POPULISM RELOAD: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN K. BANNON
This interview between IM—1776’s editor Mark Granza and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon recorded on Thursday, September 29th, has been edited for clarity.
— The Editors
“We need a reboot. A populist nationalist reboot. The neocon/neoliberal establishment, which is really both parties, Wall Street, and the corporations, they’re all terrified of this. And that’s because they understand this time we mean business.”
— Steve Bannon
Mark Granza: Giorgia Meloni was elected Premier of Italy on Sunday. You’ve worked very closely with her in the past. Did you call her to congratulate her on the victory?
Steve Bannon: Let’s say we communicated our support beforehand and we communicated our great thrill at her amazing victory.
Mark Granza: What do you think her party’s victory signifies for the future of Populism in the West?
Steve Bannon: Oh, it’s a major victory. When I first met her, the party was polling at 2%. So that shows populists the importance of doing the work. She’s a perfect example. Somebody who just grinded through, worked hard, built up, and ended up with 26% of the vote, with virtually no money, right? Brothers of Italy is not a well-funded organization. So I think the lesson for every person out there, particularly in Europe, is: you can do this. But of course it takes hard work and also a real understanding of the issues you’re addressing – and she really does. She’s been going to these conferences around Europe talking about the importance of God, Homeland and Family, and she stuck to it. So I think that’s the biggest lesson for politicians around the world: it’s just not going to happen. It’s not going to be dumped in your lap. You can’t just sit on social media and complain, bitch and moan. You have to do the work.
Mark Granza: You probably already have, but if you could give her one piece of advice, what would that be?
Steve Bannon: Focus on the financial crisis that’s upon Italy and all of Europe. You must get the economics and the financial situation stabilized in Italy to make everything else come together. Obviously, there’s got to be multitasking. But this has to be the first order of business: Italy has a massive debt crisis. A huge underlying economic crisis, a demographic crisis in which many young people and the diaspora of the talent of Italy are leaving for other parts of Europe and the rest of the world because of the lack of opportunities. So all that has to be the number one priority.
Mark Granza: Darren Beattie recently said in an interview with us on populism that it’s also “necessary to cultivate an elite […] and capture the institutions that serve to reinforce your ideas once you get political power so you don’t have to find yourself again in this situation where you nominally have government, but functionally you’re kind of impotent.” Is this what President Trump lacked during his time in Office?
Steve Bannon: Well, I don’t know if I would call it “elite”. Remember, although the populist movement had been building up for a couple of years, we didn’t have a lot of subject matter expertise in certain aspects of the government. The United States has, outside the military, I think over 2 million government employees. It’s a vast apparatus. So the administrative state is what we’re trying to take apart. That being said, there are at least 4000 political appointees that can go in immediately and start to run the government. We never managed to do that under Trump. One of the reasons is that we just didn’t have enough MAGA populists and nationalists ready. But we’re taking care of that now; we’re building those cadres even as we speak. People who know these jobs and understand that the mission is to basically get to a smaller, more efficient, freer and fairer government. And so we’re going to be fully prepared in 2024 – we need to be at every level. With university professors and teachers and also businesses that understand populist/nationalist economics and what the movement really stands for. I think that’s important in every aspect of our culture and society. I don’t know if that’s building a cadre or an elite, but it’s definitely people that can go in and do that.
Mark Granza: Let’s talk about the “Deep State“. The term is widely used by people on the Right to describe the network of bureaucrats and organizations secretly running the country behind the scenes. Is this in your experience an accurate description of what’s going on in Washington?
Steve Bannon: I think the nomenclature is important to get right. I would rather call it the “administrative state”, which is really a fourth branch of government never intended by the founders and, quite frankly, the American people. The Administrative State’s purpose, and really the Progessive Left, is to take over all functions of government through these agencies. Up until now they could issue their own regulations and laws, and now they control even their own law enforcement, whether it’s 87,000 IRS agents or these jackbooted FBI or the EPA, with armed security and guards. So our big focus should be its deconstruction. It needs to be taken apart brick by brick. You saw how out of control this was with the CDC and FDA when the pandemic hit, with Tony Fauci as the face of the administrative state that ruled without permission to be questioned. And it’s not that we don’t need an FDA or CDC, but they definitely have to be heavily repurposed. I would say the national security and the intelligence apparatus and part of the legal one are what we would more traditionally think of as a “deep state”, probably best personified in the first Trump impeachment. If you remember all that kind of fetish about the interagency process and the sacramental nature of the way those things should work when Trump was President, that was really the Deep State saying that Trump was unacceptable because deeply he did not believe in those processes. He did not believe in their function, nor their policies. You can tell this now with Ukraine, these groups have their own goals. It has captured the American national security and foreign policy apparatus, and it needs to be defeated. They don’t believe in the Constitution, they don’t believe that a commander in chief should be able to make his own decisions. You know, I’ve advocated from day one that we need another Church Committee. In the 1970s, after Watergate, after Vietnam, after the assassinations and all the turmoil in the streets, it was determined that the FBI and the CIA had crossed the boundaries of what their mandates were on both surveillance of Americans, infiltration of groups, and all of their tasks really. And so you had the Church Committee set the modern structure for the FBI and CIA as a consequence. But I think that’s been blurred over time. You clearly still have a lot of nefarious activity going on and a lot of stuff that needs to be reviewed. I think we need to get back to that; a total revamping, rethinking and rejuvenation of these apparatuses, whether it’s the NSA, CIA, FBI, DOJ, the military or the armed forces. I’ve spent eight years as a naval officer. My daughter went to West Point. She was with the 101st Airborne Division and deployed to Iraq. So we are all big patriots and huge believers in serving in the military. But things have gone way off track and we definitely need to, not just take a hard look, but have massive reform at those levels.
