Former BNP leader Nick Griffin and Britain First founder Jim Dowson will be the best known (to HOPE not hate readers at least) of the foreign extremist residents in Budapest, but they are not alone.
Hungary’s emergence as the bolthole of choice was first raised by HOPE not hate in 2015, after Dowson told an infamous far-right conference in St. Petersburg that he was fleeing “persecution” in Northern Ireland. Of course, the reality was that he was also escaping diminishing political returns, ridicule and potential imprisonment as a result of his entanglement with his hastily aborted Britain First.
The far more tolerant political atmosphere in Hungary is contrasted with western Europe and the generally-held belief that a combination of demographics and the size of Muslim communities makes the situation in western Europe irreversible.
For the likes of Dowson and Griffin, there is little reason to be fighting elections any longer and building new parties to challenge the “destruction” of their homelands. Those battles were lost.
Western Europe, its democracies, NGOs and its European Union represent a cultural and social setup that they believe has destroyed their lives and political opportunities. The emergence of populism and short-lived ‘counter-jihadism’ only further isolated them and their radical ideas.
In a pugnacious interview that Griffin would later give (skilfully refereed by a man from the Daily Telegraph), he lamented that the wider right’s tight embrace of economic and fiscal conservatism (which manifested itself in Britain around UKIP) had been his political death knell. So too, physically, was the rise of the English Defence League (EDL) that he describes (and its founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) as “moronic.”
The defeat of Geert Wilders in the Dutch elections was no body blow to Griffin either. He merely went onto Twitter to exhort defeated Dutch racists – and those elsewhere who clung to hope on the result – to abandon western Europe entirely. “Head for Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Belarus and Slovakia,” he advised.
For Griffin and his German, Swedish, French and Italian friends now beginning to be denizens of Hungary, the “fight” there is far from over. Between them – hardened nationalists who embrace an idea of Europeanism almost alien in the cities from which they fled – they believe that in Hungary they can forge and enforce a culture that is white, illiberal, impenetrable and Christian.
There will be no place, either, for the so-called alt-right. The alt-right’s cold and hardened conservative intellectualism and almost “cosmopolitan” behaviour is anathema to the austere fascist radicalism a young Nick Griffin and his cohorts tried and failed to fashion in the 1980s.
Dowson, whose money and enterprising nature has set this whole Hungarian wheel in motion, maintains however that he would still rather have a Conservative Muslim for a neighbour than a homosexual or “an abortionist.”
Hungary’s Prime minister, Viktor Orbán, cheered on by the likes of Breitbart and Donald Trump for his “populist rebellion against globalism and the élites”, is an, as yet, undetermined friend or foe to the fascists.
But the political, social and economic conditions must mean something to them. Even the alt-right, with whom the likes of Griffin and Dowson share rumpled social and ideological bedding, is also looking for an Hungarian hideout.
For 2017, Orbán and his governing party Fidesz have promised more “rebellion” against what Orbán calls “multilateralism” in western Europe. This will include continued suffocation of free speech, further harsh treatment of refugees and minorities as well as an all-out assault on any semblance or remnants of liberal, civil, democratic society.
It is this that has placed Hungary, front and centre, as the latest repository for the forlorn hopes and dreams of the far right.