Trump’s Neofascism Isn’t Going Away, Even if Trump Does

By a former resident of Bloomberg’s New York

This is a chaotic time for American politics, as the old establishment system falls away globally and newer structures emerge into that power vacuum. At such a moment, the culture and political institutions intersect in unpredictable ways. Videos of unprovoked police violence, for instance, allow for protests and civic argument about authoritarian tactics, dissidence, and racism. But those videos also allow authoritarians to make their case that such open combination of expressed violence and state authority just isn’t a big deal, or is even a good thing.

With this background, we come to Donald Trump and his influence on the Republican primary, which is an unusually vivid and important example of an unorthodox institutional evolution. Trump lost in Iowa, dealing a blow to his credibility. But he is still a scary politician, and not because he’s crazy. He’s not. He’s a flashy racist real estate promoter who sells overpriced gaudy products. He’s a marketer. However, this isn’t so important.

What makes fascism isn’t just the character of the leader, but the economic circumstance of that leader’s rise. Trump’s most important and flashy line at events is a fairly open symbol of policing; a call to build a giant wall on the border to keep out immigrants. But his economic arguments mix traditional conservative ideas about the social role of business – businessmen winners should be on top – with left-wing arguments about how the state must be a useful tool for promoting the social and economic welfare of the people living here (not those with the wrong skin color, of course).

Michal Kalecki, who invented Keynesianism before Keynes (though Kalecki wrote it in Polish and French, so it was ignored), wrote the classic analysis of the economics of fascism in 1943. In this essay, he described one basis of political stability as full employment. Despite full employment bringing in large profits for big business, business leaders despise that economic situation because full employment means workers can easily leave their job and find a new one.

Kalecki’s insight in this essay is that for big business, unemployment is first and foremost a mechanism for disciplining workers. Under full employment “the ‘sack’ would cease to play its role as a ‘disciplinary measure,'” and “the social position of the boss would be undermined.” Discipline and political stability, he argued, “are more appreciated than profits by business leaders.”

He notes, however, that there is one full employment model of economic order that big business will accept: fascism. Fascism replaces the discipline of unemployment with the discipline of policing, concentration camps, and the threat of violence. Therefore, he concluded, “one of the most important functions of fascism… was to remove capitalist objections to full employment.” He then points out that fascist full employment tends towards using people to build weapons, and that carries its own seed for endless war. Kalecki’s work is worth reading in full, but that’s the gist of it.

In order to rise to power successfully, a fascist leader has to build alliances within a country’s natural conservative institutional fabric, aka the forces of order. Mussolini, I believe, was allied with the church, Hitler was financed by certain big business sectors (like steel), and he found allies in the the military. These kinds of institutional links are key in every authoritarian takeover, from Franco in Spain to Pinochet in Chile.

In a time of yearning for jobs and economic stability, fascist arguments can sound appealing. They sound especially worthwhile in the face of establishment politicians who say that alas, the government has no responsibility for your problem, it’s just the grand forces of globalization, or technology, or a lack of skills, or “the market”.

That’s the situation we’re in today, and why populist right forces are rising worldwide. In the U.S., this is why Trump sounds so different than most big business Republicans. He is willing to marry violence against racial minorities, journalists, and, well, just anyone, with a working class lens on economic issues, on everything from trade to eminent domain to infrastructure to health care to political corruption to foreign policy to immigration. His politics are a revolutionary break from the Reagan Republican big business orthodoxy and the neoliberalism of the Democratic establishment.

Trump’s ideological organizing principle is low wage full employment, with the social status of big business in all likelihood preserved through violent discipline. It’s a kind of politics most Americans have really never seen before. Trump is pretty much openly calling for violence against protesters, giving his supporters permission to ‘rough up’ dissidents.

Some say that George Wallace made arguments like this, but he wasn’t doing so in world where labor cost deflation was managed through globalized offshoring. Trump’s economic stance does not mean, however, that he is a genuine advocate for the working class. He’s not. He’s just, at the end of the day, a dishonest real estate promoter. And the ultimate costs of fascism, as Kalecki makes clear and as we’ve seen through history, are borne most savagely by the targeted minorities, and then the working class.

What is worrisome about Trump is two things. First, what should be clear about politics is that the public desperately wants a full employment economy. Trump is promising that. And second, Trump is building institutional links with at least one natural conservative force that hasn’t until recently been considered particularly political: the police.

This is an armed working class unionized pro-government demographic that is not especially fond of plutocrats and has no problem with the government taking responsibility for both full employment and, well, for social order. They are trusted with the legal authority to discipline citizens, and they are the basis for the enforcement of our legal system. A lot of them feel threatened by recent protests. And they are giving Trump enthusiastic endorsements. For instance, the Executive Director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, in explaining the group’s rationale for endorsing Trump, said that the country’s leader should be the one that protects its police, as now it’s “open season” on police officers. Sheriff Joe Arpaio just endorsed Trump.

There are other natural forces of order. The church. The military. The intelligence world. Big business. And Trump, because he is a nationalist, a full employment guy, and someone who looks down on experts, will turn some of them off. Globalized businesses won’t like him, unless he cuts a deal with them. Neither will Wall Street. A lot of military and national security experts find his provincialism unprofessional and embarrassing, while others find it appealing.

Really, though, it’s not that hard to imagine Trump tacitly encouraging his supporters to commit violence against mainstream domestic political opponents in pursuit of his political priorities. I don’t know what kind of institutional immunity we have to this, it’s not a situation considered in a serious way for as long as any of us have been alive. And even if Trump loses, as he probably will, he has opened a pathway for success in the Republican Party that will be followed by others, unless we return to full employment. That may happen, but it may also be the case that Trump, or the next Trump, takes power in 2017 or 2021.

You can usually find a precedent for most developments in modern American politics, we’ve been here before, it’s not that bad, or it’s worse but here’s a way we handled this before. But Trump strikes me as a new element, something that has always been on the fringe but is now on the verge of real institutional power. It’s as if a strong segregationist, say Strom Thurmond when he ran for President, actually had a shot of winning. You’d probably have to go back to World War I and the near-normal sanctioning of anti-German vigilante violence to see anything like this. But I’m not even sure that is a parallel. This is new territory.

Pay attention to Trump and the police. Those institutional shifts are worth understanding.

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    1. RW Tucker

      In a time of political division, Americans sometimes seem to forget that in their republic representatives still represent portions of the population, even in a time where taxation does not always mean representation. These politicians can be ridiculed, criticized, sidelined, but they do represent real interests among the populace. One thing they can’t be is ignored.

      There’s a groundswell of very unhappy people out there. Whether they’re taking over federal buildings in Oregon, chanting for the Donald, or aren’t counted in the unemployment rates, the last thing you want is for them to feel increasingly ignored. That’s how you get demagogues like Trump or, historically, Andrew Jackson.

  1. crittermom

    EXCELLENT article.
    Informative—yet terrifying.

    Trump has never had my vote or even my attention.
    I find it an embarrassment to this country he’s even made it this far & sense he sees running for pres as the ultimate reality show, but couldn’t understand why so many stood behind him.
    Now I do.

    With him as leader I believe we’ll have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
    Or rather, we’ll have been DUMPED into the fire by those who fail to truly acknowledge the facts about this candidate.

    In all my almost 65 years I’ve never been so excited about an election & a candidate I really want to represent ME (instead of the banksters, energy companies, etc).
    I’ve also never been so worried about who might beat him out—by hook or crook.

    Thanks, Yves, for helping me to understand why Trump has gone so far.
    I hope those supporting him will read this article & admit it’s truths & change their vote.

    Or that their transportation fails them come election day!

    1. Will

      It’s a structural problem, not just a candidate (Trump) problem, meaning this isn’t going away. Also, I expect a lot worse than some broken cars on voting day (see the Cruz tricks, and electronic voting makes this way easier).

    2. theinhibitor

      How is Trump more terrifying than Obama or Bernie or Hillary, or any other candidate for that matter?

      I fail to see how a potential figurehead…I mean president…will be able to sway the current politics of America, politics so deeply entrenched in providing everlasting wealth and power to the few that no single man with 8 years will ever be able to change it.

      The US gov has probably always been a racket to some extent, but the tax code, pro TBTF policies, lack of criminal prosecutions of high ranking/wealthy elite, the pervasive military industrial lobby, the supreme court, etc. have been compromised for almost half a century. The myopic view of the populace has always followed and truly believed that a single man or woman can enact some sweeping change that will somehow rectify the years of systemic abuse in just 8 years. Or the opposite: that one man will be able to turn America into Nazi Germany.

      I stand with Bernie, that is, my views most coincide with his, but I still have the sinking feeling that no candidate will ever be able to get through even the most hated impasse that Wall Street so CLEARLY imposes upon the democratic process. All this fear-mongering of Trump, and his pro-police, anti-immigration, racist views are not new, or eye-opening. In fact, they are downright boring and in my mind don’t really illustrate anything other than a neo-conservative, Baby Boomer views of America through the rose-colored glasses of egomania.

      You say “With (Trump) as a leader we’ll have jumped from the frying pan into the fire”. I disagree completely. We are already in the fire and have been for a very very long time. It was only the strength of our market and emerging technologies that masked everything for so long, just like Twain wrote of the Roaring Twenties as the Gilded Age, that is, everything was covered in gold but one only has to scratch the surface to realize its all cheap and for show. I find today to be quite similar. I don’t think Trump or Bernie will really have any meaningful impact on American politics, just as the last 5 presidents didn’t.

      All of this hate, anger, postulation, hope, fear, debate, arguments about the candidates is nothing more than a way for the populace to vent out their frustrations prior to anything being DONE. That is my largest issue with all of this blather: no one has DONE anything yet. It’s an exact microcosm of the corporate world: no one really DOES anything, yet so much attention and time is vested in looking at CEO’s and glorifying or demonizing them for, once again, DOING NOTHING. Maybe once Americans realize that what is done needs to be scrutinized, and individuals need to be held accountable for their actions, and more importantly, DEFINED BY THEIR ACTIONS then and only then will I ever think that their is a possibility of true change. But before then, all these articles, thesis, tweets, pics, newsfeeds, arguments, debates, op-eds, interviews, photo ops are entirely useless.

      1. Carla

        I agree with many of your points, theinhibitor, most of all that fundamentally, our problems are systemic, and no individual will be able to solve them or cure what ails us.

        But I also agree with Yves, that an individual could take us to next ungodly level in the expression of those problems, and I think her post was well-reasoned, historically supported and eloquently expressed. Thank you, Yves.

        Among our many systemic ills — the military-industrial complex, the medical-industrial complex, globalization, racism, hatred of the poor, fear of refugees, the financialization and privatization of everything, the corruption of the “justice” system up to and including the Supreme Court, to name just a few, I suspect that among the most toxic may be the power and dominance of two gigantic corporations: the Republican and Democrat parties.

        A pox on them.

  2. andyb

    Yves: what you are missing with Trump is that he is the only one on either stage that has:

    1. Defined the economic malaise of offshoring jobs through trade treaties. Forget that some of his proposals are ludicrous; they strike a big chord to the 26% that are actually unemployed and employed members of the rapidly disappearing middle class.

    2. weighed against truly unrestrained immigration that has irrevocably changed the character, morals, and sovereignty of the US. There are many who believe that this wave of unrestricted immigration is just another part of the Cloward-Piven agenda, and certainly aids the drug running that has supplied billions of profits for the TBTF banks.

    3. suggested that he would deal with Putin in diplomatic terms rather than nuking him and Russia. This of course has the neocon warmongers in a tizzy, for their faux terrorist war might be exposed

    The above said, I still have many reservations about Trump, and also Hillary, Cruz, and specifically Rubio, the latest establishment puppet of the Zionists.

    1. scott

      Better to have Trump in 2016, malleable and vacuous as he is, then have a real fascist with a really pissed-off populace behind him (probably a him) in 2020, especially if immigration/Cloward-Piven agenda goes on for four more years.

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Fascism is part and parcel of capitalism in crisis, not radical social workers looking for sound social welfare state policies. This is the idiotic mentality of right wing conspiracy buffs who lacking the Kremlin and the worldwide communist conspiracy to explain world and or national events have sought domestic bogeymen with absolutely no economic or state power what so ever yet are held responsible for varying sundry problems. The case in point here, a variation of overloading the social welfare programs via immigration which will trigger an ugly and violent nativist uprising.

        Never mind 4 decades of rising income inequality, the erosion of job security and benefits on the part of corporate America, the fascist will come a knocking because of the welcome mat for Mexicans, Central Americans and Syrians. The new welfare queens and lazy bums to focus anger and resentment on? Not enough for fascism to take hold. Not without the goodies. The goodies are the proof of a real solution.

        Fascist movements not only provided jobs, Germany under Hitler gave cash grants in sums large enough for young couples to get married, set up households and start raising large families for the Reich. Prosperity has to be real enough to be experienced and consumed. Trump says he will make America great again, with the implicit message that greatness will also come to paychecks and everyday lives. That is something he or anyone playing these nativist come on lines will never do. They are PR posturing for a career move, not for a command economy in the fascist mold. Getting voted into office is not taking power and holding it. Something must be given, quid pro quo to the voting public for retaining the hold on power by those bringing back the greatness. The greatness better be a lot of bacon for the followers or else the old question, “Where’s The Meat?” will have the public looking elsewhere for someone else and another system altogether.

      2. Praedor

        Y’all speak of Cloward-Piven add if it’s a bad thing. We NEED a guaranteed basic income. No more Welfare, work being a non-necessity (especially in a world of ever greater automation), no more Social Security because no need.

        In a robotics future, work will need to be optional. Play the norm.

    2. Crazy Horse

      Kind of amusing to read an entire article branding Trumpet as a fascist when according to the definition coined by Mussolini the US is already a fascist country. Or you don’t think that the merger of the corporation and the state is descriptive of the USA in 2016?

      My take is that Trump is a buffoon who characterizes all the basest character flaws of the America psyche. Intellectually he has no core, believing only in the distorted image of himself that he sees in the mirror. And as such he is a proper representative of the people. Compared to the sociopathic prostitutes that the Republican and neoliberal Democrat party promotes as candidates he is preferable just because he is unstable enough to allow for random errors in the machinery of dominance and Empire.

      As for the Hope for Change coming from Sanders, there isn’t a chance in hell it will become policy without a revolutionary movement demanding it, overthrowing the Overlords and forcing change upon them.

      1. ekstase

        The buffoon aspect is what throws you. One does not usually think of fascist leaders cracking ” jokes” or laughing. If you were exposed to Trump over time, like you would be living in N.Y. and being forcibly exposed to him in the media all the time, perhaps the novelty would not be all that bright. I suspect his sheer brashness, not “polite” in many other parts of the country, has an almost refreshing allure to some people. If you’ve never been invited to explore your own id in a healthy way, watching someone else’s gross misuse of theirs might seem cool, for a while.

      2. Fiver

        ‘My take is that Trump is a buffoon who characterizes all the basest character flaws of the America psyche. Intellectually he has no core, believing only in the distorted image of himself that he sees in the mirror.’

        Not the mirror – the TV. He’s caught in a ratings dilemma: a serious, thoughtful, muted Trump cannot hold an audience, including himself, for more than a minute, something he learned a very long time ago.

        Disagree re smarts, which comes in an abundance of forms.

    3. Carla

      andyb: in response to your points:

      1. No. We do not forget that Trump’s proposals are ludicrous and hate-filled.

      2. Immigration is way down. Wall Street and the 1 percent sank the economy and have largely taken care of this problem already. Let’s give Trump a teensy bit of credit since he’s in the top 1/10 of the 1 percent. But let’s take it away since he insists on fomenting hatred of those who are weaker, more innocent, and much more deserving than he will ever be.

      3. Fascists like Trump and Putin often get along; think of Hitler and Mussolini.

      1. Merf56

        Putin is not a fascist. At least by the accepted definition. He is more dictatorial strongman. I also cannot see him getting along with Trump. Putin is deep, calculating and quiet, preferring to work behind the scenes. Trump is brash, unpredictable and and shallow. Not that they could not deal with each other but hardly in a HitlerMuussolini style relationship.

  3. Ed

    This is one of the best articles on Trump that I’ve read. I have been trying to understand the man and why, even though I’m a basic leftist, there are aspects of his rhetoric that I find appealing in the wasteland of 2016 candidates. You helped me understand that. Jobs are paramount. Also appealing is Trump’s disavowal of Middle East involvement, which you don’t touch on. I wonder how you see that fitting into his worldview.

    1. Synoia

      1. The “sack”? Very British term – it it used in the US?

      2. The ME is perfectly logical if one’s objective are to stabilize Russia and China by stoking Muslim resentments, especially of each other.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Re 1. That’s in a quote from Kalecki. To answer you question, not unheard of but not common. “Joe was sacked” would sound US while “Joe got the sack” would come off as a bit affected.

      2. Clive

        The US equivalent of what can become the British-ism “got the sack” is usually “to be fired”. If I write for a primarily US audience I tend to use “got fired” or the applicable verb tense / conjugation. But I suspect that I on occasions don’t quite get the nuances right.

        In British English “got the sack” is almost always chosen when someone was dismissed for incompetence. If it is for reasons of “downsizing” or poor business conditions, “made redundant” is more appropriate. The US English “got fired” seems to cover some elements of both of these — but I think you need to be a US resident to use the phrase without it sometimes jarring. I believe the writer of the article was aiming for a very specific meaning and that is why they chose that expression. It makes perfect sense to me when I read it.

