting this for a long time.

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  16. Eva S. Balogh :

    gdfxx :
    “For good measure they also assessed the sexual potential of female students. ”
    What does this mean? Evaluation of capacity for breeding good quality Aryans? Just like their predecessors in Hitler’s Germany…

    Not really. Rather whether she would be good in bed.

    After looking at the posting, I agree with you. The whole thing looks like something put together by a bunch of stupid teenagers.

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  17. few days ago I came accross public opinion poll (if I good remeber AFM/Dániel Róna) where they found, that some 33% of college students would vote fo jobbik, even more than would go for FIDESZ.

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  18. martin eden :

    few days ago I came accross public opinion poll (if I good remeber AFM/Dániel Róna) where they found, that some 33% of college students would vote fo jobbik, even more than would go for FIDESZ.

    Yes, but it is a bit misleading. This figure is applicable only for those who with all certainty would go and vote. (1) Jobbik usually manages to get its supporters to vote; (2) Relatively few young people bother to vote. (3) This scandal might change the mind of some of the students about Jobbik.

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