Steve Bannon Talks at National Front Summit

Steve Bannon

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon surprised attendants at the National Front's official summit by appearing as the keynote speaker—a fact announced only hours ahead of time, and with so little notice that it was not even included in the event's program.

The summit took place at the Lille’s Grand Palais. Bannon's speech, given in English, took about 35 minutes, including time when he paused to allow his translator to address the audience. It was punctuated by applause several times.

During his speech, Bannon praised the party's leader, Marine Le Pen, for her rejection of the traditional left/right divide, saying that the true political split these days is whether “you consider the nation state as an obstacle to be overcome or as a jewel to be polished, loved and nurtured."

He went on to say that while visiting Europe, he has noted the same divide gripping multiple countries—alluding to the gap between those who favor globalization and mass immigration, particularly from the Muslim world, and those like the National Front, who believe that this is dangerous to their home countries and cultures.

Bannon assured his audience that "history is on our side. The tide of history is with us and will compel us to victory after victory after victory!”

His most controversial comment, however, came at the very end. “Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists. Wear it like a badge of honor. Because every day we get stronger and they get weaker,” he said, and ended with “God Bless America. And vive la France."

Despite Bannon's comments about Le Pen, the National Front is generally considered to be a far-right party, and regularly decried by opponents as being bigoted against ethnic minorities. However, they have steadily grown in popularity over the years as France experiences more crimes and social problems related to its influx of immigrants and their descendants, who now account for about 10% of the country's population.

Le Pen, who inherited her position from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been on a campaign to "de-demonize" the party, both by tweaking its policy and its public relations.

The summit also saw her reelected to her position; she was unopposed, but it is well-known that her popularity within the party has fallen recently. Some believe that inviting Bannon was meant to distract from this.

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