Introduction: Trump's choice of Poland as the country in which he would make his one speech outside of the recent G-20 meeting was highly symbolic. The content of the speech, especially with its stress on the concept of "The Will," was too. That's what this column is about.
In September, 1934, the recently empowered National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazis) held a huge rally/Party meeting at Nurnberg. Over a four-day period, it was attended by approximately 700,000 people. A German film maker named Leni Riefenstahl was asked by Hitler to make a movie of it. "Triumph of the Will" became one of the most famous propaganda pieces of the Nazi Era. A central theme of the movie was to cement in the German mind (Nazi or no) that Adolf Hitler was The Leader, Der Fuehrer, of Germany for the then foreseeable future. The leadership of the internal, pseudo-"left" wing of the Party, had been eliminated on the "Night of the Long Knives," June, 1934. To meet a demand of the still Prussian-led national army the Nazis' private army, the Sturmabteilung (SA) had been subjugated to it. And Hitler summed up his whole ideology for a future Nazi Germany in one famous sentence: "It is our will that this state and this Reich shall endure through the coming millennia [emphasis added]." Which is why the movie is called "The Triumph of the Will."
And so now let turn our attention to the recent Trump speech in Warsaw, Poland, given just before he flew to Hamburg, Germany and the annual meeting of G-20. In my view, this was a very important event for Trump, in telling the world which way he hopes to take the United States. (That is if his Presidency can survive the revelations of the Russian-connection through his family . These revelations are even beginning to win over to the anti-Trump camp, certain leftists who supported him because they thought he would bring "peace with Russia." In a previous column I did explain why I thought that this latter hope has always been a pipe-dream.)
First, as to the choice of Poland for the single independently-sited speech he would make on the trip. First, the European Union, with its 28-member nations, is very well-represented in the G20. Second, this meeting of the G20 was being held on its home turf, in the nation which, with the (idiotic) Brexit, will become the most powerful European nation in the G20 and certainly in the EU (if it is not already). Second, most of the members of the EU have some form of bourgeois parliamentary democracy with among other things, left-wing parties of one sort or another (if small in most cases) and, for capitalist countries, relatively free media and judicial systems. Third, Trump thus had a wide choice of nations in Europe in which to make that singular speech. And he chose Poland.
Poland is one of the most right-wing nations in the EU, rivaled mainly by Hungary in that regard. But it is certainly much more well-known in the U.S. than the latter. And while it does not have a direct border with Russia (Hungary does not either), it does border Belarus (which then, on the east, borders Russia, with which it has a mixed relationship ). When interested in ratcheting up tension with Russia, both the US and Poland seem to like to pretend that Belarus is a stand-in for Russia. Poland's government is an elected one, but among its various policies it has moved to vastly reduce the power of the judiciary over decisions/policies of the government and it has also moved to severely limit press freedoms . (Sound familiar? ) However, says Gilbert Doctorow, author of the article just cited: "[E]ven as the E.U. expresses growing concerns about the authoritarian actions of the Law and Justice Party, there has been a warming of relations with the United States, particularly in the area of military cooperation" (which happened to start under Obama). So what a natural choice for Trump, especially since Steve Bannon now seems to be back in the policy driver's seat in the White House, in terms of what counts.
So, the choice of Poland was highly symbolic, politically. (It was also pleasant for Trump, for in almost every other EU country he would have been met with massive protests. In Poland, he was met with a warm reception from the crowd (even if much of it had to be bused in from the countryside for the speech). Then there were the minor symbols of Trump policy, like skipping the customary (for U.S. Presidents) visit to the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. (Trump instead sent the token Jew of his immediate family, the convert Ivanka. And if anyone doesn't think that there is not a strong Trumpite anti-Semitic tinge, shown for the most part rather than stated, one only has to look at a recent column by Frank Bruni of The New York Times.)
But most important was the theme of the speech , which eerily reflected the "Triumph of the Will" of an earlier time and ironically enough of the nation that absolutely devastated Poland, and not just its Jewish population, in World War II. As Juan Cole said (in somewhat more colorful language than I use, I must say):
"D onald Trump's speech in Poland may have attempted to camouflage its Fascist undertones with some Nazi-bashing, but no one will be fooled. The speech was probably shaped by alt-Neo-Nazi Steve Bannon, White House strategist and enabler of the white supremacist roll of toilet paper known as Breitbart."
And Trump himself said this (quoting further from Cole):
"We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"
And oh yes, the "values" that Trump was talking about are, if he is to be taken by his many words opn the subject: racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, authoritarianism, and, possibly, anti-Semitism. (Trump and his people probably don't know this, but between the 20th century wars, before it exploded in Nazi Germany, Poland was considered by the European Jews to be the most anti-Semitic country on that continent.)
And so, the Triumph of the Will, now, not then. The emphasis on it was not accidental. If Trump doesn't know about a primary Nazi theme, Bannon, a self-described student of fascist ideology, surely does. And indeed, this represents Trump's ideology (and yes, folks, he does have one, even though he himself might not be able to spell it out in so many words. The speech was written primarily by Bannon's alter-ego, the far-rightist Stephen Miller). This is what the Left and the Resistance need to begin focusing on (and certainly Refuse Fascism does do this). Whether or not the Trumpites colluded with the Russians is really a side issue, actually a very useful distraction for the Trumpites (https://www.opednews.com/articles/Trump-and-the-War-on-the-M-by-Steven-Jonas-Fascism_Fascism-Has-Happened-Here_Fascism-Cant-Happen-Here_Fascist-170704-497.html, see the Postscript) as they plow ahead with their Ultra-Reactionary agenda. (From the first hints of "Russian interference," I happen to think that they did collude, from the beginning, but that's another story.) As I have noted on numerous occasions, this man is VERY dangerous for what he stands for, at his core. We must know that, and act accordingly.
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, Politics, for The Greanville Post; a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement;a contributor to the "Writing for Godot" section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man.Furthermore, he is an occasional contributor to BuzzFlash Commentary Headlines and The Harder Stuff. He is also a triathlete (34 seasons, 250 multi-sport races).