October 23, 1992: The first signs of a growing Hungarian extreme right

Today I’m moving back in time, to 1992, when President Árpád Göncz was set to deliver a speech commemorating the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1956 revolution. He never delivered that speech because some of the people who gathered there simply didn’t allow him. This was the first public appearance after the change of regime of the Hungarian far right, some of whom a year later joined István Csurka’s anti-Semitic MIÉP (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja/Hungarian Party of Justice and Life).

For the last few days I have been reading, more or less simultaneously, two biographies of József Antall, Hungary’s prime minister between 1990 and 1993: Sándor Révész’s critical Antall József távolról (József Antall from afar) and József Debreczeni’s sympathetic A miniszterelnök. Révész is a liberal journalist. Debreczeni is today one of the deputy chairmen of the Demokratikus Koalicíó. During the period he is writing about, he was a member of the top leadership of Antall’s party, the Magyar Demokrata Fórum. Révész was able to watch Antall only from afar while Debreczeni was in constant contact with him. Debreczeni was and still is a great admirer of Antall, and in his book he paints a portrait of a man who as a private person was very different from his public persona. Thus, we get closer to Antall the person in the Debreczeni portrait while we have a much clearer view of him as a prime minister in Révész’s biography.

Debreczeni doesn’t spend much time on the aborted speech, which upset the Hungarian left, especially the politicians of the liberal SZDSZ (Szabad Democraták Szövetsége/Association of Free Democrats). In his interpretation, Göncz’s old comrades from 1956 turned against the president because he refused to sign a piece of legislation that demanded prosecution of offenses committed between December 21, 1944 and May 2, 1990 by high-level communists, with no statute of limitations. Göncz, who certainly had no love for the communists who had condemned him to life imprisonment, had his doubts about the bill’s constitutionality and therefore sent it on to the Constitutional Court for review. The court’s chief justice was László Sólyom, who cannot be accused of leftist sympathies. The court found the bill unconstitutional.

Debreczeni blames the liberal press for conjuring up conspiracy theories about the aborted speech. They stated, suggested, or supposed that the incident was organized and that in the final analysis the Antall government was responsible for what happened. In Debreczeni’s view, these people were not Nazis; they were disappointed 56ers who wanted justice. (pp. 308-309)

Révész devotes more space to the events of October 23, 1992 (pp. 174-176). From his summary of what happened prior to the incident, we learn that the organizations made up of former 56ers who attended the event were all followers of István Csurka, who had organized several demonstrations earlier demanding Göncz’s resignation. These were the organizations the Ministry of Interior consulted in connection with the celebrations. Many of these groups held separate celebrations ahead the official one where Péter Boross, later briefly prime minister, and Lajos Für, minister of defense, made speeches. People who had attended those demonstrations plus some skinheads came to the event where Göncz was supposed to speak, and they came in an organized fashion, under police protection. Together, Révész contends, they constituted the bulk of those who turned against Göncz. Boross even invited the border guards to attend, apparently “as part of their patriotic education.” According to Sándor Pintér, who was chief of police at the time, “as if on a signal … 800-1,000 people at once started to yell, boo, clap … it certainly seemed like a concerted action.”

Everything was prepared but the speech was not delivered

Everything was prepared but the speech was not delivered

According to the conservative interpretation, there were no more than 60-70 skinheads, but about 3,000-4,000 people turned against Göncz. The skinheads were perhaps extreme right-wingers, maybe even Nazis, but the rest were good middle-class citizens, heroes of the 56 revolution. The liberals see it differently. They lump all these groups together as part of the growing extreme right which soon found its voice in István Csurka’s MIÉP. These people were not only anti-Semitic; they were irredentist and thoroughly anti-democratic.

Debreczeni, who is no fan of Göncz, blames the president for accepting this liberal view of the events because it meant that he could also accept the communist interpretation of 1956 as a fascist uprising. Of course, this interpretation would be valid only if we accepted these organizations’ claim to their primacy in the revolution.

Why is all this important today? Rereading Révész’s book is a revelation. All those far-right political views I find repulsive today were already taking hold in Hungary in the early 1990s. And just like now, although not to such an extent, perhaps the majority of the government members aided and sympathized with these groups. Although Antall himself was committed to western democracy, most of his cabinet members were not. Lajos Für, who was close to the groups that wreaked havoc during Göncz’s speech, was later involved with Jobbik’s paramilitary Hungarian Guard. Péter Boross today is the honorary chairman of the Veritas Institute and is an apologist for the Horthy regime, including its racism. In September 1993, when Miklós Horthy was reburied in Kenderes, seven ministers of the Antall government were in attendance.

Today, a lot of people bemoan the fact that Hungary has no moderate right-of-center conservative party. It doesn’t because the country has mighty few democratically minded conservatives. In MDF the few moderates lost out to the likes of Csurka, Boross, and Für.

In the early 1990s, however, the far-right wing of MDF was not strong enough to impose its will on Hungarian political life. What it needed, and eventually got, was a leader like Viktor Orbán with the power and the determination to create an illiberal, xenophobic state.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member

Why did Göncz award Albert Wass one of the highest awards, the Middle Cross of The Republic in 1993? Albert Wass was basically a nazi simpathizer and a prominent arrow cross supporter, even after the war. He was also accused of murders by the Romanian authorities. By the way this fellow is part of the school curriculum today and one of the most read authors. He was nominated for the award by Jozsef Antall himself.

Observer
Guest

@Mutt
You answered your question – the government nominates and the president hands out the awards. I am not aware of the circumstances of 1993, but surely Gönz had no sympathy for such nominees.
He was a staunch democrat and maybe didn’t want to go against or to bend the law and set a bad precedent in the young democracy.

Guest

1992 was a time when I thought that Hungary was becoming a country to be really proud of, well on its way to tremendous success in the future.

It is sad to realize today just how utterly deluded I had been about it all at the time.

Guest

More enlightened, progressive and evolved countries work on the principle that their governments have just two basic purposes.

One, to regulate the economy, through taxes, in order to maintain the country’s infrastructure – schools, hopsitals, roads, public utilites, etc.

And two, to regulate human being’s worst insticts, inherent in all of us, through checks and balances, laws and legislation.

Orbán has publicly proclaimed that there is “no time for checks and balances”, thereby guaranteeing the end of a legitimate and properly administered government.

He has instead established a personal, private enterprise which revels in and relishes injustice, greed, selfishness, violencee, conflict and aggression.

Since Orbán’s government does not have checks and balances and does not practice justice and fairness, and instead promotes and promulgates the opposite, it is not a legitimate government and should not be recognised by the EU.

tappanch
Guest

“What they [critics] call corruption is in fact the main policy of Fidesz”

said András Lánczi proudly on December 21, 2015.

He is head of the Fidesz think tank “Századvég”, whose members have access to any state secret.

http://magyaridok.hu/belfold/lanczi-andras-viccpartok-szinvonalan-all-az-ellenzek-243952/

Tyrker
Guest

It is infinitely amusing/ironic that one of the youngsters who protested – alongside the skinheads – against Árpád Göncz, is a certain Zsolt Molnár, who is currently a Socialist MP chairing the parliamentary committee for national security.

http://index.hu/belfold/2014/05/06/az_mszp-s_molnar_szkinhedekkel_tuntetett_goncz_ellen/

Ah, Hungary – never a boring place.

Member

It simply proves that those who are in to politics are in not for the interest of others or the interest of their country but for personal agenda. He just did what Orban andKover did since 1992.

Member

Hungary is so never boring so it is unbearable. I’d like a real boring country. I can’t stand hearing OV, Rogan, Kosa and the other geniuses.

tappanch
Guest
“Like most members of Hungary’s liberal intellectual elite, George Konrad, a distinguished novelist, loathes his country’s stridently illiberal prime minister, Viktor Orban. “He is not a good democrat and I don’t believe he is a good person,” said Mr. Konrad, a veteran of communist-era struggles against dictatorship. All the same, he thinks Mr. Orban, the self-declared scourge of mainstream elites across Europe, was right and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was wrong about how to respond to the chaotic flood of migrants seeking refuge from war and poverty — perhaps Europe’s most serious crisis since World War II. “It hurts to admit it, but on this point Orban was right,” Mr. Konrad, 82, said, lamenting that in the absence of a joint European effort to control the flow, Hungary was wise to seal its borders and sound the alarm over the perils of allowing hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly Muslims, to enter Europe willy-nilly.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/world/europe/hungary-viktor-orban-migrant-crisis.html Let me add when the Orban propaganda proclaimed the closure of the border on September 15, it was in fact wide open to migrants/refugees – it was closed only on October 17, 2015. The number of migrants prosecuted for illegally crossing the border between… Read more »
ruccola
Guest
Given that Orban is an unabashed autocrat this is a bit of an understatement isn’t it: “He is not a good democrat”. Sorry, but Konrad is your stereotypical old Jew terrified of black or brown people, like most Hungarians are. (Yet another evidence, if one needed, that Jewish Hungarians are Hungarians in every sense.) Only this is not politically correct to say about such a liberal stalwart. Let’s face it Konrad is just as terrified of the prospect of “the brown people” supplanting white Judeo-Christian Europeans as are, say, the voters of Miskolc who are terrified that their entire history will be gone in a few decades because the “dirty Romas” are taking over their white land (BAZ county). People, it seems, really can get depressed about the possibility that their genes will not survive for long. I think if Konrad keeps himself this busy he might even receive the St. Stephen Order or the Kossuth Grand Prize or whatever, so then nobody can say Orban is an anti-semite. Especially German critique could be preempted this way: Kertész and Konrád both acknowledged by Orban, well that would be real a coup. Konrád is a pathetic (possibly even senile) old fart… Read more »
Member

