The radicals

All the signs are that FIDESZ [Alliance of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Union, the largest opposition party in Hungary – tr.] will again have to fight on two fronts.  Chairman Viktor Orbán’’s much-vaunted politics of one camp under one flag, first launched over ten years ago, appears once again to be collapsing, as the spectacular advances being made by Jobbik [Movement for a Better Hungary – —tr.] are forcing the largest opposition party to devote its energies not only to challenging the liberal left but also to launch an attack on the extreme right party.

Not that those who set the tone of FIDESZ are all that far away in political style or indeed content from Jobbik; nor is what the pro-FIDESZ media are saying so dissimilar from the views of  the more radical party. But now the opinion polls are saying that the supporters of Jobbik are getting very close to achieving the necessary threshold for parliamentary representation.This development is visibly forcing Orbán and his party – as before – to try to stem the tide of those turning to Jobbik by doubletalk and by sowing discord among the radical right.

No-one with any knowledge of FIDESZ and its ideologists could imagine that the appearance of István Stumpf, no. 2 in the former Orbán government, on the front page of Magyar Fórum [the flagship journal of István Csurka – —tr.] is the result of chance or an error of judgment.  Stumpf is obviously quite aware not only of what the journal stands for politically, but also of  the damage his personal prestige and already much – battered image as an independent analyst will sustain as a result of an appearance in this racially extremist  and anti-Semitic journal.  This would not, however, seem too high a price to pay for the task demanded of him by the party (or perhaps taken on by him voluntarily). There is no doubt what this task is: to weaken Jobbik, even at the cost – inter alia – of strengthening MIÉP [right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party, led by István Csurka – —tr.].  Of course, he was not to know that the interview with him would appear in the issue whose cover story was an anti-Semitic rant against György Surányi, former president of the Hungarian National Bank, and presumably the editors also failed to inform him that his photo would appear next to that of the latter – which was framed in a yellow Star of David.   The appearance of his photograph in this provocatively Nazi context obviously discomfited one of Orbán’’s chief ideologists, particularly as the Surányi photomontage meant that this issue reached a wider than usual readership.  Those aimed at were not members of the wider public but the readers of Magyar Fórum.  Had the cover been less outrageous, the fact that someone who considers himself a democrat and public figure is flirting with a Nazi organ might have remained unnoticed, as no decent democrat would touch Csurka’’s paper, not just for reasons of good taste but because the political and public weight of MIÉP – thanks, inter alia, to Vikor Orbán and his ilk – has completely disintegrated.

Yet István Stumpf is by no means the first and is unlikely to be the last FIDESZ right-winger to legitimate MIÉP. Those in the FIDESZ-KDNP [Christian Democratic People’’s Party – tr.] coalition who have recently spoken at MIÉP forums include István Simicskó, István Tarlós, Ervin Demeter and Zoltán Illés.  Nor is this the only sign that FIDESZ is trying to breathe new life into its covert ally and, after a cooling of relations following its electoral defeat, trying to warm up the fruitful cooperation they enjoyed between 1998-and 2002.

The tone in which the two party leaders speak of each other has also changed significantly. Not so long ago Csurka was trying to alarm his audience with the horrific vision of a FIDESZ-MSZP [Hungarian Socialist Party – tr.] coalition that ‘‘faithfully obeyed the commands of international capital and Israel’’, yet a few days ago on the TV programme Nap-kelte he indicated unequivocally that he sees the future of his party in a broad coalition led by FIDESZ.  He further assured his interlocutor that, as FIDESZ is devoted to the nation and represents the interests of Magyardom, it could count on the support of MIEP if it were to become the governing party and he urged his supporters to vote for the FIDESZ candidate in the upcoming Pécs by-election.  No less important an indicator of the rehabilitation of Csurka and his party by the right-wing is the very fact that the politically astute and ‘flexible’’ staff of Nap-kelte chose this time to show a 20-minute intimate interview with the president of the racist and anti-Semitic party; moreover, the interviewer appeared not only to passively condone the most extreme statements of the party president but often formulated his pseudo-questions in the first person plural.  Such behaviour in public service media would be out of the question west of the Hungarian border.

