Rise of the European Far Right (Article For Affairs Today)

Here’s an article I wrote for the student journal Affairs Today. Having done so much reading on the subject, I figured I’d make my next article about the rise of the Far Right:

 

Governments around the world have had their difficulties dealing with the recession in recent years. It is almost considered a miracle nowadays if a government in Europe manages to be reelected. Over the past two years, in addition to economic issues, European governments have had to deal with a whole new issue; the rise of the political Far Right.

It is an issue the world has had to deal with before and one we would expect to have learned from. Unfortunately similarly to the 1930s, governments around Europe are having to deal with a re-emergence of the Far Right. With the extremist parties such as Greece’s Golden Dawn (~7%), Hungary’s Jobbik (~17%), Bulgaria’s Ataka (~10) and Belgium’s Vlaams Blok (~12% before their indictment) achieving significant electoral successes, the rise of the Far Right has become a real issue that cannot be ignored. Many have drawn parallels with the emergence of fascism experienced in the 1920’s after the Great War and especially the 1930’s following the Great Depression but while there are some similarities, the rise of the ‘Modern Far Right’ has its own complex and unique causes.

The first trigger for Far Right support is the major parallel drawn with the 1930s. The recession has crippled economies around Europe leading to high inflation and unemployment. Desperate voters in Greece and Hungary turn towards radical alternatives, as their disillusion with the mainstream parties grows. Corruption and economic mismanagement has angered the electorate leading to low turnouts and an increase in protest votes, both of which bode well for Far Right parties whose loyal followers never fail to cast their vote. Hungary’s last election saw a disappointing turnout of 46.5% in the second round.

Another important reason for this success is the rebranding and reorganization of the Far Right movement. The modern Far Right in Europe has distanced itself from the brutish racist and xenophobic image of past fascist parties, focusing on patriotism and the protection of national identity and culture instead. Parties such as the French Front National have chosen a rhetoric that promotes the protection of French culture, work and integrity rather than blatant racism. This has made these parties more socially acceptable in the eyes of the people, gaining them significant support. Similarly to France, far right parties in Belgium and Switzerland address the dangers of immigration, focusing especially on the ‘threat’ of Muslim immigration to Europe. As a whole, the far right parties of Europe are better organized, focusing on policies that appeal to specific demographics such as strict immigration laws and the implementation of nationalist welfare. Parties such as Jobbik have a strong online and public presence and have created international links with the likes of Iran’s government and other like-minded parties such as the BNP. This new presentation has allowed these parties to capitalize on the void left behind by the failing governments of the past years.

 While anti-Muslim rhetoric has garnered support for far right parties in Switzerland and France, a very different type of movement is even more successful in Central-Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria and especially Hungary, the Far Right has become an anti-Roma and anti-Semitic movement, which similarly to Golden Dawn is more aggressive than the movements in Western Europe.

 Hungary’s situation is a delicate one as the strong success of the Jobbik is starting to become worrying. Viktor Orbán’s governing Fidesz party not only dabbles in nationalistic rhetoric itself but refuses to clamp down on the Far Right out of fear of alienating its electorate, which only strengthens Jobbik’s position. Fidesz hopes to poach Jobbik’s more moderate voters and as a result has failed to properly address the most serious issues. Such issues include the anti-Jewish rally in Budapest during the World Jewish Conference in May, the killing of 6 Roma Hungarians by Neo-Nazis in 2008, the illegal regrouping of the banned Hungarian Guard and a Jobbik MP’s proposal to create a list of all Hungarian Jewish figures who pose a national security threat. While speaking out against the Far Right internationally, Orbán’s government has been mute in Hungary, creating a climate in which xenophobia and other discrimination has become acceptable. Jobbik’s efficient organization and the political atmosphere under the Fidesz government is why the Far Right is stronger in Hungary than in similar countries such as Romania or the Czech Republic.

