Hundreds of Thousands Rally Behind Hungary’s Authoritarian Right-Wing

Some 400,000 people rallied in Budapest in support of the right-wing government. I discussed it a bit in my previous post but the significance of this has only grown on me.  A lot of the visuals of the Al Jazeera report on the Budapest demonstration aren’t so different from the anti-austerity protests, often associated with the far-left, that we saw throughout 2011. There are signs mocking the rating agencies, signs criticizing the European Union which has instituted universal austerity policies across the continent.

These masses in Hungary are the indignant as much as the youths who last year occupied squares in Madrid and Athens. These Hungarians, however, are being mobilized by far different forces. They are drawn by arguments against the European Union used by some on both the left and right. The European Union as an institution has failed people on the continent, regardless of political leanings. But right-wing and left-wing forces mobilizing against the European Union bring enormously different consequences.

For Hungarians, there is the immediate prospect of more IMF and EU intervention and the resulting austerity, and the current right-wing government hasn’t been the doormat that center-right and center-left governments have been in Portugal, Ireland, and Greece. But as much as the European Union forces its member into uniform policy of social spending cuts and privatizations, it also has mechanisms in human rights obligations among member states that act to curb the authoritarianism of the far-right. Hungary’s right-ring Orban government is running up against these European institutions that are taking legal actions against reforms by Victor Orban curbing the independence of the central bank, judicial system, even the media of Hungary.

This is why the situation in European is so important and so delicate. There is such social anxiety as the population is hurt by repeated austerity measures and the population is looking for a political vehicle to reverse their precarious state. The risk is high that the far-right will be seen as the most readily mobilized force to challenge the mainstream political consensus around austerity. We’ll have a good measure of this possibility as far-right Marine Le Pen supports the demise of the Euro as she runs for president of France. If she does very well in a country that hasn’t seen the severity of the austerity that Hungary, Portugal, and Greece has seen, politics in Europe would be shifting in an incredibly dangerous direction.

I’m only repeating my urgency of previous posts that the left must organize now, not wait for the next austerity package being passed through parliament. It must do so or else our political foe that is the neo-liberal consensus will be replaced by an opponent in the far-right ready to wage war on the weakest and most vulnerable in Europe and on anyone hesitant to join that war.

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