• Alexander Davidson

COMMENT: Trump, Fascism and the Aesthetic Left

Why does President Trump bring forth accusations of Fascism from The Left? It is a question of aesthetics


The New York Times makes solemn pronunciations on it, Rachel Maddow feverishly tells you about Vladimir Putin's hidden hand in it, Keith Olbermann bellows it from his basement and Noam Chomsky gives his seal of approval to it. Donald Trump, they intone, is a fascist. A New York Mussolini, a Brooklyn Franco, an all American Adolf Hitler. Evidence is cited in the kind of hushed fevered tones that accompany all such revelations. Trump raising his arm in the air on the White House balcony, Trump “failing to condemn white supremacy” and the name of those supposedly making up his praetorian guard are repeated ad nauseum. It is an assertion that unites everyone from the Lincoln Project Bush era relics such as Steve Schmidt to Jacobin magazine to self-declared Anarchists. Trump is a fascist! A cheeto Mussolini. And if all those people agree then, well it has to be true? Doesn’t it?

As with many other claims about Trump emanating from the Democratic Party aligned media and intelligentsia, the reality does not measure up with the wild assertions. The evidence cited for Trump’s supposed fascism is always on the level of aesthetics. When examined, his record in government in no way supports this. Before we get into Trumps record though we need a working definition of what Fascism actually is. For the purposes of this article I will be defining Fascism as follows. Fascism or Nazism were specific forms of government that emerged in Europe between 1923 and 1939 in response to the combined effects of the Communist revolution in Russia, the fall out of world war one, revolutionary upheavals across Europe and economic stagnation followed by the collapse of 1929. Mussolini and Hitler’s movements were brought to power by the capitalist classes of Italy and Germany because the traditional capitalist parties had failed. The working class were staging mass strikes and the fascists had the only reliable mass movement capable of being utilised against the Communist workers. The German, Italian and later Spanish ruling classes thus employed fascism in defence of their interests when threatened by the working class.

I make this distinction because fascism involves the move into a military-police dictatorship backed up by state and paramilitary violence directed primarily at the working class. This situation simply does not exist within the United States of America at this moment in time. There is political instability, economic stagnation and bitter political divides but none of these constitutes the threat to US capitalism that would make the ruling class take a risk on backing a fascist as President.

Trump is labelled as a fascist largely for things that he has said rather than for his actual record in government. From the early part of his campaign for the GOP nomination in 2015-16 he hit on the fact that immigration has become an increasingly potent political issue especially in areas where working class Americans have seen their wages stagnate for many decades. As soon as Trump made his infamous “they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” statement the Democratic Party began the work of branding him as the next Mussolini. Trump certainly talked a big game, as did every Republican competing for the nomination that year, on immigration. With his talk of the wall though Trump outdid them all. But beyond the rhetoric what has Trump actually done? The border wall remains a stymied project, held up by a GOP controlled senate which no more wants to see it built than the Democratic House of Representatives does. It is also worth remembering that militarising the US-Mexican border has been a consistent area of bipartisan agreement in Washington from the days of Clinton up to today. The “kids in cages” stories certainly made for dramatic reading but only if you only looked at the headlines. The cages in question were built during the Obama-Biden administration. Obama, infamously, was known as the deporter in chief. The role of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also been highlighted as evidence of Trump's fascist inclinations. Again though, the record here does not measure up. ICE dates back to 2004 and is a part of the Bush created Department of Homeland Security. It’s role has not changed under Trump, in fact it’s structure still contained many Obama appointees, nor has its tactics. What changed was the willingness of the Democratic Party and its media allies to highlight it. What of Trump's legislative programme? The only thing that has been done here is a Paul Ryan inspired tax cut for the rich. Given that Bush cut taxes, Obama made them permanent and tax cuts are a favourite policy of the GOP in general this is, again, hardly evidence of a turn to Fascism. In fact the more you dig into Trump's real record in government it much more resembles continuity with Obama and Bush than it represents a dramatic departure in the direction of Hitlerism.

So why the screams of “fascist” from all aspects of the American left? The truth is that this cry is one of aesthetics from the liberals. Trump offends them not out of anything he’s done but because they prefer their Presidents to be smooth, genteel men who can put on a good show of “empathy”. American leftists prefer the bitter realities of modern capitalism to be covered up by the honeyed words of an Obama or even a Bill Clinton. Hence why the focus is on Bidens “empathy” for Americans. This is all pure performance. Biden is well known as being an advocate for the most rapacious capitalists in the US in the form of the credit card industry. Yet he’ll hold the hands of those wounded by the forces he truly represents, hug them and tell them he cares. And that fundamentally is all the American left aspires to. The illusions of empathy and the aesthetics of the President who can depoliticise everything by offering rhetorical anaesthetic. Given the economically parlous state of the nation though it is no surprise that millions of working class Americans have seen through the performance and have roundly rejected it.

By Alexander Davidson – Red Star Radio

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