What the Controversial Conservative American Conference in Hungary Tells Us About the New Far-Right
Out of the shadows and into the mainstream, Sian Norris examines the line-up of right-wing politicians and far-right activists at a controversial conference in Hungary
Babies, birth-rates and the Bible.
A week after a killer targeting black Americans in Buffalo cited the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory in his manifesto, that same conspiracy was going mainstream in Budapest – as the conservative, religious and far-right gathered in Hungary’s capital to strategise, network and celebrate.
Top-billing at the US-based Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself, but eclipsing even the host was a video link talk from former US President Donald Trump – the leader most responsible for normalising white supremacy in American politics over the past decade.
The line-up was a who’s who of the modern far-right in politics and in media.
Turning Point USA’s Jack Posobiec, the far-right US blogger who has used antisemitic symbols and promoted the fabricated ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory which smeared prominent Democrats as child abusers, closed the conference.
There was Matthew Tyrmand, board member of Project Veritas – the far-right group funded by US dark money and known for its entrapment techniques of progressive organisations.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was on the list – recently accused of normalising the Great Replacement conspiracy.
British readers may not recognise the name, but Zsolt Bayer was also in the line-up – the TV talk show host who has referred to Jewish people as “excrement” and to Roma people as “animals” and used racist epithets to describe black people.
Alongside the provocateurs were far-right politicians from parties such as the Brotherhood of Italy, as well as Italy’s Lega, Spain’s Vox, France’s Rassemblement Nationale and, of course, Fidesz – Hungary’s leading party known for its attacks on Muslims, people seeking asylum, the LGBTIQ community and the free press.
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Making an appearance from the UK was ‘Mr Brexit’ Nigel Farage, who joined via video link. Conservative and Reform UK party donor George Farmer was a confirmed speaker, alongside his wife, Candace Owens. The latter was formerly in charge of communications at Turning Point USA and dubbed in the programme as “the favourite influencer of Donald Trump”.
Farmer donated £45,000 to the Conservative Party and an additional £5,000 to Conservative MP Ben Bradley before switching allegiance to Reform UK – donating £200,000 to the artist formerly known as the Brexit Party. His father, Sir Michael Farmer, is the Conservative Party’s biggest donor, having given more than £6 million since 2010.
Sir Michael Farmer now sits in the House of Lords alongside chair of the Office for Students, Lord James Wharton – who also spoke at CPAC Hungary. His presence on the same day as Bayer has raised questions about the Conservatives’ commitment to antisemitism and anti-racism – but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. This is a party which chairs a Council of Europe group packed with political representatives of the far-right parties present at CPAC.
An Agenda for Europe
That CPAC has become a gathering for antisemites, racists and conspiracists was clear from the inclusion of men like Trump, Bayer and Posobiec.
But alongside them was the growing influence of white Christian nationalism – with representatives from the anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ and anti-divorce organisations that once made up ‘Agenda Europe’ – the shadowy network that linked anti-rights actors across the region.
There was Grégor Puppinck from the European Centre for Law and Justice – the European arm of the American Centre for Law and Justice which has campaigned against abortion and equal marriage. Puppinck told the conference: “Without fatherhood there cannot be any lasting fatherland.”
Puppinck was a prominent member of the Agenda Europe network, as was Poland’s ultra-Catholic legal charity Ordo Iuris. Its President Jerzcy Kwaśniewski spoke at CPAC.
In 2016, Ordo Iuris drafted a total ban of abortion in Poland and supported moves to increase abortion restrictions in 2020. It is currently running a campaign to monitor compliance with the abortion laws in Poland’s hospitals. At least three women have died since January 2021, when the law was tightened, after being refused life-saving reproductive healthcare.
Patryk Jaki, a Polish MEP who hosted a screening of an anti-abortion film and who has spoken of the importance of the family to build a “strong Poland”, was another speaker.
Opening the programme was Miklós Szánthó, of the Centre for Fundamental Rights – a Hungarian organisation that serves as a Government mouthpiece for its anti-LGBTIQ agenda. Little surprise that Szánthó was on a bill with Ordo Iuris – the two organisations signed a cooperation agreement in February 2021. The Centre had four speakers on the line-up.
The prominence of speakers at CPAC who push an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ and white Christian nationalist agenda tells us something interesting and disturbing about the ‘culture war’ issues being waged by the modern far-right.
It is a movement that has folded white supremacy with male supremacy – that pits as its enemies black people and migrant people, alongside feminists, anti-racist campaigners and LGBTIQ people.
It wants to ban abortion, remove civil rights from black and ethnic minority people, and roll-back progress to a time when LGBTIQ people simply weren’t supposed to exist.
It believes that women should be submissive to men, and that men should have supremacy in the household and the state. Its members want to end protections against gender-based violence.
We have known this for years. Throughout the 2010s, Agenda Europe and its members strategised on how to roll-back women’s rights – from abortion and domestic abuse protections, to political participation and access to public space. They campaigned against equal marriage and dreamed of an end to legal divorce. Its members lobbied their national governments and the European Union to stymie progress on LGBTIQ rights, although not always successfully. Conservative strategists and donors played their part.
But what makes CPAC interesting – and disturbing – is how what once happened in the shadows is now happening in the mainstream.
Conservative peers are no longer embarrassed to share a stage with racists and antisemites. US and European anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ politicians and actors are coming together to pat each other on the back and share tips on how to reverse human rights.
The fascistic natural order strategised by Agenda Europe in the 2010s came to a conference centre in Budapest – and world leaders were there to wave it in.
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