    2. sd

      At its simplest, it’s a waste of money that could be deployed elsewhere – for instance, real estate development.

    3. James Levy

      People like Trump have been influential since the Revolution (I would argue that people like Trump made the Revolution, but that’s a side issue). What’s different is that they have almost always worked through intermediaries who formed a connective tissue between elites and voters. This intermediation function has broken down as more and more of the political class either are totally in thrall to the elites or members (or wannabe members–I’m looking at you Bill and Barak) of the economic elite.

      Trump is cutting out the middle men who no longer serve a useful function. Since the politicos have basically decided that 80 or 90 percent of the people are no longer worth or worthy of the help of government, Trump can position himself as someone ready and willing to help “the common (white) man” and the politicians are dumbfounded and outflanked. They may be able to destroy the messenger this time around, but the message is out there, as the author of this piece points out. And boy are we in for trouble if the elites don’t find another FDR.

      1. Fiver

        Solid comment.

        The appalling fact is Trump is (apart from the departed Paul) very probably the Republican candidate least likely to really crank up the war machine for either the open-ended nightmare expansion of the ‘war on terror’ currently contemplated by Congress and the Admin, let alone playing this insane game of chicken with Putin while building a wall of bases around China. The shocking eruption of racism in public discourse in the US can (apart from the longer-term, virtual abandonment of an actual majority of the population) be traced directly to the tidal wave of media-inculcated hate, anger, fear, etc., directed at Arabs/Muslims from 9/11 through to the ‘war on ISIS’. It is just stunning to read the sort of stuff people say now that they simply did not previously.

          1. Fiver

            Not being even half so clever as Someone Like You, thus not able to cipher such a curious dropping, I plead the 5th and ‘Not guilty.’ to whatever charge has been laid upon me.

  4. Tom Stone

    Here in California the Police are legally a separate caste with superior rights to purchase firearms not allowed the general public FOR THEIR PERSONAL USE.
    Not official use, personal use. In many US jurisdictions the police unions have had the civil authorities agree to something called “The Police Officer’s Bill of Rights” as part of their contract negotiations
    .It again gives LEO rights that ordinary people can only dream of.
    And Police routinely violate laws that would put most of us behind bars for years with impunity, when admitted wife beater and then Sheriff of San Francisco went to the range to qualify recently he committed a felony ( The first range officer he ordered to supervise his requalification asked Internal Affairs if it was kosher, he got reassigned instantly). This is the man who decided which people would be issued a concealed weapons permit in SF…and not a squeak from anyone in authority including Kammie Harris who advocates banning the possession of Firearms by ordinary law abiding people (Not Citizens, that’s over with).
    Let’s give the cops tanks, machine guns and grenade launchers, automatic license plate readers, cell tower spoofers and the right to search anyone anywhere on mere suspicion…along with total immunity from the laws they are supposed to enforce, it’s the only way to beat the TERRORISTS!

    1. James Levy

      The caste element is truly shocking. You see the same thing in the military. My dad volunteered for service in WWII. They stuck him in the SeaBees because he was color blind and because he was a graduate of Brooklyn Tech. He was in the invasion of Guam. Not in actual combat, he was about a mile behind the front line, close enough that when he and his battalion marched up from the beach to where they were to build an airfield they literally walked over a field of dead Japanese soldiers covered in flies and maggots. That was close enough to get a good look at what war looks (and smells) like. But if you told my dad he was a hero, much less a “warrior”, which every paper-pusher in the military today is declared to be simply by the act of being in the military, he would have looked at you like you were an idiot. He would have said, “I was just doing my job.”

      Today it seems that cops and soldiers are no longer simple citizens doing their job. No, they are special–they are “heroes”, not by dint of any action, but simply because they are cops and soldiers. This is ridiculous and dangerous. It separates them from their fellows and, ironically, cheapens real heroism; when everyone is a hero, the term loses its meaning. But it serves them and the powers that be. At least so long as they stay in their barracks.

      1. jsn

        This is why universal service is required. Over thousands of years of human history suffrage has FOLLOWED military service, not the other way around

      2. sleepy

        I agree, and to argue the point further, when there was a draft the military was certainly not held in the awe it is today. My father also served as an infantry combat draftee in WW2, and many of his military stories involved outfoxing the sergeant, the stupidity of the officers, getting out of some particularly odious work like KP or latrine duty, etc., etc.

        In popular culture, that attitude was reflected in comics like Beetle Bailey, in Mash, in Hogan’s Heroes, McHale’s Navy, and so on. Nowadays that sort of healthy disrespect is nowhere to be found.

        1. Harry Shearer

          Read Andrew Bacevich on the isolation of the professional military from the population, followed quickly by the “heroes” and “warriors” branding.

        2. jrs

          Yea my dad was drafted too. His stories were of being poisoned by the military. Yes the U.S. government tested mustard gas and so on on U.S. draftees, the evidence is now out, but I remember him telling us that decades ago. He blamed reoccurring bouts of bronchitis on that for decades after. He raised us kids to never join the military, and never volunteer (an army lesson, volunteering there would get you more pain).

          1. James Levy

            My father was not drafted–he volunteered. That much he was proud of and he would not tolerate anyone who stated or implied he was drafted.

        3. optimader

          In popular culture, that attitude was reflected in comics like Beetle Bailey, in Mash, in Hogan’s Heroes, McHale’s Navy,

          As well Bill Mauldin’s “Willie and Joe” in the US Army’s own paper Stars and Stripes. ( How far we come with Uniform Worship and Freedom of Expression?)

          Though IMO, the pure thematic prototype of Military and Statist satire remains Jaroslav Hasek’s: The Good Soldier Švejk… Still highly thought of in the Czech Republic.
          You’ll see the Good Soldier Švejk’s cartoon image celebrated in signage at various Czech watering holes and Restaurants. It timelessly remains very humorous and relevant passive aggressive sarcasm.

          The Good Soldier Svejk

          …..A humorous anecdote on Bill Mauldin, who I know helped get a lot of enlisted grunts through WWIIi

          Meeting Patton
          A meeting between Patton and Mauldin was arranged after Patton threatened to stop distribution of Stars and Stripes in 3rd Army areas because of cartoons and photographs which depicted soldiers in “unsoldierly” appearance.

          Mauldin recalled the meeting in his book, “The Brass Ring,” published in 1972: “There he sat, big as life even at that distance. … A mass of ribbons started around desktop level and spread upward in a flood over his chest to the top of his shoulder, as if preparing to march down his back, too.

          “‘Now then, sergeant, about those pictures you draw, where did you ever see soldiers like that? You know damn well you’re not drawing an accurate representation of the American soldier. You make them look like bums. No respect for the Army, their officers or themselves.’”

          Patton grilled Mauldin about his cartoons, finally telling Mauldin that they “understand each other now.”

          Mauldin wrote: “Years later, I read of Patton’s reaction when [Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s aide, Navy Capt. Harry] Butcher read my account of the meeting to him over the phone. When he quoted me as saying I hadn’t changed the general’s mind, there was a chuckle. When he came to the part about his not changing my mind, either, there was a high-pitched explosion and more talk about throwing me in jail if I ever showed up again in 3rd Army.”….

          I keep this obit book marked under Mauldin for this quote, Mauldin called himself “as independent as a hog on ice,” and his nonconformist approach occasionally brought him trouble from the top.

      3. Praedor

        You incorrectly impune military personnel there. I served 20 yrs, retired just recently. I’ve been called a “hero” and been repeatedly “thanked for my service”. I’ve been in combat, always tip-of-spear guy but I NEVER took that hero shit to heart, always felt silly and at a loss on how to respond to the thank yous. Everyone I served with were similar. Abashed, embarrassed, uncomfortable with the silly labels and thank yous. Never cared for the warrior branding either. Feels ridiculous. Soldier works for me.

        I have combat medals but don’t feel like a hero. A hero to US is not the generic pap that the civilian world seems to call heroes (cops, firefighters, sports figures, all soldiers, cancer patents, etc). When everyone is a “hero” then no one REALLY is. The “Thank you for your service” stuff is knee-jerk, well-intended, but embarrassing. Better than being spit upon our called names (things I personally would be disinclined to take quietly, especially being spit upon, but that’s just me). Don’t blat me and those like me into the fascist player club. I certainly don’t have hyper respect for cops (they call citizens “civilians”…HAH. To the military, cops are civilians too, bwing CIVIL law enforcement). They are tubby donut-wolfing thugs or nuts all bent with roid-rage.

  5. allan

    Scott Walker showed how to do it (except for the full-employment bit).
    If Trump somehow got the nomination,
    he is too shrewd to pick somebody as ambitious as Walker as his VP,
    but a Cruz/Walker or Rubio/Walker ticket would be terrifying.

