Hungary: political fight over resurgent fascism

Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party is radicalizing as fast as it is being mainstreamed. Prime Minister Viktor Orban belatedly condemned Jobbik lawmaker Marton Gyongyosi’s call to create a list of Jewish politicians—the day after some 10,000 demonstrated in Budapest to protest the proposal. “Last week sentences were uttered in Parliament which are unworthy of Hungary,” Orban told parliament Dec. 3. Gyongyosi called for the list during a Nov. 26 parliamentary debate on Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Gyöngyösi later clarified his remarks amid the outrage: He intended only to challenge the government’s “one-sided support” of Israel in the Gaza conflict, and to “call the attention to the threat posed by government members and in parliament by Hungarian-Israeli dual citizens.”

Protesters on Sunday Dec. 2 carried signs reading,  “I am not fascist, but Hungarian,” “Jobbik is the biggest national security threat to Hungary” and “Racism is equal to Jobbik!” Some Holocaust survivors protested with a sign that read, “We already experienced this, and once was enough!” In a sign of hope, Hungarian Jewish organizations were among the protest’s leadership. The speakers included leaders from across Hungary’s political spectrum: Antal Rogan, parliamentary leader of the ruling right-wing Fidesz party, Gordon Bajnai of the centrist Together 2014 movement and Attila Mesterhazy of the Socialists.

Hungary’s third-largest party, Jobbik has 43 MPs out of 386, and a growing 8% support in the polls. Gyongyosi in calling for a “Jewish list” said: “I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary. I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.”

Jobbik will almost certainly soon be portraying themselves as free speech martyrs. Lawmaker Balazs Lenhardt was arrested after he burned an Israeli flag at an protest Dec. 14. He was released after questioning. Lenhardt had left Jobbik in November, saying the party had gone too soft.

The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, headed by Chief Rabbi Slomo Koves, has announced plans to take legal action against Gyongyosi over his statement. Said Koves: “In a normal country there is some type of moral borderline where you don’t have to go to court because of something that is said in Parliament. All the members of the other parties should stand up and say ‘this is unacceptable, this guy should just leave.’ And it seems like in Hungary there isn’t that healthy moral stance. So that leaves us the only possibility to go to court, and if we don’t succeed in the Hungarian court then we will maybe go to the EU.”

The fact that it took days for the government to respond has fueled this reaction. Fidesz admits it want Jobbik’s voters, and is itself tilting to the hard right. Ministers have remained largely silent on the growing cult of Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s leader between 1920 and 1944, who passed anti-Jewish laws, allied the country with Nazi Germany, and acquiesced in the extermination of Hungary’s Jews.  (AP, Dec. 14; The Economist, Dec. 8; EJP, JTA, Dec. 3; AP, Dec. 2; National Post, Nov. 29)

Jobbik hasn’t retreated from the “dual citizenship” propaganda in the wake of the controversy. Jobbik’s English-language website contains an open letter party leader Gábor Vona wrote to the Israeli ambassador “in which he asked him to give an account of how the state of Israel keeps records of dual citizenships of MPs andgovernment [sic] members…

Jobbik this year led anti-EU protests that dueled with anti-austerity protests called by the left. Jobbik party thugs have rioted in Budapest, some in Nazi regalia. We aren’t sure on what legal basis Rabbi Koves proposes to sue Gyongyosi, and we don’t support the stupid, counter-productive laws criminalizing Holocaust denial in many European countries. But the calls for censorship are a response to a real threat, and the lack of a political answer to it. Jobbik may win the next elections, and they are in full 1938 mode already….

And lest we get too sanguine about how far removed the foibles of fascism-prone Europeans are from American politics, lets recall the very similar verbiage that is starting to emerge in US elite political culture.

From New Jewish Resistance

  1. I’m disgusted. I only wish I could write that I was surprised.
    The Magyars were even more brutal and thorough in their oppression of the Slavs, Roma, and Jews in their part of the Austria Empire than the Germans – and that was before the FIRST World War!
    The Magyar Iron Guard was notorious for medieval cruelties in their roundups of Jews; unlike the German S.S., which was noted for cold efficiency most of the time.
    Ironic to the point of cruel farce since the Magyars are not, in fact, of Aryan descent – just like the Jews and Roma they were persecuting and helping to exterminate.
    They invaded Europe and stayed, unlike the Huns, Avars, and Mongols.

    Perhpas ideology among the rulers of such places is just an act.
    If you engage in mass torture, execution, and ethnic cleansing effectively and successfully, then you may rejoice with all the other jolly, evil men and women at the top of society; all the will sancitmoniously pretending to be the savior of your particular culture or society..

    1. Fascism and self-hatred

      Yeah, Croatia's Ustashe were so savage in their persecution of Jews and Serbs that the Nazis actually had to rein them in. They believed in doing mass murder the civilized way—bureaucracy, gas chambers, etc. But the Iron Guard were Romanian—and were also actually restrained by the Nazis, especially in attacking the Jews of Moldova, gunning them down into mass graves before they could be deported. In Hungary, a cult has grown up around the country's glorious period as a Nazi satellite.

      Note that neither the Slavic Croats, Magyar Hungarians or Vlach Romanians are "Aryans" (meaning Germanic) and the Hungarians not even "Aryans" in the wider sense of Indo-European. They were motivated by self-hatred, which they externalized onto the Jews and (for the Croats) even fellow Slavs. (Something akin to this can be seen in American Jews, Slavs, Italians, Irish and other "honorary whites" who have to prove their whiteness by exploiting and degrading non-whites as landlords, cops, etc.)

      But there was even an element of this in Nazism itself. What was the core state that the modern German state was based on? Prussia. And what did the Prussians speak before they adopted German in the 17th century? Old Prussian, which was a Balto-Slavic language. Ethnologue informs us that there is a remnant population in Poland that still speaks it. So the Germans knew that their ruling political class were not truly "Aryan." Hence their obsession with expurgating the alien presence.

      1. Who’s not Aryan?! (with apologies to H. Bogart)
        I stand corrected about the Iron Guard.
        You know your 2Oth Century history, Bill!

        On the other hand, the Slavs are, indeed, of Aryan descent.
        Aryan doesn’t mean Germanic.
        The Germanic family of languages (of which English is one) is a branch of the Aryan language tree, as are Slavic, Greek, Farsi, Sanskrit, Hindi, and the Romance languages.
        Magyar, Basque, and Finnish are not.
        Part of my point was that the Nazi ideology was not consistent – either with the science or with itself.

        1. Nazi ideology was not consistent
          That’s my point. The Nazis considered Germans to be the “pure” stock of the Aryan “race,” and they took the name for this putative race from the ancient Indo-European conquerors of India, who, while fairer than the Dravidians they conquered, were assuredly not blond and blue-eyed.You are using Aryan to mean Indo-European, and you are correct about the language classifications. But the Nazis saw things in terms of race, not linguistics, and had a hierarchy of “purity” within the “Aryan” peoples. So, for them, the Germans were “more” Aryan than the Slavs. All bullshit, needless to say.

          And an example of how transparent this pseudo-science was: The non-Indo-European Hungarians, because of their long association with the Austrians, were assigned a superior place in the heirarchy to the Indo-European Slavs; hence Serbia was reduced and its northern territories (Vojvodina) annexed to Hungary under the Nazi order. Transylvania was similarly taken from the Indo-European Romanians and annexed to Hungary. Yet the Slavic and Romanian languages share Indo-European roots with German, while Hungarian doesn’t, and is actually much closer to Turkish. Don’t look for logic.