@Background Pony #A937
My assessment, as a historian, is that those skeptics most determined or convinced that Trumpism does not adequately resemble fascism have overlooked several crucial aspects which do, indeed, lead to the conclusion that Trumpism embodies enough fascistic characteristics to be defined as fascism.
To start with, almost no one talks about MAGA as neo-fascist, which is surely a reasonable description. Neo-fascism, just like neo-Nazism, is a contemporary and reframed version of its original far right source, rather than a straight clone. Neo-fascism is accompanied by a trademark faux intellectualism (which in actuality is nothing but fascism’s traditional anti-intellectualism in disguise), a new form of cultural race-biology, and a very strong anti-Marxism and anti-feminism.
Neo-fascism, like its progenitor, is always xenophobic, as a logical consequence of its ultra-nationalism. It is often characterized by agitprop, demonization and Big Lies, flowing from the need to refashion reality to fit the fascist narrative.
It even includes the effort, which has now become almost mainstream, to paint “the Left” as the real Nazis. They were National “Socialists” after all, weren’t they? A rightist, religious fanatic, and hardcore Trump supporter, Dinesh D’Souza leads this illiterate and perverted crusade in the U.S., with the Trump White House itself joining up, with its “1776 Commission” equating American progressives with Mussolini.
Evans gave four main reasons for refusing the Trumpism-fascism analogy:
Trumpism is not aggressively militaristic towards other nations
Trump’s encouragement of violence against opponents at home “has been unsystematic”
Trumpism has not seen a “near-total ‘coordination’ of social institutions and voluntary associations”
What happened on January 6 “was not an attempted coup” and a comparison to the Hitler’s 1923 Beer Hall putsch fails because the former “was not a pre-planned attempt to seize the reins of government.”
Firstly, a point of order: We should not speak of fascism in the singular, but of fascisms plural, because fascism has taken on different forms in time and place. It is therefore a huge mistake to center any judgement solely on comparison between Trumpism and the fascisms of Hitler and Mussolini (the father of fascism) of the 1920s and 1930s.
Secondly, Evans seems to disqualify Trumpism as fascism because it did not/has not yet reached its final embodied form. To fault a neo-fascist movement in a contemporary society that is still a democracy for not meeting the standards of fascism in the fully-fledged dictatorships in the 1920s and 1930s (and during WWII in the 1940s) seems loaded to say the least.
No one will deny that there are more differences than similarities between the specific personalities of Hitler/Mussolini and Trump, despite the obvious parallels in terms of the cultivation of a personality cult. But that misses the point altogether, since we can never expect historical circumstances to be precisely the same as they were on any other occasion.
It would be just as deliberately obtuse to claim that no movement that does not meet the exact social and historical context of Russia in 1917, and that does not have a leader comparable to Lenin or Stalin, can ever be called communist. No one would ever dream of limiting the term communist according to the structures placed on the term fascist.
Thirdly, let us remember that Hitler too, from 1925 until 1 September 1939, disguised both his militarism – always assuring the world that his intentions toward neighboring states were peaceful – and his encouragement of violence against “opponents” at home. He claimed that massive violence against the Jews – such as the Kristallnacht pogrom – were instigated by overzealous “ordinary citizens” and not masterminded, or incited, by the regime.
Fourthly, it is obvious that the January 6 attack was a part of Trump’s very real effort at a coup, central to which was the attempt to overturn the result of a democratic election and install Trump as POTUS once again. Trump not only declared days before that he had won the election, but on January 6 itself, stated he would never concede.
Trump has clearly tried to take control of central institutions such as the Supreme Court, the intelligence agencies, “the political elite, the army, business, the civil service and the police” (Evans reasons that Hitler’s coup was unsuccessful because he had not managed to command these institutions), and now the parliament.
That is far more than Hitler even tried to do before launching his coup attempt in Munich (not even in Berlin, mind you). The attack on 6 January has to be seen in its proper context as part of a long-term effort of Trump to gain power, and do away with a democracy that didn’t re-elect him.
Fifthly, and more importantly, there are a large number of 20th century fascist movements that were not aggressively militaristic towards other countries, but no one queries their fascist definition, based on their ideology and behavior at home.
And it is a core fuel for Trump’s MAGA (literally: Make American Great Again) movement that has grown out of the still smoldering wreckage of the GOP. Protectionism, not internationalism, carries fascism on its wings, just as it did in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1930s it came in the shape of the “America First” policy.
In the MAGA fascist cult, as well as in many other neo-fascist movements, it was expressed as the hatred of the so-called “globalists.”
This term, of course, echoes the old, deeply antisemitic fascist hatred of “cosmopolitanism,” and the anti-globalism narrative, together with the agents of “cultural Marxism,” carry antisemitism with them too. This has been most evident in the metastasizing campaigns against Hungarian American investor and philanthropist George Soros (who just happens to be of Jewish descent).
But Evans writes as if all these other fascisms, not to mention neo-fascism, do not exist. He pretends to have never even heard of any of them. For him, only the fascisms of Hitler and Mussolini exist as a basis for comparison to Trumpism.
Indeed, he calls both fascism and Nazism “the demons of the past” – which is unsurprising, because according to his insistence that only an exact clone can qualify as fascism, the conditions for future fascisms can never return.
Naturally, Trumpism will fall short in a contest against phenomena that don’t exist. No modern example could ever live up to those Hitler-or-Mussolini standards, since no neo-fascist movement has ever come close to starting a world war.
The stubborn insistence on imprisoning any comparison of fascism in the historical framework of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascisms of the 1920s and 1930s is a way to “poison the well.” It sets up any comparison to fail before it has even begun. But there is another, far more intellectually honest analytic path.
Fascisms have never remained identical over time and space: we have to look at the many central traits that these movements do have in common. On that basis, it is more than reasonable to identify that MAGA Trumpism, and its post-presidency iterations, as eminently suitable candidates for the label “neo-fascist.”