  6. Left in Wisconsin

    Very thoughtful. But I’m not sure Trump is really for full employment. In particular, there are many poor people who have been “managed” by incarceration, with the police mostly complicit, that do not have decent (any?) employment prospects. I guess one can conclude that they can take all the jobs freed up by deportation but I’m not sure the math or the logistics work.

  7. jsn

    It’s unclear if Trump has really thought through any of his policies, what he has on paper is clearly designed to appeal to popular sentiments.

    As Yves says he is first and foremost a promoter, a marketer and a dishonest one. He obviously has no problem with thuggery but on paper has a moderate foreign policy.

    The convenient lure of a NeoCon or Kissinger “realist” foreign policy would a natural attraction to his temperament so its easy to imagine a quick drift to hawkishness once surrounded by the MIC establishment in DC.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        It’s instructive that the writer felt it wise to maintain his or her anonymity. And thank you for posting it.

      2. Carla

        Gosh, I wondered about that, but since authorship was really unclear, I figured it was your post, Yves. Anyway, it was very well done.

    1. jrs

      “It’s unclear if Trump has really thought through any of his policies”

      understatement of the year :)

      But yes what REALLY ARE Trumps policies (yes I’ve listened to some of the debates etc.). Full employment? So we are told by left wing apologists I guess (and granted this article was fairly critical, but it still gives Trump too much credit). So I decided to go to Trumps own website about his Presidential campaign to see what he is officially campaigning on. Positions, these are the categories:

      US-China Trade reform
      Veterans Administration reform
      Tax reform (not all bad in my view, we do need tax simplification and the AMT does really need to go, but a lot of really rich people are going to get a tax break as well)
      Second Amendment Rights
      Immigration reform

      IS FULL EMPLOYMENT LISTED THERE? No. So what is all this Trump is a full employment candidate nonsense? Are leftist economic reforms listed there? No not really (compare to Sanders website), although of course the case could be made immigration reform might give jobs to some and it is true some ordinary people would get tax cuts under Trumps plan (just not as much as the billionaires, so the end result would be greater power disparities). Now, of course, we can not trust a politician’s campaign promises much, but it is interesting what issues Trump himself chooses to make the center of his campaign.

      “commentators have ignored how the vast bulk of his positions are to the Left of most of the GOP field. Interestingly, the outing of Trump as a closet liberal was an angle that Fox News used to try to discredit him soon after he entered the race”

      blah blah blah but again these are not the issues Trump himself is making central to his campaign. Though I have long been told it is wrong to even pretend the Trump phenomena is somehow about issues, as if it could be rationally understood as people making issues based choices somehow, rather than a non-rational liking for Trump’s personality.

    2. Fiver

      There is nothing whatever ‘realistic’ about neocon foreign policy, a catastrophic creed which has virtually nothing to do with the real interests of the US.

  8. Myron Perlman

    Thanks also for some insights on some of the economic aspects of fascism.
    You are talking about the “political” or “human agency” aspects of the economic system. How people can influence the dynamics inherent to the economic system. Many commentators talk about how the Keynsian (Kaleckian?) determined political-economic order finally ran into a wall in the 1970’s. It was experienced in the U.S. as “stagflation”. During that period neoliberalism was born and the the restructuring of the American economy put downward pressure on labor costs/wages. Any thoughts on whether this can simply be reversed by a return to Keynsianism? Or are there economic tendencies which are not so simply tamed? Time to think outside that dualism?

    1. reslez

      It wasn’t a wall so much as Johnson stomping on the gas pedal (War on Poverty + Vietnam War spending) and a supply side shock from the oil embargo. Inflation. Corporate interests used it to destroy a generation of achievement post-WWII and introduce neoliberal policy.

  9. RabidGandhi

    W/r/t Trump’s appeal to the left:

    When in Madrid a few years back, I was taken aback to see pro-Franco posters all over the city. Most of them read: “The left is all talk. We actually did it! Housing for all. Public education. Healthcare for all!”

    This is a healthy reminder that fascism– including whatever Trump is– is often well to the left of Thatcherism and Clinton/Obama style neoliberalism. As our nameless blogger shows re: Trump, fascism in Spain was a compromise by the oligarchs. Give the rabble bread, tenements and jawbs so they won’t pull out the guillotines, which (as long as your not a proscribed minority) is alot more generous than neoliberalism’s “Go Die!”.

    As a coda, it is sad to note that the Franco Poster’s claims have thus far held true to a degree. Podemos had some pretty rhetoric last year, but they are thus far a complete dud, especially after having gone AWOL in Greece’s hour of need.

    Calientan la pava pero no ceban los mates.

  10. DakotabornKansan

    The German author Thomas Mann, in his diary several months after Adolph Hitler’s ascension to power of as chancellor of Germany, observed that this was a revolution of a kind never seen before. It was a revolution, he wrote, “without underlying ideas, against ideas, against everything nobler, better, decent, against freedom, truth and justice…accompanied by vast rejoicing on the part of the masses.”

    1. James Levy

      I think Mann was too much the scion of the wealthy elite (Lubbeck merchants) and too much the aesthete to see the practical appeal of the NAZIs. He’s imagining that the world functions in some Hegelian way, with IDEAS being paramount. I loved reading the Magic Mountain but its take on the ills of European civilization is, shall we say, a bit abstract. Soup Everlasting indeed.

      1. MikeNY

        I just finished re-reading MM and am halfway through Dr Faustus! Serendipity. I agree that Mann dwelt too much in the realm of reason and logic, despite his own reservations on the subject and his high regard for Nietzsche. I think Mann is finally most sympathetic to Settembrini in the MM; Naphta, the dark supernaturalist, and Peeperkorn, the Dionysian, both off themselves, while cool, Apollonian, and ultimately facile Settembrini gets the last word. Facile because of the devastation that followed.

        I think Mann could have taken more instruction from Nietzsche on that point. Or from Kierkegaard. It is fascinating to me that Adrian Leverkuhn in Dr Faustus is reading SK when old Nick first appears to him. I think that’s significant.

  11. Carolinian

    This is the sort of thing you’d expect to see at Alternet. Yes it’s “not hard to imagine” all sorts of scenarios. The righties always fantasize that a Russian revolution is right around the corner. The problem with these appeals to history is what they leave out. America is not Russia or Germany.

    The truth is that we really have no idea what Trump is or how he would govern. Total mystery meat. That’s not a good thing of course but neither does it make him a fascist unless pointless name calling makes people feel better.

    1. Steve H.

      Yes, Godwin alert. Kalecki’s analysis seems sound. But the factors are not the same here & now. We have not suffered hyperinflation due to fiat currency, we’ve had huge income inequality. The bait-&-switch from income growth to debt expansion for consumers, started in the 70’s, has left consumers and citizens with a debt load that all the arbeit of McJobs will not solve, and looks more like (exaggerating a bit here) wage slavery.

      He-who-I’m-not-naming also had a genuine alliance with the workers, while Trump is pushing the sales pitch. The danger is that he will not (as referenced in the Michael Hudson quote yesterday) do as he is told to do. That makes him a loose cannon.

      References to FDR must include the vast expansion of the MIC to pull the economy out of depression. This would fit with the neo-lib-con agenda just fine.

      There are very valid points in this post, But painting Trump so garishly is likely to distract from those non-status-quo points that both he and Sanders are making. And my understanding is that neither one of them want the state to control the means of production.

      1. Steve H.

        Lest anyone think I’m looking for a point-by-point discussion, why I’m issuing a Godwin caution is that we don’t need to talk about Germany. This is America. Mother Jones, Rockefeller, massacres of workers, MacArthur ordering the killing of American veterans of the Bonus Army… No need to look to import demagoguery and violent suppression of Americans by Americans, there’s plenty of home cooking to go around.

        1. gordon

          I don’t live in the US, but I’m inclined to agree there are (mostly forgotten) US precedents.

          In particular (from the post): “…It’s a kind of politics most Americans have really never seen before. Trump is pretty much openly calling for violence against protesters, giving his supporters permission to ‘rough up’ dissidents.”

          Ever heard of the police riot at the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968?

          And US labour history is particularly rich in “massacres of workers”.

    2. sleepy

      I don’t know to what extent the term “fascist” applies to Trump, but I think there are a number of American historical references that imho are useful.

      Some variety of economic populism has always been acceptable in the US as long as minorities aren’t seen as the particular beneficiaries. So, folks like Huey Long and George Wallace did just fine in the South as long as they were also segregationists. George Wallace was an unreconstructed FDR New Dealer during the 50s, expanding many public services. And of course many of FDR’s New Deal programs excluded minorities from full participation–and his brand of “leftwing” programs were as popular in the South as anywhere in the country.

      Likewise, Trump has made his bigot bones by dumping on Muslims and immigrants, so whatever populist rhetoric he comes up with–big pharma, bankster campaign contributions, etc–is ok with his constituents.

