Budapest Riots and Autonomous Reactions

The Context

It's 24th September 2006, Sunday. In the last seven days Hungary has seen the greatest political chaos since the change of system in 1989. The general reason is the failure of representative democracy, while the particular reason is the leek of a tape. The context is that during the last few terms the party-in-power (Hungarian Socialist Party) was forging reports on the economic status of the country in hopes of being re-elected. The strategy was successful: the HSP was the first party to be re-elected since the beginning of the multi-party democracy. Observers noted that all parties were caught in a "torrent of lies", where every side tried to promise a better and even better world to their voters. Also, there was not much choice for the people: since 1989 they have tried every single possible party to be government party, and banished all the parties after a single term because they did not live up to their expectations. Even the general population began to see that there is not much difference between the parties. ...

Hungary Indymedia | "Budapest 19 September: an eyewitness account" with Photos | Protesten Hongarije (Nl) | Uprising in Hungary: an update

The leek

Ferenc Gyurcsány's speech in Balatonőszöd in May 2006

Now, that the HSP was re-elected, they realised that it is impossible to continue telling stories about the wealth of our country. They put forward a series of "reforms" that involved cuts in the welfare system and raises in taxes and basic utility prices. And then came the leek. Some observers say that the HSP itself organised the leek, but at least they are not investigating who did it. The leek is the audio recording of the Prime Minister speaking in May in a meeting of the internal party. He analyses the current situation with square words that seem to ring true to most people, including my anarchist comrades.

"There is not much choice. There is not, because we have screwed up. Not a little but a lot. No country in Europe has screwed up as much as we have. It can be explained. We have obviously lied throughout the past 18 to 24 months. It was perfectly clear that what we were saying was not true."

After the leek, the Prime Minister said that he is glad the recording surfaced, because it shows how committed he is to truth-saying and how necessary are his reforms. He published the full transcript of the speech on his personal blog! However, a lot of people were angry about their leader telling them in the face that he lyed to them for years and hoping to stay in power and go on with harsh economic reforms. Of course, the political right seen this as a great chance to throw over the government and seize power in the name of the people and the mythology of truth.

The siege of the national television

Hours after the leek people took the streets by the thousands in anger and without any clear demands beyond the resignation of the Prime Minister. Masses gathered before the Parliament building. Some far-right persons took a petition to the national television to be read. When the petition was not accepted for reading at the reception, they called for reinforcements from Parliament square. Eventually the mostly nationalist radicals sieged and took the television building. The police could not react quickly and strongly enough because the situation escalated too quickly. The occupiers were unable to use the equipment inside and TV transmission stopped. By that time there were all kinds of people in and around the national television building and the scene was transformed into a catastrophe-tourism site. Everybody was very glad to be able to go into the TV building without any barriers and wonder around. There was no wide-scale destruction and after the people got bored the police peacefully escorted the remaining people out of the building.

However, a few cars were burned and some serious injuries taken during the siege, and the television was occupied after all -- which has not happened in the last half-century. Many people made parallels with the revolution of 1956 because of the spontaneous reaction of the people, the street-fights and the occupation of the television. After the siege people went back to the Parliament to demonstate peacefully and most of them were bored by the far-right speeches on the stage and dispersed.

The demonstration in front of the Parliament

Every day since the leek, there are between two hundred and twenty thousand people demonstating in front of the parliament, depending on the time of day and the weather conditions. By now the crowd has a clear far right political profile. They are forming a National Guard to keep order in the demonstation and calling for a Contitutional Gathering of the People which would re-write constitution in the spirit of the Holy Virgin Mary (the official patron of Hungary) and Saint Stephen (the first Christian king of Hungary). They are tentatively but not officially supported by the right-wing party. Most people take the same position as the Prime Minister did in the leeked recording: "It's OK to protest in front of the Parliament. Sooner-or-later they will get bored of it and go home."

Inner city riots

In the first part of the week the inner city of Budapest has seen the most severe riots since 1956. A mostly extreme right crowd and football hooligans used street signs, iron rods, bottles and the many new cobble stones that were heaped up on the sides of roads because of the ongoing reconstruction of the inner city to throw at police lines. The police used tear gas and batons and suffered serious damages because of their inadequate equipment. The authorities were forced to buy bigger shields and new body armour that covers the legs as well. Political parties and the general public distanced themselves from the rioters. One thing is sure: the people who are the angriest are not the ones who voted for the present Prime Minister.

Local elections

Unrest is expected to continue until next Sunday (1st October), when local elections took place. As opposed to national elections, local elections is about choosing the mayors and local governments of districts, cities and towns. However, the official right-wing frames the election as a national impeachment vote against the government. Answering the call of the right-wing party, many people will forget about their local priorities and vote against the HSP thinking that this is a way to bring about a new government or at least take revenge on the liers. Legally, the whole argument is a nonsense and it is clear that the right-wing is confusing the local elections with the national elections. In contrast with the spectacle in the news, it is quite possible that the HSP and even the Prime Minister will remain in power and continue with the economic reforms, because most people are passivists who don't like the right-wing rioting in the street, and on the other hand the official right wing does not offer any alternative to the programme of the HSP beyond abstract nationalist mythologies.

Our reaction

It is extremely difficult for an anarchist to take sides in the war between the government and the fascists. Moreover, taking sides with the passivist majority is not an option either. The situation was developing rapidly, and we could not aim for a serious analysis or a full consensus. We ended up trying different strategies of "detournement" and "hacking" to tap into the events which fascinated the people and generated an extremely dense stream of information, as well as spending a lot of time supporting initiatives of self-organisation that could add some (black) colour to the nationalist campaign. Responding to the attention of the people, the media needed a news item about the unrest every 10 minutes, which means that very small things were reported. On the other hand, many people left their homes with politics on their mind, while police was occupied with handling riots, so that street propaganda had great potential.

Distributing leaflets at the siege of the television

Mindennap56, "The revolutionary 10 points."

We were the only ones to distribute leaflets at the siege of the building of the national television. It was the remix of the legendary demands of 1848 headed by a quote from the present constiturion: "In the Republic of Hungary, all power is held by the People". There were thousands of people around , and as expected, even nacis seemed receptive of our message in the moment of chaos. It was a quite spontenous and childish reaction, with all the good and bad connotations. Read the English text of the demands at the website!

Guerilla propaganda and street art actions


While the authorities focused on the riots and the people were on the streets there was an excellent opportunity to write our message on the walls. Our guerilla propaganda troops focused on the inner city avenues that are normally too dangerous to cover, as well as the universities where we hoped to make an impact on the students.

Student Network

Some month before the leek the organisation of a Student Network based on participative decision making and affinity groups already the started. The Student Network was drafted as a tool for coordination which would inspire the establishment of small local groups that work on particular issues. One focus is to offer an alternative to the official Student Union that many see as corrupt and reformist. The most important issue is to iniate dialogue on the government plan to introduce general tuition fees. That is a big problem because so far higher education was free for most students.

There were two discussions planned for the week in connection with the Student Network at two different universities in Budapest. Both universities closed down completely for the day of the discussion, claiming to be afraid of the "2000 anarchists" who would create chaos and havoc. The media hype around the closing of the universities served our purposes well, because a lot more people got to know the Student Network as a relatively small group of students discussing their common problems in peace. We could make the point that the universities and the authorities are afraid of the students talking amongst themselves about their problems, and that the proper location of discussing the university should be the university

We also re-organised the demonstration that was initially organised by the official student union against the introduction of tuition fees but cancelled because of the political unrest and transformed it into a student forum. Working groups have been formed to tackle particular tasks based on the interests of the attendees, and we practiced autonomous self-organisation successfully, introducing a new flavour to student politics.

