Steve Bannon's mission
CRACOW, Poland – This is fertile country for Steve Bannon a nation where the local taxi-driver boasts: ‘During one week
here have you seen a single refugee or a black man?”
My answer is ‘no.’
Not a surprise in a Poland where an autocratic government has refused to host refugees, a
country where by law the judiciary must be subordinate to the ruling party, a country where another recent law
classifies anyone a criminal who claims some Poles (allegedly tens of thousands) collaborated with the Nazis in
the extermination of Jews during World War II.
(The worst concentration camp, Auschwitz, is less than an hour from here.)
Driving through Poland hardly a town or village is without a placard announcing ‘this was built
(or restored) with European Union (EU) funds.’ Poland, a strategic bulwark between Europe and Russia, has been a
generous recipient of EU aid. Yet its right-wing government refuses to accept a EU quota to host a proportionate number
of refugees. Poland also uses its ‘veto’ power (a prerogative of all 25 EU member nations) to short-circuit new EU
regulations considered opposed to its sovereign interests.
Steve Bannon loves Poland.
You do remember Steve Bannon? He was Donald Trump’s successful election campaign strategist and
was later ‘fired’ as White House strategist. Since then he has been on a missionary mission in Europe to offer advice to
right-wing parties or movements with undisguised neo-Nazi sentiments. During his public conferences, private sessions
and appearances at right wing rallies he always includes Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia on his
love-list of pioneer nations moulding what he promises will be “a brave new world that starts in Europe.”
At a support speech at a huge election rally at Lille for France’s ultra-right firebrand Marine Le Pen
he offered a glimpse of the ideals of this brave new world. (Le Pen lost the election by a whisker, a setback after Bannon’s
successful forays into Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic).
Speaking to the multitude at Lille Bannon shouted: “Let them call you racists, xenophobes,
nativists, homophobes, misogynists – and wear (these labels) as a badge of honour.”
If strategist Bannon plugged into a disgruntled America to help steer Donald Trump into the White House
he has found equally toxic ground in a Europe convulsed by escalating paranoia about the invasion of ‘barbarians,’ the
derogatory term for several million refugees and ‘economic opportunists’ arriving from wars and conflicts in the Middle
East and Africa.
(The EU’s harsh bureaucratic regulations and austerity measures to reduce national debt have also played a
role in the discontent and the resulting stagnant economic growth in countries like Italy)
During his triumphant tour through right-wing Europe Bannon seems unencumbered by the
baggage of having been fired from the White House, dismissed as a columnist from the radical website
Breitbart or any repercussions for his role as co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, the research engine which
gathered without consent the ‘need’ and ‘want’ data from 87 million internet users and used this psychological
profile to influence elections, among them Donald Trump’s. There are also allegations of ‘honey traps, bribery
and prostitution’ to gather negative information on opposition figures.
In Europe Bannon has been an active stirrer – and adviser.
The American acts like a missionary of what he calls ‘this brave new world in Europe.’ He was in Rome and
Milan boiling the cauldron of discontent prior to the coalition success of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star movement and
Matteo Salvini’s extreme right Lega, a former separatist party Salvini transformed into an anti-migrant and anti-Europe
(Bannon has predicted German chancellor Angela Merkel who opened the floodgates to immigrants and
refugees ‘will go down in history as the worst political figure in the 21st century.”)
With his experience of modern data interpretation and methods of fake news distribution the American
strategist began his success story in Europe with the unexpected triumph (not unlike Trump’s election) of the British
referendum to leave the European Union, the so-called Brexit vote. He had advised the ‘get-out’ sector.
He was in Prague spreading his unlikely gospel of ‘working class revolt’ at a glittering reception on an island
In Warsaw last year the nationalist government rolled out the red carpet for him.
He was in Budapest praising the country’s autocratic president Viktor Orban as ‘my hero’ and ‘a great thinker’
before Orban won a landslide re-election and immediately promised to deal harshly with all his ‘enemies.’
He was in Vienna to support the aspiration of right-wing conservative Peoples’ Party leader Sebastian Kurz,
aged 31, to become Austria’s chancellor. Kurz who tinkers with the construction of an anti-migrant wall along the border
(of the type Orban in Hungary has already built) won the election and this week closed down seven mosques in Vienna.
He also promised to deport most of the 40 Imans accused of receiving foreign funding.
So far Bannon has praised only from abroad the election success of little Slovenia’s right-wing coalition led
by Janez Jansa.
Ironically, all the anti-Europe success of far right parties and coalitions (with the exception of Italy)
occurred in the former Soviet satellite nations which the European Union embraced to keep Russia from
staging comebacks in those countries, economically if not militarily. Europe spent huge sums to help
prop up those former communist nations which now, modernised, are turning sour on their benefactor.
European commentators have called Bannon ‘the Trotsky of the Right’ a man whipping up revolutionary
fervor and are suspicious that in spite of his public rift with President Trump (who called him on Twitter ‘Sloppy Steve’) he
might be America’s secret weapon to destabilise a European Union which is the world’s most powerful economic bloc
and therefore a strong competitor for U.S. global economic interests.
To anyone willing to listen Bannon preaches “Europe’s people want a federation of free and independent
States – and their own currency.”
Not a bad modern euphemism for the ancient Roman recipe:
‘Divide and Rule.”
Uli Schmetzer is a former foreign correspondent for Reuters and the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of six books, some
some documentaries, based on his career experiences. All are available on Amazon.com and Kindle.