When Hitler seized power in 1933, he chose as his finance minister the former head of the German central bank Hjalmar Schacht (shown here in the dock at the international war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945), whose name has become synonymous with the most extreme austerity. Donald Trump has signaled that he wants the corporate raider, asset stripper, and union buster Carl Icahn to play an important role in his administration, along with the disgraced former CIA head General David Petraeus.
As the Iowa caucuses approach, we continue our inquiry into fascism and Nazism. In recent installments, we have tried to show how irrationalism, contempt for reason, superstition, the rejection of reality in favor of myth and radical-subjective voluntarism, and anti-intellectualism are important components of fascist and neo-fascist ideology. These notions apply directly to Trump and Cruz especially, and also to other candidates of both parties. Here we will primarily cite Trump; we will focus special attention on Cruz in the days and weeks ahead, as needed.
Trump, as has been widely noted, does not care about facts or accuracy. He has total contempt for facts and for reality in general, and many of his followers share in this attitude. How can he deport 12 million Latinos? How can he force Mexico to build and pay for a wall? How can the figures in his demagogic budget plan add up? The answer is always that mere reality will always yield to the ruthless exercise of Trump’s Triumph of the Will — meaning his dynamism, the force of his personality, his determination, his bold courage, and so forth. This is of course an exercise in the pathology of magical thinking, which assigns supernatural powers to the fascist hotelier. Hitler’s Triumph of the Will method actually seemed to work during the conquests of Poland, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and France, when his victims were intimidated by Nazi propaganda and penetrated by pro-Nazi fifth columns. But in the hard reality of the Russian campaign, something went wrong with the Triumph of the Will. Geography, economics, demographics, and other very objective and reality-based factors asserted themselves, and radical-subjective voluntarism was useless.
The way that Trump impudently denies his own past statements in the face of filmed evidence also suggests his ability to deny the part of reality which is his own past and track record. He attacks Hillary, but cannot remember his effusive praise for her in 2008. Nobody should try to build anything on Trump’s statements of intent, since these are throw-away, demagogic lines. Trump is always shifting. Today’s favorite will be demonized tomorrow. Trump is a liar. Putin please take note.
Trump’s Art of Fascism: Pose as Anti-Establishment Without Attacking Wall Street and the Fed
Photo shows the 1934 yearly rally of the Nazi Party in Nuremberg. Will this be the model for the 2016 Republican National Convention dominated by Donald Trump?
Updating the analysis of Guérin, Abendroth, and others, we can say that the art of fascism consists in portraying oneself as radically anti-Establishment, while never seriously attacking Wall Street. Trump is himself a creature of the Wall Street banks which, according to eyewitnesses, were delighted to throw money at him during the 1980s, using the hotelier as an investment vehicle. A good definition of Trump and his much-touted real estate empire is to see him as a Frankenstein’s monster made up, not so much from pieces of cadavers, as from bank loans from Wall Street.
Another time-tested fascist trick is to divert attention from the bankers and financiers, and direct popular rage towards something else – anything else. Everyone should now be familiar with Trump’s basic method, which is to unload popular rage and resentment about the world economic depression onto groups like Latinos, Moslems, and inevitably others. This appeals to the Republican base, which often has very limited mental-conceptual equipment, and cannot analyze the functioning of institutions like the derivatives market. As Newt Gingrich once said, the average Republican Congressman cannot understand ideas, but deals only with people. So if scapegoating is to be carried on, a visible and recognizable ethnic group has to be targeted. The parallels to Hitler are obvious.
Another method of distracting attention from the crimes of Wall Street is to blame other nations for the sad predicament of the United States under financier domination. Mussolini argued that Italy was a proletarian country, in contrast to France, Britain, and the United States. The Duce claimed that Italy’s economic problems resulted from an “Anglo-Pluto-Judaeo-Bolshevik-Masonic” conspiracy. That is a line which is more likely to confuse people than help them to see who the enemy is exactly. Other fascists blamed everything bad on an “international plutocracy” – a piece of obfuscation that resembles the modern libertarians and Paultards who rail against an ill-defined “New World Order,” a term apparently drawn from Cleon Skousen of Mormon intelligence. Hitler was given a made-to-order demagogic theme by the Treaty of Versailles in the form of the crushing reparations payments extorted from Germany.
Yet another way to take the heat off the bankers is to forget about them completely and focus everything on the bankers’ front men, the politicians – and especially on the parliamentary cretins of the parliament of congress. For the fascist, the revolution means kicking out the bourgeois politicians and replacing them everywhere with fascist goons. The revolution ends there, and Hitler and Mussolini used all means necessary to stop their thuggish followers from trying to take over banking, industry, and the army and navy. There was to be no second revolution in which the fascist guttersnipes entered the board rooms and military headquarters. Trump agrees that politicians are the target, and certainly not the Wall Street financier oligarchy.
Trump views China, Mexico, and Japan as enemy states. He accuses them of duping and hoodwinking the United States, especially on trade deals. He is also hostile to Iran, which has been the main beneficiary of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Trump boasts that he wanted to steal Iraq’s oil, but leaves the details of how this could be accomplished to another Triumph of the Will.
