2007 — The year of doubts
“You’re 19 years old, grow up already” — my mother used to say when I allowed myself to behave childishly now and then. But we had to grow up much earlier than we should have when my mother finally decided to leave my father. As the oldest, I meant the main support for her. Of course, I was ashamed of my father and the circumstances we lived in in front of my friends, but at the same time, I was kind of proud of myself for being able to see things differently than my peers. I was mature, cautious, the “good kid” and the “good student” who stayed away from any kind of sordid events. I didn’t want to defer to anyone, I just didn’t want to let another source of problem into our not-so-easy lives. Getting rid of my dad wasn’t as easy as we thought when we finally left him in the fall of 2002. He tried for a year to come back to us. He tried with strange kindness or, when that didn’t work, violence. But this violence from him was different from what we had been used to. He was desperate. Though I hated him then, I felt pity for him for the first time in my life. He knew when my mother left for work in the morning, and often he waited for her on the street. From time to time, I would walk down with her to go to the bus stop. One cold winter morning, he was waiting for us outside. He was covered in snow and wearing a very thin coat. He walked towards us. Up close, I saw that his lips were all blue because of the cold weather. His voice was trembling as he asked my mother to take him back. When I told him to leave us alone, he slapped me. I saw in him that he didn’t really know how to respond to such open resistance from his own child. I was a traitor in his eyes. I was his son to respect him, he thought. I don’t think he realized until that morning that the respect he expected from me toward him had not only gone out, but never existed.
This went on for many months, until once he asked her to go out into the street to talk. My mother having no choice, she went down. When my father realized he had no chance, he forced her into a phone booth and beat her cruelly. She came back bleeding with his company. Me and my siblings didn’t say a word. My brother tried to calm my frightened mother. We looked at him in silence, who I think just realized the monster living inside him. He couldn’t take our stares at him. He turned and walked out of the apartment and out of our lives.
A few years later, in 2007, two of my grandmothers died, folding the last remaining stations of my childhood. It was hard to leave my grandparents’ house after my great-grandmother’s funeral. It was the only place in my childhood where I found peace and happiness. It happened on a cold day in mid-November, near the end of a strange year.
Eleven months earlier, just a few weeks after the New Year, the daily Népszabadság published a six-page extra on Friday, January 26. The author of the article — the prime minister himself — called it a political analysis in which he outlined in 23 points his theories on how to get out of the current political crisis as quickly as possible. The article (titled Facing) was a classic example of Gyurcsány’s kind of paradox. He wrote about the future even though he could not be a substantial part of it. A prisoner of his illusions of political insight, he proved only his own blindness. The problem was not the article itself — he was mostly right — but his inability to step off the political stage. He may have thought that a possible resignation would have opened the door to the far-right parties, but at the same time he was unable to see that the main reason for the rise of the far-right was partly himself. In early 2007, the far right appeared from two sides: on the one hand, as the strongest opposition group, a “hidden” far right led by Viktor Orbán, and an openly radical nationalist party called Jobbik, which was becoming increasingly popular. Gyurcsány was sure that staying in power could be the only solution to make things better, but in reality he was the biggest obstacle. His ambitions to solve the crisis were of a different kind: the nature of someone who was at least once close to power.
The future Gyurcsány spoke of simply no longer existed. It could not exist because his resignation, even if he wanted to avoid it, was a matter of time. However, he was right in some parts of his article that criticized Fidesz: associating Fidesz with right-wing extremism was not a slander. At the time, not so many were warning Hungarians about Orbán’s hidden radicalism. Dealing with the past — on a personal or historical level — and not confronting it (not in the way Gyurcsány suggested) was not just a Hungarian phenomenon — as I later discovered when I lived in Poland — but an Eastern European one. I grew up in an atmosphere where people tried to explain their own lack of success with wounds and traumas from the past. They were haunted by their ghosts from the past, and suffering was not something you could overcome, but an eternal condition you had to live with. That’s what we were taught in school. That’s what all the national holidays were about. But what can you do in a country where almost all of these national holidays are about a failed revolution? In a country where there is no politician to pull the people out of the trap of self-pity? That is the true national character: based on the cultures of self-pity and gloating. They said we were a powerful nation, but the only thing we felt was that we belong to the nation of losers. Not only the language is the main reason for Hungary’s specific isolation in Europe, but also its behavior. The feudalistic culture has not really disappeared. The relations of subordination within society, in which the weakest have no real chance, still exist. The political struggle between Gyurcsány’s left and Orbán’s right has shaped this culture and caused a civil war-like atmosphere in my generation.
