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Arts Academy, National Theatre and universities as battle grounds in the culture wars

December 19th, 2012

A leading pro government columnist likens the current student demonstrations in Hungary to what happened in France in 1968 and warns the students that the organisers of this year’s “peace marches” (mass rallies in support of the Fidesz government) won’t hesitate to call for a third one if the need arises.

In his Magyar Hírlap editorial, Zsolt Bayer lays the blame for today’s social unrest in Hungary on left-liberal intellectuals who lost their influence in 2010, when Fidesz and the KDNP won a crushing parliamentary majority. Since then, he writes, they have been waging a relentless cultural war against the new government, claiming a monopoly on the definition of the values the population should follow. This is how Bayer explains the fierce criticism unfolding against the Hungarian Arts Academy (See BudaPost, December 15). He admits that Academy Chairman György Fekete “is not faultless”, but rejects the charges of anti-Semitism levelled against him (Bayer himself has also often been accused of anti-Semitism). He also acknowledges that some right-wing artists have left the Academy in protest, but lists an array of new members, adding that “the swap is not an unacceptable one at all.”

Bayer sees the offensive launched against the newly appointed director general of the National Theatre as another chapter in the so-called Culture War. The term of his predecessor, Róbert Alföldi expires in June next year and the Minister of Human Resources has appointed another talented artist, Attila Vidnyánszky to replace him. Bayer admits that Alföldi is “a great artist, but his term has expired.” He finds it outrageous that his successor is denigrated by left-liberal artistic circles for the sole reason “that he is not their man.”

Finally, Zsolt Bayer welcomes the government’s retreat on the tuition issue (See BudaPost, December 17), but claims that the student movement is directed against something broader than higher education fees. It reminds the commentator of the 1968 student unrest in France when “President De Gaulle’s head was at stake.” What saved the regime was a huge pro-government demonstration, at the sight of which “Danny the Red (Anarchist student leader and now Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit) and company beat a retreat from the streets and the barricades.”

Bayer, who was one of the initiators of the two pro-government marches this year, warns the organisers of the student demonstrations that “if that’s what it takes, it will be done: we’ll do it once again.”

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