By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD
The spectre of fascism is haunting American society today. Just like Adolf Hitler (the Fuhrer) of Germany and Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) of Italy in the 1920’s-1930’s, US president Donald J. Trump is perceived as a strong leader among less- educated (no college education) working whites (40% of the US population) to whom he presents himself as their economic messiah. The ideology of fascism, developed by Italian intellectuals in the 1920’s, stokes up fears that other races are dominating the economy of one’s mother country, specially seen in Mussolini’s “Manifesto of Race”. It also particularly blames other races as the primary cause of crimes and violence in a society and of taking away jobs from the locals. These constitute Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rants as well as those of Trump in their various speeches. Trump’s placing in detention camps Latin Americans trying to enter the US Southern border, his separating immigrant children from parents, his decision (now pending in the US Supreme Court) to terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood’s Arrivals), his campaign of hounding and jailing undocumented immigrants, even those who have lived in the US for years, before deporting them are reminiscences of Hilter’s pogrom of discriminating and incarcerating Jews. Trump also drums up fear of job insecurity among white Americans because of the influx of immigrants into the US and unfavorable trade agreements with other countries, particularly with China.
Rodrigo R. Duterte, a would-be dictator
At this point, allow me to digress on President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Duterte is compared to Hitler by the militants not because he likewise believes that other races are controlling the Philippine economy and society as, on the other hand, he panders to China and allows US military and economic dominance of the country. Duterte is compared to Hitler as a fascist because he silences through force his critics, and even aims to change the Philippine constitution to favor foreign business and his cabal of political opportunists. Unlike Hitler, Mussolini and Trump, Duterte persecutes those who oppose foreign control of the Philippine economy, even assassinating some of them he labels as terrorists. He has no plan for the expansion of Filipino industrialization and in fact, he opens up the local market wider to imports, killing Filipino-owned businesses. He even jokes of turning the Philippines into a a province of China. Actually, Duterte is just one aspiring to become a tin-pot-dictator in the likes of the US-sponsored Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, who thrived on the drug and gambling business in Havana before he was disposed in a revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, and the drug smuggler Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was ousted in 1989 by his very patron, the US, when it had no more use of him and he was becoming a liability.
Trump’s fascistic tendencies
But let us return to the emerging fascist dictatorship in the US and leave Duterte and his minions to the judgment and retribution of historical justice. Trump’s castigation of foreign domination of certain areas of the US economy, specially by China, through unfair trade agreements, is more hype than truth. In the case of Germany, immediately before the rise of Hitler to power in the 1930’s, its economic woes were very real. The German mark plunged in value to as low as one million mark to one US dollar and German factories were closing down with US and UK capital gobbling them up. The mark was even referred to as papiermark (paper mark) because it became practically useless. This economic crisis was primarily due to the very unfair provisions imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty of 1919 by the vengeful Allies after the defeat of the former in World War I.
Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a racist, believing those with white skin and blue eyes are more intellectually superior to other races. In fact, he is not against immigrants per se, but immigrants with a different skin color, for he invites white Norwegians to come to the US. At one time, he even told four Afro-American congresswomen to go back to the “shit hole” where they originated, meaning Africa. These women are in fact American citizens, with only one of them a naturalized immigrant, having been born in Somalia, Africa. Trump called demonstrating white neo-nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, both extreme US rightist groups. in Charlottesville, Viriginia, “very fine people” even after one of them killed a woman . Like his fascist predecessors, Trump loves pomp and grandeur, claiming he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever in US history (which was untrue), and at one time wanted to hold a grand military parade, complete with tanks and airplanes, in Washington, but balked at pushing it through because of severe criticisms. Trump like his predecessors demonizes the US left, exemplified in the movement supporting Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both Democratic candidates vying to replace him in the US presidential election this coming November and both campaigning for more extensive universal health care than Obama care and free tuition for college education, which threatens corporate America, a great segment of which supports Trump.
The ongoing events in the US political arena are similar to the period before the rise to absolute power of Hitler and Mussolini. Trump like his two predecessors reiterates in rallies the entitlements of the Nordic race, specifically its male members, to social and economic privileges, even accusing Latin Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants as rapists, murderers and potential terrorists. He also constantly rails against the liberal free press and calls it as “enemy of the people” like Hitler. Trump’s adulation of strong man Putin of Russia is akin to Mussolini’s admiration of his fellow totalitarian leader, Hitler. Trump knows he owes Putin gratitude in the latter’s intervention, proven by US intelligence sources, in the 2016 election which catapulted the former television host to the US presidency.
Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a populist leader, pumping up the primeval instincts of fear, pride and anger of his base, particularly among lower-class white Americans. Trump’s limited vocabulary like that of Hitler,replete with street language, appeals to the less-educated working whites. He easily connects with his crowd, inciting their emotions, with aggressive calls like “Lock her Up” and “Send them home”, which are echoed by his audience. These are akin to Hitler’s tirades against Jews as “vermins of the earth” and “killers of Jesus”, homosexuals as “freaks” and Russian communists as “subhumans”.He receives instant feedbacks from his listeners, repeating his slogans, unlike the sedate and intellectual orator Barrack Obama, who tries to appeal to reason rather than to passions. Trump is addicted to big crowds, often interrupting his responsibilities in the White House to rabble rouse his supporters.
Trump, also like Hitler and Mussolini, plays with the truth, creating what he calls “alternative facts”, which can dumbfound principled and good (politically naive?) people. To him what is true is what will serve his interests, and incessantly lies and insults his opponents, similar to Joseph Goebbels’s maxim (Goebbel was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) that lies can be believed by people as truths through repetitions (no different from capitalist advertisements) or propaganda. Trusting men of integrity and truthfulness were easily outwitted by Hitler. Remember how Hitler hoodwinked the gullible British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he was able to make the latter believe that he will not invade Poland because he signed the Munich Agreement, but which soon after he violated. Because of the breakdown of the Munich peace agreement, Chamberlain was replaced by the more politically astute, Winston Churchill. The lesson here is beware of treacherous peace-bearing incorrigible liars. #
(Tomorrow: Fascism and Capitalism and the US impending war with Iran)
Dr. Villegas authored “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles. He is a retired University of the Philippines and De La Salle University professor.