“Every Day is 1956”: The Hungarian Revolution Today

The Future of Freedom Foundation is shotgunning out an op-ed I wrote on the Hungarian Revolution, then and now.  Here’s the piece.

“Every Day is 1956:” The Hungarian Revolution Today

by James Bovard

Friends of freedom should doff their hats to the Hungarians this week. Fifty years ago, the Hungarian people bravely expelled Soviet tanks from Budapest and proclaimed their intention to create a democracy. Shortly thereafter, the Soviets returned with almost 5,000 tanks, killing thousands of Hungarians and chaining that nation back into serfdom to Moscow. But at least the Hungarians had the gumption to stand up and sacrifice their blood to cast off tyranny.

I was in Hungary shortly after the 30th anniversary of the uprising. There were no official celebrations then, perhaps because the Soviets still occupied the nation and were watching warily as the Hungarians made passive economic reforms intended to make socialism efficient.

The buildings in downtown Budapest appeared to have different sets of bullet holes — the first from the fierce fighting in 1944 when the Red Army drove the Nazis out of the city, and another set from a dozen years later, from when the Soviets crushed the Hungarians’ demand for freedom.

I have not forgotten the row of new black Mercedes cars parked outside Communist Party headquarters near the Danube River in Budapest. When I interviewed one of the regime’s top trade officials, he was as smug as the day is long, oblivious to the cascading evidence of Hungarian economic failure. (The Reagan administration was cozying up to Hungary at that point, and the “experts” at the U.S. embassy sounded like pimps for the Hungarian government.)

Two and a half years later, it was the Hungarians who, more than any other Eastern Europeans, brought the Iron Curtain crashing down. In May 1989, Hungarian government officials cut the barbed wire on the border with Austria. A tidal wave of East Germans and other Soviet Bloc serfs were soon stampeding through the opening. The Soviet tanks did not roll — and the rest is history.

The celebrations in Budapest of the 50th anniversary of the uprising have been riotous. This is in part because Hungarians again feel betrayed and oppressed by their government.

The socialist party — the direct descendant of the Communist Party that tyrannized the country for so long — now rules Hungary. The socialists secured control in elections this past April.

Last month, a secret tape recording made shortly after the election leaked out. Hungarians heard Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany summarize the party’s election campaign: “We lied in the morning, in the evening and at night. I don’t want to do this anymore.” Gyurcsany said that the government’s claims about the economy were brazen falsehoods. The government now admits that the government budget deficit is almost twice as large as it claimed during the election campaign.

The tape’s release sparked widespread protests which escalated with this week’s anniversary. More than 100 people have been injured, including many hit by police rubber bullets. Hungarian state radio reported that “police beat some of the protesters — including women and elderly people — with rubber batons, and some had head injuries,” according to the Associated Press.

Tibor Navracsics, one of the opposition leaders, warns, “Hungary is in a moral crisis. If people are deceived, then they can’t make responsible decisions.” The opposition is demanding a public referendum within 5 months on the government’s policies. The government is scorning its demand.

Gyurcsany’s defenders stress that he recently won a “vote of confidence” in Parliament. The fact that weasel-like politicians did not object to political lying is not exactly a moral clean bill of health for the government.

So are Hungarians too immature to realize how much deference they owe lying leaders?

Here in America, students are taught in school that they are obliged to obey politicians who win elections fair and square.

Then, at some point, an asterisk pops up — and people are notified that they must obey even if politicians seized power via gross deceit. Unless people can irrefragably prove that the rulers seized power wrongfully, they are obliged to submit.

And how can they prove that the politicians seized power illegitimately?

Only if the politicians confess. No other evidence can be admitted: the word must come from On High.

This was the case in Hungary.

But it doesn’t matter because the socialists refuse to relinquish the power they wrongfully snared. Regardless of how politicians capture power, they still supposedly have the right to send police to bust the heads of people who refuse to submit.

“Every day is 1956” read the graffiti painted by protesters in Budapest this week. Some of the protests have been violent, as has the government’s response at times. Many commentators are lamenting that the big anniversary did not spur an uplifting display of Hungarian unity.

But maybe Americans should look at Hungary more closely. For decades, Americans have been far too docile to the lies of their leaders. Whether it is Nixon lying about Vietnam, or George H.W. Bush lying about Panama, or Clinton lying about Kosovo, or George W. Bush lying about Iraq and Afghanistan — many Americans have responded as if they were born to be cannon fodder for the ruling class.

George Bush openly proclaimed last year, “In my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” The vast majority of Americans ignored the comment, if they even noticed it.

But if lying is simply another perk of the presidency, then Americans should at least have the decency to stop preening about being self-governing.

If the citizenry does not punish liars, then it cannot expect the truth. Hungary again reminds us that we do not need to bow down to whomever manages to capture political power.




