The streets of Hungary’s capital are far from quiet these days, but not with the usual tourists or holiday buzz. The people of Hungary are out to participate in nightly rallies, to stand in the cold against the tyrannical reign of the government. For the first time in over a dozen years pepper spray and tear gas have burned the throats and eyes of the citizens of Budapest. Citizen protesters as well as members of Parliament have been arrested, abused and silenced by the State through their police force.
This is a moment of incredible potential and grave danger for the people of Hungary, especially for those already targeted and oppressed here such as women, LGBTQI community members, those experiencing homelessness and ethnic minorities. As the streets fill with righteous anger we are seeing mobilization of the far right- Jobbik has promised to bring thousands of supporters from the rural areas to Budapest and extreme nationalists are present in the nightly crowd. Ensuring that these groups do not gain traction and that they are prevented from committing acts of violence against any of their usual targets must be a top priority of the members and leaders of the movement so far. The movement- I use this word for lack of a better one and with faith that these actions and coalitions will fulfill the expectations embedded in the term.
Since November there have been mass mobilizations of different interest groups who have taken to the streets for a variety of reasons such as academic freedom, workers’ rights, judicial independence and the freedom of the press. As more and more people and groups have joined the protests the crowd has become increasingly incongruous with sightings of anarchists’ flags flying next to those of far-right groups, hammer and sickle flags beside Trump signs, chants of “Trianon” and “Hungaria” followed in the next breadth by rounds of the International. The only thing everyone apparently agrees on is that Orban is a ‘geci’ (literally translates to cum but means something like scumbag) and a list of 5 demands put forward by the opposition parties. From this chaotic mess of ideology there have emerged several promising coalitions- students from universities around the city created a Student Trade Union, 16 Unions have voted to strike in January and there is more cooperation between opposition parties now than was until now thought possible.
Now more than ever the representation of and solidarity between minority and marginalized groups must be kept within focus and at the forefront of every action for there can be no real social change without this. There is a real threat of elements of the far right in Hungary leaping at this chance to further their already-too-powerful position, a threat which must be taken seriously and thwarted at every turn. We cannot trade Fidesz for Jobbik- one tyranny for another.
The movement and the future of Hungary must be inclusive, centered around those most vulnerable to social unrest in a country with a long history of sexism, homo-/trans- phobia, antisemitism and racism. Without this consciousness at its core and at the front of the march there will be no revolution, only a transfer of power between deeply oppressive regimes.
*This segment presents the point of view of a foreigner living in Budapest and as such will mainly be of interest to those not already familiar with the current state of intellectual and political activity in Hungary.