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The Anatomy of Fascism Denial

31* Flavors of Anti-Antifascism, Part 2

Image by Chris Boese.

When I am being interviewed by a member of the old guard and point to the concrete and steel, the tiny electronic listening device concealed in the vent, the phalanx of goons peeping in at us, his barely functional plastic tape-recorder that cost him a week’s labor, and point out that these are all manifestations of fascism, he will invariably attempt to refute me by defining fascism simply as an economic geo-political affair where only one party is allowed to exist aboveground and no opposition political activity is allowed.

George Jackson, Blood in my Eye, 1972 [1]

Part 1 of this essay presented and criticized 14 interrelated falsehoods whereby intellectuals, commentators, and activists denied that the Trump presidency and Trumpism deserved designation as fascist [2]: (1) the classic “It Can’t Happen Here” claim that American “constitutional democracy” has safely inoculated the United States against fascism; (2) the notion that fascism is purely a 20th Century (1920s-1940s) European phenomenon; (3) the idea that a handful of selectively tapped “fascism scholars” who happen mostly to be historians of 20th Century European fascism are qualified to offer “expert” commentary on 21st Century American politics and American fascism/neofascism; (4) the time-frozen and Eurocentric definition of the only relevant fascism as a fully consolidated fascist regime on the model of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Third Reich; (5) the denial that fascism could arise within and through formally constitutional and electoral institutions; (6) the “old guard” (George Jackson’s excellent description) definition of fascism solely as a corporatist political-economic regime under the command of a single party state and dictator; (7) the idea that Trump’s lack of intellectual and doctrinal rigor and discipline disqualified him and his presidency from being considered fascist; (8) the notion that Trump had/has “no ideology” beyond pure venal selfishness; (9) the idea that Trump was just another “authoritarian;” (10) the claim that Trump was/is a “populist;” (11) the notion that fascism requires a pre-existing revolutionary challenge from a powerful radical Left in order to have any relevant existence; (12) the notion that Trump was/is some kind of anti-imperialist; (13) the idea that Trump’s weak response to the COVID-19 epidemic was non-and even anti-fascist; (14) the idea that Trump’s fascism was merely symbolic, rhetorical, and performative, without serious consequences.

This follow-up essay adds 17 more misleading anti-anti-Trump/anti-anti-fascist narratives. This makes for 31 flavors of American anti-anti-fascism during and since the 2015-16 Trump campaign and the Trump presidency of 2017-21,*up from my originally proclaimed number of 26. Many if not most of these 31 flavors/narratives have been scooped and served (often with considerable disdain) by commentators and activists who identity as leftists. Many of these self-proclaimed portsiders qualify as “Trumpenleftists” – a curious and surprisingly widespread cohort that seeks common ground with neofascism in the name of radical politics. [3]

The Final Seventeen Flavors of Anti-Anti-Trumpfascism

Here are anti-anti-fascism flavors 15 to 31, to be followed with a supplementary reflection on America’s distinctive form of racial fascism, which predates and informs contemporary American fascism (and also predated and informed, indeed inspired classic 20th Century European fascism):

+15. “Trump never had a dedicated and powerful paramilitary wing to enforce his will, so don’t talk about ‘fascism.’” Well, it’s good that Trump never got that, no? He certainly tried to develop one, however ineptly. The special border patrol agents he called in from the white-supremacist southern borderland to unleash on social justice protesters in Portland, Oregon were a federal Trump paramilitary force-in-training. Trump got an antifascist (Michael Reinoehl) killed, death squad-style, as “retribution” by U.S. Marshalls outside of Seattle with a snap of his fingers last September. (The Trump hit was payback for Reinoehl’s killing of a fascist Trump supporter, Patriot Prayer terrorist Aaron Danielson.) He fueled and encouraged the growth of a vast swath of proto-fascist paramilitary sorts like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, various neo-Nazis, the Kenosha Guard (of Kyle Rittenhouse infamy), the Wolverine Watchmen (Michigan fascist militiamen who plotted the kidnapping and murder of Michigan governor Gretcham Whitmer) and the like. He cultivated dangerous loyalty from white police officers across the country – a vast army of authoritarian and racist cops (including much of the NYPD, the CPD, and other major metropolitan gendarme forces) who would have gladly and bloodily suppressed urban rebellions against an election he would have stolen if it had been closer. Who knows how many supporters Trump and fascism had/has in the military and among military veterans? Who knows what kind of paramilitary he would have cultivated within and beyond the nation’s armed and police forces had he gotten a second term (which would have happened but for COVID-19)? As Max Berger observed two weeks after the Trump-sparked Attack on the Capitol:

“Trump’s support among enlisted service members was threatening enough to the incoming Biden administration that the Joint Chiefs had to issue a report clarifying they stood behind him. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of current and former law enforcement and military who are devotees of Trump. There is no shortage of veterans or police officers who could be mobilized to violence by white grievance politics and serve as easy recruits for the next fascist leader” (emphasis added).

+16. “The American capitalist ruling class did not support Trump.” Some relevant sections of the ruling class (especially in the fossil fuel and other polluting industries) did back the sloppy orange fascist. Many of those corporate and financial elites who didn’t want the demented monster in the White House in 2017 were perfectly happy to leave him there for a full first term thanks to his tax cuts and arch-neoliberal de-regulation policies. A respectable wealth and power elite that seriously wanted a fascist out could have pulled the plug well before the fall and winter of 2020-21. But this “deep state” coup never took place. If Trump had gotten a second term (as he would have but for COVID-19), many corporate and financial chieftains not on board would have accommodated or re-accommodated to his power. A future fascistic presidential candidate and president who knows how to ruffle fewer ruling class feathers can expect to do much better with the nation’s wealth and power elite. And make no mistake: most of the American corporate and financial elite would have backed Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections had the Democrats run Bernie Sanders, the leftish contender who campaigned in accord with majority progressive public opinion and called himself a socialist. The America ruling class will pick fascism over even mild social democracy ever time.

(Please review the rejection of flavor #4 in Part 1 of this essay: the point is to properly identify, fight, and defeat fascist social and political movements before they hatch full-fledged fascist regimes.)

+17. “The top military brass did not support Trump’s attempt to stay in power.” Who said they did? Thank God they didn’t. Trump clearly tried to enlist the military in service to his efforts to stay in power. After the election, Trump fired his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who had incurred Trump’s wrath by refusing to invoke the Insurrection Act to suppress the remarkable George Floyd anti-racist people’s rebellion last summer. At the same time, some inside the military establishment clearly worried that there was potential Pentagon support for a military intervention in the 2020 election. Fully ten former U.S. Defense Secretaries felt compelled to an issue an extraordinary January 4, 2021 public letter warning military leaders and the acting Secretary of Defense not to get involved in election results. The missive, published in the Washington Post, reflected no small alarm:

“As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, ‘there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.’ Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic…Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers, and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

For the authors of this letter, there was genuine concern that Miller might work with Trump to carry out former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s delusional plan for a military coup.

It’s good that Trump failed to win the military over. This hardly means there are no fascistic sentiments in the officer corps and command heights for a future American fascist commander-in-chief to tap. A future and, yes (see flavor #7) smarter Republifascist president more attuned to military culture and sentiments could well do much better with the Pentagon.

Again: yes, the U.S. did not become a full-fledged maximal fascist regime under Trump (see flavor #4), but nobody serious has ever claimed it did. The point here is to properly identify, fight, and defeat fascist social and political movements before they hatch such regimes. A fascist having made it into the world’s most powerful office for four years and nearly for (at least) eight was no small fascist achievement.

+18. “Trump’s base is working-class and open to the progressive political and policy agenda of the Left. The Left needs to reach out to Trump’s proletarian base. Calling Trump and Trumpism ‘fascist’ works against that. We can win his backers to the progressive side with a Left policy agenda.” Nonsense. Intimately related to the false description of Trump as a “populist,” the statistically illiterate notion of Trump’s base as proletarian has been discredited again and again (for the latest destruction of the sadly durable Trumpenproletarian myth, see this excellent Boston Review piece). Trump’s base is relatively affluent and petit-bourgeois. Trumpenproletarian mythology (remarkably durable among liberal and many left intellectuals) is based on false conflations between education level and class and between region and class.

The main motivation driving Trump base was not economic grievance against the corporate and financial elite but rather white-identitarian authoritarianism and nationalism directed against people of color and a liberal and “Left” elite that is absurdly accused of having let supposedly undeserving nonwhite people “cut in line” ahead of purportedly harder working and more meritorious white “true” Americans. [4] American right-wingers hate socialism. They think Joe Biden is a socialist. The Left will not win them over with Medicare for All.

