"The fight is only just starting," says political activist Gergő Varga

April 21, 2017

“The Hungarian state today is not a state.  All it does is try to divvy up EU money and to direct taxpayer’s money into its own pocket.  At the same time it finances a media-crises creating machine with which it tries to create consensus and show that it exists.  That’s all.  They steal and since there is no worthwhile political activity, they very cynically incite hatred.  The trap in liberal democracy and in this electoral system is that there is no need for 50 percent support or to agree with numerous segments, but it’s enough if we have a crowd, and if that is larger than the others, we win.  Fidesz is still living from just how badly the Socialists screwed up. They created a political segment that nobody will vote for . . .  Fidesz’s base is the people who managed to enrich themselves after the regime change and continue to be rich while four and a half million people wallow in poverty, and at some point the state concretely came to end, because it cannot fulfill its tasks either with regard to health care, law and order, or education.  In fact, it makes them worse.  This must be reversed.” – Gergő Varga, political activist

Translation of interview with political activist Gergő Varga published by the online version of Hungarian liberal print weekly Magyar Narancs on April 18th, 2017 under the title “Gergő Varga: NER is caffeine free Stalinism.”

He knows from [former Socialist prime minister Ferenc] Gyurcsány what tear-gas tastes like.  [Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán showed him the inside of the Gyorskocsi [prison].  He became an active political actor because of [Hungarian President János] Áder.

Are you an activist or a simple protestor?

I don’t like the term activist.  The problem with it is that it divorces politics from the individual.  If we say there are activists, then we say that a group has organized a political effort, and later they will do it in our place.  I think it is not possible to practice politics, because that is the end, which is already at hand.  The generally accepted solution in Hungary was that nobody wanted to play an active political role.  At most they turned out for protests, if they wanted, but that’s it.  I follow the number one first person politics: I stand up for my own interests and what I think is right.  I joined the demonstrations on Sunday, April 9th entirely as a private individual.  I’m on good terms with (civil activist) Marci (Gulyás).  Our minds work similarly, but so far I did not play an active political role.  Before I was part of the 4K! organization, but that wasn’t activism either, but rather a situational bullshitting.

Prior to Sunday’s protest had you been to a demonstration?

I’ve gone to protests since the end of 2006.  It was great that Ferenc Gyurcsány stood up for me, because now I know what tear gas tastes like.  He can continue to bugger off. I say that the protests quickly die out. In vain are there many participants, everybody is waiting for there to be a party or a politician who has never appeared anywhere before. The latest nightmare was the small demonstration against the garrison writing academy.  There was a nonsensical moment when we piled objects onto a step and the organizer told us to place the stuff so that it does not in any way block access to the building. Except the exact point of a demonstration is to obstruct and to call attention to the fact that this is a serious matter and that we are very angry.  It is not possible to protest while trying at the same time to remain invisible.  Because that only amounts to my saying I don’t agree with this, but you can accomplish that with a Facebook comment.  I follow what happens in politics, and if there is a demonstration that is close to me, I turn out.  It was the same now.

What do you think about today’s political structure?

I think NER (National System of Cooperation) is caffeine-free Stalinism. The Hungarian state today is not a state. All it does is try to divvy up EU money and to direct taxpayer’s money into its own pocket. At the same time it finances a media-crises creating machine with which it tries to create consensus and show that it exists. That’s all. They steal and since there is no worthwhile political activity, they very cynically incite hatred.  The trap in liberal democracy and in this electoral system is that there is no need for 50 percent support or to agree with numerous segments, but it’s enough if we have a crowd, and if that is larger than the others, we win. Fidesz is still living from just how badly the Socialists screwed up. They created a political segment that nobody will vote for, although as we have seen, (Socialist politician) László Botka is trying to turn MSZP’s ship around, and soon he is going to mention the word “asset,” which is very charming.  Fidesz’s response to this is moderated anti-Jewish rhetoric, refugees, liberals, and then there are the gays, who they say are not Hungarians. This is enough for 30 percent which in the current electoral system gives the party a two-thirds parliamentary majority.  This is not a state.  This is not for us, but against us.

