Yes, Donald Trump is a fascist

The appointment of Stephen Bannon, head of "alt-right" (read: white nationalist) website Breitbart News, as Trump's senior counselor removes any doubt about the new order that awaits the United States. All those who seek to reassure us that Trump will moderate once in office point to his appointment of GOP chairman Reince Priebus, longtime pillar of the party's establishment, as his chief of staff. They are reading it precisely backwards. This does not represent Trump tilting to the establishment. It represents the Republican establishment embracing open fascism. This is the same Bannon who in a 2014 e-mail to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership: "Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that's the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty." Hate has now won, and the Republican leadership has utterly folded to it. Any other reading is merely an illustration of Oscar Wilde's maxim: "The basis of optimism is sheer terror."

The Republicans have long used code-words ("welfare cheat," "tough on crime") to mask their racism, but at Bannon's Breitbart, the mask is off. For instance, as the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, they ran a headline glorifying the Confederate flag and urging their followers to "hoist it high and fly it with pride"—just weeks after the Charleston massacre.

Bannon's headline calling neocon Bill Kristol a "Renegade Jew" has won the most attention, but his actual intent was bait Kristol as a traitor to the Jews for not supporting Trump: "To weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation, and between America and the forces intent on destroying her, is a political miscalculation so great and a betrayal so profound as to not be easily forgiven." The Jewish establishment is divided, with the Anti-Defamation League nearly alone in decrying Bannon, and the Zionist Organization of America coming to his defense. We will now see how much overt Nazism conservative Jews and Zionists will be able to stomach in exchange for an aggressively pro-Israel position.

The Hill reports that David Duke and the American Nazi Party have issued statements hailing the appointment of Bannon. The LA Times notes that a local Klan chapter in North Carolina has announced a Trump victory rally, and declared that TRUMP henceforth stands for "Trump's Race United my People." 

The neo-Confederate League of the South issued an election day statement vowing to "drive a stake" through the heart of "the globalist-progressive coalition of Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites." (DeadState) Richard Spencer, the man credited with coining the "alt-right" euphemism (and whose Radix journal runs crap dissing MLK as the "God of White Dispossession") hailed Trump as "energizing" white nationalists. "He's fighting for us. He's saying we're going to be great again... And there's this implicit identity to this. There's this implicit nationalism... I think implicit in what Donald Trump is doing is a conception of America as a European country." (Daily News

Andrew Anglin of Daily Stormer boasted: "Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor. Make no mistake about it: we did this." And he astutely read the politics behind the appointments: "I probably would have preferred Bannon as chief-of-staff and Priebus as press secretary. But apparently Trump views Reince as a Washington insider who is also loyal to him and can be a go-between between the administration and the old GOP establishment. And I think he knows what he's doing here." He added: "The kike media is now portraying Trump as a cuck who is going back on everything, even though he has gone back on nothing.” (The Independent) Earlier, he also gloated: "Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected—and he's happy about it. This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man."

In the week since election night, a wave of hate crimes has swept the nation. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has opened investigations into two incidents. First, a huge swastika was painted on the side of a softball dugout in Wellsville with the words "MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN." Then, a swastika with the word "TRUMP" appeared on a wall at the SUNY Geneseo campus. (WGRZ Buffalo News) In Massachusetts, racist slogans appeared on a hilltop outcropping overlooking Easthampton, including "FUCK BLACK LIVES MATTER," 'BUILD THE WALL," "GAS THE JEWS" and (of course) "TRUMP." (MassLive, MassLive) On the night after election day—which was the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht—swastikas and the words "SIEG HEIL" and "TRUMP" were painted on store windows in South Philadelphia. (PhillyMag) In Pennsylvania's Southern Lehigh High School, there was an outburst of white kids making the Hitler salute and hurling racist and anti-gay slurs on their fellow students. Black kids were called "nigger" and "cotton-picker." (Lehigh Valley Live) A Twitter user in Pittsburgh, Calif, posted a photo from his neighborhood of a nice suburban home displaying a huge banner reading: "YOU CAN HANG A NIGGER FROM A TREE; EQUAL RIGHTS HE'LL NEVER SEE."

