The ‘anti-fascists’ who have been organising in the West for decades are now active in Hungary as well. While previously, groups of a few dozen communists and anarchists formed the core of the anti-fascist resistance here in Hungary, imported grievances are now surfacing here as a result of the American unrest. Why is the oppression of blacks and the struggle against ‘institutional racism’ a matter of interest in Hungary today? Who is supporting the Hungarian Black Lives Matter movement and what is their ideological background?
The presence of left-wing activists was already significant in February of this year when they countered an ‘honour day’ commemoration organised by far right groups. Nearly a hundred members of the Rhythms of Resistance global network appeared, along with activists from the Antifa international organisation. Encouraged by this, Hungarian members of Antifa attacked several memorials they considered to be far right.
Influenced by the American unrest of recent weeks, they have started organising things here in Hungary as well. Hundreds took part in an advertised anti-racism commemoration held 7 June in front of the US Embassy, mostly involving foreigners. The movement’s spokespersons expressed solidarity with the American Black Lives Matter protestors, and then the participants knelt for nine minutes in memory of George Floyd who died during an encounter with police.
But why is this overseas affair of interest in Hungary, and why do the left-wing activists think we need them here? The main organiser of the Hungarian Black Lives Matter demonstration, Gergely Komáromy – known as G Ras, told Demokrata, that the movement is impelled not only by police violence against blacks, and especially not just the case involving Floyd, but by a fundamental, systemic injustice that pervades society as a whole. The singer-activist believes that racism against people of browner-skinned ethnicity also exists in Hungary, something reinforced by the government’s ‘anti-immigration’ propaganda.
– The USA is one of the role models and symbols of a hypocritical world order based on exploitation and violent repression. And so, positive, radical, and systemic changes taking place there, for which I now see the opportunity, can have a beneficial effect for the entire world – Komáromy believes.
It is always easier to point out someone else’s failings. After the demonstration, some 50-100 people, mostly Roma, also protested on Szabadság square against antizigansim in Hungary. Many of the participants later expressed their dissatisfaction, saying that it is easier and more fashionable for the majority society to express solidarity with blacks in distant America than with the Roma.
G Ras does not believe that solidarity with blacks is a ‘brand’. He says they helped with the other event as well, but acknowledged that Black Lives Matter now ‘communicates better’, and that it is ‘much harder to move forward’ with racism against the ‘culturally integrated’ Roma. He is confident, that with proper teamwork, the Hungarian civil rights movement can also gain strength from this current global movement.
One of the most significant propaganda platforms for Hungary’s left-wing movements is Facebook. They operate a number of pages, regularly sharing false and inciting news and posts that violate social media rules, but which are of no concern for a social site that otherwise regularly censors right-wing content.
Their pages rouse their audiences with communist stock phrases from the 20th century. They stand in constant struggle against the ruling class and talk at length about the terror of the capitalist powers, the class struggle, and the intertwining of fascism and capitalism. According to them, whites view their skin colour as a birthright, and they stress that those who do not support Black Lives Matter are racists, and those who do not sympathise with Antifa rioting are, by definition, fascists.
One prominent Hungarian anti-fascist Facebook page, No Pasarán, in the commentary for one of its videos, calls for the lynching of ‘Roma haters’. “This is how Roma haters should be treated here in Hungary” – they write under a video from America showing three black men attacking a white man, hitting and kicking him on the ground.
AntifaInfo Budapest write about looting and mass lynching as a natural part of an uprising. In their view, it is all about recovering the goods produced by the sweat of society’s brow, and ultimately freeing our own lives from the ‘bondage of money’. The organisation emphasises that property ‘is not a sacred thing, but our enemy’. A common feature of these sites is that nations and states are not recognised, so their struggle against ‘capitalist power’ does not take legal constraints into account; and they regularly call Hungary’s largest – and governing – party FideSS [instead of Fidesz].
As in America, the mainstream media in Hungary also provides full across the board support for the rebellion against the ‘system’: left-liberal media outlets such as Mérce and 444 work hard to whitewash the antifascists and adopt their narratives without criticism. And in many cases, through fake news and deliberate misinterpretations, they dispose their readers against state and law enforcement agencies both in Hungary and in the US.
Komáromy is unaware of the existence of organised anti-fascist and anti-racist action groups in Hungary. According to him, self-organised civic activism in Hungary is still in its infancy, and is distinguished by a lack of organisation and resulting inefficiency.
– I simply organised an event for Szabadság square on Facebook, invited my friends to it, and then we teamed up with some enthusiastic young people, and made the rounds of anti-racists groups and foreigners, predominantly Americans and Africans, living in Hungary – said the activist. The event was also shared by anarchists, communists, and many Momentum-connected social pages.
A Facebook group called Black Lives Matter Hungary was created in early June. The membership of the community, nearly a thousand people – mostly foreigners, shows a rather mixed picture. There are a good number of CEU students and LGBT activists, and the group also accords well with communists, anarcho-syndicalists, and other members of the ideological far-left. The Hungarian members mostly come from a multicultural background, some have partly Hungarian origins or have a foreign partner. In the case of Hungarian girls in their twenties, a completely different phenomenon can be observed. Many of them seem to be enthusiastic members of consumer society, not ideologically motivated, but rather searching for something exotic and ‘trendy’.
Although it can be concluded from the diversity of the group, that tolerance is a basic value within their circles, the posts and comments suggest just the opposite. The logic of the Hungarian communist leader Mátyás Rákosi, “who is not with us is against us”, prevails in the group: they make it clear in their description, that “if you are indifferent to justice, it means you are against us”.
In their posts, they cite as examples to follow those white civilians, police, and politicians, who kneel in front of black protestors. Videos showing the removal of statues in addition to violent attacks committed against persons and police officers deemed racist are uniformly cheered. It is a common view, that the police are a terrorist organisation that, like slavery, must be abolished forever. You don’t have to look far to find comments against the Hungarian government. According to one commentator, the Orbán cabinet is worthy of the same resistance and treatment as the former apartheid state before its fall.
G Ras is not a member of Black Lives Matter Hungary, so he cannot speak on their behalf, but as the organiser of the Hungarian Black Lives Matter protest, he said he condemns violence against living things and personal property.
– I support nonviolent methods, but at the same time, symbolic violence against inanimate objects that symbolize repressive power, such as tearing down statues, fits in, and may even be necessary to achieve radical, systemic change.
– This whole movement is all about replacing a global system of violent, destructive exploitation, about working together instead of pulling apart, for a better, fairer world for all – the activist says. However, it seems most of his colleagues would rather fight with fire and iron to achieve what they deem a just world. It is somehow reminiscent of their predecessors in the first decades of twentieth century Russia.