    3. Carolinian

      Here’s someone who suggests that Trump may really be a conventional neoliberal Republican with the main diff that he’s not down with the Peterson war on SS or the neocon war on Russia. Of course what Trump says in a GOP primary could be completely different from what he says in the general. He’s a moving target–may not have any political ideology at all.

      Trump began by saying that “Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced.” Then, he observed about the government that “everything that we’re doing has been wrong.” After condemning our unsustainable debt (“we owe 19 trillion dollars”) he discussed misplaced and wasteful priorities: “the budget that we just approved…funds everything that all of us in this room don’t want to see it fund.” He complained about the Iran deal and discussed the need to “build a wall” along the Mexican border.

      Other than Trump’s signature claim that “Mexico is going to pay for the wall,” there was nothing outside the Republican mainstream in his litany. Compared to the other Republican candidates, who regularly spout apocalyptic rhetoric about ISIS or about dangerous trends in government overreach, his view that “we’re in trouble” seems completely in tune with the GOP chorus. Trump, being Trump, did toot his own horn, although, he assured the audience, not in a “braggadocious way” by talking about his “great, great company.” But that was only to highlight his credentials to run the country “the way it’s supposed to be run,” presumably in a business-like manner

      In short Trump’s “I know how to get things done” pitch is much the same as Hillary Clinton’s. Where they seem to differ is on foreign policy with one an America firster and the other a would be Kissinger.

        1. Fiver

          Agree, Mr. Stone. I found the use of the term ‘working class’ in this sentence from the piece way off in describing modern police:

          ‘This is an armed working class unionized pro-government demographic that is not especially fond of plutocrats and has no problem with the government taking responsibility for both full employment and, well, for social order.’

          The entire Uniformed First Responder Complex with which authorities through media have managed to afflict the public psyche via the tried and true ‘shock and awe’ 24/7 method needs to be dismantled and reconstructed.

    4. Andrew Watts

      Agreed. I also don’t think it’ll be too long before Sanders and his supporters are smeared as national socialists. It’s common to smear your political opponents as fascists in American politics.

    5. craazyman

      Thank you. This post dreadful. Dreadful but honest — at least it’s honest, and the honest part is laudable, but it’s honest like a neurotic day dream lost in a forest of demons of its own design hammered together without regard to anatomy or form from the detritus of the world’s psycopathologies and projected like a hysterically vertiginous cinematic montage on the dark wall of unrestrained illucidity. As most demons are. That’s why they are demons!

      1. JCC

        I’m not sure that it’s neurotic after following and reading the link to the police supporting him because they need “saving”. If it is neurotic, it’s a pretty healthy neurosis.

    6. Carla

      You accuse those who call Trump a fascist of “pointless name calling” in the face of that very wealthy and powerful (because wealth IS power in America) man’s relentless hate speech? I am really, uhm, surprised.

      1. Fiver

        It’s just too strong and indeed, inaccurate a term for Trump. He’s not a fascist, he’s a boor, a caricature, a wise guy.

    7. Praedor

      I believe the ALTERNET article that says he’s a fraud and con man and had no intention to be Prez. Doesn’t nullify the forces he’s unleashed on the right though. They’ve bloomed and won’t just vanish when Trump exits as intended. .

  12. EmilianoZ

    The key to Hitler and Mussolini’s rise to power is that they were virulently anti-communist. Industrialists had a real use for them. They would call on their brown shirts to break up strikes and stuff like that. For sure, today, the 1% would also prefer Trump to the Bern.

    I’d like to see the demographics of Trump’s electorate. If there are lots of young people, it would be very alarming. Hopefully the millennials will go for the Bern.

    Trump’s family is from Germany:

    According to Emmanuel Todd there’s something fundamentally authoritarian in the Germanic character. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    1. RabidGandhi

      This is so meta it’s headspinning. Fascists, known for their racial theories, are fundamentally authoritarian due to their race.

      What an easy out for war criminals: “Not our fault; we’re genetically predisposed to fascism”.

      Never read Emmanuel Todd. I now plan not to.

      1. jrs

        Or due to their *culture* not their race, but I don’t have a dog in this fight really. But many many people made the case it was German culture that lead to fascism.

      2. visitor

        Your loss.

        What Emmanuel Todd has been investigating is not genetics, but family structures, who marries whom, who lives with whom, inheritance structures, etc. He has been able to classify family structures across the world, and to pinpoint strong links between them and specific ideologies.

        The traditional Germanic family for instance is authoritarian, gives more importance to the family itself than to individuals, and gives preferential treatment (e.g. inheritance) to the eldest son. In so far as the society reflects the education and acquired behaviour within the family, then it also leans towards a hierarchical, authoritarian social make-up that does not strive for individual rights.

        Family structures in the UK and France, for instance, are quite different, and at least in France more diverse (which should explain the opposite threads of authoritarianism and anarchism running through French society).

        1. Merf56

          You are spot on there visitor.
          I come from this strong German background on my mother’s side and married someone from it as well. We were both the odd ones out in our families from an early age and remain so to this day. And the entire rest of our families including all of our respective siblings are, at their core, authoritarian and dare I say, fascist in outlook. They are also, to this day, continually trying to bring us back ‘into the fold’ and change the way we live and what we believe and whom we have in our lives ( and we are now in our late 50s!). That’s tenacity! And they set to work on our kids from an early age as well. Glad to say it didn’t take with either of them. It is also why we moved across the country when our kids were small – to reduce the constant pressure we were under and physically limit contact opportunities!
          Germans are not a race – a gross misuse of the term. What they do have is a major character flaw built into their heritage and family and governmental traditions that is so strong it simply will not be eliminated in most German families. It is cold and ugly, cruel to anyone outside their circles and punishingly conformist at its worst.

    2. Will

      Every race/nationality is conditioned to accept the structural violence leaders of civilized societies impose to maintain order. Hitler actually referred to the US continent-wide 2 centuries long genocide of natives when discussing whether it was possible to wipe out all the Jews, holding America up as a shining example. No matter the nominal system of government (democracy, etc) authoritarianism is never far below the surface so long as structural violence is involved; this gets more and more obvious the further down the socioeconomic food chain you get.

      I think democracy serves many incredibly important functions in maintaining social stability though. It forces elites to convince the populace that their policies benefit the public, and it rewards a group of people (the political class, including consultants, media and related workers) for doing that work well. It also gets people to buy in to the system – and we see how easy it is to get people to vote against their interests! Furthermore, it makes systemic critique much harder; it’s more obvious that a dictatorship is systematically anti-common-welfare or self-serving than a democracy. I keep hearing people say, “Well, who am I to argue with the will of the majority, even if I don’t like it?” There are other benefits, but these are substantial.

      So I doubt we’d see a major change without a major economic or military thumping that required moving to a command economy. Obama’s already shown that a president of any stripe will use repressive force on well intentioned peaceful protesters, laws be damned. It seems more likely to me that we’ll get more of the same until something really deep fissures. Perhaps a war or sudden supply shock.

      For anyone interested, I highly recommend Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile. Summary: Life is chaotic; your predictions will be wrong; live in a way that you’re in good shape even if your predictions are wrong. This seems especially relevant in discussions of police violence, US regime change, increasing pollution and resource issues, etc.

      1. jrs

        If they wanted to pretend it is the will of the majority, they might try to actually build a system that was democratic. For instance, the Iowa cacuses look NOTHING like “the will of the majority” to me (a nation wide one day primary might at least look like will of the majority, if the machines weren’t rigged etc.).

        It’s a system of government where the majority *might* have some influence sometimes, but it’s not even very democratic, even on paper. I mean anyone could design a more democratic looking system than this, and that’s just on paper (one day Prez primaries, eliminate the electoral college, reduce gerrymandering, eliminate the Senate, give D.C. a vote, have independent audits on voting machines etc.), and that’s just the structure, that’s without even dealing with the huge issues like money in politics.

      2. Carla

        @Will — So you think this is a democracy? I guess your ideas of democracy and mine are pretty different. Nevertheless, I’ll check out Nassim Taleb’s book.

    3. James Levy

      Trump’s family is largely Dutch, I believe, not German. As for the “German Gene” theory, you already pointed out that Mussolini came first. And Stalin was already ensconced with his own wacko brand of ultra authoritarianism years before Hitler. And Japan? Spain? Portugal? Hungary? Romania? Argentina? Vichy? How do they fit your theory? Oh, they don’t. Not much of a theory then, is it?

      1. Merf56

        And I have read that Fred Trump came to the US from Eastern Europe – (then Czechoslovakia I think…..? )Hmmm

      1. Schmoe

        And historically the most German state in the US is Wisconsin and it used to have a very strong progressive streak. Not exactly authoritarian territory back when it used to be solid German (with a notable amount of Polish ancestry as well).

