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A Retrospective Series, Trump and Fascism, 2011-2020, Part Four: "Trump: Turning the Corner Towards Fascism"

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, Aug., 2018)

The infamous Miklos Horthy bust, Liberty Square (Szabadsa'g te'r), Budapest. He was the first national ruler in history who could have been considered, by definition, .fascist..
The infamous Miklos Horthy bust, Liberty Square (Szabadsa'g te'r), Budapest. He was the first national ruler in history who could have been considered, by definition, .fascist..
(Image by Dimitris Graffin)
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This is the fourth Part in my "Trump and Fascism: A Retrospective Series," originally published on Buzzflash.com. The first part ran about three weeks ago, the second part about ten days ago, and the third part yesterday. Going into the start of the Impeachment Trial tomorrow here's the fourth part (originally published in 2016, see below). By-the-by, considering the prime argument of Trump's "lawyers" (really classics Right-wing "Always attack; never defenders") that what Trump said was protected as "free speech," I wonder just what they would regard as inflammatory speech, not, in their view, protected by the First Amendment.

For sure, given the standard they have set forth, crying "Fire" in a crowded theater would be protected. Interestingly enough (same reference), in 1969, in Brandenburg v. Ohio the scope of banned speech was limited to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot). In that context, the discussion wold not come down to "free speech" but rather whether or not the President's actions, beginning in the summer of 2020, leading up to his speech on the day, could be considered, under that precedent, to "inciting a riot."

(For the introduction to this archival series see "Donald J. Trump: On the Road from Racism to Fascism, 2011-2020").

Various observers, analysts and political figures have been labelling Donald Trump as a "fascist" for quite some time. In a column published in this space last October (that is, October 2015) I considered some of the aspects of that appellation, noting where Trump qualified and where he did not. Right-wingers have called him fascist, in this case one Dan Hodges from Great Britain (which may be Little England by the time you read this): "Donald Trump is an outright fascist who should be banned from Britain today." In The New Republic one Ryu Spaeth referred to him as a "scary fascist." (By-the-by, unless one is a fascist oneself, is there any other kind?) Mediaite.com noted that Trump was being compared to Hitler. He has also been referred to as a "proto-fascist," whatever that is. It happens that most observers using the term don't stop/bother to define it. But if the term is to have meaning historic/political meaning if and when it is applied to Trump, it is in my view vital that that is done.

Recently, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at Drake University, published a very important consideration of just what fascism is, and how it is distinguished from mere authoritarianism/totalitarianism. The paper is very significantly entitled: "Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism." Prof. Hossein-zadeh begins his paper thusly:

"The facile and indiscriminate use of the term fascism has led to a widespread misunderstanding and misuse of its meaning. Asked to define fascism, most people would respond in terms such as dictatorship, anti-Semitism, mass hysteria, efficient propaganda machine, mesmerizing oratory of a psychopathic leader, and the like. " Such a pervasive misconception of the meaning of the term fascism is not altogether fortuitous. It is largely because of a longstanding utilitarian misrepresentation of the term. Fascism is deliberately obfuscated in order to sanitize capitalism [emphasis added]. Ideologues, theorists and opinion-makers of capitalism have systematically shifted the systemic sins of fascism from market/capitalist failures to individual or personal failures."

The fascist regimes that dominated major parts of the globe from 1919 to 1945, for example in Hungary (from 1919), in Italy from 1922 (and of course it was Mussolini who gave the name to the governmental form), Japan from 1935, and of course Nazi Germany from 1933, all arose to defend capitalism against one form of socialism or another (or even liberal democracy, if the capitalist ruling class viewed it as a threat to their economic dominance). As Prof. Hossein-zadeh points out, it is of critical importance to understand that this is the central defining characteristic of this special form of authoritarianism, if it is to be effectively combatted.

Since I wrote my book on the future rise of fascism in the United States, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022 (originally published in 1996 under a slightly different title, The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2002-2022), I have always been careful to carefully define the term. In fact, in my book, there is a 10-page Appendix (II) devoted to the subject. Currently, I am using the following short definition:

"A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class' domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."

To date (2016), Donald Trump has been demonstrating certain elements of this definition. He has expressed his interest in expanding Executive Branch control over various aspects of the government. He promised a police organization that as President he would make sure that the death penalty was applied to any killer of a policeman. Not only did he step over into both Federal and state legislative territory --- obliterating both Constitutional Federalism and Separation of Powers --- but also, he did not use the word "convicted" in that sentence. On the silly side, nodding vigorously towards Bill O'Reilly, he stated that he would prevent department stores from using the term "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

He has stated that the judges he would nominate would all have a far-rightist Republican political ideology (or at least the list of potential Supreme Court nominees that he released all indicated that that would be the case). To the extent that he has read and understands the Constitution he seems to have little respect for it, at least when it comes to the doctrine of the separation of powers and the prohibition of the use of torture which is found in the Treaty Clause of Article Six. He is for the criminalization of abortion (at least some of the time). And then we get to: "the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, [and] the Big Lie technique . . ." which we need not detail again here (since we just did it in the previous column[!]).

Nevertheless, [as of mid-2016] I have refrained myself from calling Trump a "fascist" or his movement "fascistic," as hate filled, xenophobic, media-phobic (except when it is positively focused on him) as it is, because there has been no clear relationship between Trump's movement and any significant sector of the ruling class. In fact, as is well known, significant sectors of the ruling class, represented by the upper levels of the Repubs., have been shying away from him. He has been funding his campaign almost entirely out of his own pocket (that is, apparently, using his own pocket to loan his campaign money rather than spending it outright). But that is beginning to change.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)
 
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