Is Trump a fascist demagogue or just a right-wing blowhard?

Coughlin and Trump

Someone has privately chided me for describing Trump as fascist & thus misunderstanding the character of fascism. The political nature of fascism has been cogently analyzed, particularly in Germany, Italy, & Spain, by Leon Trotsky & less brilliantly by others. It has a different character than military dictatorship, the Stalinist & Maoist forms of autocracy, military occupation, or other forms of political repression–although of course, they all manifest in the same ways using repression, coercion, brutality.

They are all forms of tyranny used to save capitalism in crisis & reestablish the social equilibrium where capitalist rule is unquestioned. It’s preferable to oligarchy that they rule behind disguises–particularly parliamentary disguise. These distinctions matter because while fascism is bankrolled by big capital, it involves a plebeian mass movement with a distinct alignment of classes, including the leadership of the professional classes. Military dictatorship substitutes tanks for a popular movement.

Trump is a fascist demagogue but as filthy rich as he is, he is not part of the ruling oligarchy in the US. He’s more of a parvenu wanna-be. He’s not the first fascist demagogue in US history, nor certainly in world history. The portrait on the left is a Roman Catholic priest named Charles Coughlin, a Detroit radio talk show host in the late 1930s who supported Hitler & Mussolini & spouted all their crap about Jewish bankers ruling the world. He played a similar role to what Trump is doing now in whipping up popular panic & fostering social hatred.

Trump (the portrait on the right), is a fascist demagogue who is correctly reading signals from the US oligarchy which is using hatred of Muslims to whip up support for wars, crack down on civil liberties, & use alarmism to garner support for right-wing policies against immigrants & refugees. His tempo & recklessness may outpace the oligarchy’s timeframe but do not conflict with their agenda.

It’s entirely correct to identify Trump as a fascist demagogue because he is trying to mobilize a popular movement against Muslims, refugees, & immigrants & undermines the US Bill of Rights in doing so. There is evidence all over Europe & the US of growing “counter-jihad” groups & activities. The group Hope Not Hate found 920 anti-Muslim groups in 22 countries, many of them well-financed by private foundations through which oligarchs funnel money. The head of Hope Not Hate said hatred of Muslims “was moving from the margins to the political mainstream.” Under fascism, that leads to genocides so it is an extremely dangerous political development which Trump is tapping in to. How far he succeeds depends entirely on our ability to out-mobilize the forces of reaction & hatred–& not just in the US.

The political imperative remains: rebuild the international antiwar movement, honor & build BDS & Palestinian solidarity, support immigrant & refugee rights.

(Photo of Coughlin on left by Craine, Detroit, Via Library of Congress. Photo of Trump on right from local barnyard.)

American television is amoral in so many ways

You can call me moralistic, but there is something amoral about American television–beyond the baloney they peddle on newscasts. They had Trump cohost Saturday Night Live after he made comments impugning Mexicans in the most despicable & racist ways. Tonight that Seth Meyers creep has Sarah Palin come on & rant in defense of Trump’s comments on Muslims as if she has coherence. That Stephen Colbert creep has had Kissinger on & any number of other war criminals for little jokefests. It isn’t just politically reactionary but absolutely amoral to allow criminality & racism to be treated as a source of humor rather than a social disorder.

Suicide increases in U.S., Israeli, & Indian militaries: war is a violation of what makes us human

US soldiers (Mark Wilson:Getty Images:AFP) : AFP

It’s been news for a few years that suicide rates among US military personnel surpass combat deaths. The Pentagon attributes the alarming statistic to family or relationship issues. Everybody has relationship issues so that’s no explanation for why soldier suicides are higher than those of the general population. For the US–recognizing the Pentagon isn’t entirely forthright about such matters–the average is 300 soldier suicides a year. That does not include veteran suicides or those who drug or drink themselves to death.

The same kind of reports are now coming from the Israeli military. Last year the number of soldier suicides doubled. The numbers aren’t sky-high like in the US military & they are also not fully reliable coming from the Israeli command. But once again, the military officials denied any connection between suicide & army operations, including the IDF occupation of the West Bank & East Jerusalem & the 2014 siege of Gaza.

Now there are reports the Indian military is facing similar problems with soldier suicide. In an army with 1,325,000 active frontline personnel (over 700,000 of them occupying Kashmir), there were 597 soldier suicides between 2009 & 2013. Another figure is 413 suicides since 2012. The Indian minister of defense said “The major reasons for such incidents include occupational hazards, family issues/domestic problems, perceived grievances, personal issues, mental built, financial problems & inability to withstand stress.” No mention of the brutal occupation & crimes committed against the people of Kashmir–unless that’s what “occupational hazards” means.

No matter how much young men & women are nurtured with prejudice, racism, & supremacy, most are not emotionally equipped to handle the barbarisms of war & occupation. For every soldier who takes his/her own life, there are thousands more who drug or drink themselves to death or suffer a myriad of mental health & social adjustment problems–often inflicting their suffering on others as well. War is not suited for human life.

Some people hold soldiers culpable for doing what a soldier does in war but the antiwar movement has always taken a different attitude toward them & integrated antiwar soldiers & veterans into antiwar activities without demanding an accounting but only asking they use their experience to educate others about the barbarisms of war & occupation in order to end them.

Since Vietnam, veterans & active duty soldiers have played a central role in antiwar activities in the US & that is becoming true among Israeli veterans with groups like Breaking the Silence. There doesn’t appear to be such a development yet in India. But building a civilian antiwar movement is an essential element for helping soldiers break with the ideology of war & join the forces opposing them.

Photo is US military; could be Indian or Israeli. They all look alike when they’re coming at you with tanks & AK-47s.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

Banksy gets it so wrong with Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs in Calais (Banksy) Dec 11 2015

One hates to be a carping social critic, but it’s really not admirable that Banksy spray painted a portrait of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, on a bridge in the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais. Banksy said of the work, “We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant.” Boy, does that miss the point of things.

Jobs’ birth father was indeed a Syrian Muslim who came to the US for college studies. But so what!? People of any national or ethnic background, given opportunity, can make significant contributions in every field. Banksy went on, saying “…Apple is the world’s most profitable company; it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes & it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”

A touching tribute to a man who made Apple “the world’s most profitable company” by using sweatshops & exploiting child labor in China. His success was not based on Syrian ancestry but capitalist profiteering off of children.

We really need to use better sense in choosing heroes.

(Photo is Banksy portrait of Jobs at Calais)