This is just a small sampling. BBC all too cautiously asked Nov. 11: "Are hate crimes spiking after Trump's victory?" That same day, The Independent flatly called it: "Donald Trump's victory followed by wave of hate crime attacks against minorities across US—led by his supporters." Incidents are cited from California to Kansas in whicn Muslim women wearing the hijab were assaulted by men declaring their support for Trump. A litany of several more such incidents is provded by BuzzFeed—including flyers posted in bathrooms across Texas State University calling for "university leaders spouting off all this diversity garbage" to be "tarred and feathered."  USA Today cites the Southern Poverty Law Center saying the post-election spate of hate crimes is "worse than post-9-11."

Trump's media-prompted and perfunctory call for his supporters to "Stop it"—like his lukewarm disavowals of Klan support—is transparently disingenuous. He is throwing his base a wink. The feint to the center is aimed at lulling the liberals into a false sense of security, and assuring the continued cooperation of the Obama White House in the transition. Once Trump actually takes power, this facade will be dropped like the proverbial hot potato. With all three branches of government under his effective control, there will be no restraints on his power. The Priebus appointment indicates that the Republicans who control both houses of Congress will come into line. And Trump will promptly appoint the deciding vote on the Supreme Court. Everything will be in place for the establishment of a dictatorship.

Fascism is not always an easy phenomenon to define, but we've noted that the essential ingredients are amply displayed in the Trump phenomenon: ugly ultra-nationalism that seeks to correct perceived humiliation, xenophobia and demonization of the Other, and (of course) exaltation of the great leader. The first of these is perfectly summed up in the slogan "Make American Great Again"—often openly interpreted by his followers as "Make America White Again."  To these we can add fetishization of violence and contempt for democracy. We can add an enthusiasm for military aggression, populism tinged with anti-Semitism, and rank anti-intellectualism. These constitute the basic sine qua non. And none of them are missing.

The Republican party has for years been approaching the threshold of open white supremacism and even fascism. That threshold has now been crossed.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is promoting a petition calling on Trump to dump Bannon. We fear there is a danger in appealing to Trump for anything. This legitimizes him, and contributes to the normalization of fascism. He needs to be opposed outright, and the legitimacy of his presidency rejected.

Protesters crash 'alt-right' victory party

Richard Spencer's disarmingly named National Policy Institute held a celebration of the "Year of Donald Trump" at the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center in Washington DC Nov. 19. But it was crashed by protesters chanting "We don't want a white state, we say no to racist hate!" Clashes ensued, in which one white nationalist got the worst of it, with a gash across his forehead. (Daily News)

Photos tweeted from inside the shindig show a group of attendees giving the Nazi salute.

Darth Bannon and Emperor Trumpatine

He said it, not us.

Speaking to Hollywood Reporter, Steve Bannon insisted: "I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist." But referring to supposed media demonization of the "alt-right," he added: "Darkness is good,. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing."

Mysteriosly, he added: "We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution—conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement." (The Hill)

The 1930s? That was when FDR was in power here on the US, who is presumably anathema to Bannon and his ilk. So what can this be other than a reference to Adolf Hitler and his right-populist satellite dictatorships in Europe?

The Atlantic meanwhile has video footage of attendees giving the Hitler salute at the National Policy Institute hoedown in DC, as Richard Spencer began his closing speech with the cry:  "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!" Over the next half hour, he dissed the "mainstream media" as the "Lügenpresse" (a Nazi propaganda term for the "lying press") and exhorted, "For us, it is conquer or die,"  and "To be white is to be a striver, a crusader..." and refered to non-whites as "the most despicable creatures to ever populate the planet."

There is quite a buzz around CNN's use of the news crawl "ALT-RIGHT FOUNDER QUESTIONS WHETHER JEWS ARE PEOPLE." Bustle explains that Spencer's actual quote from his speech at the DC soirée was: "One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem..." ("... animated by some dark power" is the rest of the quote, believe it or not). So he was only talking about Jews in the media, we are told. How comforting.

This toxicity is being mainstreamed literally both right and left. Among those granted audience with the Emperor at Trump Tower over the past day are Henry Kissinger and Tulsi Gabbard. (The Hill, CNN)

And once again, Trump's supposed disavowals of neo-Nazi support are lukewarms and perfunctory, obviously throwing these hoodlums a wink until after the inauguration—in vivid contrast to his ballistic attacks on Saturday Night Live and the cast of Hamilton.

