By giving Jobbik a platform, it allows fascism to grow.
Andrew Dismore AM is the Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden and PPC for Hendon. As a Labour MP between 1997-2010 he founded Holocaust Memorial Day
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a Hungarian student about Jobbik’s rally in Holborn. He was very concerned that this was to happen and desperately asked me to intervene. I then knew little about Jobbik, so I looked into them. This was so frightening it spurred me into the campaign for Vona’s exclusion.
Those who believe I was wrong to do so equate Jobbik to the UK’s right-wing fringe. They say that Jobbik should be debated and their views exposed. They say Jobbik are an irrelevance who should be laughed at, not excluded.
The problem with this argument is that Jobbik are far from a fringe extremist group like the EDL or BNP, with limited public support. They are the far-right party to which the rest of Europe’s fascists look. And it is easy to see why, given the parallels with the rise of 1930s fascism.
Jobbik’s black-uniformed paramilitaries are like the Mosleyite blackshirts and Nazi brownshirts – not just show but a precursor to extreme violence, projected against the Roma and Jewish communities.
They physically harrass the Roma and wish to force them to live apart, ghettoised and segregated. They have demanded the compilation of a list of prominent Jews in Hungarian society, seen as a threat to national security- one step from demanding the stigmatising yellow star. Jobbik are hostile to gays. They call not just for the death penalty but also forced chemical castration for sexual criminals.
In an uncanny reminder of the Nazis’ rise to power, what is happening with Jobbik and Hungary today is very similar to the dying days of the Weimar republic. Hitler was seen as the demagogue with a Charlie Chaplin moustache until he became Chancellor as a result of the traditional parties’ inability to address the impact of the 1920s crash and depression.
Hitler did not win a parliamentary majority or amongst the German people, but once in power he burned down the Reichstag to end German democracy.
In Hyde Park, Jobbik’s supporters waved the ‘Greater Hungary‘ flag, seeking the restoration of Hungary’s historic borders – like the Nazis’ Austrian Anschluss, Rhineland reoccupation, and Sudetenland invasion. Europe appeased Nazi demands till it was too late. A Jobbik ‘Greater Hungary’ policy does not add to stability in Mitteleuropa .
Of course, if Jobbik were a lunatic fringe with little support, there could be an argument that they should be ignored. But they are not- things have gone too far.
Freedom of expression is not an unfettered right. We have laws against incitement to hatred, but there is little prospect of enforcement against a Hungarian fascist leader who flies in, speaks in Hungarian, and flies off.
Vona’s excuse was that he was speaking for the Hungarian elections. That makes no sense. Why address a few dozen supporters who will vote for him anyway, rather than campaign for many thousands of votes in Hungary? And why time it for the day before Holocaust Memorial Day, if not deliberately to cause offence to those his party demonises: Jews, Roma, gays and others?
Luckily a Labour councillor found the meeting hall Jobbik had booked under false pretences and got it closed down, as the police were hardly relishing attempting to escort the Jobbik gang to Covent Garden, when confronted by the large numbers of anti – fascists aiming to stop them.
The ‘battle of High Holborn’, unlike the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, ended non-violently, with the same outcome- the Jobbik fascists scuttled off to Speakers’ Corner for their Blackshirt rally huddled against the rain.
And the lessons of history remain the same: by giving them a platform, it allows the Jobbik fascists to grow, to lead their planned fascist group in the European Parliament, and to create a troubled future for all.
This article was written in response to a piece entitled ‘However unsavoury Jobbik’s views are, Theresa May was right not to ban them‘ that appeared on Left Foot Forward earlier today
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