Beneath what appears to many to be Donald Trump's farcical campaign for the U.S. presidency lurks a menace that has completely escaped the analysts and the media. Far from being the ranting fool he's depicted to be, Trump – judging from his platform, shows shrewd political astuteness in his use of fascist tactics – those of Hitler and the Nazis in particular.
Both the 1930s depression in Germany and today's economic stagnation in the U.S triggered popular resentment against capitalist wealth and inequality. This bred fiercely antagonistic forces then, as it has now in the U.S. In Germany it was the corporate/fascist alignment against the communists and Social Democrats; in the U.S. it's the corporate/GOP alliance against the liberal/socialist Warren/Sanders bloc.
Sensitive to the conflicting German forces, Hitler co-opted them and wooed the people with ultra-nationalist, pseudo-socialist remedies (the word "Nazi" itself is short for National Socialism). He brought private enterprise under the yoke of government and poured public money into the economy. He ordered the mass production of an inexpensive "People's Car" – the Volkswagen; he constructed autobahns to drive the cars on; and he provided needed employment by establishing a huge war industry. The billionaire capitalist Trump similarly takes on a socialist hue by promising to tax the rich and provide universal health care – a progressive departure from the orthodox corporate policies of his fellow GOP campaigners.
Aggressively nationalistic, Trump, like Hitler, plays to patriotism by inventing foreign enemies. After Germany's humiliating defeat in World War I, Hitler promised to give Germany its deserved prominence in a world dominated by British and French imperialism, against which he rallied popular resentment. Trump with his slogan, "Make America Great Again," would counter Chinese economic power through antiquated protectionist policies, thereby cultivating American workers replaced by Chinese labor. He even promises the impossible: he will reverse the fait accompli of capitalist globalization; prevent American corporations from joining the new world of multinationals; punish those who so attempt; and eliminate offshore tax havens – a step requiring massive international cooperation. In other words, Trump would single-handedly reverse the course of history, turn back the clock and return world capitalism to its 1960 state of American hegemony – the very essence of reactionism!
Trump, like Hitler, is a vicious racist who deflects popular anger over oppressive economic conditions onto minority scapegoats. Hitler blamed the Jews for all social and economic evils as Trump impugns Latino immigrants and Muslims. Trump would deport millions of "illegals" as Hitler rid Germany of Jews.
Hitler and Trump also share a classical chauvinism. Hitler confined all women to childbearing and kitchen duties, while Trump's blatantly sexist remarks and confrontations are regular meat for the mass media. And Trump, like Hitler, buries critical systemic problems under demagoguery and vacuous rants crafted for the gullible, rather than approaching them through rational analysis.
By focusing on the legitimate anger of the people stemming from their depressed economic state, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the only two presidential candidates putting their fingers on the public pulse – which explains their "surprise" popularity in the polls. The crucial difference between them is the diametrically opposite paths each would take in dissipating that anger. Trump, for all his populist concessions to win votes, would take the classical fascist route of enforcing a failed capitalism at the root of popular discontent; Bernie would regulate the economic system to bring needed relief to the people through a more equitable distribution of the wealth, while protecting immigrants rather than making them scapegoats – a classical socialist resolution. So the emergent antipodal positions in the U.S. today – as expressed by Trump and Sanders – exactly replicate those of Germany 85 years ago: autocratic fascism vs. democratic socialism. With his incongruous mop of yellow-bleached hair, Trump even projects a unique and memorable physical image – however ridiculous – as Hitler did with his little moustache and wisp of hair cascading over his forehead.
Beware The Donald. He furtively represents the fascist solution that, in times of capitalist crisis, always rears its head in opposition to progressive possibilities. Tragically, when that solution is implemented, the core problems are never solved and an ill-conceived populism turns viciously against the people themselves. The most recent example of that is the Latin American dictatorships that eventually collapsed under the weight of their own oppression and gave way to new democracies. We already have that democracy. Let's improve it – not jeopardize it with the likes of Trump.
Andrew Torre lives in Landgrove.