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28 Responses to “Every Day is 1956”: The Hungarian Revolution Today

  1. lawhobbit October 27, 2006 at 9:56 am #

    The bread and circuses approach, mixed with abject terrorization when necessary, has worked pretty well for the past century and a half – comfortable people generally do not rebel, and any small contingent that might can be quickly taken care of by a large and efficient police force. By “efficient,” I mean one whose loyalty is to the State, not to the communities they allegedly “serve.” When the house of cards finally comes crashing down you may see some good ol’ French Revolution style violence done to mid-level bureaucrats, but the Top Dogs And Perpetrators will long since have fled. Maybe we can build something better out of the ashes, but given the short memories most people have, it probably wouldn’t last more than a couple generations anyway.

  2. Jim October 27, 2006 at 10:59 am #

    The system has been shaky for a long time yet has managed to keep people in their place.

    Who the heck knows how this is all going to end. Docility will probably not last forever….

  3. lawhobbit October 27, 2006 at 11:17 am #

    It’s easier to keep people in their place with carrots than with sticks – comfy sheep, warm and well-fed, don’t show any interest in trampling the fence or the shepherd. I’d agree that the docility won’t last, but it’s going to take a serious wolf at the door to cause a stampede, which means that the State is walking a fine line as it tries to find that “imaginary series of hobgoblins” to menace people with.

  4. John Lowell October 27, 2006 at 1:21 pm #

    Such is the penchant of the public in many democracies to be servile. That the successor party to the Hungarian Communists is even in charge today is testimony to it. Nowhere in Eastern Europe have the Communists been held fully to account for their crimes, they have either simply changed their names as in this instance or fused inobtrusively into the fabric of the disparately named social democratic parties. A very telling remark yours that, “If the citizenry does not punish liars, then it cannot expect the truth”.
    Such is the sum and substance of the present dilema.

    John Lowell

  5. Jim October 27, 2006 at 3:52 pm #

    John – it is difficult to blame the East Europeans for not holding their former Communist rulers to account when one considers the type of speaking fees received by former US presidents.

  6. Pero Ristow October 29, 2006 at 6:52 am #

    Your parallel between American and Hungarian politicians is not very fortunate since the Hungarian PM had decency to admit cheating his electorate, which is much higher moral ground over the morass of corruption on which our politicians stand.
    Also, whilst it is true that the present Socialist Party stems from the former Communist Party, one mustn’t forget that Hungarian Communists, in 1956, joined and led the rebelion against the Soviets. Imre Naj, the PM, and Pal Malterer, the military commander, were both Communists who lost their lives fighting on the side of their people.
    Today’s protesters have very little to do with the events of 1956 and I would say quite a bit with the instigation from an oposition group impatient to grab the power.

  7. BBF October 29, 2006 at 10:05 am #

    I have absolutely no sympathy for the Hungarians!!! No, I’m not Jewish.

    Minneapolis, MN

    During World War II Hungary sent about 200,000 soldiers to fight alongside the German army on the Russian front, and about two-thirds of the Hungarian force was killed. As the war turned against Germany, Hungary began to curtail its support for the Nazis, leading Hitler to send troops to occupy Hungary in 1944. The Nazis installed Szálasi as the head of a puppet government that cooperated with the SS when it began rounding up the country’s Jewish population for deportation to Nazi extermination camps. By the end of World War II, fascist Hungarian forces had killed an estimated 550,000 Hungarian Jews. There had been 825, 000 Jews in Hungary before the war. By the end of the war, there were only 70,000 Jews remaining in Hungary. In this country, the media presents Hungary as returning to Democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. That country was not a democracy, it was a fascist state. Because the Nazis had limited manpower in Hungary, the exterminations were carried out by the Hungarians themselves.

    Of course, at the end of WWII, many of these Nazis from Hungary immigrated to the US. I think some of them ended in production at the museum where I worked, and held the higher supervisory positions which were denied blacks for many years. I still remember the harassment of my Jewish supervisor by one of them. It was my first job, and I had no idea then that the Chief supervisor who harassed her was a former Hungarian policeman. Within a few years, it seemed like to only new hires were Hungarian, and the highest paying contracted work went to companies owned by Hungarians.

  8. Jim October 29, 2006 at 12:20 pm #

    The mass killings of the 1940s should never be forgotten.

    But I disagree emphatically with condemning all Hungarians forever for it. Hungarians showed great courage in ’56, ’89, and many other times…

  9. Jim October 29, 2006 at 1:24 pm #

    George Roberts emailed me on the article & OK’d posting his dissenting view on the blog: *******

    Mr Bovard :

    I too was in Hungary in 1986, but I was also in Hungary in 1929 ( barely, just born ) , in 1945 and most particularly NOT in Hungary in 1946. I high tailed it out of the coming nightmarish Rلkosi Terror years, to the United States.

    I do have a perspective on modern Hungarian history. I feel that you are missing that insight, which is not surprising since after checking your CV and credentials , I suspect that you have not rubbed shoulders and struck up friendships with the enlightened, socialdemocratic leaning, anti-irredentist , anti reactionary elements in Hungarian society. The heritage of the 1848 Hungarian revolution and the short lived Republic invited words of greetings and good wishes from Karl Marx. The greatest and most popular Hungarian poet , Petofi , was not only a flaming nationalist revolutionary, but very much a man of the common people and had definite social reform leanings. Louis Kossuth addressed the Congress of the United States , in exile. So Hungary has long and strong social reformist, democratic anti-elitist roots.

