Explaining Jobbik, the 'Tea Party' of HungaryPosted: April 26, 2010 | |
I would like to interrupt my regularly scheduled video game posts to comment on the recent right wing party’s victory in the Hungarian Parliament. Hungary now has a new Prime Minister-in-waiting; Viktor Orbán, and a new ruling party; Fidesz. Fidesz, the center right party:
made history as the first Hungarian political party to capture a two-thirds majority in the 386-seat parliament since Hungary’s first post-communist elections in 1990.
Fidesz defeated the ruling Socialists who have been in power for eight years, amid public anger over scandals and the economy.
Sunday’s election results give the ruling Socialists 59 seats and the far-right Jobbik Party, 47 seats
via Business Weeks Hungary’s Center Right Sweep Parliamentary Elections
I couldn’t help but notice how “Jobbik” has been portrayed over the past couple of weeks. Jobbik voicing “anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy rhetoric“? I don’t claim to be an expert, but when I was in Budapest over Christmas, I encountered people my own age who were very sympathetic to Jobbik. I am talking about people who work in ad agencies, PR firms, TV stations and soon-to-be lawyers. One law student, attending a prestigious law school in Budapest, is being taught by Krisztina Morvai, a fellow leader of the Jobbik party (to note, how can Morvai be anti-semitic when she has had 3 children with a “Jewish” man? Also to wonder, if someone is pro-Palestine, does that make them anti-semitic? ). The Jobbik supporters I met weren’t anti-semitic, and no more anti-gypsy than any one else in Hungary, …or Europe for that matter. Why would my generation of college-educated, internet browsing individuals be sympathetic to a party that was “Hitler-esque”? I don’t want to use the word “slander” to describe the media coverage, as that is what Jobbik is calling all this negative attention, but I have to agree the coverage certainly isn’t balanced.
What really gets me are the media sources, which are almost entirely from “socialist” countries. It makes sense then that any news reaching the US about Jobbik would have a negative spin. None of the stories talk about Jobbik’s economic policies, or ideas on agricultural reform, or how to root out corruption in government. I would like to take this moment and explain a few things about Jobbik:
Jobbik is a very nationalistic party, so it is very easy to say they are “anti-roma” or “anti-semitic” because they don’t want any one in Hungary but Hungarians. This nationalism comes out of Hungary recently joining the EU and not receiving the perceived benefits. When I visited during the winter, I was astounded by how hard globalization has hit Hungary, with Burger Kings, McDonalds, Pizza Huts and even (surprise!) TGIF’s every where. Miley Cyrus is big in Hungary too. I don’t remember it being that way the year before.
The general feeling is, nothing in Hungary is made by and/or for Hungarians any more. The Jobbik party is so nationalistic they want foreign capitalism out of Hungary. Do you remember the outrage when Budweiser, the beer that “stands for America”, was purchased by a European company? It’s the same, but on a much larger scale.
Hungarians are very afraid of losing their identity (an identity they’ve had to struggle to hold on to for the last century). Calling Jobbik, or Fidesz supporters “bigots” is downright ignorant and insensitive. The Jobbik’s complaints are at least valid and grounded in reality.
You might say there is no need for the type of nationalism Jobbik is advocating in today’s modern world, but you have to understand that it isn’t just the far right Jobbik party. Hungarians in general feel like the whole world has been shitting on them for the last 100 years. Let me give you a quick history lesson. I visited the Hungarian National History Museum over winter, and the museum explains the joint Austria-Hungarian empire like so: when the Hungarians asked the Austrians to help them kick out the Turks, the Austrian soldiers never handed the country back to the Hungarians. The Austrians didn’t feel the need to leave. The museum also explains WWI as such: Austria forced the Hungarians into World War I hoping it would quell the Hungarians from repeatedly asking for independence.
And what happened after World War I?
