Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Eight

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part eight of a series.

Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

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In conclusion – why Donald Trump is a fascist

This analysis has examined seven different definitions of fascism and how Trump’s statements match the various characteristics of each. And the conclusions have varied significantly depending on the specifics of the definition. If we look at each definition, here’s how the conclusions ranged:

  1. Derived from “The History of Fascism and Nazism” class, spring 1994. Conclusion: Trump is almost certainly a full fascist
  2. Fascism according to Stanley G. Payne’s 13 characteristics. Conclusion: Trump is probably not a proto-fascist
  3. Fascism according to Roger Griffin’s “fascist minimum” definition. Conclusion: Trump is almost certainly a proto-fascist and probably a full fascist
  4. Fascism according to Kevin Passmore’s definition. Conclusion: Trump is probably a proto-fascist
  5. Fascism according to Emilio Gentile’s ten characteristics. Conclusion: Trump is probably not a proto-fascist
  6. Fascism according to Robert Paxton’s definition. Conclusion: Trump is almost certainly a proto-fascist and is on a path to become a full fascist if he can take power and retain it
  7. Fascism according to Umberto Eco’s 14 characteristics of Ur-Fascism. Conclusion: Trump is very likely a fascist

Of the seven definitions, two result in a strong conclusion that Trump is a full fascist, two more conclude that Trump is most likely a proto-fascist and may be a full fascist, one concludes that Trump is probably a proto-fascist, and two that Trump is probably not even a proto-fascist, never mind a full fascist.

So why have I concluded so strongly that Trump is a fascist when the experts’ own definitions vary so much? Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Seven

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part seven of a series.

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Fascism according to Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco was an Italian novelist and public intellectual who, in the June 22, 1995 issue of the New York Review of Books, wrote an essay titled “Ur-fascism” (eternal fascism) in which he discussed fascism in general and identified fascism’s characteristics.

In his essay, he writes that it would be difficult for “the totalitarian governments that ruled Europe” prior to World War II to “reappear in the same form in different historical circumstances.” In this way Eco agrees with the many historians who have claimed that fascism was essentially unique to the period between World Wars I and II. But Eco thinks that “behind a regime and its ideology there is always a way of thinking and feeling, a group of cultural habits, of obscure instincts and unfathomable drives.” He calls fascism a “fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions” that was the result of “political and ideological discombobulation.” To Eco, “fascism was philosophically out of joint, but emotionally it was firmly fastened to some archetypal foundations.” Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Six

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part six of a series.

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Fascism according to Robert Paxton

In his 2004 book, “The Anatomy of Fascism,” historian Robert Paxton defines fascism as follows:

A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. (from Wikipedia)

Trump has tapped into a “preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood” in the American middle class, especially white, blue-collar workers. Trump and his vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, are building a movement of purity that rolls back gay marriage and claims to promote “traditional” American and Christian values, but it’s as yet unclear whether this “compensatory cult” will be one of unity and energy as described by Paxton. Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Five

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part five of a series.

trump-praise-the-lordClick here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Emilio Gentile

Gentile is an Italian historian who considers fascism to be a form of political religion. The ten characteristics of fascism that he has identified apply to movements rather than individuals, so it’s difficult to apply them to any single individual like Donald Trump. In addition, most of Gentile’s characteristics have multiple sub-elements, making a determination of whether or not an individual qualifies as a fascist even more complicated. And several of his characteristics only apply after a fascist movement has taken power.

Given these complications, it’s reasonable to expect that comparing Trump to Gentile’s list of characteristics will result in fewer strong matches to Trump’s policy statements and a lower confidence in any conclusions we draw from Gentile’s characteristics. Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Four

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part four of a series.

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 26:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center on February 26, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. Trump is campaigning in Texas, days ahead of the Super Tuesday primary.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, TX – FEBRUARY 26: (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Fascism according to Kevin Passmore

Cardiff University’s Kevin Passmore developed another definition of fascism for his book “Fascism: A Very Short Introduction.” The entire definition is available in Passmore’s book and at Wikipedia, but the most important parts are addressed below.

Fascism is a set of ideologies and practices that seeks to place the nation, defined in exclusive biological, cultural, and/or historical terms, above all other sources of loyalty, and to create a mobilized national community.

