Neil Faulkner’s new book warns that the growth of the political far right in the USA and Europe can lead to a historical catastrophe on the scale of the 1930s and 40s.
It was one of those moments when the world changed. Like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001, and the financial crash of 2008, the election of Donald Trump as US president in November 2016 sent shock-waves across the globe.
The Far Right was euphoric. Not only had the Republican Party’s traditional conservatives been marginalised by the Trump campaign, but the entire Washington political elite had been vanquished by his victory.
The American liberal tradition – for which the Obama presidency had, in some sense, been an apotheosis – had suddenly collapsed. ‘This is one of the most exciting nights of my life,’ proclaimed former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. ‘Make no mistake, our people have played a huge role in electing Trump!’
Many of the 66 million Americans who had voted Democrat were in despair. Some had voted with enthusiasm, far more with relative indifference, even distaste; but the Clinton voters perhaps shared the sense that the alternative was a creature from the Dark Side, the political incarnation of another America, hidden and hideous, that they did not recognise as their own.
Commentators struggled for words. A billionaire tax-dodger, a ranting racist, a misogynist and self-confessed abuser of women, a bully who taunts the disabled and the bereaved, a serial liar, a man proud of his bigotry, his hatred, his contempt for most of humanity, this man had just been elected to the most powerful political position on the planet. Sixty-three million Americans had voted for a political psychopath.
The advance of the Far Right
The election of Trump is the most significant breakthrough so far in the advance of a global movement. Trump, anticipating victory on the eve of his election, bragged it would be ‘Brexit plus, plus, plus’.
He was referring to the victory of the Leave campaign in the British EU referendum. Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and other right-wing politicians, backed by the gutter press, had secured a narrow win on the basis of vacuous ‘take back control’ rhetoric and vicious anti-immigrant racism.
Then, shortly after Trump’s victory, Norbert Hofer, head of a far-right party founded by former SS officers, came within a whisker of becoming Austrian President, while Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, was heavily defeated in a constitutional referendum and forced to resign by an alliance of far-right populist forces. Attention now focuses on Marine Le Pen of the French National Front and the possibility that she may secure the Presidency in elections in April/May 2017.
Across much of America and Europe, we face a tidal wave of authoritarianism, nationalism, and racism. But can it be described as ‘fascism’? And how serious is the danger?
A new analysis
Creeping Fascism: Brexit, Trump, and the Rise of the Far Right is an attempt to provide a Marxist analysis of the Far Right in the United States and Europe and to argue that it represents a modern form of ‘creeping fascism’. The book will make the following arguments:
- That the movement around Trump and the European Far Right are proto-fascist electoral mobilisations, and that the Trump government (among others) represents a far-right coalition of traditional conservatives and fascists.
- That the formation of these governments is part of an ongoing process, with the potential for further radicalisation and paramilitarisation, and that we are therefore witness to something that can be defined as ‘creeping fascism’.
- That creeping fascism is rooted in a long-term crisis of neoliberal capitalism involving intractable stagnation-slump, growing social inequality, and a rising mass of bitterness and despair at the base of the system.
- That its rapid advance to power has been made possible by the hollowing out and atomisation of civil society, in particular of the international labour movement, during the neoliberal era.
- And finally, that we face a clear and present danger, and that if the Left does not recognise the danger, unite its forces, and begin to build a mass movement in defence of free movement, multiculturalism, and internationalism – a movement that must also be a movement against austerity, privatisation, corporate power, and the rule of finance-capital and the 1% – the result will be a historical catastrophe on the scale of the 1930s and 40s.
Creeping Fascism: Brexit, Trump, and the Rise of the Far Right is published by Public Reading Rooms.