Illegal Critical Mass

Minden nap Kritikus Tömeg

One of the working groups of the Student Network decided to re-organise Critical Mass, which was scheduled for Friday (22th September). There is a splendid three-year tradition of Critical Mass in Hungary, organised twice a year. Last CM was 30.000 bikers strong (really!), which meant great political impact. The message is that politicians should provide adequate physical infrastructure for bikers and drivers should respect them on the road. It is organised by the strong bicycle courrier community in a reformist manner with police closing down the roads for bikers. It has wide support from all sides and it does successfully affect government transportation policy, at least in Budapest.

The organisers cancelled Critical Mass three days before the planned date, because they were afraid to be involved in party politics. There were many spontaneous reactions from individuals saying that they will ride anyway. We called for an alternative Critical Mass and planned an alternative route that does not cross Parliament square where the demonstrators were gathering. This was the first old-school Critical Mass in Hungary where around 200 bikers rode in the traffic without official police support and blocked roads. Instead of the police, it was the bikers who sometimes blocked the roads, stopping in junctions, making noise and pushing their bikes over their heads. Apart from minor conflicts everything went well and we did not receive attention from the police or the far right. Most drivers understood that we are not blocking the traffic, but we are the traffic! There was a wide-spread understanding that we should do the same every last Friday. We had a fucking great time!

add a comment on this article

How dare you??

translator 25.Sep.2006 07:53

Please don't call me/us fascists for opposing this government.

BTW., glad to see my english translation of the 10 points
used everywhere, even by you guys. ;b

Since you mention a lot of students wondering...

Ezra Niesen 26.Sep.2006 02:02

...Why their government doesn't work anymore and what they can do about it, a lot of students here in America are wondering the same thing. I've been invited to give a lecture at a university near where I live to answer that question (along with a bunch of others). The same basic problems apply to everybody's government. I'm sure you already knew that, but when you say it it's political ideology. When I say it, it's science, and something that university students can research for themselves. So I'm sure you can put it to good use. You can download the audio recording of my lecture from my website:

Moving Beyond The Religion of Trotskyism to Real Anti-capitalism.

Ex-Trotskyist 26.Sep.2006 14:54

''All I Know Is That I Am Not A 'Marxist' '' - Karl Marx.
''All I Know Is That I Am Not A 'Marxist' '' - Karl Marx.

