It’s a mark of the way that the term “fascist” has been abused as a contentless perjorative that Walter Hudson felt compelled to title his essay on PJ Media “No, Seriously, Trump Is a Fascist”:
Right now, we have an actual fascist running for president of the United States, and he seems poised to secure the Republican nomination. Donald Trump is a fascist, not in a vague rhetorical sense, but according to the father of fascism’s own definition. Benito Mussolini coined the term and defined it as complete subjugation of the individual to the state. He wrote:
The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State . . .
The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone. . . .
Conservative author Matt Walsh, known for his provocative commentary in defense of principle, notes that Trump is perhaps the first serious contender for president of the United States who campaigns openly as a tyrant. Other presidents may have exhibited tyranny to one degree or another, but none have been as unbridled as Trump promises to be. . . .
Donald Trump is not Adolf Hilter, but both are fascists. Each believes that the individual should be subordinated entirely to the state under the whim of an unbridled leader. That’s the relevant comparison, and one which should inform a voter’s decision.
He’s right, but there’s actually more to be said. To understand this, we need to recognize that fascism and Nazism are different beasts. They are obviously compatible rather than contradictory, but they are fundamentally different concepts. Fascism is a totalitarian political/economic philosophy which is a product of the modern age. Thomas Sowell’s succinct summary of the differing economic approaches of socialism and fascism (which I’ve noted before) is useful here:
Socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. Fascists believed in government control of privately owned businesses.
Sowell goes on to point out that economically, the Obama Administration has clearly operated in a fascist key–but fascism does not automatically mean Nazism, and Obama is not a Nazi in any respect. In fact, he’s the exact opposite.
This is because Nazism isn’t a political philosophy, it’s a pagan atavism. It’s a rebirth of the ancient worship of deities like Ba’al, Ishtar, and Molech, which was made possible by modern totalitarianism. R. R. Reno’s observations are instructive:
Communism was a project that justified itself by appealing to higher ideals. Nazism, by contrast, reached downward. It mined the power of the primitive: blood and soil. . . .
Unlike communism, Nazism remains a living danger. The dark powers below are alive, always ready to burst into the open.
The historian John Lukacs has argued that Nazism, not communism, was the great and paradigmatic movement of the twentieth century. Hitler was able to transform almost overnight a demoralized nation of 70 million into a world-dominating power. It tapped into something so powerful that it took the gathered might of America, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union to defeat it.
Unlike communism, which came to be led by cynical men who betrayed its central tenets, Nazism was capable of inspiring heartfelt loyalty. George Orwell loathed National Socialism, but he could not write a parody of it as he did of communism in Animal Farm. Unlike ideals of equality and the dictatorship of the workers, the Nazi belief in power and the right of the strong to dominate the weak can be implemented without contradiction.
Modernity makes Nazism a real possibility for us. We champion reason, but reason turns out to be more destructive than creative. It’s able to refute more easily than prove, to critique more readily than construct. As a result, modernity has tended to tear down the old order, but provides little in the way of replacement. The upshot is a vacuum. Nazism promised to fill it by conjuring deep passions and emotions. It appealed to German nationalism, as many have observed. But the movement also tapped into primal instincts. Blood and sacrifice were recurring themes, along with affirmation of the purity of nature, which needs to be guarded, and the vitality of life, which needs to be affirmed against the enervating, “cosmopolitan” powers of modernity. Nazism may have required discipline, but it was the opposite of Puritanism. It celebrated both violence and eroticism, direct links to primordial human instincts.
In the light of this, consider this comment from Hudson:
American tyranny has always been piecemeal, the product of pitting one group against another, promising spoils while retaining a sense of freedom for a favored constituency. Trump promises only “greatness,” a vague concept defined by bombast and brute force.
Now consider this, from Adolf Hitler’s proclamation to the German people on February 1, 1933, after being given power by Paul von Hindenburg:
The inheritance which has fallen to us is a terrible one. The task with which we are faced is the hardest which has fallen to German statesmen within the memory of man. But we are all filled with unbounded confidence for we believe in our people and their imperishable virtues. Every class and every individual must help us to found the new Reich.
The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life. . . .
Turbulent instincts must be replaced by a national discipline as the guiding principle of our national life. All those institutions which are the strongholds of the energy and vitality of our nation will be taken under the special care of the Government.
I don’t believe Hitler ever used any variation of the slogan “Make Germany Great,” but he did make “Germany awake!” a refrain in his speeches, which is to much the same point. The tonal similarities between Hitler’s oratory and Trump’s speeches are striking, and like Hitler, Trump is a corrupting influence on the body politic.
Am I saying that Donald Trump is a Nazi in Republican clothing? No, that goes beyond the evidence. I am saying that he’s campaigning as a Nazi—that his appeals to the electorate come straight out of Hitler’s songbook. Given that, I don’t think it matters whether it’s fair to call Trump a Nazi or not, because his rhetoric justifies his preferred modus operandi. Walter Hudson’s concern is dead right:
What do you think Trump will do, given power and the slightest provocation? This is a guy who defines other people by their personal allegiance to him. Question the leader at your peril.
Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.
Photo © 2013 Gage Skidmore. License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.