Steve Bannon: “We screwed up people who had respected the rules of the game all their lives”
Author Alexandre Devecchio 11 April 2019
Steve Bannon practices globalization in his own way. In a few days, he traveled thousands of kilometers to shake the hand of Matteo Salvini in Rome, then that of Shinzo Abe in Japan before making a stopover of a few hours in Paris. It is at the Hotel Bristol that he who presents himself as the herald of the popular classes has given us an appointment. Steve Bannon has had several lives: United States Navy officer, Seinfeld series producer (the most lucrative sitcom ever), conservative site director Breitbart News, and campaign director and advisor to Donald Trump. The red thread of his improbable course was in the defense of the “ordinary people” whose voice he intends to convey in America, but also today in Europe. His think tank “the Movement” dream to federate all European populist parties, especially in view of the elections next May. The “American Patrick Buisson” readily boasts about his influence, his analysis is an indispensable component to understand the great upheaval of world politics.
THE FIGARO MAGAZINE. – How do you define yourself ideologically? Like a populist? A nationalist? A national-populist? A conservationist? A national-conservative?
Steve BANNON. – I would say that I am at the same time populist, nationalist and sovereignist, with a traditionalist tendency to the extent that I defend the family structure and the traditional values. It is the very principle of the movement of which I am a part to gather all these ideological currents. I want to explain them one by one. To be populist is to be both opposed to the elites and in favor of the principle of subsidiarity: the decision must be taken at the lowest possible scale. To be a nationalist is to consider that the Westphalian system must be strengthened: the nation is the only entity that is supported by citizens while guaranteeing their freedom. Being a sovereignist means defending a network of free nations in which everyone can sign a treaty or alliance (such as the European Union or NATO), but only on the basis of their sovereign choice. Just take a little height to see that our ideas are needed all around the world, from Shinzo Abe in Japan to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. Observe what is happening in Australia, in India with Modi, or closer to you in Europe, in Brazil with Bolsonaro, in Colombia or in many other nations including the United States, of course … All of this is a combination of populism, nationalism and sovereignism.
Exactly, how do you explain the simultaneous rise of populists in all Western democracies? What are the commonalities between Salvini, Orbán, Trump and Bolsonaro? Do you think these movements are all comparable?
See the Chinese: they say that their system is a communist regime with Chinese characteristics. Well, for populism, it’s the same: each time it is a national-populist regime, but with Hungarian, French, Italian, Brazilian, American characteristics … In each nation, it is a question of a different regime that proposes responses adapted to its own economic and social problems. This is the strength of a national-populist regime: it is unique for every nation, because it puts forward in each case what is at the center of its concerns.“There is a burgeoning of traditional values around the world. It is a return to the traditional social structures of nations, family and cultural “
But then, why and for what purpose do you want to gather the European populists since you said it, the situation in Europe and in the United States is very different …
I think that the national-populists of Europe and the United States have one thing in common: they oppose the elites and the concentration of power, whether that power is in Brussels or Washington. In the United States, the populist movement wants to return power to the people, to the states, at the bottom of the scale, while revolting against the backdrop of globalization, which is spreading as much in the professional political class as on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley. All of this is part of the globalist mentality of which Davos is the big party. And this mentality contradicts the interests of the ordinary man. This is what unites the peoples of the United States and Europe: the behavioral patterns of our elites are comparable. You had the European project of Jean Monnet and its internal logic which was to erect the United States of Europe. We can then compare Italy to South Carolina, France to North Carolina, Spain to Georgia and Hungary to Maryland. In short, in this scheme, you have only dependent administrative units of Brussels and the ECB, in no case free and independent nations.Globalists see the nation-state as an object to be overcome, a step to go beyond. On the contrary, we believe that the nation-state is a jewel to polish and nourish. Then, it is to the citizens that the decision-making must return, as close as possible to their national realities and within the framework of their sovereign nation-state. Finally, there is one last aspect, which was seen in particular at the World Congress of Families [which took place in Verona from March 29 to 31, editor’s note]. There is a burgeoning of traditional values everywhere in the world: we see it in Trump, but also in Marion Maréchal, Salvini, the Japanese and obviously Bolsonaro. It is a return to the traditional social structures of nations, family and cultural.“People do not need me to destroy the ruling parties in their countries”
What are your views on the next European elections? What do you say to those who accuse you of interference? These elections will be a major turning point in European history, not just in its political history. This populist movement of aspiration to national sovereignty has really taken root. The dynamic that underlies it is global in terms of perspectives. And one of these big turning points will happen with the next European elections, when a huge success will come out of the polls in favor of the nationalist parties. As for my interference, the people do not need me to destroy the ruling parties in their countries.