Mark Granza: Was Trump aware of it before, whether you call it the Deep State or Administrative State, or would you say that he learned about its existence the hard way after entering Office?
Steve Bannon: I think if you look at President Trump, his whole concept of “draining the swamp” was a beginning. But he certainly had an awakening of how really pernicious it is once in office, trying to get out of the Paris Accords, out of TPP, and a lot of these trade deals that were so bad for the United States. I think his Damascene moment was the first impeachment. Looking in hindsight the fact that they tried to have his call with the Ukrainian President twisted into an impeachable offense was absolutely outrageous. And I think that’s when he had a full awakening. So yes, now with people like Kash Patel as his close advisors, there’s no doubt he fully understands its dangers and will be much more ready in 2024. But one more thing I’d say is this: remember, no President, not even Nixon or Reagan, has ever gone after the administrative state like Trump. That also caused a reaction. And I want to caution all your readers and followers to understand that before us populists and nationalists, there are no easy decisions. There are not going to be easy wins. Just watch how tough they’re going to make it for Giorgia Meloni to govern, or how tough they made it for Salvini to try and put together the coalition between the Five Star and la Lega and form a left/right populist government a couple of years ago in Italy. Or even Brexit in the UK. The powers that be, the elites in the world, the financial community and global corporations are not there to validate your victories. They’re there to defeat, first of all, you, but if you somehow win, they’re there to make sure that you can’t govern. So President Trump certainly realized very early in his administration that this was far darker, far deeper, and far more pernicious problem than he ever thought. But I think he’s ready to roll now.
Mark Granza: Can he break the deep state monopoly if re-elected? Does he have enough loyalists on his side?
Steve Bannon: I think he’s got a whole cadre right now, myself included. From Rick Grenell to Kash Patel, he’s got a whole group of what I would call “combat veterans” that saw exactly what happened in the first administration and have been working and setting up think tanks, seminars and training people not just to ensure that he wins again in 2024, but that he’s actually ready to quickly create a government very focused on taking apart the administrative state. This is one of the reasons that the Left is so frantic right now, even about Meloni, calling her a “fascist” and so on. We know that they’re going to fight this every step of the way. But we’re much better trained, a lot more focused, and know exactly what our roles and missions are going to be this time.
Mark Granza: Shortly after the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, you and at least other 35 Trump allies also had your homes raided by the FBI. In addition to that, you were held, trialed, and found guilty of Contempt of Congress after refusing to collaborate with the Jan. 6 committee. What’s your opinion today on the state of the US Justice system?
Steve Bannon: Well, first of all, I was never actually raided. In fact, when they tried to put up these phony charges about the Build the Wall campaign, the FBI wouldn’t even get involved. That was the Postal Service. I have no personal grievance with the FBI. In fact, it breaks my heart as a Catholic. When I was growing up many of the federal agents were Catholics and kind of revered in my church circles. The problem is that the Justice Department has been totally politicized and weaponized. Under Biden, it runs like a banana republic and a dictatorship. Let me tell you, Merrick Garland will be impeached early in 2023 once the Republicans take control. I believe he will be removed from office – if he doesn’t quit long before then. Just look at what they’re doing to innocent American civilians, or even President Trump himself. We just find out that the Justice Department was really lying about the Mar-a-Lago raid. They first said it was 184 classified documents. Then they had to admit it was 11,000 documents. Now it’s over 200,000 pages. 200,000 pages! This was truckloads of stuff. They clearly just wanted a fishing expedition. So what do I think? It’s a totally weaponized, totally politicized third-world country. And it will be changed dramatically. But first we must win. There is no substitute for victory.
Mark Granza: For sure. The ultimate way the deep state operates and grows though, as you also pointed out, is regardless of who really is in charge. There’s an inherent selection bias that’s part of the problem in our institutions. So wouldn’t you say this runs deeper than simply replacing the current administration and dismantling its agencies?
Steve Bannon: Look, this is a problem with any country. When you look at your pool of candidates, every politician went to the best schools. I was fortunate enough to go to Georgetown, then to Harvard. And from there you see people get into the best law firms and the best banks and private equities, etc. It’s not that all people are excluded. There are people throughout the country who do it and rise to excellence. Yes, you do have a bias, whether Republican or Democrat, to select those that are already part of the system, which then aren’t really motivated to go against the system because the system’s rewarded them well. But that’s why you need people like the Darren Beatties and the Steve Bannons and others who have been part of the system, have been trained in the system and educated by the system, but can see a bigger picture of where it’s taking the country. And I think we have tens of thousands of those now from some of the best schools in the country who are basically patriots and populists. And that’s how we’ll staff the second Trump term.
Mark Granza: It sounds like you’re for reforming these institutions as opposed to abolishing them?
Steve Bannon: Oh, no. They have to be abolished. But those are all decisions that have to be made in time, right? You don’t want to be too grandiose or too sweeping and say, “hey, this is going to go away.” The FBI is one that I think has to make a very strong case for why we even need an FBI, because it’s been so politicized. But I’m a huge believer in hearings and investigations. Our system is pretty good when it’s focused on getting things done. And Trump will be so much farther up the learning curve than he was the first time. I don’t think there ought to be 16 different intelligence agencies reporting up to the DNI. They should be definitely redone. Number one, just financially, Europe right now is a protectorate of the United States, it has been since World War II and throughout the Cold War. That just can’t continue to exist. European nations have to start to stand on their own two feet, particularly militarily, we just can’t bear the burden of $1 trillion of costs every year. And you don’t want it either because it makes you subservient to the Americans. We want independent, strong nation-states as allies. Our founders never envisioned a federal government as strong and powerful as it is today. Its goal is to take over every aspect of the legislative state and get involved in every aspect of American life. That’s the Leviathan we need to slay. But I’m a huge believer in subsidiarity. It’s the closest government to the level where people actually have a chance to control it. And that’s the essence of populism, or a big part of it. The administrative state has now made the central federal bureaucracy, the Leviathan, the D.C. elite, all-powerful. Take the EU. The EU is essentially the brainchild of a few post-World War II visionaries in Europe, coupled with business interests in the United States, whose goal was to recreate a “United States of Europe”, with Italy, Hungary, etc. as states, not their own independent countries. That’s why you had the United Nations, which obviously has very little power, but the engine room of the United Nations is in Geneva, where they had these massive non-government organizations that really have so much control, and it’s now been infiltrated severely by the CCP. It’s quite frankly the reason I started Breitbart London. There would have been no Brexit without it because Nigel Farage didn’t really have an outlet early on. And the same thing now with War Room and War Room Rome, which we launched a couple of weeks ago ahead of the elections. People need alternative platforms where they can access information other than the globalist propaganda they’re fed every day.
Mark Granza: Yes. Just to circle back one second, though: Giorgia Meloni has been outspoken against the EU but very soft and diplomatic in general towards Washington. Given that the DC elites, as you also just said, are clearly against her vision, shouldn’t she be opposed and equally outspoken against Washington as well?
Steve Bannon: I think, first of all, she has to unify the country around what her plan is. That should be her first priority. Who she calls out, whether it’s the EU or even the Biden administration or aspects of the US, that’s all for her to determine. I think the first thing is to get her hands around the economic and financial crisis. Remember, Italy is about to begin a very cold and bitter winter of incredible expense in energy costs and food costs, not to mention rising inflation and a dramatic increase in debt and the servicing of debt. So the first thing is to put together a government, and then galvanize a very simple but dramatic plan of action so you can then go and execute everything else. That will deem her success. And, furthermore: eventually, she will have to give a very hard look at getting Italy back to the Lira. Without your own currency it’s very difficult to have a nation-state and control over your fate.
Mark Granza: Do you see that happening?
Steve Bannon: I think everything will be on the table. In the last few days, she reinforced her support of the EU. And that’s fine. I mean, she’s a new national leader, the first female premier in history and all that. That’s a lot to go through. But look at the populist parties in Sweden four/five years ago. When I met in London four years ago with the Swedish Democrats, it was preposterous to think that they would ever be in power this quickly, as it was from Meloni, coming from just 2%. This is how rapidly things are changing. But populists and nationalists have to remember that, yes, you have to be bold, but first you have to think through hard about what you’re doing. Liz Truss is a perfect example, she had every opportunity with the Queen’s passing and her handling of it and with a new king to really start off with a fresh mandate and tackle the economic crisis. But she blew it. And don’t get me wrong, she went back to a conservative economic policy of tax cuts and deregulations. But she’s in a circumstance globally that her country doesn’t really have that flexibility anymore. That’s why I would just caution everybody, whether it’s Meloni or the Swedish Democrats or anybody taking power right now, even in the Czech Republic: think hard through your plans before you act. Then once you act, act boldly so.
Mark Granza: I’d like to move to a different subject. Talking about Afghanistan, Julian Assange infamously said that the purpose of US foreign wars isn’t to win, but to have an endless war to facilitate money laundering among the global elites. First of all, do you agree with him? And if yes, is that what’s going on with Ukraine today?
Steve Bannon: I don’t know if I agree with the money laundering part because I don’t really understand the flow very well. I do agree with the first part, however. The initial phases of the Afghan war were fully justified, but already in the spring of 2017, you may recall, I was personally trying to get us out of Afghanistan. We had a plan presented to President Trump. But of course, the military had a very different take on things. They already derailed by then any ability to get us out. So yes, I’ve seen it in action. You know, institutions are set up to promulgate themselves. So it doesn’t surprise me that the military bureaucracy and all the defense contractors want to prolong conflict. We have to be smart enough to demand an end to it – and I think we’re just at the beginning. Ukraine and Russia are a perfect example. If it can’t be resolved by those two parties, it’s a European problem. That’s why you see a dramatic pullback from the European people when it comes to giving more funding for Ukraine adventurism and calls to negotiate and figure out a deal instead. But again, these war apparatuses are set up to continue to promulgate this. Clearly, with the NGOs involved and the defense industry on board, in that way it is taking taxpayer’s dollars to pay for it. But I don’t know if I would call it a “money laundering operation”, like the CCP. I believe in using information war, cyber and economic warfare above all to make sure that we can have peace and security. I’ve got a pretty good record of fighting in Afghanistan and other places to make sure we don’t have kinetic wars. I’m pretty opposed to the latter unless we absolutely have to.
Mark Granza: You’ve called Millennials “nothing more 19th-century Russian serfs […] better fed, better clothed, with more information than anybody in any point in history… but they don’t own anything.” How did that happen?
Steve Bannon: Well it’s clear how it happened: globalization. Globalization was to make particularly the Chinese Communist Party funnel every production out and hand it over to the slave labor of China: drive down labor costs and have everybody else be a provider of raw material and our end user consumer market. Don’t take my word for it. Just go back to Xi Jinping’s speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos a few days before President Trump’s American Carnage speech, which was really a defense of the Westphalian system, a system that’s been with us for 3-400 years now. But they don’t want the nation-state. They want to take your sovereignty and just make you a production/consumption unit that doesn’t really own the underlying assets. I mean, the World Economic Forum couldn’t have been any clearer: “You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy,” right? You’re not going to create new wealth. You’re not going to have any independence or freedom, because freedom at the end of the day is not just political. It’s also economic and about personal property rights. And so now we’re in a much more dangerous place today. The younger generations today are already Russian serfs. But now with the burning dumpster fire of inflation plus the collapse of asset values throughout the world, you’re essentially going to be debt slaves your entire productive life from the time you’re 30 to the time you’re 74. And in between, you’re basically going to be like a hamster on the wheel, just like your government, just paying off debt and paying the interest payments on that debt, while you’re paying the interest payments on your car loan, your credit cards, all of it. So we’re in a terrible situation. The middle class has essentially been eviscerated. That’s why we need a reboot. A populist nationalist reboot. The neocon/neoliberal establishment, which is really both parties, Wall Street, and the corporations, they’re all terrified of this. And that’s because they understand this time we mean business.
Mark Granza: One last question, Mr. Bannon: If you could go back in time, say to 2015, or even prior to that, what’s the one thing that you’d do differently?
Steve Bannon: [Takes a few seconds to think] I think it is to make sure that we understand the difference between populist and nationalist, and conservative and Republican, which I don’t think I was doing well enough prior to 2016. We definitely changed the Overton Window on that because when I first started talking about this, people on the Right and even people at Fox who I knew were very critical and thought what I was saying was very dangerous – as if what we were going through wasn’t dangerous! And I told them then the only thing that will save the country is populism. But the truth is that I didn’t have the time to do the work that was required to get most of the Right on board. Most of us were just kind of self-organizing in 2016. But now we’re much better organized and really have the opportunity to galvanize an Army of the Awakened that the elites cannot beat.