Dancing With the Devil: Trump's Politics of Fascist Collaboration

President Donald Trump speaks at the 36th annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 15, 2017. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)President Trump speaks at the 36th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 15, 2017. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

Donald Trump’s election has sparked a heated debate about the past, particularly over whether the Trump administration represents a continuum, if not an echo, of the protean origins of fascism. This is an argument that combines the resources of historical memory with current analyses of the distinctive temper of a new and dangerous historical moment in the United States. For instance, an increasing number of pundits across the ideological spectrum have identified Trump as a fascist or neo-fascist, while resurrecting some of the key messages of an earlier period of fascist politics. On the left/liberal side of politics, this includes writers, such as Chris Hedges, Robert Reich, Cornel West, Drucilla Cornell, Peter Dreier and John Bellamy Foster. Similar arguments have been made on the conservative side by writers, such as Robert Kagan, Jeet Heer, Meg Whitman and Charles Sykes.

Historians of fascism, such as Timothy Snyder and Robert O. Paxton have argued that Trump is not Hitler but that there are sufficient similarities between them to warrant some concerns about surviving elements of a totalitarian past crystalizing into new forms in the United States. Paxton, in particular, argues that the Trump regime is closer to a plutocracy than to fascism. But, I think Paxton overplays the differences between fascism and Trump’s style of authoritarianism, particularly underemphasizing Trump’s ultra-nationalism, militarism and his embrace of the neoliberal state which does not suggest the rule of free-market capitalism but a more extreme example of the corporate state or what Mussolini called the corporatist state. In this case, traditional state power has been replaced by the rule of major corporations and the financial elite. At the same time, the social cleansing and state violence inherent in…

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