FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trumpism’s Gleichschaltung?

by

Photo by Erik Drost | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Erik Drost | CC BY 2.0

While discussing the current situation recently, a historian friend told me that he did not believe history repeated itself. Bearing that in mind, I asked him if he thought it still had lessons for us to draw on. He answered, yes of course. Keeping that under consideration, I decided to take a deeper look at the rapid changes Donald Trump and his “people” are trying to put in place in the United States. As I began my investigation, it was announced that Trump adviser Steven Bannon had replaced a General and an intelligence chief on the National Security Council. In essence, this move is another attempt by the Trump administration to upend the traditional chain of command (the professional class, if you will), with ideologues from outside that class.

Upon hearing of this move, I was immediately reminded of similar moves by Adolf Hitler at the beginning of his government. Now known as the Gleichschaltung, this time period in the rise of Nazism involved (among other things) the replacing of various members of the German government with Nazi ideologues whose primary allegiance was to Hitler and the philosophy of Nazism. Essentially the process of bringing all elements of power, from the government to the military to the trade unions to the media, into line with the Nazi state, the Gleichschaltung began with the elimination of independent state legislatures. This was followed by the dismantling of trade unions, attacks on the independence of the churches (especially those opposed to the Nazis), the elimination of all political parties except for the Nazi party, the creation of youth, worker and women’s organizations where involvement was mandatory and enforced by the schools and community. In addition, the private militias of the Nazis became official state military organizations with the task of enforcing allegiance to the Hitler wing of the Nazi party. Crucial to all of this undertaking was the role of Hitler’s right hand man and propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels.

In the wake of the Trump administration’s unconstitutional immigration order, the spontaneous protests and numerous lawsuits that took place in its wake, and the refusal of certain Justice Department officials to support or enforce the ban, and their subsequent dismissal, Trump dug in his heels. For many folks, the firing of the Justice Department officials was reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s firing of officials charged with investigating his participation in the Watergate break-in and cover up (one result of which was the elevation of Robert Bork.) This became known as the Saturday Night Massacre and was but one of Nixon’s authoritarian attempts to assume complete power of the US government.

Nixon’s moves were eventually countered by the liberal wing of the US government. The result was his resignation. This saved the liberal republic that was the United States. Given the weakness of today’s liberalism—and the fact that they are much closer in philosophy to the right wing than the Left—it seems unlikely that liberals will be able to stop the advance towards fascism we are currently witnessing. Philosopher Ernst Traverso discussed in his most recent book the notion that the rise of fascism in Twentieth century Europe was partially due to the failures of liberalism; its economic failures, its rejection of the Left and accommodation of the Right, and its use of horrible violence to maintain its colonies and power at home. Those who argue that Trumpism is a direct result of the neoliberal capitalism prior to the US election of 2016 have that historical argument in their favor.

There is a trope that is appearing in various newspapers and in social media that focuses on the fact that Bannon has read Lenin. This fact is then used as proof that he is a Leninist. Nothing can be further from the truth. Liberal philosophy tends to equate communism with fascism in an attempt to make liberalism appear reasonable. As far as Bannon is concerned, a better comparison would be this: Steven Bannon is to Donald Trump what Josef Goebbels was to Hitler. Writing this is not meant to be alarmist. Instead, it is written so we can understand his role. It is clear from his work with Breitbart and in his production of propaganda films for the far-right that Breitbart is a clever propagandist. Indeed, it seems likely that he has read and absorbed Goebbels’ admonitions and advice regarding the role of propaganda to the State. His appointment to the National Security Council is not appalling because it removes a couple of war criminals from positions they assumed were theirs by decree. It is appalling because it represents the rise of an American fascist to the inner circles of power. Not just the inner circles, but arguably a circle most fundamental in matters of life and death. Time will tell exactly what this means.

Another tendency among the liberal establishment is to discount the potential of the Trump-Bannon duo. This attitude assumes permanence to the US Constitution and its much-lauded systems of checks and balances. Furthermore, it also assumes a certain allegiance to that document and the system its words hold in place by those in power, no matter what party they belong to. This purposely naïve narrative ignores the ongoing reality in Washington. It is a reality that has seen the power of the president expand not just in arithmetic terms but in geometric ones the past couple of decades. What began with FDR during World War Two has continued under the auspices of national security, with the growing consolidation of presidential power drastically expanding since 9-11. If one adds the complete control of the Congress by a sycophantic and soulless Republican party marked only by an unparalleled and unprincipled lust for power and money all too willing to follow Trump’s authoritarian march, the remnants of that constitution are in serious danger. There comes a time when liberalism (especially this current version) must put up or die the spineless death its actions have always solicited.

Where then, will the protest come from? The immediate response of people to the Trump administration’s executive order regarding immigration seems to prove it will come from the people themselves. Although spontaneous in their actual manifestation, these protests are a result of numerous threads of organizing over the past decade—Occupy, Black Lives Matter, antiwar agitator organizations like CodePink and even the Bernie Sanders campaign—combined with the efforts of established socialist organizations that maintain a constant presence on college campuses, some workplaces and at protests for social justice. While spontaneity has its benefits and the current protests have been quite useful in highlighting the unjust nature of the immigration order, there is definitely a need for an organized multifaceted resistance to the authoritarian state Trump and his associates seem intent on establishing.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail