DAVID BARSAMIAN: What we are facing is often described as unprecedented—a pandemic, climate catastrophe and, always lurking off center stage, nuclear annihilation. Three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
NOAM CHOMSKY: I can add a fourth: the impending destruction of what remains of American democracy and the shift of the United States toward a deeply authoritarian, also proto-fascist, state, when the Republicans come back into office, which looks likely. So that’s four horses.
The Nation, October 11, 2022
The return of fascism: as in the 1930s, a bankrupt liberalism, grotesque social inequality and declining living standards are empowering fascist movements in Europe and the U.S.
Chris Hedges, September 24, 2022
One of the more darkly amusing criticisms I got from those I labelled the Trumpenleft years ago accused myself and others with the organization Refuse Fascism (on whose editorial board I sit) of “being in bed with the corporate Democrats” because of our supposedly “over the top” and “wolf-crying” description of Trump, his base, Trumpism, and the Trump Republican Party as fascist.
A Fascist in the White House, 2017-21
“Over the top?” “Crying Wolf?” Completed in the early spring of 2021, my latest book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberal, and the Truming of America details precisely how the Trump presidency and the broader Trump phenomenon exhibited each of the following core and overlapping characteristics of the political pathology that is fascism between 2015 and the January 6th Capitol Riot :
+ Conspiratorial blaming of alleged tragic national decline on purported liberal and left globalist elites said to be promoting inferior, lazy, and criminal races over virtuous, hard-working white heartland/fatherland folk who need to take their country back to make it “great again.”
+ Virulent authoritarianism: contempt for previously “normal” bourgeois electoral “democracy” and parliamentarianism combined with promotion of the rule of force and personality over the rule of law.
+ “Them and us”: the dehumanizing demonization and Othering of racial, ethnic, and sexual enemies who supposed need to be defeated, disciplined, humiliated, and even removed or eliminaated for the suffering white Nation to regain its lost greatness.
+ Promotion of traditional social hierarchy linked to Social Darwinian notions of “survival of the fittest” and to a hyper-masculinist worship of strength and victory.
+ The embrace of political eliminationism: the use of shame, terror, and violence to obliterate political enemies.
+Brazen lawlessness in the name of law and order.
+Cults of divine, messianic, and charismatic personality surrounding a maximalist and almost always male Leader.
+Rejection of previously normative civility, decency, respect, and tolerance for difference.
+ The open embrace of cruelty.
+ Personalized and politicized glorification of the military, hyper-militarism, and bellicose nationalism
+ Savage unreality: relentless lies, falsification, and magical thinking combined with a nonstop propaganda war on truth, science, independent media, intellectuals, and diversity of thought.
+ Obsessive fear and hatred of socialism, Marxism, communism and the “radical Left” combined with the recurrent false conflation of conservative, moderate, and liberal enemies with left radicalism.
+ Fake populism combined with service to the capitalist rich and harm to the poor and working classes.
+ An obsession with national borders linked to raciallized sexual anxiety and the claim that globalist elites are stabbing the once great Nation in the back by “replacing” virtuous white homeland folk with swarthy, dangerous, and inferior Others.
+ Fear and demonization of racially, sexually, culturally, and intellectually polyglot cities understood as malignant threats to the racial and moral purity of the rural and small-town heartland, home to the noble racial stock behind the past and potentially regained greatness of the Nation.
+ Militant patriarchy upholding women’s “traditional” roles and subordination.
The Donald “Chosen One” Trump administration and its supporters checked all the boxes (read the first three chapters of This Happened Here for a detailed record of the many ways in which this was trye)
Any doubts about the Amerikaner fascism at the heart of Trump and Trumpism should have been removed on January 6th 2021 when Donald “Take Down the Metal Detectors Cuz the Guys with the AR-15s Don’t Want to Hurt Me” Trump and his inner circle of deranged putschists (including openly fascist Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and Oath Keepers and numeous other white guys carrying Confederate flags) tried to …well, overthrow previously normative bourgeois electoral democracy and establish the orange-hued reptile as a de facto dictator atop world history’s powerful and dangerous nation.
Nothing “Semi-” About It
Here we are nearly six years out from Donald “I Alone Can Fix It” Trump’s 2016 election, twenty-one months from Trump’s attempted Capitol Hall Putsch, and seven weeks after even the longtime conservative “reach across the aisle” Democrat Joe Biden felt compelled to tell some Democratic donors in Maryland that the “Republican” party had been taken over by something “like semi-fascism.”
Terrorizing Archivists, School Nurses, Poll Workers, and Librarians
There’s nothing “semi-” or (apologies to Chomsky) “proto-” about it. Members of the Republi-fascist/Amerikaner base now regularly harass, hound, target, dox, troll, and otherwise threaten teachers, nurses, doctors, children’s hospitals, school officials, school board members, elected officials, election officials, public health workers, poll workers, librarians, library board members, judges, district attorneys, rabbis, epidemiologists, immunologists, archivists, and other professional and public workers, including even law enforcement officers. Four in ten “Republicans” think political violence is legitimate if necessary to “protect America” from the supposedly “radical Left” (try corporate and imperialist) Democrats.
Talk of Civil War and White Replacement
At a recent Hate Rally rally in Michigan, Trump’s fellow demented QAnon fan Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Rf-GA) said that “Democrats want Republicans dead,” adding that “Joe Biden has declared every freedom-loving American an enemy of the state.” That’s classic far-right and “paranoid style” rhetoric on steroids.
Last August, Frau Taylor Green referred in a social media post to the FBI’s belated and warranted search of Trump’s Mar a Lago estate – in search of classified government documents that Trump feloniously stole and failed to return – as “the type of thing that happens in countries during civil war.” The openly fascistic lunatic Taylor Greene has nearly 900,000 follows between Facebook and Telegram.
The repellent Republifascst Senator Ted Cruz (Rf-TX) recently told The Texas Tribune that immigration legislation was unlikely because it would cause a “political civil war.” This was consistent with his November 2021 call for Texas to secede “if Democrats destroy the country.”
Michael Flynn, the fascist January 6th coup plotter who briefly served as Trump’s national security advisor (and who Trump pardoned for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts) recently told a Republican fundraiser that US state governors can and should “declare war” on the federal government.
The New York Times reports that right-wing social media references to and calls for “civil war” (long standard in far-right online spaces) have skyrocketed over the last two months. The FBI’s so-called raid on Mar a Lago and Biden’s reference to “MAGA Republicans” as a “like semi-fascis[t]” threat to American democracy has set off a firestorem of rage on the far-right dark web. Neofascist “cival [sic] war” prattle has gone viral there. It shows no signs of abating as the mid-term elections draw nearer. According to the Times:
“Social media platforms are rife with groups and boards dedicated to discussions of civil war. One, on Gab, describes itself as a place for ‘action reports,’ ‘combat vids’ and reports of people killed in action in ‘the civil war that is also looking to be a 2nd American Revolution.’ In August, a single tweet stating ‘I think civil war has just been declared’ managed to reach over 17 million profiles despite coming from an account with under 14,000 followers…”
Republi-fascist politicos have been advancing white supremacist and historically fascist “great replacement theory,” according to which a globalist conspiracy of Jewish elites is trying to replace supposedly virtuous, superior, and hard-working white people and culture – the real soul of the once great (but soon to be redeemed) nation in fascist thought – with allegedly lazy, inferior, and criminal non-white immigrants. The openly demented language-butchering and woman-abusing Trumpist Herschel Walker is sickeningly close to the eloquent liberal Raphael Warnock in polling for the critical US Senate race in Georgia. We have learned that the fascist Trump confidant and January 6th coup plotter Roger Stone said this to his Proud Boys acolytes after the 2020 presidential election and before the January 6th Capitol Riot: “fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence.”
Fascist-Nativist “Political Stunts”
Two Republi-fascist governors (Texas’s Greg Abbott and Arizona’s Doug Ducey) have for many weeks been tricking and packing Latin American asylum-seekers onto buses and contemptuously dumping these desperate migrants like human garbage in Washington DC, Chicago, and New York City. Florida’s “mini-Trump,” the Mussolini-mimicking governor Ron De Santis has committed much the same sadistic crime with a chartered airplane and a different “enemy” (liberal “sanctuary”) destination – Martha’s Vineyard.
The callous heartlessness of these vicious nativist “political stunts” (try fascist crimes) is staggering. How far is this despicable conduct from loading demonized Others into boxcars headed for concentration camps?
Dog Whistles Gone Stochastic and Blood Libel in an Armed Madhouse
The biggest immediate threat may be what academic students of right-wing extremism call “stochastic terrorism” — outwardly random violence sparked by “coded language, dog whistles and other subtext” in the rhetoric of Republi-fascist public figures including the expert dog caller Trump. The tangerine-tinted tyrant has shown himself quite skilled when it comes to triggering violence this way. His April 2020 tweet saying “Liberate Michigan!” helped elicit an occupation of the Michigan state capitol by an assault weapon-bearing right-wing mob within two weeks. His call for the neofascist Proud Boys to “Stand Back and Stand By” during a September 2020 presidential debate with Biden helped spark violent Proud Boy rampages in Washington DC after the 2020 election. His Jan. 6, 2021 statement that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” helped fuel the violence at the US Capitol that day. “The statements Trump makes,” the Times notes, “are not overt calls to action, but when you have a huge and devoted following, the chances that one or more people are activated by that are high.”
