Saturday, December 3, 2022
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< view full issue: Nationalism and far right II
Soledad Bengoechea

​The Hungarian Nationalist Right


In Hungary, there are two nationalist and protectionist right-wing parties: the Jobbik, clearly neofascist, and the Fidesz, led by Víctor Orbán currently in power. The Jobbik is the main political rival of Orbán that has been turning to the radical and xenophobic Right to shore up its power in the country. Both formations reject multiculturalism and believe that it poses a danger to Hungary. They have even claimed that the Magyars and the Basques are the only pure ethnic groups in Europe, despite the fact that 3% of Hungarians are Gypsies and in Budapest there is one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. However, both Fidesz and Jobbik consider that the Jews are not true Hungarians. Despite the miserable socio-economic situation that the country is going through, the popularity of the Government is immense.


The philosopher Gaspar Miklós Tamás is a currently a leading Hungarian political dissidence figure, and is a reference intellectual in Eastern Europe, with several books translated into more than fourteen languages. Miklós explains to the newspaper Público what happens in the police state of Viktor Orbán. He warns that the Left has disappeared from the map and that the gypsies are considered to be an inferior political, social and economic ethnic group: they are practically excluded from normal life, the lives of whites. and he denounces that refugees from the Middle East, Africa or Central Asia are the new gypsies. It is an abstract hatred, even more abstract than hatred against the unemployed or those who receive social assistance. The gypsies become invisible, they are a population considered superfluous and illegitimate in the eyes of some of these Eastern European societies. The Government has approved measures against people who do not have a residence permit in Hungary: jail, deportation, criminal offense for those who lodge or transport such people. and this intellectual asks themselves, what is going to happen now in Hungary?


The Fidesz -Hungarian Civic Union (in Hungarian: FIDESZ Magyar Polgári Szövetség)- is a political party that has been governing Hungary since 2010, with the Party President, Viktor Orbán, in the position of Prime Minister. Fidesz is a member of the European People's Party (PPE). Founded by Orbán in 1988, when Hungary still belonged to the block of so-called communist countries, it was originally a libertarian and anti-Communist youth organization. 

The founders were young people who defined themselves as democrats, mainly students, who had organized small clandestine groups of opposition to the regime, being persecuted for it.

Orban's anti-communism was evident a year after the founding of Fidesz, on June 16th, 1989, when in Budapest's Heroes Square, in memory of Imre Nagy on the 31st anniversary of their execution along with that of other martyrs of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he delivered a discourse demanding both free elections and the withdrawal of troops from the Soviet Union.

Profound anti-communism is still installed in the ruling party. The socialist era and its leaders are considered criminals. The fourth amendment to the Basic Law of Hungary, passed in 2013, states: "The Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, its legal predecessors and the political organs created in the communist ideology for its service were all criminal organs and their leaders are responsible without limitations". Such an amendment to the Constitution could be as the basis for numerous accusations and prosecutions. Hysteria also affects street names. Those who have some reference to communism or thinkers such as Marx or Engels have had their names changed, while the Plaza de la República was renamed "Plaza Juan Pablo II". A national story made to measure by the Right and is printed in the new school textbooks, whose edition has been directed by the state. In this way, several anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi writers from the interwar period have found their place in the literature school syllabus.

In the 2010 elections, in alliance with the Christian Democrats, Fidesz achieved a historic victory: the coalition won 263 of the 386 seats. Four years later, they swept the results, although with less so than in the previous elections, offering the government coalition the electoral victory as expected with 44.54%.

What explains the popularity of Orbán and their Fidesz party? Víctor Orbán is a 53-year-old lawyer, married and with five children. 

Magnificent speaker, he shares significant aspects of their own personal and family history with a large part of the social history of Hungary post-state socialism. In their discourses, he uses a precise combination of metaphors, self-critical humour and common winks, which makes many people recognize themselves in him. A sports lover, he played football from early childhood and is currently one of the main funders of the Hungarian football club Felcsút FC. As in other countries, football is part of the current Hungarian community. What happens in the stands transcends the sport and connects fans of different social strata, ages, backgrounds or origins. To reinforce these values, a whole associated symbology has been created, including myths and rituals, whether chants, banners or banners. The football stadium constitutes a space of socialization where the construction of an identity is reinforced, in this case Hungarian, is shared around the club.

If the budgets are analyzed, the importance that the leaders of the Magyar country give to football is noticeable: in the last six years more than 500 million Euros have been allocated to promote it, with which stadiums, academies and so on have been constructed.


