Movement for a Better Hungary Movement was founded in October 2003 and defines
itself as the representative of "new radicalism”. It recently established the
Hungarian Guard Association for Culture and Preserving Traditions (Magyar
has been the chairman of Jobbik since November 2006. He is also chairman of the
Hungarian Guard, a uniformed group that has been the focus of intense media
attention and much criticism since its inauguration ceremony in August. For
many, the group represents a worrying manifestation of the growing threat from
the extreme right in
Others argue that the organisation’s importance has been greatly exaggerated by
sensationalist domestic and international media. Meanwhile the extreme right,
including Jobbik itself, claim they are being demonised by biased reporting. On
Jobbik’s website, Vona says: “In recent weeks, everyone has had their say about
the Hungarian Guard. Everything we have heard has been lies. However, there is
one group that nobody has asked yet: the Guard itself.”
You accuse the media of lying in the way it has
presented the Magyar Gárda as a “paramilitary organisation”. You said in your
letter to this newspaper that the Gárda is a peaceful, law-abiding group set up
to undertake community work and assist in disaster situations. There are
numerous NGOs already doing such work; why did you feel the need to establish
your own? Why could you not simply encourage people to take an active interest
in civil and community work through the existing Jobbik party?
As a party
we would never have got anywhere. Politicians, the press and the public would
have dismissed us with a wave of their hand: ‘Oh come on, you’re only after
votes’. And we wouldn’t really have been able to defend ourselves. A legally
registered civil initiative, however, is culturally in an entirely different
dimension. That’s why we decided on the Guard. The Hungarian authorities were
horrified because something was born and climbed out of a predictable, and
therefore controllable, stagnating place, which for years has meant Hungarian
politics. And it not only climbed out, but also had an idea where to go from
there. And when, despite every slander and pressure against it, it actually
took its first steps, then the whole of Hungarian public life really took
fright. It’s a sad fact that the government powers are alarmed by the concept
of national identity, which the Hungarian Guard embodies.
How many people have joined the Gárda so far?
Could you give me a breakdown of who is showing interest in terms of age,
location, profession, etc.?
join the Guard, you can gain admission. Currently there are approximately 4,000
candidates, of whom we plan to initiate 630 on 21 October. Their selection is
an incredibly difficult task, in view of the fact that meanwhile we have to
defend ourselves constantly against political attacks from every direction. The
candidates in fact come from the widest range of backgrounds: women, men, young
people, old people, manual workers, professionals, city-dwellers,
village-dwellers. One thing connects them. They are Hungarians who want to
finally do something for their nation.
What role do you think the Gárda might have played
during the unrest last autumn? Would it have tried to prevent damage to public
property and buildings?
difficult to look at the events of 17 September from such a point of view,
because it took place spontaneously; even the police were unable to react. On
23 October, however, if the Guard had been securing the events, it would have
done everything in its power to ensure that the participants could return home
safely. I wish to add, that the Guard was not established for the purpose of
providing security at political events. If we receive such a request, we will
decide whether to undertake it or not, but the main goal is the assembly of
people who want to do something and coming up with intelligent aims. We want to
In your view what kind of situation could
emerge in the future where the Hungarian Guard could serve as a “defence
force”? Do you consider the existing Hungarian emergency services and police to
I don’t see
any point in speculating, since the actual situation will determine what our
task is. I hope that there won’t be a disaster, but if there is then the
assistance of the Guard will certainly be welcome.
Has the widespread negative media coverage
damaged Jobbik or the Gárda in
How concerned are you about the way in which the international media, and by
extension, the international public, perceive your party and
I am sad
that the international media has adopted the lies of the left-liberal Hungarian
press so uncritically. In this way many foreign media organs have,
intentionally or not, become cogs in the Gyurcsány government’s lie-making
factory. We’re not going to bow our heads, because we have no reason to do so.
over the past 17 years people have got used to the fact that if people are
proud of their identity they will be labelled Nazis. We don’t look at what they
say but who they are.
You must have been aware that the choice of a
military-style black uniform would attract the criticism it has. Why, if you do
not want to be seen as a “militaristic” group, did you choose such a uniform?
We took the
black and white colours from the traditional centuries-old Hungarian national
dress. One of the key figures from the world of Hungarian folk legends is the
youngest peasant lad (szegénylegény). He was the model. The symbol of courage,
justice and purity. The greeting we use: “Adjon az Isten!” (God grant it!) is
an old Hungarian form of greeting. Anyone whom that reminds of the SS is a
serious psychopath, and should stay away from folklore presentations because
they might have a heart attack.
