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From anti-Semitism to the Olympics, the culture war goes on

August 13th, 2012

Historians’ polemic

In Élet és Irodalom, Eszter Babarczy argues that anti-Semitism became a political factor two decades ago, when liberals and socialists first raised the charge against their conservative opponents.

She contributes to a debate over an article by historian András Gerő who accused the most renowned Hungarian historian Ignác Romsics of “academic anti-Semitism”.  Writing on Galamus, Gerő criticised Romsics for underlining the Jewish origins of several communist personalities and for omitting the year of the Holocaust from the key periods of Hungary’s history. Almost a hundred intellectuals signed a statement condemning Gerő, but others have come to his defence.

​Babarczy thinks it is legitimate to mention the ethnic origin of public actors whenever it is relevant to the subject. But the main point she makes is that the left wing uses anti-fascism as its main tool to capture the moral high ground from its opponents. By doing so, she contends, the left-wing moves anti-Semitism to the centre of the political debate, and thereby actually fosters political anti-Semitism.

Voter registration

In Magyar Hírlap, political scientist Tamás Fricz, one of the initiators of the pro-government demonstration held in January with the slogan “We will not be a colony” (see BudaPost January 23 and 24) argues that we are living an era of change in which we break old taboos. Without any direct reference to the historian’s polemic, he welcomes the fact that authors are no longer barred from mentioning ethnic origins or from discussing the specific traits of individual ethnic groups.

Among other taboos which are being discarded, he mentions what he sees as an attitude of indiscriminate reverence towards the European Union, whose “bureaucratic” practices may now be openly criticized. In conclusion he welcomes the boldness of the governing forces in proposing a system of compulsory voters’ registration.  “Many people use their voting rights irresponsibly or yield to the passing moods or manipulations of political parties… People’s power however, means the rule of responsible and conscientious voters,” the right-wing pundit concludes.

In Demokrata, Péter Farkas Zárug, another right-wing political scientist disagrees with him. Fidesz activists, he argues, are baffled by the planned registration system. “They instinctively feel that it contradicts the constitutional tradition and the progress of general suffrage in Hungary.”  In July, Zárug spent several weeks touring the country publicising a book he co-authored, entitled “Who is attacking Hungary.” The impression he returned with is that staunch Fidesz supporters are at a loss to interpret government policies. He believes government communications are at fault. Fidesz-KDNP are still ahead in the polls, for now, he admits, but warns that victory at the next parliamentary elections cannot be taken for granted. The Fidesz leadership in only 2 of the 17 counties he visited were sure they will be able to “deliver” in 2014. “The rest are hopeful.”

Olympic culture wars

In Heti Válasz, editor Gábor Borókai criticizes left-wing commentators who have expressed reservations about what they interpret as pro-government propaganda in connection with Hungary’s successes at the London Olympic games.

Zsolt Gréczy wrote in his blog that it was unfair for State Secretary  (and veteran Olympic gold medallist swimmer) Attila Czene, to comment on the event live and quote László Tőkés, an ally of the governing parties, who sent him an sms congratulating Dániel Gyurta on his 200m breast stroke Olympic gold “on behalf of Transylvania.”

Endre Aczél, on Galamus, remarks that Tőkés does not represent Transylvania, where Romanians constitute 75 per cent of the population and Tőkés’s party only got 15 per cent of the Hungarian vote a few weeks ago. He also wrote that Gyurta’s British opponent (Michael Jamieson) almost caught up with him before the Hungarian swimmer won his gold with a new world record.

Borókai believes those comments mean that deep down the authors are unhappy about the success of the Hungarian swimmer, because he won his gold medal in a period when Viktor Orbán is Prime Minister. But they should not worry, he adds, for although “our sportsmen boost 15 million Hungarians in their everyday struggles, they do not decide the political games.” Left-wing Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány did not fail as a result of the modest three gold medals Hungary won at the Peking Olympics, “just as Orbán cannot win the 2014 elections in London.”

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