My Week with Hungary’s Far Right
Above: Members of Magyar Nemzeti Garda, a Hungarian nationalist militia.
Hungary has one of the most highly organized far-right movements in Europe. The Jobbik party—admired by those fed up with government corruption, derided by opponents as anti-Gypsy, anti-Semite, neo-Nazi homophobes—look set to become the second biggest presence in Hungarian parliament when the elections take place in 2014. I spent a week with them trying to find out what motivates their hate.
There’s something stirring in Europe. In Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, France, Spain, and the Ukraine, support for nationalism is growing and the parties that represent nationalist interests are making tangible strides. Jobbik preaches an ideology of restoring Hungary to its former glory, which—although vague and the exact intention I’d imagine most political parties are going for—obviously becomes more attractive and believable when there are Gypsies to scapegoat. That ideology has led to their enjoying huge success at the ballots, with their uniformed nationalist militias often marching through the streets unopposed.
Last November, I watched in horror as 10,000 far-right nationalists swarmed through Warsaw. I was making a film about the rise of the far right in Poland and saw fascists in balaclavas attacking press photographers and fighting pitched battles with police. I thought these would be the worst scenes of fascism I would ever witness in Europe, but it’s clear that Hungary has bigger problems on the horizon.
On May Day in Budapest, I found myself standing in the middle of an 8,000-strong crowd of Jobbik supporters, watching nationalist rockers Karpathia play awful patriotic rock songs. The crowd was a bizarre mix of saluting neo-Nazi skinheads, elderly nationalists, and ordinary young Hungarians. I was there with Channel 4 News, and while the crew was busy shooting footage of the stalls selling whips and axes and the bouncy castles and petting zoos run by skinheads, I managed to find myself alone in the crowd as the national anthem started up.