The threat of both organized and more anarchic “stochastic” far-right violence is grossly amplified by the nation’s tragic marination in a bloody sea of lethal firearms. The United States is home to at least 400 million guns and rifles, more than one per person, including 20 million military-style assault weapons. The Armed American Madhouse’s guns and especially its AR-15-style weapons are very disproportionately concentrated in white male Republican hands, regions, and states.
Going from dog whistle to dog trumpet, Trump now openly identifies with the neo-Nazi blood-libel QAnon cult and joined his fellow white supremacist Lindsey Graham in warning that prosecuting the former president for any of many egregious felonies will lead to large-scale bloodshed in the streets. Trump has decided to fill out his fascist profile more classically with some not-so subtly anti-Semitic posting
QAnon claims that the “Marxist” Democrats are running a global pedophile ring. It calls for Trump’s immediate physical restoration to power and the public televised execution of top Democrats, who QAnoners accuse of drinking children’s blood. These are the beliefs of a wild neo-Nazi cult that has been given a big nod of approval by a former US president who is one of the nation’s two viable political parties’ 2024 presidential frontrunner.
Collapsing Constitutional Rule from Within
Meanwhile, the Republi-fascist agenda is moving ahead through outwardly constitutional means. Fueled by the persistent Big Hitlerian Lie that the 2020 election was stolen – a deception that would make Joseph Goebbels blush and that is backed by seven in ten “Republicans” – the nation’s fiercely rightmost major party is moving not merely to suppress and gerrymander minority votes but to cancel aggregate state-level popular votes in the next presidential election. It has elaborates plan to staff the federal executive and legislative branches with fascist operatives deep into the federal bureaucracy. The Amerikaner Party of White Nationalist and Christian Fascist Revenge (the “Republicans”) already has the Supreme Court and much of the state and federal judiciary. Driven in part by demographic fears of coming white minority status and raking in cash from revanchist dark money billionaires whose power to shape elections is protected by the high Court, they are looking to achieve triple-branch consolidation and never let go.
The Republi-fascist Party has cancelled the Congressional careers of the small number of “Republican” US House members who still believe in “small-r” republican checks and balances and constitutional rule of law. The post-republic “Republicans” are running election-deniers for office in twenty-seven states in this year’s November elections. The Republi-fascist’s roster of Big Lie candidates includes far right activists up for key state-level positions with power over election supervision, counting, and certification (governor, attorney general, secretary of state) in key contested states. A fascist Oath Keeper, Mark Finchem, is in place to become Secretary of State in the critical swing state of Arizona. A malevolent Christian white nationalist who went to Washington DC to “Stop the Steal” on January 6th, Doug Mastriano, is on the Republican ticket for governor in the big and contested state of Pennsylvania.
The Trump-crafted Supreme Court is poised to build on its last arch-reactionary session (highlighted by the vicious sexist reversal of women’s half-century constitutional right to an abortion) by: further crippling the Voting Rights Act (already on its last legs thanks to previous right-wing Court rulings); taking more power away from the Environmental Protection Agency (whose right to regulate carbon emissions the miliantly anti-democratic high Trump Court recklessly and insanely cancelled last June); signing off (in More v. Harper) on red state legislatures’ capacity to nullify popular votes (under the reactionary “independent state legislature theory”) in the next presidential election.
The nine public hearings in which the US House January 6th committee has this year skillfully demonstrated Trump’s attempts to subvert and cancel the 2020 presidential election have done little to impact the nation’s politics. False assertion and serial Hitlerian deceit trump evidence in the nation’s perilously right-tilted Minority Rule political system. The (far-) rightmost of the two major parties stands poised to win back at least the House of Representatives and to place right-wing election deniers in key positions enabling the “far-right” to (with likely advance approval from the Christian Fascist Supreme Court that is 33% Trump appointed-for-life) steal the 2024 presidential election for “strongman” Trump (or for Florida’s mini-Mussolini Ron DeSantis or some other fashed-up “strongman”). The openly demented language-butchering and woman-abusing Trumpist Herschel Walker is sickeningly close to the eloquent liberal Raphael Warnock in polling for the critical US Senate race in Georgia.
So, please, Trumpenlefties do tell me more about how my early sense of Trump and his backers as fascist was “over the top” and “crying wolf.”
In Bed with the Dems? Seriously?
The charge of being friendly to the corporate imperialist Democrats is equally absurd, Speaking for myself, it is hard to imagine a single radical Left writer and speaker to whom the charge of Left surrender to the Democrats has less applicability. My relentless and detailed Marxist critiques of Barack Obama and the Obama phenomenon produced no less than three books, an anti-Obamanist trilogy covering the before, during, and after of the neoliberal Obama presidency: Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Routledge, 2008), The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Routledge, 2010), and Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement (CounterPunch, 2020). My radical assault on Obama and Obamanism goes back to late July of 2004, when I penned a biting assessment of the nationally narcissistic capitalist-imperialism at the heart of Obama’s instantly famous, career-making speech to the Democratic National Convention in Boston (see my “Keynote Reflections” here).
