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Issue #1724      March 23, 2016

Culture & Life

Trump really is a fascist

On March 9 the progressive US on-line journal Common Dreams carried an article by Robert Reich in which the former US Secretary of Labour turned academic finally denounced Donald Trump as a classic fascist. “Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century ... are too evident to overlook.”

Trump excuses violence on the part of his followers by declaring that it is simply evidence of their patriotism and their passion.

Reich claimed he’d been “reluctant to use the ‘f’ word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly”. Most people with any knowledge of modern history and politics would say its application to Trump was overdue.

Reich correctly points out that, like “the early 20th century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.” As The Washington Post’s Jeff Guo pointed out similarly, Trump performs best in places “where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest”.

Reich notes that “the economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.

“Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.

“Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.

“Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

“That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

“They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.”

In the midst of the Great Depression, Hitler promised the German workers that he would get them back to work. And he did for some of them, by forming them into labour battalions to support the army! With an identical lack of honesty and even common sense, Trump told workers in Michigan, reeling from catastrophic closures of auto industries and other manufacturing enterprises, “If you get laid off … I still want your vote ... I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”

Unfortunately, that new job will probably be in the army. As Reich notes, “Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations.” The likelihood of Trump opting for a policy of peace and respect for democratic rights in hotspots such as Syria and Ukraine is out of the question. The Communists’ slogan from the 1930s is equally relevant today: fascism means war!

Reich again: “The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy.” In fact, his response (and that of his supporters) to the numerous protests that have started to disrupt his carefully staged election rallies is to encourage violence against the protesters. Freedom of speech? Not for Trump opponents! One middle-aged Trump supporter who was caught on camera punching a protester in the face at a Trump rally said to the media “next time we’ll kill him”.

Trump excuses violence on the part of his followers by declaring that it is simply evidence of their patriotism and their passion: “They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” (Interesting concept of “great”!)

Trump has proposed using torture against terrorists, and collective punishment for their families, both of which are in clear violation of international law. (Although, one has to admit, if his administration resorted to torture, it would simply be following the example of several recent US presidential administrations that have incarcerated political prisoners under inhumane conditions within the US or at Abu Graib in Iraq, or sent them clandestinely to countries like Egypt to be tortured there on behalf of the US.)

Reich concludes that “Donald Trump presents ... a profound danger to the future of America and the world.” And I doubt that any Guardian reader would dispute that conclusion!

Reich’s article is marred by one glaringly inaccurate statement: right at the start he lists “the fascists of the first half of the 20th century”. This is his list: “lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco”. Pardon? Stalin, who fought so tirelessly against fascism both as leader of the USSR and in the forums of the Communist International, has mysteriously morphed from a Communist leader into its very opposite, a fascist leader. The mind boggles. But of course it is no more than the logical outcome of the propaganda campaign that has been waged by the US and its allies for decades now to equate Communism with fascism!

How successful and all-pervasive that campaign has been is shown by the fact that even a respected bourgeois academic like Reich accepts it without qualification. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley but he is no socialist. Imperialism’s re-writing of history is truly assuming mammoth proportions!

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