Steve Bannon, Bolshevik: Maybe Donald Trump’s alt-right Svengali really is a “Leninist”
By Andrew O'Hehir
Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News who is now President-elect Donald Trump’s bullshitter-in-chief — not an official title, although it should be — has been called many things in the past couple of weeks. According to many people who evidently don’t care for him, Bannon is a racist, a white supremacist or a white nationalist (which are not all the same thing), and may also be an anti-Semite and a misogynist. These epithets may or may not be accurate, but they strike me as giving off more heat than light. They provide very little information about what sort of person the incoming White House strategist might be, or what he might want.
According to the somewhat reliable testimony of writer Ronald Radosh, Bannon has embraced one unlikely “-ist” label. At a book party at Bannon’s Capitol Hill townhouse in November 2013, Radosh recounted in the Daily Beast, Donald Trump’s future Svengali referred to himself as a “Leninist.” We’ll get back to the details of Radosh’s account, but Bannon has not denied it, saying only he doesn’t remember the conversation. So let’s take Bannon at his word, sort of, or at least figure out what kind of Leninist he is. The parallels between the Trumpian mastermind and the man who shook the world are instructive, as are the differences.
In a bizarre example of history’s sense of humor in action, the election of Donald Trump coincided precisely with the 99th anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power. No, I’m not kidding: To the day. That event is often called the October Revolution, but when you coordinate the dates on the old-style Russian calendar used at the time with the calendar we use now, the fall of the Winter Palace in Petrograd to Bolshevik forces happened on Nov. 8, 1917.
We know what Lenin wanted when he took power after that, pretty much. It didn’t work out too well. (Without going too deep into the historical weeds, I’m taking the straightforward position that Lenin did not envision or want a one-party totalitarian state extending into the indefinite future.) We don’t really know what Bannon wants, except power — which he now has. Both men were members of the educated elite who became leaders of “revolutionary vanguard” movements that represented a highly motivated minority. Both perceived a “revolutionary situation” that was at once national and global, a moment when the existing political order was far less stable than it appeared to be, and could be overturned by applying the right degree of pressure in the right places.
Both Lenin and Bannon were thrust into positions of power unexpectedly, before objective conditions appeared “ready,” although the specifics are different in important ways. Although Lenin was not the only public face of the Bolshevik Revolution, he was its acknowledged leader and principal theoretician. No one else could possibly have seized the reins of the newborn Soviet state, or have kept it alive for more than a few months. Bannon is the power behind the throne in a much murkier arrangement, where the outward forms of democracy must be maintained even though the new regime and its supporters openly yearn for a different direction. (You know where I’m going with that — but I won’t use the word!)
Read the rest here.