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The 61st anniversary of 56

October 25th, 2017

Commentators on all sides agree that the opposition’s performance on the anniversary of the 1956 revolution was pathetic. They disagree, however on PM Orbán’s statement on Sunday that Hungary must now, once again, defend its independence.

Addressing several thousand people in front of the House of Terror Museum in Budapest on Monday, PM Viktor Orbán said that during the early 1950s the Soviet empire wanted to transform the average Hungarian citizen into a ’homo sovieticus’, while now the average Hungarian is expected to become a ‘homo bruxellicus’. 

In an extremely bitter column in Népszava, Róbert Friss excoriates the left-wing parties who didn’t even manage to hold a joint rally on the anniversary. He finds it particularly revolting that the Socialist Party has no clear ideas about 1956. While one of its MEPs, István Ujhelyi compares Mr Orbán to Mátyás Rákosi, the Communist dictator of the early 50’s, another, Tibor Szanyi  illustrates his post on the anniversary with the photo of a lynched member of the political police. (His post was disavowed by party chairman Gyula Molnár.) On the other hand, commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech, he says the governing forces today have nothing in common with 1956. Friss laments the indifference most Hungarians show towards politics and ascribes it to their difficulties in making ends meet. Thus, he writes, ‘we had better forget about 1956’ for the time being. He hopes however that one day, people will get angry and suddenly rise in a new revolution.

In Magyar Idők, Zsolt Bayer also sees the Left as confused – over 1956 and the current government alike. In front of the former house of Imre Nagy, the Prime Minister kidnapped by Soviet soldiers in November 1956 and executed in Hungary in 1958, Socialist MP Ágnes Kunhalmi compared PM Orbán to Stalin, whilst addressing a ‘crowd’ of two people. Meanwhile, ‘a 15-strong crowd’ of leftist demonstrators protested during the PM’s speech calling him a new Hitler. Bayer agrees with Mr Orbán’s idea that what 2017 has in common with 1956 is that national independence and identity are at stake. Eastern Europe is the only remaining ‘migrant free zone’ in Europe, he writes, quoting the PM’s words and asserts that this ‘ideal state of affairs must be preserved like nothing else’. To do so, people just have to turn out at next year’s parliamentary elections, unlike in 1956 when they had to resort to weapons, Bayer concudes.

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