Gyurcsány’s article was followed by a long television interview in five parts. He intended to make his visions and plans of society understandable on the screens of TV. But he failed. He simply did’nt speak the people’s language. The distance between him and the members of the Hungarian society was too big, especially after September 2006, which prevented him from building a bridge. He spoke of necessary financial restrictions, while he himself and the closest circle of his ministers were among the richest citizens of Hungary. He called the restrictions reforms. Playing with words did not help him. He was like a dying man asking in his last moments when he can start working. His “reforms” failed just before they were introduced. Not because of Fidesz or Orbán himself. It was a gift for them to criticise the government’s health care reform plans. We were only a few months after the election, but in 2007 — after Gyurcsány unveiled his “reform” plans — the longest campaign period in the history of Hungarian politics began. “… Everything has a price. And we have a great illusion. And because of this illusion, we have a lot of problems. People think health care is free. But it isn’t. Health is one of the most expensive services in the world, and if we don’t get people to be aware of that fact, very deformed habits and behaviours could become ingrained in society.” Watching the interviews, it was clear that our Prime Minister was living in a different reality. He was tired, you could see it on the screen. He was searching for the right words, but each one came back like a boomerang and hit him from behind. The moral failure of the government, the way the institution of the prime minister lost its seriousness, and Orbán’s radicalism together changed the very essence of the public life. Gyurcsány not only barricaded the parliament, but also himself. He could not see reality because of the invisible walls he erected in front of his eyes. Perhaps he didn’t want to see it at all. Most people didn’t understand what he was talking about, or worse, they didn’t want to understand him anymore. Health care wasn’t good or bad for us. It was just the way it was. We had no chance to compare ourselves to anything better, at the level we lived at, no one had special benefits. We were the same. We didn’t question the poor quality of our hospitals, the rude behaviour of the doctors, or their inexperienced methods. We didn’t wish for better health care because we didn’t know what would be better. At the level of society I grew up in, we just silently accepted the facts. And that was our unforgivable mistake. We accept all that, and we also accept institutionalised corruption when we give our saved money in a sealed envelope to the doctor to cure us.
“… what I say, if I destroy myself, has a consequence: I must pay more.”
With these words Ferenc Gyurcsány has tried to make us accept the need for extra costs in health care. He became more and more distant from Hungarian society. He got tired of explaining to us why it is good to pay more for our own health. But we were deaf to his explanations, the only thing we could hear was that we had to pay more. He was tired and everything he said was a tool for the right wing to shoot him back. There was probably no leader in Hungarian history who looked more ridiculous than Gyurcsány. And he was still prime minister. He wasn’t going to step down. Every single day in power made the far-right stronger. It was not Orbán nor the corrupt member of the government that killed the socialist left in Hungary, but a tired Don Quixote fighting with the giants while the rest of the country saw the windmills. Orbán easily took advantage of this political crisis. He and the members of his party called for early elections, but secretly they just wanted to wait and see how the leftist government destroys itself. The only thing they had to do to criticize every single word they said: the restrictions are unjust and the people should stop paying. We forgot that Orbán failed on the TV screens last year. He became louder and louder and more aggressive. He didn’t try to explain anything, his way of communicating was simple. As opposition leader, he didn’t want to be afraid of the empty promises. The hardest part of the Hungarian right-wing base that allowed Orbán to come to power and stay after 2010 was created in 2007 and 2010. What was the reason for this? It wasn’t just the far-right tradition we inherited from our history, but the disgust and fear that they might come back to power in the future. If you live a self-destructive lifestyle, expect the consequences, our own Prime Minister said to us. Maybe he was right, but what he called self-destructive was a normal way of life for us. A form of resting where we could forget for a second where we came from, where we are right now, and what uncertain future we are all heading towards. “It’s the only bad thing I do” — as my mother used to say when she lit a cigarette. My father decided to drink more and more, coming home to us completely drunk, to these three little children he never really wanted. This lifestyle, which our prime minister called self-destructive, was our everyday life. We didn’t want to change it because we didn’t have the tools or the money to do it. Some of us, like my mother, were able to stay within an invisible line. The line that was crossed by my father, who could not control himself and became first a wild animal, later a human wreck.