And this all despite the fact that after the 2002 elections the leaders of FIDESZ spectacularly condemned Csurka’’s party to death, as they saw the main reason for their defeat in the fact that his party siphoned off votes from them. They thought – not implausibly – that had they been able to secure the 4% of the votes wasted on MIÉP, the outcome of the elections would have been different.  It was for this reason that they sympathised with the creation of a far-right party that would operate as a branch of FIDESZ, able to give voice to and integrate radical voters more effectively than MIÉP, which was often unpredictable and created awkward situations for them.  This was the task they set their media and this is why even some more moderate FIDESZ politicians from time to time make chillingly radical statements.  But the efforts have been too successful in every respect: the party created a few years ago – with their passive support – has grown into a monster that threatens not just FIDESZ but above all Hungarian society itself.

The shabby and stale ‘‘Hungarist’’ spirit of the Nazi period that MIÉP represents has been overtaken by a more modern and dynamic hatred, the racism and xenophobia of  ‘Hungarianism’’, supported long-term by Viktor Orbán and his ilk. It was this same István Stumpf after the defeat of 2002 who declared that “‘MIÉP had lost impetus and JOBBIK would in the future be better able to occupy the bastions of the radical national right and focus public attention on radical issues, thanks to its well-trained and well-communicating leadership and commitment to its image of the world and its values. (…… ) A co-ordinated and comprehensive right-wing strategy should in my view make it possible for both the MDF, slightly to the left of FIDESZ and Jobbik, to its right, to get into Parliament as individual parties and create the certain opportunity to form a right wing government.”’  (, 7 June 2003)

Thus was the cradle of Jobbik rocked by FIDESZ politicians. The pro-FIDESZ media conquered the far right voters by making hatred, rabble-rousing, and xenophobia salonfahig in daily life and thus played a crucial role in strengthening the radical right.  It would be wrong to imagine that JOBBIK represents the radicalized democratic right: the leaders of JOBBIK had the same xenophobic views when FIDESZ helped to found it.  Gábor Vona, current chairman of Jobbik, was one of the founders of the Alliance for the National Civic Circle, a well-known Viktor Orbán vehicle, and he was leader of the Right-Wing Youth Community, throwing himself into appearances with Sajtóklub country-wide, after the programme was banned from TV after 2002 for its non-stop baiting of Jews, Roma and Communists.

Krisztina Morvai, who tops the national list of Jobbik in the upcoming EU elections, became notorious nationally and even internationally when FIDESZ considered her the most suitable person, following rioting during the October 23 National Holiday in 2006, to rouse, with her primitive and shameless lies about the government both at home and abroad and to discredit Hungary on several continents.  Morvai was dragged around like a bloody sword  by FIDESZ to make political capital out of uncontrolled hatred.  László G. Tóth, the former chief editor of the extremist, openly anti-Semitic and anti-Roma internet portal, which has continuously provided a regular platform for Morvai, was between 1998 – 2002  a senior political advisor to Orbán and his views then were the same as they are now.  Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, another leading force in JOBBIK today, who was decorated with the award For a Civic Hungary  by the foundation of the same name established by FIDESZ in 2007 for his unceasing fight for the constitutional state and the recognition of fundamental human and constitutional rights, haslimited his legal activity to the legal representation of those accused of war-crimes, Horthyite gendarmes, proponents of racist and Hungarist ideas and of Conscience ‘’88 and the racist demagogue György Budaházy.

And it was from the media stables of FIDESZ that the majority of those working for the extreme right came and learnt the special art of spin, open lies and incitement to hatred.   But it would be wrong to ascribe all the filth that corrupts public organs to the pro-FIDESZ, for in their attitudes and tone many of those whose work recalls the darkest days of the Arrow Cross yellow press of the 1930s were not so long ago regular contributors to public service radio and TV programmes, such as the notorious Vasárnapi Újság (Sunday Paper) or Éjjeli menedék (Night refuge).

