Tag Archives: Hungarism

Is this new far-right movement really new? No, it isn’t

The international media, which often ignores Hungarian domestic news, immediately perks up when a new far-right group appears on the scene. This is exactly what happened when the Army of Outlaws, a far-right movement led by Zsolt Tyirityán, and a lesser known radical university group called Identitesz, led by the young student Balázs László, gathered in Vecsés, a suburb of Budapest, to announce the formation of a new far-right, radical party they named Erő és Elszántság (Force and Determination). Both Reuters and the Associated Press published reports on the gathering of 200-300 people. According to Reuters, this new movement “looks to be more radical than any political organization targeting a serious political role since the fall of Communism, and uses openly racist language to oppose liberalism and immigration.” The AP report admits that this new formation “seems marginal for now, [though] efforts by the Jobbik party, Hungary’s largest far-right group, to attract more moderate voters could leave room for the growth of extremist groups like Force and Determination.”

Balázs László in Vecsés, July 8, 2017

I’m not sure why the Reuter’s reporter thinks that the ideas expressed by the leaders of this new group are substantially different from those espoused by other right-wing groups and parties. There is nothing new here except perhaps the more radical language with which these ideas are presented. The speakers said that the new party will fight liberalism. The prime minister of Hungary has been fighting liberalism for years and building an illiberal state. The organizers talked about defending white Europeans. The prime minister of Hungary gave long speeches about the defense of Europe as it existed before the migration from outside of the continent. True, he didn’t come right out and speak about “ethnic” or “race” defense, but that is what he meant. They said that they will fight “political correctness.” This is the same thing Viktor Orbán been saying for years about the straight-speaking Hungarians who shouldn’t fall into the destructive habit of political correctness. They talked about the danger of losing awareness of national and sexual identity. How often do we hear the same from Fidesz politicians, including the leader of the party, Viktor Orbán? But interestingly, the attention is on a group that managed to gather 200-300 people for “unfurling the flag of the far right” when the whole country is governed by a politician who espouses essentially the same ideas.

Moreover, there are signs that it is in fact Fidesz that is encouraging these fringe groups to organize themselves against Jobbik. At least it is somewhat suspicious that the government’s main media outlet, Magyar Idők, gave Balázs László of Identitesz the opportunity to acquaint the Hungarian public with his Nazi ideas. Balázs Gulyás, writing in Magyar Nemzet, rightly asked why a newspaper of any standing would publish a lengthy interview with such a person. Because there is no question that we are talking here about an echt Nazi. I saw an interview with him and can attest to the fact that he is a scary guy.

Identitesz is the Hungarian branch of the Identitarian movement, whose goal is “to make racism modern and fashionable.” Otherwise, the movement draws on all sorts of right-wing and conservative thinkers like Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, and Aleksandr Dugin. Identitesz has close ties with the neo-Hungarist/Nazi Pax Hungarica Movement, a successor to Ferenc Szálasi’s Hungarist movement. In fact, László at one time was an active member of Pax Hungarica, to which no Jew, Gypsy, or non-Europid can even apply.

There have been far too many articles in Magyar Idők about these fringe organizations, starting with that lengthy interview with László. He no longer thinks in terms of “national radicalism” but of race defense for Europe as a whole. Just as Viktor Orbán no longer defends only Hungary from outside hordes but, thanks to the Hungarian government’s heroic efforts at closing the Balkan route of the asylum seekers, defends European culture and Christianity.

As for Zsolt Tyirityán’s speech at the Vecsés event, he talked at length about “the struggle for Lebensraum [élettér].” Commentators wondered whether Viktor Orbán will judge all this Nazi talk as severely as he did when a former Jobbik member of parliament used Jewish epithets against a Jewish entertainer. At that time he instructed Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, to act with the full force of the law against him. So far, all the Nazi talk in Vecsés has been conveniently ignored.

