The faces of everyday fascism in Hungary
During the emerging political, societal and economic crisis that started to unfold in 2006, the far-right in Hungary gained new strength. After 2010, however, the movement started to gradually lose ground and even entered a sort of crisis by the middle of the decade.
The weakening of the radical nationalist scene can primarily be attributed to changes in party politics. The Fidesz government that gained power in 2010 has taken a number of topics and messages from the far right from the very beginning and utilized more and more elements from their toolset of political tactics and methods. The year 2015 raised the bar to new heights with the start of the cabinet’s „migrant campaign” that painted asylum-seekers as enemies and immigration was deemed the highest priority topic for many years to come. Creating imaginary enemies and scapegoats, inciting fears and hatred became the central element of Fidesz’s tactics, connected to the „one camp, one flag” strategy of the party. The strategy aims at controlling the entire political right to rule over its topics and keep its actors in check.
Parallel to Fidesz’s shift to the far right, the extremist party Jobbik accelerated its strategy to become a „people’s party”. Aimed originally at broadening the camp with more moderate electorate (and at the same time leading to the loss of the former connections with radical nationalists), Jobbik probably did not see any other option because they could no longer challenge Fidesz from the right.
The changing political climate favored the far right as the governing party and its media helped their messages to appear increasingly in the public discourse and to become more accepted (like the catchphrase of „ethnic homogeneity” used by the prime minister, the conspiracy theories about George Soros or painting immigration as a Muslim invasion). As a backlash, the far-right formations had to face the fact that Fidesz not only took over their topics but echoed them even louder than they could. With the fall of the socialist-liberal government, they also entered a void concerning their objectives –„national radicalism became hollow”. The crisis surfaced the long existing rifts in the movement and uncovered the absence of a common vision. Members started a process of self-reflection to redefine themselves and their objectives.
The reflection resulted in the rearrangement of the scene; new figures, tactics and focuses emerged. The final outcome became especially visible in 2020 when a number of Jobbik’s politicians left the party to start Mi Hazánk Mozgalom (Our Homeland Movement, MH) that has representatives in the National Assembly via their independent members, while Légió Hungária (Hungarian Legion, LH) was formed by actors leaving Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement, HVIM). Both organizations represented a return to the „roots” considering topics, messages, tactics and political style as well. The Hungarian far-right made (apart from the anti-Roma sentiments that can be considered traditional in the movement) anti-immigrtion and the anti-LGBTQ stances its main topic in accordance with international trends. These topics also feature a significant idea of a Jewish conspiracy that follows the traditions of anti-Semitism.
The largest organizations of the radical and far-right movement are Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement, HVIM), Betyársereg (Army of Outlaws, BS), Magyar Önvédelmi Mozgalom (Hungarian Self-defence Movement, MÖM) and Légió Hungária (Hungarian Legion, LH). Identitás Generáció (Identity Generation, IG) separates itself both organizationally and in its ideology from these organizations that can be considered traditional; IG is the member of the pan-European identitarian movement. Apart from IG, the organizations are closely connected, they organize events together, show common activity in certain issues, although they differ in their vision, ideology, activities and appearance as well. All the ‘traditional’ organizations apart from LH support the MH party, they act cooperatively and propagate the party’s actions and messages. The formerly traditionally introverted far-right scene made a visible step out onto the international stage, maintaining active relations mostly with German and northern European organizations, and they also connect to numerous regional (e. g. Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian) and other western European actors. This opening up is part of the global development of the far-right’s internationalization.
The traditional far-right organizations share a number of common characteristics. Their centralized and strongly hierarchic structure includes a tight circle of leaders making the decisions, and they all show a strong militant character in their activities, values and organizational structure alike. Neither of them can relate to modern republican values, the concept of equality based on the idea of human dignity is far removed from their worldview that is built basically on merits and hierarchy, and they have an ambivalent, not at all uniform relation to freedom. Most of them object being described as chauvinist, racist, antisemitic, Nazi, “nyilas” (member of the Arrow Cross Party) or Neo-Nazi and the like, even though their world view and system of values are centered around the sense of superiority whether it is the white race, the Hungarian nation, the Christian/European culture or the traditional values. Their typical values all include the nation, tradition, Christianity, order, security, community and the need for a strong, authoritarian state – while liberalism is unanimously refused.
In accordance with the international trends of the far right, the so called “Great Replacement” narrative is in the center of their reasoning. It includes the belief of well-organized outside enemies (e. g. Muslim immigrants) and inside enemies (e. g. liberals, gay people) threatening the civilization and race of white Europeans. There is also a significant need to prepare for the imminent “Great Collapse”, the change to eradicate the present world order. The most extreme conception to expedite the collapse does not seem to be present in Hungary, however, the idea of a disaster or emergency in society – mostly in the form of a war – exists in the far-right mentality.
The topics of the far-right are dominated by the immigration and LGBTQ-issues, and the unevenly extremist, but always paternalistic anti-Roma attitude. The reasons against immigration includes the denial of the willingness of migrants to integrate, the conflict of value systems, the invasion and Islamization, the protection of Christian values, and the weakening of Europe. The conflict around sexual orientation and gender identity is the expression of “protecting the race, the nation and tradition” together with anti-liberalism and anti-western attitudes. The significance of the “Roma-issue” is the downright main problem of Hungarian society, e.g. unemployment of the Roma people, the crimes committed by them and the situation of public security, the “gypsyfication” of certain settlements. As far as traditional far-right topics are concerned, antisemitism clearly dominates the scene’s mentality; most of the issues’ final explanation is the “Jewish conspiracy to rule the world” that is considered an obvious fact.
There is a symbiotic relationship between Fidesz, which aims to dominate the complete political field on the right, and the radical and far-right actors. the former taking topics and messages from the latter, viewing themselves as a driving force, as an actor channeling the society’s needs and steering the public discourse and the government towards the appropriate direction. This also hints at their relation to Fidesz’s politics: although they do not fully agree with several of the steps taken by the cabinet, at the level of specifics they mostly expressed support for the government’s actions, and the vast majority claimed that the country had been moving in the right direction since 2010. They mainly highlighted family policies, actions against immigration, the reinforcement of defense, the strengthening of national consciousness and conservative values as positives, while mentioned corruption and oversimplifying government communication as negatives. A significant part of the organizations feel that they have to endure less headwinds than before in terms of legal and institutional framework as well as the public discourse. They view the Fidesz government in many cases as a nationalist force that is bound by the realities of realpolitik or by the attention of international communities meaning they cannot go as far as they would see necessary. While they have reservations about the effectiveness or courageousness of the government’s steps, their direction is highly supported. They do not find it problematic that the government takes and recycles their topics; the majority rather welcomes that ideas, which used to be considered radical, have infiltrated the political mainstream within a few years.