  13. Antifa

    Sorry, but Mr. Trump is a fascist like a toad is a frog. If his brand is neofascist, then he is a toad painted green. A true fascist of any flavor would know what the hell he’s doing. Mr. Trump does not. He’s lost just staying current on Twitter.

    He’s Joe McCarthy; he’s George Wallace; he’s Huey Long. Demagogue, populist, racist, opportunist, narcissist, xenophobe — but no fascist. A fascist has multiple a priori sponsors among the wealthy and powerful; Trump is a loner. The Master of the Deal cannot hope to make the deals a fascist would long since have made with big business, with the political establishment, with police, with the military. Trump has followers from each of these power groups, but no consensus from their leadership, nor from their ranks.

    The primary attraction of between a desperate populace and a fascist is that he/she promises safety and order in exchange for liberty but only if you act right now. Just as soldiers in mortal danger will follow whomever will keep them alive for the next minute — the chain of command be damned — people about to lose everything will follow a strong man to get them out of immediate danger. Trump may appear to offer that, but he doesn’t. He cannot. He is only a mirror image of the crowd’s fears and anger bounced right back at them.

    He has no backing from true power holders in our society, nor will he have it in future. He has written no policy manifesto. His one book is no Mein Kampf. He is a stage actor, a one man reality show, a carnival barker out there winging it all on his own. When his followers see that he shoots blanks, that he is impotent to accomplish his promises, they will instantly see the toad they currently think is a frog.

    Do we have anything to fear from the people Trump appears to lead? Oh yes. They will only be the more frightened and angry when Donald has let them down. They will lash out to seize control where they can, but there is not organized power base backing the workers. Not even the workers. This amounts to a risk of riots, road rage, and individuals “standing their ground” or otherwise flipping out, but this is no mass movement.

    The most likely mass movement America faces is a demand to dismantle the big banks, and break the hold of money on our democracy. Everybody and their brother is already behind that.

    We are moving into a future where full employment is literally impossible because the work to be done will less and less be done by humans. Michal Kalecki lived during 71 years of humanity’s most amazing technical progress, but he passed away before he saw how completely automation can replace human labor, and how consumerism cannot possibly spread to every hut and hovel on this one planet, and how 3% annual growth is merely cancer, not progress, and not sustainability. Maybe on six or seven such planets annual GROAF can work for a little time longer, but not on this one blue orb. The models of orthodox economics have as much bearing on our current world as the Flat Earth Society. Time to rethink the whole building we live in, mentally.

    And Kalecki made the same inscrutable error all orthodox economists make. He ignored the role of captured wealth in his equations, the hoarded wealth which attracts and holds more wealth as surely as gravity keeps our feet on the ground. He ignored rentiers, those who do no work, make no investment, but claim and hold half the assets of the planet.

    1. FormerBloombergNY

      Your points about Trump are why I’m interested in the formal endorsements from police organizations. Those are institutional power centers and they are endorsing Trump. He is leading in the GOP polls and came in second in Iowa. Calling for roughing up protesters is not anything the American political system has dealt with in recent years. Just dismissing this as irrelevant ranters of an angry carnival barker is premature.

      We are moving into a future where full employment is literally impossible because the work to be done will less and less be done by humans.

      The ‘robots taking over all work’ is a bad joke. Go through any non-wealthy city in America and you’ll see boarded up buildings, insane poverty, and HUGE amounts of work that needs to be done. Replacing all the lead pipes in Flint and repairing the human damage is work. Replacing infrastructure all over the country is work. Dealing with climate change requires work. Helping addicts is work. Taking care of sick people is work. There’s enormous amounts of work that should be done, but we have decided that no one wants to print green pieces of paper and give them to idle people in return for doing that work. But this is a political decision and has nothing to do with automation. What the ‘robots taking jobs’ argument is actually describing is defining all of the things that automated capital can’t control as ‘non-work’ and therefore undoable. Basic fiscal policy would deal with a lot of this, but to do fiscal policy you’d have to concede that the nature of work and how money is organized are political decisions, and we can’t have that. I will also note that automation was well understood by the 1940s.

      1. James Levy

        The only work the neoliberal and Republican elite can imagine is work for the market. If it can’t be sold for a profit, it is not worth doing for them.

  14. Dr Duh

    I’m just not convinced that Trump is a real threat. I doubt he believes in anything other than himself.
    He’s an opportunistic narcissist, but I honestly don’t see him as a fascist. Not that he doesn’t have the charisma to make a great one, just that he doesn’t have the inner sadism to do it. He too openly louche for that. If you look at what Trump has dedicated his life to, it’s been Falstaffian; wealth, luxury and public acclamation. Hardly the stuff of death squads. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both give off much stronger fascist vibes.

    Cruz is also an opportunistic narcissist but he radiates inner sadism and more importantly a der Wille zur Macht that is frankly terrifying. He obviously doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. I doubt that he cares about anyone beyond an abstract level. He would literally stop at nothing and ally himself with anyone for power. Everyone who gets squashed along the way is collateral damage.

    Rubio is slightly different, but perhaps scarier. He’s a narcissist, but even worse, a true believer. If he turned violent his atrocities wouldn’t be collateral damage, they would be part of a ‘great cleansing.’

    1. tegnost

      I think trump is an unknown quantity, so hard to know what he’d do, but I agree with you that rubio and cruz are threatening. The issue I worry about is the Clintonistas and wall street need to find a bogeyman to get people to vote against their interests once again, not by being a good choice themselves but by scaring people into voting against a crazy, but the fascism angle does touch on the clintonista/wall street cabal as it’s obvious that they couldn’t care less about the greater portion of the population. Also, “we came we saw he died is a pretty militaristic and pro MIC stance that is pretty scary in itself. It becomes a devil you know over the demon you don’t issue. I wonder how many people will say “whatever, I’ll go for the demon ’cause I’m sick of being raked over the coals by the devil…”

    2. Fiver

      Cruz or Rubio or Clinton means war. Trump is an unknown, but it’s just plain wrong to term him a ‘fascist’. Americans have the best chance ever with Sanders – if only HC would withdraw rather than being downed by her own server.

  15. Ed

    There are some similarities to the Trump campaign and the fascist movements in Europe (mostly) in the 1920s and 1930s:

    1. Trump is a charismatic leader, and has made his campaign all about him. All these movements featured charismatic leaders.

    2. The U.S. middle class has been getting hammered, economically and to some extent culturally. Fascist movements feed off of that. I should add that the actual fascist goverments did to some extent improve things for the middle class, until they started invading other countries.

    3. These movement made a big deal out of nationalism. Arguably Trump has too, though his main focus has been on the specific issue of immigration, which really wasn’t a problem in 1920s and 1930s Europe.

    Here are the differences:

    1. The actual Fascist parties were actually pretty clear that the big problem was parliamentary democracy and elections, and if they came to power they would get rid of opposition parties, parliaments, other parts of society that didn’t get with the program. Hitler actually implemented this pretty comprehensively, though he laid off the army initially. The others wound up keeping around rubber stamp legislatures and puppet kings. But they all made a big deal about doing this, which Trump simply hasn’t.

    2. To that extent, only the NSDAP in Germany really bothered with even contesting elections (which incidentally they lost). All the other fascist movements tried to come to power through coups, and in fact even Hitler tried to go this route first. This includes Mussolini, by the way.

    3. Trump features African-American supporters at his rallies, says he can get the votes of Hispanics, has a Jewish son in law, etc. Really any perception of racism is due to the deliberate slur of open borders advocates that anyone who favors restricting immigration, or even just enforcing the immigration laws, is racist. There is really no comparison here to the historical fascist movements.

    4. All the historical fascist movements were closely allied with the 1920s and 1930s equivalents of Koch Industries, which is not only not exactly true of Trump, but is very much true of his Republican opponents.

    5. The historical fascist movements favored a very aggressive foreign policy, if not outright going to war, which again is the case with Trump’s Republican opponents, but not Trump himself.

    Pretty much the article is bollocks. Trump is no fascist. The rest of the Republican Party, apart from Rand Paul, I’m not so sure about.

    The best analogy to Trump are various populist politicians that you sometimes see contesting and sometimes winning elections in Latin American and in segregation era Dixie in the U.S. People like Peron, Vargas, and Huey Long in this country. These people were sometimes sincere, sometimes charlatans, often a mixture of both. Their record was also mixed, though on the whole preferable to the oligarchs who opposed them.

  16. Andrew Watts

    Poor analysis. I don’t think Trump is a fascist despite some of his questionable public statements. They’re a familiar mixture of populism and nativism which isn’t the same thing as fascism. Even if he is one the author is ignoring the people who brought fascist leaders to power in Europe. The individuals, groups, and institutions who chose to ally themselves with the fascist parties cannot be ignored.

