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Tragedy, Farce, Delusion and Fascism

Robert Nelson: Hitler, Mussolini and Franco all had ethnic scapegoats — Jews, Roma and Slavs. Today, Trump’s scapegoats are Muslims, Mexicans and Asians. Gay bashing remains a unifying theme for all fascists, bridging nearly a century of right-wing ideology.

In 1848 Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the “Great Emperor,” was elected president of France. In 1851 he was constitutionally denied the right to succeed himself. Hence, he seized power by coup d’état. He anointed himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852, remaining in power until 1870.

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Tragedy, Farce, Delusion and Fascism—Robert Nelson

Louis Napoleon’s early years as emperor were marked by brutal repression of dissent combined with feeble attempts to resurrect the grandeur and glory of the empire of Napoleon I. Napoleon III’s tenure is best memorialized by Karl Marx’s oft-quoted statement, “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Is Trump fascism’s farce?

The rise of Donald Trump as the Republican presumptive nominee rekindles interest in Marx’s comment. One might ponder that Trump’s modern fascist escapade is a farcical re-enactment of the movements of the last century led by Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.

The parallels are obvious.

Trump promises a high-speed rail system rivaling that of the People’s Republic of China. This would create millions of industrial jobs. Mussolini made the trains run on time.

Trump promises to cancel Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which caused the loss of tens of millions of American industrial jobs. Hitler lifted the first shovel in construction of the Autobahn in 1933. He introduced a people’s car, the Volkswagen, and set a goal of full employment which Germany attained by 1939.

Hitler, Mussolini and Franco all had ethnic scapegoats — Jews, Roma and Slavs. Today, Trump’s scapegoats are Muslims, Mexicans and Asians. Gay bashing remains a unifying theme for all fascists, bridging nearly a century of right-wing ideology.

Trump promises to restore order by immigrant bashing, campaigning alongside Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Likewise, Franco promised to restore order to a Spain that had endured a painful transition following the 1931 attempt to establish democracy in the wake of monarchy.

Hitler, Mussolini and Franco all had ethnic scapegoats — Jews, Roma and Slavs. Today, Trump’s scapegoats are Muslims, Mexicans and Asians.

Gay bashing remains a unifying theme for all fascists, bridging nearly a century of right-wing ideology.

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How can this be happening?

Fascism rose because Germany and Italy were unresponsive to the needs of their working classes in the wake of World War I. Its growth was augmented by the selfishness of the Great War’s victorious capitalist powers which did not aid the economic reconstruction of the working classes of the vanquished states. Existing capitalist policies enabled fascism’s rise.

Furthermore, the forces opposed to fascism failed to unite to face the threat. The German communists, socialists and social democrats devoted great energy to quarreling among themselves. Each argued that the other two should rally around their own sectarian flag. Self-centered arrogance dominated the thinking in Germany’s intellectual center, Berlin, ignoring the developments to the south in Munich where Hitler first mobilized.

Are the Democrats delusional?

The Democrats received a massive wake-up call this year. For eight years, Hillary Clinton was the odds on favorite to take the Democratic nomination. Yet, millions of Democratic voters, burned by Bill Clinton’s NAFTA program 16 years ago, found someone else who answered their needs.

Bernie Sanders should have been an easy knockoff win for Mrs. Clinton early in the primary season. She had superPACs loaded to the brim with Wall Street money. Sanders had an impoverished army of the NAFTA unemployed and students mired in debt without decent employment prospects.

What about conventional wisdom?

Clinton has a plurality of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention but needs the help of superdelegates to get the nomination. Sanders has gone toe to toe with her. She needs Sanders’ supporters to defeat Trump.

Now that Sanders has endorsed Clinton, many of her followers assume that she can dictate the terms of the fall campaign. Clinton can select a vice president close to Wall Street, such as New Jersey’s Cory Booker. By fall she could completely abandon any semblance of progressive thought.

Trump’s challenge to conventional thinking

Trump is the wild card in this game. His fascist program appeals to those who have been abused by policies of the Clinton years.

This suggests consideration of a nonconventional response in which Clinton moves toward the progressives to become a major figure in a broad-based anti-fascist coalition.

Essentially, Clinton would run against the programs that brought her husband into power. She could run on the Sanders-inspired Democratic platform which opposes the death penalty, supports a carbon tax, a $15 an hour minimum wage, expanded Obamacare, and universal tuition-free higher education. She could emerge triumphant by throwing her husband Bill under the bus!

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Is such a move impossible? Do not be too surprised if she does this. She is a Clinton, after all, and that’s what Clintons do.

Robert Nelson
Pasadena Weekly