1. As a precursor to the emergence of Libertarian/Democratic Socialism from below, I am interested in building and organising anti-capitalist SOCIAL MOVEMENTS; and NOT ''socialist parties'' or ''anarchist networks''. My focus and priority as an anti-capitalist who wants to destroy capitalism is in process dynamics and not institutional construction. ''The paper'' is to the neo-Trotskyist what the ikon is to the Orthodox Catholic. In the same manner that the ikon serves as imaginary intemediary between feligresi and ''creator'' (sic.); the neo-Trotskyist newspaper serves as intermediator between the cadre and ''the massess'' (sic.)
2. Trotskyism is a secular religion of the Left. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are famous for having considered that the criticism of religion is the precondition for all criticism as it concerns political-economy and social questions. In our days this critical approach must be applied to the various secular Leftist cults: The Cult of Trotsky, The Cult of Che, The Cult of Mao and the Cult of Joe Hill. The anti-capitalist movement must work to extirpate these cults from the movement in order to prevent them from derrailing it in its advance.
3. Because I choose out of free will to agree with the subjective premise that Libertarian/ Democratic Socialism would be the rule of virtue (assuming the neo-Platonic premise that Justice is the Rule of Virtue and subsequently that Socialism is that ''Virtue'' that equals ''Justice''); I am interested in promoting the ideal of Libertarian/Democratic Socialism as a positive solution and logical alternative to the system of applied injustice that is capitalism. I am not interested in the sale of partisan newspapers or of branded propaganda materials as raison d'etre. A consistent anti-capitalist cannot be a salesman; rather he or she should be, fundamentally, a persuader. As socialism should not be for sale: I do not wish to participate in the process of commercialisation of socialist ideas. I rather be one of those who gives away the paper and the buttons and the litterature. I am one of those who would encourage the interested to ''STEAL THIS BOOK''.
4. The true measurement of ''success'' for an anti-capitalist activist and proponent of Libertarian /Democratic Socialism (acting in context of actually existing social movements), is how effective they might be at persuading others to join the social movement in question and beyond that convincing them in context of the said movilisation that Libertarian/Democratic Socialism is the solution to the depredations of neo-liberal capitalism in our times. It is NOT about how effective they might be at selling''Anarchist'' or ''Socialist'' merchandise or related branded paraphernalia on the market. Monetarist accounting is not what makes a socialist. My priority focus as an anti-capitalist activist is (1) on the promotion of Libertarian/Democratic Socialist ideas as a solution and (2) on contributing to the organisation and growth of contrarian social movements. Always with a bias towards the economic and the political of course (because ''there'' is where the money and the power are concentrated); but never really dismissing the potential that might exist on the ''cultural'' aspects of the social. And yes, I am clear that ''the cultural'' is socially constructed.
5. As a whole, Trotskyism has failed in the historical field. There was never a ''political revolution'' in the Eastern Bloc. There never has been a ''permanent revolution'' in the neo-colonial world. The ''Transitional Program'' never broke the workers from the social democratic farse in the developed western countries. Keep in mind that Trotskyists have been reformulating THE SAME THEORIES over and over again since the 1930's with no tangible results.
6. There are no ''socialist parties'' or ''anarchist networks''; only very small groups (of committed people no doubt), who think to themselves and tell each other that they are. The only ''real socialists'' are those who practise socialism, and to be a ''real socialist'' one must first be an anti-capitalist. I am interested in the formulation of a new political syntesis, a new praxis. One that might involve the insights of Marx when applicable - and yes maybe even those of Trotsky, other dissident Marxists like Rosa Luxembourg and Andres Nin and the anarcho-syndicalists. But fundamentally, an anti-capitalist synthesis that proposes what is understood to be ''Libertarian/Democratic Socialism'' and that presents itself to a contemporary post-modern public with a brand new language and a psychology of conceptualisations rooted in current events, struggles and conditions. Not a recapitulation of outdated interpretations of Marx, not a cosmetically refinished representation of the postulates of Trotsky, Che or Anarco-Syndicalism. Rather, a brand new synthesis for our times.

See Also:

Anti-capitalist Fifth Internationalist Discussion Forum:

Interview on this subject for American Radio

Public Radio Producer 29.Sep.2006 21:36

If anyone who has witnessed this protest and the police actions there is interested in conducting a telephone interview (in English) with an American Public Radio station, potentially from the scene of the protests, please contact me.

We need to do an interview about Hungary Wednesday the 4th of October.

So please contact me as soon as possible.

delivering bad news

monkey 06.Oct.2006 15:41


Sorry for being a bad-news courier, yet seems like your PM is still in power, nevertheless, despite loosing local governing elections and people demanded his resignation, he managed to gain trust from the parliament, now how the hell that happened>?
Would you know if he got listed on contract assasinations and what's the price?
Coz this looks like tirrany. I mean, do not get me wrong, same as here, it was a tirrany all way since 1940 -> (1989. makeup change included), yet not necessarily meaning you got it all 60 years after, seems like you found the way (somehow) to express yourself.
Yet, as I've stated in the beginning, the PM is still in power.

monkey (maxwell, the small one, the smallest one ;P)

leek > leak

anon 08.Oct.2006 11:43

a leek is a vegetable.


Llemenke 24.Oct.2006 22:04

A leek is a vegetable. And comandeering Soviet tanks makes you look stupid. Kudos to rendorseg for doing a great job. Memo to Fidesz et al.: get over it.