A few months ago I received a most welcome e-mail from Aron Penczu, a young Hungarian-born filmmaker and writer who lives in London, who offered his services as a Hungarian-English translator for Hungarian Spectrum. I eagerly accepted the offer. Here is Aron’s first contribution, a translation of András Fekete-Győr’s May 1 speech at a Momentum rally.
I have written several posts on Momentum’s impressive referendum drive, which ended in Viktor Orbán’s spectacular retreat from submitting a bid to hold the Olympic Games in Budapest in 2014. I also published a more critical article on some of the political mistakes the inexperienced leaders of Momentum have made.
At the moment it is hard to predict the future of this young party, but their initial showing is impressive. According to the latest Závecz Research poll, Momentum has 3% support among active voters. They have, after a few months of existence, more potential votes than all other smaller democratic parties on the left.
♦ ♦ ♦
I’m here with you today to tell you what we need to do in the next year. We need to act. I’m tired of bemoaning what’s wrong instead of acting to make things better – because I’m responsible for my future, responsible for my fate.
At first I was alone and felt powerless. Then we began to grow in number, we founded Momentum, and I understood that in a community we’re strong. Powerlessness was superseded by the strength of action. And now I see that we’re many, and that this means nothing’s impossible: together, so many of us and more, we’re capable of starting Hungary up. We believe, unlike Viktor Orbán, that we need to start things up, not stop them.
He wants to stop Brussels. Stop it because he’s realized that under his leadership Hungary will never catch up with it. It won’t catch up with it because he doesn’t understand the 21st century, and he’s afraid that this’ll come to light. That’s why he closes universities, that’s why he holds Nobel prize-winners so cheap, why he destroyed Origo and the county papers, why he blacklists civil organizations and intellectuals.
Viktor Orbán inspires fear because he himself is afraid. He’s afraid that his incompetence will be exposed. He’s afraid of the press and he’s afraid of free elections, but above all he’s afraid of us, the people.
Yet we drew closer than ever to finally beginning to catch up with Europe – which we’ve waited for centuries – when, 13 years ago, on the first of May, we joined the EU. But in his fear of being toppled Viktor Orbán is choosing the world of dumbphones, and instead of regulating Uber he’s chasing it away, he wants to introduce the internet tax, he eliminates IT lessons, and he blacklists everyone smarter than he is. He’s guiding the nation towards Moscow.
Instead of the rich, modern Europe he’s making a poor, underdeveloped and oppressed Russia the model for our home. But those of our generation who have come home and those who have stayed at home are taking our fate into our hands and changing that direction. We’ve been in London, Brussels, Berlin, across the whole world, and now the tide is turning: instead of foreign countries draining away valuable knowledge, WE BRING IT HOME.
We’ve come home to implement the models we encountered abroad, because it isn’t the Lőrinc Mészároses but the István Széchenyis who build the homeland. The time has come for those from Kazincbarcika, from Budapest, and from London, the right- and the left-leaning, the Christian and the atheist, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, to recognize our shared national fate, because we have a task. Let’s set aside our animosities, because we’re all patriots, because we’re all valuable constituents of Hungarian nationality, and our task is no less than this: building an entrepreneurial, cohesive, and modern nation in the Europe of the 21st century.
We’ll start Hungary up with the most important resource of the 21st century: the knowledge we’ve acquired. Instead of stopping Brussels, we’re going to catch up with it.
Viktor Orbán’s Hungary is a tenantless wasteland with a “Let’s stop Brussels” signboard at its center. Even if you can stoop lower that this, you can’t go further back. Viktor Orbán is building a system of fear on Putin’s model. But we won’t let him succeed. We’re going to dismantle this system and start Hungary up.
We’re not afraid of them and we’ll tell them that. That’s what we’ve been saying with all the past weeks’ demonstrations, and that’s what we’re saying here with you today. We won’t say that it’s easy or simple to overcome an omnipresent fear. But we want a country in which you can plan ahead to 2020 or 2030, not the 20th or the 30th.
They can send skinheads at us, but we’ll talk with them instead of growing afraid. We’re not afraid of them. They can fire us, but we’ll find another job, because unlike them, we’re not corrupt, parasitical politicians.* We are not afraid of them.
They can trot out our parents, our grandparents, our cousins once removed, they can tell us about what they did in ’94, and whom they voted for in ’98 – but we’re writing 2017 and we’re looking ahead, not back. We’re not afraid of them.
They can watch us, they can follow us, they can tap our phones, but unlike them, we have nothing to hide. They can send the taxman to investigate the places and the companies who host us or support us, but they won’t find anything because we’re not robbing the country blind. We’re not afraid of them.
The propaganda machine can lie about us, but this debases them, not us. Advertising companies associated with the government can threaten us, they can even put a policeman by every single poster, but all they’ll get is policemen giving us a hand with our stickers. We’re not afraid of them.
The dean, the director, and the mayor can place pressure on is, but we won’t bend because we aren’t spineless. We’re not afraid of them. And you shouldn’t be either!
