Chants of “Never again” rang out in front of the Millennium Hotel in west London as around 100 anti-fascists protested against a Jobbik meeting on Friday night.
The Hungarian fascist organisation had originally tried to organise a meeting with its leader Gabor Vona at King's College London. But opposition forced management to pull the plug on the meeting at the last minute.
Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) said, "Jobbik is not a normal organisation. Its Hungarian Guard was based on the Arrow Cross of the 1940s, an organisation that lined up Jewish people on the Danube River and shot them.
“And we will not stay silent as Hungarian fascists try to rebuild monuments to them.”
Jobbik is trying to drum up support among Hungarians living in Britain ahead of parliamentary elections in the country on 8 April.
Around 80 turned up to their meeting in the Millennium Hotel.
Beata, a Hungarian living in London, joined the protest organised by UAF. "I was invited to go to the meeting by one of my friends who's unfortunately a fan of Jobbik," she told Socialist Worker. "But I saw that there was a counter protest outside and would rather be here.
"They have become more chameleon lately, it's still unacceptable because they're hiding their real face."
Jobbik is already the third largest party in the Hungarian parliament. And the latest opinion polls shows that it is likely to overtake the Labour-type MSZP, which remains discredited for capitulating to free market shock therapy in the 2000s, to become the official opposition.
They have been boosted by the racist policies of prime minister Victor Orban's right wing Fidesz party. He has whipped up antisemitism, railing against the influence of US banker George Soros, and turned to scapegoating Muslims in the wake of the refugee crisis.
This has provided fertile ground for Jobbik, which initially grew after the financial crisis of 2007 that smashed a deeply indebted middle class. And Orban's turn further to the right has allowed Jobbik to appear more respectable—at the same time as building a movement on the streets.
The authorities disbanded the Hungarian Guard, Jobbik's paramilitary wing that was led by Vona, in 2009 but that hasn't stopped them.
Beata said, “There was a gathering of the Hungarian Guard, they went to the really poor countryside and they threatened the Roma people.
“And they are homophobic as well and want to stop Pride in Hungary.”
That's why it's important that the Roma Council in the capital Budapest has joined the call-out for demonstrations against racism on 17 March. The authorities are trying to block it and it will be small, but it's an important step.
Hungary is a sharp warning of what happens when racism is allowed to go unchallenged. And the consequences when there isn't a left alternative to both free market liberalism and the racist right.