It looks like the British public may soon get acquainted with a genuine xenophobic and quasi-fascist political movement. Gabor Vona, leader of Hungary’s embittered and conspiratorially minded Jobbik party, is set to address his ‘sympathisers’ in London this weekend. It seems pretty clear that the objective of his visit is to provoke a media backlash, perhaps succeed in getting banned from entering Britain, and thus gain even more publicity for his self-proclaimed victim status and for his enraged movement. This publicity value of his trip stands in sharp contrast to the significance of the meeting he is holding in London. Judging by the discussion on the Facebook page for the London gathering, his audience will consist of a tiny number of Hungarian expats who feel threatened by a world they cannot comprehend.
Back in May, I chatted to a group of Jobbik newspaper sellers outside the Feny Street marketplace in Budapest, and I was struck by their eagerness to explain how Hungary had become a victim of an international Zionist plot. They informed me that Israel was literally buying up Hungary on the cheap. They complained about the role of international capitalism and the way neo-liberals were threatening the culture and integrity of their homeland. In another chat I had, with two Jobbik-supporting university students, I was told about the links between this international conspiracy and Hungarian Jews. One of the students insisted she was not anti-Semitic as such. ‘Jews are a problem because they cannot be trusted’, she explained. This belief that Jews constitute a kind of disloyal ‘fifth column’ for interests that run counter to Hungary’s interests is these days held not only by hardcore Jobbik supporters, but by many others, too.
There are understandable reasons why Jobbik enjoys significant electoral support In Hungary. The main beneficiaries of regime change in Hungary were the old Stalinist elites. After the end of the Cold War, they simply privatised their way of life and grabbed a disproportionate share of the wealth of the nation. Corruption became institutionalised, causing a great deal of contempt for the parties of the Hungarian left. In particular, the shoddy record of the former social-democratic regime led by Ferenc Gyurcsány provoked widespread revulsion against the left. This led to the election of the conservative Fidesz government. It also allowed Jobbik to gain 16 per cent of the vote in the last national election.