Hungary News Politics & International

The rehabilitation of Horthy and the popularity of the radical right in Hungary

Budapest, Hungary – Mi Hazánk, the radical far-right party, organized a torchlight march in Budapest on March 1 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Horthy Miklos taking office in 1920. The march was joined by several far-right paramilitary groups, such as Legio Hungaria and the Betyársereg, which also participated in the Nazi memorial march last month.

At the protest, Toroczkai László, the head of Mi Hazánk, warned that 100 years ago, Jews ruined Hungary, and demanded that Hungary needed to hold Jews accountable for the role they play in society. To lighten his tone, he added that there were some good Jews too.  

Fülöp Erik, a Mi Hazánk MP declared that his party was the only one dedicated to the rehabilitation of Horthy as a national icon. For those unfamiliar with him, Horthy’s reign in Hungary started with the White Terror, where tens of thousands were jailed without trial, and hundreds of communists, social democrats and Jews were persecuted and killed. It ended 24 years later, with Horthy’s alliance with Adolf Hitler.

Horthy collaborated, although some may say reluctantly, with Adolf Hitler.

At the protest, at least five people were arrested for inciting hate and for wearing a uniform of the banned Magyar Gárda, a violent paramilitary group.

All this happened a few hundred meters from the main square in front of the Parliament. The commemoration was held in the place of the old Nagy Imre statue, a reform communist who played an important role in the 1956 revolution. The Orban government moved this popular and important statue last year and replaced it with a Horthy era statue which has become the gathering ground for the far right in Hungary.

The Autonomia Antifa activist group organized a counter-demonstration which mobilized several hundred people, including many Roma activists. The newly elected opposition Mayor of Budapest, Karácsony Gergely,  condemned the falsification of history for political goals and expressed his appreciation for the counter-protestors who stood up against hate. 

Far-right activists march with torches in front of the darkened CEU.

Few pictures capture recent trends in Hungary better than this screenshot taken from a video. The far-right activists march with torches in front of the darkened CEU, the university which the Orban government has forced to relocate to Vienna. The few students left on campus reported that the university had to lock the main doors and diverted students to other exits to ensure that no confrontation happened between the students and the far-right protestors.

Mi Hazánk has been steadily gaining strength as Jobbik, the large and successful far-right party, continues to fragment and shift towards the center. Mi Hazánk has organized half a dozen marches similar to this one around the country in the last year. The marches are becoming better organized, coordinated and attended. The opposition parties seem indifferent or incapable of reacting. The far-reaching condemnation of Mi Hazánk and fascist ideology has yet to be articulated. 

The popular Nagy Imre statue, was replaced with a Horthy era one in Hungary.

Perhaps the success of the party is due to the open secret that Mi Hazánk is supported by Fidesz, the ruling party. The March 1st Horthy commemoration happened at a Horthy era statue unveiled by Fidesz a few months ago, the national museum hosted an exhibit glorifying the Horthy era, and there is a controversy brewing the new national curriculum. The only Hungarian Nobel prize winner, Imre Kertész, who was a Jew, was removed from the mandatory reading list, while a Nazi collaborator Albert Was, was added. 

These moves by the government all point to an attempt to transform society something more conservative and fascist. By creating space in the political spectrum for Mi Hazánk, Fidesz becomes the reasonable alternative. Starving refugees on the border, banning universities, and inciting hate against Roma seems reasonable compared to a Nazi party which “wants to reckon with the Jews.” How long Hungarians will tolerate this is to be seen, but the rehabilitation of Horthy and the spread of fascist ideologies in the mainstream are a dangerous game to play to hold onto power.

By Viktor Mák 

Born in Jászberény in the Hungarian countryside, Viktor studied and worked in the United States. He recently returned to Hungary and finished a degree in Public Administration at the Central European University. During the day, he works in political communication. In his free time busies himself with activism fighting for a quality, well funded and accessible education system in Hungary. Check out his latest articles right here!