When the USA Freedom Kids took the stage in Pensacola, Florida last week, their strangely off-center routine smashed headlines around the world. Some unsettling combination of off-center choreography, the arrhythmic clapping of the apparently hypnotized crowd, and the brutal lyrics lip-synched by young girls had people throughout the US wondering whether or not they could support the idea, “Deal from strength or get crushed every time.”
Immediately, social media erupted with scornful comparisons to the Hitler Youth and Kim Jong-un. Sadly, the USA Freedom Kids paled in comparison to the rigidly choreographed motions of their totalitarian counterparts, but it would seem that Florida is giving it the best its got.
The next grand event of the Trump campaign came with the rant of Sarah Palin as she endorsed Trump’s candidacy. Palin’s reactionary version of slam poetry seemed to indicate that she wanted to make a youthful, hip invitation to her new life with Trump. The strange rhyming appeared almost a competitive gesture to step out of the shadow of the USA Freedom Kids—a feat nobody could call unsuccessful.
And finally, not to be outdone by the public displays of patriotism, force, and Antigone complexes gone wild, the behind-the-scenes shadow boxing of the white nationalist movement upped the ante by spearheading a Super PAC in the great state of Iowa. Robocalls from the American Third Position… er… I mean… American Freedom Party (AFP) stress to potential voters the urgency of white working class support for Trump.
That’s right. Jared Taylor, the head of American Renaissance, is currently urging voters to pitch in and vote for Trump, “because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”
In truth, however, this was only one small step removed from a couple weeks ago, when the co-chair of Vermont’s “Veterans for Trump” group Jerry DeLemus opted to join the Malheur Rebellion. Within a day, DeLemus was quoted in major news sites as complaining of psy-ops campaigns against the Patriots holed up in the Wildlife Refuge. It’s only a matter of time before he’s joined by a counter-psy-ops mission led by USA Freedom Kids.
The Old and the New
Of course, this is nothing particularly new for US politics. If we turn the page back to George W. Bush, as I mentioned in Part 2, we find that his campaign enlisted the support of Roger Stone to block the recount in Florida in 2000. However, I failed to mention that during that same campaign, former Knights of the Klan hierarch and current administrator of Stormfront, Don Black, provided “bodies for the pro-Bush protests, and his Web site proudly announced their participation,” at one point driving Reverend Jesse Jackson off stage with disruptions from the audience.
Furthermore, if Woody Guthrie’s recently released writings about his landlord, the Donald’s dad, Fred Trump, seem bad, George W.’s grandfather’s fascist-funding financial adventures are far more important. Turning the page further back to the populist campaign of George Wallace, two Klan leaders in the South were reportedly under the payroll, and the Youth for Wallace wing, along with the American Independent Party itself, broke away into fascism under the control of Willis Carto and his cronies.
However, to truly understand fascism and its role in US politics, we have to go beyond even Carto, himself, whose famous “Cultural Dynamics” essay outlined the acceptable forms of fascist discourse in the postwar period by circumscribing racism within the terrain of cultural relativism. Carto never sought to break down the constitution or “overthrow” the entire edifice of the US government; in fact, just like Trump, he defended the constitution, and sought to insinuate his Yockeyist ideals within the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches of the state.
The Out and the In
Carto’s attempts to weave fascism into the fabric of mainstream conservative discourse were inspired by Lawrence Dennis, a savant who turned from democracy after bringing the marines into Central America to quell the Sandino rebellion in Nicaragua. Dennis’s shift to fascism was indeed a cultural shift toward something he felt would accommodate US interests better than democracy, since the latter appeared unconscionable to the sensibilities of wealth and grandeur. Furthermore, democracy did not prevent oppression, Dennis believed, but strengthened the hand of oppression by maintaining de facto ruling elites who could simply transform the laws whenever it suited their desires.
For Dennis, fascism was simply a way of squaring the circle, of rejecting the commonplace entreaty to the “out-elite” to join in with the games of the “in-elite,” instead cajoling the “in-elite” to follow the “out-elite” toward a new outright embrace of the politics of organic leadership through energetic action and strong will.
“Fascism attaches importance only to the guarantee afforded by a spirit of discipline by a consciousness of national solidarity, by a certain sense of noblesse oblige, and by the logic of self-interest under a given set-up for those who have power,” Dennis would write in his hopeful tract, The Coming American Fascism.
“Fascism, in other words, so far as the control of the élite in the national interest or the protection of the people is concerned, pins its faith on character, rather than on codes or on the training and spirit it gives the élite, rather than on the policeman it might put over them. Broadly speaking, the in-élite, as a whole, can be controlled or disciplined only by forces within themselves.”
So for Dennis, fascism represented practically a humane turn, a turn of conscience for the elites to admit the control they already maintain over the system, and use that openness to control themselves in the national interest, rather than playing selfish games abroad. At this time in US history, the question of the merits of eugenics, Jim Crow, and xenophobic policy did not merit a discussion—all the intellectual weight of academia and public policy grounded itself on racism.
It is in this tendency of US history, so importantly transformed through the workers’ struggles of the early postwar period and the later Civil Rights movement, that Carto’s own position focused on the decline of Western culture and values. Carto’s ideology rested on what his biographer George Michael describes as “an apartheid type of fascism in which the world should consist of racially separate nations,” and it is this same form of fascism to which people like Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer of the American Policy Institute adhere.