Much if not most of the nation’s white-nationalist core is simply detached from reality. QAnon is a delusional but dangerous “Nazi cult, re-branded.” Some few people on the right may have “American History X”-like experiences and come over to the side of humanity (super!), but we on the Left do not need to spend scarce time, energy and resources trying to link up with the Amerikaner Trumpenvolk. To the contrary, we need to defeat, marginalize, and indeed crush the nation’s white-supremacist fascists. “Reaching out” to meet them “half-way” is appeasement.

+19 “The ‘Attack on the Capitol’ wasn’t all that big a deal. Geez, some crazy lumpenproletarian working-class Yahoos got out of control, broke some windows, and wandered around like idiots before getting cleared out. Some ‘fascist assault!’” No. Eight thousand militant Trumpist-white supremacists and proto-fascists marched to Congress at the direction of their fascist commander-in-chief, who told them to “fight like Hell” to “take our country back” from “evil” liberals, falsely conflated (in accord with the fascist playbook) with “the radical Left.” An armed fascistic assault broke into the U.S. representative chamber with the explicit intent of halting the certification of a free and fair presidential election. The frothing mob included military veterans and law enforcement personnel scheming to capture and even kill members of Congress and even the insufficiently Trump-loyal Christian fascist Vice President. The event riveted national and global attention for hours and many days afterwards. Five people died. Many more might have easily perished. Fascist quasi paramilitary groups (Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and others) were prominent among those who breached the complex. Herr Trump hoped the attack would provoke a crisis he could use as a pretext to declare a state of emergency and martial law, suspending Congressional authorization of Biden’s victory. Triggered by the president’s big fascist election lie (repeated over and over again in accord with the Goebbels playbook), the rioters had allies inside Congress, including at least four Republifascist Congresspersons. Their motives were highly political and driven by Trump’s insane fascistic “great nation stabbed in the back” claim that Biden’s election was fraudulent. Political scientist Robert Pape and researcher Kevin Ruby’s recent detailed analysis of the 193 people arrested in connection with the January 6th Capitol riot finds that “the attack on the Capitol was unmistakably an act of political violence, not merely an exercise in vandalism or trespassing amid a disorderly protest that had spiraled out of control. The overwhelming reason for action, cited again and again in court documents, was that arrestees were following Trump’s orders to keep Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the presidential-election winner.”

The January 6th Storming of the Capitol was a really big and dangerous deal and the stormers were heavily petit-bourgeois. Pape and Ruby found that “Two-thirds [of the 193 arrestees they examined] are 35 or older, and 40 percent are business owners or hold white-collar jobs. Unlike the stereotypical extremist, many of the alleged participants in the Capitol riot have a lot to lose. They work as CEOs, shop owners, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists, and accountants. Strikingly, court documents indicate that only 9 percent are unemployed.”

+20. “The ‘fascist’ Trump is gone now and he’s had (as CUNY political scientist Corey Robbin risibly claimed last December) little impact even on his own party, so it’s really time now about Trump and the supposed menace of ‘fascism.’” Nonsense. It’s good that Trump has been removed from the White House, to say the least (a second Trump term would have unimaginably tragic and possibly terminal for humanity), but serious anti-Trump antifascists have never thought the fascist threat in America was or is just about the demented and delusional oligarch Trump. They have always considered the Trump presidency a reflection and agent of a “fascist creep” with a life before, during, and after the tangerine-tinted, Twitter-tantruming tyrant’s presence in the White House. The American fascist virus that Trump channeled and fanned is alive and well. As Max Berger noted in the wake of the January 6th assault in a chilling reflection titled “Donald Trump is Leaving But American Fascism is Just Getting its Boots On”:

We must consider the defeat of Trump’s insurrectionary, incoherent fascism not as the end of the threat posed by American fascism, but as the beginning…Whether Trump is a fascist, or merely a pre-fascist, the fact is that he has demonstrated the path to power for future, more coherent fascist leaders to follow…The majority of Republican voters support Trump’s American fascism—even after the coup. According to polling by The Washington Post, 51 percent of Republicans say GOP leaders didn’t go far enough in nullifying the election, 56 percent say Trump bears zero blame for the insurrection, and 66 percent say he has acted responsibly. Trump …[is] still at 60 percent favorability among Republicans and is the prohibitive frontrunner for the Republican Party presidential nomination. Sadly, these numbers are likely the floor, and not the ceiling for these beliefs…The fascist majority within the Republican Party means that Republican office holders can’t break with Trump’s vision of the party even if they wanted to. Democratic Rep. Jason Crow told MSNBC, ‘A couple of [my Republican colleagues] actually broke down in tears talking to me, and saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for [Trump’s second] impeachment.’ Republicans are already talking about primarying the members who supported impeachment and are taking steps to remove Liz Cheney (R-WY) from leadership for supporting impeachment. So long as the majority or even a significant plurality of Republican voters are fascist, it will continue to be in Republican politicians’ interests to support fascism” (emphasis added).

