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DONALD TRUMP is an unusual bourgeois politician in that he represents — incoherently and with many contradictions — a section of US capital that is not as fully invested in the imperial foreign-policy objectives and resource wars, or the kind of full-spectrum military and technological dominance, as the two Bushes, Clinton and Obama were.
Indeed, part of his electoral appeal is his often expressed, although less often acted upon, desire to see no more US service personnel die in foreign wars.
He is also unusual in that he is prepared to voice, however slightly coded, a kind of patronage for the bizarre collection of nut-jobs that decorate the far right in the US.
So when in a presidential campaign debate he name-checks the Proud Boys — and refuses to condemn outright white supremacists — this represents something of a departure from his usual artfully imprecise language.
If we take our lead from the Southern Poverty Law Centre, “rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”
And if this highly respected civil-rights campaign body is insufficient authority the co-host of the anti-semitic alt-right podcast The Daily Shoah says that if the Proud Boys “were pressed on the issue, I guarantee you that like 90 per cent of them would tell you something along the lines of ‘Hitler was right. Gas the Jews’.”
Where this outfit fits into Trump’s narrative is that they stand against “political correctness” and a “white guilt” agenda.
While probably not that important in themselves they are symptomatic of a poisonous stream of reactionary thought and action that has always existed in the US and today finds its particular form in the constellation of forces that want Donald Trump re-elected.
The great anti-fascist Georgi Dimitrov, the Communist International leader who when on trial for his life faced down Hermann Goering before a Nazi court, made the point that US fascism dressed itself in the language of patriotism and the constitution.
He also argued that anti-fascists needed to take account of the specific forms that fascism assumed in each country.
There is a crisis of legitimacy in the US and one is developing here. Conventionally the ruling classes of capitalist states give licence to fascist groups only when they can no longer contain the contradictions of class society in the old ways.
When people are no longer willing to be ruled in these old ways the banks and big business, in extremis, will take them off the bench and put them on the pitch.
We can draw on our own history. Winston Churchill’s admiration for Benito Mussolini, who represented little threat to the British empire, was transformed into anti-fascism only when Adolf Hitler appeared as a more credible threat.
Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail infamously gave a hurrah for Britain’s fascists, and half the British elite were tied up in a nest of intrigue including proto-fascist groups while in the Foreign Office and beyond there were active attempts to forge an alliance with the Nazis against the Soviet Union.
Parliament proved no use and British fascism was stopped on the streets by the people.
If we take contemporary British politics as our starting point, the main threat is not the activities of outright fascist groups, although these need keeping in check with a firm hand.
Our problem is that an incompetent ruling party, faced with problems beyond its capacity to understand or deal with, itself is deeply conflicted and that without a distinct challenge to capitalist orthodoxy from the left, it will come from the right.
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