Demonizing immigrants — Here’s why Hungary’s Fidesz is no less dangerous than Jobbik

There is a very common misconception in the West that Fidesz is somehow the lesser of two evils when it comes to the Hungarian right and the rising fortunes of the far-right Jobbik. Nothing could be further from the truth. For Fidesz, the only thing that counts is political expediency. To some extent, being effective politically, and thus being ideologically flexible enough to appropriate popular topics seen as attracting voters, is important to any political party. But Fidesz is unique in that it has absolutely no coherent ideology whatsoever and key strategists, like Gábor G. Fodor of the government think tank Századvég, have confirmed the undiluted Machiavellian approach that characterizes Fidesz.

With Fidesz, absolutely everything is merely a “political product”–to use Mr. Fodor’s words. When the government’s consulates and embassies– from the mission in New York City to Toronto and Ottawa–host Holocaust remembrances and commemorations on behalf of the Orbán government, in the year that Hungary assumes the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, they are providing a political product.

Less than a week after remembering the ingrained racism that led to the deaths of 600,000 Hungarian Jews and the deportation of over 30,000 Roma, the Orbán government launched a “national consultation” that is the most callous example of pandering to xenophobia that I have seen in a very long time.

Here are some of the loaded questions that the Hungarian government is asking its citizens, in English translation:

  • Some people believe that the mishandling of immigration issues in Brussels and the spread of terrorism are connected. Do you agree with this opinion?
  • Did you know that economic migrants are crossing the Hungarian border illegally, and that the number of immigrants in Hungary has increased twenty-fold?
  • One can hear many opinions about the question of immigration. Some people say that immigrants threaten the jobs and livelihood of Hungarians. Do you agree?
  • Would you support the Hungarian government, if it introduced stricter immigration regulations, in spite of the leniency in Brussels?
  • Do you agree with the Hungarian government, that instead of immigration, we need to support Hungarian families, and the children to be born in the future?
Hungarian immigrants in Québec in the 1920s, before heading west, to the prairies. Source: Department of the Interior photographic records / Collections Canada.

Hungarian immigrants in Québec in the 1920s, before heading west, to the prairies. Source: Department of the Interior photographic records / Collections Canada.

Not a single of the questions on the survey even remotely entertain the idea that some Hungarians may take a more tolerant or compassionate view of immigrants. Every single question overtly panders to the worst prejudices in society. To make matters worse, Zoltán Kovács, the government spokesperson in charge of presenting this “national consultation,” noted that the survey was especially important in light of the death of 900 migrants, when their boat capsized this week in the Mediterranean, in the worst migrant disaster in the region’s history. The Orbán government’s response to this tragedy is to circulate a virulently xenophobic national survey.

It goes without saying, that this survey is remarkably shameful, especially in light of the fact that immigration and Hungarian history are closely intertwined, starting in the late 19th century and especially in the 20th century. Hungarian Canadians established their first settlements in Canada in 1886, with the village of Kaposvár (in today’s Saskatchewan) and then the nearby town of Esterhazy. The first Hungarian Canadian settlers suffered systemic discrimination and prejudice, along with all other immigrants who did not hail from northwestern Europe, often at the hands of federal authorities. (See Robert England’s The Central European Immigrant in Canada, published in 1929.) The Orbán government in 2015 is spreading this same type of prejudice and is stoking the fears of the local population against “the other.”

Following its loss to Jobbik in the Tapolca by-election, Fidesz is clearly trying to shore up its support among hard-line, racist right-wing voters. One night, it will remember victims of antisemitism during the Holocaust. The next morning it will reinforce in citizens that “liberal” immigration policies are leading to the spread of terrorism, and that hoards of foreigners have descended upon Hungary and are threatening the livelihoods of ordinary, decent Hungarians. “The other” is dangerous and he/she/it is directly threatening you and your children.

Fidesz is Jobbik in disguise.

12 Comments

  1. György Lázár says:

    It is almost like instigating intolerance with surveys. While most governments establish programs to integrate immigrants into the community and promote examples of successful immigrants, the Orbán-government is trying to induce hate.

    It is especially shameful that Hungarian immigrant organizations in Canada and the US are not up in arms about this survey. Not too long ago Hungarian immigrants in the US were called „Hunkys”.. which is a deeply derogatory slang term. The City of Cleveland fought against the discrimination of the Hungarian immigrants in the early 1900s.

  2. Gyula Bognar, Jr. says:

    People who cannot muster up compassion toward other people, those, who are less fortunate, those who wants to find a better place to live, don’t deserve compassion from others when they are in trouble.

    The present Hungarian Government is cruel, heartless, the members are selfish, inhumane and rob the ill, the handicapped, the old, the weak. This is the example that helps to spreads selfishness and homophobia, as an acceptable way of living.