 How does one counter this new wave of far right movements? Some advocate the banning of extremist parties but while this might stop them from spreading their xenophobic rhetoric, it doesn’t address the root of the problem. The issue is corruption, economic mismanagement, disillusionment with the mainstream parties and even the mildest tolerance of discrimination. If it is a combination of factors that allows the Far Right to flourish, then governments will have to put aside their political agendas to tackle each issue individually in order to pave the way for a brighter future, free from political discrimination.

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Why There Has Been a Rise of the Far Right

After skimming through over 30 articles on the Far Right and its rise throughout Europe, I have put together a list of what I’ve understood are the main reasons for the Rise of Europe’s Far Right:

  1. The Economy: the recession, the Eurocrisis, general economic crisis has pushed some voters into desperation. This as a result has led some to look for a scapegoat, others for a political alternative and many to cast a protest vote. All three benefit parties such as the Jobbik, who capitalise on the desperation of certain Hungarians in the lower classes.
  2. Disillusionment: Corruption, economic mismanagement and general failure on many governments parts to satisfy its electorate has disillusioned the people in countries such as Greece and Hungary. As a result, not only do voters sway to the extremes through either desperation or protest, but many simply refuse to vote, causing low turnout. Low turnout always bodes well for extremists as their voters are loyal and continue to go to the polls regardless of the turnout. 
  3. Re-branding and Re-organisation of the Far Right: The Far Right is no longer a blatantly racist and openly hateful movement as it was in the 1930s. In many countries, the Far Right parties have managed to change their image and views from being a racist movement to one that rather protects national and cultural identity. Far Right parties focus on rhetoric about protecting their nation’s economy, pushing back the ‘threat of immigration’ and raising patriotic sentiments. Parties like the Jobbik have successfully created international ties with other Far Right movements (e.g. BNP) and a rapprochement towards countries like Iran. Jobbik presents itself as a well-organised party with an English webpage, the support of numerous intellectuals and a strong online as well as public presence.
  4. The Political Climate: The initial successes of parties like Jobbik and Golden Dawn have brought Far Right rhetoric into parliament, making it seemingly acceptable to use xenophobic, anti-Roma and anti-Semitic language to the public. A strong establishment of staunchly conservative governments such as Fidesz, whose leader Orbán Victor also has a tendency to dabble in nationalistic and overly-patriotic (though not xenophobic or anti-Semitic)  rhetoric, has only helped create a political and cultural climate where nationalism and xenophobia are tolerated.
  5. Failure to Crackdown: Due to their desire to court the Far Right electorate, Fidesz has voided cracking down on the Far Right movements and has done little to denounce anti-Semitism, xenophobia and anti-Roma crimes. The interests of the governing party has made them idle on the key topics, which only legitimises the presence and rise of Jobbik and Far Right culture. Fidesz speaks out against these issues internationally, but little is said in Hungary (nothing about the Roma Killing Sprees of 2008 and 2009, nothing on the reformation of the banned Hungarian Guard etc).
  6. Culture: Culture plays an important part in the establishment of Far Right parties. This explains the success of anti-Semitic and anti-Roma movements in Eastern Europe, especially Hungary where history has shown an acceptance of the Far Right (under Horthy) and polls repeatedly report of above-average levels of intolerance towards Gypsies, Jews and Foreigners. Furthermore, as very ethnically monotonous country, Hungary has not adapted to the presence of non-Hungarian ethnics (or at least nationals).

While there seem to be counter-arguments to each of the above points, it seems that Hungary is affected by every single one of them, which would explain the success of Jobbik. It is however important to note that there have been increased efforts to change the situation and an improvement of election results for the outspoken anti-fascist parties such as MSZP, LMP and 2014 could make a difference.

Search for Evidence

So I decided to go into town with a friend to find out if there were any traces of the rise of the far right and hostility towards minorities. I figured that the best way to get a few photographs to ‘compliment’ the study was to go to the Jobbik offices, the Jewish district and some rougher areas of Budapest to look for evidence.

