In Hungary, a policy of Volksgemeinschaft, or a ‘people’s community’ reminiscent of the Nazi era, is being pursued which suffuses the whole of society. For those on the left and in the opposition, it is difficult to counteract this nationalist cult…
By Magdalena Marsovszky
“Europe – are you looking at us? Can you hear the Nazi caterwauling in Budapest? Now anyone who does not belong to the cliques of the government or the Nazi parties is abused as a ‘Jew’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘stinking’ and ‘rotten’. Not just once a week, not just every two or three days, not just hourly, no, at every moment people who are branded by the bare-faced malice and open hatred expressed by those in power are in danger. It is not just at the approved rallies of the Nazi parties and the right-wing radical groups that hatred of Jews is stirred up. Even in the outer office of the chancellor and leader – what we call parliament – people are preparing for the ‘inevitable day of reckoning’. (…) Europe, where are you? We can no longer see you.”
These desperate words come from a Facebook posting by the renowned Hungarian writer Mihány Kornis on June 5th. On that day, Professor József Schweitzer, the former Chief Rabbi of Budapest, had been verbally attacked in the middle of the street. In democratically-minded sections of society, this attack is being interpreted as a new pinnacle of increasing racism, and although all the parties – even Jobbik – condemned the attack, the trend towards Fascism in the country can hardly be overlooked.
The culture of hate in Hungary is equally antisemitic, antiziganist and homophobic. What we are dealing with are trends which are described in the research by phrases such as “culture of Fascism”, “ethno-pluralism”, “ethno-nationalism”, “the new Right” and “radical right-wing populism”.
The parliamentary elections of 2010 are described in the official rhetoric as a “revolutionary act”, as a “liberation” from the “yoke” of the left-wing liberals, the cosmopolitans and the universalists, who are seen in the cultural discourse of the society as a whole as “the Judaicised”. According to that, the actual turning point came not in 1990, but just two years ago, with the “Conservative Revolution”. This view is put forward even by renowned intellectuals, first and foremost the Wittgenstein scholar and former principal of the Institute of Philosophy at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Professor János Nyíri.
From what has been said by the deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjén, who has responsibility for national integration, it would appear that what we are dealing with is the re-birth of the “organically evolved nation”, which aims to create a “universal community of the Magyar people”. To this end, an “international central database for ethnic Magyars” has also been set up. The Magyar people’s community is said to need “economic Lebensraum in the Carpathian basin” (Viktor Orbán). In order to achieve this, it is important – so it is said – to re-unify the nation that was humiliated by the “diktat of Trianon” (as they call the peace treaty) “beyond the borders”.
The Magyars are understood not just as a cultural community, but also as a community of people of a common descent, which is why the new citizenship law also follows the nationalist principle of jus sanguinis. Almost all the representatives in the newly elected parliament voted for this law. Just how important the principle of descent is, is also declared publicly. In 2008, when he was leader of the opposition, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán regretted that the turning point of 1989–90 had not been a truly “völkisch-nationalist” one. The ethnicisation which makes individuals into members of a “cultural community” has also been put into practice since 2002, in decentralised “citizens’ groups” into which the Jobbik party too was incorporated.
Under these circumstances, the victory of the “nationalist-minded” forces in 2010 was predictable. This had less to do with the alleged mismanagement by the previous liberal socialist government than is frequently asserted. Rather, since the turning point, the left-wing liberals have been continually criminalised, in an antisemitic manner, with the aid of nationalist-minded media.
In the almost entirely ethnicised society, occultism has developed into a mass movement. This is largely tolerated by the Christian churches, and not infrequently legitimised. The “original script” (the runic script as the alleged original Magyar script), and the Magyar “first people”, the “original Magyars” are extolled, and shamanism is blossoming. Even in the parliament, in March a shamanic cleansing dance ritual was carried out before the “Holy Hungarian Crown” (in order to purge the “Nation” of “the enemy within”). And in January, the new constitution came into force, in which nation and faith are united in the phrase “national creed”.
In this highly mystified society, even amongst the democratically inclined opposition groups there is hardly anyone who would determinedly question the ideology of the ethnic cultural nation. Furthermore, many left-wing groups see the enemy above all in “international money-grabbing capital”, which results from the real socialist tradition. In parliament, the most active democratic opposition party is the new Democratic Coalition (DK) of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The greatest extra-parliamentary resistance so far has been organised by the groups Szolidaritás (solidarity) and Milla (One Million for the Freedom of the Press). However, what we have seen so far is a positional battle rather than a campaign for democracy; moreover, the basis of Milla is not so much a democratic attitude as a disappointment in politics. So it is in the case of the small new party of “4K” (Fourth Republic). The small extra-parliamentary liberal party Szema (Free People for Hungary), which has dedicated itself particularly to the integration of the Roma, and the small Polgárjogi Mozgalom a Köztársaságért (Civil Rights movement for the Republic), which above all campaigns against antiziganism and provides active help for the victims of discrimination and violence, are practically powerless.
A great deal of work is done by the independent organisation Tasz (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which above all provide support for victims of human rights violations. Extremely important are the reformed congregations of László Donáth and Gábor Iványi, who particularly disturb the official rhetoric on account of their universalist and anti-nationalist positions. Iványi’s congregation has recently had its recognition as a church withdrawn. In addition, he had to turn hundreds of residents of the homes for the poor and homeless which he founded out onto the streets again. The supporters of “Klubradio”, which is continually under threat of being closed down, often represent the only democratic public arena. Otherwise, it is above all individual people who work to combat the everyday discrimination against Roma, and organise aid projects. Many of them are now penniless.
Anyone who campaigned for democracy in Hungary would hardly stand a chance of being elected into parliament at present – one reason being that the new election law puts small parties at a severe disadvantage. Moreover, the winner in the election can claim victory for himself even if he leads by only a few votes. That is the “central force field” that Viktor Orbán described, in a speech in 2009, as the “upturn of the right”. No doubt he already knew back then that the new election law would favour only Fidesz in the 2014 elections.
Translated from German by Margret Vince