Saturday, April 20, 2013

People Should Care About This

. Saturday, April 20, 2013

I'm breaking my self-imposed silence to pass along something which was recently passed along to me. Apparently supporters of Fidesz, the proto-fascist* party currently ripping up Hungary's constitution in a brazen move to consolidate power, has been using the symbol of Solidarność, the Polish group which opposed Sovietism during the Cold War**.


This makes me feel physically ill. The Solidarity movement was exceptional in many ways, but one of them was their powerful usage of imagery in street art, pamphlets, and other media. Lawrence Weschler has written extensively about the phenomenon; this (pdf) is an excellent article by him with many graphical reproductions, and here is one of his books. This is one of my favorite examples:




This was from the early 1980s. The dates correspond to flare-ups in the European resistance against Soviet oppression. The heartbeat crests and falls, but does not flatline: the resistance will eventually triumph, and Solidarity will hasten that day. Powerful stuff.

So where the hell does Fidesz get off expropriating this image? The ironies are many -- among them the fact that Solidarity was an internationalist movement of trade unionists while Fidesz is nationalist and anti-union, and that the remnants of Solidarity in Poland have mostly lost their popular support -- but for now it's enough to remain sickened by this:






Békemenet is a pro-government rally protesting almost any internationalism involving Hungary, e.g. that involving the European Union or IMF, as "colonialism". Here's one short discussion from last year. Here's a broader run-down of the Hungarian situation as of a few months ago titled "People Should Care About This", written by a very bright former student of mine.

Marton is correct: we should care about this. Europe has come a long way in a short time; we need to consolidate those gains, not cede them. The Solidarity movement was a great example of how that can be done profitably and beautifully. We should not allow their memory to be besmirched by embittered reactionaries.

*Not to be confused with Jobbik, the neo-fascist party in Hungary.

**Note for those in the NC Triangle: a former Polish Solidarity leader -- Zbigniew Bujak -- will be speaking at the UNC FedEx Center for Global Studies this Monday, April 22 at 5:30 pm in Room 4003, on "The Task of the Intelligentia". I encourage you all to attend. It should be a great discussion.

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