I did find the evidence and it speaks volumes about Hungary’s situation as it is perfectly in line with some of the reading I’ve been doing. Most signs came in the form of graffiti, often despicable and highly offensive. The things I found show signs of a nation in struggle, in economic difficulty and confusion of being caught between hugely unsuccessful and unpopular parties with no alternative.

The graffitis I found were homophobic, anti-leftist and above all antisemitic but interestingly there have been clear attempts to undo, coverup or destroy the antisemitic slurs. Mixed amongst the discrimination you can see anti-fascist tags and calls to bring down the current Fidesz government. One the one hand there are outrageous and disgusting comments such as “Send the brain-dead jews to the mines”, “Exterminate Israel”, Exterminate the Jews”, “Kill the Gays”, “Bring down Gyurcsány and the MSZP, they are murdering thieves” and on the other hand, one can find comments such as “Orbán Viktor Dictator”, “Never again Fidesz”, “F**k the Nazis”, “A**hole Fascists”, “we are sinking like the titanic”.

I have posted the pictures below to give you an idea of what I saw. It’s shocking to see what some people are capable of believing and expressing. I think the pictures go a long way in describing the rise of the Far Right in Hungary (especially the picture of the tram stop that had been made into a home y a homeless man. Behind his improvised bed was a “Hajrá Jobbik!” graffiti which means “Go Jobbik!”).

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Graffiti accusing the socialist party, ‘MSZP’ of being murders.

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Anti Fascist!”, “Anti-*swastika*”

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“Brain dead Jews, go work in the mines”

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A tram stop becomes a homeless man’s new home.

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“Down with the Fidesz, quickly!”

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The homeless man’s bed representing the inflation of the poorer classes in Hungary. Behind him it says “Hajrá Jobbik” which means “Go Jobbik!”. How much does the economy have to do with the rise of the Jobbik?

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“Go Jobbik!”

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Multiple attempts to cover up a graffiti saying “Exterminate the sh*t jews”.

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“Gyurcsány mentally ill” and other offensive sexual and homophobic slurs.  Gyurcsány was the Socialist Prime Minister until his failed policies forced him to step down in favour of Bajnai. MSZP would go on to suffer an unprecedented defeat and Jobbik would become the second biggest party in the Hungarian Parliament.

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“Go Fidesz-KDNP” -the right-wing governing coalition. 

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The head-office for the Jobbik Party. I managed to get multiple brochures and magazines and the woman inside kindly offered me a brochure in English. It was an awkward experience.

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“Jobbik, a movement for Hungary” -Jobbik’s head office in Budapest.

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Pro-Fidesz and anti-MSZP graffiti, another sign of the political hostility in the country.

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A non-military man dressed in military clothing with a clean shaven head. I didn’t want to adhere to stereotypes of skinheads so I had a word with him. He was indeed a Jobbik supporter and pointed me towards the party’s head office. Oh the questions I would have liked to have asked him, if only there wasn’t such a tedious ethics process to complete. 

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Jobbik’s headquarters displays many stickers of the “Greater Hungary”. The Treaty of Trianon resulted in Hungary losing 2/3 of its land in 1918. The issue is still a sensitive one today and has led to much anti-French hostility. “Greater Hungary” is one of the key themes in Jobbik’s politics yet they fail to mention that while ‘Greater Hungary’ was bigger than it is now, it was also under the rule of the Austrian Habsburg family.

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Jobbik HQ

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“Never again Fidesz”. The contradiction of these graffitis hints towards the political divide and confusion in Hungary. It is in times of despair that turnout lowers, deadlocks increase, protest votes are made and the Far Right with its loyal electorate has its chance to rise in the polls. 

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“Down with Trianon”

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“OV Dictator”, ‘OV’ refers to Orbán Viktor, the current Prime Minister. 

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“Communism!”, “Clean our country!”

