Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
As foreshadowed at the end of the diary, here is a photo report on the 10 March rally.

I have argued before on ET that a successful revolution needs an alliance of middle-class and working-class elements (specifically students who can be the voice and union or other activists who can be the fist). I think a serious challenge to Orbán's 'democratorship' needs something similar. So I saw Szolidaritás's bad moves mentioned in the diary in that light. Even at a tactical level: if you hold a separate event, hold it on the same day and nearby so that people can walk from one to the other (in fact that's what they did last time in October).

Now a reason Szolidaritás was keen to hold a rally on a different day was that their traditional main rally site is in front of Parliament Building, which Fidesz occupied for this 15 March.

As told upthread, the government played a dirty trick on this protest: out of the blue, most of the place as closed down for works in February, only to be cleared for Fidesz's mass protest. So on 10 March, Szolidaritás placed its stage facing the main road leading up to parliament. Most of the crowd, however (whom I estimated at 10-15,000 at its peak), having arrived from the metro station on one side of the square, massed on the not closed part of the square, facing the side of the stage.

Some placards. The first one needs no explanation:

A pair of placards showed Terence Hill and Bud Spencer with slogans quoting an Orbán speech last year, in which he claimed to have "handed out a few bops for the impetuous quarrelers of the European Parliament, a few slaps fell, we handed out a few friendly rabbit-punches" (derided in opposition circles ever since the bops and slaps obvously go the other way).

The next placard shows three government politicians with the question, "Could you live from 47 thousand [Forints a month]?". This one was a recurring theme in speeches and needs an explanation.

While faking the pose of a freedom fighter against the IMF, the Fidesz government is implementing labour market and social 'reforms' which are usually extorted from governments by the IMF under the mantle of austerity, but they do so on their own volition, accompanied by a rhetoric of base social contempt. The flagship 'policy' is forcing people on long-term unemployment or social benefits to take part in a public works programme, which gives no hope of gaining real employment, looks like slave labour, is implicitly aimed primarily at the Roma, and brings up ugly WWII-time associations (see Salon thread back from August).

This 'public works' pays only 47,000 Forints a month, that's €161 at current prices. Economic minister György Matolcsy (top right) earned wide outrage by claiming that you can live pretty well on that sum. He actually said that this is the case because it's more than the 28,000 Forints (€98) people previously got as social benefit – but (as the lead column in this week's issue of liberal literature magazine Élet és Irodalom pointed out) he was comparing apples and oranges and forgot to mention that he cut both the public works pay and the social benefits by c. 20%. Meanwhile, other ministers gave support, including interior minister Lajos Pintér, who told 'yes you can live off 47,000 well if you keep a goat' (left top on placard).

I will show only one of the speakers: one of the leaders of Szolidaritás, Péter Kónya, who was forced to resign from his job and thus his position as head of a police union with the help of the new labour laws. He presented Szolidaritás's proposals on what a new, referendum-approved constitution to replace Fidesz's patchwork constitution should include. He also talked about the cockade: this symbol of the 1848 revolution was misused by Fidesz in the 2002 election campaign as a means of division, when they called on supporters to keep wearing it until the election (which they lost narrowly to a silent majority). Kónya told that he put his cockade into a box then, but now is the time to re-gain these symbols. (I am an anti-nationalist, but after thinking of the propaganda angle of images of the Milla protest on 15 March, I bought a cockade from a Roma street vendor when I got off the train.)

There have been several speakers speaking about the plight of students, teachers, the homeless, small churches, the disabled, pensioners, the jobless, Roma, artists and so on. But it wasn't either of them who earned the greatest response, but Orbán: they played a tape of a 2010 campaign speech in which Orbán warned of a bleak future should the pro-austerity Socialists win another election – foretelling lots of measures and ill developments which then his government brought upon the country.

With so many speakers the event ended up being rather long (too long). I had to leave after two hours as the Sun set behind Parliament Building, so I missed when the organiser of the Hunger March came on stage.

:: :: :: :: ::

As told in the diary, Szolidaritás's sets of demands are more social while Milla's are more liberal, but at least Milla included "Solidarity" among its 12 points and there were Solidarity guys with placards also seen five days earlier. For a time I stood in the shadow of the placard below, which asks (in rhyme) "Old judges are geezer judges! But the disabled are fit for work?" The first part refers to the Orbán government's attempt to get rid of independent judges by temporarily lowering the retirement age, which the European Commission rightly challenged. I don't expect them to challenge the policy to re-evaluate disabled people's fitness for work, however, as going after disabled people is another austerity hit across the EU (also see In Wales's In time, wrong time).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Mar 17th, 2012 at 05:29:47 AM EST
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