comment image

Guest
Something from Konrad back in those early days of potential for Hungary’s political development after communism went off the docket: ‘The right wing is an amalgamation and hasn’t yet split into factions. Its radicals haven’t yet united into a movement ; they prefer to work within the governmental coalition parties, especially as the leadership is careful not to criticize them in public. Far-right rhetoric tends to tread cautiously, within limits, all hints and figures of speech, until one day uniforms and jackboots appear on the streets and windowpanes begin to shatter’……….’I don’t believe the East European pendulum has enough momentum in it to enable right-wing radicals to clear the political terrain and establish an authoritarian regime’. ……Nor do I believe that the bulk of my fellow citizens would welcome a shift in the authoritarian direction’. ….’The Melancholy of Rebirth’. Realities must be tough for Mr. Konrad. As the intervening years have gone by he as many can see that all that political action by the ‘right’ can only be observed as a subtle subversion and undermining of the political pylons the Hungarian state was propped on. Neither his pen and paper nor the electorate unfortunately did anything for propagating a… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
I think Eva presents in her essay the development of the extreme face of the Hungarian right wing, but there is another face which appears more rational and measured. An example of this is Gabor Vona’s presentation given in January 2015, it is a very sublet form of fascism as is evident in this speech which is subtitled completely in English http://jobbik.com/gabor_vona_we_will_heal_the_nations_wounds It’s extremely long by American standards, over an hour, but for those not fluent in Hungarian it provides some insight into the Jobbik world view. including anti-Americanism which Orban has picked up on. His pro-Russian stance is deeply hidden in this speech. I thought how Vona dealt with the EU was particularly interesting, its at around minute 34. He correctly pointed out that the west economically dominates Hungary and it has become largely just a source of cheap labor and assembly for the west. Needless to say his solution to this problem, which is observable to anyone that has followed the evolution of Hungary post communism, is extreme but hidden. He asks do Hungarians want a “human centered” economy or a profit centered economy? He says of course a human centered one and apparently that human centered economy… Read more »
Member

Thanks for this. Vona is not at all unsympathetic at the first sight on this video. But if you listen to the message it is quite frightening. He is good looking and well spoken. It is understandable if people believe in him. He is talking about some important issues like corruption. It’s not impossible to be the next guy in seat. God save the king.

Member

1992 was the time when Orban still seemed like a man who would be able to guide Hungary to a better direction, and who is willing to compromise. This was also the time when everything changed.
I would like to suggest that readers who understand Hungarian, take a look on the following article that perfectly describes (with facts, not with theories) what started the crumble for Fidesz as a democratic party to become what it is today.
http://nol.hu/archivum/20110319-a_fidesz_atmenetele___1992-1014551

Member

OT Guess what? Tamas Deutsch in fact used drugs, and did visit some brothel. In fact the Hungarian court found that Peter Juhasz did not infringe the rights of Tamas Deutsch when he stated that Deutsch lied when stated he never used any drugs!
In written testimonies that included the testimony of a retired detective of the governemnt it was established that he Deutsch not only used drugs but often visited some brohels, liley to use the services of the ladies. According to the detective in the Summer of 1998 he was part of two raids where Deutsch was found in brothels where cocaine and heroin were found. Both times Deutsch was taken away with his head covered. Because of his diplomatic immunity, they were not able to take him to court, or press charges against him.

Oh those Hungarian hand kissing Fidesz gentlemen with Hungarian traditions, and respect for women many women are craving for….. Fine example. (By the Deutsch has 5 children from 2 wives.)

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/12/21/deutsch_tamas_drogper/

buddy
Guest

That’s hilarious. Great to see that blowhard finally his comeuppance. I imagine it won’t affect his position in the slightest but his reputation is pretty well in tatters now.

BTW according to Wikipedia his five children are from THREE different women, four of them from two wives, and one who was born out of wedlock with another woman when he was still married to his first wife. What a guy.

Observer
Guest

@..his reputation .. is in tatters ..”

Please! What reputation ?!
Even fideszniks call him “Tompika”.
Nothing new however – Caligula made his horse a senator, Orban made his ass an MP.

It is interesting to see how will the prosecution office handle the proven act of drug use; considering the government’s noisy “zero tolerance” and anti-drug proclamations. My expectation is a big fat zero; bet anyone?

webber
Guest

Debreczeni has a very selective memory.
Skinheads from Tátabánya were bused to one of Göncz’s speeches by the Hungarian police, and their whistles and jeering stopped the speech. Their transportation was organized by Sándor Pintér, now Hungary’s Interior Minister (also in Fidesz’s first term, 1998-2002). The skinheads themselves said that they had been transported by the police – they, at least, were honest about it all.
Their transportation was surely approved of by Péter Boross, who was Antal’s Interior Minister, and (re)organized Hungary’s secret services. Boross became PM after Antal’s death.
The transportation of skinheads and involvement of Pintér was all revealed in an excellent article in Beszélő some decades ago.
Debreczeni either forgot, or wants to throw a veil over all this, and this makes me whether he also was complicit in it?

wpDiscuz