Trump’s rhetoric is intended to appeal to a definition of national identity that is white and racist. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump said that “We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice,” which is coded racist rhetoric as well. Note that Trump didn’t contrast “failing” with succeeding, but rather “safe.” The implication is that failing schools are dangerous and that safe schools are succeeding. And where are most “failing” and dangerous schools located? In minority neighborhoods and in urban areas. His anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim positions are similarly coded to appeal to whites who are afraid of brown people moving into their neighborhoods. Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Three

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part three of a series.

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Fascism according to Roger Griffin

Roger Griffin, historian and author of “The Nature of Fascism” and numerous other fascism-related books in the 1990s and 2000s, has defined fascism as follows:

Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra nationalism.(from “The Palingenetic Core of Fascist Ideology,” a chapter in A. Campi (Ed.), Che cos’è il fascismo? Interpretazioni e prospecttive di richerche (pp. 97-122). Rome: Ideazione editrice, 2003., via libraryofsocialscience.com)

This statement is Griffin’s attempt to create an objective definition of a “fascist minimum,” the minimum criteria that all fascisms share. Unfortunately, this single sentence is so nuanced and uses enough academic language that it takes Griffin several pages to explain what it means. Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Two

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part two of a series.

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Fascism according to Stanley G. Payne

Stanley Payne is a historian from the University of Wisconsin and the author of “Fascism: Comparison and Definition.” He has generated a list of 13 characteristics that he thinks are necessary for a political movement or ideology to be fascist, and he classified them into three groups – ideology and goals, negations, and style/organization.

  • Espousal of an idealist, vitalist, and voluntaristic philosophy, normally involving the attempt to realize a new modern, self-determined, and secular culture
  • Creation of a new nationalist authoritarian state not based on traditional principles or models
  • Organization of a new highly regulated, multiclass, integrated national economic structure, whether called national corporatist, national socialist, or national syndicalist
  • Positive evaluation and use of, or willingness to use violence and war
  • The goal of empire, expansion, or a radical change in the nation’s relationship with other powers

Trump shows aspects of the first characteristic in that he supports an idealistic philosophy in pursuit of a new modern and self-determined culture that is rooted in the idea of American exceptionalism. Voluntarism is “a theory that conceives will to be the dominant factor in experience or in the world,” and while Trump’s language has echos of the national and personal ambition and aggression that comes with the concept of Will to Power as described by Nietzche, Trump hasn’t explicitly called for his supporters to exert their will upon the nation to change it. Continue reading

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part One

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part one of a series.

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for  president during a rally at his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, on Tuesday June 16, 2015. Mr. Trump also announced the release of a financial statement that he says denotes a personal net worth of over 8 billion dollars.

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for president during a rally at his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, on Tuesday June 16, 2015.

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In 1994, I took a class titled “The History of Fascism and Nazism.” It remains one of the most profound educational experiences of my life, and ever since then I have been extremely careful about referring to someone as a Nazi. In a 2010 post about my experiences in this class, I wrote

This class taught me that some things are just so bad, so legitimately evil, that making bullshit comparisons cheapens that evil. And I cannot stand by and let true, legitimate evil be cheapened. As a result, if I ever use the word “Nazi,” you know I mean it and I’m not joking.

And as my record here at S&R has shown, I have taken many people to task for misusing references to the Nazis (and, more recently, to fascism in general).

The class also taught me to be on the lookout for the rise of fascism in the United States, and impressed upon me an ethical responsibility to identify fascism if I ever saw it. I see fascism in the candidacy and person of Donald Trump.

Let me be perfectly clear, so there is no possibility of confusion about where I stand on this point: Donald Trump is a fascist.

This eight part essay explains how I have reached this conclusion, based first on what I learned from my “History of Fascism and Nazism” class in 1994, followed by an investigation of historians’ more recent expert opinions on what characteristics define fascism. Continue reading

The best class I have ever taken: HIST143, the History of Fascism and Nazism

In the spring of 1994, I was a junior studying electrical engineering at Penn State. I had two general education credits left if I was going to graduate in four years, but I figured that it was time to try and sign up for HIST143, The History of Fascism and Nazism, taught by Jackson J. Spielvogel. It was one of the most popular classes on campus, taught by a professor whom I’d heard literally brought Fascism and Nazisim to life in the classroom. But because it was so popular, it was hard to get into, and upperclassmen always had the advantage.

I got lucky, and as a result my life was changed in ways that I am still discovering 16 years later. Continue reading