Steve Bannon made his name as Donald Trump’s campaign organizer, then as President Trump’s right-hand man, then as one of the first White House insiders to be sacked.
Since he lost the job in Washington, Bannon has been busy trying to organise the forces of the far right, using an organisation called The Movement to reach out to Marine Le Pen’s National Rally here in France, to Matteo Salvini in Italy, Viktor Orban in Hungary, and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. He's coming our way.
With European elections due in May, Bannon has set his sights on the Old Continent, suggesting that the spring poll will produce nothing less than an “electoral earthquake”.
Bannon kicks off his Express interview by citing the Prussian military strategist, Carl von Clausewitz, to the effect that war is just politics carried on by other means. Bannon suggests that the reverse is also true: politics, in other words, is war with different weapons.
This tells us a lot about this man who was an early part of the anti-state Tea Party in the Obama era, a founder of the hard-right Breitbart news organisation, the guerilla-strategist who miraculously turned The Donald into Mr President.
Like his former boss, Bannon has no time for wimpy talk about the environment or being kind to poor people. He believes in nationalism, populism and the industrial heritage of the West.
No fan of the French president
Bannon says Emmanuel Macron is the French Barack Obama, a man without clear convictions. He accuses the French leader of trying to conceal the realities of uncontrolled immigration, and of cheating in his attempt to use the carbon tax to save the planet. Bannon says the French president made the yellow vest reaction inevitable.
The Paris climate deal, as Bannon understands it, was a huge con intended to make the rest of the world pay for Chinese pollution, at the same time as Beijing swallows up the remaining industrial jobs.
Bannon believes that the yellow vests have seen through that smoke-screen and have insisted that they won’t any longer be the victims of the Davos billionaires and their political henchmen.
Emmanuel Macron is a fancy suit with nothing inside it, according to Bannon. The French president is a puppet, he’s arrogant, he has no idea how ordinary people struggle to survive.
Bannon knows all about ordinary people. He used to be one. He says his motivation comes from his working-class background. He wants to give political power back to those at the bottom of the pile.
A man for all seasons
Bannon claims that he’s not fundamentally anti-European, even if he insists that the road to salvation is paved with what he calls “economic nationalism”. He thinks this year’s elections will completely change the Old Continent’s contours, and shake up the Commission and the European Council.
Bannon admires Matteo Salvini “a man who’s fighting for Italian sovereignty,” and Viktor Orban, “a hero” who is defending the interests of ordinary Hungarians against the bureaucrats in Brussels. Marine Le Pen is nothing short of “remarkable,” she is “doing excellent work.” The French far right leader reminds Bannon of Trump, no less, getting on with the job despite a daily barrage of criticism.
He’s a fan of democracy and of economic liberalism, provided they are not manipulated for the exclusive benefit of the global élite.
Bannon is also a fervant admirer of Islam, “a great religion”. He’s in favour of walls to control migration, but also of investment in the source countries to stop migrant flows before they get started.
Beware the Chinese bogey-man!
The real enemy is the Chinese communist party and its commercial totalitarianism. Bannon compares XI Jinping to Hitler in the 1930s, saying the Chinese chief runs a state control machine which has no place for religious or ethnic minorities, or for any political alternatives.
The Davos billionaires are the real fascist traitors, says Bannon, because they continue to applaud tyrants like Xi Jinping.
An article in today’s London-based Guardian newspaper says that Europe has nothing to fear from Bannon, but should be scared of the hype that surrounds him.
The Guardian warns that the latest slew of Bannon media mush is far from inconsequential. Articles that take his grandiose plans at face value strengthen the narrative that the 2019 European elections will again be a fundamental struggle between the élite-driven status quo and Eurosceptic forces. This means that the radical right will, once again, set the political agenda and dominate the election campaign.
The main impact of that will be to force mainstream parties, particularly of the centre right, to move even further to the extremes, copying the radicals not just in terms of issues but also policies.