Hungary’s tango with the far right is not new. An intoxicating cocktail of anti Semitism coupled with a hearty dose of the red scare, Hungary’s Arrow Cross Party rose to power in 1944. Though a short-lived stint, the damage was unimaginable. Cut to the present day, we see Viktor Orbán and his government wreaking havoc on Hungary once again.
While the parallels between the two are obvious, they aren’t the same. Fascism does not replicate everywhere (or even in the same place) in a similar manner. The Arrow Cross Party subscribed to a downright supremacist, antisemitic ideology ( called a Semitism which called for the elimination of all Jews). Hungary was party to the ghettoization and deportation of its Jews. It had blamed the communist takeover of 1919 on Jews (as a few comrades happened to be Jewish), thereby propelling a false myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (That communism was devised by Jews to bring death to the western civilization).
Needless to say, any country in the west will not get by with this sort of anti-Semitism in this day and age. This does not absolve Orbán of anti-Semitism. Orbán to keep antisemitic accusations against him at bay makes it a point to highlight Hungary’s improving relationship with Israel and his bonhomie with Benjamin Netanyahu. He and his ministers conveniently ignore Hungary’s role in harming the country’s Jews. They went a step ahead and the dark period in the history of Hungary was blamed on the Germans. A “Memorial to the Victims of German Occupation” was built as well. An anti-Soros campaign was set into motion as well. Viktor Orbán is no friend of the Jewish people. Orbán swapped his anti Semitism with blatant anti-immigrant Islamophobia. On the necessity of the anti-Soros campaign, Hungarian State Secretary Takács Szabolcs said that the ads were needed to prevent Soros from flooding Europe with Muslim migrants.
On one hand, Orbán and his ilk plan on keeping in check anti-Israel sentiments and anti-Semitism among what they term as the radical left, on the other two progressive Jewish congregations were made bereft of their official status by the government. Orbán cannot practice good old fashioned anti-Semitism. Nobody in the west can with liberals and the far-right both aligning with Israel. And Orban’s pro-Israel stance is rooted in his stance against Palestine.
While both Arrow Cross and Orbán’s Fidesz are anti-communist, Orban has come under fire for allowing China to build a university in Budapest. Owing to this, the streets around the campus have been renamed to commemorate struggles for democracy and human rights inside China, including Dalai Lama Road and Free Hong Kong Road. As of now, the project has been put on hold. The government is offering to hold a referendum in 2023 on the University project, which the government had until recently signalled was a done deal. The Arrow cross on the other hand was staunchly anti-soviet.
As the far-right everywhere is homophobic, Orbán is no exception. Hungary recently passed a law prohibiting gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s. This, according to them is to curb the promotion of homosexuality. The national assembly passed the legislation by 157 votes to one. These measures have been likened to that of Russia’s. Like a true illiberal, Orbán harbours anti-European Commission sentiments. He has been quoted saying ‘Brussels is trying to build a European Union empire and punishes elected governments that it does not like’. This is concerning the European Commission’s ire over his anti-migrant statements.
Orbán hobnobbing with China does not make him a communist sympathizer. But at the same time, the west’s use of the horseshoe theory, likening China, Russia and Hungary, clubbing them under authoritarian regime must be avoided. The far-right in Hungary has vehemently opposed its communist past, but it has not taken kindly to the west either. This homegrown fascism is also evident in parts of the world as well. The comparisons between Hungary and socialist countries must stop. Liberals should not be afraid to call the Orbán regime a far-right fantasyland.