An adage attributed to Sinclair Lewis sometime in the 1930s reads that “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag.” This analysis was correct when he said it and the statement is just as true today as it was over 80 years ago.
The 1930s were a time of turmoil all over the world. The European continent experienced three fascist seizures of power: in Italy after a quasi-constitutional uprising, in Spain after a horribly bloody civil war, and in Germany in a completely legal invitation to Adolf Hitler. In all these cases a strongman promised to restore law and order with nativist appeals to the population that emphasized the “traditional values” of the nation. In each country there were severe economic troubles. The fascists took advantage of the unhappiness of millions of people with simple “solutions” that promised a “new order.”
In reality, no “simple solution” was forthcoming, and instead Europe and the whole world were plunged into the darkness of war, hunger, and genocide.
In 2016, we are faced with serious problems on a world scale. No economy anywhere in the world exists separately from any other economy. There are difficult international situations that cannot be solved by a single military, no matter how strong it might be. Further, the concerns of hundreds of millions of hungry and jobless people call out for multi national programs. To cite two clear examples of this need, we only have to look at the question of fair trade and the fight against the effects of global warming. Neither of these vexed questions can be solved without significant participation from most countries on this earth.
Yet in the United States, in the year 2016, the reality TV star, Donald Trump is seeking to take power and establish a “law and order” government. Not only is he the nominee of the Republican Party, he is also the darling of the Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Further, he has built this effort by using the most divisive and hateful rhetoric. Trump’s mantra is based on an ultra nationalist and racist analysis of the American political landscape. He is wrapping himself in the American flag by promising to restore America to its former greatness, whatever that means.
Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were victorious in the short run. Each, in their own way succeeded in turning a section of the working class against their own best interests. Trump is swimming in the same pool.
The world is a complicated and dangerous place. Of this there can be no denial. Terrible events plague all of humanity. However, there is no solution in supporting the “general on the white horse” who promises to solve each and every problem with calls for “law and order,” with saber-rattling about war and with divisive, racially-charged rhetoric.
We must oppose this dangerous political trend. We can do so, if we are clear headed and courageous in our opposition. The working class is international; it exists in every corner of the world. In the United States working people are the largest single class in society, made up of every race and ethnicity. Our interests are completely opposed to those of billionaire narcissists like Donald Trump. Let us reject Donald Trump and his trend and build a movement against fascism, war and hunger. Our unity in this fight provides the best bulwark against this home grown fascist authoritarian trend.
Unite against Trump and his hateful and dangerous program!
Richard Lipsitz is President of the WNY Area Labor Federation (AFL-CIO).