As for the infamous term ‘Lebensraum’, it has been in circulation for years in Hungary. As László Karsai, the historian of the Holocaust, called to my attention today, Viktor Orbán used the term in January 2002 on Magyar Rádió’s notoriously right-wing program Vasárnapi Újság, which at that time he described as his favorite. When an opposition member inquired in parliament about the exact meaning of Lebensraum in this context, Orbán explained that “Lebensraum is that territory where Hungarians live.” Well, this is not different from the way Adolf Hitler used the term.

According to Balázs László, “ethnic defense” is a critical task that must be vigorously pursued. In his opinion, it is more important than matters of education and healthcare. One of the goals of the new movement, he said, is the spread of this truth in public discourse. Again, I don’t see anything revolutionary in this. This is exactly what’s been going on for at least two years in Hungary. Everything, with the possible exception of supporting sports, especially football, is of secondary importance to the defense of the country from those hordes from outside of Europe. Viktor Orbán has been systematically fueling Hungarians’ hatred against the refugees and found in George Soros the embodiment of everything that he is fighting against: humanity, charity, legality.

In brief, let’s not lose sight of the real danger that besets Hungary, Viktor Orbán and his government. Let’s not forget that Orbán’s Hungary is the only country in the European Union where a far-right government is in power which has by now more or less introduced a one-party system, which normally has a very long lifespan.

July 16, 2017

Russian military intelligence and the Hungarian National Front

I’d wager to say that not too many people are familiar with a far-right paramilitary organization called Magyar Nemzeti Arcvonal (Hungarian National Front or MNA), although it is perhaps the most important group of its kind today. It espouses the tenets of Hungarism, the brainchild of Ferenc Szálasi, leader of the Arrowcross party which, in the late 1930s, had, for a short while, one million followers. The current leader of MNA, István Györkös, who just killed a Hungarian policeman, is the anointed successor of Szálasi.

Szálasi was captured in Germany by the Americans and was sent back to Hungary, where he was executed in 1946. While still in Germany, he passed his mantle to Árpád Henney, a military officer who was a member of his cabinet. Henney served as head of the Hungarist movement abroad until his death in 1980, when he appointed Imre Tatár, a former member of the Koronatanács (Crown Council). Tatár was singularly unsuccessful in holding together the warring Hungarists. He went to Hungary in 1989, hoping to revive the movement on Hungarian soil. It was here that he found István Györkös.

Despite the fact that a whole institute was created to study extremist organizations in Hungary, we still know relatively little about the 76-year-old Györkös. It seems that he was arrested and jailed after the 1956 revolution. In jail he became acquainted with the Hungarist movement through former leaders of the Arrowcross party who were serving time. Until about ten years ago he lived in Győr. He then moved to Bőny, a small village about 20 km from the city. This is where he killed one of the two policemen who came looking for illegal weapons. In the shoot-out he was injured.

Györkös had to be well known to the Hungarian authorities. He was arrested several times in the last 25 years. At one point he even received a suspended jail sentence. The Hungarian police force and the national security establishment had to know that every year Györkös and his group hold a military camp for youngsters in a secluded area, apparently owned by Györkös himself. It is enough to look at a list of their activities between January 2012 and June 2014 compiled by the now defunct Athena Institute. They also had to know that the man might be dangerous. To send two lightly armed policemen against somebody who, as it turned out, was waiting for them with a machine gun shows recklessness on the part of the Hungarian national security forces.

István Györkös in his usual attire

István Györkös in his usual attire

Several small extremist groups are active in Hungary, but MNA is unique in that it has extensive ties with Russian military intelligence. I dealt with this extremist group only once, in September 2014. It was in connection with a lesser-known right-wing portal called Hídfő (Bridgehead), which broke the story that Hungary was secretly supplying tanks to the Ukrainian army. Soon enough the Russian foreign ministry published an official statement stating that “weapons supplied to Ukraine by the EU-member countries … violate legally binding obligations—the Arms Trade Treaty.” The Russian foreign ministry was well-informed on the details: “Hungary’s Defense Ministry is supplying Ukraine with armored vehicles, including T-72 tanks, through a ‘proxy agency.’” It turned out that Hídfő was the official website of Magyar Nemzeti Arcvonal. For some time it has served as a vehicle of Russian disinformation, a growing concern in Europe and elsewhere. In fact, by now, at least according to national security officials, Hídfő is entirely under Russian direction, either directly or indirectly. The best summary of the history of MNA and its activities can be found in an investigative piece written by András Dezső and Veronika Munk of Index.

