Many thousands of words have been written and many more will now be written by the liberal intelligentsia on trying to prove that the 45th President of the United States of America is a fascist. Among the first to leap out of the starting blocks after the triumph of Trump was the hyper-trendy historian Simon Schama who tweeted at dawn on Wednesday to say: 'This calamity for democracy will of course hearten fascists all over the world'.
The trouble is: Trump is not a fascist, let alone a nazi. Even calling him Donald Duck would be more accurate than calling him Donald Duce. The main reason that Trump is, in fact, not a fascist is the most embarrassing of all (at least for the left that is): Trump is not left-wing. For when left-wingers call hate figures 'fascists' nearly always they themselves have much more in common with fascism than their hate figures do. If this were not so scary – similar to branding a woman a 'witch' in 16th Century – it would be hilarious.
To take a conveniently forgotten example: the 1939 alliance between fascism (Germany) and communism (Russia), against capitalism (Britain and France) was far more natural than the subsequent alliance between capitalism (America and Britain) and communism (Russia) against fascism (Germany). But democracy was not the only enemy the fascist and communist dictatorships had in common.
Few people even seem to know this any more, but Benito Mussolini, who invented fascism in 1919 after the First World War, was a revolutionary socialist (what communists used to be called). He was therefore an international socialist who believed in the abolition of nations and world revolution. But the First World War forced him (and many other socialists) to recognise a fundamental point about human nature: people are more loyal to their country than their class. The key event was the decision, in 1914 by the French socialists, to support France against Germany in the war and then by the German socialists to support Germany against France. This convinced Mussolini – who was editor of his party’s daily newspaper Avanti! – that the only path to socialist revolution was by means of national not international socialism. The Italian Socialist Party, which unlike its French and German counterparts supported neutrality, did not agree and expelled him. So he launched his own pro-war socialist newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia, which was part-financed by the French Socialist party. And then, once the war was over, he founded fascism as an alternative left-wing revolutionary movement.
Fascism replaced the class war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie with a class war between producers (of whatever class) and parasites (of whatever class). It did not aim to abolish private ownership of the means of production but instead establish the corporate state – the so-called 'Third Way' between communism and capitalism – with each sector of the economy organised in corporations run by the state. Someone like Marine Le Pen in France who is big on the big state and lots of welfare (at least for the French) does have fascism in her DNA. But just what Trump has in common with any of this is beyond me.
After all, it was Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill, and his soul-mate, Tony Blair, who most recently dusted down the very same phrase – the 'Third Way' - to define their vision of public-private partnerships as the way to economic salvation. Unlike Hillary, the Donald would definitely run a mile from any 'Third Way' economic solution approved by Bill, let alone the corporate state alla Benito. He sells himself as anti-state. He spits out the word 'Washington' as if it is the Devil. Hillary is the one who is pro-state.
Fascism placed the state on a pedestal and believed in government by dictatorship - not by democracy. But not even the Guardian – surely – believes that Trump aims to install a dictatorship, does it? Indeed, right now, it is the liberal intelligentsia who seem much more prone than Trump to the siren calls of dictatorship as they question democracy itself if it gives power to people like him.
Fascism aimed for total control of the citizen, especially of their mind. The closest America (and the rest of us) gets to this today is political correctness which Hillary supports and the Donald despises. Fascism was nationalistic which usually, though not necessarily, goes hand-in-hand with aggressive expansionism abroad. And yes, fascism was aggressively expansionist. But the Donald is much less nationalistic than Hillary. He is the isolationist; she the interventionist.
Ah, they bleat, but he’s a nationalist at home. Come again? What they mean here is that he’s a racist, and that means that he’s a fascist. I shall get lynched for pointing this out but another thing that people seem not to know about fascism (at least Italian fascism) is that it was no more, nor less, racist than any other political creed in the 1920s and 1930s.
The big exception was its German off-spring: National Socialism. The Nazis were most definitely and always anti-Semitic. Italian fascism was not. Mussolini’s main mistress until the early 1930s, Margherita Sarfatti, for example, was Jewish and the majority of Italy’s 50,000 Jews were fascists. Italian fascism became anti-Semitic – and on religious not racial grounds - only after Mussolini’s fatal alliance with Hitler in the late 1930s.
But anyway 'The Donald' has said nasty stuff about Mexicans and Muslims and here he parts company with the Duce for a different reason: Mussolini would have been dead keen on Mexicans on the grounds that they were Latinos. And he did not mind Muslims much either per se - especially when they opposed British and French colonial power.
George Orwell, a socialist who hated communism, drew an important distinction between patriotism and nationalism. A patriot is someone who wants to defends his country, its culture and way of life - wrote Orwell - whereas a nationalist is someone who wants to impose his country, culture and way of life. Patriotism is defensive, nationalism offensive. Trump is a patriot, I reckon, not a nationalist. And the Donald ain’t no Duce.
Nicholas Farrell is the author of 'Mussolini: A New Life'
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