Last week, I recounted my experience at the aborted Trump rally in Chicago that turned into a small riot. This week, I’ll be telling you about what I saw in the small Hungarian town of Asotthalom, located on the Hungarian-Serbian border that became the frontline of Europe’s illegal migrant crisis last year.
Last December, I learned that the mayor of Asotthalom was going to hold a conference to celebrate the launch of his new media organization Custodela, intended to “reveal the real face of multiculturalism.” The mayor, Laszlo Toroczkai, was already Internet famous in right-wing circles for his pointed video message to illegal migrants trying to enter Hungary. The video has over 1.5 million views as of today and can be viewed here. The closing message to migrants was clear: “Hungary is a bad choice. Asotthalom is the worst.”
I booked tickets to Hungary as soon as I received confirmation from the mayor’s office that there would be space for me at the conference. One thing on the schedule that was circulated interested me the most: a demonstration of the Hungarian border fence near Asotthalom.
A few weeks later, I finally drove into Asotthalom by taxi. It was late at night. I was dropped off at the town center, opposite Asotthalom’s towering church. I fancy myself something of a linguist, but the Hungarian signs were indecipherable. I called the phone number given to me by the mayor’s office and asked for directions. I was told to expect to be picked up by the local police. Sure enough, an SUV with two uniformed officers drove up after a few minutes. I loaded my suitcase into the back and jumped in.
The policemen ferried me to a large ranch in the forests surrounding Asotthalom. Many of the conference guests were staying here – a place, I was told, that was normally reserved for businessmen and politicians seeking a meeting place free from the press and paparazzi. The press was banned from attending or covering the conference, with exceptions for the right-wing parties and media groups in attendance.
All in all, some 50 people attended the conference, including a few dozen locals. Getting to know my fellow conference-goers, I learned that the organizers were members of the popular Jobbik party. The mayor himself used to be part of Jobbik, but left to found his own splinter party called the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement. His new party, in addition to being nationalist like Jobbik, was also irredentist and, based on my conversations with members, cryptomonarchist. The HVIM (its Hungarian abbreviation) lobbies for a return to the pre-1920 borders of Hungary, before the Kingdom of Hungary was dismantled by the First World War and the Treaty of Trianon.
A litany of organizations of the international European Right were represented at the conference. I met people from Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, Britain, France, Denmark, and elsewhere, including members of the German and Austrian Identitarian movement, with whom Social Matter has dialogued before. Despite the sanitized public images of many of these parties and movements, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, in private, all of their representatives were knowledgeable on even the most taboo politically incorrect topics and moreover happy to discuss them.
“I am probably more right-wing than you.” I told one young man from Jobbik.
“Really?” He said, skeptically. “I have a friend who supports slavery. He is here somewhere.”
“Oh, that’s nothing. I support both slavery and absolute monarchy. The historical evidence in favor of both is overwhelming.” I replied.
My Jobbik friend laughed: “You are right, that is very right-wing. I, too, am a monarchist.”
We continued to have a long discussion on the merits of the old Prussian Empire, Julius Evola, and the mechanisms with which to reintroduce monarchy in the contemporary world. It was good to learn that the secret desires of the far-right rank-and-file and even leadership are far more politically incorrect than presented in official press releases, though it was also clear that they did not have the intellectual firepower to translate their desires into practical terms for the modern day.
The town of Asotthalom itself was notable for being the flashpoint in Hungary for the illegal migrant crisis. Mayor Toroczkai spoke derisively of the ruling Fidesz party led by Viktor Orban. He told me that the national Fidesz government only acted to build a fence along the Hungarian border after significant pressure from himself and Jobbik, and particularly after he vowed to build a wall along Asotthalom’s border with Serbia himself.
Standing in city hall, flanked by border police in military fatigues, the mayor gave a presentation on the impact of the flow of illegal migrants and human traffickers on Asotthalom, and gave a rundown of the measures his administration took to stanch it. Hundreds of photographs taken by the police flicked across the screen behind him: endless streams of swarthy men sitting in groups along town streets or in farmers’ fields. Up to 100,000 illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East had passed through or near Asotthalom on their way to Budapest and eventually Austria. The total population of the Asotthalom municipality is barely 4,000. Not one woman or child was visible in the photographs.
Though the pictures were from barely a couple months earlier, I did not see nor hear a single illegal migrant during my stay. The Hungarian border fence had clearly served its purpose well, as corroborated by statistics on the numbers of illegal crossings. The numbers of illegal migrants dropped from up to 10,000 a day to zero over the course of a week, and they haven’t risen since.
I was very curious about the political and geographic climate that allowed for a mayor like Mr. Toroczkai to get elected and to act on the real interests of his constituency. I wanted to learn what lessons I could to see if they could be applied to Western Europe and America. I spoke extensively with the mayor about his actions and learned a few interesting things.
To begin with, Asotthalom is not really an urban area at all. The mayor is chief of a small town numbering around 4,000 people, but the Asotthalom municipality extends much further along the Hungarian flatlands. The mayor’s administrative area includes a lot of rural areas, uninhabited forests, and swamps. The total area of the Asotthalom municipality is about twice the size of the San Marino (with a population of 36,000) and 60 times the size of Monaco (21,000 people). The mayor is essentially the chief of around 4,000 people living in an area the size of a microstate.
Since the fall of communism in Hungary in 1989, every local mayor in charge of a municipality has had the option of hiring a local police force independent from the national state police. This local police force would be paid through the local mayor’s budget, but would therefore answer only to the mayor. This option was rarely if ever exercised, but once illegal migrants began pouring over the border, Mayor Toroczkai decided to use it.
Asotthalom has five local policemen who answer directly to the mayor. They are equipped with guns, 4x4s, and motorcycles. They have the same legal right as the national police to arrest, handcuff, and imprison anyone. These local policemen were the ones who picked me up at the town center and who transported conference attendees around the area.
The mayor explained to me that these local policemen would arrest and round up the illegal migrants, as well as take them to court when necessary. After the fence was built, they would bring a judge along in their jeep and arrest, sentence, and process border-jumping migrants on the spot. This was how the Hungarians achieved such an effective border defense operation.
The fence itself was about ten feet tall and covered in barbed wire. Nothing special. The fence was just window dressing. The important things were the border, national, and local police willing to arrest and turn back intruders. Giant towers with powerful thermal cameras were set up at seven kilometer intervals along the fence. The cameras’ range went up to 10 kilometers, and functioned in 360 degrees. Sentries don’t keep watch on the fence itself but monitor the thermal cameras in a police office in a bigger town nearby. If they notice intruders, they send out the border police to meet them at the fence.
The fence was manufactured by Hungarian prisoners, erected by the Hungarian army, and the thermal towers apparently use Hungarian technology. During our trip to the fence, we met some Slovak policemen patrolling the border who were sent to assist the Hungarian police. Polish, Czech, and Slovak policemen had been sent to the Hungarian border. Later another contingent was sent to the Greek-Turkish border.
My trip was over in less than three days, but I learned two important lessons that I hope others will take to heart. The first lesson was that, with some caveats, there is an active, principled, and successful right-wing in Europe. The second lesson was that building and manning a border barrier is one of the easiest tasks to accomplish in the world.
Despite the consistent protests of the mainstream media, the United States could build a wall on its southern border with Mexico, it would be easy, and it would probably be 99.9% effective, much like the Hungarian border fence. Hungary is much less wealthy than the United States, but was able to construct and man a wildly successful border barrier with nothing more than metal wire, manual labor and domestically-made thermal cameras.
The biggest problems for walls and fences are not material or economic, they are political.