Berger might have added that 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump’s Big Fascist Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him – a great and terrible deception that cannot but fuel more far-right movement formation and violence going forward.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Republican Party has endorsed the insane claim that the Attack on the Capitol was a left-wing false-flag deep state operation. The Texas Republican Party has adopted the fascist QAnon (QANazi, frankly) slogan “We are the Storm.” The Arizona Republican Party has become a neofascist Trump cult. A recent New York Times report from Michigan after Trump’s second impeachment trial shows “growing signs of a party not in flux, but united in doubling down on the same themes that defined Mr. Trump’s [unmentionably fascist] political style: conspiracy theories, fealty to the leader, a web of misinformation and intolerance…his party shows little desire to break with him or his grievances” (emphasis added)/

The 2021 Republican House of Representatives contingent contains at least four far-right lunatics with ties to fascist groups: Paul Gosar (Proud Boy ally-AZ), Andy Biggs (Oath Keeper ally-AZ), Lauren Boebert (Three Percenter ally-CO) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (QANazi-GA). The Republican Senate cohort includes the mouth-foaming white nationalist hyena Ron Johnson (Rf-WI), who claims to believe that January 6th was a false-flag deep state op, and the demented white nationalist Josh Hawley, who joined five other Republifascist Senators in voting against the certification of Biden’s victory on January 6th, after the fascist assault. Hawley encouraged the attack with a raised fist before entering Congress to try to cancel Biden’s election.

Just seven of fifty Republican Senators voted to convict Trump after House Managers presented a slam dunk case showing beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt that Trump had fueled and sparked the murderous fascist assault on Congress.

The nation’s Trump-fanned Nazi problem could well get worse in the absence of Trump. Terrorism expert Colin Clarke thinks so, noting that the Storming of the Capitol marks “a new era of far-right violence in America”:

“the siege of the Capitol will be framed [on the far right] as a successful demonstration …Almost immediately, images from that day proliferated across [far right] social media platforms…Large segments of the mob that stormed the Capitol were unaffiliated…. these could well be the new foot soldiers of the far right. Some, perhaps many of these new recruits will have military experience or law enforcement training. The infusion of younger members into the ranks of the far right is likely to breathe new life into the movement…References to the date Jan.6 will be just as symbolic for far-right extremists as Sept. 11 is to Americans…[Trump’s] efforts to spread disinformation, undermine longstanding democratic institutions and pit Americans against one another will continue to help propel the far right long into the future…8 percent of Americans …support…the insurrection. …the imager of the Capitol siege …will have enduring resonance…The turbulence of the next several years should not be underestimated…With Mr. Trump no longer in office, a portion of his supporters are vulnerable to recruitment into more extreme networks and, potentially, white-supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations. These groups are energized and confident in their ability to co-opt militant Trumpists…As a result, a larger segment of the far right could come to engage in racially and ethnically motivated violence…the siege of the Capitol…could catalyze an age of domestic farright extremism.”

Trump’s gone and done with now? Really? In the final week of the month in which he left office after inciting an insurrectionary fascist attack on the Capitol and getting impeached for a second time, the Republican party establishment reconnected with their recently defeated Dear Leader [5]. On Tuesday, January 26th, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republifascist-KY), who earlier acknowledged that Trump’s sparking of the assault was an impeachable offense, led 43 other Republifascist Senators in embracing the absurd authoritarian “January exception” by voting to declare the coming second Trump impeachment trial unconstitutional since the 45th president was no longer in office (an opinion rejected by all but a few constitutional scholars). (Hilariously enough, in his prior role as Senate Majority Leader, Malevolent Mitch had refused to permit a trial prior to Biden’s inauguration). Two days later, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Republifascist-CA), who said that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack, traveled down to Mar a Lago to make amends with the orange monster.

