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Reichstag 1938 / Washington 2017

We are all Muslims. Either that, or we shall be torn apart as a nation, given over to Trump-Republicans’ vomit of hate for all that defines human rights and a free society. It gets worse by the minute, the immigration issue merely code for venting spleen on a whole range of issues intimately connected with America’s loss of undisputed pre-eminence to define and exclusively benefit from the world system.

Always attack the most vulnerable, if what you seek is unlimited power and acting without restraint. This strong-man complex is grounded in fear, fear of self-discovery as one whose ego (one here referring to a collective ruling group and the millions under its sway) depends on the humiliation of others to confirm one’s greatness. Yes, Let’s Make America Great Again, muscle flexing to prove a superiority founded on force, exploitation, the ultimate crushing of all dissent.

That takes us to the present. America occupies a forward space in what I term a pre-fascist configuration, i.e., analogous to Germany in 1938, where institutions are being rapidly made over to prepare them for a totalitarian make-over, done in the name of legality and the zeitgeist of the People. Trump is no dumbbell, although his actions may strike one that way. The quick articulation of a plan is so reminiscent of the way Hitler moved on the eve of a full-throated Nazi order. The precipice beckons. Find a scapegoat, build on the imagery of the Sainted Folk whom only the Maximum Leader can keep safe and pure.

The Leader must have loyal accolades, henchman in suits, to a person enlisted to destroy the Old for a glorious future of the New. Strut your wares, whether the stage be a massive rally, drums rolling, or a Twitter account, messages cascading out, difficult to keep up with: Fascism via the high technology of mass dissemination intended gradually to wear down the resistance of a free press. The Leader, now having a direct line to the People (aka, Folk), becomes the voice, indeed, standard, of truth, reality, social identity itself—a never-ending process first of mental and subsequently physical subjugation. Even the military is downgraded (Bannon’s ascendancy without warning), making it docile to the diktat of superhuman beings bending—if that were possible—the generals (of whom there are plenty in the inner circle) to their will.

When civilians out-militarize the military, as occurred under Nazism, you know the country is on a permanent warpath. Call it counterterrorism, but the last week has shown that its true nature is as the vehicle of a power grab, a vision of regimentation of the Folk the better to conduct a business system free from all challenges to its profits and power. God is being replaced by Capitalism as the Holy of Holies, a development not a stranger to the advent of Nazism, where behind Hitler stood an advanced stage of corporatism (advanced for its time, as capitalist consolidation, particularly the financial sector, has leapt far beyond what was thought possible in 1938).

Trump’s reorganization of government priorities and even structure bears clear resemblance to the Big Lie technique, be out in the open, confident, repetitive, ignore shadings, stay on message, attack always, rather than defend, never falter, lest that be interpreted as weakness. With a phalanx of billionaires behind you, and you yourself in their company, there is little to fear from outside criticism or the soon-to-be-created rabble bearing the brunt of your policies. 1938, 2017: hierarchy is in fashion, worse still, systemic. This means not only class stratification but also the basis for judging those in disrepute (beginning with the poor) inferior, an argument slipping easily into a eugenics broadside taking in ever larger numbers. Hitler understood: inferiority, so charged, is meant to be expansive and elastic, in time roping in all opponents, dissenters, those insufficiently patriotic.

Protest over the weekend at airports and public spaces is welcome and heartening; it reveals that totalitarianism is not complete. But I am waiting for the crackdown, which, judging from the present pace of events, is not far behind.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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