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“Long live communism, down with the country!”, “OV=Dictator”

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“We’ve had enough!”

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The Synagogue, centre of Budapest’s jewish district. Hungary has one of the largest European jewish populations. 

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“Sh*t jews” and a David’s star. More offensive graffiti.

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Someone has replaced Orbán’s name with Gyurcsány in a quote saying “Orbán Viktor has to go!”

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“Murderers and thieves: Mesterházy, Bajnai, Gyurcsány”. The key figures of Hungary’s political left.

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“We are sinking like the titanic”, “We’ve had enough”, “Clean it up!”

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A beggar takes advantage of the red light to approach some cars.

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A young woman begs on the street after supposedly being evicted from her home. The consequences of a failed economy.

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“Dirty Nazis!!!”

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Anarchy and chaos in Hungary?

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Yet another swastika on the side of the rode.

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“Exterminate the Jews”, “Sh*t Israel” are only two of many antisemitic and anti-zionist slurs to be found on the Heinrich István Tram stop.

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“Exterminate the sh*t gays”. Homophobia is a seriously underrated issue in Hungary and one that the Jobbik subscribes to. 

They may be shocking and despicable but it is hard to tell whether they are done in a serious attempt to injure or whether it is just young vandals wanting to be controversial. One thing is clear, serious or not; there is a clear sense of confusion, hatred and chaos even amongst the graffitied slurs. I have many more pictures and I might post some more later on.

Definition of Far Right

To start this off, I guess it best I write down what i have in mind when i say Far Right.

Wikipedia Definition: 

The terms far right, or extreme right, describe the broad range of political groups and ideologies usually taken to be further to the right of the mainstream center-right on the traditional left-right spectrum. Far right politics commonly involves support for social inequality and social hierarchy, elements of social conservatism and opposition to most forms of liberalism and socialism. Both terms are also used to describe Nazi and fascist movements, and other groups who hold extreme nationalistchauvinistxenophobicracistreligious fundamentalist or reactionary views. The most extreme right-wing movements have pursued oppression and genocide against groups of people on the basis of their alleged inferiority.I

I place a lot of importance on Cas Mudde’s 3 key features when defining the Far Right: Authoritarianism, Populism and Nativism. I also believe the Far Right’s policies to often include xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, nationalism and the belief in a strong state (the first 4 can be classified as Nativism as well). I hesitate to use ‘anti-democracy’ as a significant feature in Far Right policy.

 

In Hungary there is one main party that represents the Hungarian Far Right and that is the Jobbik. Historically, before the rise of the Jobbik, the MIÉP (Hungarian Justice and Life Party) were the only real Far Right actor, however the party lacked any serious support. These two parties usually go into coalition along with the small Independent Smallholders Party to form the ‘MIÉP-Jobbik Third Way Alliance’.

 

Next post: All about Jobbik.

Online Reading

Here’s a list of all the articles, posts, blogs and pages that I am going through to provide an initial knowledge-basis on the subject:

Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far-right_politics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_right

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_in_Europe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_Europe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magyar_G%C3%A1rda

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Hungary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobbik

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Hungary

Deliberately Considered

http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/02/the-hungarian-shock-the-transition-from-democracy/

Geocurrents

http://geocurrents.info/cultural-geography/the-rapid-rise-of-the-xenophobic-right-in-contemporary-europe

The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/peter-popham-rise-of-far-right-threatens-to-pollute-politics-across-europe-7718669.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/return-of-the-far-right-greeces-financial-crisis-has-led-to-a-rise-in-violent-attacks-on-refugees-8551798.html

New Statesman

http://www.newstatesman.com/austerity-and-its-discontents/2013/06/france-elsewhere-europe-far-right-kills

Europa 

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-464_en.htm

SBS

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/06/06/special-report-rise-right-europe

The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/06/far-right-rise-europe-report

Al Jazeera

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2013/02/2013224123927515709.html

Global Policy Journal

http://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/21/01/2013/far-right-economics-europe-elites-workers-and-capitalism