We want to tell the girl from Komárom who didn’t dare enter our event when she saw the propaganda-machine outside – because she was afraid they’d see her there and fire her – not to be afraid: we’ll protect her. As we’ll protect those members who have been fired because they joined Momentum.
Don’t be afraid, because we’ll protect you. We’ll help. Together we are strong and loud, alone weak and quiet. Momentum is the kind of community in which we protect each other.
We’re not afraid of them. And nothing frightens them more than that: for seven years, no matter how shamelessly they’ve acted, most of the time everybody’s stayed dumb. They’ve gotten used to thinking anyone can be silenced or bought. But not us. We’re not afraid of them. As they sink lower, so we grow stronger.
Not being afraid is only the first step. The second is to act. We have exactly one year until the spring of 2018 and that’s exactly enough. In one year startups become world-corporations, teams marked for elimination become world champions, unknown poets become national heroes.
In the next year we, Momentum, are going to do everything to dismantle the system of fear. We’re going to work day and night. We’re going to continue touring the country and we’re going to get to every settlement to listen to people and talk with them. We’re going to gauge local and national problems, because we want to answer them together: we’re running a real consultation.
How are we going to achieve this? With you. In two months more than 1,000 people have applied to join Momentum, and we’ve built foundations for more than 100 local organizations. And the number is growing with every passing week. We’re building a nation-wide and active community.
We’re everywhere: locally, on the street, at demonstrations – and we’re going to run in the elections. With a program which offers real solutions to real problems. It’s going to be a program of knowledge brought home and local solutions, which we’re revealing to the country on October 15. We’re going to deliver it on time, as we delivered 266,151 signatures for February 17.
But we also know that a good program is only the beginning of starting Hungary up. We need cells of activity too, and people ready for action, because the state has forsaken us. Our healthcare, our education, and our transport are broken. Our weekdays have become dysfunctional.
Millions of Hungarians are uninterested in national problems because they feel they can do nothing to make things better. We’re sending them a message: we felt like that too, but then we learned that in community there’s strength. The cells of activity are going to yield local solutions to local problems out of local experiences. Join us!
A boy from a high school in Kecskemét told us of how IT studies aren’t offered at his school and so he can’t learn what he wants to. Two others already at university instantly offered to teach him how to program – this is what we call a cell of activity, where stories like this one are born. Because Hungarians want to act: only their hands been tied until now.
We’re starting with the basics, the local, tangible problems, and we’re starting Hungary up with the strength of a community. With the strength of a community – and that won’t work without you. It would be futile for us to pledge to work day and night over the next year to dismantle the system of fear, and to build a livable Hungary, if you don’t come with us. We’re going to rebuild, and we need your help.
Many people are fooled by the system of fear. Those reached only by fear-mongering and the propaganda-machine’s fake news. We can’t fight TV2’s lies, or the daily news on MTVA, or Lokál, but you can. You are our media.
You can get to everyone. Speak to the grandparent, the aunt, the cousin, the godmother, the family friend. You need to tell them that if they want to see their grandchild, and not just once a year, at Christmas, because he lives in London, we need renewal.
You need to tell them that you’re afraid of starting a business because if there’s a branch of the industry that works Fidesz takes a shine to it, expropriates it, and divvies it up among its members. You need to tell them that you’re afraid of settling, of growing roots, because who knows where you’ll live in a few years… You need to tell them that you’re afraid of creating a family, because they close schools, nationalize educational texts, and children can learn only what they intend.
We need to break the wall built around us! We’ve started, and with the success of NOlimpia we knocked out the first brick, but we can only succeed at dismantling it with your help. You are our media. Don’t be afraid of politicizing at lunch. A Hungarian never speaks but endures? Enough of that. We endure with full mouths (when we can fill them)? Never again!
And if you have influence, stand up and don’t be afraid. Raise your voice if you’re a musician and you can see we’re headed in the wrong direction. Speak out if you work at a big company, if you have reach others, because maybe in a few years you won’t be able to reach anyone anymore. Speak, if you’re a radio host and you know exactly where we’re headed.
Stand up if you have influence, whether you’re a gastro blogger, YouTube star, or a conservative intellectual. Don’t wait to realize in a few years that when you could have taken action you didn’t. Act now!
Everyone in their own way: what she has strength for, time for, a desire for. But act. Pin up symbols of Europe, support us, call your representative to account, participate in cells of activity, join us, or be our media.
As for this evening: there are Momentum members among you, ask them for stickers, we have thousands, and tonight let’s correct all the propaganda posters that fall into our paths! Let’s paste over them on the street, on the bus, on trams and on the subway too. Make your mark!
And one more thing. Believe in us. Believe that it can work, believe that one year is enough, and believe that Hungary can be started up. We believe it, and we believe you, and we’ll do everything for our collective goals: believe in our collective strength. Believe in us even if we make mistakes. Believe in us even if one day in a statement we say something stupid. Believe in us, believe in yourselves, because we can only succeed with you.
We have a year. We have hope. We have a choice. Come with us!
*Megélhetési politikusok. See http://hungarianspectrum.org/tag/hungarian-language/
June 9, 2017