Trump’s popularity is too strong with the Republifascist Party’s Amerikaner base for GOP leaders to jettison him just for a tiny little infraction like trying to cancel and election and carry out a fascist coup. All ten of the Republican House representatives who had the decency to vote for Trump’s second impeachment are facing a storm of right-wing criticism in their home districts. The same is true for most of the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict.

As this essay nears completion in the last week of February 2021, Trump remains in firm control of the Republican Party base and most of the nation’s state Republican parties. He is scheduled to give a major address to the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) – an address in which he will send the message that he is Republicans’ presumptive 2024 presidential nominee with a death grip on the party’s base. He will be backed by state Republifascist leaders who have led party votes to censure of Republican Senators who had the elementary decency to vote to convict Trump for instigating a fascist assault on the Capitol.

CUNY political scientist Corey Robin’s claim one month after the election (in an interview where he called Trump “almost the complete opposite of fascism” and even denied that Trump was even an authoritarian) that Trump has had less impact on his party [5A] than any other post-WWII Republican president does not jibe very well with what we are seeing so far.

+21. “The Democrats are fascists too. Both of the major parties are the same.” Wrong. Yes, the neoliberal corporate Democrats are a despicable ruling class party owned by the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of capital and empire. They have appeased, enabled, and otherwise encouraged the crimes of the Republifascist, Party. They have participated in, profited from, and generally advanced the creation and preservation of authoritarian and oppressive institutions that amount to a type of underlying societal pre-fascism and an on ongoing American racial fascism (to be discussed at the end of this essay) – richly bipartisan affairs. They are a Weimar party, so to speak, in relation to the ever more Nazified Republicans. But no, the dismal Democrats aren’t themselves political and ideological fascists. They do not conduct their politics out of the fascist playbook to anywhere near the same extent as does the contemporary GOP. Proper Left contempt for the Democrats does not require diluting our understanding of fascism so completely as that. And no, the two dominant U.S. political organizations are not “the same.” Part of their hegemonic function is precisely their real differences in the constituency by race, ethnicity, gender, region, culture and more, all reflected in differences of policy and rhetoric that co-exist alongside shared captivity to U.S. capitalism and empire. “Two wings of the same [corporate, financial, and imperialist] bird of prey” (Upton Sinclair, 1904)? Absolutely. “The same?” Sorry, no.

+22. “Our real problem is capitalism; there’s no need to talk about fascism, which is a distraction from the real problem.” This is a false dichotomy. Fascism is, among other things, vicious, arch-repressive capitalism. Fascism is a product of, and subservient to, the modern corporate and capitalist era. It does not overthrow capitalism. Even in its classic historical European and statist form, it never supplanted private ownership of the means of production and investment or bourgeois class rule. Fascism (both as a social and political movement and as a regime) is dedicated to smashing popular resistance to capitalism, among other things. Left anti-fascism is intimately bound up with and all about anti-capitalism.

+23. “Anti-Trump anti-fascism is a liberal Democratic Party thing meant to defend the American status quo, falsely described as democratic. It blames everything on Trump instead of the terrible capitalist, imperialist, neoliberal, and racist social order that produced him.” No. Liberals and Democrats were and remain highly reluctant to use the F-word (fascism) to describe Trump and Trumpism. Many if not most serious anti-Trump antifascists were and are socialists, communists (the present writer), and left anarchists who see Trumpism-fascism as a product of the racist, capitalist, sexist, and imperialist American order. They have no illusions about the U.S. status quo being democratic.

(Antifascist and anti-Trump leftists like myself faced constant idiotic charges of undue sympathy for the corporate-imperialist Democrats during the Trump presidency. As the incisive Salon commentator David Masciotra wrote me last January 29th: “It was exhausting to deal with the bizarre and disconcerting amount of people on the ‘left’ who were defending or downplaying Trump and acting as if anyone warning of Trump’s danger had somehow co-signed on all the awful Democratic Party policies since the early 1990s. ‘You don’t want Trump to become a fascist dictator? You must love Clinton’s welfare to work program.’ This is a jocular exaggeration, but not too divergent a depiction of what passes for edgy, critical thinking in some of the more embarrassing ‘left’ quarters.” Indeed, the Dem-baiting from Trumpenlefties was incessant and absurd, directed at me even as I published my third book eviscerating Barack Obama and the corporate-imperial Democrats from the radical Left last October).

