Did Donald Trump define modern fascism

(Anti) fascism

Federico Finchelstein

To person

is Professor of History at the New School for Social Research in New York. His main research interests are fascism in Latin America and Europe, their transnational connections and populism. He also writes regularly for international newspapers. In September 2017 his monograph "From Fascism to Populism in History" was published. [email protected]

The amalgamation of fascism and populism has become common practice - the historical differences between the two have been lost in the process. With the arrival of "Trumpism" in the White House in particular, this development has picked up speed. The traditional system out checks and balances was shaken by attacks by the Trump administration on the independence of the judiciary and other institutions, and the US President impulsively demonizes his opponents. Among those attacked are judges, Mexican immigrants and the independent press, whom he describes as "enemies of the people". Many Americans, including academics and media representatives, wonder how their country's political and democratic culture got so low. Some even question whether the United States - a cradle of liberalism - is moving towards fascism or some other form of dictatorial rule. Trump's political logic is more populist than fascist. Populism is certainly an authoritarian version of democracy that narrows and restricts it; but it does not destroy democracy. However, fascism and populism are historically linked.

As the historian Pablo Piccato and I recently pointed out, these historical links between fascism and populism can also illuminate our understanding of the present. [1] The comparison between Trumpism and fascism is made as everyday as it is deceptive. But it can also sharpen one's view: This makes clear the inevitable tensions between the claims of fascist and populist leaders to represent their nation as a whole and the procedural obstacles that democratic institutions mean for their project. Donald Trump is one of the most successful examples of how populism reformulates the old authoritarian premises of fascism in a democratic manner.

Populism is by no means new in America. Some of the first populist movements arose more than a century ago in the United States - including Russia and France, of course - as well as in Latin America. What is really new is that populism first gained power in the United States - and with it a decisive influence on world history. Although Trumpism is certainly a new phenomenon in politics, this is by no means true of the story behind Trump: On the one hand, there was right-wing opposition politics in the USA before, such as the reactionary, often racist presidential candidates Barry Goldwater, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan as well more recently the openly xenophobic tea party. On the other hand, it is important - on a global level - to take into account those processes that occur when populism becomes a form of rule in a state. In other words: what happens when nationalists, even xenophobes, make democratic politics? The result is an authoritarian approach to democracy that can be described as populist post-fascism.