When the refugee crisis broke out, Orbán, cunning, quickly veered to the radical right with a racist and xenophobic discourse. With it he wanted to divert the attention of the Hungarians from the cases of corruption that had muddied their government. This same discourse continues to be used today. The Hungarian Government has constructed a fence 175 Km long and four meters high along its border with Serbia to stop illegal immigration. In the international media, it is said that the clearly far-right party Jobbik will only be able to continue growing if Orbán commits serious errors.

Hungary Serbia Locator Border

Before the arrival of the refugees, Hungary was home to some 30,000 Muslims, most of them arrived after the Second World War, and some 800,000 gypsies, present in this part of Europe since the Middle Ages. According to Reuters, Gabor Varady, leader of the Council for Roma Affairs in the city of Miskolc, the second largest Roma population after Budapest, said that "the discourse on Roma, the emigrants, has hardened. They say things that would never have been heard 20 or 25 years ago". These ethnic minorities currently residing in Hungary report that the anti-refugee government discourse has also resulted in an increase in xenophobic pressure against them within their own country.

Hungary has a net immigration rate of 1.34 per 1,000 inhabitants. There are many more Hungarians emigrating than foreigners arriving in Hungary. Despite this, both Fidesz and Jobbik speak of a "massive invasion of immigrants". In their assessment of the referendum, Orbán declared that "for the future of our children, our lifestyle, our family model and our Christian roots, we have the right to choose who to live with, to decide the ethnic composition of our country".

"Hungary wants Europe to lock up all asylum seekers". Zoltán Kovács, a spokesman for the Hungarian government, said all refugees would be taken to "shelters" where they would not have freedom of movement, except to return to their country. Kóvács said that they would not be detention centres, but that he still did not know how to name them. British journalist Patrick Wintour, publisher of The Guardian, believes that Trump's election has favoured Orbán's hard line.


On the street, the patriotic discourse is hegemonic and the holding of a referendum in October 2016 on the possibility of 1,300 refugees being relocated in Hungary further strengthened xenophobia. "I'm going to vote No because I do not want immigrants to come," says Palzso Bence, a young eighteen-year-old student. Without knowing the quota of refugees established by the "Council of the EU" of the European Commission for the Magyar Republic and without knowing any emigrant or refugee, he considers that "there are too many". For him, the referendum consisted of "whether the European Union can impose a number of refugees or illegal immigrants to Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia. This is not fair to the poorer Eastern countries". Before leaving, he added "I know you're going to say I'm a neo-Nazi, or something like that. The journalists from the west come here to tell us that we are Nazis. I'm just asking you not to take my words out of context."

During the referendum campaign, liberal and left movements strove to present that there was also a united and open Hungary. However, only three thousand people gathered in the parliament square in Budapest, following the call of cultural personalities, two days before the consultation. A plural and cheerful concentration that featured live performances, reading poetry in Arabic and refugee discourses.

On the other hand, that evening, the Romantikus Erőszak group gathered, in a concert opposite the parliament, with more than 500 followers. Romantikus Erőszak is the main exponent of Nemzeti rock, a Hungarian subculture derived from white power music or RAC (Rock Against Communism, the music of the Nazi skinhead). In the autumn weather, for two hours both the singer and the audience chanted songs and slogans against the immigrants and in favour of the Crossed Arrows Party, a fascist, pro-German and anti-Semitic political party led by Ferenc Szálasi, which ruled Hungary during the final months of The Second World War.

On October 2nd, 2016 the Hungarians were called to vote. The results were the following: the final participation was 43.35%, 3,581,267 of the general public voted (This is to say, that the referendum was not valid according to the current Hungarian law). 

98.33% (3,282,723 people) voted "No" to the EU quotas, and 1.67% (55,758 votes) were a "Yes" to those quotas. 223,258 votes were invalid (6.27%).

Paradoxically, a legal reform introduced two years ago by Fidesz established that for a referendum to be valid it has to have 50% of valid votes cast. Both the left opposition and Jobbik called for the resignation of Orbán for their "failure".

In actual fact, the referendum result did not please anyone. The political scientist Kornelia Magyar, one of the most prestigious analysts in the country, expert in the rise of the Far Right and who has been a communication adviser in several ministries, said: "If we look at the number of votes of Fídesz and Jobbik you will see that they add approximately 3.2 million. It is the same number that has voted No to refugees. So they asked their voters to go to vote and they were able to mobilize their voters. In that sense they were successful. However, they were not successful in their attempt to add liberal and left voters" said Magyar. "But 3.2 million votes are a considerable number, we cannot deny. I would summarize it in that neither is the overwhelming defeat that the opposition says it was, nor the resounding victory of which the government speaks".