Tulsi Gabbard defends Trump cabinet choices... a CNN interview preserved on the aptly named Crooks & Liars website. Angling for a position in the State Department, are we Tulsi?

Bannon set up Trump-Gabbard meeting

That's the claim of The Hill, which cites an anonymous source to the effect that Bannon contacted Gabbard to arrange the meeting. A second source added: "She would fit perfectly too [in the Trump administration]. She gets the foreign policy stuff, the Islamic terrorism stuff."

Nazi Party literature appears in Missoula

The synagogue in Missoula, Mont., requested police security after flyers were left on doorsteps around town from the American Nazi Party, reading "Free healthcare for the white working class!" and "National Socialist Revolution for America!" The reverse side warned against the "Jewish run media," concluding: "The Jews' purpose is to destroy us and out families from the inside out, slowly and gradually perverting us with their own special kid of poison." It signed off with the "14 words" slogan: "We Must Secure the Existence of Our People and a Future for White Children."

Klan beaten back in North Carolina

It seems the local KKK chapter kept the whereabouts of their Trump victory march under wraps until the last moment, when they announced it was to be in Pelham today, a small town near the Virginia border. But when hundreds of protesters headed them off by gathering in Pelham first, the Loyal White Knights of the KKK moved their rally to nearby Roxboro, and they just quickly drove through town quick, not even getting out of their vehicles. Anti-Klan protests were reported from throughout the state. (WRAL, News Observer, Raleigh)

White nationalists call for attacks on Jews in Montana

White nationalist website Daily Stormer has posted a call to "TAKE ACTION" against Jewish people in Whitefish, MT, providing personal contact information and urging a "troll storm" against them. The story claims the "vicious, evil race" has harmed the Whitefish business of Richard Spencer's mother. It quotes a story from the British newspaper Daily Mail that said Sherry Spencer "said she is being forced to sell a building she owns in the small town because residents are rebelling against her son." The site posted phone numbers, email addresses, and Twitter handles for the Whitefish residents it alleges are harassing Sherry Spencer, along with a disclaimer that it opposes violence. (Missoulian, Dec. 13)

White nationalists call 'armed protest' against Jews in Montana

The Daily Stormer says is organizing an "armed protest" through the streets of Whitefish. The call from publisher Andrew Anglin states: "Montana has extremely liberal open carry laws, so my lawyer is telling me we can easily march through the center of the town carrying high-powered rifles. I myself am planning on being there to lead the protest, which has been dubbed 'March on Whitefish.' Currently, my guys say we are going to be able to put together about 200 people to participate in the march, which will be against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who supports either. We will be busing in skinheads from the Bay Area." (ABC Fox Montana)

White nationalists punk out in Montana

Andrew Anglin has apparenly offered to call off his the "armed protest"  if various terms were met, including a promise from local activist group Love Lives Here "that any protest actions you take in the future against Richard Spencer will not involve his family members." Which, of course, assumes that they ever did. We read this as an admission that Anglin was afraid of a no-show.  (Missoulian, Dec. 27)

It can't happen here?

It Can't Happen HereIt Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel about what it could look like in the United States if a figure like Hitler or Mussolini came to power. I read it now for obvious reasons. Disconcertingly, I was up the point where the fascist Buzz Windrip was being elected exactly as Trump was being elected here in real life. Although Windrip was inspired by Huey Long, the parallels to Trump are extraordinary, with some of the rhetoric matching verbatim—e.g., the appeal to the "forgotten men."

Although a Democratic senator from an unnamed midwestern state, rather than a Republican New York billionaire who has never held office, Windrip shares Trump's amalgam of populism and racism. (Remember, Huey Long was a Democrat too; the current party postures were just beginning to take shape in the '30s.) A part of Windrip's platform was to instate Jim Crow at the federal level, with the best jobs put aside for white men, and Blacks (Jews too) officially disenfranchised of the vote. Today, we have "voter suppression" laws, and Trump similarly blaming undeserving minorities for the decline of the white middle class.

