Athena Institute


Marching into Futility

The extremist scene is eroding organisationally, it is highly fragmented, its significance and influence is minimal and its member numbers are nowhere near the peak that they reached a couple of years ago. Its agony will be long, obviously, and one should expect propaganda actions in the future too, but – with the same organisations – it will never “shine as bright” as it used to.

Extremist groups and Jobbik played a huge role in the revival and success of the Hungarian far-right scene. The different radical groups and the far-right party mutually strengthened and used each other to reach their political goals.

After the foundation of the Hungarian Guard in 2007 and the Outlaws' Army in 2008, extremist outfits started popping up like mushrooms; however, after the Hungarian courts banned the parent-organisation, the extremist scene started to fragment further. Several new groups appeared, such as the New Hungarian Guard, the Hungarian National Guard, the Hereditary Hungarian Guard, the For a Better Future Civil Guard (now called the For a Better Future Hungarian Self Defence (FBFHSD)), the Soldiers of the Defence Force, the Guards of the Carpathian Homeland Movement and several other small and fundamentally insignificant hate group.

Naturally, the Hungarian extremist subculture had existed before Jobbik and the Guard Movements. The Sixty-four Counties Youth Movement (SfCYM) was established in 2001and one should not forget the flourishing neo-Nazi and Hungarist scene of the 90s with groups like the Hungarian National Front (HNF) or Pax Hungarica that sprung out of the Blood and Honour Cultural Association.

In the past 8 or 10 years, however, the Hungarist branch of the far-right subculture has been definitively pushed to the background. Pax Hungarica was never able to gain national importance and besides a couple of propaganda actions in every October, their activities have no meaningful impact. The HNF went through another split during the autumn of 2012 and it seems this split permanently cracked the backbone of the oldest extremist group in Hungary. It should be noted here, however, that the HNF still carries out regular military-like drills both for its members and outsiders, which still nurtures the possibility of a lone wolf attack in the future.

From 2007 until around 2011 the popularity, the number of members and influence of the so-called “radical nationalist” groups close to Jobbik grew steadily, despite the banning of the original Hungarian Guard. These extremist outfits built a virulent subculture and a stable hinterland for the political far-right, which in return used them as its number one campaign weapon and tool. With their activities, the extremist groups provided substantial support to Jobbik to gain popularity and and participate successfully in the 2010 general elections.

The rise of the domestic extremist scene reached its zenith in 2011 at Gyöngyöspata. The whole far-right sphere could put down the intimidation campaign that lasted for several months and terrorised the local Roma community, and the fact that Jobbik won the local by-elections as a huge success. These events gave a final push to the groups that participated in the hostile propaganda action and solidified a couple of - then new - outfits, such as the FBFHSD.

The years after Gyöngyöspata, however, brought radical changes in the Hungarian domestic extremist scene. Jobbik started to slowly but firmly root out the more radical elements from the party and started to shift its image during the campaign season of the 2014 general elections and EP election. The party started to slowly gravitate towards the centre of the political field and the close cooperation with the extremist groups that characterised the party's 2010 campaign did not fit that new image. This shift deepened the dissidence and chasm between the party and the groups that had already existed. Due to these developments, the influence, media coverage and impact of the extremist groups during the campaign season was basically reduced to zero.

The aforementioned changes led to an erosion within the groups close to the party. Several outfits had already become inactive irrespectively (Hereditary Hungarian Guard, Soldiers of the Defence Force, etc.), but Jobbik's subtle and gradual shift towards the centre and the disagreements between the party and the groups launched the extremist organisations into a downward spiral, especially the Guard Movements.

Obviously, this does not mean that these groups would be inactive, or that Jobbik would have stopped using them, especially in the countryside and smaller settlements. There are still several existing local sub-branches that have a fairly strong regional presence and influence in the country. These sub-branches regularly carry out hostile propaganda actions against the Roma community. Outfits such as the FBFHSD and the Outlaws' Army are the most prominent amongst these, Their impact on public discourse and their influence on national politics or even on Jobbik is steadily declining. So it has to be stated that according to these recent trends, the Hungarian extremist scene is dancing on the verge of becoming completely insignificant and there are no discernible developments that could change this trend fundamentally.

 There is only one place left where Hungarian extremist groups are still on the rise and are able to gain popularity and that is Transylvania. The New Hungarian Guard and especially the SfCYM, that has always been somewhat independent of Jobbik, are intensively expanding in the regions of Romania that are densely populated by ethnic Hungarians and they regularly carry out propaganda actions. These cross-border sub-chapters, however, differ from their parent-organisations on many levels. They are mostly participating in the organisation of the local cultural life of Hungarians, fighting for the use of Hungarian as a language, for Hungarian customs and traditions and against assimilation. Naturally, racism, homophobia, chauvinism and irredentist goals all appear in their ideology but with much more subtlety than in Hungary. Their popularity, especially amongst the local Hungarian youth, most likely stems from these differences. It cannot be said that the situation in Romania would have become more sombre in the past years, but the Ukrainian crisis and the chauvinistic and irredentist responses it triggered in the Hungarian extremist groups have made the situation tenser. Thus, it is the international geopolitical situation that has worsened this problem in the eyes of the Romanian political sphere.

With the exception that is Transylvania, it can be stated that the extremist groups that caused massive problems for the Hungarian authorities, terrorised the Roma, Jewish and LGBT communities on countless occasions and played a huge role in Jobbik entering the Parliament in 2010 are on a path to insignificance. The scene is eroding organisationally, it is highly fragmented, its significance and influence is minimal and its member numbers are nowhere near the peak that they reached a couple of years ago. Its agony will be long, obviously, and one should expect propaganda actions in the future too, but – with the same organisations – it will never “shine as bright” as it used to.