When President Donald Trump entered the political arena, large swaths of the left quickly labeled him as fascist and “literally Hitler.” Those sentiments have grown into the communist activist group Antifa, which stands for “anti-fascism.” Their view is that the threat of fascism to America is so overwhelming that it justifies the use of pre-emptive violence.
The left labels Trump based on a list of viewpoints that they believe overlap with Mussolini or Hitler. The Washington Post, for instance, lists a set of what they think are criteria for fascism, including hyper-nationalism, militarism, hyper-masculinity and lost golden age syndrome. Salon.com declares that Trump is a fascist, and makes a similar list of criteria, including misogyny, strength, law and order and ethnocentrism.
But if the same criteria are applied to, say, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who fought the Nazis in World War II, he too could be labeled a fascist.
Churchill was a strong man and a militant nationalist who advocated closed borders for Germans and people from other nations that posed a security risk to Great Britain. In his book The River War, he used far stronger language than Trump to describe Islam. The Federalist Papers.org quoted Churchill:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. […] The fact that in Mohammedanism law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property–either as a child, a wife, or a concubine — must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
So the question must be asked: Does this make Churchill, the Nazi-slayer, a fascist?
Most countries in the world have more stringent immigration policies than those proposed by Donald Trump. Does that make them fascist?
Both Mussolini and Hitler held “progressive” views, advocating expansion of the welfare state and a mixed economy with strict market regulations. These leftist policies are common throughout Europe today. Would Antifa and their minions consider this a fascist point of view?
Both Mussolini and Hitler held views that were popular and widely accepted in their day. In fact, Mussolini actively marketed fascism as the “third way” between capitalism and communism. Bernie Sanders, for instance, holds views on economics and the welfare state which are virtually indistinguishable from Mussolini. Is he a fascist too?
Clearly, this is not what the term “fascism” is meant to connote today. By fascism, most people primarily mean the form of government, not the political content. So it wasn’t that Mussolini was a strong man that made him a fascist, but that he was a dictator who abolished democracy.
It wasn’t that Hitler was against immigration and the Jews that made him fascist, but that he abolished the rule of law and imprisoned the Jews in concentration camps. It wasn’t inflammatory language that made Hitler a fascist, but that he sent paramilitaries into the street to attack his political opponents, break windows and ruin the shops of Jews, while the police stood idly by and let it happen. It wasn’t “hate speech” that made him a fascist, but that he banned free speech of his opponents, and encouraged violence against them.
These methods distinguished Mussolini and Hitler from other politicians at the time, not their political positions. Therefore, a logical case can be made to summarize the distinguishing characteristics of fascism as follows:
- Paramilitary groups
- Violent attacks on political opponents to prevent free speech
- Disregard for the rule of law and established conduct of civil democracy
- A strong leader
But wait a minute, apart from a strong leader, isn’t this a list of features that accurately describes the Antifa movement? Why is it different when Antifa does it?
Could it be that Antifa is right that fascism has come to America, but not quite in the manner they imagine?