Public Radio International

http://www.pri.org/stories/politics-society/far-right-extremist-parties-find-support-across-europe.html

CNN

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/24/world/europe/europe-far-right-austerity

Open Democracy

http://www.opendemocracy.net/othon-anastasakis/far-right-in-greece-and-theory-of-two-extremes-0

Idea European Projects

http://europe.idebate.org/blog-post/far-right-extremism-europe-how-it-came-about-and-how-we-should-combat-it

Spiegel

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/trial-in-hungary-little-outrage-over-far-right-murders-of-6-roma-a-912709.html

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/neo-nazis-in-hungary-receive-life-sentences-for-roma-murder-spree-a-915163.html

Euronews

http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/09/banning-hungarian-far-right-group-was-legal-says-echr/

The Economist

http://www.economist.com/topics/jobbik

http://www.economist.com/topics/hungarian-politics

The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/topic/jobbik-party/

http://www.timesofisrael.com/hungarian-far-right-party-holds-anti-semitic-rally/

http://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-leaders-to-kerry-confront-hungarys-rising-anti-semitism/

The Voice of Russia

http://ruvr.co.uk/2013_05_22/Concern-at-the-rise-of-Hungarian-far-right/

Metafilter

http://www.metafilter.com/128467/The-rise-of-the-farright-in-Hungary

Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/04/us-hungary-jewish-congress-idUSBRE94306T20130504

Channel 4

http://www.channel4.com/news/the-rise-of-far-right-politics-in-hungary-video

http://www.channel4.com/news/hungary-jobbik-far-right-militias-jewish-congress

Democracy International

http://www.democracy-international.org/directdemocracy-hungary-2013.html

Tel Aviv University

http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/articles/hungary.pdf

Pew Global

http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/04/07/hungary-dissatisfied-with-democracy-but-not-its-ideals/

BBC

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/special_report/1999/09/99/iron_curtain/timelines/hungary.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22413301

William & Mary

http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1544&context=wmborj

Financial Times

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/51adce78-6945-11e1-9618-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F51adce78-6945-11e1-9618-00144feabdc0.html&_i_referer=#axzz2UlUVuaVu

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/1077369e-3b0c-11e2-b111-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F1077369e-3b0c-11e2-b111-00144feabdc0.html&_i_referer=#axzz2UlUVuaVu

International Business Times

http://www.ibtimes.com/hungary-premier-condemns-anti-semitism-far-right-jobbik-party-blasts-jews-1238599

Freedom House

http://www.freedomhouse.org/blog/hungary-jobbik-and-%E2%80%98enemy-within%E2%80%99

EU Times

http://www.eutimes.net/2009/07/hungary-one-of-the-most-corrupted-country-in-europe/

Politics HU

http://www.politics.hu/

Open Society Foundations

http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/rise-far-right-and-anti-gypsyism-hungary

Visegrad Revue

http://visegradrevue.eu/?p=1516

N.B.: Will sort alphabetically later

Intro

Where to start? I’m writing as though this was meant to be read by the public but to be honest, I’m not quite sure whether it’s meant for anyone other than myself. I am a 4th year student at Glasgow University and am doing joint honours in History and Politics.

I am doing my dissertation this year and I know that a lot of people use notepads, planners, diaries and more to keep track of their ideas and writing progress, which is why I thought I’d make a blog. My dissertation will be on the Rise of the Far Right in Hungary and I hope this blog will help me keep track of my ideas. I plan to use this blog to brainstorm, follow my writing process, plan, share materials (photos, conversations, ideas, interviews) and generally discuss and rant about this particular topic.

A lot of the work you do on a dissertation is not obvious in the final written piece, so i thought that this would also serve as a nice output for all that will not figure directly or completely in the dissertation. I also want to force myself to keep the topic fresh in my mind at all times so that I don’t miss or forget any ideas that might come my way.

That’s pretty much it.