But the calculations of FIDESZ in flirting with the extreme right continuously since 1998 have again come unstuck.  There were clearly two camps of extremists wanting to be assimilated into the party: those whose belief was professionally or financially motivated and those who were convinced haters.  The former have adopted the extensive campaign of hatred as a party task, motivated by money and careerism. They are anti-Semitic if that is what is necessary, anti-Roma if that’’s what is on the agenda, and anti-gay if required – whatever they have been ordered to do.  Though there are some stylistic differences in the various elements of the Szeles media-empire that is behind the variety of manifestations of these views, it is clear that there is little difference in substance and technique among these organs.

The other camp, the convinced haters, articulate their hatred not for propaganda purposes but out of deep-felt, genuine conviction: they truly hate Roma, Jews, homosexuals and the left.  And since they hold these beliefs honestly and genuinely, and don’’t just mouth them, the cynical tactical hatred manifested by FIDESZ, the doubletalk that the party has produced for many years, is no longer acceptable to them.These people are serious about the appalling views they hold. FIDESZ fans the fires of hatred out of cheap political considerations and they have succeeded so well that the creature they intended to be their puppet has not only come to life but is daily increasing its audience.

Between 2002 and 2009 dynamic changes never before experienced have taken place in the public realm and in people’s thinking. There has been not only a spectacular increase in the gains of the Christian-national right, but the camp of the radicals, of the haters and the supporters of xenophobia has swollen inordinately.  The latter consist of those who took seriously FIDESZ’s populist-demagogical slogans about the new system change, the irreversibility of privatization, the foreigners who are driving the country to ruin, the left that is intent on destroying the nation, the possibility of changing the borders established after World War I, and those who went beyond the salon radicalism of FIDESZ: for these folk today only JOBBIK offers an acceptable alternative.This not just a nightmare vision, but a cold hard reality, as the opinion polls that consistently underestimate the number of extremist voters shows, the mushrooming of local Jobbik cells, and especially by-election results.  In the capital’s ninth district JOBBIK gained 8.55 of the vote; in Tapolca it was 7.1% and in Ajka 18.92% – results which point to the ever-greater chances of the party getting into the Hungarian Parliament and becoming the third force there.   This prospect is worrying for the declining number of democrats in the country, since JOBBIK are enemies of the democratic state and supporters of racism and xenophobia. But it is no less a worrying prospect for FIDESZ itself, because every vote for Jobbik deprives them of a vote for FIDESZ.

And while it is clear FIDESZ would have no scruples about behind-the-scenes co-operation with Jobbik, just as did not have any with MIÉP between 1998 and 2002, an open coalition would have a number of unpleasant aspects for FIDESZ, even though it is likely to need its support for the two-thirds majority required for modifying the constitution.The deputy leader of FIDESZ Róbert Répássy has firmly declared that there will be no cooperation between his party and Jobbik, but we have been here before:  a few days before the 1998 elections a then leader of FIDESZ made a similar declaration regarding a coalition with the Smallholders – but when it became clear that only with the latter could he have a parliamentary majority, Orbán, who never told a lie, without batting an eyelid asked for the Smallholders’’ hand.

The glue newly binding together FIDESZ and MIÉP is plainly the growing strength of Jobbik. Orbán and his lieutenants must be thinking that even if they cannot tempt the radical deserters from their camp back to the fold, they might at least be able to fragment them.

The first big test will be the EU elections. If on 7 June 2009 Jobbik manages to get into the European Parliament, FIDESZ will no longer have a trump card against the former, namely that a vote for Jobbik is a wasted vote.  From this point onwards, it will be clear to the extreme right that a vote for the party that genuinely represents their views is not a wasted vote.

Translation: Peter Andrew Sherwood

This is an edited and abbreviated translation of an article that first appeared in the issue of 24 April 2009.The Hungarian original may be accessed  here: LIII. évfolyam 17. szám, 2009. április 24.