Is it historically apt or politically useful to compare Trump to European fascists?
In a new essay, philosopher Alberto Toscano argues that analogies cannot do justice to the uniquely American history of fascism. Fortunately, there’s a long history of Black radical thinkers linking racial slavery to later expressions of authoritarianism in U.S. politics. