Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Fascism in 2020

Fascism as a political movement exhibits four basic criteria.

First, fascism it is not an ideology, but an activity.

Secondly, it has its own national characteristics.

Thirdly, it promotes its leadership to personality cult status in a very easily recognisable and consistent manner.

And finally, it identifies a group or race which is isolated and vilified as a threat to national security and progress.

Fascism is clearly not an ideology because there is no universal and thoughtfully developed set of principles embedded in its structure. In this, it differs strongly from contemporary political ideologies such as capitalism and socialism. One notable feature of fascism is its capacity to absorb elements of these ideologies into its practice, embracing them when it is convenient, and rejecting them when its power is compromised.

One definition is worth consideration - 

"a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry and commerce, and emphasising an aggressive nationalism and racism"..

This definition is comprehensive enough to be useful and emphasises the fact that its practice is all about power.

An examination of Spanish fascism under Franco, Italian fascism under Mussolini and German fascism under Hitler reinforces that notion. All three regimes were aggressively power based, ruthlessly suppressed criticism, and emphasized nationalism.  

The third characteristic of adulation of leadership is easily recognised in the history of the three examples listed above. This adulation is associated with slogans, images and mass gatherings. There is always a unifying concept, usually expressed as a slogan, or a simple idea. Hitler had his Third Reich, Mussolini had “Ill Duce ha sempre ragione” and Franco used "Una, Grande y Libre".

The groups identified as threats in Hitler's Germany, were the Jews and the Communists. In Franco's Spain and Mussolini's Italy, they were intellectuals, separatists, communists and socialists.

Applying these four tests to the current American political situation is useful. 

Donald Trump has no coherent ideology, unless it be the acquisition and maintenance of power. In that, his activity meets the first criterion.

The American political scene has its distinctive characteristics, and they provide a flavour to Trump's activity which, whilst distinctly nativist, echoes elements of the imagery, propaganda and stage management that was a feature of both the Mussolini and Hitler eras. 

Trump, of course, is bound by the limits of the US constitution, and is not as free as Mussolini and Hitler were to exploit the respective weaknesses of the Italian kingdom and Weimar republic at the time.  Nor does he have the power to regiment all industry and commerce.

There is a great deal of reference made in commentary to Trump's "base", the core of the slightly more than 25% of Americans who voted for him in 2016. It is obvious to anyone observing his rallies that a very strong personality cult exists within this minority, redolent of the almost hysterical responses that were a feature of rallies featuring Hitler on the one hand and Mussolini on the other in the thirties.

What is especially ominous is the likelihood that Trump's narcissism is fed by this reaction.

The final, and most frightening criterion met by Trump's activity is his demonising of sections of the population. He identifies immigrants and Muslims as his targets. The "build the wall" meme is the clearest expression of this characterisation of Mexicans, and his vilification of Muslims is also a prominent part of his activity.

Whether Trump can be described as a fascist or not is largely irrelevant. What is critical is an examination of fascism in all its forms during the last century, an analysis of the current division evident in US politics, and an understanding of how that kind of division helped create the disaster that was World War Two.

“Make America Great Again” has an uncanny similarity to “Ill Duce ha sempre ragione” and "Una, Grande y Libre".

Comments Closed.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Truth Telling


An anonymous commenter on Catallaxy insists that I'm a liar, probably because my comments on that site don't conform to the orthodoxy.

I have challenged him to debate the issue here.

Over to the bod who uses the tag 'Mater".

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...