It’s hard to take back memories of 2007. Every scene that has become important later in my life has been frozen in the past, from which I can only recall an image, a voice, or a simple feeling. When I try to remember something, the first thing that comes to my mind is a fragment that reminds me of the whole memory. It’s like remembering an early childhood memory where we’re not even sure if the memory really happened or we just made it up. The year 2007 is fragmentary for me. A famous Esterházy quote comes to my mind very often, in the Corrected version, “What is the difference between God and my father? God is everywhere. My father is also everywhere, but not here.” My father was everywhere, too. But we wished he was somewhere else. It wasn’t easy to get rid of him. Anyone who came near him found themselves on one side of a slope. This was the situation my grandmother found herself in when my father moved back in with her after the divorce. My father’s true nature was right in front of her. She wouldn’t believe my mother before. Her blindness created a huge distance between us that we could not have overcome later, especially after my father moved back in with her.
The politics was everywhere. Like the smell of a toxic smog that settled into our clothes. It was there when I finally decided to visit my grandmother in the hospital. Till I could. She was dying. She was lying somewhere in a newly built part of the hospital. The receptionist asked me who I was looking for and pointed out that it was closing time. “I’ve come to visit my grandmother. I’ll find her, thank you!” I did, even though there were only a few rooms there. I stepped into each of them, but I didn’t see her. I turned around in the corridor when I saw my father. We were both surprised to see each other, but without saying a word, he pointed his finger at a room I had just left. I felt embarrassed when I realized that my grandmother was lying on the bed closest to the window. I didn’t recognize her. We hadn’t seen each other in years. I tried to avoid all places and people associated with my father. Even my own grandmother. She looked very small and thin. Nothing like the image I had of her from before. Her eyes were big, you felt like they just wanted to fall out of her pale face. She was only able to look in one direction. She was unable to look around herself. My father told me to stay directly in front of her. She recognized me immediately, but the nature of her gaze did not change. She was tired and frightened. Although I think she was happy to see me and asked about school, I told her about the final exams in progress, but after a few words she stopped to get enough strength to continue the small talk. I knew she was going to die soon. That was the first time I saw a dying person. My father cut some boiled potatoes and tried to feed her. I will never forget the strange sound when the fork hit her prosthesis. After a few minutes, she refused to open her mouth. My father tried to force her to eat, as if every bite of that potato would add another minute to her life. But she didn’t want those minutes. We didn’t speak a word to each other with my father. We weren’t really in a position to do that. And I don’t think we wanted to.
I turned nineteen in February. A month later, Fidesz also celebrated its 19th birthday. I remember seeing an Orbán speech on TV in which he said something like “how to open a beer without hurting the bottle cap.” My father could ask that too, I thought, and knew the answer too. The culture of a Felcsút pub was beginning to poison Hungarian political life. Orbán knew perfectly well that he could talk like that. No one would criticise him. The left-liberal government led by Gyurcsány was slowly sinking into the mud. No one in the cabinet was trustworthy anymore. They were afraid of sticking it to Orbán because the feedback was more painful for them. This time Orbán started with his special way of creating words and rephrasing things. In the aforementioned speech from Fidesz’ birthday party, he called himself and the others the “generation of the new West” or the “Fidesz generation.” The rhetorical freedom gave him enormous power. The people were keen on new words. They wanted to see a new political structure. Whatever this new world would look like, they would be there. Orbán gave us this desired new world. He could talk normally to his own people. But in the cases of open speeches to the crowd, he was aggressive and reminiscent of a country preparing for war. As an agitator he saw the quickest way to power. He had no moral obstacles. Probably he did not even believe in their necessity.
