Accepted Paper:

The sin of socialism: nationalist mobilization in "transitional" Hungary  


Gabor Halmai (CEU)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates nationalist mobilization in Hungary based on micro-politics in two “working-class” districts of Budapest since 2002. How do individual life-histories get construed to fit the narrative of anti-Communist party politics and how do political adversaries attempt to discard the “civics” as an angry right-wing mob?

Paper long abstract:

Hungary has seen the 1990s politics of patience give way to that of protest since the 2002 elections. Nationalist mobilization has become prevalent in the face of unrelenting bouts of neoliberal reforms as even some of the staunchest "Socialist" voters have switched political allegiances to the "civic" side. At the same time, enduring networks and fear-mongering against an alleged fascist threat has so far prevented the return of the "anti-Communists" to power. This paper investigates the above process in two traditionally "working-class" districts of Budapest, focusing on the so-called polgári körök or civic circles who have formed the backbone to the mass FIDESZ party in opposition.

How has the idea(l) of the "nation" become dominant in the Hungarian discourse of post-Socialist and anti-neoliberal imaginaries and how does it get intertwined with past and present understandings of "class"? Furthermore, how have elites tried to disqualify any anti-neoliberal critique after 1989? Anthropological research can shed light on the workings of complex political labeling and mobilization by looking into the micro-political relations that yield seemingly bizarre mixtures of party and activist ideologies as well as twists in personal and communal histories. How do workers become "civics" and why are they then portrayed as an angry right-wing mob?

Panel W108
Class as a subtext to neonationalism after 1989