Is Donald Trump a Fascist? (Hint: It’s the Situation that Makes the Man)

Trump and Mussolini. Would Trump follow in Mussolini's footsteps?

Trump and Mussolini.
Would Trump follow in Mussolini’s footsteps?

Is Donald Trump a fascist?

That’s what’s being said, even in an article in Newsweek back in July. And there are the numerous stories of his having opponents roughed up at his rallies, not to mention his failure to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke. Then there are the crowds themselves at his rallies, undoubtedly many of whom are outright racists and some are members of the KKK and similar groups.

But still, does this make him a fascist?

An article in today’s (3/11/2016) Wall St. Journal makes some points about him and Ronald Reagan. It was said when Reagan was first elected that he would order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, leading to a nuclear holocaust. Edward Luttwak, the author of the article, points out that Reagan was a member of or associated with the John Birch Society, whose slogan was “better dead than red.” Luttwak writes: “Mr. Trump irritates many with his vulgarities but Reagan was insistently depicted as a threat to human survival, so that most of the columnists and editorial writers of the quality press reluctantly called for Jimmy Carter’s re-election, despite the clamorous failures of his hopelessly irresolute administration. In Europe there was no reluctance. In London, Paris and Bonn, then the capital of West Germany, the re-election of Jimmy Carter was seen as a necessity to keep the bomb-thrower Reagan out of the White House, and well away from the nuclear button.” 

But there was no nuclear holocaust. What happened?

The capitalist institutions happened, not the least of which was the US military. Supposedly the president controls the military, but the control – or influence – works both ways. No president operates in a vacuum; he or she must operate within the institutions of the government that the capitalist class sets up. (One case where a president decided to go against one of the main state institutions – the CIA – had a very particular result. That was the case of JFK.) In fact, the military is already warning Trump, telling him that they will not carry out “illegal” orders.

So, Trump may have impulses similar to Mussolini. And some among his followers may be US-style fascists. But there’s a fundamental difference between the US of 2016 and Italy or Germany of the 1930s: US society is not even close to being in the sort of crisis that those countries were in in those decades. The US capitalist class can still continue to rule in the old ways. Yes, Trump is not a pleasant sight. And, yes, he serves as a warning for what can come to pass as a real, serious crisis develops. And, yes, some wings of the capitalist class (such as the Koch brothers) may be behind him. But we aren’t in an all-out crisis yet. And that means that as president, Trump will not institute fascism. (We can hear, already, the calls to vote for Clinton to keep the fascist Trump out of the White House, by the way.) And if Trump really surpasses the boundaries that the main bulk of the capitalist class wants, and if they cannot get him in check, then they will apply a JFK solution.

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