The Treaty of Trianon, which reduced the size of Hungary by 2/3rds and left half of the Hungarian population living outside its borders. The Treaty of Trianon was not translated into Hungarian, and the Hungarian government had 24 hours to sign, which they did under protest. No other nation in the world has suffered such an injustice- and yes, the people of Hungary are still mad about this 90 years later. This is why Jobbik is asking France to apologize for its role in the Treaty of Trianon. Ever since I can remember “Go to France” has been the Hungarian equivalent of “Go to Hell”.
But the injustices don’t end there. Along comes World War II, and Hungary, reduced significantly in size, population, and resources, has to make a hard choice. Do we side with the Communists? Do we side with the Nazis? At least the Nazis are offering to give us back our beloved Transylvania (Transylvania is believed by many Hungarians to be the birth place of Hungary). At least Hitler thinks what happened to us in WWI was terrible, so I guess we’ll side with him? (is how I imagine their thinking)…. Hungary was caught between a rock and a hard place (or a Nazi and Communist), and either decision would have been the wrong one.
Following the end of WWII, Slovakia deported 40,000+ Hungarians and used them like indentured servants. Speaking of injustices, consider the 1956 uprising. Hungarians had a Soviet free government for a week, fueled by American promises of assistance that never materialized. In hind site, maybe the United States meant “support in spirit” and not with actual troops, or money, or anything physical and therefore useful.
Hungary is still so poor they use the same Soviet-lettered subway cars from the 1970’s. A slap in the face? The most recent injustice to Hungarians is the Hungarian language ban in Slovakia, that no EU nation has spoken out against. Can you blame the Hungarians for feeling a little paranoid, for feeling like the world doesn’t give a damn? The New York Times thinks it is all about the money, and not about Trianon:
Jobbik, led by Gabor Vona, a 32-year-old history teacher, tapped into nationalist sentiment in an old and proud country deeply wounded by its reputation as the new economic sick man of Europe.
(the above New York Times piece lays it on thick by comparing the National Guard flag as “nazi”, but I guess a roaring lion is like a nazi symbol, if I am grasping for straws?)
Unfortunately, I can’t explain everything Jobbik does as misunderstanding. Jobbik is guilty of fear mongering, and therefore comparable to the American Tea Party. In the case of Jobbik’s “Military Guard”, volunteers banded together because “the police weren’t doing any thing” to protect the Hungarians. Maybe my relatives are making it up, but they firmly believe that gypsies roam the countryside in groups and beat up policemen, or rape 10 year old girls with broomsticks. Is Jobbik responsible for all of this fear mongering? Maybe.
(I am not going to get into the gypsy argument right here; it is complicated.) Yes, the Hungarian police do nothing, because imprisoning 12 year olds is difficult. Yes, the American government can only deport illegals. Despite being miles apart, both right wing parties are fighting against what they perceive to be an “invading race”. The Military Guard of Hungary isn’t much different from the Minutemen of the American Southwest.
Or maybe the rest of the world doesn’t blink twice at Hungary’s grumbles, thinking Fidesz and Jobbik are just the byproducts of a bad economy, bound to go away when the cash flows freely again:
Hungary, once a frontrunner in the transition to a free- market economy from communism, lost its edge as successive governments racked up debt to fund higher spending. The European Commission estimates government debt will reach 80 percent of gross domestic product this year, the highest among the EU’s eastern members, while employment is the bloc’s second-lowest after Malta.
via business Week “Hungary’s Next Premier Orban Faces IMF Test in Return to Power“
Do we treat the Tea Party as if they will go away when the economy recovers?
Kornelia Magyar of the Progressive Institute added that if the Hungarian economy improved, the disenfranchised rural voters who turned en masse toward Jobbik would be less and less seduced by its trenchant feel-good oratory.
“If the economy improves — and it’s a big if — that will weaken Jobbik’s power”
If this is the case, the IMF and the EU should reconsider Viktor Orbán’s requests in renegotiating Hungary’s debt-reduction agreement. Are the Balkans still a powder keg? Let’s not find out…..