How important for Jobbik is the tacit support
of Fidesz? What effect would it have on Jobbik if Fidesz were to distance
itself from your party or speak out against the Magyar Gárda. Do you think that
Jobbik will be competing with Fidesz for the right-wing vote at the next
sense tacit support. Fidesz has spoken out openly against the Hungarian Guard,
and asked its members not to enter the Guard. In fact they did so in vain. A
lot of people have said that they are Fidesz members and supporters. That,
however, has to be separated entirely from the relationship between Jobbik and
Fidesz. There is a common goal of removing the current government from power.
We have to cooperate in that, even if cooperating with a national party sends a
shiver down the spine of Fidesz’s liberals. In
and not party interests need to prevail. We are in favour of collaboration.
What is your opinion of President Sólyom’s
request last Monday that far right-wing organisations should stop using the
think highly of László Sólyom for his politics of weighing up issues. I see him
differently. I think he is making a sport out of balancing. Everybody wants to
say something and then in the end they don’t say anything, except for big,
cleverly contrived clichés. A President of the Republic needs to be prepared to
take a stand and tell the left to stop inciting hysteria, because the
Árpád-dynasty standard is not an Arrow Cross symbol, but a historical flag. The
protestors use the latter.
What is your reaction to comments made by head
of the Federation of Jewish Communities in
likened the Magyar Gárda to the Arrow Cross?
the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) as a degenerate
group which trades politically on its background, and is not worthy of the task
it has undertaken. Rabbi Shlomo Köves, whom I respect, because I regard him as
a straight man, said himself that there is no fascist threat in
don’t want to try to know better than him in this.
Jobbik – for whatever reasons – is widely
as being anti-Semitic and anti-Roma. Do you accept that anyone born in
right to call him or herself Hungarian? Could you say anything to allay the
fears of minority groups who feel threatened by Jobbik rhetoric and, in
particular, the existence of the Magyar Gárda?
hear this question raised. It would be good if people would give at least one
piece of evidence when asking such questions. Of course they can’t. In fact I
accept what you say that in
everybody has the right to call him or herself Hungarian. But my problem is
that the leaders of the Hungarian Gypsy and Jewish communities, in particular
those linked to the left, have not assumed their Hungarian identity so clearly.
Typically the government stirs up prejudices in the various minorities, for
political reasons. This pits Hungarian identity against minority identity,
which is extremely damaging. I think it would help a lot in the joint breaking
down of damaging prejudices, if MAZSIHISZ stated clearly what it actually feels
about its Hungarian identity.
What is your party’s position on the free
movement of labour now that
is a member of the EU? Are all EU citizens welcome to come and work in
the moratorium on free movement ends in 2011?
be pleased to see anyone who would take work away from a Hungarian, just as I
am not happy to see talented young Hungarians leaving the country because they
don’t see any future here. Here I have to add that I am an advocate of Europe,
but of a
regard the historic reconciliation of the Central and Eastern European peoples
as important, because globalisation poses a joint challenge to us in terms of
both economics and culture. Either we can work together, or together we can
become living corpses of nations.
What do you understand to be the difference
between patriotism and nationalism? Are Jobbik and the Magyar Gárda patriotic
or nationalist organisations?
patriotism as a liberal invention. You can accept that a cat is loyal only to
the place where it lives, but that’s not enough when it comes to a person. A
member of the homo sapiens species should not just defend their land, but also
their identity and culture. That’s why I would prefer to say that Jobbik and
the National Guard are nationalist, but not chauvinist. And by no means
Are you expecting any trouble on 17 September?
What stance is Jobbik advising its members and supporters to take? Have you
called on your members to remain peaceful?
We are in
the fortunate situation that there has never been unrest at the Jobbik
demonstrations. For this reason it isn’t necessary to call on our members to
remain peaceful. Here I would like to call on the government not even to think
about base provocations, and not to try to draw attention away from its
unsuitability and anti-democratic trampling on people’s rights.
Hungary has a very painful history, and this is
recalled in the rhetoric of right-wing parties and media outlets (I am thinking
particularly of certain websites, some of which even espouse revanchist ideas).
What would you say to those Hungarians who still think of
“victim” nation? Would you like to see
move on towards finding a comfortable place in an integrated
move beyond this, we have to face up to it.