23 09 06

Budapest: A „völkisch” revolution?

Magdalena Marsovszky

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In the course of Monday night, Budapest, the capital of Hungary, has experienced the heaviest disturbances for decades. The demonstrators demanded the resignation of the socialist-liberal government coalition, chanting repeatedly ’Ria, Ria, Hungaria’ and ’Revolution! Revolution!’, and demanded that at last, ’Hungary should belong to the Hungarians, and not to capitalistic groupings’. Amongst the sea of Hungarian flags, so called Arpad Stripes, which had once had been one of the symbols of the fashist, hungaristic movement of 1944, could also be detected.

So what had happened? The day before, a fragment of a recorded protocol of a closed session of the Hungarian socialist party MSZP was leaked to the media. In the live recording, briefly after the parliamentary elections of 23rd April, amongst other things, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány said that they (the socialists) had lied. ’We did nothing for four years. Nothing! /…/ I cannot name one government action that we could be proud of.’

These excerpts, which are being quoted again and again, and which have been taken totally out of context, have taken on a life of their own. They are influencing the country’s political processes, and further lead to the nearly unreviewed acceptance of the western press of the nationalistic conservative account of events by the opposition party. This states that Gyurcsány’s speech was simply about his lies to the public, in order to assure his re-election, concerning the condition of the economy, and that the disturbances were a reaction to this confession. This account, however, misses the real situation of Hungary.

Since the statement that the government has done nothing in the past four years does not meet with reality, one can safely assume, that the Prime Minister intended the cited sentences as a rhetoric tool. In total, his speech was not a remorseful confession, but a passionate nudge in order to motivate, a desperate attempt to ’fight the bog which is opposed to the ideals of the French Revolution, and which has spread in Hungary during the last 16 years’. Undoubtedly, his speech was interspersed with coarse Hungarian expressions, which people sometimes allow themselves to use when speaking amongst themselves, but which ’he will definitely put aside, when there are more than two people in the room’, one could hear in a report.

Moreover, this recording seems to have been public for quite a while. For several months, the nationalist-conservative right circles surrounding Viktor Orbán had already used the word ’lie’ continually and strategically in connection with the socialist liberal government. They continue to express doubts about how legitimate and legal their own government is, claiming that the basis of the so called ‘Gyurcsány package’ (a reform package of the current socialist-liberal government) is not a democratic assignment, but an arbitrary proviso, lacking the support of the people.

These claims, on the other hand, are in line with the concept, which for several years has suggested to the people, that the current socialist-liberal government, the so called ‘post-communists’, are an oppressive, foreign occupational force and a permanent and linear continuation of Stalinist dictatorship.

Since losing the 2002 elections, Orbán’s political activities have escalated repeatedly and have already lead to violence, albeit not to riots as extreme as this time. He encouraged his supporters to ‘take politics to the streets’. The same year, he himself was the main speaker during a demonstration in front of the buildings of the public television, claiming that he, together with the Right, was strong enough to lift the building from its base, but they were just ‘not dressed appropriately for the occasion’. He stated recently, that he and his supporters were powerful enough to attack the government, and he could already smell the aroma of gun powder. ‘The Hungarian people knew in 1956 too, that the government had to be ousted. /../ Prepare yourselves for the change!’ On 23rd October last year, the anniversary of the 1956 revolution, these were the words with which he finished his speech.

It is his rhetoric policy to use ambiguous expressions. He does qualify them later, but they live on in the heads of his supporters. Linguistically, these statements are not direct instructions, but in their semantic associations, they can be taken as incitement for action.

Examining the structures used, the intentions and the rhetoric of this movement of mobilisation, one is truck with the similarities to the völkisch-nationalistic movement in Wilhelmine Germany and the Weimar Republic, which could be taken as a precursor to the holocaust. The current Hungarian movement is also motivated ethnic-nationalistically. The identity of the country is defined as an ethnic homogenuous ‘Magyardom’, sometimes even as a race, and defines the affiliation to the nation based on blood and descent, which brings with it a rejection of the West, of liberalism and capitalism.

However, when a nation defines itself as an ethnically defined society, this always leads to social exclusion, which like in Germany at the time, is reflected above all in anti-Semitism. In Hungary as well, there are NGO’s, i.e. non-governmental organisations, so called ‘Magyardom’ societies, some of the well known intelligentsia, as well as the HírTV and the Kossuth Radio, who evangelise for the ‘raising of the awareness of Magyardom’. Associations, the nationalistic conservative intelligentsia, and the Christian churches are permanently addressing the nation, prophesising it’s apocalyptic nemesis, warning of anti-magyar forces working unscrupulously to atomize society. They talk of the uprooted, the alienated, the internationalist, the cosmopolitan, the capitalist and the communist, of the neo-liberal, the might of the media, of Western capital and consumer society, of the local vassals of globalisation, sometimes even of the axis Tel Aviv-New York-Brussels. What they mean is self evident.

It is the völkisch patriotic ethno nationalism which gives this movement its necessary fodder. It began culturalistically: nowadays, it is rare that one speaks openly of racist subjects, instead it is the ‘culturally different’ or of one’s own ‘cultural’ or ‘national identity’. The lines of demarcation against the ‘others’ in each case are, however, no less clear than in the past.

What one can see developing here is not just a democratic transfer of power. We are dealing with a different reality, a new ‘magyarish conquest’, a völkisch-nationalistic ‘revolution’, and thus the downfall of the democratic system.

Magdalena Marsovszky