Here's the part that really has me worried at the moment. Windrip's Reichstag Fire, so to speak, came on the day of his inauguration. Blacks gathered in Washington to protest, there was violence (possibly staged by provocateurs), and finally a massacre as troops fired on the demonstrators. This sets the stage for Buzz to push through his legislative package establishing a dictatorship immediately upon taking office.

There are some important differences with the current situation, comfortingly. For one, Windrip already built his paramilitary force before being elected—akin to Hitler's Brown Shirts or Mussolini's Black Shirts, but patriotically named the Minute Men. It was this force that carries out the inauguration day massacre. Trump has no such force—yet.

And a part of the constiutional package called for actually abolishing the federal system and centralizing all power in the executive. The state governments were dissolved, and the borders of the new administrative units redrawn so as not to conform to the former states. That kind of thing was more conceivable in the '30s, when European dictators were carrying out similar programs. Trump may try to discipline the states by cutting off funds, but it is hard to imagine him abolishing them, what with "states' rights" today fetishized by the right. State and local governments may provide some resistance to his agenda.

Windrip calls his new system "corporatism," a word lifted directly from Mussolini, and his local administrators are dubbed "Corpos." This is a word little understood today, and did NOT (as is now popularly assumed) refer to running society in the interests of business corporations. Corporatism was a system of social control in which trade unions and other mass organizations were "incorporated" into the apparatus of the ruling party and state. Although we see something like that in Venezuela today, it is again hard to imagine Trump working that way.

This social disaster is seen through the eyes of the protagonist, a middle-aged publisher of a local newspaper in a small town in Vermont. After trying to accommodate, he is ultimately driven by his conscience to form a cell of the underground resistance movement that emerges, putting his skills to use creating samizdat. He is discovered and interned in a makeshift concentration camp. Torture is described with gruesome detail, although without the power and emotional realism of Orwell's treatment in 1984.

The class politics of the book are somewhat problematic. The good guys are mostly the decent well-off burghers like the protagonist (who ultimately escapes the camp and becomes a full-time agent for the resistance). Although one of the bad guys is a supercilious blueblood, mostly they are the town's proles, who are given a taste of power as Corpos and Minute Men, and exercise it with vengeful sadism against their betters. The chief antagonist is the protagonist's former hired house-hand.

The resistance movement is actually led by the Republican candidate who lost to Windrip and was forced into Canadian exile. Its politics are simply pro-democratic. A communist-led resistance also exists, but is portrayed ambivalently at best. While Blacks as a class play a role in the book, there are no non-white characters. (Except one very minor one, whose chief role is to be assassinated just a page or two after he is introduced.)

Toward the end, Windrip is removed from power by the military for being too much of an egotistical demagogue, but the fascist system remains, and the US goes to war with Mexico.

I hope this nightmare of a book doesn't prove as prescient as I fear it might...

View all my reviews

The Iron Heel —imagined and real

The Iron HeelThe Iron Heel by Jack London
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this along with Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here" as I was living the rise of Donald Trump here in "real life." Both about a right-wing dictatorship taking over the United States. The Jack London book comes from a radical socialist perspective, as opposed to the bourgeois-democratic assumptions of the Sinclair Lewis. But it is definitely the inferior book of the two. Long on exposition and polemic and short on plot. It was published in 1908, before the rise of fascism per se. In both books, post-electoral violence in Washington provides the expedience for the right-wing takeover. In London's version, it is a combine of industrial interests that establishes the dictatorship, while the Socialists who were denied their electoral victory go on to form an underground resistance movement.

London gives a greater role for big business in his dystopia—the country is basically run by the corporations (in his day, rail, minerals, timber, etc) in an "Oligarchy." This may approximate what Trump has planned for us now, with Exxon about to take over the State Department.

There are some inspiring and eerily prescient moments. London anticipates the US going to war with Germany. He has Germany (rather than Japan) bombing Pearl Harbor in a sneak attack. But the disaster of war is avoided as the working classes of both the US and Germany shut down their respective countries in a general strike. The American and German bosses are forced to abandon their war plans in the face of international working-class solidarity. If only.

The entire book is presented as an historical document being published in a distant future in which the revolution has triumphed and humanity is free. Despite this optimistic premise, it is all in all pretty dreary reading.

View all my reviews