Is Donald Trump really an American fascist?
An over-the-weekend meme held that Donald Trump is now running openly as a fascist.
The words ‘Donald Trump’ and ‘fascist’ now appear together in headlines across the web, popping up there like a pimple and threatening to reach escape velocity and ooz into the mainstream media for a news cycle.
A Jeb Bush campaign advisor jumped aboard on Twitter, reinforcing the comparison, which got picked up by Salon.com. The Daily Beast has heroically called for a boycott of Trump’s businesses, prompting Howard Kurtz of Fox News -- Fox News! -- to rant about how editors at news organizations shouldn't try to impose their political views on the rest of the world, especially when those views involve criticising Donald Trump.
And so on: Glenn Greenwald tweeted it; the idea that Trump is a neo-fascist can be found between quotation marks in a CNN Money headline.
This comes as a response to things the short-fingered vulgarian has said, and the atmosphere at his rallies.
But is Donald Trump actually a fascist? Are those who give their money to Trump -- directly or indirectly -- supporting fascism?
“When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and waving the cross” – a familiar quote though it’s unclear who first said it. Similarly, the word ‘fascist’ is used commonly enough – for its sting and as a rough equivalent of ‘racist’ – with a fuzzy understanding of its origins.
Into that breach enter the “the Danger of American Fascism,” an essay published in the New York Times in 1944 by then-Vice President Henry Wallace. If we are going to revive ‘fascist’ for mainstream usage, the piece might help to feel the heft of the word we hurl.
Wallace is mostly forgotten but was in the thick of the first half of the 20th Century, as secretary of agriculture through the height of the dust bowl and the New Deal, and vice president during wartime 1941-1945. His term ended 82 days before FDR died in office, leaving Harry Truman to the atom bomb and the cold war and Wallace to short stints as Commerce Secretary and editor of New Republic before a 1948 run for president on the Progressive ticket. He ran on a platform of universal health care, full desegregation and civil rights, and the end of the Cold War before it started. And recieved 2% of the vote.
He wound up engineering a successful breed of egg-laying chicken, and supporting Richard Nixon.
In 1944, he was vice president and first-wave fascism was being ground down abroad and he wrote an essay about the American brand of fascism for America’s newspaper of record. Who can guess what he would Tweet?
You can read the full essay here. Below are some highlights, many of which seem as relevant today as in 1944:
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.
The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.
American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.
The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler's game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini's vaunted claim that he "made the trains run on time." In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler's claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.
Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to "make the trains run on time." It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.
Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.
It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and "with malice toward none and charity for all" go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.