A GIOR investigation reveals the new Brussels branch of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a Hungarian educational facility supported by the Hungarian government, will be co-led by a German professor accused of supporting an anti-Islam, far-right political movement. MCC Brussels has identified Professor Werner J. Patzelt as its Research Director. According to his MCC bio:
Before serving as Research Director of the Brussels MCC, Werner J. Patzelt was a full professor of comparative government at the Technical University of Dresden (1992–2019) and a senior fellow at the MCC Budapest (2021–22). Throughout his academic career he has combined a comparative perspectives politics with theorizing as well as extended empirical research. His career has included being guest professor at the École Pratique de Hautes Études in Paris and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and he has been a member of the Executive Committee of the International Political Science Association for many years as well as former chair of the IPSA Research Committee of Legislative Specialists. In addition to publishing 15 monographs, 16 edited volumes, more than 100 journal articles, more than 260 book chapters and more than 300 journalistic texts, he has been active as a political commentator on radio and TV. Married and with two grown-up children, he uses his leisure time for music, actively both as a choirmaster and as a cellist. His hope for MCC Brussels is that the new institution will become a centre for fundamental reflections about and for policy advice on European coherence, sustainable EU institutions, and Europe’s place in a looming post-occidental world.
A Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) report on the Global National Conservative Alliance (GNCA) explained the role of the MCC in the Orbán government’s struggle to control Hungarian higher education and to create a platform for rightwing figures. The report also detailed the potential role of the National Conservatives in Russian influence operations:
The MATHIAS CORVINUS COLLEGIUM, a Hungarian educational facility, is a key part of the ORBÁN government’s struggle to control Hungarian higher education and is the center of National Conservative activity in the country. This facility, funded by a massive gift of stock from the ORBÁN government, has sponsored events and teaching positions for prominent US right-wing figures. Russia has already begun to employ National Conservative themes in its influence operations which will likely find a more receptive Western audience than in the past. Hungary is particularly fertile ground for Russian exploitation of National Conservatism given the existing close relationship between Russian and Hungarian elites and an extensive pre-existing Russian influence network.
Read the full report here
GIOR reported earlier this month on the opening of the MCC Brussels branch and Hungarian media have further identified Patzelt as the co-leader of MCC Brussels along with Frank Füredi, officially the MCC Executive Director. Patzelt’s controversial background has not been reported in coverage of his new role at the MCC. In 2015, German public radio said that university students had accused Patzelt of being an apologist for the Pegida movement, described by an NGO as a worldwide far-right movement originating in Dresden, where Patzelt has been a professor:
The acronym PEGIDA has been associated with grassroots anti-Islam protest for some years. In fact, the group – full name ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the (Christian) West’ – is one of the largest examples of sustained far-Right protest in western Europe in recent decades. What is less known is that local PEGIDA chapters have emerged outside Europe – in Canada, for example.The anti-immigrant and anti-elitist organisation originated in Dresden, in former East Germany,
Read the rest here.
According to the Deutschlandfunk report:
For weeks, the Dresden political scientist has been a sought-after conversation partner on all waves when it comes to the topic of “Pegida and its consequences”. The 61-year-old political scientist, originally from Bavaria, can formulate catchily and does not neglect humor. But now his popularity has become a problem. Students protested last week with leaflets against the professor’s interpretation of this topic. Their main accusation: Patzelt was more of a political actor than a scientist throughout the Pegida debate and, in the name of political science, played down the appearance, goals and actions of the Islamophobic protesters. [Translated from German with Google Translate with edits]
The Deutschlandfunk report goes on to say that some of Patzelt’s colleagues also accused him of being a Pegida apologist:
Some of his colleagues are reacting increasingly angrily to political scientist Patzelt’s repeated appeals for understanding for the plight of the group of bourgeois Pegida supporters. At the same time, he had repeatedly sharply attacked the behavior of the counter-demonstrators. In an open letter last week, a professor and eleven teachers distanced themselves from Patzelt’s statements. Julia Schulze-Wessel agrees: “We followed the interviews he gave very closely and found that he judges the counter-demonstrators very sweepingly, judges them politically. He accuses them of cultivating enemy images, he calls them hysterical. He accuses them of calling Pegida demonstrators fascists, neo-Nazis, racists.” This is wrong, says Schulze-Wessel, the counter-demonstrators were more concerned with pointing out the difficult situation of migrants in the city. A point that hardly or not at all occurs in Patzelt’s analyses, according to the political scientist.
An academic thesis says that Patzelt was sarcastically called the “Man who understands Pegida” and that he attended Pegida-marches, seen by his opponents as proof of his ideological attitude, while Patzelt said he was there for purposes of his research. The Deutschlandfunk report also hints at Patzel’s assertion of a “cancel culture” in German, making it impossible for anything by the voices of “left-liberal media” to be heard:
Students and lecturers are particularly angry about an article that the political scientist Patzelt recently published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung under the title “Edel sei der Volkswille”. In his analysis, the CDU man comes to the conclusion that the public perception, shaped by – as he writes – mostly left-liberal media everything that was once considered “right of center”, is already seen and evaluated as right-wing populism, right-wing radicalism, right-wing extremism and fascism. This has resulted in a seemingly clear canon of what approaches, concepts, language formulas and arguments “go” or “does not work” in Germany. Only those who adhere to it are allowed to participate in the public discourse.
In January 2019, German media reported that the Technical University of Dresden (TU) had ended its relationship with Patzelt, rejecting his application for a position as Senior Professor. According to the report, Patzelt was known as an expert on Pegida and the far-right German political party Alternative for Germany (AfD), but critics accused him of being too close to the subjects of his research. The report also cited Patzeld, who said the university had justified its rejection by saying that he “unduly confused the scientific and political roles,” an accusation he rejected, saying, “I didn’t mix any roles. I have always stood up only for the free democratic basic order — also against its enemies and opponents.”
In addition to Patzelt’s relationship with far-right movements, he has also known to have taught in Russia. As noted in his MCC bio above, he has been a guest professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and curricular materials indicate he has taught at a summer school program in connection with the HSE University- St. Petersburg. GIOR reported in October that MCC Brussels Executive Director Frank Furedi is an author for the Russian propaganda media operation RT (formerly Russia Today), where he has published multiple articles on culture war themes. GIOR has also reported on MCC guest lecturer John Laughland, a leader in the far-right Dutch political party the FvD and said to fit the profile of a KGB enabler.
Patzelt spoke at the National Conservatism Conference held in Brussels from March 23–24, 2022.