    Are you familiar with those ?

    Next , there is a strain of social character infection in the Hungarian society. It is the Radical Right, racist , elitist , fascistic strain. It flared up again and again. Just as a rash is a symptom of AIDS, so is antiSemitism a symptom of this fascistic, racist strain. Pogroms, Jew Trials, mass executions go back to pre WW1 days . It was a strong aspect in the White Terror of fascist Admiral Horthy in the October Revolution. It was a strong aspect leading to the mass murder, deportation and actual blood bath by the Horthy commanded Hungarian gendarmes and army, not after 1943 , but even before the 1944 mass deportation of Hungarian Jews to Hitler’s slaughter houses. Did yo know much about that ?

    Closer to the present times and the on-going demonstrations in Budapest, consider the following. During the short lived Terror state under the Hungarian Arrow Cross party , national symbol and that of the fascist regime, was …the Red & White striped ” ءrpad Sلvos ” flag . True enough, it is only a symbol. So is the Confederate Battle flag and those racist Americans who claim that it nothing more than a historical symbol are DAMNED LIARS . They know what it means in the 21st Century and that is why they display it.

    So is the Red & White striped flag shown in all the pictures from the current demonstrations in Budapest. True, it is a small bunch of lunatic bunch. How many drops of bleach or gasoline does it take to spoil the taste of potable water ? Make no mistake, the same lunatic fringe was present in 1956 complete with some Red & White striped flags and antiSemitic slogans. Just read the recent CNN report from the streets of Budapest and quoting some demonstrators screaming at the police ” You servant pigs of the Jews ” while holding the Red & White striped flag.

    Somehow , right or wrong I come away with the impression that you are not acquainted with these aspects of the tragic problems that the Hungarian society is facing as a result of the same corrupt and misleading populist policies which lead not only the present Socialist government, but their FIDESZ predecessors, into totally irresponsible fiscal policies, just so as to win elections.

    Does that sound familiar ? GW Bush & cabal have done the same with starting a war so as to be able to claim ” war time leadership”.

    Wishing you and all of us a better day !

    George Roberts

    Godollo, Hungary
    Ermioni, Greece

  10. Sebestyen Gorka October 29, 2006 at 2:38 pm #

    Your fellow bloggers need to get out of the 20th century and realise what is hapenning NOW in Hungary.

    On October 23rd, the Hungarian government commemorated what many here consider to be the single most important event for Hungary in the 20th century—the revolution of 1956. The irony is that at this most important occasion, one which has been planned for and anticipated for months, no Hungarians were present. Well, OK, a handful was there—members of the ruling coalition of the Hungarian Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats, a few individuals reading poems and standing symbolically in an old truck reminiscent of 1956, and of course a military band. A number of foreign dignitaries were also present. But otherwise, the events went on without Hungarians. Indeed, ordinary Hungarians were not allowed to get within a kilometer of the Parliament, where the official events were taking place. Beginning the night before, a barrage of special police units had cleared all outlying streets and even shut down the metro to prevent passengers from getting off at the stop near the Parliament.

    Is this what Laszlo Sólyom, the president of Hungary, had in mind when he said that all Hungarians should unite so that there could be a real national commemoration? Imagine an American president celebrating the Fourth of July in front of the Capitol with a spattering of foreign guests and a few handpicked kids on bikes in a little parody of a parade, with a solitary fire truck for good measure. A police cordon forms a vast circle in order to keep ordinary Americans from getting closer than a mile. Imagine that an American president did this not on any ordinary July 4th, but on the Bicentennial. Indeed, it’s rather more like Orwell than a democracy at the start of the 21st century.

    The three main official events of the day–10:00 on front of the Parliament, 5:30 again at the Parliament, and 7:30 at the new ’56 memorial–were all equally and eerily quiet. Cameras of the state television station MTV1 dutifully filmed the performers and the guests, careful not to stray beyond that narrow focus to reveal the silent and empty streets, or the hundreds of police safeguarding that silence. On another channel, HIR TV, the opposition television, showed tens of thousands of demonstrators at a counter-event organized by the two leading opposition parties, the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz) and the Christian Democrats. The crowd consisted of all age groups, from children to grandmothers and everything in between. The sound of the speakers was nearly drowned out by the constant circling overhead of a police helicopter as well as the constant punctuation of police firing tear gas canisters into crowds on neighboring streets. Police also used water cannons, truncheons, rubber bullets and mounted police to drive the crowds back and maintain the wide circle of silence around the Parliament, injuring more than one hundred people in the process. I was there.

    Why did the government go to such lengths to create and maintain the cordon of silence around its official events? Because they knew that to allow ordinary Hungarians anywhere near would have been to allow shouts of protest and dissent. Many Hungarians are determined to see the downfall of the prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány. They feel he relinquished his right to lead the country when on a leaked recording he admitted to lying for months about the economic state of the country in order to win the general election, and did so using obscene language that was an insult to everyone. The fact that his government coopted what should have been a day of national commemoration has further fuelled their anger and dismay: Gyurcsány was himself a leader in the communist hierarchy, and his wife is the grand-daughter of one of the officials responsible for the bloody repression of the revolution. As such, many feel Gyurcsány’s praise for the Freedom Fighter’s heroism in 1956 sounds hollow, insincere and out of place.

    The government is trying hard now to discredit the demonstrators as right wing extremists. To dismiss one’s critics as fascists and extremists is a tactic communists have been using for decades. But the tens of thousands who demonstrated in Budapest last night and indeed around the country were not extremists. There certainly were a few such people among the demonstrators, but they were by far in the minority. The majority were merely Hungarians who want true freedom and an accountable government, people who did nothing to provoke the police violence used against them. They were Hungarians who did not deserve the beating they received yesterday and the world should be outraged at the behavior of this government and the violence it has employed to silence its critics.

    Sebestyen Gorka
    Institute for Transitional Democracy

    PS Dear BFF: For the record the PM did not ADMIT anything. He was caught with his trousers down, because the tape of his disgusting speech was leaked by one of his colleagues. If it hadnt been, no one woul dhave been any the wiser. Nice ,right?

    PPS Mr. Roberts: The flag you mentioned was established in the 12th century and as such, of course, has NOTHING to do with facsism.
    It was exproriated for several months at the end of WWII by the puppet regime Hitler had placed in Budapest, by that flag has a green Arrow Cross in the center. NO ONE carried the green cross flag during the demonstrations. I was there. (Anyway the Arrow Cross flag is banned in Hungary, as it the Soviet Red Flag, and Red Star.)

  11. Sebestyen Gorka October 29, 2006 at 2:51 pm #

    Another item for BFF:

    One of the most shamless distortions of history is to paint 1956 and its key revolutionaries as well-meaning Commmunists or even socialists. Nagy (correct spelling) and Maleter may have been communists before Oct 23, but the second they decided to declare Hungary’s neutrality, withdraw the nation from the Warsaw Pact and take arms up against the Soviet occuptaion forces, they broke with MArx and Lenin, to become true Hungarian patriots.

    If you take the time to read the original demands of the students from Szeged University and the Technical University of Budapest, who sparked the revolution, you will find demands such as free multi-party elections by secret ballot and a free press. Not exactly a Communist manifesto.

    S. Gorka

  12. Pero Ristow October 29, 2006 at 6:20 pm #

    BBF and George Roberts are pointing out to some historic facts which, although undisputable, have nothing to do with the uprising of 1956.
    If they had bad experience in the past with the Hungarians, they are not alone. The truth is that the Hungarian nationalism during WWII showed an extremely virulent face. And not only towards the Jews. Thousands of Rumanians, Slovaks and especially Serbs, perished due to its brutality.
    It should not be surprising that that ugly side of Hungarians still exists (America certainly demonstrates its own, daily, with equally lethal effects)but those Hungarians of 1956 were completely different. It may be complicated to explain this change but they were the nobliest freedom fighters the Europe has produced.
    (I am neither Hungarian nor Communist)

  13. Jim October 29, 2006 at 6:32 pm #

    Someone forwarded to me an angry letter from a Hungarian who had been emailed the “Every Day is 1956” article:

    yours in Christ,
    L. Laszlo P. PhD PE

  14. Cous Cous October 29, 2006 at 6:41 pm #

    Eastern European countries in the 1930’s had the unpleasant options of siding with the brown shirted socialists, the red shirted socialists, or siding with ‘the west’ and being invaded and massacred by both sets of socialists. Probably because the red shirted socialists had already killed millions before the war even began, most of them threw their lot in with the brown side until Stalingrad, when they realized the red shirts offered better prospects for survival.

    The only 2 ethnic groups that didn’t make substantial contributions to the Axis armies were the Poles and Serbs, and neither of them got anything to show for this. The red shirted socialists kept the third of Poland they grabbed before they had their spat with their brown shirted comrades, and the Serbians, ironically and perversely, became the Hitler du Jour in the 90’s despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of them (and about fifty thousand Yugoslavian Jews) were killed by the Croatian Ustashe during the war.

    Watching the nervous indifference of the Americans to their own governments doomed ideological crusade makes me much more tolerant of the behavior of Europeans in the 1930’s. They simply kept choosing the least painful option available to them at the moment, which obviously precluded critical thinking.

  15. George Roberts October 29, 2006 at 11:47 pm #

    My response is primarily to Sebestyen Gorka and to a lesser extent to Jim.
    Mr. Gorka:
    I fully anticipated the kind of response you gave to the issue of the Red & White Striped ” Arpad Savos ” flag. Are you seriously suggesting that the use of the flag in the current and a few of the ’56 demonstrations , was to recall the glory of the 12th century Royal House of Arpad ??!!! In a pig’s eye, Sir ! It is precisely for the same reason that the Confederate Battle Flag is waved at rallies and demonstrations by the Silent Majority, Christian Right etc. racist provocateurs in America.
    So, lets clear this up: If you want to raise the ideas the Arpad Savos flag they will not be will not be those of Saint Stephen’s but those of Horthy Miklos, The Vitezi Szek and Szalasi Ferenc. Have I made myself clear ? Don’t try to hide behind obscure history, face the here and now political reality !
    You criticise the bringing up of 20th Century Hungarian history. If what I just told you does not sober you, consider this quotation : “People who do not know their history are forced to repeat it” George Santayana.

    I have dissenting comments, from some Hungarian friends and expect many more from others. There is no greater fury of Hell , than when one is questioning the virginity and purity of the other’s “Saintly mother” !! , but whores have occasional children, also. I repeat; : If one quacks like a duck………. It is true , that lying has become synonymous with public speaking, in most of our countries ; Hungary, America, even Sweden included ( See recent election scandals in Sweden ! )

    What Jim Bovard never mentioned ( but La Monde , the British press, even CNN ……DID MENTION IT ! ) is :

    1. PM Gyurcsany talked to nearly 1000 party functionaries ( Shades of Khrushchev’s ” secret ” speech ). So it was not exactly an intimate secret inner circle.

    2. He said: Enough is enough. You and the previous Socialist PM lied for 4 years and you forced me to lie for 2 years. No more ! I will not lie for you any more. and I wont let you lie either any more ………. So he intended to come clean.

    3. The Socialists purged themselves, by rejecting and forcing to abdicate their own PM , prior to the elections ! Thereby admitting corruption and incompetence. Still they were elected, as lesser of two Evils and for political intestinal fortitude. Can you imagine that in today’s USA ? Last time it happened was by Teddy Roosevelt repudiating his own Republicans and declaring the virtues of Progressivism. Well, the Germans did that….almost, by rejecting Schroeder.

    Jim Bovard’s fangs were showing, again and again when he never mentioned any of these facts in a fairly long and strongly biased, anti Socialist diatribe. These facts, which were mentioned in straight news stories and editorials by such publications as Der Spiegel, CNN, Le Monde and the Times of London.
    Lastly , isn’t it about time that the old lie of equating 21st century Socialists or SocialDemocrats with the Socialist/Communist boogey man of the 1930s, 1950s or even worse ,Stalinist Moscow Commuism, ceases to be lied about. Read Arthur Koestler, read any of the reform Communist dissenters, like Imre Nagy ( before the ’56 revoluton he wasdeposed for independent, reformist ideas ) etc and you wil see that this line is a bold face lie. You can no longer sell that in any of the Western Democracies. Grow up, Mr. Gorka and others.

    Lastly, for my Hunagarian friends. The memory and writings, lectures of Eva Ancsel speaks to the freedom loving independent soul of those Hungarians who may have been Communists, but of a totally different brand from Matyas Rakosi and his gangsters. Eva was drummed out of the Communist party and her husband, Gimes , tried to file a complaint to the Central Committee against Rakosi for ” anti party activities ” !!!! Equating Ancsel Eva with the likes of the Moscow Communist dictatorship is an odious lie….but it continues, as some of the writings on these pages show.

    George Roberts

    Figures don’t lie ….liars figure.

  16. Alex Chaihorsky October 30, 2006 at 2:30 am #

    Poor L. Laszlo, Ph.D.!
    Don’t worry pal, Dubye is not going to take your ivory tower grants away. No need to soil your pants. Yet.

  17. Pero Ristow October 30, 2006 at 6:11 am #

    What is Laszlo (the PhD) trying to tell us? That Gyurcsany Ferenc mustn’t be compared to Bush otherwise he would stop reading the Bovard’s Blog? Some menace.
    Actually, I happen to agree with him. Who is Gyurscany after all, with his clumsy lies that didn’t kill anybody, to be compared with our greatest, global exterminator of innocent civilian lives, of the twenty first century?

  18. Tom Lowe October 30, 2006 at 7:40 am #

    Historically, reportage on the ethnic composition of Hungary has been maliciously distorted for so long that no one can believe anything about the people there any more. What really is a Hungarian? I know, but do any of you?!?

  19. Jim October 30, 2006 at 8:01 am #

    Responding to George Roberts, who said, “Jim Bovard’s fangs were showing, again and again when he never mentioned any of these facts in a fairly long and strongly biased, anti Socialist diatribe.”

    Fangs? Fangs?

    Sounds more like Transylvania than Hungary.

    (And will this aside provoke a surge of comments on whether Transylvania should be considered part of Hungary?)

  20. Peter Kmet October 30, 2006 at 9:13 am #

    Jim, nothing is easy with Hungarians. Two hundred years ago they started very virulent strain of nationalism. They were responsible for “Magyarisation” – etnic cleaning in all but the name. They forced Serbs, Croats, Ukrainians and Slovaks to use Magyar (Hungarian) language. They were even forcibly taking hundreds and hundreds of Slovak kids away from home to the re-educational camps in today’s Hungary, where they were kept until they become Magyars (Hungarians). Even the two aforementioned “Hungarian” heroes Lajos Kossuth and Sandor Petofi were born Slovaks.

    Today’s demos in Budapest are more about the zest for power of nationalistic Fidesz headed by former Prime Minister Viktor Orban and of the wide spectrum of ultra-nationalistic groups and parties, then about the freedom. Viktor Orban is a man who proclaimed that he was a Prime Minister of all Magyars – something akin to Mr. Fox in Mexico claiming the same for Mexicanos – even if living in California or New Mexico. According to media the very same claimed to be for Serbs late Milisevic. Magyars are again not only under their Nyilas Party banner but waving with maps of their pre-Trianon Hungary and proclaiming rather death then abandonment of their Great Hungary. It is pure hatred at the streets!

  21. John Ries October 30, 2006 at 2:51 pm #

    The vast gap between the cultural achievements of the Hungarians and their surrounding neighbors has served to create more than a little discord over the centuries. Given this obvious fact, along with Hungary’s unenviable geographic position surrounded by militarily more powerful states eager to plunder what the Magyars had managed to build up through time, it comes as no surprise that whenever the Hungarian people attempt to rise up against their oppressors in their inimmitable, uncompromising fashion, certain groups and individuals will try to resurrect the specter of, you guessed it, Fascism, Naziism, anti-semitism, magyarization, or whatever the nicities of groupthink require at the moment. Nobody ever said it was easy being a Hungarian.

  22. Alex Chaihorsky October 30, 2006 at 5:30 pm #

    When will we start looking the truth right to the eye?
    A religious or ethnic group is perfectly capable of monopolizing or near monopolizing parts of a society power structure be that finances, military or political elite or , somethimes, a cokmbination. If this group is Tutsies or Sunnis its OK to discuss the issue, if the group is Jews – its a crime.
    As a Jew I detest this. The 20 century saw huge influence of Jews all over Europe in bringing socialist and communist ideas into the mainstream. In Russia, where I came from, in Poland, in Hungary, in Germany. It just so happened that Marxism completely mesmerized Jewish intellectuals all over the world (including America). So I am not surprised that in Hungary Jewish groups constituted the center of socilaist circles. And since this never worked – they were failing. And as they were failing they were lying (reminds me of our glorious administration of illustrious Dubya, our beloved C-student C-c-c-r-r-rusader!)
    And because they cannot afford the gargantuan spinning machine that spans both coasts here, there were caught. And angry Hungarian crowds, being hungry Hunns, that they are (and rightfully proud of their glorious past) told them who they think they are.
    Antisemitism? I steal your baby’s milk, but you cannot call me a Jew thief?
    Ridiculous and outrageous. The fact of someone being Jewish may be irrelevant in a domestic crime, but when a well known connection of a certain group and a certain failed ideology that was responsible for probably most monstrous crimes against humanity as in killing tens of millions of humans in Stalin’s Gulags, is well established, using that connection as a weapon against failing and hated regime is in my opinion – a legitimate issue.
    That is the democracy in its raw form. Its time to look it in the eye.

  23. Jim October 30, 2006 at 6:30 pm #

    The mass killings of Hungarian Jews occurred years before the communists came to power in Hungary.

    Barbarism is barbarism, and expo facto rationales do nothing to expunge the crimes or the record.

  24. John Ries October 30, 2006 at 9:12 pm #

    I think the previous writer is referring to the mass murders perpetrated by the Communists, a large majority of whom were Jews, beginning with the infamous Kuhn Bela govenment in the Spring of 1919 and reaching a crescendo with the post-WWII Communist Rakosi-Gero regime.
    Due to the close identification of Communism with Jews at that time, it comes as no surprise that the Hungarian people, like many Eastern Europeans who suffered under Communism, developed a general distrust of Jews in general, the results of which, unfortunately, may have led to the killing of innocents during the ’56 uprising.

  25. Jim October 30, 2006 at 11:38 pm #

    The New York Times had a piece today on the situation in Hungary and East Europe. I suspect some of the commentors here might disagree with a few passages in this article. (Thanks to the karmalised blog for the material & a link back to this fray)   The New York Times is not the final authority, but perhaps the piece is of interest.
    Backlash to ‘velvet’ revolutions
    By Craig S. Smith
    30 October 2006 The New York Times

    BUDAPEST: Skinheads rioting in the streets of Budapest, populist twins running Poland and a far-right party that once made Western Europe shudder now a part of the Slovakian government. What is happening to central Europe?

    Well into their second decade since the collapse of communism, many of Europe’s newest democracies are struggling with weak governments and polarized societies and worrying their Western neighbors that they may become the problem children of the European Union.

    “For 10 years, all of these countries had to go through very radical reforms and natural conflicts were suppressed because there was an overriding objective to join the European Union,” said Jiri Pehe, a political analyst and a past adviser to the Czech Republic’s former president, Vaclav Havel, in Prague. “Some of the things that should have played out are now coming to the surface.”

    That pattern was on full display last week when rightist, nationalist demonstrators clashed with the police, hijacking what was to have been a solemn commemoration of Hungary’s failed 1956 uprising against Soviet domination a half century ago.

    The triggers for the unrest were relatively mundane: heavy handed efforts by the police to control protesters incensed by a recently leaked tape recording of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitting that he had lied to the public about the economy to win elections in April.

    But there is something more fundamental going on. Many people in central and eastern Europe never had a say in the massive upheaval of 1989 when “velvet” revolutions dismantled the communist regimes of the former Soviet bloc, and many feel that they have suffered as a result.

    “It was a negotiated revolution, and that limited the people’s participation in creating the new system,” said Istvan Stumpf, a political analyst and former minister in the Hungarian government. “Most people describe themselves as losers in the change of systems and in joining the EU.”

    The region has been swept by a strong nationalistic impulse that is being promoted and exploited by populist politicians.

    It began in Poland, where the conservative Law and Justice party won elections last year. The twin brothers Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, now the country’s president and prime minister respectively, have alienated much of the obsessively tolerant EU with their conservative Catholic, anti-homosexual attitudes and talk of Poland’s assuming its “rightful” place on the Continent’s political map.

    The Kaczynski’s choice of coalition partners has not helped: the League of Polish Families, representing the country’s religious right, and Self Defense, led by a populist potato farmer.

    In Slovakia, meanwhile, the nominally left-leaning Smer party formed a coalition of its own with two far-right parties: the ultranationalist Slovak National Party and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, led by Vladimir Meciar, whose autocratic style partly isolated the country from Western Europe while he was prime minister in the mid-1990s.

    Even the Czech Republic has been touched by the trend: It has had no real government since June elections left it with a deadlocked Parliament that is deeply and near evenly divided between right and left.

    “In all of these countries, reformers and populists are fighting each other,” said Krisztian Szabados, director of the research organization, Political Capital, based in Budapest.

    The rise in nationalism has reinvigorated old regional feuds, particularly between Hungary and its neighbors over the treatment of ethnic Hungarians living in land that once was part of greater Hungary.

    Some of the Hungarian rioters last week carried the red-and-white striped flag of the medieval Arpad dynasty, which gave Hungary its first kings. The flag has become an emblem of Hungarian nationalists in recent years, but many people see it as an ominous reference to Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross party, which adopted the flag during its brief 1940s reign of terror.

    “We reject the Treaty of Trianon,” said a young man who gave his name as Gergo, carrying an Arpad flag last week amid a small crowd of protesters outside this country’s huge, neo-gothic parliament building. He was referring to the post-World War I treaty that dismembered Hungary and left it a third of its original size. His sweatshirt was emblazoned with a map showing the borders of Hungary before and after World War I.

    “The so-called Christian middle class with roots in regions taken away from Hungary by the Treaty of Trianon believe in their historic right to govern the country, compared to ‘non-Hungarians,’ of Jewish, Austrian or German heritage whose capital has financed our modernization,” Gyurcsany said during a meeting with foreign reporters in the Parliament building last week. “References to ‘the will of the people’ are nothing more than an expression of this nationalist right as opposed to republican ideals.”

    The nationalist trend is being marshaled by Viktor Orban, a former prime minister and leader of Fidesz, the country’s main opposition party. He has led calls for Gyrucsany’s resignation and has held a series of rallies that have drawn tens of thousands of protesters into the streets.

    He denies that his party has had anything to do with the far-right fringe that has been responsible for the recent violence, but analysts say that his appeal to the far right has been deliberate. For years, Orban has tried to capture all of the country’s rightist voters, no matter how radical, in hopes of winning a rare majority in Parliament.

    The strategy has drawn votes away from the country’s small far-right parties, which failed to win the minimum 5 percent necessary for parliamentary representation in the latest elections. Without a party to represent them, analysts say, the ultraconservative right has taken to the streets, encouraged by Orban’s massive anti-government rallies.

    “Orban is now one of the most dangerous populists in the region because he’s the most successful,” said Szabados.

    But Fidesz party leaders say that the real problem is that Gyurcsany is ignoring the will of the people.

    “Gyurcsany is playing with fire,” said Janos Ader, a Fidesz Parliament member and deputy speaker of Parliament. “This government is hurting more and more sectors of society and sooner or later these people will go into the streets,”

    The opposition party has proposed a referendum for next year that they hope would block some of the unpopular changes that Gyurcsany has vowed to push through, including new fees for university and doctor’s visits. Gyurcsany says the changes are a necessary part of a larger program to reduce government spending and rein in the country’s budget deficit, which at 10.1 percent is one of the largest in Europe, so that the country can adopt the euro as its national currency in the coming years.

    “In western democracies where the political culture is more advanced, politicians find a way to reach a consensus and put aside their differences and form coalitions and talk to each other,” Pehe said.

    “But central European political culture is still very much rooted in communist times.”

    “It’s a Bolshevik mentality,” he said. “Your opponent is your enemy and you try to destroy him. There is no culture of dialogue.”

    The populist drift appears at a time when the EU is weaker than it has been in years, its focus blurred by the influx of new members and its failure to win support for a European constitution last year. But most analysts believe that the EU is still strong enough to tame the trend.

    “Brussels sets the limits and though politicians in the region hit back, it’s out of the question that any of these countries would pull out of the EU,” Szabados said. “Populists may come to power but after a while they will fail because their policies don’t fit in a global economy.”

    Pehe said that under different historical conditions, all of this could go very badly, as it did before World War II when there were nascent democracies that collapsed into authoritarian regimes. But he added that European Union membership has all but eliminated that threat.

    “The international environment here in Europe at this stage is so conducive to democracy building, it is basically almost impossible for these nations to get out of this framework,” he said. “It would be economically disastrous for them. Populist leaders can only go so far.”


  26. Alex Chaihorsky October 31, 2006 at 2:05 am #

    The point is – when Hungarians (or Americans or Brits or Russians or Germans (especially Germans) behave badly we are all free to criticise them and take them apart. But not the Jews.
    And as one, I detest this because that just invites more crooks of Jewish origin come to business and make Jewish boys who wants to become scientists, engineers, writers and yes, ubiquotous doctors, feel that they are stupid by obiding the rules.
    I say – we should be (and badly need it too) criticised and ridiculed for bad behaviour as much as anyone else.
    Your comment that Jews were killed in Hungary well before Communism is irrelevant. My argument had nothing to do with the Communism per se, but with the tendencies of certain groups percieved by the majority of population to be “foreign” to occupy the strategic positions of power and influence. If such a group, being percieved as foreign by culture, or blood or religion does not pay attention to the will of the native population the conflict will start. And the results vary from USA (brutal ethnic cleansing and isolation of native peoples into reservations and oblivion) to Ruanda – total and brutal ethnic cleansing of the “foreign” element.

    IMHO – the Jewish elite in Hungaria, similar non-native, (not necceserily Jewsih) elites in Russia (among which I have personal friends), etc have to be very careful in how they use their influence, power and panache. They will always be look at by natives with caution and suspicion. And if they stumble, they better be prepared to silently go away, because natives see them as expensive and diva-like employee administrators, and reserve the right to fire them at such times. If they see a resistance to such firing they interpret it as a seizure of power and stealing their land from them.
    That is when the centuries of civilization wash away and the proud barbarian Hunn pick up the mace.
    Which is bad for everyone including the Hunns themselves. That is how fascism starts.
    Intellectuals, social engineers, international bankers and young and restless political advisors to the office of US President – beware.

  27. Peter Kmet October 31, 2006 at 4:12 am #

    Jim this is a quote from the article in NYT:”a far-right party that once made Western Europe shudder now a part of the Slovakian government”. Is that all they can come with? Name calling and using deaply dark colored words? Like “Fangs”, “shudder” and on and on. No substance, just plain style?

    Slovaks have problem with immage because they have three powerfull enemies, two of them being their former masters in Budapest and Praque, whom still can not take the independent Slovakia and the last one are Jews, whom claim that Slovaks mistreated them in the first Slovak Republic in 1939-1945. While I admit that treatment of Jews in those years was a huge shame on Slovaks and I personally feel badly for that, Magyars and Czechs do not have any such a claim against Slovaks, except some wild wet dreams of lost dominance over them.

    In Slovakia there are two nationalistic parties: Slovak National Party and Magyar (Hungarian) National Coalition. While you may find it strange that in one nation can be two nationalistic political parties it is nevertheles true. I find it zany too – Hungarian coalition is akin to have Mexican Natioanl Party active in USA with only goal – to get back to Mexico what used to be Mexican – California, New Mexico and I do not know what else (sorry). Magyar (Hungarian) coalition is openly irredentist and was part of Slovak government from 1998 until now. Europe then was happy and content and you did not read that it would be “shuddering”. Why not??? Why suddenly whole western Europe shudder when Slovak National Party comes to the government of Slovakia. Not Hungary Jim, but Slovakia. They do not shudder from neo-nazi party winning regional election in Germany, but they definitelly shudder from tiny Slovakia. I find it definitely strange.

  28. Saturdaynightspecial November 2, 2006 at 3:37 pm #

    quote from Gorka”
    “Imagine an American president celebrating the Fourth of July in front of the Capitol with a spattering of foreign guests and a few handpicked kids on bikes in a little parody of a parade, with a solitary fire truck for good measure. A police cordon forms a vast circle in order to keep ordinary Americans from getting closer than a mile. Imagine that an American president did this not on any ordinary July 4th, but on the Bicentennial. Indeed, it’s rather more like Orwell than a democracy at the start of the 21st century.” [Gorka]

    Bush did that here when he was inaguarated – reminded me of Red Square.

    Jim your post was timely, interesting and appropriate. Our country is like Hungary in many ways. We trend towards excessive socialism and we need to stop it. There are many nazi lovers born here in America every day. thanks