There’s no mystery why this old column by historian Ron Radosh on Steve Bannon has drawn wide attention

Historians in the News
tags: Ron Radosh, Steve Bannon



Ronald Radosh, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, is author of a history of the Democratic Party and many other books.

HNN Editor:  This column from August 2016 has drawn renewed attention in recent days in the New Yorker, the Washington Post and elsewhere. 

Why has the Trump campaign taken as its new head a self-described Leninist?

I met Steve Bannon—the executive director of Breitbart.com who’s now become the chief executive of the Trump campaign, replacing the newly resigned Paul Manafort—at a book party held in his Capitol Hill townhouse on Nov. 12, 2013. We were standing next to a picture of his daughter, a West Point graduate, who at the time was a lieutenant in the 101 Airborne Division serving in Iraq. The picture was notable because she was sitting on what was once Saddam Hussein’s gold throne with a machine gun on her lap. “I’m very proud of her,” Bannon said.

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

I emailed Bannon last week recalling our conversation, telling him that I planned to write about it and asking him if he wanted to comment on or correct my account of it. He responded:

“I don’t remember meeting you and don’t remember the conversation. And as u can tell from the past few days I am not doing media.”

Riding on the Metro to the party, I read an article that had just been posted on National Review Online and in TownHall.com  by Thomas Sowell, the conservative economist, in which he opposed the tactics used by the Tea Party in shutting down the government. He favored the intent of the Tea Party, but strongly opposed its tactics. "The only question," he wrote, "is about the tactics, the Tea Party's attempt to defund Obamacare." Their actions did not fit the standard set by Edmund Burke, he wrote, of a "rational endeavour." There was no chance of making a dent in ObamaCare or defunding it when Democrats controlled the Senate. and the public created a "backlash against that futile attempt," so that "there was virtually nothing to gain politically and much to lose."

I then asked Bannon whether or not he had read Sowell's piece, since Bannon was in favor of the very Tea Party tactic that Sowell had criticized.

National Review and The Weekly Standard,” he said, “are both left-wing magazines, and I want to destroy them also.” ...




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