Willing political tutors nurture Hungary's rightist 'skinheads'

January 15, 1993|By New York Times News Service

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Kispest, a neighborhood of dirt roads and cottages surrounded by slate-gray apartment buildings, is an incubator of Hungary's young nationalists of the far right.

Here, teen-agers are nurtured by mentors three times their age who have taken over the political education of as many young people as they can attract.

Istvan Porubszky, the president of the 1956 Anti-Fascist and Anti-Bolshevik Association, presides over Kispest's "skinheads," as the young rightists are called. A painter who fled Hungary after the 1956 uprising, he returned from Canada to live in Kispest, his childhood home.

Men like Mr. Porubszky are a magnet in a country where young people have been particularly hard hit by the political transformation and economic downturn of the last few years, and where the Communist institutions for young people have collapsed.

People under age 25, including many recent graduates of high schools and vocational schools, make up almost one-third of Hungary's 660,000 unemployed. But democracy has brought such confusion to the schools that in some, for example, four different textbooks on 20th century history have succeeded

one another over the last three years.

"There is no youth policy in this country," says Sandor Hajos, a deputy to Mr. Porubszky. "No one is dealing with this age group, neither the government nor the parents, who are working from morning to night.

"So we've taken on this task, offering them some activities, a little political thinking, a little historical thinking, a little exposure to normal, correct-thinking adults. If, with our modest means, we can save 10 out of 20, then we've won."

But the 1956 Association and similar groups across the country also have serious political aims, and the skinheads, who number a few thousand, often attend public demonstrations with their elders to support right-wing causes, many with a racist agenda. In Budapest and Eger, the Smallholders Party has provided office space for some of the groups.

Many of the young rightists get military-style training, and some have attacked Gypsies and dark-skinned foreigners.

"Today the unorganized groups of skinheads are more dangerous on an individual basis to Gypsies and foreigners then the politically organized ones," says Jozsef Racz, a psychologist who works with young people. "For society, of course, the latter are a bigger danger politically, because they're preparing for bigger things."

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