Attack on Fidesz headquarters: Is the use of force acceptable in protest?

On Sunday night, over 10,000 Hungarians from many walks of political life protested in Budapest, ostensibly against a new circa $0.75CDN/GB Internet tax, but on a more latent level also against the growing diplomatic row between the oligarchic Orbán government and Washington. At one point in this protest, a group of demonstrators attacked Fidesz party headquarters, located just across from Heroes’ Square, in Lendvay Street. Computer keyboards, monitors, entire computers, rocks and other projectiles smashed the building’s windows. According to the 444.hu website, even before the protest there were calls on social media sites among demonstrators to cover their face with scarves and masks, and people were encouraging participants to bring old, broken technological devices with which to attack Party headquarters. As such, it does appear that the attack on Fidesz headquarters was coordinated and planned, at least to some degree. Some of the protesters looked like they may have been football hooligans, but others — like the young women who hoisted European Union flags onto this symbolic party building – were not.

An entire computer goes flying through the window at Fidesz party headquarters. Photo: Tamás Botos.

An entire computer goes flying through the window at Fidesz party headquarters. Photo: Tamás Botos.

This raises the question about whether – in this case – it was acceptable to use force and a degree of violence when protesting the country’s authoritarian and deeply corrupt regime?According to Dániel Ágoston, writing in the Alternatíva blog, it was, indeed, acceptable. In a post tagged as “the monitor uprising,” Mr. Ágoston writes:

“Yesterday, after 10 years, I once again took to the streets in protest, and not because I wanted to stand among the frustrated pensioners of the Democratic Coalition and listen to their hollering, or to bemoan a single government initiative. Instead, I went to protest against a totally cynical, absurd and arrogant idea. Undoubtedly, everyone has by now seen what transpired. And perhaps we can start to hear people distancing themselves from the event and noting that ‘violence is not the solution.’ That we need a velvet revolution, and nice, flowery words to pull the fiery throne of this regime into the abyss. And that we can’t be like the ‘nazis who overturned rubbish bins.’ (…)

Let me reveal a little secret: radicalized protesters tend to be violent. (…) Someone please tell me: when has it ever occured in this narrative that a cause moved forward through softly spoken words?

So what, if a few windows and locks were broken! Nobody got hurt. Demonstrators caused damaged to a building of symbolic importance and this is a completely legitimate tool in the world of politics. In fact, the police and the demonstrators were surprisingly civil with each other, because as soon as the police arrived and created a buffer zone between the protesters and the headquarters, the throwing of projectiles stopped. Events went until just the right point: both in terms of violence and in terms of everything else. (…) I’d like to think that we are witnessing a totally new mentality.”

Mr. Ágoston is clearly no fan of the current opposition (especially DK), and he seems to suggest that radical left-wingers and anarchists in particular can, in some instances, team up with protesters that are closer to the far-right, in order to move forward a specific cause. That’s a tough and bitter pill to swallow. I cannot fathom ever wanting to join forces with these elements, nor can I really identify with anarchists or the far left. But Mr. Ágoston, representing a much younger generation than the average age of today’s opposition voter, is correct in pointing out that the left must embrace new, creative and forceful forms of protest. I have been to many demonstrations in Budapest where perhaps 500 to 1,000 elderly demonstrators gather together to listen to poetry recitals. These are special cultural events, not effective protests. They sing to the converted and to a niche “market.” It is high time for something new, different and – perhaps – controversial.

2 Comments

  1. No, violence is not justified (yet). People should have gotten out and voted first, instead of abstaining apathetically as they have until now. (Besides, I’ll bet the violence came from neonazi Jobbik Yobs who had just staged a football demonstration of their own. They were the same ones who generated the violence in 2006 [at Fidesz instigation]. Now they’ve turned on Fidesz too — but not for democratic reasons…)

    This may not yet be (to borrow the words of WLS-C) the beginning of the end for Orbán, but perhaps we can hope that it is the end of the beginning…

  2. “This raises the question about whether – in this case – it was acceptable to use force and a degree of violence..”

    Yes, of course, approximately to the same degree when the same was engineered by Orban in 2006. But at least the TV headquarters were not set on fire at this time. Or should they have done the same thing with the Fidesz headquarters, too? No, just a little damage.
    ——-
    “As such, it does appear that the attack on Fidesz headquarters was coordinated and planned,…”

    Of course it was. Has anybody ever seen any mass demonstrations or revolutions that spontaneously broke out without being organized, planned and financed? Like the one in 2006 when all the football hooligans and demonstrators were paid 5000 ft per person.
    My question is not whether it was or not, but is who organized it this time. Seeing the presence of the football hooligans I might ask if it wasn’t the Fidesz. Maybe Orban just encouraged the organizers in some indirect way and then sent his own mob, the football hooligans to provoke something really bad if necessary.
    Moreover, they need some warm up for the upcoming peace march.

    As I wrote before I suspected the Fidesz will create another scandal in order to lead attention away from the corruption scandal. Also, the present one or any other similar can give Orban a good opportunity that after dragging innocent people in the street mixing them with his own mob and provoking them into violent action, he can act and keep them in pre-trial detention for an indefinite time according to his self-created law.

    Does it make sense to you? It does to Orban.
    Can it backfire?
    Yes , but when was Orban ever discouraged by sinister consequences? This unscrupulous brute has broken all his promises, betrayed his friends, committed numerous crimes only to see that all of them went down the toilet after causing only momentary inconveniences for him and then left the door open to him for the next one.

    Now is it going to go down the toilet again? We will see? If Orban dirty hands were in it, it possibly will. If the demonstrations won’t cease but intensify, then I might want to come back to ask some more essential questions instead of guessing.

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