How then, according to Trump, are America’s adversaries so successful? Why is America no longer great? His usual answer is that US leaders have been incredibly stupid. It will be seen that this is very vague. Most of Trump’s followers probably think this means that Trump will run everything personally, and that every aspect of the US government will benefit from the inevitable Triumph of the Will.
The stupidity of government officials is comparable to some of Hitler’s themes. Hitler targeted the entire bourgeoisie as cowardly, senile, intellectually rotten morons. This is more emphatic than Trump, but not very different.
Blaming stupidity is very convenient for a demagogue like Trump. If the cause of decline is just generic and undifferentiated human foible of stupidity, there will be no need to nationalize the Federal Reserve, nor to provide 0% long-term federal credit for infrastructure, energy production, education, manufacturing, mining and agriculture. For Trump, credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations do not have to be banned – just used less stupidly. Keep everything as it is, don’t touch the institutions or most laws – just change the cast of characters to include Trump and his minions. Here we can see how un-radical, narrow and superficial Trump’s demands are in reality, despite all his bombastic turbulence.
So Trump prefers to talk most about stupid government officials, and about nefarious foreign countries like China, Mexico, and Japan. Not about Wall Street or its satellite, the Federal Reserve.
When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, he chose several figures from the old order to be in his cabinet. One of the most important was Dr. Hjalmar Schacht of the liberal German Democratic Party (DDP), an economist who became Hitler’s Finance Minister and who went on to engineer several years of severe austerity, with a reduction of real wages and even of nominal wages for German workers. Schacht’s name is still synonymous with killer austerity, which is known as Schachtian economics.
Trump has a liking for the most predatory, lawless, and treacherous personalities at the fringes of the US ruling class. One whom he has mentioned for Secretary of the Treasury is corporate raider, union buster and asset stripper Carl Icahn, infamous for having asset stripped and destroyed Trans World Airlines in 1985. Icahn’s net worth is estimated at almost $22 billion. Trump also likes former CIA boss Gen. David Petraeus, whom he might want for vice president. Petraeus shared US state secrets with his paramour, and had to plead guilty in court.
Trump has said that the federal minimum wage should not be increased because wages are already too high. This is classic GOP class warfare. So if Trump wants to have any credibility at all as something other than a Wall Street stooge, he needs something to muddy the waters, some demand for sacrifice by the Wall Street financiers.
One of Trump’s main attempts to distance himself from the Wall Street finance oligarchy has involved his demand that “carried interest” – usually meaning the earnings of hedge fund hyenas – be treated as ordinary income by the IRS for tax purposes, and that this money no longer enjoy the tax advantages of being treated as capital gains. But carried interest is worth about $2 billion to Wall Street, while the estate tax (FDR’s oligarch tax) is worth TEN TIMES as much at $20 billion, and Trump is determined to abolish the estate tax.
In addition, the top rate on income would fall from about 40% to 25%, meaning a tax bonanza for the rich and super-rich. Trump says he wants to repeal not just the estate tax, but also the alternative minimum tax, and the 3.8% surtax on investment income created as part of Obamacare. According to a study of this plan by the Tax Policy Foundation: “…the biggest tax benefit by far would go to the very wealthiest households. Middle-income households would see their taxes cut by an average of $2,700, or 4.9% of after-tax income. Those in the top 0.1%, however, would see their taxes reduced by an average of $1.3 million, or 19% of their after-tax-income.” This same analysis finds that Trump’s program would balloon the federal deficit by just under $10 trillion in the first decade, and then by $15 trillion in the second decade. This is the same Trump whose standard stump speech includes strident complaints about the current US debt of about $19 trillion. In response to this, Washington can be expected to respond according to the prevailing austerity psychosis, meaning with genocidal cuts on everyone but the rich: “Just in 2025 alone, the Tax Policy Center estimates that federal spending would need to be cut by at least 20%. That would amount to more than 100% of defense spending, or 82% of domestic program spending, or 41% of Medicare and Social Security spending.” At the same time, Trump claims that he will not cut Social Security, Medicare, and women’s health spending. Let’s see how the Triumph of the Will is going to square that circle. The guess here is that it will be by killer cuts to the New Deal and Great Society rights of the American people. Trump’s campaign fended off inquiries about the fascist hotelier’s fuzzy math by noting that former Reagan Treasury employee Larry Kudlow thought Trump’s plan was great. But Kudlow’s judgment may be clouded by his previous cocaine addiction.
Hitler was a paper hanger and house painter. Nazi bigwigs preferred morphine to cocain. Trump comes from a family of tavern keepers. Despite his babbling about the Wharton School and the Ivy League, he has much of the plebeian guttersnipe about him – his vulgarity, his rudeness, his greed, his boasting. Trump’s grandfather ran brothels in the Yukon. His fortune, no matter how large it might be, is still very new and very dirty money — far worse than the Kennedys, who got their loot from the bootlegging of the pro-Hitler Joseph Kennedy.
- Daniel Guérin, Fascisme et grand capital (Paris: Maspéro, 1969), p. 83.