Every year on March 15th, Hungarian political parties from all parts of the spectrum hold rallies, marches, and speeches, hoping to connect their own activities with those of the revolutionaries of 1848.
This year was no different, as opposition parties spent the day criticizing the policies and attitudes of the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The Hungarian Socialist Party’s (MSZP) leader, Gyula Molnár, lambasted the government for what he called a “lack of liberty, fraternity and equality” in Hungary, a reference to the 1848-49 revolution and freedom fight’s slogan of “szabadság, testvériség és egyenlőség.”
Molnar, addressing a Budapest award ceremony of the Free Press Foundation, said that “there can’t be freedom in a country where four million people are starving, equality where politicians and their families are getting rich, or fraternity where there are no common goals.”
Referencing last fall’s controversial closure of left-wing daily Népszabadság, Molnár said that the free press had become a thing of the past, which limits democracy as well.
The party leader added that the Socialists, once in power, would take away the papers from those who had purchased them from public funds.
Referring to a political campaign launched by his party, Molnár also mentioned one of his party’s new political campaigns: he argued that the rich, whom he identified as those with a monthly income of over 1 million forints (EUR 3,200), or assets over 100 million forint, should pay higher taxes.
At the left-wing Democratic Coalition (DK) party’s March 15th rally, DK leader and former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány said that freedom is only compatible with the rule of democratic law and institutions; which, according to him, current PM Orbán had ruined over the past seven years.
Gyurcsány called on his audience to dare to be free, and to be both good Hungarians and Europeans. He argued that today, as in 1848, Hungarian freedom and European freedom are inseparable.
Speaking to the crowd gathered in front of the Pilvax Café, a hotbed of revolutionary thought leading up to the 1848 revolution, the former PM claimed that “a key part of our shared European tradition is respect for human dignity, which the current Hungarian government neglects, even though human dignity is not a right assigned to us by the government, but one that all humans are born with and deserve.”
Gyurcsány said democrats must be able to shake hands because a democrat must not be arrogant, must not dictate, and must not claim the exclusive right to represent the truth.
Referencing left-wing opposition Együtt (Together) Party’s protest of PM Orbán’s speech, Gyurcsány said that “several hundred, or perhaps a few thousand” were blowing whistles to protest “the lord of tyranny”; he also claimed that those in power were now “trembling.”
However, he also expressed his skepticism regarding the efficacy of such a protest, saying that “I do not think it is possible to topple the system with whistles, but everyone has the right to show the prime minister that they want a democratic country which opposes tyranny.”
And at the Együtt Party’s official commemoration, deputy leader Balázs Berkecz spoke out against the Orbán government in front of the statue of revolutionary poet and firebrand Sándor Petőfi.
Berkecz called for joint efforts to protect freedom and stand up against the Orbán government, claiming that “a narrow and evil circle has taken away our freedom and put our future in danger with its uncontrolled greed, demoralizing our country to the level of dictatorships…We have to fight this mafia state that tramples on truth day by day,”
The left-wing deputy leader also argued that the revolution was a brave decision by a brave people, which opposed everything that the world order and the arrogant powerholders of the time considered as acceptable.
Before leading a large demonstration through the heart of downtown Pest, recent candidate for President of the Republic László Majtényi gave a speech to left-wing supporters, telling them that the true lesson of the 1848 Revolution could be found in the importance of fighting for freedom, regardless of how lost the cause may seem.
Majtényi, who was defeated in Monday’s parliamentary vote by incumbent President and Fidesz member János Áder, said that “No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, it can change within a matter of hours.”
He added that he added he “could not make much sense” of Orbán’s speech earlier in the day, criticizing the way the Prime Minister “kept talking about Brussels” and “menacing empires”.
Majtényi told the assembled crowd that there are “two kinds of nations” in the world: those who are freedom loving and those who are free. He said that “The time has come for us to go from being freedom loving to free,” adding that true freedom comes not with the removal of foreign oppression, but rather when a country “gets rid of its own oppressors.”
At an event also held at the Pilvax Café, Green Party LMP Co-Leader Bernadett Széll attempted to link her own party with the revolutionary youth of 1848, claiming that, like the revolutionaries of centuries past, “our endeavors are still rooted in the idea that we wish to determine the fate of our own political community ourselves.”
She added that Hungarians should “ask themselves whether Petőfi, Jókai, Vasvári [1848 revolutionaries] or members of the first responsible Hungarian government [of 1848] would have supported the plan to expand the Paks nuclear power plant, through which we sell out our freedom of action and our freedom of choice.”
LMP has been vocal in its opposition to the proposed expansion to the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, and in fact has been pushing for a national referendum on the issue.
The commemoration was attended by about 100 people.
Gábor Fodor, head of the Hungarian Liberal Party (MLP), argued that the hope of a modern liberal Hungary is still alive
Speaking near the Pilvax Café, Fodor drew comparisons between the Hungarian left-wing opposition and the revolutionaries being commemorated on March 15th. “Those who gathered here in 1848 had far less chance of winning against the Habsburg empire than us,” he said, adding that “democratic parties” will only be able to achieve victory if their desire to regain freedom can outweigh their impulses to exclude each other from the political scene,” a possible reference to the fact that Fodor is currently the only MLP party member with a seat in Parliament.
At the other end of the political spectrum, the far-right Jobbik party emphasized Hungarians’ desire for freedom at their commemoration of the Hungarian Revolution.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters, party leader Gábor Vona said that Jobbik was “on the side of the people.” He emphasized his view that Hungarians must not be made subservient to either “foreign procurators” or to “domestic landlords.”
He also attacked the ruling Fidesz-KDNP government with claims of corruption, and told his audience that when his party comes to power “politics will not be a synonym for mafia, but will be about public service.”
Vona also spoke about a European civil initiative Jobbik had launched with the aim of establishing a European wage union. He explained the initiative as a call for cementing the principle of “equal pay for equal work” in the EU’s founding documents.
The Jobbik head claimed his party was not asking for “alms,” but rather a level playing field and that Hungarian businesses could be made competitive through a new EU cohesion policy.
Via MTI and Hungary Matters
Images via MTI