Thu Mar 19th, 2015 at 02:31:59 AM EST
On the national holiday today [15 March], it was another day of grim protests in Budapest. For the first time in five years, hecklers attended the speech of right-populist prime minister Viktor Orbán, and there were some fights between pro- and anti-Orbán protesters. However, what I want to tell more about is a new low in authoritarian behaviour preceding the protests, and the fate of an acquaintance I ran into at the main opposition protest.
Over the past three years, a special power instrument of the Orbán regime was pro-government mass protests: using the data on voters illegally gathered by Orbán's Fidesz party and logistical help from pro-Fidesz oligarchs, up to hundreds of thousands of the most reliable Fidesz voters (the lowest-information rural old) were gathered, to counter the anti-government protests and reinforce the community feeling. Over the last year or so, even these crowds dwindled, what's more, Fidesz had difficulties recruiting young people for those illegal voter-data-gathering campaign operations. (It's tragicomic, however, that all of the pro-Orbán protesters who physically insulted the counter-protesters today in the videos I saw were at least 50 but usually older.)
By all appearances, some Fidesz spinmeister thought to solve both of the above problems in one fell swoop, which became the second-biggest domestic scandal in March (after the collapse of three fraudulent brokerage firms, the last one of them with strong Fidesz ties). An educational authority under the horribly named "Ministry of Human Resources" sent a letter to all of the over 300 highschools, demanding that they choose one teacher and ten students, mail their personal data to the government, and send them to attend Orbán's 15 March speech. Also, the directors were forbidden from publishing this letter.
Well the operation didn't really work out: 85% of the highschools simply refused to follow suit, the letter was leaked to a blog, and one highschool in the city where I live even publicly declared that they reject "the political instrumentation of students". But this wasn't the end of the story: in reaction, the Fidesz-supported major of my city ordered the director of the highschool into his office, where he shouted abuse at them for "failing to teach children patriotism", wanted to know which teacher initiated the protest letter, told he would fire them if he could, and said he'll boycott their school (although his own son attends it).
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At the main opposition protest today, I ran into an acquaintance I haven't met in years. He is a 35-year-old media specialist who was politically active during the last five years: he ran for local councillor for the Socialists in 2010 and worked on the campaign team of a smaller left-of-centre party in 2014. Although he came away with strong negative opinions about the capability of the leadership of both parties, he is still a committed leftist.
He is also jobless for a year now. And he told that one employer he had an interview with sent him an email rejection with the justification "this job is not for commies".
[EDIT] I should make it explicit that, ironically, both of these incidents bring up associations from 'communist' times. Back then we had those giant May Day parades. For these, a high turnout was secured by ordering people to 'volunteer' at their workplaces, and that included schools. Also back then, in the 'light' dictatorship of the seventies-eighties, taking away and denying jobs was a key method of dealing with political dissidents.