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Former prime minister Gordon Bajnai's speech at the anti-Nazi rally

Fellow Compatriots, Fellow Citizens!

The organizers asked the speakers, myself included, to be brief. They are right—and not just because of the cold. There is no need to speak at length to explain why we are here. We want to live in peace! We want to live in a world where problems are solved not by force but by common effort. We want to live in a place where upon encountering difficulties people look for solutions and not for scapegoats.

I'm forty-four years old: my generation grew up without experiencing war. I want my children to have the same opportunity. This is what is really at stake when we choose a certain way to respond to hatred against Jews, hatred against the Roma; and a way to respond to those who find the meaning of their lives in hatred.

We, the many thousands of us here – as well as the hundreds of thousands before their televisions, and many millions more across the country –, want to live in a country where life without fear is an inalienable right. A right no one can be deprived of—regardless of where they were born or who their parents are.

We want to live in a country without fear, a country of normalcy. In peace, not in war. Nor in an atmosphere of belligerence.

Yet, today Hungary does not function like a normal country. Tellingly, the public considered it a veritable sensation that the most diverse representatives of public life would stand up against hatred today—and do so together, not against each other. Civic representatives and politicians. Right-wingers, left-wingers, and centrists. Members of the government parties and the opposition.

In a country that functions normally this shouldn't be news. What would be news in such a country would be representatives of democratic parties failing to act this way. It isn't simply the lack of fear that defines democrats; they must also abstain from instilling fear in others.

Yet this demonstration could make the headlines in Hungary. Which is not the fault of the media. It is our fault. The fault of us all.

Myself included.

Because while it is true that it should give us hope that today, on the first day of Advent, at what is probably the most important place in the capital, Hungary is functioning for a moment the way it should be functioning every day...

We may also experience a sense of guilt for not being here in recent years, not so many of us, not in such unity. We should have been here, at the very least, when RóbertCsorba and his five-year-old son Robika were killed in Tatárszentgyörgy. And Mrs. Tibor Nagy and József Nagy in Nagycsécse. And Jenő Kóka in Tiszalök and Mária Balogh in Kisléta.

Six Hungarians were murdered just because they were Roma. Killed because of their origin.

And we didn't come out here and didn't ask each other how such things could happen in our country.... We didn't ask their forgiveness for not being able to defend them. There was no national mourning.

This was a grave mistake and Hungary can never make such a mistake again! This is something we must also remember today.

Fellow patriots!

It is often remarked these days that a frog dropped into hot water will immediately jump out because its vital instincts are at work. If, however, the temperature of the water is raised slowly, it will be cooked alive without moving a muscle.

Over the past few years, we Hungarians have got used to ever higher degrees of hate. We would no longer wince. Even though what is at stake is our survival as a nation, as well as the possibility of living lives worthy of human beings.

And the reasons is that in this country no anti-Semitic or anti-Roma talk can be considered innocent, because for us the Holocaust is a national tragedy. It was the Hungarian Shoah, with the victims and most of the evil-doers being equally our compatriots. This was the murder of our brothers and sisters, the lesson of which must forever change our relationship to the words and deeds of hatred.

Recently a member of Parliament made a speech that cannot be explained away. It was an anti-Semitic, hateful speech. It was also a speech that revealed his own true colours, those of his party, Jobbik, and those of the whole Hungarian extreme right.

He said that Hungarian Jews must be listed because they are a national security risk.

Yet I fervently want to believe that this country, this nation has learned the lesson of history. We have learnt that what makes a national security risk is those who want to compile lists on the basis of origin, worldviews, or beliefs.

Once was enough. We will not forget. And we will not let anyone else forget.

This, I trust, is what makes us stand here. The revitalized vital instinct. We are here to make it clear: we will not step into the same river twice. Into the river on whose banks orphaned shoes will lie till the end of time—the shoes of Hungarian men, women and children.

This troubled, wise and great river, the Danube, will be our witness: we will not forget, and will not let others forget!

Fellow patriots!

Anti-Semitism is not about the Jews. As hatred towards the Roma is not about them. It is about us, about all of us: it is about Hungary, about the nation.

The future of the community of Hungarians depends on the solidarity with which its members treat one another today.

Nazism is irreconcilable with life. The Nazis, those who discriminate, the neo-fascists; what they all bring is only devastation. The worse the country fares the better they feel. Once the country is in ruins, they can rule, something they would never have a chance to do in a normal country.

But Nazism is like most pathogens. It can only strike down an organism with a weak immune system. It can only defeat ailing countries.

That is why this virus likes economic difficulties, societal crises, divided nations. Because it is in that kind of environment that it can thrive and multiply.

For the same reason, a symptomatic treatment will not suffice. The most important thing is prevention.

Good governance, a strong centre in society, and a healthy political culture are necessary to prevent the reappearance of these pathogens in our cities and villages. This is what we need to force them back to where they belong: to the histories of great epidemics, a chapter between cholera and the plague.

Fellow patriots!

For a number of reasons, this day is also a day of disenchantment. Politics – or what has passed for politics in the past twelve years, a kind of domestic cold war – has made us blind and irresponsible.

We have been blind because we haven't seen how the unscrupulous struggle for power, the division of the nation, the debasement of politics, have only served the laughing third party, the Hungarian extreme right.

And we have been irresponsible because in the course of our political debates, which became fanatical over time, we have been all too ready to brand each other. "If you stand on the left, you are a commie. If you're on the right, you're a Nazi.

"We have done so when we, those who want a normal country, have no interest in driving away any of our compatriots from the middle of the political spectrum by attaching unfair and rash labels on them.

By now this branding game has divided and weakened Hungary. It has sent the wrong message to everybody.

It has told the real Nazis that their presence is accepted, because after all one half of the country calls the other half Nazi. ... When in fact the presence of Nazis is unacceptable.

It has told the people on the right that they may find more sympathy, more points of contact, on the far right than in the middle. When in fact the far right denies everything they believe in. National unity, the teachings of Christianity, the heritage of St. Stephen. Faith, hope and love.

And it has told the people on the left that anti-fascism and the culture of inclusion are theirs and theirs alone... When in fact making the right-wing worldview the antipode of anti-fascism is as grave a mistake as saying left-wing views are the opposite of patriotism.

Before we are right- or left-wingers, we are Hungarians who are loyal to their nation—and therefore anti-fascists.

Quite a few people suggested that I use this occasion to castigate the complicity of the government parties and/or the impotence of the left-wing governance. I will not oblige.

I fought the regime yesterday and I will fight it again tomorrow because it gives ample reason to do so every day.

But today is not a day to point fingers. Today is a day to join forces against hatred.

If we want a new period of normalcy in politics, its very first moral imperative should be this: "One must cooperate with everyone against the Nazis, while one must not collaborate with the Nazis even to attain power.

"No matter which party or politician you want to support the next time we cast our vote on the fate of Hungary: this should be the test for your support.

Let us then send a message together: From now on, no one can instil fear in us. Just as we must say: From now on, no one should feel frightened in Hungary. Because now, together, we can be heard clearer than anything that hatred has to say, and together we are stronger than anything that hatred wants to do.

We are Hungarians, we will defend one other, and we are not afraid!

Thank you for listening.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 09:11

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