Mapping the Radical Right in Hungary
This is part of our special feature on Radicalism and Violence.
Hungary has recently been in international news, for all the wrong reasons, not least due to its radical right government. Hungary boasts not one, but two, radical right parties, Fidesz and Jobbik, who together make up a legislative super-majority, comprising fully 159 of Hungary’s 199-seat National Assembly. In Hungary’s April 2018 national elections, in fact, Fidesz won another sweeping victory and third consecutive term in power, moving Hungary one step closer to becoming a one-party state.
Yet in a political environment so influenced by radical right elites, the number of radical right street-level and direct-action organizations is notable. Derivatively, in a county whose political atmosphere is becoming increasingly radicalized, on what grounds do radical right activist groups stand? In what way have the attitudes and aims of radical right street movements shifted in reflecting this change?
The landscape of the radical right in Hungary is ever-shifting and perhaps surprisingly, quite broad. Alongside established political parties, Hungary has two other types of radical right groups. The first are larger social movement organizations, who may be connected to political parties in some way; this category may also include paramilitary groups. The second category is that of sharply-decreasing fringe and marginal groups, including skinhead organizations such as the Hungarian chapters of Combat 18 or the Hammerskins. As the latter groups are relatively small in number, the more mainstream street-level organizations and paramilitary groups will be summarized here.
While Hungary has many radical right groups, the four most important groups are not, for the most part, the usual suspects. Amongst those groups becoming increasingly active, for example, is Strength and Dedication (Erő és Elszántság) who were formed from the leadership of the Outlaw Army (see below) and the now-defunct Hungarian chapter of the Identitarian Movement.
Hungary increasingly has an environment where newer “faces” of radical right extremism thrive. These groups tend to self-identify as national radicals (nemzeti radikális), with the leader of one group recently announcing on Facebook that they would not like media to use the term radical right/far-right when referring to their organization. This very well could be because this group is associated with the political party Jobbik, who have recently cultivated a more center-right image.
The aforementioned organization is one of the largest nationalist organizations in Hungary, the Hungarian Defence Movement (Magyar Önvédelmi Mozgalom). It was formed in October 2014, after the previous incarnation, For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defence movement (Szebb Jövőért Magyar Önvédelem), was disbanded following intimidation tactics and violence in several villages around Hungary. The group is quite active online, with over 5,000 followers on their main Facebook page. The Hungarian Defence Movement promotes itself as a volunteer organization who regularly help people in need, such as distributing food and clothing to the homeless. They are a community-focused group, organizing a summer camp for children, while depicting images of families on their Facebook page. However, the organization does regularly organize, in their words, “mood-improving walks” in areas with large populations of Roma – a key target for the Hungarian radical right.
Another group, disbanded back in 2009, was the Hungarian Guard Movement – originally launched with 56 members in order to commemorate the 1956 revolution. The organization, banned for threatening Roma, was re-formed three weeks later as the New Hungarian Guard Movement (Új Magyar Gárda Mozgalom). The group is not as active online or on the streets as the Hungarian Defence Movement, even though they do have chapters in most Hungarian counties. They also cast themselves as a defense-movement, entrusted to protect the Hungarian state and the interests of the Hungarian nation.
Founded in 2001, the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom) identify as a “national radical” youth movement; they are largely revisionist and irredentist. The group is mainly focused on the injustice of the interwar Treaty of Trianon, which in 1920 broke up Hungary and left the country with a fraction of the population it had previously. The Sixty-Four Counties is notably active in Hungarian regions of surrounding countries, especially in the eastern part of Transylvania in Romania, and seeks political autonomy for these Hungarian areas. The group also organizes a regular protest around the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon in early-June, along with several conferences, demonstrations, and an annual music festival. Revealingly, the founder of this group, László Toroczkai, is a prominent leader of Jobbik – yet another reason to question the sincerity of the latter party’s alleged shift to the center-right.
The fourth and final group worth mentioning is the Outlaw Army (Betyársereg). They are by far the most violent non-marginal radical right group in Hungary; the group is composed of brawny men who regularly train together. The Outlaw Army often provides security for radical right demonstrations in Hungary. Again, much like the Hungarian Defence Movement and New Hungarian Guard, the Outlaw Army claims to be merely a defense organization attempting to draw the attention of law enforcement to problems in society.
Most radical right groups in Hungary claim to be only interested in helping Hungarians, since the government and law enforcement are purportedly not doing enough to help the people. While some groups, such as the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement and the New Hungarian Guard, do openly endorse nationalist attitudes, others do not so explicitly promote these values as an organization. What is notable is that these groups have very nearly become normalized in Hungary. Some NGOs, recently under fire by the Fidesz government, do monitor hate crimes perpetrated by members of these radical right groups. A radical right government will not, however, discourage movements and organizations who fuel their own agenda, that only gives license for radical right organizations to thrive in Hungary.
Katherine Kondor is a Fellow with CARR, and is a Doctoral Researcher in Criminology at the University of Huddersfield.
Photo: Európa Pont | Flickr
Published on October 2, 2018.