The message of 1956 is still valid – The Weekly 26
The history of the Hungarian nation has no shortage of revolutions and freedom fights. People interested in the past can find something in each one of them to carry an important message or guidance for our present and future.
For some reason however, we always feel 1956 especially close to us. Perhaps this is because many of the participants of the revolution are still alive or maybe because 1956 is still a point of reference in Hungarian politics to this day. Everybody who is involved in political affairs needs to somehow relate to 1956 and its legacy.
Honest people undoubtedly empathize with the freedom fighters of 1956 who showed an example for the whole world with their stance against tyranny and courage to engage in battle even with the Soviet army.
But beyond the symbolic politics, does everybody in Hungary and the world truly understand the message of 1956?
Just as it has done with so many other things, the Fidesz regime has tried to appropriate and monopolize the memory of 1956, too. On the other hand, the parties of the Hungarian left did give them a significant boost because, for a long time, they were unable to handle 1956 and the heavy burden of the authoritarian past on the shoulders of certain leftist leading figures. Furthermore, ever since 2006, 23rd October means something more for many Hungarian people than the memorial day of the 1956 revolution. It also means the bloody police attack ordered by the Ferenc Gyurcsány-led Socialist government against the crowd celebrating the 50th anniversary of the revolution.
On 23rd October 2020, when the parties of the Hungarian opposition; Jobbik and the leftist parties release a joint message to commemorate 1956, it is especially important to see through Fidesz’ pathetic attempts at falsifying history and understand who truly honours the spirit of the revolution and who truly stands for freedom.
With a lot of help from the Soviets and rigging the elections in post-World War II Hungary, the Communist regime solidified its grip on power and developed a terror machine to exercise full control over every aspect of life. Such factors as the foreign occupation, the destruction of the independent and democratic institutions, the elimination of the freedom of conscience and expression, the treatment of political prisoners and the increasingly unbearable social situation caused by the strict Communist regime together led to 23rd October 1956, when the widest groups of the Hungarian people said they had had enough. There and then, people who would not have thought a few years or even a few months before that history would ever bring them on the same side, stood up together, shoulder to shoulder, against the dictatorship. On this day citizens, former business owners and farmers who had been trampled upon by the Communists stood up against the terror and the daily political oppression together with workers supposedly “favoured” by the system and even with leftist intellectuals disillusioned by the regime’s modus operandi.
Nobody asked where the others came from and what ideas brought them to join the revolution. The only question was if they were willing to fight for the freedom of the Hungarian people.
Today, there is no foreign occupation or open, physical terror in Hungary, fortunately. However, there is a power that penetrates every aspect of our lives, that requires unconditional submission from the intelligentsia and the middle class while using existential threats to keep the lower middle class under control. It invades or undermines the operation of scientific institutes, drives away universities or attempts to exercise political influence over them.
Today, Viktor Orbán’s regime is aiming for the same kind of totalitarianism as the Communist dictatorship did. His goal is to eliminate any resistance and control all thoughts. That’s why they annihilate the free press and ruin opposition parties by imposing giga fines on them.
In today’s Hungary, thirty years after the fall of Communism, we are once again in a situation where opposition-leaning citizens cannot trust the Hungarian authorities because they see that they function as political organizations under political control. Today, Hungarian students often experience that their school is headed by a political appointee who exercises direct political pressure on both teachers and students. Today, Hungarian business owners often experience that Fidesz expects them to demonstrate their political loyalty to the party in return for the state support.
In the meantime, more and more people with completely different ideological background; conservatives, rightists, liberals and leftists alike are saying they’ve had enough of this.
They have one thing in common: they want nothing to do with this oppressive power. Fidesz has long capitalized on the fault lines of the Hungarian society and played people with different ideological views against each other. Today on 23rd October however, when everybody, regardless of any political ideology, is standing by the protesting students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts that Fidesz stigmatizes as a leftist and anti-Hungarian institution while also trying to take it under direct political control, I believe the message of 1956 is more relatable than ever.
There are situations when a call overrides all political debates, and that is the call of freedom.
My party, Jobbik has understood this and that is why we issued a joint message with the centre-left opposition parties and that is why we have cooperated with them in every election since 2019. I think this is the real message of 1956.