The failures of the previous left-wing government gave the far right free rein to speak out, but Orbán’s more aggressive policies from 2007 onwards gave them room to grow. Their voice was still too weak in early 2007. But Orbán began to use such a radical tone and rhetoric. This new voice changed politics in Hungary. If the end of 2006 was the period of the emergence of the far-right in Hungary, the next year was its systematic establishment, culminating with the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda). All this happened in the shadow of Orbán, who took an active role in building this new politics. As he said in an interview, “he also wants to talk to the voters of the far-right.” Typical far-right phrases such as “Gypsy crime”, “nationalist economy” found their free way into society. Phrases that shocked us before became part of the political discussion. Orbán is well aware of the popularity of the far-right and he knew that he would not reach these voters with an “old way of talking”. He knew that his 2006 campaign simply wouldn’t be enough for victory. 2007 was the starting point of a three-year campaign that created a new right-wing politics in Hungary, with an openly far-right party on one side and a camouflaged far-right led by Orbán on the other.
Orbán never wanted to hide his real goal for a new policy. “We need a new right-wing idea in place of the old one, which is national, democratic, market-oriented and social.” His speech in Tusványos showed the path of this new era of right-wing politics. He did not use a single “radical” word in his speech, but looking back at the event, it was obvious that Orbán was talking about the far-right Fidesz, which was born during the dying period of the left-wing government. The European Union was blind to see what was really happening in Hungary, although it could not miss the danger of the Hungarian far-right after the formation of Hungarian Guard. Orbán was cautious as leader of the opposition. He could not risk being labelled far-right by the Union in 2007. That could have meant the end of Fidesz at the time. A new era has begun in European politics,” he said in Tusványos, “but in Hungary the oldtype of politics still dominates, which is provincial, petty and dogmatic. The result of this old politics is a weak country, a weak nation and a weak society that can contribute nothing to our common European goals except its weakness.”
But what did this new right-wing policy mean? As Orbán said “if anyone dared to use the word of the homeland in Europe, he was immediately labeled a nationalist. If someone defended the institution of the family, he was a homophobe. If someone spoke about the nation, he was attacked as an anti-Semite. If it was about society, he was anti-market. If it was about the people, he was labeled a populist.” Fidesz’s robbery of the rhetoric of the Hungarian far-right had already begun in 2007, when the new wave of the far-right was itself still very young, politically weak but with stronger influence than before. But even the Fidesz would not have changed so quickly. First, they had to destroy the image of the left. Fidesz’s radicalization was not as spectacular as its early turn from a liberal party to Christian conservatives in the mid-1990s. But the unexpected openness of Hungarian society to far-right tones had opened new roads for Orbán and his party. He did not welcome the Jobbik party or the Hungarian Guard, but he did not condemn his own people holding flags with Árpád-stripes at Fidesz rallies. All Hungarian parties refused any kind of support towards far-right movements, except Fidesz. They remained silent. Orbán did not say more than empty phrases in interviews. On the one hand, an open denial could cause him to lose thousands of votes. He could not risk that. For another, as it turned out after 2010, the ideological space between Fidesz and Jobbik was very narrow. As Viktor Orbán confessed in an TV interview, he considers the flag with the Árpás-stripes not a tyrannical symbol only if there is also an arrow cross on it. “Important issue, but not significant.” — he replied when the reporter asked him about the people who might be hurt by such a symbol.