    Meanwhile many people in Hungary tend to forget, that the Western World had given Hungarians refuge for hundreds of years and accepts them today, gives them work and a place to live and a chance to make better future then their own Government which consists of thieves, criminals and the most heartless, cruel bastards.

  3. Christopher Adam says:

    Excellent points, Gyuri and Gyula!

    I have to say that when I first read about the government’s survey, I was especially angered. Both my parents, and three of my grandparents, my aunt, and my uncle all immigrated to Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. My father arrived in 1957 and was given $5 by Canadian authorities, and wished all the best. That’s not much to start with, but he ultimately found himself in a society that accepted him. Within 10 years, he owned a house, a successful business and married another Hungarian Canadian, my mother, who had finished her high school in Canada.

    If Canada in the fifties and sixties would have circulated the sort of survey that Hungary is preparing to distribute, in order to stoke the flames of xenophobia and paranoia of ‘the other,’ my father and mother would probably never have been able to find refuge in this country, nor integrate successfully and fully into Canadian society.

  4. Jozsef Keresi says:

    I think if those Hungarian politicians had studied St. Stephen’s Admonition, they would be acting differently.

    King Saint Stephen of Hungary

    from Admonitions to His Son, Emeric

    My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all
    things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an
    example for all those placed under you by God and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of
    true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian
    or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace after the faith itself, the Church holds second
    place, first propagated as she was by our head, Christ; then transplanted, firmly constituted and
    spread through the whole world by his members, the apostles and holy fathers. And though she
    always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.

    However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly
    planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which
    the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your
    idleness, indolence or neglect.

    My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time
    and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations
    and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but
    also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the
    highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart
    the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Be patient with everyone, not only
    with the powerful, but also with the weak.

    Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this
    life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn
    anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may
    never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of
    lust like the pangs of death.

    All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule
    here on earth or attain the heavenly kingdom.

  5. Hungarian Freedom-Slighters

    Good job a Canadian counterpart of Fidesz — if such a thing is conceivable at all, rather than a grotesque contradiction in terms — was not in power in Canada in 1956, otherwise tens of thousands of Hungarian refugees would not have been prospering in their new homeland but languishing in their old one…

  6. “Fidesz is Jobbik in disguise.”

    I can’t see any disguise. It’s openly the same. Orban is going down and now is competing with Vona. I don’t think he cares at all. He would allow and accommodate any amount of refugees if he could charge a nice sum for that. No money, Vona’s star is rising, he is going that way competing and stealing from Vona. He would destroy the Fidesz and raise the Jobbik if he could take Vona’s place in the Jobbik and keep his present position that way.

    He is not fighting for Hungary’s interests, not for “liberty” he is not interested in followers, Hungary’s wealth, he is just stirring the shitpot as usual and tries to blackmail anybody he can in hope someone would pay or give him a little something for shutting up. And tries to swim and stay in the mainstream. If the wind changes he will change his ways too.

    If the EU gave him a few hundred billion Euros for building a modern refugee camp, then he would deport his fellow countrymen to liberate some space and declare Hungary the world immigration-handling superpower a sample to follow. Would take and steal the money, bribe Vona, loot the immigrants just the same way he looted the Hungarians, and would be the first advocate of human rights and free immigration in Europe. His is always holding his hand out. Nothing is enough. Money only makes him happy if others don’t have.

    All his talentless wicked life is about nothing but money, power, lies, frustration, and vengeance.

  7. Oh, and just one more thing – long comments, sorry, I don’t want to write a book – but seeing those questions up there that the Hungarian government printed out, aren’t they the most eloquent demonstration of Mr. Gollner’s essay on Fidesz and their language that he published recently?

    Well I am not that qualified just let me be a Simple Simon with a very simple questions to Orban and his private Ltd. the Fidesz:
    “Mr. Orban, you’re full of it. Who made Hungary the country of four million Hungarian refuges? Lining up all day for Krishna food, starving, living in misery, kept ignorant and rancorous, and powerlessly waiting for you to finally suck them dry. That’s what you do with countries you hate? That’s what you plan to do with immigrants of other countries you hate too?”

    Well I hope Hungarians will get back their feet again soon. Won’t be easy, though.

  8. More precisely: ..the most eloquent proof of ….

  9. Janos Magyar says:

    Surely the Fidesz questionnaire is a thinly veiled xenophobic document designed to incite public sentiment against immigration but why is this happening and what is the solution? I think it is a bit disingenuous to condemn Hungary for some of the views it expresses towards immigration in general. It is even more ridiculous to compare it to Canada or the US. A look at the history and geopolitical situation of Hungary can shed some light.

