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]

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

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