Politics was behind our backs the whole time, even when the nurse told me a few days later that my grandmother had died. She was there when I came out of the hospital and saw a handful of protesters in front of the Trianon Monument. Once last October, they came here every day to protest the “oppressive government”. Their presence was more ridiculous than frightening. I found my father at home, in my grandmother’s apartment. He pulled a beer out of the fridge for me. I didn’t take it. I saw many empty bottles next to the bed. He kicked one of them. The liquid spilled onto the carpet. She died a few hours ago. I thought I should have visited my father, who had just lost his own mother. It’s my duty, I thought. As he tried to talk about her, he would burst into tears every now and then, but I couldn’t take him seriously. I saw this many times when I was a child. It was the alcohol, not the grief. A week later, in the cemetery, he was even worse. I couldn’t remember if I had seen him as drunk as he was that day. The situation was embarrassing for everyone present. He also felt the tension. After the funeral, we went to a small restaurant. He put shots on the table. I was too nervous to tell him no, so I drank along with him. After a few shots, I was in no condition to continue drinking. Seeing my resistance, he looked me in the eye, then turned to my cousins. “I have the right to hit my son whenever I want.” I stood up from the table. My hands were shaking and I was almost crying with anger. I said goodbye to everyone, including my father. He didn’t want me to leave. I hurried out into the street. I decided that I would never speak to him again. I couldn’t think straight, I was driven by a strange mixture of adolescent anger and all the emotions I had stored inside me during the long years we lived with him. After the alcohol, I felt lightheaded, but I ran home. I felt each step taking me further away from this person I must call my father, as well as all the days, months, and years that were behind me.
Before the final exams, we buried my grandmother, and two months after the start of the new school year, we buried my great-grandmother also. I didn’t go to university right away. After high school, I signed up for a journalism course in the same city where my girlfriend was starting her studies. I wanted to be near her. According to my stepfather, this decision was based on emotion. He was right. I remember that cold November day in the cemetery when the workers couldn’t push the heavy stone back into place on my grandparents’ gravesite. It seemed for a moment like a last strong attempt by my grandmother to fight back. She didn’t want to die, even though she spent her last two years in poor health and in a wheelchair. She hoped she would be able to walk again after the stroke.
“It was easier for your grandfather,” she used to say from time to time when I moved her from the bed to the wheelchair or the other way around. “At least it was quick for him.” My grandfather had died a few years earlier. A stroke killed him instantly. “Don’t say that,” I said, but deep down I agreed with her. Why couldn’t she talk like that? She was actually right. Her dying days were very long, but she wanted to live and only allowed herself to be depressed for a short time when her teenage great-grandson put her in a wheelchair.
“Your grandfather’s ghost visits me every day!” — she once said as I helped her out of the wheelchair and back into bed.
“And how does he look like? — I asked.
“He’s young. Looks very young.”
“What does he want? Is he talking to you?”
“No. He just stands there at the door and smiles at me. But I keep saying to him that I don’t want to leave yet.”
They moved to the village from East-Hungary after the war with two kids (one was my grandmother) with nothing to start a new life. They could literally see Austria, but the postwar West was out of reach for them. Adjusting to the new place could not be easy. There were many others from the East. The villagers called them the “carpet-baggers.” Here my great-grandmother gave birth to three more boys. One of them, my Uncle Z., had a stroke when he was born, but he survived. The stroke affected his whole life, he started talking when he was three years old. The doctors said he might live a few more months, but they didn’t know my great-grandmother. Uncle Z will be 65 this year. The other boy died a month after he was born. They buried him in the cemetery. A few decades later, when my grandparents invested and built their own graveyard, they dug up his remains. They found a few small pieces of bone, which my grandmother carefully gathered into a box and put back in the ground. When I was a kid, I would go to the cemetery with her from time to time, but I couldn’t understand why you had to make your own gravesite when you were still alive. It was strange to see my grandparents’ names and date of birth on the white stone. But it was even more impossible to think that one day they would both be there.
In 2007, all three were finally together. I couldn’t cry during the funeral and felt guilty about it. After the ceremony, my girlfriend and I went back to the empty house. It was almost completely dark, but near the house I could see the small field where me, my siblings and cousins used to play a lot. I saw myself and them there, I imagined my mother too as a child walking home. Or my grandmother carrying her little brother who can’t walk or talk. I walked around the empty rooms for the last time. I couldn’t cry during the funeral, but there, in the house, I burst into tears. I tried to hide from V., but she saw me. I wasn’t just crying because I lost my grandmother, I was crying for the memories of my childhood. “You’re 19 years old, grow up already” — I thought at my mother’s words. I closed the gates of the only place where I found peace as a child. Now, I thought, there is nothing more left, only growing up.
