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Oct 24, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

The apparatchiks are back, and they’ve joined forces with the far-right

While Hungarians remembered on October 23rd the martyrs of the 1956 Revolution – the everyday men and women, boys and girls who took up arms and made a heroic stand against Soviet military might on the streets of Budapest – the direct descendants of the Communist Party cadre that helped break the revolution were busy whitewashing their grandparents and – just for good measure – allying themselves with Hungary’s anti-Semitic, far-right in a shameful maneuver for political power.

This is Hungary’s unified opposition – the remnants and descendants of the old Communist guard, the so-called Greens, liberals and the anti-Semitic far-right.

Wednesday marked the 63rd anniversary of Hungary’s 1956 Revolution, one of the most important moments on the country’s path towards becoming a fully-fledged democracy in 1989, following forty painful years of communist rule. Although some would believe that those figures from the communist era are now gone for good, they are, in fact, still hanging on, disguised as greens, lefties, liberals – you name it.

They say they are different now; they say they have changed. But for many Hungarian voters, it’s difficult to forget the role that their families played in the past. It’s difficult to forget those who issued death warrants for our national heroes. They are attempting to rewrite the legacy of ’56 as they pose as heirs to the heroes of the Revolution, but their parents figured prominently among the communist leaders who betrayed the Hungarian people. Here are two examples from Wednesday:

Klára Dobrev, member of the European Parliament and wife of the notorious, former, Socialist PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, took to her Facebook page to share the following:

“The tribute of 1956 teaches us that without freedom our lives cannot be complete. And if once we have already won our freedom, there can always come a rogue who will want to take it away. For freedom, we need to fight every day and this is what we, the representatives of Democratic Coalition, do as well. This is the mandate you gave us, this is what we pursue. With you, for you.”

That sounds just peachy, but there’s something you should know about Ms. Dobrev. It’s a story about her grandfather, a communist named Antal Apró who – among other things – personally supervised the Imre Nagy show trial that condemned Nagy to death. What’s more, it was Apró who, on June 17, 1958, announced in Parliament that Nagy would be executed along with three others.

Dobrev and former PM Gyurcsány live in a large, beautiful villa in Budapest, which Dobrev inherited from her grandfather, Apró, who received it in recognition for his hardline role in putting down the heroes and revolutionaries of 1956. A Hungarian columnist had this poignant comment on Facebook:

“Gyurcsány had breakfast…and went to Imre Nagy's statue [on October 23rd] where he spoke about Nagy's heritage, freedom and rule of law. Then he went home to the villa, a blood reward for Nagy's execution, watched a good movie and went to bed with the satisfaction that he is now the leader of the Hungarian opposition.” 

If one wonders why these political figures and their parties still fail with many Hungarian voters, that history is important to understand. These things don’t just wash away with time.

I’ll give you another one: Momentum’s freshly-elected MEP Anna Donáth. On Facebook, she wrote:

“The Revolution was quashed in ’56, but those who told me about Imre Nagy, Géza Losonczy and my grandfather Ferenc Donáth, the many heroes of ’56, they don’t remember it as a defeat…”

With all due respect to Ms. Donáth, her grandfather, Ferenc Donáth, as a secretary to the iron-fisted Communist dictator Mátyás Rákosi, was fighting on the wrong side in the ’56 Revolution. That’s probably not something she’ll ever admit in a speech remembering the martyrs of 1956.

Wait, there’s more.

The cynicism of this old guard, disguised as greens, leftists and liberals – you name it – knows no limits.

Recently, a far-right group carried out an attack on the Aurora Community Centre in Budapest. That group has close ties to Jobbik. Jobbik is an extremist, Nazi-saluting, anti-Semitic party, and they have become part of the united opposition, clearly joining forces with the left in the recent, local elections. The international reader may not remember, for example, Gergely Kulcár, a Jobbik MP. He’s the one who bragged about spitting in Budapest’s “Shoes on the Danube Bank” memorial, a landmark that pays tribute to Jews who were shot and pushed into the river under the rule of Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross Party in 1944 and 1945.

Jobbik’s far-right extremism has been legitimized by the left, and the coalition has been welcomed by some in the international media.

The familiar apparatchik names and faces of the communist era are back. It’s deeply disturbing to witness the unsavory coalition that they’ve patched together with the far-right.