    Hungary is not Canada of the 20s, 30s, or 1956. There are no great swaths of land ready to be settled and worked, a nation to build. Canada was a young country then with enormous generally unexploited resources. It needed human resources more than anything else in order to ramp up said exploitation and build the nation from its colonial beginnings. Immigrants arrived from all over the world and as long as they were white, they were given roughly equal opportunities to pursue their dreams. Hardly the non-discriminatory utopia we like to paint today. Nevertheless, opportunity abounded and there existed incredible space to accommodate thousands and eventually millions of labourer immigrants.

    Hungary cannot boast of unexploited resources or endless expanses of unsettled farm land. It has however been a country for over one thousand years, one of the oldest in Europe. In that millennium, it has waged wars on the continent, winning and losing its fair share. It has been invaded countless times and has somehow managed to cast off the invaders time and again. The only reason that Hungary, Hungarians, and the Hungarian language exist today is that it has been relatively successful in these enterprises where it was often out-gunned and out-manned. I am aware that I loosely describe the formative years of nearly every European nation or world nation for that matter but let’s not forget that we are talking about a small Finno-Ugric nation that could not count many neighbours as natural allies. This is a nation that has been fighting above its weight class from its very inception and that has given the world a number of firsts in science, technology, and just about every other avenue of human endeavor. To wit, it has delivered an unparalleled per capita production of Nobel Prize Laureates.

    It has withstood the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and prevented it from invading beyond its borders further into Europe. It stood as the bulwark that kept Europe Christian, for good or ill. Despite all this, it has had one of the most open immigration policies from about the 12th to the 18th centuries due to its constantly depleted civilian population in times of war and plague. This was a time when most continental countries openly and flagrantly practiced genocide against undesirable populations. Partially as a result of these policies which were quite liberal for their time, the country has been systematically dissected, dismembered, and hewn down to its current relatively unthreatening size, particularly at Trianon in 1920.

    But now Hungary has nothing left to give either in land, population, or resources. It has been at the centre of a warring and fractious Europe for far too long. It is the memory of some of the systematic injustices that burns in every Hungarian mind, imbibed from infancy onwards, that prevents the easy acceptance of the other. It has managed to sustain itself for this long, it cannot reasonably be expected to change its current course which is based on the difficult lessons of centuries of suffering.

    So what is the solution? I cannot answer that. But I know that the forced integration of thousands of Africans, Arabs, and Albanians, staying in the As, is not the right one. From the Hungarian perspective, that would be unprecedented cultural suicide and the squandering of the gains of a thousand years. The Hungarian nation is in crisis and the last thing it can withstand is another developing crisis, something it would view as another invasion. This time, it would be an invasion of immigrants.

    Yes, there are grounds for settling and integrating people escaping war and depravity. This could be done intelligently and compassionately on a small scale in Hungary. However, this cannot be expected on the scale that is emerging on the frontiers of Europe and it certainly cannot be expected of Hungary.

  10. Fidik’s Frankenstein and the Barbarians at the Gate

    &JanosMagyar: The Fidesz questionnaire is not just “a thinly veiled xenophobic document designed to incite public sentiment against immigration.”

    And Hungary is not faced with an influx of immigrants planning to settle there.

    So all this — about Canada’s wide-open spaces and Hungary’s historic travails as “a small Finno-Ugric nation that could not count many neighbours as natural allies” — is utterly, utterly irrelevant to the cynical, self-interested motivation for Orban’s current convenience-poll:

    Orban is, as always, deflecting attention from Fidesz’s colossal crimes and monumental misgovernment by stoking up blind support against the “usual suspects” from a populace especially prone to petty and vicious prejudices and scape-goating instead of facing up to responsibility — by doing the right thing for a change in this instance, and throwing out the Frankenstein monster they have helped create by voting him in.

    Decent Hungarians should be engaged in large-scale, non-stop protests, daily, and supporting the (non-Jobbik) opposition (which should, of course, unite).

    It’s nonsense to moan that the problem is that there is no viable democratic opposition. Even the most corrupt of them (MSZP) would be infinitely preferable to the Fidik Frankenstein. And immeasurably more honest.

    So, to distract from this obvious home truth, let’s rail instead about Hungary’s hard luck and the barbarians at our gate…

  11. “Orban is, as always, deflecting attention from Fidesz’s colossal crimes ..”

    He is always doing that and I wonder how many more times he wants to play out his same old faked cards. Well I am not a historian and such as I cant’s tell, but personally don’t believe that any uprising, revolution or even simple mess awakening can ever take place spontaneously, say – without being approved, planned, organized and financed.

    Anybody knows the answer what will happen to ten million Hungarians?
    That’s ten million lives. Anybody knows the magic word that awakens them? And what would their lives become if they awakened?
    New decent life or chaos? For me Orban seems to be a man with the old song:
    “who’s got the paper, who’s got the match,
    who’s got the paper I’ve got the match ”

    Easy to do that. Takes thousand of year to build and a moment to burn everything down. Takes only a match.

  12. Pingback: Hungary’s prime minister shamelessly calls for death penalty

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