Ferenc Gyurcsány’s article about the past represents a very Hungarian habit: we are simply unable to get over the things that have happened to us. All the declarations about our future from our politicians were borrowings from our past. After 20–30 years of democratic transformation, we had to listen to the same speeches, mostly about when and what we did wrong. Politics in Hungary has never been more than a fiction belonging to whichever side is in power at the time. Fidesz has always been quite successful at rewriting history. Orbán himself probably didn’t even want to interpret Hungarian history differently than the path that led precisely to him and his politics. The Hungarian Right has always had this kind of messianistic view of its own organization, but before Orbán, perhaps Ferenc Szálasi represented it so clearly. Orbán compared the events of September 2006 to ’56 revolution and the government to the Soviets (a few years later he made the same comparison between the Soviets and the European Union.) The example was greatly exaggerated and false, but he was able to sell this to his followers. Every time he felt threatened by critics at home or abroad, he immediately came up with a historical example that established the duality of real oppressors and the oppressed crowd. He could use this method at any time. It was almost always successful. In his speech on the March 15 holiday, he referred to himself and his supporters as members of the “Spring Army” and they had to fight for the country, while the “new aristocrats” of the leftist government were forcing the people to stay at home, the government was harassing and provoking the “peaceful and law-abiding citizens.” The aggressive tone of his speech showed what Orbán’s true intention is: an aggression on the streets like six months ago. “The government is going to its own end” — he said. And he was indeed right. He had to talk it all the time. His aggressive, populist words were the most useful weapon. He had to talk about the left while he could. Because the left will soon disappear from Hungarian politics. And the crowd in front of him with a few flags with Árpád-stripes showed exactly what the future will look like without the left side of politics.
On August 15, 2007, the first 56 members of Hungarian Guard showed this new face of Hungary in front of Sándor Palace, where the President lived. The guardsmen were standing in rows wearing white shirts with black vests recalled very disturbing times from our history. It was not a question of how many soldiers they had, but how is this possible in 2007 in the middle of Europe. The Hungarian Guard competed with a far-right party called Jobbik, which gave a large part of Hungarian society the opportunity to freely display their mostly radical and racist views. We were able to keep these views in our small apartments, houses, in our small worlds until then. It was no longer a shame to speak out loud. In the shadow of Jobbik, thousands found a place for themselves. Future voters. The mass of people who hated the Gyurcsány-led government but for whom the Orbán-like right was simply not enough.
The history of Jobbik began in the late 90’s. The movement of the group Rightist Youth was organized in 1999. The founders of the movement came from the universities, more precisely from the small group of the student self-government leaders, called HÖK for short in Hungarian. The leader of the movement was Dávid Kovács, who was also the head of the student self-government of the Faculty of Arts at Eötvös Lóránd University and a year later was elected to the president of National Organization of the student self-government bodies (HÖOK). This was the time when student self-governments were getting more and more power and money in their hands from the state. They decided on different kinds of scholarships and social benefits for thousands of students. There was no other outside organization overseeing them or controlling their decisions about, for example, benefits. Between 2007 and 2009, when it went public, ELTE’s student government cathegorized freshmen by their possible political views and used codes to mark which party they might support. The scandal was damning, but the interests died too quickly. No one knows how the finantial benefits system was affected by the secret political cathegorizations.
Gábor Vona, the late leader of Jobbik, was a close friend of David Kovács. Vona was also a member of the presidium of HÖK, as was the late MP of the far-right party, János Stummer. After Kovács, we could see among the HÖK leaders many who were active Jobbik activists and supporters, such as István Szávay, László Nemes or Ádám Garbai. It is until a question how the leading universities in Hungary could allow far-right views to seep into their institutions by also giving free space to corruption by HÖK? Kovács’s political views were no secret. He joined the far-right MIÉP party back in 1994. Jobbik leaders had built their social and financial network between the walls of Hungarian universities and spread their far-right views among students. The new Hungarian far-right was not born in the streets, but in our universities.
