Report from Budapest (Updated)
Editor’s Note: The ending of this article has been updated.
It was a bold idea from the beginning. The National Policy Institute (NPI), an American organization, was to hold a conference in Budapest on “The Future of Europe.” In addition to well-known identitarians such as Philippe Vardon of France, Markus Willinger of Germany, and myself, the controversial Russian academic Alexander Dugin, was to take part. Hungary’s Jobbik party would provide essential support on the ground, and one of its elected representatives was to address the meeting.
However, about two weeks before the conference, Prime Minister Victor Orban came under pressure from the Hungarian Socialist Party and condemned the conference. His statement mentioned Prof. Dugin by name, and characterized NPI as a “xenophobic and exclusionary” organization. Those of us scheduled to take part began to worry that pressure would build on the Larus Event Center to cancel its contract to host the conference.
Things got worse. A little more than a week before the conference, the Interior Ministry issued a statement forbidding the meeting, and warning that all speakers would be stopped at the border or deported if found within Hungary. Again, Prof. Dugin was cited as a particularly offensive speaker, but others were cited as “racists” who might violate the Hungarian fundamental law that forbids “violating the human dignity of others.”
I arrived on September 29, the Monday before the weekend of the conference, and had no trouble with border control. Others were not so lucky. William Regnery, the NPI board chairman, was scheduled to fly in for a Tuesday meeting with the general manager of the Novotel City Center hotel, where a number of conference events were planned. Mr. Regnery had asked me to attend the meeting with him, but when I got to the hotel, I was dismayed to learn that Mr. Regnery had not arrived. The hotel manager confirmed that the Larus Center had canceled its contract. He also said that many people attending the conference were booked at the hotel and that since the meeting was now forbidden, he had to make a decision about whether to hold the rooms.
Later that day I learned that Mr. Regnery had been stopped at the Hungarian border by the police, put in a detention cell overnight, and deported to London. That same day, the hotel manager unilaterally canceled all the room reservations and planned events.
Likewise on Tuesday, I was shocked to learn that Jobbik support had completely melted away, and that no one was looking for an alternate venue. I knew that Jobbik representative Marton Gyongyosi, who had been scheduled to speak, had withdrawn, accusing the organizers of “racism,” but I assumed we still had some local Hungarian support. I was wrong. We had no one. Mr. Regnery telephoned from London and asked me to find a suitable venue. We were also in contact with Richard Spencer, the director of NPI, who asked me to find a private room in a restaurant for a dinner–for an estimated 70 people.
The forbidden conference was now big news. The press was full of stories about Russian extremists and American “racists” about to converge in Budapest. I was afraid it would arouse suspicions if an American phoned up restaurants trying to book a last-minute dinner for 70. I decided to wait until the next day, when I knew a Hungarian-American would be arriving, who could make calls in Hungarian.
We finally got to work on Wednesday, and found a charming, traditional restaurant that was willing to serve as many as 100 people in a private room. We took a taxi to the restaurant, worked up a menu, and made a down payment. We had a venue!–so long as we could keep it secret. We scouted the neighborhood and established a redirection point nearby so that we could tell people to meet there and be taken to the restaurant rather than reveal its name and address in advance. Mr. Spencer was thus able to send e-mail messages to everyone registered for the conference, telling them that the event was still on, and that they were to meet Saturday evening at the redirection point.
Mr. Spencer was to arrive the next day, and we were all worried he would get the same treatment as Mr. Regnery, but he slipped across the Austrian-Hungarian border by train without attracting attention. He gave a number of interviews to the press, and he and I met Thursday evening to toast to the success of the conference.
Disaster struck the next day. Mr. Spencer had sent a message to a number of supporters inviting them to meet him informally at the Clock Café in Budapest that evening. Late that night, an estimated 40 police officers descended on the café and locked it down for two hours, while they asked for identification papers and grilled people.
Some 20 people who did not have papers were taken outside for interrogation. Mr. Spencer, who did not have his passport with him, was arrested and asked police to let everyone else go. He was detained along with French-American journalist James Willy, whom the authorities appear to have thought had some role in organizing the conference. We have since heard from Mr. Spencer that he is safe and unhurt, but is likely to be in detention until Monday, when he will be deported. Fortunately, I was not at that gathering; otherwise, I suspect I would be sharing a cell with Mr. Spencer.
The arrest was a terrible blow. We don’t know how the police knew to go to the Clock Café, so we didn’t know how much our security was breached. I felt sure the police did not know about the restaurant, but did they know about the redirection point? This was a forbidden meeting. Would they arrest everyone who showed up?
Mr. Regnery had planned to come back to Hungary at the last minute for the dinner but after Mr. Spencer’s arrest, he decided that would be foolish. On Saturday morning we consulted by phone and had to make some hard decisions. Cancel for fear the police would break up the meeting? Tell only trusted people the name of the restaurant and tell everyone else the dinner was off?
I met with a trusted associate of Richard Spencer. We looked over the list of 65 or so people who said they planned to come to the redirection point and recognized only about 20 names. We sent them a message with the name and address of the restaurant, but told everyone else to go to the redirection point. I went directly to the restaurant, and another man went to the redirection point early, to keep an eye out for the police. If there were no police, he was to bring people to the restaurant. Otherwise, just the 20 or so people we knew would meet at the restaurant. How much did the police know? I packed a change of clothes and a toothbrush in my briefcase in case I had to spend the night in a cell.
As it happened, there were no police at the redirection point, and people were skillfully taken in groups to the restaurant. Before long, we had 76 people in all–more than half the original number of registrants–including guests from Sweden, Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Slovakia, Britain, Ireland, Croatia, the United States, Spain, Canada, Russia, and even Mexico and Japan. To my disappointment there was only one Hungarian. He explained that the conference had been virtually unknown in Hungary until the scandal broke, and that a few others who had registered dropped out when the police prohibited the meeting.
We admitted three journalists who had been cleared in advance by Mr. Spencer, but kept out half a dozen more who showed up but had not been cleared. I stepped outside and answered their questions for 20 minutes, but decided not to let them cover the event.
Back at the restaurant, I welcomed everyone in the name of NPI. After an excellent dinner, I apologized for the thin program–only two scheduled speakers–but pointed out that speakers had been expressly forbidden to enter the country.
I explained that at least two other speakers had been directly intimidated. The Hungarian government had prevailed on the French to send the police to tell Philippe Vardon that since he was a “notorious racial activist” he was unwelcome in Hungary and would arrested if he tried to come. The Russian police told Alexander Dugin the same thing: He would be expelled immediately if he tried to come to Hungary.
I then introduced the only other scheduled speaker who was able to attend: the author and academic, Tom Sunic. Mr. Sunic lives in neighboring Croatia, and took real risks to come to Budapest. Croatia is not in the free-travel Schengen area of the European Union, and there was a good chance he would be turned back or even detained at passport control. It would be a considerable professional liability to have been officially rejected as an undesirable by a neighboring country.
Mr. Sunic spoke on the failure of the European Union. He pointed out that it was originally established as an economic community, and criticized the role of capitalism in dissolving ethnic and racial bonds: “Merchants have no country.” He spoke of the guilt that seems to be part of Catholicism and that causes Europeans to welcome Third-World immigration. Mr. Sunic urged all Europeans to rise above old antagonisms left over from past conflicts and to embrace a larger destiny. He stressed the dangers of petty nationalism that resulted in the terrible bloodshed in his own country, the former Yugoslavia, and concluded with a rousing call for all Europeans to work together to preserve their common culture and heritage.
My talk (full transcript here) was called “Towards a World Brotherhood of Europeans.” I argued out that it is not only on the continent of Europe that we find Europe but in all those places overseas where Europeans have built new societies. I said that I speak for many Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, and Afrikaners when I call myself a European and refer to Europe as my spiritual and cultural homeland. I said that only Europeans–white people–could defend Europe and carry its heritage forward in a meaningful way, and that our people and civilization are under threat everywhere. I argued that the genetic and cultural effect of alien immigration is no different from armed invasion, and concluded that although the crisis is not sharp, nor the lines so clearly drawn, the struggle of our generation to defend Europe is no different from Marathon, Poitiers, the Siege of Vienna, and the Battle of Blood River.
We had booked the restaurant from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m., and the crowd was thick and exuberant until 11:30 when the management politely sent us out the door to catch the last subway trains home.
Walking tours of Budapest had been planned for Sunday, but we had no information on where to go to take the tours. At the end of Saturday evening, an enterprising young American approached me with what turned out to be a real inspiration. He asked me to send an e-mail notice to all registrants, inviting them to gather at Heroes Square on the Pest side, from which we could break into groups and visit the city’s historical attractions in pleasant company. About 40 people gathered at the square, and walked to such places as the Museum of Terror and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The American also organized a gathering at a pub that evening. Forty or 50 of us turned up, and joined in humorous and patriotic toasts to the many countries represented by conference guests. This was a jovial and even raucous evening that some considered the highlight of the weekend.
We all left Budapest filled with a renewed sense of commitment and camaraderie. The conference–abbreviated and cobbled together though it was–felt like a brilliant success in the face of outrageous police-state tactics.
And what did the United States government think about all this? The charge d’affaires in Budapest André Goodfriend did manage to say that “under U.S. law their right to express their views would be protected under the First Amendment,” but stopped just short of endorsing Richard Spencer’s arrest: “We’re glad to see that the government of Hungary shares our concerns that messages that a group like this promotes are abhorrent. We’re pleased to see that the government of Hungary is speaking out to reaffirm that it does not support those who promote racial or ethnic intolerance.”
Mr. Goodfriend makes us all proud to be Americans.
We look forward to future meetings with our European brothers.