+24. “Railing against ‘Trumpism-fascism’ gives a free pass to the terrible neoliberal Democrats, so you should stop talking about ‘Trump’s fascism.’” No, it depends on who is doing the “railing.” Denouncing Trumpism-fascism only does that when it is done by people who give a free pass to the neoliberal Democrats. When a radical Leftist like the present writer “railed” (a word choice meant to make serious observation seem unhinged) against Trumpism-fascism, they did so with no love for the dismal corporate and imperial Democrats. Numerous anti-Trump leftists (present writer included) find the Democrats centrally responsible for the rise of Trumpism-fascism – appeasers and enablers of the fascist disease. (See my book Hollow Resistance, written by an antifascist and Marxist Trump critic who has never held back on the corporate, imperialist, white-supremacist, patriarchal, and eco-cidal Democrats.).

+25. “You have Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)!” Anti-Trumpism-fascism activists often got accused of this “hysterical” mental health malady not just by right-wingers but also by oddly Trump-friendly “leftists.” It was a commonly unsupported accusation. “TDS” certainly happened in the mainstream media, which became passionately and commercially fixated on Trump’s every action and tweet. But when hurled at serious Left anti-fascists, the charge of “TDS” was both a bullying smear and incorrect. Those antifascists saw Trump as the reflection and agent of a fascistic movement that had been germinating in the U.S. for many decades and that promised to live beyond Trump’s removal from power. It’s a shame more Germans didn’t develop “Hitler Derangement Syndrome” in the mid-1930s.

+26. “Trump never said he was a fascist and has in fact accused his enemies of being fascists.” So what? Murderers tend not to describe themselves as murderers while trying to murder people. Racists don’t typically identify themselves as racists. Sexists don’t commonly out themselves as sexists. “Fascism” is a very bad word in American (and global) political discourse thanks to the world’s experience with the Third Reich and its Axis allies in the 1930s and 1940s (50 million people died during the global war against fascism, 1939-45), so it is hardly surprising that Trump would not openly identify as a fascist or that Trump would absurdly call Black Lives Matter activists and Portland antifascists “fascists.”

+27. “Leftists and liberals call every political tendency and authority they don’t like ‘fascist.’ When everything is fascist, nothing is fascist.” Insofar as this alleged habit exists (it likely does in some circles), it does not apply to the serious anti-fascist thinkers and activists of the Trump years. Refuse Fascism, for example, was rigorously specific about precisely how and why Trump and Trumpism were/are fascist.

+28. “All the Democrats and their corporate media allies at the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC etc. called Trump and his backers ‘fascists’ from the start. That ought to tell you something about how wrongheaded it was/is to consider Trump a fascist!” Incorrect. If the “liberal media” had done that, it would have shown that they get some things right (as they sometimes do for their own reasons, which are the not the same as our reasons on the Left). But that didn’t happen. The corporate non-FOX media have been remarkably disinclined to identify Trump and Trumpism as fascist. Empirical research on mainstream corporate media content during the Trump years will show that American media has been extremely reluctant to see Trump and Trumpism as fascist. (It has been surprisingly hesitant even to use the words “authoritarian” and “authoritarianism” to describe Trump and Trumpism.) The “liberal media” has preferred to run instead with the deceptively democratic-sounding terms “populism” and “populist,” idiotically merging Trump’s hard-right neofascism with the leftish social-democratic progressivism of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It has also habitually and misleadingly described Trump and his backers as “conservative” – a strange term for a wannabe dictator who spent much of his presidency holding mass rallies fomenting racial hatred and political violence and who (as predicted and warned by many, including people from his inner circle and administration) tried to subvert a bourgeois- “democratic” election last year.

+29. “We must stand with Trump and his right-wing backers against censorship and repression in the wake of the January 6th Attack on the Capitol. The repression and censorship of Trump and Trumpists will blow back and harm progressives and the Left.” This might not sound like fascism denial, but it is. Nazis and their 21st Century equivalents must always be crushed and marginalized. Fascism is a malignant tumor that cannot be allowed to grow. It is perfectly appropriate for leftists to collaborate with non-fascist liberal and moderate elites in trying to cut out this cancerous, life-threatening tumor from the body politic. Wanting the fascist monster Trump, his Capitol rioters, the Proud Boys and Three Percenters et al. to go free and have full access to giant megaphones like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Parler is to fail to understand these supposed victims of repression and “cancel culture” as lethal neo-Confederate fascists who would like to re-institute Black slavery and replace bourgeois democracy with an authoritarian ethno-state. Do leftists seriously think they are incapable of distinguishing themselves from neo-Nazis and other fascists in making their own case against repression and censorship? It has been depressing to see and hear numerous “leftists” who couldn’t bother to protest a fascist United States president get more concerned about the malignant lunatic Trump’s access to Twitter than they were about his access to the nuclear codes.