Let’s talk about your journey. How do you go from sitcom producer to advising President Trump?I come from a family of American workers. My grandfather and father both worked for fifty years as telephone line workers. I was raised in the Catholic tradition. With five children, my mother was a housewife. We were democrats, we incarnated the working class of the Democratic Party. I have not forgotten where I came from, and if you pay attention to my speeches, you will see that I have only one objective: to ensure that these popular classes have more rights of citizenship. Regardless of whether I was a naval officer, whether I attended Harvard Business School and Georgetown Foreign Service School or worked at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street, my roots have remained popular . In my heart of hearts, I have remained an advocate for blue-collar workers and I dedicate my life to one thing only: make sure to give them back their voice.Today, the Democratic Party has only a few voters of the popular classes in its ranks, it has become the party of the “progressive” left: fundamentally against the traditional family, against the workers and for globalization. Then the American popular classes started to vote for the Republican Party. But, at first, they were not properly represented. We must not forget that the Republicans have plebiscite free trade without protecting our industries, they have defended the opening of borders, immigration illegal and without limits. That’s why Trump was elected.“What I learned at Goldman Sachs is that the dominant classes are not smarter than the popular classes.”
Has your experience in the world of finance been a turning point?I was in the mergers and acquisitions department of Goldman Sachs in the 1980s. As much to tell you that I worked in the heart of the investment banking reactor. What I learned at Goldman Sachs is that the dominant classes are not smarter than the lower classes. My grandfather, who has always been one of my heroes, stopped school in the third grade [the equivalent of CE2 in France, ed] and my father in high school [college, ed]. But they were really the two most intelligent people I’ve ever known. At Goldman Sachs, I realized that the collective wisdom of the working classes is at least as powerful as that of the elites. This is why I remain very attentive to the opinion of the people in the decision-making process. If I had to choose between governing with the first hundred people who came to see Trump with their red caps on their heads, and the hundred most senior employees at Goldman Sachs, my choice would be on the “deplorable” without hesitation.
Your father lost all his savings in the 2008 crisis. Did this event motivate your fight? My dad invested the little savings he had on the title AT & T, the telecommunications company he had been working for for fifty years. In his life, AT & T was as important as the Catholic Church: it was an absolutely central institution. But in 2008, all of this collapsed overnight, which he learned while watching television. The injustice is that only elites and big companies like General Electric, AIG or Goldman Sachs have been saved. All investment banks and commercial banks were bailed out. There is only one man who has not been bailed out, it’s my father. During the 2008 crisis, we destroyed the lives of people who had respected the rules of the game all their life. My father was one of those: he was the backbone of society, he was a fair man, he paid his dues. taxes, he contributed to civic life, he worked hard every day to allow his five children to go to Catholic school. If you do not like these people in the air, it’s the whole social structure that you destroy! In this case, the elites protected only their own interests, they let die skilled workers, those who, like my father, formed the backbone of society, that we are today losing. It is from this observation that our revolution begins.
What is your view of the movement of “yellow vests”? For me, it’s quite comparable to what’s going on here with those whom Hillary Clinton called the “deplorable”. Except that we have channeled all this energy, all this anger, into supporting Trump. And this same anger will re-elect Trump in the next election. The “deplorable” in the United States did not take the streets and did not need violence.
