Petr Bystron

The German MP Petr Bystron (*1972) is currently the spokesman of the AfD on the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Bundestag. A member of the AfD from its inception in 2013, he has been accused of having pushed the Bavarian AfD section, of which he was chairman since October 2015, markedly to the far-right. Particularly in the recent years he has become a veritable power player in the party, meeting high-ranking politicians at the forefront of the neo-conservative resurgence in Europe, amongst them current presidents of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman and Hungarian president Victor Orban, as well as prominent proponents of the American Alt-Right, such as Steve Bannon. An avid anti-communist, he has been frequenting relevant events, just recently a conference linking into the network of the former World Anti-Communist League (WACL). His proximity to the Identitarian movement, which he called a “front organisation” of the AfD, gave way for him to be surveilled by German authorities in 2017.

Bystron was born in former Czechoslovakia, from which in 1987 he fled to Germany with his parents, where they were granted political asylum.1 It is likely that his avid anti-communist views have developed against this backdrop. Bystron was studying economics and international relations at the Munich School of Political Science. In 1999 he founded the advertising agency Bystron GmbH, which in 2004 changed its name to Lendvay GmbH, and specialised in the "manufacture, repair and distribution of leather shoes”, of which he is sole shareholder.2 He was a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) from 2006 to 2013, when he joined the newly founded AfD. In October 2015, he became chairman of the Bavarian AfD. On September 24, 2017, he was elected a Member of the Bundestag. According to Sputnik Germany, Bystron speaks next to German and English also Slovakian, Czech, Polish, and Russian.3

First traces of his appearance in far-right circles go back to 2009, when he started to contribute articles for the New Right monthly eigentümlich frei! (“peculiarly free”), founded and edited by André Lichtschlag.4 One discourse that connects Lichtschlag and Bystron is the theory that Nazi Germany was essentially socialist, and therefor left. Lichtschlag underpinned this theory as early as 2004, after a bizarre guerilla campaign against both, Attac and the NPD. A far-right “satire group” called Gustloff, of which Lichtschlag was part, published a website under the Russian web address www.npd-attac.da.ru with the slogan "Globalization is not a destiny - for a world of sovereign nations!", which claimed that NPD and Attac had agreed on a joint website.5 He wanted to show that "nationalism and socialism are two sides of the same coin."6
Bystron has uttered this theory at several occasions as well. For example, when he attended an event  together with former Czech president Vaclav Klaus,7 a member of Vladimir Yakunin’s think tank DOCRI,8 where he spoke on a discussion panel organized to protest against the erection of a Marx statue in Trier, with a lecture entitled “Socialism is for Losers”9 :

“What particularly here in Germany is very much repressed and misjudged: That socialism had two facets. The one people often talk about is international socialism, but the other one is National Socialism. And the latter is often misunderstood. It is pretended that the Nazis were somehow right-wing. But, dear friends […]: the party has deliberately given itself the name National Socialist German Workers' Party. So, it's a party that even has a duplication in its name, claiming that it's a socialist, proletarian movement.”10

That Bystron is on an outright war path against anything called left, can be deducted from statements such as given on October 1, 2018, during an AfD campaign rally in Rosenheim. There, he publicly threatened left-wing counter-demonstrators with measures recently initiated by the Austrian FPÖ, which he called AfD’s "sister party”, referring to the recent raid of the offices of the Austrian Constitutional Protection Agency (BVT).
 
Bystron literally said:

"Yes, dear friends of the Antifa, we are very glad that you are all here today, because the police is in front of you, along the sides and up there, they film you, they have captured every single face of you. And I tell you one thing: It will be the same here as it is in Austria already. The FPÖ, our sister party […] is in the government, and one of the first steps they have taken was to initiate a raid of the Austrian Office for Constitutional Protection. And the next step will be to clean up with you, with all those left-wing extremists. And when we come to power, I assure you, that’s the end of left-wing extremism.”11

But it is not only verbal threads. In July 2018, Bystron was behind a series of lawsuits against seven German NGO’s engaged in sea rescue of refugees, including SOS Mediterranee, Sea-Watch, Doctors without Borders Germany, Save The Children Germany, Jugend Rettet, Mission Lifeline and Sea-Eye, blaming them of “human trafficking”.12

Next to eigentümlich frei!, Bystron has written for several other important German far-right outlets, such as the New Right Junge Freiheit13, or the far-right Islamophobic website journalistenwatch.com (Journalist Watch), for which he contributed about 150 articles.14 Journalistenwatch receives financial support from the US think tank Middle East Forum, chaired by the historian Daniel Pipes, which promotes the networking of the New Right in Europe.15 From 2015-2016 Bystron also had a blog on the German edition of the well-known Huffington Post (HP), where he made covert propaganda for the AfD, and rallied against Merkel and the left.16 HP seems to have posthumously deleted his author profile,17 although his articles still appear on the website.18 On RT and Sputnik he appeared around 30 times as quoted expert and interviewee.19 For example, in a Sputnik article titled “Chairman of the Bavarian AfD about axe attack: ‘Ticking time bombs come to live with us’”, he was given a platform for expressing his Islamophobic, anti-immigration stance.20 In another article “Commissional inquiry of Merkel - Bavarian AfD is crowding the Bundestag EXCLUSIVE”, he could expand in an exclusive interview on his idea to initiate a inquiry commission against Merkel with the aim to stop uncontrolled immigration, while “he praises Russia, on the other hand”.21 On RT International Bystron appeared mostly with anti-immigration and Islamophobic discourses (“EU refugee crisis threatens ‘de-facto collapse of Schengen system’”;22 “‘Entering EU for jihadists is as easy as a thief entering a house with an open door’”;23 “More than a question of meat: Germans catering to demands of Islam ‘creating parallel societies’”24).

According to research by Zeit Online, Bystron is one of the 18 members of the AfD employing right-wing extremists for their parliamentary work.25 One of Bystron’s employees, Jan-Andres Schulze appeared as author of the far-right conspiracist Kopp Verlag, whose publications are surveilled by the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution Baden-Württemberg. Schulze also wrote for the journal Sezession by Götz Kubitschek, who is regarded as the ideological head of the New Right in Germany, as well as for André Lichtschlag’s New Right monthly eigentümlich frei!.26 The Swiss right-wing extremist Eric Weber, another of Bystron's employees, is a former local politician associated with the neo-Nazi scene, according to the Basle court.27 Weber was previously the author of the NPD publication Deutsche Stimme (German Voice) and coworker of a member of parliament of the NPD Saxony. In 1987, for example, Weber was making headlines with a request to concede to the small Swiss right-wing extremist party “People's Action Against Too Many Foreigners and Asylum Seekers” (Volks-Aktion gegen zu viele Ausländer und Asylanten) the cellar of the Basel City Hall to celebrate the birthday of Adolf Hitler.28 A third of Bystron’s employees, Falk Janke, whom he made his office manager, has also attracted attention for his far-right activities. For example, Janke made headlines when he explained to a ZDF cameraman: “In my opinion, the Nazis were extreme left-wing”,29 a statement that was repeated by Bystron on several occasions. Janke, former Brandenburg regional chairman of the small Schill Party, had in 2005 gathered his voter group under the banner "The Right - Courage for Truth". In 2011, he formed a faction with two elected far-right DVU district council members. When he wanted to join the AfD faction after the 2014 election, it dissolved because of Jankes past.

In 2016 there are first traces of Bystron meeting with extra-parliamentary far-right organisations, such as in May 2016, where he traveled to Prague to meet with representatives of PEGIDA and Fortress Europe,3031 an Islamophobic movement founded on January 23, 2016 in Prague. Fortress Europe’s spokeswoman is the German Tatjana Festerling, formerly associated with PEGIDA, who described the objectives of the movement in the so-called Prague Declaration. According to the Tageszeitung, the initiative, including Festerling herself, supports far-right militias on the Bulgarian border.32

From March to September 2017, Bystron was under surveillance by the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of the Constitution.33 According to Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, Bystron showed a pronounced proximity to the far-right Identitarian Movement (IM). For example, in an article on the Islamophobic blog PI News Bystron wrote that the AfD must be a "shield for this organization."34 Bystron filed a lawsuit against the surveillance measures. According to Bystron, the surveillance was based on a few statements, in which he had approved of the extra-parliamentary work of several civic movements, including the IM, since they were making parliamentarians aware of certain issues.35 The Munich administrative court initially ruled the surveillance of Bystron should be continued, since he actually showed anti-constitutional aspirations. For his comments in regards to the IM Bystron was also warned by the federal board of the AfD, with reference to an incompatibility decision of the AfD federal board, which prohibits support of anti-constitutional organizations by AfD members. Finally, in November 2017 it was announced that the Bavarian constitutional protection had stopped the surveillance of Bystron already end of September 2017. It was reasoned that since Bystron was elected to the Bundestag in the meantime, much higher hurdles would apply in regards to the surveillance of an MP.36

During his now one year tenure as AfD MP, Bystron has repeatedly shown an alignment with both far-right and anti-communist proponents. For example in May 2018 he tried in vain to pledge with the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe to free British far-right activist Tommy Robinson. He was subsequently interviewed by alt-right poster girl Brittany Pettibone about the matter.37 When it comes to Bystron’s activities, there seems to be a recurring thread that leads to the activities of the Conservative wing of the Council of Europe, and also to the new edition of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD).
The conservative wing of the Council of Europe has definite WLFD ties.38 A direct connection between those two entities is particularly evident in the persons of German CDU MP Axel Fischer, and Polish PiS Party MP Dominik Tarczynski. With the latter Bystron was provenly in contact.

WACL connections in the Council of Europe

Axel Fischer

The CDU MP and reserve Bundeswehr officer Axel Fischer is a member of the German Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) since 2006, and was head of the delegation from 2014 to 2017. He was elected chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD) of the Assembly in January 2016,39 replacing Dignitatis Humanae Institute’s Luca Volonté, who was excluded on the base of bribery charges in the course of the “Azerbaijan Laundromat” corruption scandal. When the scandal became known in 2013, its clarification was first obfuscated by president of the Council of Europe, Pedro Agramunt Font de Mora, and later by Axel Fischer. Fischer is currently president of the German section of the successor organisation of the WACL, the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD).40 The German directorate of the WLFD consists, with the exception of the secretary, entirely of CDU MPs.41 Axel Fischer is member of a handful of other organisations with military, war veteran, and anti-communist connections. He is i.a. vice president of the European Security and Defense Association (ESDA), president of the European Council of World Freedom,42 and chairman of the “German War Graves People’s Association” (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge).43

Dominik Tarczynski

“Dominik Tarczynski was elected to the Polish Parliament in 2015 where he now serves as a Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the European Union Affairs Committee. He is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the EU’s trade agreement with the United States of America. In 2018 he became the Vice President of the European Conservatives in the Council of Europe.”44

End of September 2018, Bystron, along with PiS party MP Tarczynski, participated in the 47th edition of the Phyllis Schlafly's Gateway Eagle Council (PSGEC) conference, founded by far-right journalist and activist Phyllis Schlafly, and co-hosted by the far-right, pro-Trump Gateway Pundit (GP) (“We report the truth - and leave the Russia-Collusion fairy tale to the Conspiracy media”).45 Among the speakers were next to Bystron prominent representatives of the American military (Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn); people supporting Trump’s presidential campaign team (Stephen Moore, Charlie Kirk, Ed Martin); prominent republican functionaries (Andy Biggs; Hon. Steve King, Ralph Reed); the American Alt-Right movement (Jim Hoft, Pamela Geller, Cassandra Fairbanks); the Schlafly family (Andrew, Bruce & John Schlafly), and others.

The (PSGEC) awards an annual price, the “Phyllis Schlafly Gateway Eagle Council General Singlaub Award”. General John K. Singlaub, to whom the price is referring to, was head of the American WACL chapter, and his “outspoken advocacy of unconventional warfare, which he defined as ‘low intensity actions, such as sabotage, terrorism, assassination and guerrilla warfare,’ would dramatically change the function of the League.”46

That the PSGEC is still a fiercely anti-communist organisation can be deducted from Tweets such as:

“Thanks to Dominik Tarczyński, & Petr Bystron, USA's MAGA supporters are at ONE with European Culture! FACTS: 60 million killed by #Hitler #Socialism; 200 million killed by Stalin Communism. #SocialismKills @realDonaldTrump @PhyllisSchlafly”47

Also the Gateway Pundit has a decisively anti-communist outlook. Jim Hoft, stated “I created the Gateway Pundit because I wanted to speak the truth. I wanted to expose the wickedness of the left […]”.48

Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which she co-founded with the Islamophobic rabble-rouser Robert Spencer, tweeted about the encounter with Bystron and Tarczynksi in the context of the PSGEC conference:

“Plotting the takeover in the cause of freedom with Speaker of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) MP Petr Bystron and Polish MP Dominik Tarczynski. Allies building a transatlantic army #GatewayEagleCouncil @D_Tarczynski @PetrBystronAfD @gatewaypundit @cristinalaila1”49

That Bystron’s connection to the PSGEC and the GP precede his appearance on the conference is shown by earlier GP articles featuring Bystron in other contexts.45

For example, in early September Bystron had travelled to South Africa, supporting the “anti-white racism” cause (“The Alternative for Germany (AfD), the leading German opposition party, is the only German party to address the plight of the Boers. ”).50

In the course of the 47th PSGEC conference, Bystron was interviewed in St. Louis by The Nation journalist Brendan o’Connor, where he “offered a surprisingly candid account of AfD’s relationship with white nationalist groups like Generation Identity”.51 The article is worthwhile reading, but here are the most important excerpts focussing on Bystron:

“As it happens, before he was an MP, Bystron was kept under surveillance by the federal security services as a result of comments he made about the white-nationalist “identitarian” movement; his account of the relationship between identitarianism and the AfD would work equally well as a description of the relationship between “alt-right” and “alt-lite” groups in the United States and the Republican Party. The so-called identitarian movement, organized principally around the group Generation Identity, is “a front for the AfD,” Bystron said. “We have two different types of opposition: We are a political party; we have to be parliamentarian, keep it clear and separated from all the pre-parliamentarian opposition.” Citing groups like the Identitarians and Pegida, Bystron acknowledged that “there are many” such fronts.

“We need them. Those are our people,” he continued. “They are bringing important impulses for conversations in our society, they are demonstrating in the street, making actions. It’s a kind of cooperation.”  This cooperation is central to what Liz Fekete, director of the UK’s Institute of Race Relations, describes in Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right as a “pre-fascist movement.” As “a far-right völkisch party,” Fekete argues (using the German word for a kind of mystical ethnonationalism), AfD is at the forefront of this movement, “the aim of which is to reform the political process and transform it into an authoritarian, völkisch system.”

To that end, Bystron’s “pre-parliamentarian opposition” led thousands of Germans through the streets of Chemnitz last month, hunting down people they thought might be immigrants and reportedly attacking a Jewish restaurant. Bystron dismissed these accounts as “fake news.”

Just a few days later, on September 24, Bystron met Steve Bannon, and Czech President Miloš Zeman near Prague. According to the Gateway Pundit, which reported on the event, the meeting was “arranged by Bystron […], a former Czech refugee from communism.”52

While according to the Czech press secretary Jiří Ovčáček relations of the West with the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China as well as prospects for the EU were discussed,53 Bystron’s office’ recapitulation of the conversation, published in the GP, sounds markedly different: “

“The three conservative mavericks discussed strategies for a conservative turnaround of the struggling continent, which is beset by uncontrolled mass immigration, Islamic terror, migrant rapes and murders, welfare freeloading and the crisis of the bloated EU bureaucracy […] They agreed the EU, which has threatened conservative members like Poland and Hungary with draconic punishments for not toeing Brussels’ Soros-dominated line, can not survive in its current form, and requires urgent reform at all levels.”

