Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hungarian Bad Rhapsody

A Statue of Limitations
The Hungarian elections are over.  The controversy over the ‘memory’ statute to World War II goes on.

Victor Orban’s Fidesz won the recent national elections against the neo-liberal, pro-EU Magyar “Socialist” Party (“MSZP”) again.  Jobbik came in second in the EU elections and retained their hold on 3rd in national elections.  A tiny left organization made no headway.  Marx is discredited, so no working class path is open at this point.  The MSZP is the rechristened Hungarian Socialist' Workers Party, which held power until 1989, and then became a social-democratic organization.  The MSZP was elected several times until the effects of the European economic collapse hit Hungary in 2009.  Hungary now flounders under the right-populist and reactionary nationalist leadership of Fidesz.  Fidesz considers all Hungarian-speaking citizens of Transylvania, a region now in Romania, as voters and citizens of a ‘greater’ Hungary.  Revanchism by any other name…  

 Fidesz and Jobbik represent a reactionary Hungarian  response to the failures of the EU - principally the EU's reliance on the capitalist financial markets, real estate as private property and austerity for the working classes.  Scapegoating immigrants, Jews, Roma or 'foreigners' is the main line of nearly all the parties that were more successful in the recent European Parliament elections except Syriza.  Which goes to show that people have to break to the left of the social-democrats to give voice to the working classes.

The statue planned for Szabadság Térre square  (‘Freedom Square’) in Budapest presents the Nazi imperial eagle attacking the Archangel Gabriel, which symbolizes an innocent Hungarian (and evidently Catholic) nation.  Unfortunately for Orban, real memory still exists.  Miklos Horthy, the leader of Hungary through most of World War II, was an ally of Hitler’s until 1944.  Horthy sent divisions into Russia, some of which were encircled at Stalingrad.  When the Nazi’s got wind that Horthy’s ardor was cooling due to the progress of the Soviet Army, they moved some troops into Hungary.  430,000 Hungarian Jews were then deported to death camps, but with only tangential help from the Nazis.  The Hungarian Arrow Cross were put in power in the last year of the war, and drove Hungarian politics to its logical conclusion - with the help of the existing Hungarian state.  Eichmann, the mastermind behind the Holocaust, was impressed by how efficient the Hungarian authorities were in rounding up Jews. 

Admiral Horthy had been an anti-Semite since his crushing of the Budapest Soviet in 1919, and the identification of communism with Judaism.  Many anti-Jewish laws were passed while he was in power as a virtual military dictator, dominating Hungarian politics for 25 years.  Fidesz supports the restoration of his memory, which is the subtext of this very statue.  Fidesz denies that Horthy had anything to do with the Holocaust, or that even any Hungarians had anything to do with the Holocaust. Or that Hungary was in a block with the German state.  Denying that the Hungarian Holocaust was linked to Horthy or the Arrow Cross is like being a grave-digger, but claiming you had no role in putting the body in the ground – or shooting it.   It’s just all those Nazis…  It’s a bit like U.S. southerners thinking that the U.S. Civil War was about ‘states rights’ and not slavery.  A white-washing of history. 

The Hungarian Jewish organization Mazsihisz, officially-recognized artists and a prominent art historian have opposed the statue – the latter two on cultural grounds.  Mazsihisz has pulled out of any event to dedicate the statue.  Even 32 U.S. senators sent a letter opposing the statue – though they were all Jewish, which is a typical culture-war ethnic mistake. (Yeah, only the "Jews" care!) Activists dismantled the scaffolding of the statue for several days, so now police ring the construction site at all times.   Jobbik backs Fidesz in supporting the design.   They are an anti-Semitic and anti-Roma organization, at this point a pale reflection of the Arrow Cross. Jobbik recently put up a statue of their own to Horthy near a right-wing Catholic church in Budapest.  Meanwhile, nearly all the statues to the Soviet Army, the 1919 workers’ councils and the Hungarian workers state have been relegated to a park outside town.

Politics is now fought through monuments.  I wonder when they will tear down the statues of the poets that dot Budapest and put them in a ‘park’ in the suburbs – to be replaced by statues of Fidesz television stars!

Red Frog
May 27, 2014 

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