In 2003, their far-right youth movement became a political party. At that time they were faceless and insignificant. Their influence was weak and they tried to capture the supporters of MIÉP, a decrepit, old-fashioned far-right party. Their vote was lost in the dispute between Orbán and Gyurcsány. But after Gyurcsány’s fall in 2006, everything had taken a turn for the better for them. Just a few months after a major electoral defeat (they ran with MIÉP as a coalition, but the two parties did not even reach the 5% in the pools), they became louder and better known. The circle of their supporters grew bigger and bigger by the day. After the moral failure of the left-liberal government, they quickly filled an empty space. In this way, far-right views have crept into our daily lives since 2006. The number of Orbán supporters was still much higher, it is true, but many of them, disappointed by Orbán, simply went to Jobbik. The fact that Orbán could lose a lot because of Jobbik was a real problem. They didn’t carefully monitor the far-right side of their supporters while they were too busy besieging the government. They did not reject the aggressive and racist tone of Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard after their formation in August, as all other political parties did. The official Fidesz statement, written by Péter Szijjártó, perfectly represented their relationship to the new radicalism in Hungary:
“The legal and political position of Fidesz regarding Hungarian Guard is clear and known to the public, but we are ready to repeat it also for Attila Mesterházy. On the one hand, everyone has the right to establish an organization according to the law, but other organizations should carefully monitor whether the new organization works according to the law. That is the government’s responsibility. On the other hand, the case of Hungarian Guard is perfect for Ferenc Gyurcsány to launch a fear-based hysteria campaign to avert the most serious problems in Hungary: education, health care or the economic crisis. Fidesz is focusing on the real problems of the country.”
Looking back from the present, one can see the danger of Orban’s far-right turn, even though he tried to hide these political intentions of his party in the ’90s, when Fidesz first entered parliament, and later, when he came to power in 1998. The fact that they were unwilling to return to Jobbik and Hungarian Guard does not prove ideological common ground (although few Fidesz members attended the Guard’s founding ceremony in August), but rather political games. Even a complete radicalization of Fidesz supporters was not possible; the danger of losing a large amount of voters in favor of Jobbik was real for Fidesz. The next election was far away in 2007. Although the left-liberal government was destroyed only a year after the 2006 elections, it was crucial for Orbán not to lose future voters who had previously voted left. Orbán’s radicalization from 2006 onward was swift and aggressive: they had to find the perfect way to destroy Gyurcsány and adapt to the tense and new atmosphere, which displaced Jobbik in the public eye.
The first time I heard about Jobbik was around 2005. A few days before Christmas, a 2-meter high cross appeared in front of the culture house of my town. Jobbik, as a weak party at that time, made the tradition of “cross-setting” in the name of Christianity. But after their new popularity a few years later, they had to organize a different kind of attention-grabbing event. The founding of Hungarian Guard and its demonstrations first in Budapest and later in the countryside were a perfect way to do this. In early December, 3–400 guardsmen appeared in the Roma-majority village called Tatárszentgyörgy. The “officers” of the Guard accompanied the group wearing green coats and armbands with Árpád-stripes containing a green symbol, very reminiscent of the party symbols of Arrow Cross. They walked around the village demonstrating in the name of “cleaning up the countryside”. But they were not allowed to enter the part of the village inhabited by Romas. Tatárszentgyörgy was the last stop that allowed the Guard to do what they wanted. In mid-December, the Budapest Court banned the movement. But it was too late. They could have easily made the Guard disappear, but the tendency that the Guard itself created was already with us. You don’t have to wear a uniform to be a guardsman. Less than a year later, in November 2008, the first Roma families were murdered in cold blood. A few months later, in February 2009, Tatárszentgyörgy was in the news again: a Roma man and his 5-year-old child were gunned down as they tried to flee their burning house. This was truly a new Hungary.
The essay in Hungarian: