C.J. Atkins’ “Rebirth of the Nation” was a great analytical article with a very disappointing ending. In his conclusion, Atkins asserts that it is premature and politically unhelpful to label Donald Trump as a fascist. I would reply that it is politically unhelpful not to label him as a fascist. Simply because Trump has not consolidated fascism yet and because the American capitalist class is not yet completely ready to adopt fascism, does not mean that Trump is not a fascist.
What would Atkins have said about Hitler in 1925, 1926, 1927? What would he have said about Mussolini in 1920, 1921? Would he have said that labeling them fascists was premature and not politically helpful? At that point they had not yet murdered thousands (and in Hitler’s case millions) nor imposed their authoritarian conceptions on their nations.
I find Trump to be much more like the buffoonish, egomaniacal Mussolini than Adolf Hitler. Nonetheless, Trump, like Mussolini and Hitler, is a fascist, and even his somewhat clownish version, much like Mussolini’s version, represents an incredible danger for democracy in our nation. Although Mussolini did not run concentration camps that murdered millions of Jews, he did incarcerate and assassinate tens of thousands of his political opponents and imposed strict censorship throughout Italy.
Trump has adopted the two main techniques of the fascists: 1. focus attention on a disliked minority group, and, 2. the Big Lie.
Just like Jews in 1930s Germany, Muslims are a small minority who are not well understood by the majority and are incorrectly looked at with large amounts of mistrust by many Americans. I had one fellow tell me that it was perfectly within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution to ban Muslims from entering the country, a la Trump, because Islam is a cult, not a religion.
Most people do not understand that, in the beginning of his rule, Hitler did not plan to exterminate all Jews from the face of the earth. At first, he simply wanted them out of Germany. It was much later, after World War II had started, and millions of Jews had fallen under his control, that Hitler came up with the ideal of Jewish genocide. So what was the first step proposed by Hitler after gaining power in Germany in 1933? It was registration of Jews. Registration of all Jews allowed the Nazis to know exactly where every Jew was located, making further measures against them quicker and more efficient. This has incredible historical parallels with Trump’s proposal to register all Muslims in the United States.
Hitler came up with the idea of the Big Lie, in his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle). He defined the Big Lie as the use of a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi’s Minister of Propaganda, famously said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Trump is the master of the Big Lie. Some data: Trump won Politifact’s Lie of the Year for 2015 for his campaign statements. Politico estimates that Trump utters one lie for every five minutes he spends speaking in public. Trump lies so much and so often, I could spend the rest of 2017 listing and explaining the distortions of reality in each one. I will focus on just two: one where he looked directly into the television camera and boldly lied in our faces, and one gigantic lie with absolutely no basis in truth that he is currently perpetuating.
Remember that strange press conference Trump held after he won the Florida Republican primary? You know, the one where he was surrounded by “Trump” steaks, “Trump” water, and Trump wine. This press conference was a retort to Mitch Romney, who days before the primary called out Trump’s business skills by listing all the companies that had gone bankrupt under his leadership. Trump had all those products on stage to “refute” Romney. Yet the “Trump” steaks were produced by another company, as we would learn the next day. The “Trump” water was produced by a company that specializes in producing vanity water bottles with anyone’s name on it. Worst of all, Trump waved a magazine in all our faces as “proof” that his eponymous periodical had not gone under. But it was a completely different magazine, not the one Romney had mentioned.
The second Big Lie took place during the general election. Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton is physically unfit for the office of President. He and his surrogates, knowing there was no basis in fact for this whatsoever, calmly looked into the television camera night after night and told the American people that one simply had to go to the Internet to find dozens of articles about the poor state of Clinton’s health. And yes, one can go to the Internet and find dozens of said articles: all from completely disreputable news sources, the type of conspiracy slingers that run around with tinfoil hats to prevent the CIA and NSA from reading their minds. Yet Trump boldly promoted these laughable theories.
When did we start thinking of Hitler as a fascist? Mussolini? Was it only after they assumed power? Or even then, did we still hold out hope for democracy? Fascism is a slippery slope. Just because the beginning of the decline is not steep doesn’t mean we may not be headed for a fall.
– Laurent Ross