In the opinion of Gaspar Miklós Tamás, the current Hungarian state is an authoritarian state -"illiberal", as Orbán proudly calls it- a chauvinist semi-dictatorship that only tolerates a tiny opposition cornered, filtered, slandered by the mainstream media. The education system is impregnated with nationalist propaganda; professors and teachers, as well as doctors, are obliged to be members of some unique, fascist-Francoist corporations; there is no subsidy for the unemployed and there is practically no right to strike. However, there is no visible resistance, except that of the articles circulating on the Internet. Not even of modest dimensions, as in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Romania or the Czech Republic. In addition, the difficulties of Syriza in Greece have greatly damaged an advance of a new Left. In the Central European and Eastern countries the liberal and social democratic parties are increasingly chauvinistic and authoritarian. Conservatism vanishes and gives way to fascist tendencies, with an incredible disdain for poor people, he points out.


"The militias that hunt refugees in Hungary have the support of a French fascist group, use police arms and receive the encouragement of Fidesz, the party of the Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, and Jobbik," he said in a report for the newspaper. Public Hibai Arbide Aza (the author was a lawyer in Barcelona until he moved to Greece and now lives in Athens, where he works as a freelance journalist for different media).

According to Hibai Arbide, a Toyota off-road car travels along a dirt road next to fields of cornfields. It stops next to the fence that delimits the border of Hungary with Serbia, a few meters from a Hungarian army gate. The driver is called Peter Barnabas. He wears camouflage uniform and is armed with a 10-millimetre semi-automatic pistol, handcuffs and personal defence spray. Barnabas greets the couple of policemen on horseback who guard the border. In the off-roader there is a logo that states: Rural Patrol of Asotthalom. However, Barnabas is not a policeman. Only part of the militia is commanded by Laszlo Toroczkai, the mayor of Ásotthalom, a small town of just four thousand inhabitants. The mayor's farm is 200 meters from the border.

From your garden we can see the fence with barbed wire constructed by Orbán. "I am quite proud to have promoted the construction of the fence," says the mayor. "Soon we will reinforce it with thermal cameras, more concertinas and better drones. When I proposed the fence, I was attacked from all sides throughout Europe, he says. Particularly for the Austrian government, but now Austria itself is building fences. More and more people in Europe are aware of the problem of mass immigration", he continues. The pistol carried by the patrol militia is a Jericho 941, one of the weapons of the Hungarian national police. "The weapons are given to us by the police; we have got licences for them", says Barnabas. In the 4 × 4 there is a large sticker with the French flag of La France Rebelle. Its president, Philippe Gibelin, on August 28the came to Ásotthalom to deliver the vehicle, financed by this fascist group that accuses Marine Le Pen's National Front of being too moderate.


Nationalism has not only been reborn in Hungary but throughout Europe and is embraced by many in the name of the sovereignty of the people. Although today there is more ethnical nationalism, the traditional and vulgarized one also survives, without embracing a concrete political project. This is even seen at football matches. What do the Hungarian ultras criticize about the Romanians? that they are gypsies.

Similar to other Eastern European countries, Hungary has remained in the subordinate and dependent periphery that it had in the interwar period: a reserve of cheap labour, together with complete financial and industrial dependence. 

There is no glimpse of economic and social levelling convergence towards Western Europe, and unlike the South, neither in social cohesion funds. 

All this, added to the economic crisis that began in 2008, has boosted the rise of a nationalist and pro-fascist right that "steals" the Left's discourse and leads many proletarians, impoverished by the crisis and who think that the emigrants are rivals in social services, infrastructure, education, and so on, to sympathize with that Far Right. In fact, institutionalized structural racism now replaces a welfare state. and to win votes the centre-right makes a turn towards a radical right, Hard Right.

"Work, home, family, nation, youth, health and order", together with a bitter anti-communism, are the values proclaimed by Orbán. In this way, he hopes to maintain the support of the middle classes, hard-working and "healthy". Their right-wing nationalist government is firmly determined to portray as foreign agents those who, even in Hungary, oppose their policy. 

Orbán's position further fuels the conflict over immigration policies he sustains with Brussels. 

Hungary has not only lodged a judicial appeal against the measure for the relocation of refugees from Italy and Greece -which, on the other hand, he has not complied with, since he did not accept any of the 1,200 allocation in the distribution; 0.02% of its more than 10 million general public-, however, as we have seen here, it has tried to defend its position with a -then again, failed- referendum on this quota of refugees because it imposes refugee quotas, while preventing him from putting some of their most radical measures into practice. For example, this particular xenophobic politician recently crossed a red line when he pronounced that he planned to reintroduce the debate on the death penalty in Hungary. This is something that was abolished in the entire of the European Union through the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Jobbik is the main political rival of Orbán's Fidesz, which has veered towards the radical and xenophobic Right to bolster its power in the country. Nevertheless, due to their political rivalry, these two parties enter into symbiosis in some issues. In all the declarations of both political formations, there is a flagrant absence: that of the social question.




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