Stephen K. Bannon is talking about French President Emmanuel Macron.
“His masturbatory fantasy is that he’s Napoleon, right,” he tells me, as we sit on the Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, in central Rome. “That’s his masturbatory fantasy. He’s small, he’s tiny, he’s Napoleonic, he’s Napoleon without the force of character, a convergence of an ego like Napoleon coupled with the gravitas of a Rothschild’s banker.
“That’s called Brave New World. In 1984 it’s called Newspeak. War is Peace. Hate is Love. Freedom is slavery. Macron is Napoleon.”
What prompted this tirade was my mentioning the fact that Macron had praised the Italian President Sergio Mattarella’s refusal to accept Italy’s incoming populist government’s first list of ministers. “A defence of democracy,” Macron said.
“Complete nonsense by the Rothschild’s banker,” retorts Bannon. “The little Rothschild’s banker.”
But Macron gets on very well with Trump, I add.
“Only because he’s a Rothschild’s banker. It’s all client management for him. And by the way, I don’t think people could have been more offended than him coming to Congress and ripping apart Trump’s program. Pick your friends wisely.”
Feeling we’re on a roll, I suggest Macron’s marriage to a much older woman who was his teacher is strange.
“I’m the last person to talk to about someone’s proclivities,” he says. And that’s that.
We’re sitting on a pavement table near where the Church used to execute heretics. It was also a popular spot for Italian communists before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
We discuss the latest convulsions in Italian politics, the tug of power war between the European elite and the populist left-right coalition. This excites him.
“Italy’s the centre of the world right now,” says Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist, Editor-in-Chief of Breitbart, film producer, Goldman Sachs banker and US Navy lieutenant.
“The Party of Davos is in total panic on Italy.”
He tells me about his experience of the Italian elections in March.
“I happened to be here for the final week and it was the equivalent of the Trump campaign. The rallies were huge and enthusiastic – and what impressed me most was the amount of young people talking about big ideas. This was not small stuff, school uniforms and the type of stuff campaigns get bogged down in, but the biggest largest issues facing the world today. Can people govern themselves and not be governed by central capital markets?
“But because of bond trading and the spread, they said the markets don’t like it and the German media said the Italians are lower than beggars, the Financial Times of London’s editorial said that the barbarians have breached the wall and are now inside the gates. That’s a fire bell in the night. By the way, that’s why the FT, the BBC, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist – those four are the propaganda department of the globalists.”
But what’s so good about populism? Aren’t the elite right to want to stop all this nonsense?
“That’s ridiculous! Would these countries be in the mess they’re in if it hadn’t been for the elites?
“Let’s go back. The fuse for this revolution was lit in September 2008. We’re coming on to the 10th anniversary of this. In fact we’re going to be doing conferences on this in London, New York and Washington, on the financial collapse in 2008 brought on by the financial and political elites. Sept 15th, 16th and 18th.
“On the 15th September 2008, at 9 o’clock in the morning in London, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.”
What about the euro?
“I think the euro is a mistake. Look at the countries who stayed off the euro –Switzerland, United Kingdom and Norway – they are all thriving – you must have control of your own currency to control your own fate.”
However, he insists that “Italy’s going to have to be in the euro for a while until they get this thing sorted out. You’re not just going to walk in and get out of the euro on day one.
“But here’s what you are seeing: the European Union is going from a collection of states like the United States to an organization of nation states.”
So it’s reverting back to what it was then, is that good?
“It’s for these people to decide. And what you’re seeing in Italy is a revolution where people take back control.
“The globalists have made a hash of this. They look at people as just units of production and consumption.”
His associate Raheem Kassam, who resigned recently as editor of Breitbart London and previously stood to be leader of UKIP, intervenes to point out what Jean-Claude Juncker said in 2005: “There can be no democratic choice against the European Treaties.”
Even President Mattarella said explicitly – I point out – that his initial refusal of the Populist government was because it threatens the stability of investments and of the euro.
“This is what’s so outrageous: Italy’s not had a real election in seven years.”
Actually, Italy has not had an elected Prime Minister since 2011 when the last elected one Silvio Berlusconi was forced to resign at the height of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
“You’ve got to get that in the article. This is what people don’t understand.”
The new populist coalition of the right wing Lega and the alt-left Five Star movement was “like Bernie Sanders and the Trump movement coming together or Corbyn and UKIP coming together.”
Or else – I suggest – it is like the French far left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon teaming up with Marine Le Pen’s Front National.
“Exactly. And here in Italy they’ve won. This is massive.”
Are similar left-right populist alliances outside Italy conceivable?
What, even Bernie Sanders and Trump?
“We’re talking to Bernie’s guys all the time.
“Marine Le Pen described it perfectly. It’s no longer left versus right. That’s the old politics. What Italy shows you is that the fight now is between those who believe the nation state is an obstacle to be thrown out and those who believe it’s a jewel to be polished.”
Many people in Italy believe that the Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini simply copied Bannon’s successful strategy for Trump to take the White House. This involved talking only about a handful of core issues. Like Trump, he has millions of followers — though his preferred medium is Facebook not Twitter.
Bannon met Salvini just after the election campaign in March and is rumoured to have done so again during this second trip to Italy. On this he refuses to be drawn:
“I have to be very careful. Nick, we’re in a global war, right,” he explained, “That goes from Japan and the Philippines to the peninsula of Korea right around the world. It’s been ten years coming, It is just starting. What’s happening in Italy is a defining moment.”
He has also met members of Five Star but not the leaders and again refuses to say who, where, when. Bannon is friendly and engaging but he keeps a mysterious aura around his activities.
Early last week, when we met, it looked as if Italy’s new populist government would be blocked. President Sergio Mattarella had accepted the Five Star/Lega choice of Prime Minister – a law professor, Giuseppe Conte, who is not an MP – but refused to accept their choice of Finance Minister, Paolo Savona of the Lega, because he was hostile to the euro and only very recently described it as “a German cage.”
The crucial spread between German and Italian ten-year government bonds was shooting up into the danger zone. Conte resigned. Mattarella named a non-political ex-International Monetary Fund official to head a government of experts. This did not calm the markets. The spread continued to rise.
In the end, Five Star and Lega agreed to appoint someone else as Finance Minister and Conte’s populist government was sworn in last Friday.
After all that happened, I asked Bannon by email what he thought. The reply:
“The elites said to the Italians: ‘Look, we’re not going to let you have a democratically elected government.’ The mask came off.
“But they realized then that if there were new elections which is what would’ve happened the populist parties would get as much as 80 per cent of the vote.
“Better to accept them now with 50 per cent. That’s what happened here this week. This is a watershed moment, not just for Italy but for the EU.”
“The Party of Davos resistance cratered in 48 hours after a failed attempt to install another non-elected technocrat into the position of prime minister. Now begins the hard work in Brussels, Berlin and the City of discrediting this new government in its first 100 days.”
But what will this populist government actually do that’s so bad for the global elites?
“Number one, they’ve got a very detailed plan. They’re locking down their borders and they’re shipping 500,000 illegal migrants home, home, home.”
Does Bannon think direct democracy via the internet — which is what Five Star though not Lega wants — is the future?
“I do not. I believe in representative democracy in Parliament and yes, more intense engagement of the people and I don’t even mind though California’s getting out of control a certain amount of referendums.
“What I like about the internet is the increased engagement of people and the taking of money out of politics.
“What stunned me when I was here in the election campaign was that the Lega and Five Star Movement had these Trump-like rallies and they literally have no money. These are not run on a shoe-string, there’s no shoe-string. It’s literally run on vapour.”
What of four-time prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi’s role in all this? He pulled out of the Coalition of the Right led by the Lega when Five Star said that it would not accept him in any government.
“I think Berlusconi is a real patriot, He’s the unsung hero of all this. If he had not fallen on his sword, none of this would have happened. He could have screwed it all up.”
“He was Trump before Trump. The other thing about him which he understands is that these decisions aren’t intellectual, they’re emotional. Populism is emotional.
Populism certainly induces an emotional response in the elites Bannon so abhors. As he says, “the party of Davos likes elections when they’re winning but now that they’re losing, it’s the rise of fascism, it’s the rise of nationalism, but these are not close votes they’re two-thirds and one third.
“These people control the capital markets they control the administrative state and have their own opposition propaganda department in the Financial Times, the Economist, the BBC, et cetera. They play for time and they grind you down.
“Look at how Brexit is being ground down. Look at the mid terms in November in America. The Democrats are so obsessed with impeachment that this will be a second presidential election.”
Today’s fascists, he goes on, are not the populists but the elites.
“Look at the elites. It’s total fascism. It’s the new fascism because…look at Macron’s statement. It’s the Newspeak of 1984. It takes the facts and totally twists them. Dude they rejected the will of two-thirds of the Italian people. This was not a small thing.”
So what is fascism?
“It’s totalitarianism. It’s state controlled capitalism. It’s the Party of Davos.”
But aren’t the elites the ones who want to defend the free-market economy from state intervention?
“Give me a break. I go back to the fuse that was lit in the week of September 15th 2008 and we still live with it today. And here’s why. No one went to jail. No one got their equity taken away. No one got their bonuses taken away. The elites have socialism for the very poor and the rich. The elites mitigate all their risks on the down side and they keep all the upside.”
Bannon seems to regard Old Etonians and Oxbridge in much the same way he regards Europe’s technocrats.
We talk about Cambridge Analytica, which he invested in and which is accused of all sorts of dirty electoral tricks, and its former chief executive Alexander Nix is an Old Etonian.
Bannon denies knowing what Cambridge Analytica was doing but says: “Old Etonians are the biggest scum bags in the world .
“Everything with the Analytica thing goes back to the dons at Cambridge. It goes back to the mathematicians in the math department of Cambridge and everything in the Trump Spygate thing goes back to the dons and Cambridge. Cambridge is a hotbed of MI5 and MI6.”
I don’t mention that Cambridge Analytica had little to do with Cambridge. Perhaps he never realised. I steer him back to Etonians.
“At the height of the Empire Eton had the manly Christianity, that real Christianity of the Judeo-Christian West, but today you want to see the biggest group of scum bags, that’s today’s Old Etonians. They have no grounding in the moral philosophy of the West. They are amoral. By the way amoral elites trained like that are weapons, bad weapons.
“Nix scared me. Nix was a totally amoral guy who would do anything for money. Because Etonians today are unmoored from any sense of right and wrong.”
As an Englishman who didn’t go to Eton, but King’s Canterbury, I can’t help feeling Steve Bannon is right.