On October 23, the anniversary of the 1956 revolution, alongside commemorations, an opposition demonstration was held by the ADOM Student Movement and the Democratic Union of Teachers called “Solidarity demonstration for our teachers.”
For weeks now, teachers’ demonstrations have been the subject of heated debate in Hungary, with the aim of raising wages. The Hungarian government’s position is that they can only raise teachers’ salaries once they have reached an agreement with the European Commission on the EU funds Hungary is entitled to, as they want to use them to cover the pay increases.
In the meantime, teachers and students have organized several demonstrations across the country recently, but the opposition seems to have taken the lead in the October 23rd protest, Magyar Nemzet, a Hungarian political news site reports. According to their article, “left-wing politicians and Soros organizations immediately joined the demonstration,” adding that members of Amnesty International in yellow vests acted as organizers at the demonstration, coordinating people on where to go.
The event was attended by well-known left-wing politicians such as Klára Dobrev, leading politician of the Democratic Coalition and wife of former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, Gergely Karácsony, the liberal mayor of Budapest, and Péter Márki-Zay, the former prime ministerial candidate of the united left.
As reported in the Magyar Nemzet article, the demonstration was chanting “free country, free education,” but there was little talk of a pay raise for teachers.
There was a lot of profanity in between the speeches, and there was no shortage of obscene writings on the signs, which is particularly disrespectful on the day marking the anniversary of the 1956 revolution.
Among the speakers was Fruzsina Schermann, president of the ADOM movement, who said in her speech that “an oppressive power ignores, threatens, and mocks us.” Karácsony said that the revolution also started with students in 1956, and added that he and his 3,200 fellow mayors were ready to take back public education to be in the hand of municipalities at any time, although it was not clear how this would be financed.
The official focus of the protests is the wage issue, but all the demonstrations show that the left is becoming part of the demonstrations.
Erzsébet Nagy, a member of the Democratic Union of Teachers, said that public education had collapsed and that it would be good to restore vocational training. She called for competitive salaries for teachers and 21st century conditions for education, a modern national curriculum, and free choice of textbooks. Judit Zeller, representing the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, said that without teachers there is no education, and without education there is no future. She stressed that those fighting for change are silenced by the authorities, even by illegal means, although she did not specify what she meant by “illegal means.”
Featured photo via MTI/Koszticsák Szilárd