Why was Áder signing the Lex CEU into law the point when you thought you need to do more?

Lex CEU became a symbolic affair in that it was not about education.  I agree with TGM (left-wing publicist and former liberal MP Gáspár Miklós Tamás) who says we have nearly finished the creation of an ethnic state but these idiotic, liberal, cosmopolitan Jews don’t allow this, so we need to drive them out as Szilárd Németh said on a few occasions (with regard to George Soros funded NGOs-tran.).  If NER can beat this through, then there is no way back, and from then on this is really an autocracy.  A lot of people felt the same way.  80,000 people demonstrated not only in support of CEU.  And the outrage continues.  A lot of people did not go home after the demonstration.  I am personally affected because I have many friends and acquaintances who either attended CEU or are attending, and I felt that it was something else when friends of mine who I had never seen engage in real political activities start writing on Facebook about the demonstration.  I felt that something had given way, and that this was something completely different.

As for what happened at the Sándor Palace, probably only those do not know who do not want to know.

It was the best documented plastic bottle throwing ever.

Still, tell us anyway whether, when you undertook to do this with Marci, you were aware that your actions could have consequences.  How did you judge the situation?

There was a risk that the police would stop us and demand to see our documents.  If all we wanted was for orange paint to be on the Sándor Palace, then all that would have happened is that some orange paint would have got on the Sándor Palace, and we would not be speaking since then with people about why we did it, but we simply would have done it.  That is why it was important that we do it with hiding our faces, so that we could measure where the construction of autocracy stands, and see how NER reacts to something that frightens it, or whether it even gets frightened.  In a normal western democracy such an action would result in the police taking down your information and then paying the cost of cleaning.  “Bye, don’t do it again.”  The fact that they led us around in chains and detained us for 72 hours and tried to stomp us underfoot says a lot. The first question at the beginning of the demonstrations was whether we believed that Fidesz can be removed via elections.  The next one we can ask after this is whether we believe prosecutors and the courts will sentence those people who rob the country.

What are your answers?

No and no.

What did you make of the judgement?

Based on the principles of a normal democracy, we should have been fined. even though we were arrested.  There was a cynical thought in us that they are going to screw us but good to make an example of us.  And when the judge announced the verdict, I thought that was what was happening.

What can be done to bring about change?

I don’t know. Nobody knows. Whoever claims otherwise is lying.  A very interesting thing is happening never before seen in Budapest. Even the 2006 demonstration wasn’t like this because people’s will had a strong direction and desire, namely that “Gyurcsány scram!”  But what is happening now is that the people of Pest have come out, are not going home, and have no direction.  The organizers just organize Facebook events, assemble a stage, and rent sound equipment, nothing more. The people of Pest are more or less directed by group psychology what to do.  It usually happens that they debate in various media what is to be done.  So this is the birth of something new.  That is for certain even if we do not know what comes next.  It is for sure that we need to move beyond simply saying that we’ve had enough, because that is not a demand, or even that they are stealing, because that is evident.  We need to set forth new world perspectives, that, “okay this is what we would like in its place.”  The crowd and the group must be sufficiently self-confident to say “now we are going to rid ourselves of this somehow,” because that is a positive goal we can strive for.  It came up, for example, that we want a proper electoral system that gives everyone a chance, and that for sure we need to get rid of the NER fixed in concrete, and we need to obstruct the transfer of assets, etc.  In my opinion – and we shall see whether this is the opinion of the crowd, and whether there is consensus – the current system belongs to the victors. Fidesz’s base is the people who managed to enrich themselves after the regime change and continue to be rich while four and a half million people wallow in poverty, and at some point the state concretely came to end, because it cannot fulfill its tasks either with regard to health care, law and order, or education.  In fact, it makes them worse.  This must be reversed.   Clearly, this kind of “give it to them” capitalism didn’t work out. I think the idea of the system change was that you cannot build a dictatorship in a free market system, but now we see that, well, they have. Capitalism stands next to it, greeting us.  We need to consider what sort of new system we want and how it relates to these issues.