The news site also published an article by András Dezső and Szabolcs Panyi which claims that officials of the Russian military intelligence, Glavnoe Razvedivatelnoe Upravlenie or GRU, established contact with MNA and other right-wing groups in the last few years. Apparently Russian diplomats often come in contact with these extremists at shows of military relics. According to information received by Index, the youngsters recruited by Györkös often play airsoft, which is similar to paintball. The weapons they use look and feel real, so real that they are used for military training. Apparently Russian diplomats have been attending some of these games. As for Hídfő, by now it carries practically no news on MNA but only serves Russian political interests.

Index also reported back in February 2015 that the reason for a split between the Hungarist groups was Györkös’s overly friendly relations with Gyula Thürmer’s Munkáspárt (Labor party; actually the tiny Hungarian Communist party), something that Thürmer didn’t want to talk about. But at least one photo exists showing that already in 2012 the Communist party and Györkös were on a common platform. I may add here that Gyula Thürmer’s son, who calls himself Gyula T. Máthé, is one of the important columnists at Magyar Hírlap. Here is his latest. What grows together belongs together, as the Hungarian saying goes.

And let’s return to the village of Bőny. HVG’s reporter visited the village and asked inhabitants their opinion of Györkös and what was going on in their village. They didn’t know the head of MNA well because he wasn’t the outgoing type, they said, but he looked “normal and respectful.” The military camps he organized for youngsters didn’t bother them. Since it was forbidden to drink in the camp, there were no signs of drunken marching militarists. According to one woman, “they were 20-25 years old and behaved very well. They looked like young commandos.”

A reporter from the pro-government Magyar Idők also paid a visit to Bőny. He gained an entirely different impression of the mood of the inhabitants, who are “relieved” because they have been “living in dread.” His informants agreed that Györkös was unsociable, so “everybody thought he was strange and many were afraid of him.” Everybody knew that he had guns. Apparently one could occasionally hear gunshots coming from his place. Magyar Ik’s reporter learned from a woman living in the village that several times a year Györkös organized military camps, which on occasion several hundred extremists attended. Their presence raised fear in the locals. But if that was the case, how is it possible that no one went to the police to report that Györkös had illegal weapons and that the youngsters carried flags with forbidden symbols?

Origo, which in the last few months has become just another mouthpiece of the government, published an article about MNA with the title: “Magyar Nemzeti Arcvonal: Several ties to Jobbik.” The title is misleading. There is no question that Jobbik had connections to some of the extremist groups, but MNA was not among them. I guess Fidesz wants to drown out all the information that is coming from independent sources about the connection between Putin’s Russia and István Györkös’s MNA.

October 27, 2016

Viktor Orbán and the “Christian-National Idea”

“Christian and national.” These two concepts are frequently bandied about by Viktor Orbán. Every time I hear him talking about these concepts in such glowing terms I wonder whether he is aware of the meaning of the “keresztény-nemzeti eszme” or Christian-National Idea. I also wonder whether he ever contemplates the contradiction inherent in coupling these two terms. After all, Christianity is considered to be a universal, supranational concept while “national” is a notion applicable to the particular. This is especially true for the Catholic Church, which even carries the idea of universality in its name.

I also wonder whether non-Hungarians fully understand the true meaning of the term in the Hungarian historical context. Most likely not. The “Christian-National Idea” was the dominant ideology of the Horthy era, and therefore the use of the term should be avoided. Opinions on the nature of the Horthy regime may vary, but I think it is universally acknowledged that it was an authoritarian system that granted only limited political rights to its citizens. Surely, returning to the ideals and practices of such a regime in the name of democracy is more than bizarre and retrograde. It is incompatible with Hungary’s membership in the European Union.

