Vilmos Hanti: Dormant fascism sprouts in weak democracies

Vilmos Hanti is a prominent Hungarian antifascist activist and the 2005 recipient of the cross of the Republic of Hungary’s Order of Merit. Mr. Hanti is the president of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters and he submitted the text of his speech given in Moscow on May 7th, 2015, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War II, for publication in the Hungarian Free Press. We are pleased to share this with HFP’s readers. 

Vilmos Hanti

Vilmos Hanti

Dear Antifascist Comrades,

On behalf of the 64 year old International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR), which operates in around 30 countries with more than 60 member-organizations, I greet you cordially and congratulate you all for the organization of this very important conference on the 70th anniversary of the victory over fascism.

The declaration of Nazi Germany’s unconditional capitulation entered into force on May 8, 1945 at 11 PM Central European Time (and due to time difference, in Moscow on May 9 at 1 AM).This is why we celebrate Victory Day commemorating the victory over European fascism on May 8 and 9. This day ended the horrors and opened the way to the democratic integration of Europe, which also had a favourable influence on further events in the world.

Hence, it is not an accident that in 1985, on May 9th, Europe Day was also declared, the day when we
also celebrate the European unity and peace.

Seventy years have passed since the great victory over fascism. We are delighted that few former resistance fighters are still among us; however, regrettably, as time goes by their personal presence ebbs and with it their experience and examples dissolve, having less and less impact in our world.

The people of the former Soviet Union made the biggest sacrifices for this great antifascist victory, for which these nations will be eternally respected. Next to the antifascist coalition’s army, the armed and political partisan resistance units organized by the people themselves in many different countries was significant.

But we should also not forget about the heartland, about those women and children left at home who helped the soldiers on the fronts or the local partisans. On this great celebration – if I may – I would like to personally express the appreciation and gratitude of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR) to the former resistance fighters and to their descendants. I would like to ask them to be proud of their heroic deeds, and to continue working with their personal examples and show how this admirable human resistance shall never be forgotten, how it should serve as an example for the present.

Close to 70 different nations participated in the anti-Hitler alliance around the world, and more than 73 million soldiers and civilians died in this war. On the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe on behalf of FIR I bow my head with respect before the memories of the heroes and victims perished in the war.

My dear friends, the neo-liberal economic policy and neo-conservative social-philosophy began to strengthen in the mid-seventies. The consequences of this can be felt today, when those favourable impacts of the emerged welfare states affecting a relatively wide group of population started significantly to become obsolete and so increasing the social inequality drastically, often to an unbearable scale.

We have to see, that the political changes that took place 25 years ago in the Eastern European countries and in the new states of the former Soviet Union did not entirely bring the hoped results. The developed democratic frameworks did not mean that the antifascist values would be automatically undertaken. Based on the base instincts of people, the previously dormant fascist thoughts were able to easily sprout again in a weak democracy suffering from immune deficiency; and in numerous countries they have already burgeoned. Wild capitalism set loose upon the Eastern European countries greatly strengthened the positions of the emerging new types of fascism. But the West is also facing similar problems like the East, where the financial crisis has significantly contributed to the strengthening of the far-right. The enervated organizations intended to protect people’s interests, the impoverishment, and the large scales of unemployment make people more vulnerable and exposed. The EU institutions became bureaucratic and alienated themselves from the people. They are not able to act with necessary efficiency against the significantly strengthened far-right.

A great Hungarian poet, Attila József once wrote that “Capital and Fascism are betrothed”. This means that capital and fascism are in an organic relationship with each other; their existence is predestined to strengthen each other. Today the masses turned away significantly from the left-wing forces. This weakness is taken advantage of by all those who are interested in the strengthening of social inequality, in accumulating their economic and social power and their capital income.

Political parties interested in creating a fairer society have also weakened. The social democratic type parties although accept the existence of capitalism, have the intentions to curb capitalism and its degenerations, however, too often surrendered to the tendencies of deepening the social inequities. Moreover, the communist parties became in many places dogmatic, authoritarian and in their practical activities were in fact unable to present convincing and successful economic alternatives to capitalist models.

We are experiencing that the forces interested in the concentration of social and economic power can achieve serious successes with their anti-communist rhetoric.Many European governments however don’t close themselves away from the far-right; they actually even cooperate with them and give allowances to them, while at the same time curbing the press and freedom of expression, discrediting the democratic rules, social achievements, and overall parliamentary democracy before the people. Especially in some of the successor states of the former Soviet Union and former socialist countries the ideology of communism, initially striving for justice and equality, was declared as the main culprit for all the wrong, the economic crises, and also put an equation mark between communism and fascism.

In my county, in Hungary, the government is executing more and more programs from the far-right script. It glorifies the Hungarian soldiers who have fought beside Hitler’s Germany, abolishes the names of the heroes of the Second World War in public places, prohibits street names such as Red Army and Liberation, and does not even say a word about the fact that Hungary was liberated 70 years ago from fascism. The counter-demonstration organized by FIR last year in Riga was simply not enough to prevent the commemoration, supported also by the
Latvian authorities, which year by year glorifies those who collaborated with Hitler’s war criminal organization, the Waffen SS.

We find ourselves today in situations, were the “communists” are shamelessly blamed for the horrors of the Second World War, forgetting their decisive role in the antifascist coalition. Falsification of history is taking place everywhere: on the level of political parties, in schoolbooks, in public discourses. The heroism of the antifascist resistance fight, its historic past and excellent personalities appear less and less in public education and in public discourse, which reduces the possibilities of the present antifascist resistance fight in extraordinary scale. The names and statues of the former antifascist resistance heroes are removed from public places; in better cases there will be nothing, in worse cases they will be replaced by fascist, racist, and anti-Semitic personalities.

The Holocaust remembrances often take place in a vacuum without presenting the historical correlations. They only speak about the sufferings instead of using the opportunity to unveil the ideology of fascism that is innately prone to killing. They should remind about the inhumanity of the far-right that has already been seen in history. Usually they do not mention and show how the heroism of the antifascist resistance fighters and the antifascist alliance should be an example to follow. It is them who eliminated the horrors, liberated the concentration camps, demolished the ghettos, and brought peace to the world.

Those groups mainly threatened by the far-right could be vanguards of the present new antifascist fight. However, they often feel that they would be better off if they cooperate with the far-right. Maybe they can get temporary successes but we should acknowledge that in the long run cooperation with the far-right will not
bring any positive results for anybody.

After all this, it is no wonder that many people find refuge in the syrupy populism of the new type fascist organizations. Nowadays fascism is donning itself with new methods to gain ground. It shows itself differently in the Baltic States, in Ukraine, in Hungary, in Moldova or in France. But it also appears in a completely different form, namely terrorism, and uses the guise of Islam. The curbing of this is a challenge of a scale as large as the organization of the former anti-Hitler coalition was. Mankind stands before new challenges, which could be handled successfully only with the cooperation of forces respecting human values and human dignity.

Actions against fascism are particularly hampered by the fact that many democrats do not recognize the threat of neo-fascism and do not stand up against it. There are no comprehensive European and national programs with cogent efficacy that serve the strengthening of democracy and that of the antifascist and anti-racist mentality.

These are especially greatly needed in the public education systems. Many democrats consider freedom of speech more paramount than freedom of human dignity. Naturally, if we lock a wild animal in a cage it will remain a wild animal; it is with a long process of habituation, domestication and education that it can be somewhat tamed. The same way we should deal with fascist views which appear in the guise of exclusion, xenophobia, covert and unveiled racism compounded in many places by purblind extremeness with mixed ethnocentrism. The democratic communities should quarantine and isolate them, meanwhile we should pursue our persuading work against those professing these inhuman views, and to reach out to the younger ages and show them the perspective of a democratic life and way. We, the members of FIR jointly say that representation of fascism is not an opinion but
a felony, a crime against mankind. The various states should protect their citizens from the unconfined publicity of all kinds of anti-humanist, exclusionary, and rancorous ideas. We should not forget that actions follow words.
War is the business of a narrow interest group; it does not serve the broader circle of the people’s and mankind’s interests. We antifascists reject war, we want peace! But it should be noted and we know very well from history that there are situations when we must act and not cringe.

The armed conflict in Ukraine already took a large number of human lives. The Ukrainian conflict has such an aspect which offers a fertile soil for spreading of far-right, nationalist, neo-Nazi thoughts and the handling of it means a challenge from point of view of the democratic development of the country. We call upon the
sides to adhere to the agreements! Beside all this it should be acknowledged that a wide variety of people live in Ukraine with different cultural and other identity-like attachments. We represent the belief that, while preserving this diversity, the people of Ukraine should decide themselves, independent from national oligarchs and outside interference, what they would like in the future.

My dear friends, FIR calls upon joint actions on the 70th anniversary of the victory over fascism. We turn to the better half of the world. Let’s unite with new resistance fight against the new types of fascism. The task for all of us and for all responsibly thinking people out there be it right or left oriented, believer or non-believer is to fight against the strengthening of new types of fascism for more equitable and solidary world, where certain people will not be excluded from mainstream society because of their skin colour being different, or they come
from different cultures, have a different sexual identity, or even because they are poor.

Seventy years ago the anti-Hitler antifascist coalition proved that people of different world views can join together and cooperate. We antifascists wait and urge the different societies, especially the big powers to act substantively against neo-fascism; doing it so in the spirit of the former alliance. They should not seek to evade each other, in the process of which they often use the far-right for their own aims. Let antifascism be such a minimum in their relationship that overwrites every conflict of interest. Representation of antifascism could be the common goal on the base of which their interest in peaceful relations may be found.

Today, while walking on very thin ice, we must realize the need for cooperation against neo-fascism.

The millions of former resistance fighters sacrificed their lives seven decades ago not for us to helplessly and idly watch the strengthening of present fascism.

Vilmos Hanti

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