This rings true in antifascist thinker Matthew Lyons’s response to my last piece, in which he takes option with my claim that fascists have always supported segregated caste structure in the US. My phrasing conflated white nationalism with Jim Crow segregation, and while fascists did support segregation up to 1968, the loss of Wallace and the capitulation of Nixon led to much sharper distinctions outlined by Michael in the above quote. However, the attempts by Carto to mount a fascist intrigue into conservatism to change the US from within is not accounted for in the attempts at defining “revolution” in terms of fascist movements, and bears deeper inquiry into the guidelines by which we understand both.
I once had an unfortunate run-in with Taylor. After penning a piece about the “Fascist Internationale” brewing in Russia, Taylor sent my publisher a rather strongly worded email. I had used from the European New Right “theorist” Guillaume Faye in which he said that “worse than the Jews are… Jews in the mind.” Taylor insisted that the quotation did not occur, and instructed my publishers to view the video of the speech given at American Renaissance in 2005 available at their website. After my publisher dutifully followed up, he wrote to me saying that he had not been able to find the quote. I wrote back expressing my surprise, since the quotation clearly arises in the version of the talk available on Youtube. It appeared that the site scrubbed the quotation, and Taylor attempted to pass a “clean” version off to my publisher to get me into trouble. What can one expect from a guy who makes Robocalls for Trump?
The point is that the line between respectability and racism, US politics and fascism has been extremely blurry for a long time. However, if in 2000 most of us on the left agreed with journalist David Neiwert that Bush, Jr., was not fascist, per se, but was bringing the US closer to that reality, today that stance seems a bit more off-putting.
In his recent piece, Lyons agrees that lines have been blurred between what is known as the “radical right” and fascism. However, Lyons centralizes the point that “it’s a mistake to see such mixed political initiatives as having an inherent tendency to move toward full-fledged fascism.”
As long as the line is blurry, there will remain an element of respectability in politics that will maintain the conventional system. Trump’s own “épater la bourgeois” (shock the bourgeois) style serves to re-enforce the rowdiness and violence of his political stance, but Lyons is correct in noting that its challenge to the system is one within an ostensibly democratic milieu.
However, do Dennis’s words not ring a bell in Trump’s “out-elite” style? Isn’t Trump still playing the role of outside elite, coaxing both citizen and government, alike, to do what they want, to exercise their power beyond the strictures of the “system,” and to break the mold not only through a practice that “pins its faith on character, rather than on codes”? As opposed to Bush, whose folksy populism was always in the character of corporate managerial pandering, Trump’s beliefs in “self-interest” and elitism are directed at a white working class that is fed up with the business class.
Stopping Fascist Steps
That Trump has not clarified whether or not the “deportation force” he would use to implement his proposed deportation plan would involve irregular or volunteer enforcers indicates that the presence of fascism in the US through militias would be empowered like never before to carry out the kind of social engineering not seen in the US since the internal colonization process euphemistically referred to as “Indian removal.”
And this is precisely the point. When we discuss US politics, our scope of legitimacy and respectability tends to fall within the last fifty years—since the Civil Rights Act, for example—and for good reason. The idea of Lebensraum had direct links to Hitler’s idealization of US Manifest Destiny. He believed that the conquest of Poland and then lands further to the East manifested a kind of conquest over the inferior peoples, toward an Aryan mission of resettling, and furthering the European idea. Indeed, going further back, the man who coined the term “national socialist,” Maurice Barrès declared that the first national socialist was a Frenchman named Marquis de Morès who was intensely interested in the Wild West to the point of briefly venturing into the ranching industry in the Badlands.
To augment the familiar phrase, We should not talk about fascism if we are not willing to also discuss US history before 1941 (or Japanese internment, for that matter). One could argue that fascism is a kind of force majeure—the inevitable effect of colonialism, through which Europe effectively colonized itself by attempting to consolidate power over the social and economic under the “national community.” It is perhaps in this context that fascism falls under the narrative of what Roger Griffin calls the “palingenetic ultranationalism,” or the rebirth of a mythical roots of the nation. In this sense, while fascism does rely on various “out-elites,” it also requires a faltering middle class concerned about the rise of organized labor, on one hand, and a xenophobic working class anxious over losing their privileges to foreigners and other disenfranchised populations, on the other.
So Lyons and I agree in the end (I think) that Trump bears important fascist trappings, but the power of movement toward something like “full fascism” is not necessarily all there. In fact, I would argue that it doesn’t have to be. Fascism, in my opinion, and in the opinions of many formative thinkers of fascism, is more like a process, a dynamic, than something that can actually reach a complete or pure form. Already in its first manifestations, fascism manifested a development of colonialism and imperialism (as so many, including Hannah Arendt, have aptly pointed out).
Trump’s candidacy falls, in no small part, within the fascist tradition, and his maneuvers—particularly his deportation plan—show that his presidency would make vital steps toward fascism. As antifascists, we should act against him and his program, and in favor of emergent communities linked to Black Lives Matter and local efforts to build sustainable networks in order to make sure we don’t find out how far Trumpism is able to go.
Originally posted: January 22, 2016 at It's Going Down