Travel

I Went on a Spa Date with One of Europe's Right-Wing Extremists

I talked to a French-Hungarian who opposes immigration to Hungary but is hoping to set up a community of French nationalists in his adopted country.

by Pierre Sautreuil
Oct 7 2014, 4:20pm

All photos by the author unless otherwise stated

Driven by an agenda that's anti-corruption, anti-Zionist, anti-homosexuality, anti–European Union, and anti-Roma, Hungary's far-right Jobbik party won 20 percent of the vote in the country's April general elections. This coming weekend, Hungary is holding a municipal election and it looks as though Jobbik's popularity is likely to grow.

Twenty-six-year-old Ferenc Almassy—his name has been changed at his request—has been living in Hungary for the past four years working as a liaison of sorts between Jobbik and French nationalists, who have similarly gained power in recent elections as part of what seems like a general rightward drift in Europe. Budapest has more than 100 thermal spas in its area, so I thought it'd be fitting to meet Ferenc in one and try to understand how he had come to work for such an extremist group.

VICE : Why did you leave France for Hungary?
Ferenc Almassy:
Paris was driving me insane. In Hungary I found a healthier environment and, above all, a country that doesn't ask for qualifications to give me a chance at a job. Before I moved to Hungary, I used to visit a month every year. When I was 22, I fell in love with a girl here, and she persuaded me to move.

Have you always been interested in politics?
I've never been affiliated with any French movement. Like any angry teenager, I was an anarchist for a while. Working on construction sites, I came face to face with corruption, to such an extent I never thought possible. It nourished in me a disgust for globalized capitalism. I spent a lot of time on the internet, and I've had my Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist phases. Eventually, I took interest in racialism, the scientific study of human races. I think that's what got me to stop being a racist.

Why did you choose to affiliate yourself with Jobbik?
It's a unique movement in Europe. It opposes the liberal world, economically as well as politically and morally. There's nothing like that in France. As far as I know, no party in Europe has such an intelligent, ideologically strong, and—most importantly—realist position. In France, this kind of movement would only gather 20 or so suckers. Here, Jobbik is the second most powerful political force, while still speaking a discourse that would have Marine Le Pen [the head of France's far-right National Front party] crying in fear.

A 2012 Jobbik rally in Budapest. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Can you describe what your role as a consultant to Jobbik entails?
I started last year as an interpreter, when a French guy came to visit Marton Gyöngyösi, Jobbik's number two. Gyöngyösi manages international affairs, and I gained his confidence, and he told me it would be interesting if a half-French, half-Hungarian guy “kept an eye” on what happened in France.

I do press reviews in French when there is press on Jobbik, and I explain to them certain French social phenomena that are hard to understand from a Hungarian point of view.

And you're also looking for Francophone Hungarian nationalists to rally to your cause.
It's at the heart of my action. I'm using social networks, and I meet up with people each time I'm in France. Without trying to form official bonds, I'm closely following the French nationalist milieu, and I scout the talent. It's a small world; everyone knows each other. Besides, if a guy wants to spend a few days in Budapest, I host him, I tour the city with him, and I introduce him to the people he needs to know in Jobbik. I cannot give you names, but in total, I've hosted a good 50 or so people from the great French nationalist family.

With which French movements would Jobbik like to cooperate?
The problem with France is that the parties we're interested in don't want to associate with us. On the other hand, those who want to associate with us aren't serious enough partners. The National Front doesn't want anything to do with us since Marine Le Pen took charge. There are other groups, like the Bloc Identitaire, but we don't want to associate with them.

Why doesn't the National Front get along with Jobbik?
In Hungary, you can say things that in France you cannot. Here, we can proclaim ourselves openly anti-Zionist, against immigration, say that democracy is full of shit and that Hungary is a Christian country. The National Front is secular, they can't say they're anti-Zionists, and they're for regulated immigration.

Jobbik is for re-migration, which is the return of immigrants and their descendants to their origin countries. Before Marine Le Pen took charge of the National Front, Jobbik was considered a young movement but appreciated by the party's old guard. Nowadays, [French nationalists] are conducting a type of de-demonization; they have to show they are clean, and that implies keeping Jobbik at a distance. It's understandable, but it's a pity.

How do you see the evolution of the nationalist movement in France?
Since the Dieudonné affair and the death of Clément Méric, there is not a single nationalist in France who doesn't think, It stinks for us here. The social stigma we face is harder and harder to bear, but it leads to us getting tougher. Still, there are many who want to stop the fight. Some have even gotten in touch with me to help them leave France and settle in Hungary.

Can you tell me more about it?
In the past four years, I've been nourishing this kind of crazy idea to create a community of French nationalists in Hungary. Four years ago, I was still told that it wouldn't work, but now people are starting to show interest—people who went through a grieving process over France and don't see any future there for them or their children. This organization's aim would be to help French nationalists move to Hungary. Hungary has really flexible politics toward communities. If it reaches 1,000 members, this community will be recognized as a French minority in Hungary.

What will that community look like?
I imagine villages whose economy is based on crafts, cooperative farming, and energy autonomy. Hungarian population numbers are down, with many villages starting to depopulate to the capital. It would be fantastic for French patriots to settle in those villages. Of course, Hungary is neither a paradise nor an El Dorado, but for these people, it will always be better than France. Eight people, including a young family, are settling in Hungary as part of this project. Some of them have already sold their house in France.

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