At Gateway Eagle Council Gathering, Bannon’s Influence Felt, Even in His Absence

Steve Bannon speaking at CPAC 2016. ( Skidmore)

Among the many curiosities at last weekend’s conference co-sponsored by Phyllis Schlafly’s American Eagles and Gateway Pundit was the appearance of two far-right European politicians, who were honored with awards at a dinner held in a partitioned ballroom at the Marriott St. Louis Airport. Both are enthusiastic fans of President Donald Trump, and champions of what they see as the European identity: Christian and white.

Their appearance was capped by a showing of “Trump @ War,” the latest film by Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump adviser and former editor of Breitbart News, who is now at work on a new project dubbed The Movement: a “foundation” designed to serve the far-right parties of Europe with political resources, messaging and advice. Toiling in quasi-exile since his ouster from the White House, as well as his public ostracization by the Trump family and Rebekah Mercer (Bannon’s reportedly erstwhile patroness), Bannon has been busy on the continent, looking to leverage the ties that had already begun to form between European nationalist groups and the right wing in the U.S.

“We have to fight for our identity, for our DNA, cultural DNA, unless we want to become useless,” said Eagle honoree Dominik Tarczynski, a member of parliament from Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party. “But Europe, and whatever we achieved, came from Christian culture: Greek philosophers, Roman law, Christian faith—this is what we are…What do we want? Do we want Roman law, or do we want sharia law?”

The Polish M.P. made those remarks while sitting on a panel titled, “The Future of the European Union,” on the last day of the conference. The evening before, after accepting his Eagle award, Tarczynski was more explicit: “I won’t let my daughter be raped by an Islamist,” he said.

Tarczynski, a forceful speaker with a good command of English, was joined on the panel with fellow honoree Petr Bystron, a member of the Alternative für Deustchland (AfD) party who sits in the Bundestag, the German parliament. Both of the nationalist parties represented by the European honorees have a natalist bent, which fits in neatly with the anti-choice quest of the Gateway/Eagle Council crowd, and the U.S. right wing in general. During Germany’s 2017 parliamentary elections, AfD posted street advertisements featuring an image of a pregnant white woman, featuring a tagline that translates as: “New Germans? We make them ourselves.”

Civic life in Poland, meanwhile, has been turbulent thanks to a draconian anti-abortion bill that Tarczynski’s party is hoping to pass in parliament. The proposal has been met with street protests, sometimes numbering in the thousands. (Already, most abortions are outlawed in Poland, and most Polish women seeking abortions travel to Germany for the procedure.)

Although a back-bencher, Bystron is making himself useful in the swiftly forming global alliance of right-wing parties and groups across Europe and the U.S. He is slated to join Bannon in a meeting with Milos Zeman, president of the Czech Republic in early October, Bystron told me. Once a hero of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, Zeman has taken a turn to the right—and to the east, abandoning his longtime stance against Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Joining the meeting with Bannon and Zeman, Bystron said, will be Raheem Hassan, the former editor of Breitbart London and former aide to Brexit leader Nigel Farage. (We have sought comment from the Czech embassy in Washington, D.C., and reached out to Steve Bannon for confirmation. We will update should we hear back from either.)

For Bystron, as with Tarczinski, the global refugee crisis is the matter foremost at hand. In his remarks, Bystron pointed to two recent murders committed by Muslim refugees, one in Offenberg and one in Chemnitz, which sparked riots last month as AfD members marched beside neo-Nazis, who clashed with left-wing and other pro-immigrant demonstrators. Bystron did not mention the riots, and neither did anybody else. But he did conclude his acceptance speech at the conference with this: “Let’s kick some leftist ass!”

Bystron wasn’t born in Germany. “I can tell you from my own experience; I am a political refugee; I emigrated from communist Czechoslovakia,” he explained. “So, if you are suffering, you really feel alive [when you reach a place of] freedom. If you run from, let’s say, from Syria, then you are safe when you are in Turkey. You don’t need to run another 3,500 kilometers, crossing seven borders, you know? … The migrants, they don’t stay there. They come to Germany, because that’s the highest level payment for social benefits.”

In 2016, AfD Deputy Leader Beatrix von Storch suggested that “illegal immigrants” to Germany should be shot at the border—well, except for the children.

Both Bystron and Tarczynski blamed Angela Merkel for the dilemma they see presented by the refugees, a problem that Poland has avoided by simply refusing to accept them. Bystron complained that Merkel only wanted admit them in order to shore up the Catholic charities that get money for housing them and tending to their needs. Then he seemed to suddenly realize where he was, in the house, if you will, of the very Catholic late Phyllis Schlafly, and seated on a dais with a right-wing Pole for whom Catholicism is part and parcel of his “cultural DNA.” Byrstron didn’t, of course, mean the whole Catholic church, he said—“After all, I am Catholic, too”—just the “refugee industry.”

Tarczynski began to sneer as he took up the rhetorical sword against Merkel. “She’s so stupid, Angela.” Continuing in a sarcastic tone, he added, “She’s so experienced in politics—no she’s not. Soros is experienced with his money, and he pays for it. And everyone knows that.”

Soros, a favorite target of right-wingers the whole world ‘round, is the billionaire hedge-fund operator and Holocaust survivor who created the Open Society Foundation, which donates to liberal and civil society groups, as well as humanitarian causes.

(Earlier in the day, Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County pardoned by Trump after the sheriff’s conviction for racial profiling in defiance of a judge’s order, blamed Soros for the lawsuit brought against him that landed him in hot water.)

The right-wing Law and Justice Party to which Tarczynski belongs is currently led by President Andrzej Duda, who met with Trump on Tuesday to urge that the U.S. build a military base in Poland, potentially to be dubbed “Fort Trump,” a move likely to be strongly opposed by Putin, whom Trump is generally loath to rile. But Trump and Duda share something in common: crises in the two countries’ respective Supreme Courts. In Duda’s case, his purge of justices and judges he deems not to be his allies has been met with protests and other forms of resistance across Poland.

Despite Trump’s affection for Putin, whom Poles of nearly all political stripes see as a threat, Polish nationalists have also expressed admiration for the U.S. leader. “We cannot be great in fear; we must be great in practice. And this is what Donald Trump does,” Tarczynski said.