But the notion of the Christian-National Idea should be avoided for another reason: historically, in the Hungarian context, “Christian” meant not someone who professes belief in Jesus as Christ and follows a religion based on his teachings but someone who is “not Jewish.” Strengthening the Christian middle class, which was one of the Horthy regime’s aims, meant preventing the social and economic advancement of Hungarian Jews by blocking their way to higher education.  During the interwar years the churches enthusiastically assisted in the propaganda of the Christian-National Idea and, as the historian Miklós Szabó put it, “they allowed the name of Christianity to be used as a cover-up for anti-Semitism.”

I find it odd that a government that vehemently protests every time it is accused of being anti-Semitic would turn to the Christian-National Idea, one of whose most important elements was anti-Semitism. The other components were revisionism, anti-liberalism, anti-communism, and conservatism. Under the present circumstances revisionism is out of the question, but Orbán and his fellow politicians in Fidesz solved that problem by the “virtual unification of the nation” across borders. To demonstrate the idea of a nation one and indivisible, among the Fidesz European Parliamentary members there are four ethnic Hungarians from outside of Hungary: from Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, and Serbia. The other two components of the Christian-National Idea–anti-liberalism and anti-communism–are at the core of the present Hungarian political system. Conservatism, however, has been replaced by a far-right ideology with many references to the peaceful revolution in 2010. Just as a commentator said the other day, it matters not whether the prime minister of Hungary is Viktor Orbán of Fidesz or Gábor Vona of Jobbik. Their ideologies are indistinguishable.

Viktor Orbán’s references to nation, nationalism, and Christianity are abundant, and here I would like to quote only a few that I find most jarring. About a year ago he claimed that “Christian culture is the unifying force of the nation.” It gives “the inner essence and meaning of the state.” And he added that “that’s why we declare that Hungary will either be Christian or not at all.” Or, here is another take on the theme: Hungarians are Europeans not because Hungary is geographically part of Europe but again “because we are Christians.” I won’t even try to make sense of all this, although such ideas even got into the preamble to the Fidesz constitution of 2011: “We recognize the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood.”

Vktor Orbán's view of the world

Vktor Orbán’s view of the world

By now, as we learned from Viktor Orbán’s speech at Kötcse, the Christian-National Idea is a political creed that he wants to apply to the whole of Europe. The refugee crisis offered Viktor Orbán an opportunity to lead a movement that will replace the liberal blah blah with the Christian-National Idea. I very much doubt that anything will come of Viktor Orbán’s ambitious dreams, but I must say that it would be an interesting twist of fate if the reactionary Horthy regime’s Christian-National Idea became the dominant ideology of the future European Union.

Just like Horthy during the interwar period, Orbán found enthusiastic supporters for his Christian-National Idea among the church leaders. The most important clerical spokesman for the state ideology of the Horthy regime was Ottokár Prohászka (1858-1927), an early representative of Christian socialism. Because of Prohászka’s vicious anti-Semitism, the Catholic Church didn’t promote his ideas after 1945, some of which were actually quite progressive socially. Since 1990, however, the Catholic Church has embarked on a rehabilitation of Prohászka. By now numerous schools are named after him, and his statues and busts are all over the country. He was the one, by the way, who coined the word “Hungarism” that later was used by Ferenc Szálasi to describe his Hungarian style of national socialism. His writings are full of references to the necessity of a Christian-national Hungary that must battle against Jewish influences that would, left unchecked, lead to the destruction of the nation. Prohászka was one of the forces behind the introduction of the numerus clausus of 1920 that fixed the Jewish presence in higher education at 5%.

In brief, the Christian-National Idea is a loaded concept full of the worst instincts of the Hungarian far right, going back at least a century. There are a number of commentators who claim that Viktor Orbán and his cohorts have no definable ideology. They have only one aim: to remain in power. They adjust their propaganda accordingly. They are simple populists. The recurring theme of the “Christian and National Idea,” however, indicates to me that they wittingly or unwittingly sympathize with the ideology of the Hungarian far right of the interwar period, an ideology that bore striking resemblances to fascism and national socialism.