Flashlights on the neo-nazi march in Budapest in February, Orbán’s speech on the nation, the attack on the academy of sciences and the ongoing protests in Hungary.
300 neonazis marched in the streets of Budapest. Every year in early February neo-Nazis coming from Hungary, Germany and Austria, as well as from other neighbouring countries (e.g. Ukraine, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia) are celebrating the „breakthrough” of German and Hungarian forces on February 11, 1945 from the city of Budapest, which was surrounded by Soviet troops on all sides. In December 1944 two Soviet peace parliamentarians were killed when they were trying to convey an ultimatum. The siege of Budapest lasted 64 days and was one of the bloodiest encounters of the war.
Budapest anti-Fascist groups went out to protest against the so-called „Day of Honor” on 9 February near the Castle district at Széll Kálmán Square, renamed some years ago from Moscow Square. There were about 150 mainly young people, holding red flags, many of them being allies of the Workers Party of Hungary 2006. This year, the neofascists were banned from gathering in the Buda Castle district, because since the beginning of this year it has been a new governmental area with Orbán’s office. The same site, the infamous Governor Horthy`s office and the most important ministries were in the inter world war period. Recently the ruling goverment passed a law to limit the demonstrations in front its offices and residences.
The neo-Nazi groups, with about 300 Hungarian and foreign participants claiming were dressed in black, in SS uniforms and with swastikas. The foreigners looked happy because they are forbidden to hold such neofascist demonstrations in their respective home country. This phenomenon is another brilliant example of the right wing shift of the Hungarian political life. It is also an alarming and dangerous development in Hungary that the ruling Fidesz encourages to produce falsified accounts of our history from a far right perspective. On top of that it is sad to see that neither of the parliamentary opposition parties supported the antifascist demonstrations. The most significant negative development, however is that the democratic opposition parties are accepting the previously hard-core far-right Jobbik party as „their partner” while Attila Vajnai`s Workers Party being a Communist is excluded from the anti-Orbán coalition.
Orban’s Populist Rhetoric Ramped Up
The venue of the 18th State of Nation Address of PM Viktor Orbán was for the first time hermetically closed for the public, it was surrounded by heavy blocks of concrete, covered by black canvas. An all-opposition demonstration was organized with about 1,000 people against Orbán`s dictatorship in front of János Áder’s, State President’s Office in the Castle.
Well in advance of Orbán’s speech it was clear that a new political situation is emerging in Hungary before the upcoming European Parliament Elections. It was not a surprise that Orbán had ramped up his populist rhetoric claiming that Hungary is the last resort to fight against the „islamization” of Europe. Orbán called the Hungarian opposition as „a bunch of pro-immigration politicians who are kept on a respirator by George Soros and the EU bureaucrats”. His rhetoric might strengthen the hand of those calling for Orbán’s right wing populist party Fidesz to be ousted from the European People’s Party. (Orban`s policy of 7 points on family, women, mothercare needs a more lentghy explanation, which takes more time and they are full of contradictions, which would deserve a separete article).
Academic Freedom Under Attack
Orbán’s rule becomes increasingly unpredictable. More and more people are asking, are the intellectuals the academicians the new enemy?
It all started with raising the retirement age for professors to 65, salary cuts, and by the appointments of university chancellors. The task of these government officials was to supervise not only financially but the daily life of universities. Students and teachers were protesting together on the streets of Budapest: "Free Country, Free University." The regime reacted with forced retirements, firing, and intimidations. Students are afraid that because of a Facebook comment, or a photograph taken at a protest they will not be able to make their exam, etc.
The next big step was the attack and expulsion of the Central European University. To make it clear, the government founded a narrative of a university as the main enemy of Hungary. The newest enemy is the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). The goal is to significantly cut the modest budget and to assign the independent scientific body to a minister. This would mean the disappearance of several prominent scientific institutes.
Demonstrators surrounded the reputable Budapest building, holding books in protest (see picture) while the presidency of MTA discussed the topic. The scholarly body will boycott the plan. The long term result cannot be judged today. The question is; what comes next? Orbán`s autocratic system less and less tolerates the autonomous institutions and individuals.