    Imagine for a moment you are a veteran of the Iraq War. You were injured during combat in the Sunni Triangle during the insurgency. Now think of the bitterness you feel as you watched the Islamic State take over Iraq and neighboring Syria and undo whatever good you thought was accomplished during your deployment. What do you feel when you see Ramadi fall? I imagine their feelings are no different than what the angry and demoralized troops from the first World War felt.

    We have repeatedly encountered embittered war veterans in our account of the founding of the first fascist movements. (snip) Many of the new generation were convinced that the white-bearded men responsible for the war, who still clung to their places, understood nothing of their concerns, whether they had experienced the front or not. Young people who had never voted before responded enthusiastically to fascism’s brand of anti-political politics

    Compounding these social and economic strains, the war also deepened political divisions. Because trench warfare had been a brutalizing experience beyond previous imagining, even the most equitable apportionment of the burdens of war making had divided civilians from soldiers, battlefront from home front. Those who had survived (…) could not forgive those who had sent them there. -Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004)

    This doesn’t mean that a fascist movement is guaranteed to arise from embittered veterans. It was simply one of the factors which supported their claim to power. The gulf between the civilian and military leadership in the United States shouldn’t be ignored in this context either. Particularly after the disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. Both the National Military Strategy (2015) and the NCFA furnish evidence of this divide. While published studies from the US Army War College advertise the fact our strategists and the US intelligence community know that the war in Afghanistan is lost.

    1. Praedor

      Fortunately I’m not an injured very but did fight in Iraq, Never accepted it as legit, always considered it a stupid, doomed, cluster fuck. Not being one who fought in Fallujah, I can’t a address those guys feelings bit I know mine: “go figure” or “There’s a surprise” sums me up. All I can do is shake my head and mutter, “I knew this thing would turn to shit.” And, “Total waste of time”.

      I’m not one to go postal or go militia, etc, but I AM one to fight against those that do if/when they light off near me. It’s also why THIS liberal owns firearms and will continue to do so. I don’t do Gandhi.

  17. Steve H.

    Here’s a problem with the post that could be fixable with iteration. The header is “Trumps Neofascism Isn’t Going Away, Even If Trump Does.” It starts with a very good case that Trump’s campaign is a symptom of systemic causes.

    But the wording as it proceeds undercuts that message. Dealing with particulars necessarily demands focusing on the individual. But a line is crossed in a subtle way. For example, this sentence: “That may happen, but it may also be the case that Trump, or the next Trump, takes power in 2017 or 2021.” It emphasizes the individual twice in the sentence (four times in the paragraph). And the second time, the name has been abstracted to a category, which is exactly what branding does (Q-Tips, for example).

    This is worth fixing, because the primary point really does need discussion.

  18. Jim

    “Trumps economic stance does not mean however that he is a genuine advocate for the working class. He is not. He’s just, at the end of the day a dishonest real estate promoter.”

    These assumptions about Trump need to be carefully scrutinized.

    Assume for the moment, that on a cultural/social level Trump might be more working class than thought–especially by those on the progressive Left who tend to view everything through a more narrow economic/wealth lens.

    When Trump holds a rally there often appears to be an immediate and intimate connection between his audience and himself.

    Are part of the cultural/social reasons for this–the fact that Trump is instinctively seen by many in his largely working-class audience as a local boy who made good?

    Also, Trump certainly has no social/cultural objections to either professional wrestling or reality TV and his identify with both activities may be more than simply economic.

    What if the reason that Trump is considered a loose cannon by the governing elites is because his fundamental cultural identity does not revolve around them?


    1. jrs

      “Are part of the cultural/social reasons for this–the fact that Trump is instinctively seen by many in his largely working-class audience as a local boy who made good?”

      But this is quite simply factually false. One is entitled to one’s own opinion, but not to one’s own facts, or something. The facts are Trump started out incredibly privileged economically, even if he made greater wealth from there.

      1. Jim


        I was making a guess about one of the possible reasons for why many in his primarily working class audiences identifying with him.

        Take the time to look carefully into his background (especially his grandfather).

        Of course the traditional left has no time for the critically important issue of how human identity is formed. Once they know the wealth level of the individual that supposedly is all one needs to know..

        What is your theoretical framework for understanding how identity is passed from one generation to another?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Come on. One generation of growing up with money makes you middle/upper middle class. I can name people who went to Harvard from blue-collar families and they made the jump straight into upper middle class. Trump wen to Wharrton, fer Chrissakes.

  19. PhilK

    In a comment in the Links post a few days ago, someone linked to the Globus Pallidus XI blog, and I looked at a few posts there. I’m not totally convinced by the following quote, but it has certainly made me think:

    Then along comes a maniac. He’s big, he has weird hair. He is an arrogant loudmouth, a clown, who routinely makes outrageous statements. He also states, very clearly, that if he is elected pilot he will definitely not fly into a mountain, and it’s going to be great, and he’s going to redecorate the washrooms in the style of Louis XIV. The establishment tries to ignore him, but he’s too loud. They try to get him fired from his job, but he’s independently wealthy and they have no leverage. They try to embarrass him, but his ego is so colossal that he’s beyond embarrassment.

    The mountain grows ever nearer. The establishment candidate is cool and collected, he is supported by all the official announcements on the PA system, and his past record has made it clear that he is going to fly the plane into the mountain (though he often says differently in public pronouncements). The maniac says that flying planes into mountains is really really dumb, and that a famous supermodel is no longer a “10.”

    So who do you vote for? Me, I’ll take my chances with the maniac. He might be a disaster – heck, he might change his mind and decide to fly the plane into the mountain just like all the other establishment hacks. But he might not. And the other one will.

    Better the Devil You Don’t Know than Certain Doom

    1. James Levy

      A false analogy. Trump is not repudiating growth, capitalism, American power, inequality, or any damned thing that could be an analog for flying the plane into a mountain. He’s said he is going to build a wall around America, throw out the Spanish-speaking darkies, reduce the minimum wage, miraculously re-write the trade treaties so we “win’ (presuming that everyone else is going to let themselves “lose” and cut deals everywhere because he’s the smartest guy in the room, a “winner” who will always come out on top.

      That’s the appeal.

      I see nothing about climate change, inequality, access to healthcare, taking money out of politics, or demilitarizing the cops. A vote for Trump is a vote for all of those things, or worse, down the road. You wanna tell me it’s the same for Hilary, Jeb, Rubio, and Cruz–fine. But turning a voraciously greedy plutocrat into a working class hero–spare me.

      1. jrs

        Well Trump is not for war with Russia which is one type of flying a plane into a mountain (although if that was the be all and end all, neither was Rand Paul and he was much better at making that case, though he had little chance of winning).

        But climate change, yea Trump will probably continue to fly the plane into the mountain there. Which was Chomsky’s case: vote the Dem nominee even if it’s Hillary as they will fly the plane into the mountain a little less slowly on the climate change issue. As if that mattered. But at least prioritizing as per Chomsky is understandable. Just a little slower into the mountain doesn’t really cut it.

        Meanwhile Trump makes the culture more hateful: misogynist, hateful toward peaceful Muslims minding their own business etc.. Which is heading for the mountain … slowly, or those type of things make avoiding the mountain more difficult in the long run, even if they seem insignificant in the short run.

      2. Fiver

        Not being even half so clever as Someone Like You, thus not able to cipher such a curious dropping, I plead the 5th and ‘Not guilty.’ to whatever charge has been laid upon me.

  20. international observer

    @James Levy

    “But turning a voraciously greedy plutocrat into a working class hero–spare me.”

    The article states:

    “He’s a flashy racist real estate promoter who sells overpriced gaudy products. He’s a marketer. However, this isn’t so important.”

    Maybe it’s more important than the author thinks. Maybe selling himself as a working class hero simply works – regardless of whether it is true or not. It could be an integral part of his strategy, with no other objective than reaching a maximum number of discontented voters, knowing well ahead of time which ‘buttons to push’.

    This is from 1988:

  21. digi_owl

    Kalecki’s thinking about unemployment brings to mind Marx’s “reserve army of labor”.

    And i think Hitler was quietly backed by the Catholic church as well.

  22. ex-PFC Chuck


    “And i think Hitler was quietly backed by the Catholic church as well.”

    Some recent, revisionist history takes issue with this. See Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler, by Mark Riebling. It’s a fascinating story and as far as I can tell it’s pretty soundly documented. According to the author Pius XII was personally involved in setting up a spy network from the outset of the war. Although the pope was aware that people involved were planning to assassinate Hitler, in order to preserve “plausible deniability” he was not informed of the specifics of various plots that were that were concocted along the way.

