Before he was a top adviser to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon often referred to something called The Camp of the Saints. He'd talk about "a Camp of the Saints-style invasion," or "a global Camp of the Saints," always in reference to immigration policy. Okay, so what is The Camp of the Saints, and why does Bannon keep talking about it?
First published in 1973, The Camp of the Saints is a dystopian novel about the mortal threat that non-white immigrants pose to white people. As you might have guessed from that description, it's an unbelievably racist book, and while generally obscure, it's beloved in certain corners of the far-right. The fact that Bannon — now one of the most influential people in America — is constantly referring back to it in complimentary terms makes the book worth examining. And just as a warning, I feel gross even describing the racist content of this book.
In the novel, which is set around the turn of the 20th century, around a million impoverished Indians in Calcutta board a fleet of ships and set sail for France, hoping for a better life. At least, that's what they claim to be seeking; the book makes clear that in fact, these immigrants intend to destroy Western civilization as they know it. Nevertheless, feckless European leaders dilly-dally and debate amongst themselves about whether to accept the migrants, and by the time the armada arrives, it's too late.
"The Camp of the Saints" describes white Europe as under siege by an alien horde that's simultaneously subhuman and superhuman.— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) March 4, 2017
When they reach France, the Indians immediately storm the shores, trampling to death the liberals who'd arrived to welcome them. They overrun the government in Paris, kidnap white women, and force them into prostitution, and murder left-wing radio hosts who'd advocated for their entry into France.
Elsewhere around the world, other non-whites take the events in France as a signal to rise up and overrun other Western countries, gradually dismantling the white power structures therein. Chinese migrants pour into Siberia, quickly overpowering the lone Soviet officer on post. In New York City, black residents from Harlem make their way into the mayor's building and force him to adopt a black family. Immigrants in England successfully demand that the Queen marry her son to a Pakistani woman. And so on.
There are tons of other repellent things about this book, and you can read some of them here if you'd like, but you get the gist of it.
In any event, this is what Bannon means when, for instance, he accuses immigrants of launching "a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe," as he did in an interview with Jeff Sessions (!) in 2015. His argument isn't that non-white immigration to Western countries has negative unintended consequences — it's that non-white people are actively trying to destroy white civilization, and are using immigration as a means to do so.
It's worth noting that despite its hideous racism, The Camp of the Saints has consistently been well-received by mainstream conservatives. After its American publication in 1975, The Wall Street Journal said the book "has moments of appalling power and occasionally a terrible beauty." Nearly thirty years later, National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. — a figure still revered by many modern-day conservatives — called it "a great novel." In his 2005 retrospective The Conservative Bookshelf, Chilton Williamson proclaimed the novel "magnificent" and "moving." Needless to say, the folks at Breitbart, the alt-right media site Bannon used to run, absolutely love the book.
It may seem strange to put so much focus on an esoteric book that's four decades old. But Bannon is one of the most influential men in the White House, and has the ear of the President of the United States. Given that Bannon has already played a key role in shaping Trump's immigration policies, it's worth understanding what has informed his views on the topic.