+30. “Trump wasn’t/isn’t a fascist because he increased his percentage support from Black and LatinX voters between 2016 and 2020” I am not making this up. This argument was actually advanced – along with many of the other moronic denialist narratives criticized in Flavors 1 to 29 (including the false claims that to observe Trump’s fascism was to distract from the horrors of capitalism, that Trump’s crimes and fascism were mainly just “symbolic and rhetorical,” and that Trump stood down from military imperialism) – in Samuel Moyn’s January 19th Nation essay titled “Allegations of Fascism Distract from the Real Danger.” The Yale law and history professor Moyn is yet another (see Part 1 of this essay) 20th Century historian masquerading as a contemporary political and neofascism expert. In his Nation piece, Moyn pontificated as follows:

“The same system that often rendered Trump harmless continues to fail most Americans. The most graphic proof of this lies in the latest election returns, which embarrasses the fascism paradigm. The most shocking thing about them is that, after four years of de-legitimation, Trump increased his support among the presumed victims of fascism, while the Democratic Party faltered. Biden broke through, thanks to the wealthy and powerful. The state where I live, Connecticut, is among the most unequal, with some of the country’s worst poverty. Biden fared worse among urban workers, including Blacks and Hispanics in my city of New Haven, than earlier Democrats—but far, far better among the wealthy denizens of Greenwich and Westport” (emphasis added).

Beyond the almost unfathomable idiocy of (a) thinking that the super-liberal state and city where one lives are proxies for the entire nation (Connecticut is home to 3.6 million people, 130,000 of whom live in New Haven), (b) calling Black and LatinX people merely “presumed victims” of Trumpism-fascism, and (c) thinking it “embarrass[es] the fascism paradigm” that some wealthy people in liberal Connecticut voted for Biden in 2020 (how so?), Moyn needs to be badly embarrassed by his statement regarding ethnocultural voting patterns in 2016 and 2020. In 2020, Black voters went 87% for Biden, similar to their 88% vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. LatinX voters chose Biden over the “often harmless” (Moyn) Trump 65-32%, similar to their 65-29% break for Mrs. Clinton.

+31 “Trump’s open white supremacism was preferable to the Democrats’ more cloaked white supremacism because the former produces mass protest while the latter puts the people to sleep and keeps them off the streets.” This is something I have heard from numerous Trumpenleft keyboard warriors even after the openly fascist Capital Riot of January 6th. It is richly ironic. There was a fascist in the White House for four years and the makers of this claim not only refused but actively opposed and mocked the advocacy of mass resistance to him as complicity with the Democratic Party and the capitalist-imperialist system. Now that a Democrat holds the White House, they argue that it would have been better to have a second Trump term because an open white supremacist president is what “puts people in the streets.”

This is bad faith and/or stupidity on steroids. After Trump has left office, Trumpenleftists claim to be what is known on the left as “accelerationists” –radicals who want the system to become more oppressive to spark popular resistance and even revolution. But while an actual fascist, Trump, was in the White House, Trumpenleftists were de-accelerants, deriding anti-Trump protest as complicity with the other, supposedly also “fascist,” major party.

Historically speaking, the claim that right-white Republican presidents push more people into the streets and fuel more popular and progressive social movement activism and radicalism than do supposedly sleep-inducing Democratic presidents is false. If anything, the opposite is the case. The systemic nature of our difficulties and the limits of American major party electoral politics as the supposed solution become more evident and transparent when Democrats hold nominal power. This is part of the dynamic behind the rise of the New Left and poor people’s movements during the 1960s, the rise of the anti-nuclear power movement during the late 1970s, the rise of the global justice movement in the late 1990s, and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement under Barack Obama. The Democrats are best able to deceptively pose as something they aren’t — a popular opposition party — when they are out of office. They are most effectively exposed as captive to concentrated wealth and empire when they hold nominal power and the limits of the change that can be accomplished by voting them back into power are made clear. The realization can lead people into the streets, the public squares, progressive social movements, and radical thinking.