    There were three key people involved in Germany. The first two were Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and one of his immediate subordinates whose name I unfortunately don’t remember. Canaris was the head of the Abwehr, which was the intelligence arm of Hitler’s supreme military headquarters. The third was a prominent, Catholic lawyer from Munich, Joseph Mueller, who was known to have long had regular business in Rome that required frequent travel there. He was a triple agent of sorts. Canaris told Hitler et al that Mueller had been a long time agent of the Vatican, which was true, but that he had been turned and that the Abwehr was now feeding him false information to pass on. Which was not true. He was instead the primary conduit of plot info between Rome and the German network. Numerous attempts on Hitler’s life were plotted but fizzled out. In some cases people didn’t come through on what they said they were going to do, and in others things like last minute itinerary changes rendered them moot. In one case, however, a time bomb was placed on Hitler’s plane when he was coming back to Berlin from the eastern front but it didn’t go off. One of the plotters, at great personal risk, managed to retrieve it after the plane landed and determined that the timing mechanism had worked but it had failed to detonate the charge. Claus von Stauffenberg, the Wehrmacht officer who planted the July 20, 1944 bomb, was also part of the network. When that attempt failed to do the job the network was rolled up and many heads rolled, including Canaris, Mueller and of course von Stauffenberg.

    Many of the German RC bishops were aware of the network, though generally not in much detail for security reasons. Some protestant clergy were also involved, most notably Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also executed. However the author asserts that support for the regime among evangelical (i.e. Lutheran) clergy was much stronger than in the Catholic communities.

  23. Larry

    It’s hard to agree with the thesis that America has never been here before historically. By and large the founding fathers were of a monarchist/fascist bent in breaking from England and taking the spoils for themselves and their “peers”. This feature of the American revolution has certainly been covered here at NC in articles and the links and is hard to ignore in the context of a mildly successful Trump campaign.

    America survived a civil war that nearly tore the nation apart over slavery and it’s spoils. What was the South if not a Fascist state (full employment at zero wages with labor actually owned by capitol), with the North enabling it through insurance and trade and passive approval?

    And how was the industrial revolution not an era of greater fascism than the threat we see in the rise of the repugnant Donald Trump? Pinkertons, violent clashes between labor and capitol, and an America that largely used immigration to fuel production while also undermining full employment and thus disciplining labor by policy and force?

    I would argue that we’ve seen Trump’s story play out before in the candidacy of Pat Buchannan and Ross Perot even.

    I frankly don’t view Trump as dangerous at all, because Yves rightly points out that Trump’s raison d’être is fraudulent real estate speculation and brand hucksterism. I don’t think he has the will and desire to achieve leadership and power like a true fascist would. His inability to muster legitimate ground teams in important states like Iowa while letting his ego guide him to skip important debates will sink his campaign. He’s flabby and weak. I don’t like Hillary, but she is pulling out all the stops to win this election despite her deeply unfavorable character and polling numbers. She has the drive that Trump lacks.

    America has been a violent state since it’s inception. Trump’s call to violence against immigrants and racial minorities is nothing new and nothing more virulent than has happened in any other moment in American history. Whether it’s manifest destiny and native American genocide, the Jim Crow south, the internment of Japanese Americans, integration of urban schools, or gangland violence, America has always flirted with disaster from it’s violent inception. It’s only when truly great external enemies emerge or are conjured that we appear as a focussed nation with a singular “democratic” mission. The Treaty of Detroit era looks like an an anomaly in American history. A crushing but triumphant war effort pulled America out of a bleak depression and capitol had to make peace with labor to fend off the still very real threat of communism and deal with the fact that labor was truly scarce once GIs returned home from the front and wives returned to the home from the factory. Once those threats were managed by the State, elites returned to their cause of disciplining labor and consolidating power that has given us our present Gilded age.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The author has a very in-depth knowledge of American political and economic history and has read source documents extensively. I would not dismiss his readings in the absence of evidence of your own.

      The Pinkertons were a private army, directed at labor activists. We are talking about the potential mobilization of the police to go against immigrants and dissidents, and police would likely ignore aligned private violence.

    2. Fiver

      ‘ I don’t think he has the will and desire to achieve leadership and power like a true fascist would.’ is about right, certainly with respect to terming Trump a ‘fascist’.

      And nobody has ever doubted the depth of HC’s ambition – which by itself ought to keep people from giving her the keys.

  24. EoinW

    Thank you for sharing this article. I suppose I have to call it a good piece because it’s thought provoking, created much discussion and – like its subject – gotten everyone’s attention. Of course I could suggest it is the subject – Donald Trump – who is provoking thoughts and creating discussion. My sole reservation with the article is that I disagreed with practically everything written. That doesn’t make it a bad piece of writing, simply means I don’t agree and nothing more.

    I especially take exception to the use of the word “violence”. Violence against immigrants, journalists, even protesters. What violence? I hadn’t heard that Trump paid some guys in brown shirts to mug Megan Kelly in some dark alley. By all means criticize Donald Trump for all the things you disagree with – that he’s actually said or done! If we are going to speculate and insinuate then where is the author’s credibility?

    On the immigration issue Trump’s idea is to deport all illegal immigrants and not allow any more to sneak into the country. He never specifies the colour of the immigrants, nor the nationality, so there is no racism at work here. Just people who don’t like Trump spinning it as racism. Either way, I still don’t get how it is “violence”. The fact is that every nation state has a right to determine who enters or does not enter the country. Personally I am no fan of nation states, however defending the borders is the whole point of having different countries. One is not racist just because he stands behind the nation state’s rights. Now if you consider we’re on a planet with 6 billion people, heading for 7 billion, with dwindling natural resources – especially clean drinking water – it actually makes perfect sense for any country to prohibit ALL immigration. That is based on the assumption that overpopulation is the biggest crisis we face. One may disagree with that assumption. Yet it does not mean those who agree with it are racist or support violence.

    Regarding Donald Trump, he has sold himself as the best candidate for change. Americans are desperate for change. Perhaps Sanders is a better option. If I was American I would never vote for Sanders over Trump. Democrats had their one reform candidate 8 years ago. Fool me once shame on you…

    For me the big difference between Trump and Sanders is that Sanders appears to be offering domestic changes, whereas Trump presents the only hope of a foreign policy change. I couldn’t care less what happens to America domestically – nor it’s western allies(including Canada, where I live). We’ve occupied Afghanistan for a dozen years. We’ve destroyed Iraq, Libya and now Syria. We’ve supported Israel regardless of how many Palestinians are murdered. We’ve supported – directly and indirectly – Nazis in Ukraine and ISIS. We’ve allowed the worst people in our society to run everything. Time for us to reap what we sow.

    My sole concern is WW3. Now I don’t mind such a war if it is non-nuclear as it will be nice to see Russia do to NATO what it did to the Wehrmacht years ago. But gambling on avoiding nuclear war in the hope of seeing a bunch of bullies get their comeuppance isn’t very intelligent. From what I’ve seen, Trump is the only candidate who might stand up to the military industrial complex. Therefore he is the only candidate who might spark a much needed change in direction. I suppose that’s why I see Trump as a second coming of Teddy Roosevelt. Lots to be questioned, even disliked, however Teddy’s trust busting came at exactly the time America needed it.

    Comparing Trump to Mussolini or Hitler? Give me a break! They were imperialists at heart, the exact opposite of what Trump is. Scratching my head now. Maybe Americans don’t actually want to give up their empire? After all, the Iraq War only became unpopular when America was believed to be losing it. The Iraqi death count was never a consideration at all. Are Americans so brainwashed by 2 centuries of exceptionalism that whether the empire is good or bad is determined by how many jobs and how much material stuff the average person has? Don’t feel too bad as we are no better in Canada. It is truly a Sodom and Gomorrah society that we live in. Doesn’t that make a President Trump appropriate?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You appear not to have watched Trump’s rallies closely. Many observers have noted that they way Trump urges protestors to be handled looks to be calling for violence against them. Lambert has regularly been saying. “Let’s see what happens when he gets blood.” If he’s willing to do that sort of thing on camera, it’s pretty likely that he’s willing to have even worse done out of sight. How do you think ii million immigrants get deported, which is what he’s called for?

      1. wbgonne

        Just last week, Trump told his crowd that they should beat the hell out of anyone who might have a tomato to throw at him and that Trump would pay their legal bills if they did so. In these times, that is incendiary. Trump better be careful.

  25. Wade Riddick

    Of course, there is precedent for this in American history: Huey Long. He was a serious, and quite violent, rival to FDR.

  26. Praedor

    Incidentally, I live in an open primary state and have been considering voting in the GOP primary to select Trump, if he makes it that far because I consider him to be the best, least dangerous mama top wreck the Republican Party. But because of this post I have to think about it a bit more. Perhaps Cruz is a better way to trash the GOP safely?

  27. Julia

    Trump is racist and his hate speeches are a violation of the US Constitution. The fact that he violated the US Constitution through his hate speeches is a clear sign of how sick our society has become considering the wave of supporters that he carries. Now if this man became president he would become a tyrant and would do whatever he want with the support of the police.

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