Trump a Fascist?

Some Early Analysis with Crabby Comments by Chip

Right-Wing Populism is a more useful term at this stage than Fascism and Totalitarianism, even though Trump’s rhetoric, persona, and policies have echoes of both.

For the website for the book Right-Wing Populism in America, Click Here.

The words Fascism and Totalitarianism have evolved over time, but while a contentious debate continues in academia, there is a core general consensus emerging as to an acceptable range of definitions.

Trump certainly has evoked various styles and rhetorical content linked to Fascism’s twin terrors, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Yet the term right-wing populism is a better fit, as Cas Mudde explained in the Washington Post (below).

Read more here about how right right-wing populism can devolve into fascism~~~

Cas Mudde, Washington Post:

“Trumpism” is far too big a term for the incoherent and ever-shifting views of Trump. It is impossible to discern an ideology that Trump adheres to. He never developed a real ideological platform and has been inconsistent on core issues – from pro-choice to anti-abortion, from pro-universal health care to anti-Obamacare, etc. However, his current popularity does seem to be based on a combination of features that defines Europe’s contemporary populist radical right: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. Just like politicians like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – whose main campaign poster reads: “More Security. Less Immigration” – Trump links immigration and crime in his speeches. He thereby plays on widespread beliefs that illegal immigration is causing an increase in serious crime.

(bold highlight added)

What follows is an informal review of and analysis of articles involving the 2015 candidacy of Donald Trump and the political concepts of Fascism and totalitarianism. I usually create several timelines for fact-checking any major article that I am writing. I usually add short notes, but here I have added more and lengthier comments than usual.

July 7, 2015 – Tucker in Newsweek

It seems that much of the media maelstrom over Trump and Fascism was prompted by a well-written polemic in Newsweek, by Jeffrey A. Tucker, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist,” published on July 7 2015.[1]

Itake issue with almost every paragraph in Tucker’s essay because it is pure propaganda for so-called “Free Market” capitalism as being the savior of democracy. I argue that “Free Market” capitalism has created a form of predatory elitist oligarchy that has gutted American democracy like an Oregon salmon.

Tucker commenting on Trump and Fascism in Newsweek is like the editors like asking a member of the flat-earth society to write an essay on geography–only a tiny fraction of scholars of fascism support Tucker’s view.

Tucker slaps down the unwashed masses by writing “The thousands who attend [Trump’s] rallies and scream their heads off will head home and return to enjoying movies, smartphones and mobile apps from all over the world…”

Then Tucker slips in the glimmering silver shiv: announcing that not only the “screaming masses” but all of us in the United States are “partaking in the highest standard of living experienced in the whole of human history, granted courtesy of the global market economy in which no one rules.“ so Tucker praises the invisible hand of the free market, while most in our country feel that hand slapping us in the face on a daily basis.

In an amazingly elliptical paragraph, Tucker observes:

===Whereas the left has long attacked bourgeois institutions like family, church and property, fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.

The paragraph above can be read as an ode to the fascist theory articulated by Mussolini that the “great man” national leader organically personifies the will of the people without the need for democracy or elections. “Trump believes himself to be that man” Tucker states. I really, really hope I am reading this wrong.

Then Tucker write an excellent defense of democracy by writing that Trump and his rhetoric can never:

=== serve a whole nation well. Indeed, the very prospect is terrifying and not just for the immigrant groups and foreign peoples he has chosen to scapegoat for all the country’s problems. It’s a disaster in waiting for everyone.

Right On Dude! And this is a lesson for all of us. Even a right-wing ideologue like Tucker is sometimes right in the analytical sense –as in having a correct political analysis (pun intended).

According to Newsweek, “Tucker asks that we describe him thus: Jeffrey A. Tucker is Director of Digital Development at the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of Liberty.me. This article first appeared on the Anything Peaceful blog on the FEE website.”

So Tucker is an operative for one of the oldest and most influential “Free Market” pro-capitalist organizations in the United States: the Foundation for Economic Education. The group’s economic theories are founded on the research of Ludwig von Mises and his ally Friedrich August von Hayek (I don’t make these names up).

The progeny of this legacy tend to claim that Fascism is a left wing phenomenon.

For example, Tucker writes that:

===“In the 19th century, this penchant for industrial protectionism and mercantilism became guild socialism, which mutated later into fascism and then into Nazism. You can read Mises to find out more on how this works.”

This view is right-wing dogma but it is rejected by most scholars.

This idiosyncratic view was featured in the book “Liberal Fascism,” by Jonah Goldberg reviewed in an History News Network sponsored online forum in which some of the leading scholars of Fascism in the world ripped Goldberg’s thesis and research to shreds. The introduction is here. My essay is included. Goldberg’s response is here.

According to Tucker:

===What’s distinct about Trumpism, and the tradition of thought it represents, is that it is not leftist in its cultural and political outlook (see how he is praised for rejecting “political correctness”), and yet it is still totalitarian in the sense that it seeks total control of society and economy and demands no limits on state power.

Well, no. Trump is not demanding “no limits on state power” and thus is not a totalitarian. Meanwhile Tucker gets to take another shot on the left by pointing out that Trump is rejecting “political correctness” a very bad thing. Of course the current use of the term “political correctness” to imply censorship was inserted into our vocabulary as part of a coordinated right-wing media campaign launched to denigrate concern for equality and respect for traditionally oppressed, identities. But for that story you would have to read the Wikipedia page from 2005, before the page was commandeered by right-wing fanatics.

Conor Lynch, Salon

“Donald Trump Is an Actual Fascist,” trumpeted a July headline in Salon. It was a misleading headline—in the article, journalist Conor Lynch writes that the “GOP are obviously not fascists, but they share a family resemblance”

The resemblance, according to Lynch, is explained in the famous quote attributed to Italy’s fascist dictator during World War II, Benito Mussolini:

===Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.

According to Lynch, this “definition may very well fit the GOP ideology: a kind of corporate fascism.”

Alas, the quote is a hoax, widely circulated on the internet but debunked years ago. Mussolini never wrote or said anything like that, since the fake statement refutes Mussolini’s actual views on fascism.

Lynch cites from Tucker’s article on Trump, and then adds some excellent analysis and commentary. Conor asks, “So is the GOP becoming the new fascist party?” then writes:

===“That might be an exaggeration, but it does share many similar features, and Trump, with his demagogic style, is simply exposing how very similar the passions of the GOP base are to the passions of fascism of the early 20th century.

===The modern GOP is a party of unwavering and dogmatic patriotism mixed with traditionalism and intolerance. The social progression we have been witnessing over the past decade in America, most clearly with the acceptance of the LGBT community, seems to be triggering a reactionary movement on the right.

Despite a few missteps, much of the Conor article is quite good.

Thom Hartmann, Alternet

Tea Party and the Right
The Sad Truth of Our Politics:
It’s Basically Turned into a Competition Among Oligarchs to Own Everything
It could still happen here.

November 1, 2015

Hartmann repeats the hoax Mussolini quote and much of Hartmann’s post  is based on outdate social science or statements by politicians from the 1940s era, as well as earlier posts by Hartmann.

Chris Hedges: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

In his book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Chris Hedges, has lumped together Christianity, fascism, totalitarianism, the Christian Right, right-wing populist movements, and Republicans. This is neither accurate nor useful for progressive organizers.

While a tiny set of religious movements within the Christian Right are neofascist, the main body of the US Christian Right is not fascist. Movements such as Christian Reconstructionism are accurately considered quasi-fascist or fascistic by some scholars.[2]

Gentile sees totalitarianism as the “sacralization of politics,” while others refer to it as “political religion” in the sense that a political movement confers on itself the status of religious veneration and the demand of strict obedience.[3] But these concepts are often misunderstood to imply all rigid, bigoted, and demanding right-wing religious movements are totalitarian. This is not accurate.

Hedges warns of movements whose followers:

=== “commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced [and the] worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness.”[4]

This is entirely true and was expressed succinctly by historian Richard Hofstadter in his quip “I believe…that an unbridled passion for the total elimination of this or that evil can be as dangerous as any of the delusions of our time.”[5] By “Paranoid Style” however, Hofstadter did not mean clinical paranoia, no matter how deranged conspiracy theories may sound.

Damian Thompson argues that the conspiracy theories that Hofstadter described as the “paranoid style” in right-wing movements are really derived from Christian apocalyptic beliefs such as those spread by the contemporary Christian Right in the United States.[6] This adds to the difficulty to parsing these matters since fascist and totalitarian movements often employ conspiracy theories. In addition fascist and totalitarian movements sometimes graft onto various religions.

Lawrence Britt

Frequently cited in defense of suggesting the US is on the road to Fascism is the essay “Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism” by Lawrence Britt. It was originally titled “Fascism Anyone?” and as the following endnote explains, the essay has been misrepresented without Britt’s permission.[7] Though earnest, Britt’s list fails the test of logic that states that things similar in many elements are not necessarily identical. Britt’s list is not an accurate definition of fascism. For that, see Umberto Ecco’s essay popularly known as “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt.”[8]

Henry A. Giroux

More complicated is the detailed and erudite polemic in Truthout (9/15/15) by Henry A. Giroux, expanded from Tikkun (9/9/15). In “Political Frauds and the Ghost of Totalitarianism,” Giroux invokes the theories of world-famous philosopher Hannah Arendt on totalitarianism. He warns that widespread civic illiteracy in the US population is more than the media manufacturing “ignorance on an individual scale”; it is, in fact:

===producing a nationwide crisis of agency, memory and thinking itself…a kind of ideological sandstorm in which reason gives way to emotion, and a willful limitation on critical thought spreads through the culture as part of a political project that both infantilizes and depoliticizes the general public.

According to Giroux, “Donald Trump is not the singular clown who has injected bizarre and laughable notions into US politics; he is the canary in the mineshaft warning us that totalitarianism relies on mass support and feeds on hate, moral panics” and what Arendt called the “the frenzied lawfulness of ideological certitude.”

Yet long before the appearance of totalitarianism in the modern era, the United States saw mass movements that used force to subjugate or purge the degraded and demonized “Other.” As a nation, we enforced white Christian nationalism through the genocide of indigenous peoples and the enslavement and mass murder of black people for profit. For many decades, immigrants including those who were Irish, Italian, Polish or Russian were second-class citizens, not considered “white.” Women had few rights and were treated as the property of their fathers, then their husbands. Jews were perpetual outsiders. People with unpopular religious views were shunned and in some instances killed. Chinese were excluded, Japanese were interned in camps. Nativist racism periodically has cut a bloody gash through our body politic, without reliance on totalitarianism.

 

[1] Jeffrey A. Tucker, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?,” Newsweek Online, 7/17/15.

[3] Gentile, Emilio. 1996. The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

[4] Chris Hedges. (2008). American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. London: Vintage.

[5] Hofstadter, Richard. 1965.  Anti–Intellectualism in American Life, Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, p. 23.

[6] Damian. Thompson, The End Of Time: Faith And Fear In The Shadow Of The Millennium. (Great Britain: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996).

[7] Lawrence Britt, 2003. “Fascism Anyone?” Free Inquiry. 23: 20-22. Britt’s essay originally appeared in, a respectable publication. Note that Mr. Britt is not a professor and does not hold a Ph.D., although these claims are often attached to Britt’s essay without his permission. Britt did not name his piece to be similar to the earlier essay by Umberto Eco mentioned in the next endnote. Britt’s work is online without permission of the publisher or Mr. Britt at http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm Note that this page is from a Google search which pops up the Rense URL as the top ranking page for the Britt essay. This is the website of crackpot bigot Jeff Rense who is among the royalty of conspiracy cranks online. Mr. Britt has no control over this.

[8] Umberto Eco, “Ur Fascism,” also known as “Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt,” New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995. A shortened and edited version adapted from Utne Reader is Online at http://www.buildinghumanrights.us/task/umberto-eco-on-fascism/. For the full original essay, consult a print copy of  New York Review of Books, purchase the full article online; or purchase Eco’s collection of essays: Five Moral Pieces. As of the date of this publication, there is an archival copy of “Ur Fascism” here.