How can a new system come about?

Obviously, after a long while it is necessary to designate some people to at least negotiate . . . This is possible, but we aren’t there yet. What’s certain is that at this stage we need to broaden the range of demands in order to involve as many people as possible.  The crowd is critical, but not sufficient.  The demonstrations are still not country-wide. The important step is for it to be not a Budapest but a country matter.  If that happens, the situation will be much clearer. The task of coordinating will include designating operatives.

What task would you assign yourself?

My work is just starting, which is very important to me, and for this reason for the time being I do not know.  During the start-up phases, after not so much excitement, comes the launch phase.  We’ll see how we strike a balance.

Do you think there is an opposition party today that is suitable to play a role in this?

I see that they are exhibiting a desire, but there is no one I consider suitable. But the people of Pest will decide later.  This is a very simple thing.  You have to stand up on the stage and if they don’t tell you to bugger off, then you can stay.

How can the countryside be involved?

48 percent of the population of Budapest is from the countryside.  Sitting in handcuffs in the court with Marci was a breaking point, because a lot of people from the Fidesz and conservative camp realized, My God, those could be my children.  The communication will not be that the people of Pest start explaining to the people in the countryside why this is important, but the relatives and friends of youth studying in Pest will see they are not Soros agents, and it will spread in this way.  It is important to understand that relations in the countryside are much more existential and feudalistic because of the municipality system.  Ásotthalom and Érpatak (run by Jobbik mayors) show the direction the country is going, but the situation is similar elsewhere, at most not so vulgar. The issue of the municipal governance has not come up over the course of the demonstrations, but it will, and presumably the question will be why there aren’t any resources for the countryside, why most of the local governments are poor, why everything is distributed from above, and why the squandered EU money that arrives here — which is more than the Marshall plan — has been spent on completely pointless investments of a conspicuous nature, paving squares and whatever, instead of putting the economy of the countryside on its feet, who is responsible for this, and whether the one who is responsible is the same person who is the local lord, and what we want to do against this.

In a video posted on Saturfday, Árpád Schilling says the 2018 election should be boycotted.

That is a means.  I am confident and hope that by 2018 we can sort out this miserable situation.  But if not, then the next election can be boycotted.  In fact, even before then it is necessary to boycott as much as possible.  Somebody observed very nicely that we work during the day and protest at night or at the weekend, while they go home or on vacation, which means we are shouting at empty buildings.  As for how to move forward, there are tools that have been largely forgotten, like strikes or demonstrating during the day because that applies pressure of a different kind.  Clearly NER only responds to the opinion of large economic actors: if a German factory is uncomfortable with something, then that will be put into law.  And if someone assaults these actors, it will assault the government into doing something, because the people are not working and the operation is loss-making.  This is the only language they understand.

How can you persuade as large a circle as possible to strike or participate in civil unrest?

That could also be a slow process. It won’t happen that the country shuts down tomorrow.  So far there were peaceful demonstrations.  After this there will be, in my opinion, less peaceful demonstrations, and if these fail to change anything, then come the closures.  It is not about doing things to people but organizing.  A political action is not prepared by the two of us sitting down and my trying to persuade you to . . . We contemplate for weeks what to do and when the situation comes about, when somebody does something, those people who agree with him join.

What could a not so peaceful demonstration be like?

I don’t know.  What’s certain is that Fidesz sent an unequivocal message to the people that it does not hear peaceful demonstrations and throwing paint is a crime.  The fight is only just starting, this was only the opening. Budapest has never been so euphoric as the past week.  Continue forward, and we’ll see.