The first of my three Obama volumes predicted the dismallly neoliberal-corporatist and imperial trajectory of the Occupy-crushing, Citigroup-protecting, and drone-bombing Obama presidency. It warned among other things that the nation’s 44th president would open the door to a lethal right-wing ascendancy posing as “populist.” (imagine that)!. Prior to that book, I wrote dozens of reasoned radical attacks on the fake-progressive and neo-Clintonite imperialist Obama at Black Agenda Report, ZNet, and Z Magazine. In addition, my 2014 book The Rule: The 1% v. Democracy placed the Democratic Party’s captivity and allegiance to concentrated wealth and power at the heart of a wide-ranging analysis of on how the U.S. ruling class disastrously rules.
So, please, Trumpenlefties, tell me again how I’ve been “in bed with the Democrats.”
But enough about me. The same goes for Refuse Fascism (RF), whose founders were longstanding revolutionary-communist critics of the Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama presidencies and of the capitalist-imperialist Democratic Party more broadly. From Trump’s election on, RF portrayed the Dems as deeply complicit in the rise and power of the Republi-fascist Party. RF ripped the nation’s not-so leftmost major party for failing to properly name the fascist beast and for refusing to undertake anything remotely like the popular resistance required to slay the monster. RF consistently criticized the bourgeois-Democratic Party of passive resistance for its conservative bourgeois-electoralist enablement of the Republi-fascists. It called from the start for Trump’s removal through popular rebellion – and end to business as usual – in the streets and public squares. It called for a militant mass politics beneath and beyond the savagely time-staggered big money-major media-major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are disastrously sold to the masses as the only politics that matters — and that take place within the killing confines of a Minority Rule party and elections system tilted far to the right of majority opinion.
RF called for mass protests not just to get rid of Trump but to set new terms in US-American political life. New terms set by popular anger and mobilization. New terms that would discipline not only the rightmost major party but also the dismal dollar-drenched Democrats. New terms that would point towards a deeper confrontation with the capitalist-imperialist system that gives rise to fascism in the first place.
RF’s call for people to vote out the lethal fascist Trump in the fall of 2020 represented no retreat from a militant commitment to social movement and revolutionary politics in the streets, only a tactical acknowledgement of the need for some breathing space from the relentless pandemicidal madness of Trump and Trumpism atop the powerful US executive branch. RF spent the weeks between Biden’s election and January 6th trying to get Democrats to take seriously the well-telegraphed threat of a Trump coup. “In bed with the Democrats” it was not.
A slightly shorter version of this essay first appeared on The Paul Street Report.
1. For an 18-point breakdown of the Trumpenleft strain (a shockingly real and to me at-first surprisingly widespread thing on what passes for “the left” in the US), see the subsection titled “Trumpenleft Denialism: Eighteen False Narratives” in my book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America, pages 173-181.
2. Last August, MSNBC’s leftish Sunday night host Medhi Hasan held forth as if he was one of a very tiny circle of thinkers able to correctly identify Trump and Trumpism as fascist. He proudly noted having made this identification in the summer of 2020, when Trump was trying to deploy the US military to crush the George Floyd protests. “I’ve been talking about fascism almost nonstop on this network for almost two years now,” Hasan said on show six weeks ago, “since Donald Trump called for troops on American streets to ‘dominate’ Black Lives Matter protests. Since he called on violent racist Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by’ prior to the 2020 presidential election. Since he refused to accept his big loss in that election and helped incite the violent January 6th insurrection. But now I have a little more company,” Hasan said, referencing Joe Biden’s late August 2022 reference to the “MAGA Republicans” as “semi-fascist[s].” Never mind that Refuse Fascism was formed in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election in early November of 2016. Never mind that the present writer and numerous other radical and liberal commentators properly recognized Trump and Trumpism as fascist with empirical and theoretical rigor from the very beginning, well before the summer of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and Kyle Rittenhouse. Never mind that dozens of young Iowa City residents occupied Interstate 80 while chanting “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” three days after Trump’s 2016 electin win. Hasan’s slight is characteristic of mainstream media’s refusal to take seriously radical thinkers who are typically far ahead of that media’s not-so leftmost commentators – people like Hasan and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. The official invisibility imposed on actually radical Left thinkers is why nobody in mainstream and even left-of-mainstream media (i.e., The Nation and Democracy Now!), would pay the slightest attention to my 2007-08 book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, a meticulously researched and richly annotated history and analysis of Barack Obama’s political career and world view that predicted the entire tragic course of the Obama presidency and its terrible aftermath, including the ascendancy of a revanchist far-right “Republican” president posing as “populist.”