“Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation. They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn’t be tolerated or understood, but stamped out. Animals should not exist. In no way.” Zsolt Bayer, Magyar Hirlap, 5 January 2013
Zsolt Bayer, one of the founders of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and personal friend of prime minister Viktor Orbán, has been saying this kind of thing in public for many years. How has it become acceptable to openly express such sentiments in a European country? Especially a country which played so prominent a role in the 1944-45 Holocaust?
Hate speech has been a defining aspect of the Hungarian right wing since well before the transition to multi-party democracy in 1989. The “democratic opposition” to the communist system always contained elements sympathetic to the authoritarian pre-war Horthy regime, a semi-constitutional autocracy with a welfarist dimension that became less democratic and more antisemitic as the 1930s progressed, despite (or because of) the admiral’s raging Anglophilia and enduring fascination with the English aristocracy. Despite appearances, the communist system did not displace such widely held prejudices; rather, it tended to work around them, offering a world of fixed markers, casual bribery and calculated submission. By the late 1980s, communism had bred a kind of sullen torpor among many, best described, perhaps, in Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s recently translated novel Satantango.