Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told members of France's National Front Party to brush off liberal backlash over their nationalist stance on migrants entering Europe and other controversial topics.
"Let them call you racists, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists, wear it as a badge of honor," Bannon sad to an annual gathering of NF members in the French city of Lille, adding that "history is on your side."
Bannon, who has repeatedly expressed support for Europe’s far-right movements, fired the opening salvo at the gathering, even if the head of Macron’s Republic on the Move party, Christophe Castaner, earlier dubbed him “the king of fake news and of white supremacists” according to France24.
Bannon said he agreed with Le Pen’s expressed belief that “it is not about left versus right. That’s too simplistic and it’s the way the opposition party, media, has always kept us out of power.
“She described it perfectly: it’s do you consider the nation state an obstacle to be overcome or a jewel to be polished, loved and nurtured?”
Bannon said he was in Europe “as an observer and to learn. And what I learned is you’re part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary, bigger than all of it.”
Speaking in Paris before Bannon’s address, former party head Jean-Marie Le Pen, from whom Marine took over the leadership in 2011, dubbed the American’s visit “paradoxical” and “not exactly the definition of ‘de-demonisation’” his daughter has sought to give the party.
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Bannon showed no sign of bad blood with the Trump campaign despite being ousted from his West Wing post last year, along with several recent barbs traded with the President. While praising Trump's "economic nationalism" platform that Bannon says "does not care about your race, your religion, your ethnicity," he stated "It cares about one thing: Are you a citizen of the United States of America?"
Bannon said that it took "someone like Donald Trump, that they run down as a racist every day, to solve the problem of the black and Hispanic working class."
"Because of the low levels of human capital and the fact that they often lack adequate English-speaking skills, the vast majority of illegal immigrant workers are employed in low skilled occupations. Even those few with higher skills are often forced to work in the low skilled sector because their illegal status means that they often cannot use their credentials to get better jobs. Thus, the estimated 7.4 million illegal immigrant workers (who are about one-third of the total foreign-born labor force) compete for jobs and income with the other 43 million adult members of the low skilled labor force who are legally entitled to work in the civilian labor force (i.e., native born workers and the remainder of the foreign-born work force who are naturalized citizens, permanent resident aliens, and non-immigrants with visa authorizations to work)."
"Given the inordinately high unemployment rates for low skilled black workers (the highest for all racial and ethnic groups for whom data is collected), it is obvious that the major looser in this competition are low skilled black workers. This is not surprising, since if employers have an opportunity to hire illegal immigrant workers, they will always give them preference over legal workers of any race or ethnic background." -Vernon M. Briggs Jr., Emeritus Professor of Labor Economics, Cornell University (2008)
It seems that from Bannon's perspective, illegal is the operative word in "illegal immigrant," and economic nationalism has nothing to do with race, although after his recent fall from grace, having lost both his access to Trump and Breitbart, he may have some trouble convincing mainstream America, which is perhaps why he is now squarely focused on Europe as the NYT reports in its extensive profile of Trump's former advisor "Steve Bannon Is Done Wrecking the American Establishment. Now He Wants to Destroy Europe’s."
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Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen is running unopposed for a third term and her address Sunday will see her try to turn a page on the openly racist party of her former paratrooper father. “Without a name change we will not be able to forge alliances. And without alliances we will never be able to take power,” she said last month.
This week Le Pen appeared heartened by the strong gains made by the allied anti-immigrant League party in Italy’s election. Yet her appetite for battle appears dented.
The 49-year-old mother of three told French radio recently she would gladly step aside before the 2022 presidential election if another candidate was “better placed to unite people and help our ideas triumph”. All eyes instantly turned to her glamorous niece, 28-year-old former MP Marion Marechal-Le Pen.
Le Pen is hoping for a rematch with Macron in next year’s European elections by forming alliances with other eurosceptic parties around the bloc. At home, she is banking on divisions between pro-Macron centrists and rightwingers tearing his party apart, making the FN France’s biggest party of the right.