“Matthew Collins is a prick, he’s an ex-traitor and he’s scum.”
My colleague shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Surrounded by Nazis while sitting in an upmarket Lebanese eatery in central Budapest on his birthday is not what he had imagined he would be doing 24 hours earlier. But HOPE not hate’s reporter is nothing if not upfront.
“Oh Nick Griffin, do fuck off, please….” he mutters in a marked drawl.
I take my colleague’s dismissive reply to Britain’s one-time would-be führer as my cue, a sharp prompt, to speak up in my defence: “Not ‘ex’, Nicholas, as far as you’re concerned, it’s permanent.”
Griffin laughs. The former leader of the British National Party (BNP) sweeps past us, his long woollen coat slapping me in the face as he finds a table big enough for him and his menacing new friends.
The door sweeps open again, and in marches Jim Dowson, Griffin’s reacquainted friend and a man I first met in Belfast in 2015, when he promised he was leaving Britain First, the alternative he founded in 2011 to Griffin’s BNP.
“There’s a terrible stench of snowflake in here,” announces Dowson, pointing his squinting piggy eyes and jutting face at our table. My colleague responds abrasively to Dowson in Magyar. Unable to speak the language of his newly adopted country, Dowson thinks it is an invitation to join us.
The object of the conference is to bring together a band of failed European extremists to besmirch the work and reputation of Hungarian-born entrepreneur and philanthropist George Soros.
As we follow Nick Griffin into the dark and stone cold building and up a steep staircase, two uniformed men appear at our side. We slow down and they too slow down. We speed up, and they too speed up.
Hanging at the back of the stage is a huge, clearly freshly printed banner screaming “Stop Soros”. It said all we needed to know about the event.
Serious-looking young men flank the walls, holding flags. Our path is blocked from entering the conference until we have registered at a small table that looks hastily arranged.
“Identification!” barks a young man at me. I produce my NUJ card. My colleague produces what looks like (and is) a supermarket coupon. The young man stands bolt upright: “Soros people. The liberal left are here.”
He dramatically clears his throat and our minders click their heels. “The liberal left media is here, these two men are with the liberal left media,” he shouts.
Behind us, Nick Griffin is giving an interview to a television crew. He’s praising Russian society for banning Soros NGOs and promising he will move to Hungary very soon.
Around 100 people are in the main room settling in to loud and booming classical music. The make up of the room resembles an old BNP meeting: hard men with shaven heads, broken individuals, posh and rather flirty middle-aged ladies with European frocks, bespectacled conspiracy types and a overall mood of bitter hatred.
In the Hungarian far right, there are no hidden code words for those whom this mob does not like. Even the old BNP had to surrender to some political correctness or face the courts.
Also different to the BNP, there is no air of putting on a show. There are no signs of “tourists” seeing what all the fuss is about. It’s a public building, teeming with hatred and advertised widely across Budapest.
We are shoved to the very back and into a corner. Uniformed men plonk themselves down in front and beside us. Our photograph is taken by a number of people waving cameras in front of our faces.
A Russian film crew is shepherded to stand in front of us while a small scattering of media, considered more congenial perhaps, roams around unmolested.
Every time I try to take a photograph someone manages block me. In the end, I just stand up and sit down at random intervals to test my knees and their dedication. Eventually I’m shot a look to desist.
Nick Griffin, now vice president of the soon-to-be-defunded European parliamentary group, Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF), opens the conference.
Life in the wilderness has not blunted Griffin’s antisemitism. If anything, Hungary has sharpened his love of anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. “What Liberals would like to describe as a conspiracy theory, is actually backed up fact. Let me take you through some key facts about George Soros.” Griffin derides Soros, a Hungarian Jew. Soros is a “dirty old man”, an abortionist, who is funding the destruction of Hungarian society in league with international Jewry.
Soros is, according to Griffin, “using his billions to fund a massive campaign to promote subversion and perversion across the planet or rather those parts of the planet traditionally inhabited by people like us. But at a certain level Soros is a sort of pantomime villain. I think we are supposed to notice Soros, we are supposed to hate Soros, we are tempted by extension to see a deliberate plan to replace us in our own homelands as a huge Jewish plot, and, yes, there is an element of racist Judeo-supremacism and ancestral hatred of Christians in what is going on.”
The conference had been organised by the Hungarian Identitesz movement, a tiny group of mainly student lawyers. It was its chairman and founder, Balázs László, who spoke next, calling on everyone to defend their civilisation from “hostile globalists” like Soros.
Representing the Macedonian Stop Operation Soros group was Ljupcho Zlatev, who railed against the influence of Soros and called on others to do the same. He explained how Soros’ organisations had deliberately sought to undermine Macedonian identity and had even persuaded the previous government to change the national flag in return for financial contributions.
Another speaker was Incze Béla, vice president of Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (64 Counties Youth Movement), a group that is little more than a nazi terrorist organisation that plots outrages and subversion in countries the organisation feels have stolen land from Hungary: Serbia, Romania and Croatia.
The movement was formerly led by László Toroczkai, the controversial mayor of a rural Hungarian village who, as well as occasionally leading violent forays into Serbia, has tried unsuccessfully to place a ban on gays and Muslims in his town.
Imre Téglásy, from the Hungarian anti-abortion organisation Alfa Szövetség, talked about Planned Parenthood and Soros’ funding of various ”pro- choice” initiatives across Europe and the US. Téglás was a guest speaker at the Britain First national conference in November 2015.
Angelo Baletta, vice-president of convicted Italian terrorist Roberto Fiore’s fascist gang Forza Nuova, delivered the penultimate speech, claiming that Soros was funding the “gay lobby”, “refugee welcome organisations” and “pro-abortion” initiatives in Italy,
Top of the bill was Barnabás Ábrahám from Identitesz who appeared to suggest that funding Soros had provided had resulted in the feminisation of society.
One person in attendance, though not speaking, was Daniel Friberg, the Swedish alt-right publisher HOPE not hate recently exposed as behind an attempt at a transatlantic alt-right movement bringing together Arktos Media, Real Ice and the American National Policy Institute.
While Friberg did not speak, he wrote a glowing report of the event on his website:
“When my friends and I arrived the first thing that struck us was how disciplined and well-organised the conference was. Everyone was impeccably dressed and, at the entrance, two Identitesz members were posted on each side of the door, holding up their organisation’s flag with military-like discipline. Another thing that struck me was the beautiful historical building housing the event.”
However, despite all the bravado, faux choreography and musclebound security guards, it is unclear whether anything will actually come out of this event.
While it appeared at the beginning of the day that the Hungarians were going to set up an organisation similar to the Stop Operation Soros campaign in Macedonia, the event turned out to be little more than a bunch of extremist failures largely representing only themselves and disgorging their antisemitic bile.