Far right holds secret congress in Hungary
- 7 October 2014
- From the section Europe
The atmosphere beneath the arches of Budapest South railway station was reminiscent of a 1980s, communist-era protest meeting rather than a far-right European get-together banned by the Hungarian government as a "racist conference".
Older men with wispy beards, young men in black shirts sporting crew cuts, secret policemen in the shadows, uniformed policemen, and a small huddle of journalists, all wondering what was going to happen next.
In true dissident style, small groups peeled away one by one to the secret meeting place nearby.
But the world has changed.
This was meant to be the European Congress of the National Policy Institute (NPI), based in the US state of Montana, a nationalist think-tank which billed the Budapest event as a "forum in which groups and individuals throughout Europe… can come together to compare notes, discuss ideas, and perhaps prepare the ground for collective action".
Despite his nationalist reputation, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered Saturday evening's event to be banned as "an attempt to breathe new life into Nazi and… fascist ideology".
Even Hungarian far-right party Jobbik which won over 20% in April's general election stayed away. Jobbik's rhetoric has softened this year, as it tries to court both conservative and former Socialist voters. Local elections take place next weekend.
In a traditional Hungarian restaurant just around the corner, about 70 participants from a dozen countries gathered around long tables laden with meat and wine.
The atmosphere was tense.
NPI President Richard Spencer was taken away by police the previous evening from a Budapest bar. He had initially evaded a ban on the eight planned speakers entering the country by arriving by train from Vienna.
Earlier in the week his colleague, William Regnery, was arrested on arrival at Budapest airport from London. After a night in detention, he was expelled the following morning.
Jared Taylor, head of American Renaissance, a webzine which champions "racial difference", gave the main after-dinner speech. He congratulated those present for the commitment they had shown for reaching the meeting "despite the threats that we have received, despite the oppression".
He called for "a world brotherhood of Europeans", of white people around the world, who regard Europe as their motherland, who should defend themselves from the "dilution" which immigration was causing in the European race.
"And the greatest threat to Europe is this poisonous ideology of diversity that my country wants to force upon you," he added.
"Men of Europe, my brothers, stand together and we will prevail," he concluded, his voice cracking with emotion. He was rewarded with a standing ovation.
The participants came from many countries of Europe, as well as the United States. Many were supporters of the "identitarian" movement, popular among radical right-wing circles in Europe.
"Identitarian means to stand up for your own identity, against globalisation, against liberalism, and against multiculturalism," said Jens Derycke of the Flemish NSV student movement in Belgium.
"I don't think we have anything in common with National Socialism. That was a modernist ideology of the 1930s based on racial supremacy, whereas we don't consider ourselves superior to other races. We just want to defend our own culture."
Sitting at the same table, Robert from the Netherlands, a campaigner for an independent Flemish state, also dismissed the neo-Nazi label: "Today there are new, different dangers in Europe."
There were several dividing lines between participants. Much of the debate focused on Russia, and the figure of President Vladimir Putin. There is admiration in nationalist circles in Eastern and Western Europe for Mr Putin as a Russian nationalist and strongman, who has made his people proud to be Russian again.
The lead speaker at the Budapest congress was due to be Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist thinker who has championed the annexation of Crimea and Russian intervention in Ukraine.
He stayed away after allegedly being warned through police channels that he would not be allowed to enter Hungary.
Originally billed as a speaker, Jobbik MP Marton Gyongyosi told the BBC he had pulled out because of other commitments, and because he disagreed with the views of the US hosts.
America was another point of contention.
While Jared Taylor lambasted his own country as "a monstrous mix", allowing its whites to be outnumbered by Hispanic and black people, another speaker, Tomislav Sunic from Croatia, praised the United States for bringing the bloodshed in Bosnia to an end in 1995.
All participants opposed widespread immigration, but some insisted on white supremacy, which others rejected.
Apart from the waitresses rushing between the tables, I counted only four women present at a very male gathering.
Beneath a display of traditional painted plates from rural Hungary, a young man with a guitar sang from a booklet of nationalist songs from across Europe, printed in Gothic script.