Pioneer Briefing US Edition

AfD: Germany's Right Wing Populists


Good Morning,

The only route to power for political parties is through the political center.

In the center of society, people complain but don't hate; there's discontent but not hostility. They are seeking change, not revolution. They view other nations not only as adversaries but also as potential partners.

The center has adapted to the world's imperfections, preferring a moderate approach in attitude and language. As Bodo Hombach puts it:

In the middle, we avoid ambiguous language; we speak clearly.

Bodo Hombach © KNSY Photography

People here do not write letters to the chancellor with 30 exclamation marks. The inhabitants of the center aren't constantly losing their cool.

All successful post-war parties eventually gravitate to the center. In 1959, at its party conference in Bad Godesberg, the Social Democrat Party (SPD) distanced itself from being merely a socialist workers' party. It became a party for the people, with a new economic motto:

As much market as possible, as much planning as necessary.

Ten years later, Willy Brandt became chancellor.

Willy Brandt (1969) © imago

Giorgia Meloni, a right-wing populist from Italy, has undergone a notable shift in her political stance. Once stating, "I have a relaxed relationship with fascism. I see it as part of our national history," she now declares:

There is no place for racists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis in the Fratelli d'Italia.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni  © imago

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Italy: Meloni Ahead

Poll rating of the Italian parties as of March 29, 2024, in percent

In France, Marine Le Pen, another right-wing populist, is attempting to follow suit. She is seeking approval from mainstream society by distancing herself from her father, an explicitly open anti-semite.

To have a chance of becoming the president of France, she has softened many of her previous stances on immigration and the euro.

Marine Le Pen © dpa

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Le Pen is Losing

Result of the presidential election in France 2022 (run-off), in percent

However, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), led by Alice Weidel, Maximilian Krah and Björn Höcke, is taking a different approach. Rather than moving closer to the center, they are adopting more extreme views. This alternative path is deterring the Italian, French and Polish right-wing populists from wanting to become allies with them.

Alice Weidel, who previously advocated for Björn Höcke's expulsion from the AfD, now aligns more closely with the extreme right she once claimed to oppose. As a result, and after the departure of its three former leaders, Lucke, Petry and Meuthen, the party is increasingly drifting towards the fringes, where extreme individuals and ideas tend to exist.

Alice Weidel and Björn Höcke © imago

The Case of Krah

Maximilian Krah, the top AfD contender for the European elections, faced a temporary suspension from the "Identity and Democracy" faction in 2022 for backing the far-right candidate and Le Pen rival, Éric Zemmour, in the French presidential race. Known as a troublemaker, Krah resides in the ideological sphere of Höcke.

Maximilian Krah with child and wheat beer  © Instagram/maximilian.krah

Pictured above, Krah is a father of many children by multiple women. And his newest pastime is sharing his dating tips with young men on TikTok ("Don't watch porn", "Real men are right-wing".) He also recruited an anti-Semite from the French "Rassemblement National" after he was fired and expelled from the AfD.

Despite the AfD's poor electoral performance among women, Maximilian Krah doesn't refrain from making sexist remarks. In his Ash Wednesday speech, he said:

As real men, we want real women.

As well as:

Feminists are all ugly and horrible.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: European Elections: AfD in Second Place

Poll: Voter preferences in mid-April for the European elections in June, answers in percent

The Case of Höcke

Björn Höcke © dpa

Björn Höcke, the AfD's leading candidate in Thuringia, will go on trial next week at the regional court in Halle. He has repeatedly used the SA salute "Alles für Deutschland" (English: "Everything for Germany") in his speeches. He seems to relish evoking the darkness of the Nazi era in his public addresses, urging the AfD to reject mainstream ideologies and embrace extremism.

His enemies are the left and anti-fascism. He writes in his book "Never Twice in the Same River" (2018):

Today's anti-fascism makes you evil, ugly and stupid.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: Thuringia: AfD vs. CDU

Survey on party preferences in Thuringia for the state election on March 19, 2024, in percent

The Case of Bystron

Petr Bystron is currently being investigated by German authorities for allegedly accepting money from Russia. According to a report in the Czech newspaper Denik N, this is what the Czech secret service claims.

Both the German Parliament (Bundestag) administration and the public prosecutor's office in Munich are looking into the matter. There are video recordings supposedly containing evidence. Bystron has refrained from making public appearances since the allegations came to light.

He did have to answer questions from the party leadership on this matter; however, their conclusion was:

At this point in time, the Federal Executive Board must assume Mr. Bystron's innocence.

AfD politician Petr Bystron © imago

The Case of Thomas Seitz

The former public prosecutor has left the AfD, disgusted by its direction, calling party members "predators" who divide positions and money among themselves.

Seitz was part of the nationalist wing. After calling Barack Obama a racial slur, he lost his civil servant status. As for his opinion on current party leader Weidel, he considers her to be "corrupt."

Thomas Seitz © imago

The Case of Weidel

Alice Weidel has sold her soul to the right-wing extremists of the AfD. She has abandoned her project of a bourgeois AfD, which was supposed to prove its ability to connect with the conservative milieu of the Christian Democratic and Social Unions (CDU/CSU). She is experiencing a learning curve similar to that of Lucke, Petry and Meuthen. The difference is that they left when the party became too extreme, whereas Weidel decided to stay on board.

AfD leader Alice Weidel © imago

As recently as 2017, Weidel - in contrast to Meuthen and Gauland at the time - supported expulsion proceedings against Höcke. At the time, Weidel criticized Höcke's call for a "180 in the Holocaust remembrance policy." She called his statement about the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, where he referred to it as a "memorial of shame," "damaging to the party" and "wrong."

She now speaks differently.

She no longer wants to balance bourgeois decency and Höcke's far-right remigration ideas. In a letter of dissociation that the French right-wing populists had demanded from Weidel, she is unable to find clear language and speaks of misunderstandings.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: The Development of the AfD

Survey and election results of the AfD since its first entry into the Bundestag in 2017, in percent

In Paris, this has led to renewed tensions with the AfD. Le Pen fears being punished in the presidential elections for her closeness to German right-wing extremists. References to national socialism are as popular in France as scabies and COVID-19.

Eine Infografik mit dem Titel: AfD: Debate Yes, Ban No

Statements on dealing with the AfD, in percent

Conclusion: Conservatives and liberals in Europe don’t want to form coalitions nor flirt with this Höcke-Krah-Weidel AfD at the risk of their own demise. Germany's unique path of right-wing populism may be front-page news, but it's going nowhere. The firewall stands - and it now runs across Europe.

  • On the Pioneer Podcast, we talk with Prof. Thomas Druyen about the prerequisites for wealth.

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants to cut at least ten percent of the workforce worldwide.

  • Interactive Art Exhibition: At the "Edinburgh Printmakers" in Scotland, visitors are allowed to exhibit any form of art.

The Israeli opposition leader Jair Lapid © imago

Opposition vs. Netanyahu

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Jair Lapid publicly criticized incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on X. He claimed that Netanyahu's leadership has weakened Israel's military power.

Israeli Response

David Cameron © imago

In Israel, the security cabinet met in the wake of the Iranian attacks. According to media reports, the meeting resulted in crucial decisions: various options were considered to retaliate against Iran without triggering a war in the region. Iranian state television reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had already told British Foreign Secretary David Cameron that Iran would respond immediately to an Israeli attack.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian © imago

The goal of avoiding war in the region through an Israeli response seems far-fetched in this tit-for-tat situation.

International Position

In the wake of the Iranian attacks on Israel, Israel's allies showed solidarity as supportive partners. The governments of France, the United Kingdom and Germany have summoned Iranian ambassadors for talks.


According to Israeli reports, four Israeli soldiers were wounded in an attack near the Lebanese border. Shortly after that, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack.

The sociologist Prof. Thomas Druyen © X/UniWH

In today's Pioneer Podcast, we speak with Professor Thomas Druyen about the prerequisites for wealth.

Druyen, a sociologist, is the head of the department at the Sigmund Freud Private University in Vienna and is considered an authority in the field of wealth research.

In the interview, he emphasizes that building wealth requires a combination of characteristics, with cultural aspects such as background and education playing a role. However, there are exceptions to the rule, such as the classic rags-to-riches story.

Click here to listen to today’s episode of the Pioneer Podcast.

The critical factor, he says, is an innovative, renewal-oriented, change-driven mindset - in which courage plays an important role:

We come from this 30 to 40-year culture of success, and it takes particular courage to change course and embrace digitalization, even if we're not exactly sure it will lead to the desired outcome.

When asked about the importance of the wealthy to society, his answer underscores the necessity of their existence:

We need the wealthy for their potential for innovation and renewal, their function in providing jobs, and hopefully for paying taxes. There's usually a significant contribution there. We need the rich in different cultural terms.

You can listen to the entire conversation in German about wealth, the "greed" angle and societal perceptions in today’s Pioneer Podcast.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk © dpa

Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to cut at least ten percent of the company's global workforce or about 14,000 jobs. Musk said in an internal message that Tesla has grown too fast in recent years and has even duplicated some functions:

There is nothing I hate more, but it must be done.

He intends to streamline Tesla so that it is "lean, innovative, and hungry" for the next growth cycle.

Sales of the American company's cars are currently sluggish. In the last quarter, there was an 8.5 percent drop in deliveries compared to the first quarter of 2023, marking the first time deliveries have declined year-on-year since 2020.

Shares under pressure: The announcement of impending job cuts caused Tesla shares to drop by approximately four percent yesterday. Since the beginning of the year, the stock has lost 32.5 percent of its value.

Apple iPhone 15 © dpa

Just three months after Apple was able to assert itself as the largest manufacturer of smartphones, the iPhone manufacturer had to relinquish first place back to Samsung.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), Apple sold about 50.1 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2024, down about 10 percent from the same period last year. This translates to a market share of 21 percent, according to IDC.

Kye Hyun Kyung, CEO of Samsung Electronics © imago

Samsung now holds a 23 percent market share, with shipments down just under one percent year-over-year to 60.1 million units in the latest quarter.

Xiaomi increased its sales by 34 percent and now has a 14 percent market share. Transsion from Shenzhen, China - now the leading smartphone manufacturer in Africa - saw its shipments increase by 85 percent to 25.2 million units, securing fourth place in terms of units shipped.

David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs © imago

Exceeding expectations: In the first three months of the year, investment bank Goldman Sachs posted a net income of $4.1 billion, up from $3.2 billion a year earlier. That was almost a billion dollars more than analysts had expected.

The bank made significant gains in the crucial investment banking segment and its core mergers and acquisitions business. Net interest income fell less than expected, and CEO David Solomon is optimistic:

Companies of all sizes need to raise capital, and financial sponsors need to execute transactions to generate returns for their investors. It's clear that we are in the early stages of a reopening of the capital markets.

CEO back on track: The results are also helping David Solomon’s image. The 62-year-old has been criticized for his authoritarian management style, excessive use of private jets and an unsuccessful foray into retail banking. The increase in numbers comes at a good time for him.

Up 3.7 percent: Investors appreciated the robust performance and drove the stock price up. Since the beginning of the year, the bank has posted moderate growth of around 8 percent.

The exhibition: Castle Mills, Then & Now | Whose Gallery Is It Anyway? © Instagram/edinburghprintmakers

Art Smuggling: Last week's headline read, "Employee smuggles own artwork into Munich's Pinakothek der Moderne."

The consequences: The artist was fired, banned from the premises and a criminal complaint for property damage was filed against him.

It's not an isolated case: Artist Danai Emmanouilidis smuggled an unregistered painting into an exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn last year. The painting was auctioned off for €2,800 and the artist became famous.

The painting smuggled in by Danai Emmanouilidis © X/bundeskunsthall

Change of perspective: A creative center in Scotland is now offering a way to give freelance artists a place in the museum - without criminal charges or dismissal. According to The Guardian, any visitor will soon be able to exhibit their artwork at the Edinburgh Printmakers.

The Edinburgh Printmakers © Instagram/edinburghprintmakers

Anything is possible: All forms of art, from prints to sculptures to textiles, are accepted. Visitors can also help curate the exhibition by rearranging or moving artworks around the space. The interactive exhibition opens this week and runs through June 30th.

The theme of the interactive exhibition is: "Whose Gallery is it Anyway?" and it aims to redefine shared space and reverse the power dynamic between artist and audience.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your day. Stay informed. Stay with me.

Best wishes,

Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer
  1. , Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer

Editorial Team

Eleanor Cwik, Alexia Ramos Gonsen, Lukas Herrmann, Nico Giese & Paulina Metzler

With contributions from Philipp Heinrich, Jan Schroeder & Tatiana Laudien

Translation Team

Eleanor Cwik & Alexia Ramos Gonsen

Graphics Team

Aaron Wolf (Cover Art)


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