Hungary – Martón Gulyas: In just two week all that movement appeared

Martón Gulyas is only 26 years old but has already worked as general manager and theater director with the production company Krétakör for more than six years. He is one of the most active figures of the Human Platform, a loose but functioning network of activists from diverse fields of society. Artists, social workers, health care personal and further groups are part of it and took the streets in December along with the students, who protest budget cuts. How and why all that started and how all that is connected to the students’ protests, Martón explained in an interview with buendia bee.

A shorter German version of the interview will be published on progress-online.at

Martón Gulyas in front of the Krétakör office in central Budapest (c) buendia bee

Martón Gulyas in front of the Krétakör office in central Budapest

THE MOVEMENT

buendia bee: Martón, thank you for your time. What brought you to that movement of students and pupils that is currently engaging the government?

Martón: I am not a student and I have never been one. I work with the theater ensemble and production company Krétakör as a managing director and a director as well. In autumn 2012 many theaters got into financial troubles. We, at first only a network of independent theaters, decided to stop arguing with the government but to be pushy and go to the streets instead. That time there was a chance to engage not only cultural activists but also all that human sectors like health care, education, social issues and in just two weeks all the movement appeared. Then we organized a demonstration with 27 fellow organizations and there, together with the students, we spoke in front of 4.000 people. This was the beginning of the Human Platform.

There are three main actors in the current movement. One is HÖOK, the official students’ union, the second and even more influential is the independent Student Network called Haha [Hallgatói Hálózat] and there is the Human Platform.

Then came Christmas and New Year and now we don’t know if the students’ movement is strong enough to continue. From my point of view this was not the end. Human Platform still tries to influence not only the students but all the sectors that are engaged. Within several weeks we plan to start an [internet] TV channel. At the moment we work on a short clip to explain the students’ demands. This tool is necessary because there were protests in smaller cities, where there is no TV channel, no local papers that would be ready to report about the issue.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

buendia bee: I already spoke to the students’ union but I guess you see their problems more as a part of the wider political field in Hungary and not so much as an isolated problem of the students and pupils? What does the bigger picture look like?

Martón: Hungary is a poor country but it is not as poor as we are told. There is a lot of money around but there is also big, big corruption at every level of society, not only in the state structures but also in the public sector. That’s one of the main issues because our economy and our state as well can’t function properly under these circumstances. So many people haven’t realized yet that there is a lot of money around but there is no money in the human sectors, which are fundamental for the well-functioning of the society. For me, the main aim of Human Platform is to convince the people to be critical and catch this corruption. We convince the people to belief that there would be enough money for good education and good health care, if we forced them to give it to the right people. The Orbán-government is the sixth after the change [of 1989, A] and none of them spent enough awareness on the needs of the people. You have no chance in Hungary to live like a human if you are not rich. And this is not only left-side ideology, because also many conservative people agree with us. They also see people sleeping on the streets, freezing and dying. And this happens here in the capital, here in Hungary. It’s a shame.

We are not socialized in a way that makes us taking care of each other. We learned: Just do your stuff, follow your way and if you are strong enough you will probably win. The last 24 years have shown, how that way of thinking about society makes troubles, produces solitude and doesn’t have a future. When the current mayor of Budapest was elected, in his first speech in front of his supporters he named four problems Budapest would have to face: the second point was the homeless people on the streets. That was an absolutely cynical, aggressive attack which is absolutely unacceptable.

There was a local mayor in a suburb of Budapest who literally destroyed the building the homeless had built. He demolished people’s home! Of course the construction was not legal, but that’s not a problem of these people but one of the system. Why is it illegal?, is the right question. Why don’t these people have any other way to live? This is a level of cynicism that, people realize now, doesn’t do any good.

NEGLIGENCE OF THE COUNTRYSIDE

If now another party came to power, even if they renovated the judicial and the democratic system and all other levels of the state, they would face a lot of troubles. For example, there is no political party around that has any idea for one of the biggest problems in Hungary which is the poor infrastructure in and the negligence of the countryside. And with countryside I mean everything except for Budapest. When you are living in the countryside, you will live ten years less than those living in Budapest. If you live in the countryside, you earn 20 percent less. If you can only go to the small, local universities, you will finally have an academic certificate which is good for nothing. This situation forces young people just to stay where they are, instead of experiencing Europe. They have no chance to invent themselves as individuals. The politicians talk about the countryside in terms of “heritage of our culture”, which is stupid. Even the opposition parties think that young people in the countryside need tractors. But that’s not true, that’s not what they need.

The symbol of the FIDESZ-party is the orange dot. The picture displays a pacman-flashmob organized by Martón Gulyas and friends in 2012.

The symbol of the FIDESZ-party is the orange dot. The picture displays a pacman-flashmob organized by Martón Gulyas and friends in 2012. In the background the Parliament building.

GENERATION GAP

buendia bee: You mentioned a very interesting fact. You said the people on the countryside are forced to stay where they are. When I have a look at that funding-“contract” between the state and  the students [that forces them to work in Hungary after studying, otherwise they have to pay back all the money], it seems to me like a similar thing. The contract also forces young people to stay. What do you see behind that? Is it simply nationalism? Is it the state’s urgent need for young people for the labor market? What is it?

Martón: I guess this is just a technical question of power. The main supporters of FIDESZ are the retired people who were socialized in State Socialism, in a very different environment. They are really against the young and their demands. There is a huge generation gap here between those who grew up in Communism and those born after. And that’s why FIDESZ is so tough on students and their demands. The rhetoric of FIDESZ is based on the argument: The elderly pay for your education and you have to give back and pay your debts. But, of course, I could say it’s the other way around. I pay the taxes now that are given to retirees as pensions. What the retirees are absolutely right about is that the current pension system is not sustainable and that’s why they are afraid, many of those, who pay these taxes now, could go somewhere else.

But in fact, there is money for education, for health care, for a better society. The sum that is spent on education is much smaller than the amount that is lost through corruption. If that money had been spent at the right place, there would be no need to force students with a contract to stay here.

FIDESZ AND VIKTÓR ORBÁN

buendia bee: It seems like you see FIDESZ not so much as an ideological block but as a pragmatic party that changes ideology if needed. Do you see it like that?

Martón: Yes, but… Viktór Orbán is a really successful person and his party FIDESZ is successful as well. But Orbán as a leader is incapable of taking decisions. He is a really good communicator and that’s all he is. When he was first elected in 1998 he was smart enough to choose the right persons for the right positions. He solved many problems at that time. But after they had lost the next elections he realized that the way he managed the country wasn’t successful for him personally and he got angry. He felt, and somehow he was right, that he had managed the country quite well and still lost. It seems, he thought, making good politics doesn’t help and that’s how he became more and more a radical.

Orbán is nothing more than a puppet, really. I am not saying this as a joke. He is a puppet. For many years the national bourgeoisie supported the Socialist Party which was totally corrupt. In 2009 Orbán gave them an offer. If you support us instead, we’ll give you everything, not only the money but also the decisions and we’ll put your people into the offices and so on. That brought him and his party power but actually he has only a very thin line to walk on.

Orbán has offered them really a lot and today they have a lot. But now FIDESZ’ economic partners feel that their party will collapse in – let’s say – one and a half years, and so do I. They realize: We have to be fast, there is not much time left to grab as much as possible because then we have to go. That’s why FIDESZ takes as much money from the state as possible.

This was an interesting insight into politics in Hungary. Thanks you for the interview.

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