Anyone who’s been worrying that the ‘Nazis are at the gates of Washington’, as one over excitable conspiracy theory website claimed last year, can now breathe a sigh of relief. Donald Trump is not Hitler reincarnated after all. That’s the considered judgment of Oxford historian Margaret MacMillan.
Sanity has not quite been restored to that ivory tower of left wing intellectualism though. Professor MacMillan’s reason for her groundbreaking finding is that: Trump is no Hitler; he is a Mussolini. While she generously concedes that the Republicans are not a fascist party (yet), Trump himself is “a lot like some of the Latin American dictators like Chavez or Castro or Perón — claiming to speak for the people; loving the crowds…making promises — “I will give you money and jobs” — then blaming “our enemies” when they aren’t delivered.’”
When I last looked, the Donald hadn’t begun imprisoning American Democrats, nor had he asserted absolute power over all 50 States of America, tossed the Declaration of Rights in the dustbin, begun to oppress his opposition with firing squad executions, or was forcing citizens to emigrate only to massacre them en route. Ah, but maybe that’s only because he’s only had 100 days in power – or the alt-right has managed to keep his tyranny off the TV screens. I am being facetious of course.
Oxford Today – the fundraiser publication sent out to the university’s alumni on a regular basis – alerted me to this latest revelation. So thrilled were they with the ‘Trump is a fascist after all’ thesis, they flagged this month’s edition with it – with front cover, side by side, lookalike pics of Donald and Benito, mouths similarly turned down – to underline their point.
When academics are so free and easy with their historical references, perhaps it’s no wonder that ‘fascist’ has overtaken ‘racist’ as a term of abuse. It has come to be the modern word for ‘heretic’ and, as commentator Jonah Goldberg says , is used to brand an individual ‘as being worthy of excommunication from the body politic’. Whatever the strengths and weakness of Goldberg’s link between the modern oppression of liberal fascism with historical fascism, he has a point.
Calling someone a fascist today is the not so liberal establishment’s go to method for suppressing free speech – particularly to shut up anyone who dares venture towards the right of politics. It is this illiberality, not the liberal democratic State, that websites like this one want to overturn.
So didn’t much surprise me after arguing last week that voting for Le Pen was a no brainer for anyone who believed in democracy and for which the Nation State is the best defence, that I too would be so branded. In fact, it was as a ‘crypto fascist’ that one inspired Twitter troll labelled me while ‘outing’ The Conservative Woman as a crypto-fascist front.
You can rest assured I am no secret supporter or admirer of fascism. Neither are my colleagues. No, I do not admire people who want to overthrow the existing democratic system and replace it with a totalitarian one. Nor do I believe in violence for its own sake or in the use of violence to support the revolutionary overthrow of the State’s entire system of government. Nor do I support calls for this State’s or any State’s ‘rebirth’ or for racial purity. I am neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Muslim. These are grave accusations. Yet all that is what calling me a crypto-fascist accuses me of .
While I am about it, I am not anti-individualist collectivist either and I don’t have much time for corporatism or statism (which, by the way, are by no means unique to fascist governments).
The truth is that scorning the nation is what holds democracy in contempt. Forcing European nations to sign up to the Lisbon Treaty did that. So too does ‘burying’ the issue of Muslim anti-Semitism or antagonism towards mainstream French culture (among those Muslims who cherish their right to propagate their faith and law, quite unlike French Jews who never entertained conversion fantasies). Islam and immigration are major challenges for whoever wins the French election. All of France’s mainstream parties, not just Le Pen’s, as I understand it, wish to see their secular democracy and culture protected. Are they all fascists then?
I might not have risen to the troll’s bait but for the silly Oxford professor and an interchange at The Spectator’s debate on the ‘French revolution – could it be President Le Pen?’, last week. Panellist Dominic Moisi, founder and senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations, casually but confidently called Le Pen a fascist. He was not challenged until the question time at the end: “You know perfectly well she is not, you are not entitled to say things that are untrue”, a brave but nervous sounding man from the audience asserted.
Moisi’s defence was not convincing. It boiled down to his view that fascism was in the DNA of the Front National as also was an element of ‘strong xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism’. You had to judge a party by its friends, which in this case was Russia. He was not interrogated by Andrew Neil in the chair or by his muted co-panellists or by any other member of the several hundred-strong audience. Only Anne Elisabeth Moutet ventured an alternative view, describing fascism as an ‘itch’ in the party associated with people ‘who belonged to an older strain’. Moisi got away with it with making an unsubstantiated accusation.
Yet was this not at the heart of what should have been debated? What is the evidence of fascism in today’s Front National or of Islamo-fascism in France ? Were the 21 per cent of Monsieur Moisi’s compatriots who’d just voted for Le Pen fascist too?
No evidence of Le Pen’s fascism was offered. If they did not have any why didn’t they cross-examine their co-panellist?
What we got finally was a quiet acknowledgement from the panel that, yes, Islam was a problem. Because Cairo, like France, had a new form of Muslim problem it had not had twenty years ago, it could not be France that had changed, nor was it secularism’s fault.
Islam was the elephant in the room all evening and the subject the panellists carefully avoided. They might not have but for the fear, they as well as the rest of us live in, of being called a fascist and cast out from the body politic.
(Image: Gage Skidmore)