The GP article further subsumes the talks:

“President Zeman expressed deep concern about the threat by militant Islam and the need for action against it, while Bystron focused on the consequences of mass immigration to Germany — where migrants are six times as likely to commit sexual assaults and nine times more likely to commit homicide than the rest of the population. According to Bystron’s office, migrants are also nine times as likely to be on welfare. ‘Just as the Left has the Socialist International, we need to forge a Conservative International to unite the forces of reason, responsibility, democracy and national sovereignty, and save the continent from imminent destruction,” said Bystron […]”

After the conference, Bystron gave also an interview to the far-right conspiracist PI News, where he stated: “I am looking forward to collaborate with Steve Bannon and other patriots in Europe, such as Matteo Salvini, HC Strache, and others.”54

Bannon and Bystron can be seen together with Tomáš Golem Měšťan, aka “Walter Edward Kurtz”,55 working for the Czech edition of PI News (PI = Politically Incorrect). The blog combines pro-American as well as anti-Islamic discourses. Bystron has been featured on PI News about 150 times since 2016.

Tomáš Golem Měšťan(left), Petr Bystron (centre) and David Antoš (right) in Prague, September 23, 2018.

Politically Incorrect was founded in 2004, soon after the re-election of George W. Bush, by a German teacher named Stefan Herre "to do something against Anti-Americanism”. Its popularity surged in the wake of the Muhammad cartoons controversy the following year. It is one of the most successful German blogs, receiving several tens of thousand visitors each day and ranking among the thousand biggest German websites in terms of traffic.

According to PI’s own statement, as of 2011 there were about 50 local groups that closely followed PI’s internet portal in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.56 According to research by the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the task of these local groups is to design strategies for influencing the public according to the opinions presented by the blog. This entailed physical disturbance of events and lectures about Islamic topics, online harassment of so-called “do-gooders" (Gutmenschen), flooding them with negative comments, or sending abusive e-mails to supposedly left-wing journalists and authors.57 The historian Wolfgang Benz reported in September 2011 systematic disturbances of his events on Islam criticism by followers of the blog Politically Incorrect.

In April 2019 it was reported that the German Alternative for Germany party had invited Bannon just weeks before the upcoming EU parliamentary election "to a media conference in Berlin for right-wing journalists and bloggers," entitled "1st Conference of the Free Media."58Der Spiegel reported that Petr Bytron's offiice had confirmed the invitation of Bannon to the lower house of parliament.

In conclusion, Peter Bystron's blend of far-right ideologies contains decisively neoliberal, Islamophobic, anti-immigration, pro-American, pro-Israel, and anti-communist elements, which intersect with ideologies of the American Alt-Right and the (former) WACL scene. Given the fact that his parents have fled from Socialist Czechoslovakia and ended up in Munich, where Bystron spent most of his life, raises the chances that he has come into contact with the flourishing Munich “anti-communist underground”. With the BND located in Pullach, near Munich, the town became the German center of anti-communist plotting by German and American secret services,59 and was a major gathering place for political refugees from Soviet satellite states. Since practically all of them were interrogated by German secret services, by virtue of their frequent anti-communist stance, as well as their foreign language skills, they had often been offered to work for the latter. His parents must have gone through the “reception centre” for political refugees from Eastern Europe in Zirndorf. This is just a hunch though, there is no tangible proof that Bystron emerges from the Munich secret service anti-communist turf.

Bystron links the AfD with the Identitarian movement, critical elements of the American Alt-right, and the post-WACL scene. Particularly the latter affiliation raises serious concerns, whether his activities are backed by some "deep state" elements invested in unconventional warfare. Given the fact that in this position Bystron is meeting true insiders as well as state leaders from the European and International far-right, his activities deserve a much more scrutinous look.