Dramatic accusations from an ex-pat Hungarian.

See the elastic yardstick at work!

Dramatic accusations from an ex-pat Hungarian.

See the elastic yardstick at work!

As we “open” the pages of The Guardian on 15th September this year we can read a piece, throbbing with passion and drama, written by someone with Hungarian ties, George Szirtes. A man born in Budapest, who left Hungary after the ’56 revolution and went to Britain.

“Hungarian students are making a last stand against Viktor Orbán’s power grab”
“Hungarian students are making a last stand against Viktor Orbán’s power grab”

proclaims George’s somewhat dramatic title. “Last stand”? “Power grab”? What is this, a trailer for a film about General Custer, or an advert for some new action figure released just in time for Christmas? Jesus, George, calm down, for God’s sake. What have you been drinking? George, of course, is a liberal writing for a liberal organ.

That means, of course, that where Hungary is concerned, George has more drama than a festival of Shakespeare.

“As I write, the University of Theatre and Film arts in Budapest (SZFE) is being occupied by its students and staff. It is the latest battle, and possibly last stand, against the Hungarian government’s attempt to seize power in independent institutions of all sorts, including cultural ones.”
“As I write, the University of Theatre and Film arts in Budapest (SZFE) is being occupied by its students and staff. It is the latest battle, and possibly last stand, against the Hungarian government’s attempt to seize power in independent institutions of all sorts, including cultural ones.”

Bloody Hell, George! Have you got a flak jacket on? A helmet with “press” stencilled on the side? A weapon of some sort, other than your ipad? I mean, as I sit here, reading your dispatches from the front line, it’s all so emotive that all I have to do is close my eyes, and I can smell the cordite, hear the bullets whizzing past my ears, before they bury themselves into the woodwork behind me. I can hear the screams of the wounded and dying, lying there, bleeding out on the steps of the university. Where, oh where, you hear me ask, are the UN when you need them?!

What George is ostensibly writing about is the stand-off between the SZFE (The Színház és Filmművészeti Egyetem: The University of Theatre and Film Arts, located in Budapest), and the Hungarian government.

The stand-off has come about as a result of some of the students and staff of the university blockading one of the university’s buildings, denying access to the government-appointed new board of trustees. A board headed by Vidnyánszky Attila, the head of the Hungarian National Theatre.

Now this stand-off relates to nothing other than that the government decided to up the funds available for the university, but at the same time, try to bring a little sense to the structure of the place.

The government gives the university funds but what, you’re now saying that the government has no right to see what happens to the taxpayers’ money? Is that what you’re suggesting? Well, good luck with garnering support for that one!

But, for all that, the liberal media machine and the attached personalities have gone into overdrive. People, who know nothing about the situation, are lining the corridors of The Guardian to state their support for the SZFE bravely fighting, as George reminds us against the

“…the increasingly authoritarian government…”
“…the increasingly authoritarian government…”

Increasingly authoritarian? Please, leave the drama to the luvvies, George.

George is a writer and poet, but he's writing in The Guardian as a journalist. This is meant to be fact, not fiction. He, and others like him however seek mainly to pull the wool over people’s eyes. George mentions independence in his first paragraph, and yet he, just like everyone else, is anything but independent.

But, along with searing condemnation, we also get condescension:

“Hungarian society has no modern tradition of organised resistance. With individuals scared of retribution in the form of loss of income, effective solidarity is impossible.”
“Hungarian society has no modern tradition of organised resistance. With individuals scared of retribution in the form of loss of income, effective solidarity is impossible.”

Thanks for that pat on the head, George. George has not heard of Gyurcsány Ferenc’s latest cold-hearted statement, in which he stated that love and understanding were one thing, but that Vidnyánszky Attila (the director of the National Theatre, and the president of the board of trustees which now controls SZFE) should expect nothing less than being hounded continuously if Gyurcsány were ever to regain power. “Scared of retribution”, George, what about this explicit threat to all future remuneration, along with the promise that you'll be run from town to town, like a common pygmy?!

And George, we know that it’s an awful long way from Budapest to London, but what you’re writing does suggest that you missed out on the organised resistance against Gyurcsány in 2006. Did that even feature on your radar?

You must remember, surely? That was the one where tens of thousands of Hungarians demonstrated against the lies and cheating of…wait for it…yes, a socialist government. A government that came as close as anyone would ever want to bankrupting the country.

And what of the organised resistance then, George? I tell you what, why don’t you pop onto youtube and see what you can find? Yes, that’s right, people beaten black and blue by police with no identification numbers. Police, in balaclavas, indiscriminately lashing out at members of the public. Police, under the guidance of the then prime minister, using cynical tactics to force a minority of troublemakers into the peacefully departing crowd from a rally to commemorate the ’56 revolution which was happening as you left the country of your birth.

So, you’re asserting that there is no tradition of organised resistance in Hungary? What about ’56, for a start? Was that not organised enough for you? Or do you have a problem with the level of resistance that people mustered in the face of the Soviet war machine?

All the luvvies and some of the students at this university are outraged because they feel certain that the government will apply pressure to boost a sense of pride in the nation. Well, yes. I see. That really is cause for concern. What an outlandish idea, eh?

In Hungary, the communists managed to achieve one, very wicked thing: they wiped out the idea of national pride. National pride was only allowed to exist in sport. In all other areas of life, it was starved of oxygen before it could even half fill its lungs.

But of course, national pride has been decried, by the liberals, as more deadly than the plague, the Spanish flu, the coronavirus, and sarin gas in a milkshake.

So, that is why we see the outrage. That is why these people are utilising a mundane change of structure, and trying to turn it into a life-or-death battle for the arts.

What we're witnessing here is a liberal, reaching into their bag of magic tricks, looking for their favourite tool.

Yes, there it is: the elastic yardstick. The oldest weapon of liberals, but still their favourite.

Just remember, nobody is independent, no matter what they claim. And, almost as a postscript, if the person funding the project wants something changed, then it’s fairly likely that that something will be changed, isn’t it? Doesn’t that seem logical? If you pay someone to paint your house green, only to find that they’ve painted it blue, would you accept that they felt the need to express their independence, or would you tell them to fuck off and not expect payment?

Now, obviously, I’m not trying to compare the students of the SZFE to house painters, don’t be silly! Having seen what these students are capable of, I, for one, wouldn’t dream of insulting house painters like that.

Have a look at this video clip of a a press conference that some of the students of the SZFE organised outside the ministry.

Now, was that shit, or was that really shit? So that's it, is it? That's your press conference. God almighty, how sad can you get? We were all young once, I know, but surely nobody could look back on this, even from the distance of a couple of weeks and not think "what a load of twats!"

When the students at the SZFE stand in front of their barricaded building, when they recite their impassioned pleas against the foul government that wants something, just a little, in return, there is one thing, one thing most definitely connected to the world of theatre and arts which comes across very powerfully indeed:

These students are shit. Perhaps the good ones never get a go on the microphone. Maybe the talented ones are always in the other room when the loudspeaker rota is being prepared. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter anyway. But, when someone with all the credibility of Rik from The Young Ones ... cue video:

So, when someone with real credibility stands up and shows that, notwithstanding the fact they have (presumably) received training in voice production and projection and what-not, they couldn’t talk their way out of a warm, wet, paper bag.

If this is the best the SZFE can produce, a press-conference/performance/demonstration that has the ability to make you cringe as though you're watching a school play, then I think most people, well, those not wearing liberal blinkers, would agree that the time for change has most definitely come.

George, get off your high horse, remember your manners, and don’t insult those who tried to resist in 1956 and again in 2006.
George, get off your high horse, remember your manners, and don’t insult those who tried to resist in 1956 and again in 2006.

In 2006 during the terror instituted by the state and the police against the public, in a show of violence towards the citizens of Hungary not seen since 1956, people were beaten black and blue, people were shot with rubber bullets, people were attacked by policemen wielding vipers, people had their fingers deliberately broken by the police. Two people lost the sight in one eye as a result of being hit in the eye by a police rubber bullet. All overseen by a socialist government. In 2020, a bunch of students blockade a university building and say that they’re not prepared to allow the new management inside without a show of force. Did anyone send in the riot police, either with or without identification? Did anyone launch tear gas grenades from the back of a jeep at them? Did anyone attack them on horseback? Any eyes lost? No. But what’s that we hear from the students, echoed most willingly by George and his chums?

Ah yes, that’s right: we’re living in a dictatorship.

Right, and the sound you just heard was the sound of the elastic yardstick.