What do you think of Macron? Macron is a globalist. When I am told that he is a patriot, I answer that yes, he may be a patriot, but the capital of his homeland is Brussels. He sees himself as a European: everything leads him to more integration into the European project.
Did Trump keep his promises? What relationship do you have with him today?He understood the importance of keeping his promises in the eyes of people, starting with the construction of the wall, adapting the United States to structural changes in relation to China, and stopping conflicts abroad. as in Afghanistan. If you listen to his speech on the state of the Union in early February, you will see these three dimensions. These were the three central promises he had made in 2016 and, faced with this, the Democratic and Republican establishment only has to oppose him on the wall issue. Trump knows he will not be built when he is re-elected. But, at least, he shows the American people that he is fighting against immigration. People say to themselves, “He’s doing what he promised us …”If Trump continues on this path, I do not see anyone at the moment who can beat him in 2020. And when I am asked about my closeness to him, I answer that he defines himself today. He himself was a nationalist, and we have never been so close, because even when I led the campaign he had never defined himself as such. As for you, French, you must know that he is not going to destroy NATO, he loves France just as Americans like him. We know that we would not be free and independent without France among our allies, because we have in memory the history of our independence.
“China is a totalitarian dictatorship going to colonize us economically”In your opinion, the 2008 crisis was only an economic and financial crisis? Or did it also reveal a deeper moral crisis? Today, take a tour in France and in America deep, you will see that none of our two countries has really recovered from the crisis of 2008. It is as if this economic crisis had touched perverse and most harshly those who were a priori the farthest from its point of explosion, like the “yellow vests”.It is a financial crisis that has led to an economic crisis that is leading today to a political crisis. In my view, the best evidence of the moral decay of the elite is not so much the financial crisis itself as the reaction of the elites to this crisis. Remember, these people have hired the best law firms, accountants and banks. The elite in London, Frankfurt, and of course Wall Street, had only one thing in mind: to bail out. In concrete terms, what did they do? They opened liquidity taps, what we call quantitative easing, to stop the fear of deflation. They issued no less than $ 4 trillion to save themselves, to the detriment of the ordinary man. If you have savings accounts today that do not pay anything at all, know that it’s because of the negative interest rates they used to bail themselves out. All on the back of the ordinary man.It is, in my opinion, the refusal of the elites to accept their responsibility and to pay the consequences which is now triggering the revolt of the peoples. Look at your revolt, here in France. It is very much linked to this disastrous Paris agreement, whereby you have allowed China, the biggest polluter on the planet, to pollute again and again. And as the rich have had tax cuts, it’s up to the “yellow vests” to pay for it. We understand that they are angry! The Yellow Vest crisis is a perfect example of the moral decay of the Davos party and the elites.
What do you call the Davos party? “Moral decay,” is not that a bit strong? I will give you an example that summarizes everything. In the third week of January 2017, two speeches were delivered. The first in Davos by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the second a few days later in Washington for the inaugural speech of President Trump. Let us remember that with the victory of the national-populist movement, globalization has seen the most bitter defeat in US history – Hillary Clinton, a notorious globalist, embodying this defeat – so that the party of Davos and the major world media panicked: “What will happen with Trump, the savage who lands in Washington to demolish our entire empire?” As for President Jinping, he delivered a speech calling for strengthening globalization. Contrary to Trump, Xi Jinping did not specify that this system was deleterious and that it reduced people to ashes. On the contrary, he had come to emphasize the central aspect that China should take in a new globalization. So all the consultants, all the bankers, all the lawyers, all the little elite of Davos applauded him very loudly and exclaimed: “Xi is great! Xi is our savior! ” At that time, they were aware that a million Uighurs had already been transferred by the Chinese army to re-education and concentration camps; they knew about the crackdown on the Dalai Lama and the Buddhists in Tibet; they knew about the dismantling of the Christian Church in China, which had become clandestine to survive; they were aware of the situation of the Chinese people, enslaved by the cadres of the Chinese Communist Party.Knowing all this, they welcomed Xi as a savior and treated Trump as if he were the Devil himself. The only wrong of President Trump? Advocate for a strengthening of the Westphalian system and the nation-state. We Americans take care of our country, as we want our allies and partners to take care of theirs: “Make France great again”, “Make Italy great again”, “Make Poland great again” … But they all applauded Xi Jinping and claimed that Trump was the bad guy. This is the moral rot that is at the heart of the Davos party: they have acclaimed a totalitarian dictatorship. In reality, Davos only cares about one thing: money. They do not obey any other moral authority. They venerate the first comer who pays out enough in consulting or banking fees. Davos is fascinated by the golden calf, obeys no other authority and quite frankly, it is thanks to this moral weakness that we will overcome it.
How close are you to the Republican Party establishment? Do you recognize them as part of the impoverishment of the American popular classes that you have described? As I explained, the Republican establishment fought Trump whenever they had the opportunity. In this great national-populist movement, the Republican establishment is not on our side. For example, Trump had negotiated a trade deal on soybeans, so that its value could be guaranteed regardless of its price thereafter on the stock market. Imagine that the Republican Party establishment was not in favor of this measure, considering that it would force China to make major structural reforms. On the other hand, the Republican party’s establishment has been the advocate of illegal immigration, because it allows us to bring more low-skilled labor to bear down on wages.Upon arriving in Washington DC, the Chinese delegation hurried up Capitol Hill to lunch with the Republican Party establishment. Before Trump brought them back, all those good people were totally disconnected from the Republican Workers’ base. Remember: at the 2016 primaries, Trump was facing twelve candidates all widely supported by Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the AEI, the Koch brothers, Paul Singer and so on. Whether they are libertarians like Ron Paul, conservatives like Ted Cruz, governors like Chris Christie, neoconservatives like Marco Rubio or a member of the Bush faction, we were dealing with the cream of the crop, in the pinnacle of the Republican establishment until in their thought software. And that’s where Donald Trump arrived. He told them: we will build a wall and close the borders, we will reduce our jobs relocated, we will tax transactions with China. They did not even know what the word “protectionist” meant, they probably had never heard it, it was not even in their jargon. And during the primaries, we can see that they do not even know how to answer him because they are only robot politicians programmed to reason in a certain way. The weekend before polling day, the Republican establishment in the person of Paul Ryan told me to my face that it was not worth going to Wisconsin, that anyway we would lose at least three points and they did not want to be associated with that. I told them it was absurd and that I was convinced we could win Wisconsin. Probably little, but we had to go! So Paul Ryan and the Republican party establishment refused to appear on the stage with us. They did not realize that Donald Trump’s speech met the concerns of the American working class, simply because they themselves were disconnected from it. During the campaign, we had three enemies: the elite media party was the first of them, the fringe of the Democratic Party attached to the left of the values was the second, and the Republican Party establishment the third. Combine these three categories that mate with each other and you will get the political and media elite of the country, the class that has been fighting Donald Trump since the start.“The Chinese are presenting themselves as your new partner but their real economic strategy is to make France a colony”
You said to be protectionist. What is your opinion of the economic doctrine of the Chicago School? I do not believe in the neoliberal model. Of course, I am in favor of a share of capitalism, but on condition that it is a capitalism of the real, a practical capitalism. The academics of the Chicago School got lost in their abstract theories and they made the free market a fetish. The world today is divided between two opposing systems. On the one hand, there is China, this mercenary totalitarianism that tries to flood the world with its goods and its liquidity with its “Made in China 2025” program. Last week, the Chinese president was in France to invest 60 billion dollars in 30 different contracts to open his project of the new silk road. The Chinese are presenting themselves as your new partner but their real economic strategy is to make France a colony. On the other hand, there are the Western democracies that still operate according to the liberal order and that resist, as best they can, the invasion of these manufactured products, which completely free themselves from the rules of the WTO, unbalance their trade balance and destroy their jobs. This is where the anger of the people comes from. The Chicago School of Economics is nice in theory, but in practice it does not hold water. But you know what you But do you know what you’re saying to the big media in the establishment if you say that in the United States? Me, they accused me of being nothing less than a communist. According to them, I would be a Bolshevik simply because I am in favor of protecting our industries and American workers! Is not your biggest challenge to convert the Republican Party to protectionism? If Donald Trump won because protectionism, especially against China to regain jobs, is one of the dimensions that I took care to include in all his speeches. That’s one of the reasons we won, especially in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Midwest. Because, as the great sociologist JD Vance in Hillbilly elegy puts it, citing reports from MIT and Harvard, there is a correlation between the relocation of factories and jobs in China, and the opioid crisis which, like you know, kill fifty thousand people every year in the United States, with Fentanyl that the whole world has heard about.But now that we have engaged all the forces of the country against it, China is against us. Even they realize that they must make major structural changes in the Chinese economy, be it in subsidies to state-owned industries, the theft of property, or the manipulation of currencies without a trade barrier. Because it really affects people, in France as in the United States. That’s why, when Trump does what he’s doing right now, he’s doing it for all industrial democracies: Japan, North America, Western Europe … We’ve been made by China. And especially by their practice of technology transfer: when a company in France wants to do business or manufacture in China, it will be necessary for it to make a joint venture in which China will have view and will have access to French technologies to then steal them. This is theft of intellectual property and racketeering: you want to trade with China to compete with it so it floods your markets? You will therefore be obliged to offer them your technology on a platter. That’s how it works, unlike the West, where capitalism is based on innovation, which drives the economy and forces our entrepreneurs to move forward.In addition, the Chinese continue to invest heavily in government-owned state-owned industrial subsidies to gain maximum export capacity. Which gives rise to the fact that the number one Chinese export in the world today is deflation, because China lives beyond its capacity and exerts a tremendous tariff pressure on the rest of the world. For example, it has 800 million tons of steel capacity and lives on top of them by lowering its prices to flood the world market and exerting tariff pressure that stifles its competitors and prevents them from raising their prices. . That’s why Trump sounded the alarm: we must fight and fight hard for these major global structural changes to work. And it is important that you understand in France that you are also concerned, and that all this has a huge impact on your people, as it does on the American people. Not to mention the Chinese project of the new silk roads, the “Made in China 2025” plan and China’s 5G expansion plans. They will dominate the future of high technology and the bulk of manufacturing in France and the United States, and we will become tributary to China. We will be reduced to providing them with raw materials and some components, and we will be a market for their finished products, while being a digital colony for them.“I think that Westerners, unless we really get to grips with China by putting them under our economic rules, will have a hard time avoiding a conflict in the China Sea.”
Can China also be a long-term military threat? There is a well-known book called “Unrestricted warfare,” written by two Chinese military strategists in the nineties. It is a kind of war plan against the West that exposes three types of wars: the information war, the economic war and the armed war. What he describes can be summed up as: “The only thing Westerners can do is fight and they know how to fight with good strategies. We will never defeat them militarily, but we can defeat them by using the information war and the economic war. ” That’s why China is committed to destroying the West economically, and that’s why it has intensified the information warfare, cyber-theft and cyber-espionage of intellectual property.As for the armed conflict, I hope we will never go. Having been young in the mid-seventies, I was on a destroyer in the South China Sea. This sea is the major waterway in the world for about 40% of world trade and has always been open to the free navigation of every nation in the world. The Chinese have built seven fixed islands, which are essentially aircraft carriers used to claim the South China Sea as a territorial sea, just as they wish to see safe passages of navigation. I thought, in 2014, that there would be a war in the coming five years in the South China Sea as the geostrategic climate is explosive … For example, the Japanese believe that the military conflict that threatens them most is not with North Korea, but is at one of two major stress sites, Taiwan, in the Taiwan Strait, and the South China Sea.I think that the Westerners, unless we really get to grips with China by putting them under our economic rules, will have a hard time avoiding a conflict in the China Sea. Something I hope with all my heart not to see happen. But it is only by confronting us economically with China that we will avoid that. What Trump has been doing since he was elected is even the mark of his presidency. It focuses on that and now we have all the governance forces with us, focused on this issue, which will become decisive until the 2020 Presidential election.
The army has been a defining experience in your intellectual journey?Asia has always interested me, so I joined the Pacific fleet on a destroyer as an officer in charge of the pursuit of Soviet submarines. Our submarine warfare missions were conducted in the China Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. I made two expeditions at sea. During the second, we were faced with a hostage crisis. It was a formative experience that reinforced my love of the homeland. To measure how vast the world is and to go to the end of this world to defend America: yes it was a great experience.I was in China in 1977, I saw India and Pakistan, all these things that I could not have conceived if I had stayed in my small state and in my small town of Richmond. The army allowed me not to fall back on myself. Later, my eldest daughter joined West Point, and she served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq. One of my best memories was at the Breitbart Embassy [a conservative Washington show that Steve Bannon is very fond of, Ed.] When my daughter sent me a picture: exhausted, weapon in hand, she sat on the throne of Saddam Hussein. It was a great experience for her to go to Iraq. She also served in Eastern Europe, and again it was very formative. Serving in the army strengthens the love of the country, it is a duty for every American.
Is the biggest threat to the West not Islamism? I think this radical Islam and especially political Islam and sharia are clearly a significant threat to the West, but I think we can overcome that, especially as we have partners in the Middle East who have understood the issues. General al-Sisi, for example, has made it clear that Islam must reform internally to enter modernity and that only the nations of the Ummah can bring about this. That’s why with President Trump we went to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Rome on our first trip. To dialogue the great foci of Judaism, Islam and the Judaeo-Christian West. Still, yes, radical Islam is of course a major threat to the Judeo-Christian West, but it is not Islam in general, but indeed its radical, Islamist, supremacist interpretation, placing sharia above all and embracing jihad. And I think against this threat Trump was one of the most committed figures.But if you look at the existing threats, it is the Chinese who embody the most ardent threat to the West, given its size, given its history, and given its ambitions. One only has to look at the new silk roads and see the Chinese president’s visit to France a few days ago. He brought sixty billion dollars with him: if China’s project succeeds, France will be very different from what it is today, and it will be a much bigger problem than radical Islam. The globalists did not want to see this threat. And Macron now sees a Chinese president arrive with sixty billion dollars, how can he ignore them?
More than the left at Bernie Sanders, is not it the left caviar that you hate? What do you think of the politics of identities that the left leads? Does not it break America? I listen to the “progressives” on the left and what they say about Trump. In fact, they divide America by wanting to go far too far in an identity politics because they think that it is a way for them to win. This is a narrow policy for me, which contrasts with the economic results and the social question. Looking at what Trump did with his policies, one realizes that he created the lowest black unemployment rate in history, and the lowest unemployment rate of Hispanics in forty or fifty years, wages in rise in both categories and we can already see in the polls that Latin Americans are beginning to turn to Trump, which has more than 40% approval among Hispanics, and thus cut the grass under the feet of the Democrats and his ethnic clientelism.
You lead Breibart News, is the digital revolution a threat or a chance for democracy?Democracy has never been stronger, but the media began to say that it was in danger as elites began to lose the election. Democracy has all of a sudden fallen into a great danger just because they got their ass kicked. Last November in the United States, 113 million people voted, it was the record of participation in a mid-term election of history. And I think we should expect a great electoral mobilization for the upcoming European elections.People are more engaged than before, thanks in part to social networks. Social networks have disintermediated everything and that is exactly what Breibart did. A media capable of broadcasting content every day. Today we have real alternatives and I think we are only at the beginning of this process. Remember that Salvini and Bolsonaro have won thanks to Facebook videos, no need to spend millions of dollars! Even Ocasio-Cortez: we forget that she was a bartender a few years ago and that she was earning about $ 17,000 a year, today she is the third most important political figure in the United States, the most powerful nation in the world. Yes, social networks are incredibly powerful.