At the same time, and this is no small matter, the Left, such as it is, has more breathing space and freedom to advance its ideas and build its organizations when the most powerful office in the world isn’t occupied by a fascist maniac who rails constantly against the supposed grave dangers posed to the glorious nation by the “radical Left,” falsely conflated with the corporate Democrats. Imagine that!

American Racial Fascism

A final reflection is necessary in response to anti-antifascism flavor #s 1 through 8 and 11. I strongly recommend the cultural theorist Alberto Toscano’s brilliant October 28, 2020 Boston Review essay “The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism.” Toscano challenges readers to move “talk of [American] fascism” off the familiar track of “asking whether present phenomena are analogous to those familiar from interwar European dictatorships.” Toscano reminds us that Black American radicals have long identified “a distinctly American” form of fascism understood as “a continuation of colonial dispossessions and slavery” and of “the overthrow of Reconstruction,” which “enacted a ‘racial fascism’ that long predated Hitlerism in its use of racial terror, conscription of poor whites, and manipulation of (to quote the famous definition of fascism by Georgi Dimitrov) ‘the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist sector of finance capital.’” This longtime pre-Mussolini/-Hitler U.S. “racial fascism” hatched the bloody, noose-haunted “slavery by another name” Jim Crow South, the urban Black ghetto, Sundown Towns across America, and racial pogroms in East St. Louis (1917), Chicago (1919), Tulsa (1922) and elsewhere. It currently takes form in the globally unmatched U.S. racist mass incarceration system, a critical arm of the counter- and anti-revolutionary white Amerikaner response to the Black and brown “insurgencies of the 1960s and early 1970s.” As Toscano notes, Black radicals like George Jackson and Angela Davis reasonably saw American fascism not merely by comparison with past “European exemplars” but rather “from within a prison-judicial system that could [can] accurately be described as a racial state of terror.” This enduring American “racial fascism” has proven especially sinister and intractable because it has developed alongside yet largely hidden, rendered invisible, within the sinews of outward “liberal democracy.” “For those [Americans] racially cast outside liberal democracy system of rights,” the antifascist scholars Bill Mullen and Christopher Vials write, “the word ‘fascism’ does not always conjure up a distant and alien social order.” The quote from George Jackson placed as the epigraph to the present essay says it all. Half a century after Jackson wrote it, it offers a powerful retort to those who, like VOX’s Dylan Matthews, can only grasp fascism as “an analogy to a specific moment in European history.” [6]

Endnotes

1. Quoted in Alberto Toscano, “The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism,” Boston Review, October 28, 2020. “Recent debates,” Toscano write, “have centered on whether it’s appropriate to compare Trump to European fascists. But radical Black thinkers have long argued that racial slavery created its own unique form of American fascism.”

2. Readers interested in a precise “taxonomy” of what I mean by “fascism” may find it useful to review my previous CounterPunch essay “Thirty-One Flavors of Fascism.”

3. For a brief description of “the Trumpenleft” and its beliefs see the last sub-section of my January 15th 2021 CounterPunch essay “Why There was No People’s Rebellion Against a Fascist U.S. President: Nine Reasons.”

4. David Norman Smith and Eric Hanley, “The Anger Games: Who Voted for Trump and Why,” Critical Sociology (March 2018): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0896920517740615

5/5A. The 2020 Republican Party didn’t even bother to have a policy platform in 2020! Behold these two key resolutions at the Republifascists’ 2020 convention: “RESOLVED, That the Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention…RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” What did the GOP stand for? The white nationalist cult of Trump. How fascistic was that?

6. The juvenile Caucasian Dylan Matthews (a Harvard political science graduate and former Washington Post blogger) is perhaps more personally responsible for advancing “sophisticated” and “higher educational” Trumpism-fascism denialism than any single individual in the “liberal media.” He spent considerable time in 2020 getting older (often retired) white male historians (including Robert Paxton, Roger Griffin, and the truly insufferable Stanley Payne) of 20th Century European fascism to tell him why Trump and Trumpism aren’t fascist and then reporting his findings in a series of articles on why “the F-word” didn’t apply to Trump era America. He had the chutzpah to persevere in this nauseating endeavor even after the openly fascist Trumpenvolk Attack on the Capitol. Going through and countering Matthews and his informants’ denial narratives and those of numerous other “higher educators” (Corey Robin, Richard Evans, and others) has been a highly unpleasant experience akin to jumping head-first into a giant bucket of steamy human excrement.

Paul Street’s new book is The Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and Politics of Appeasement.

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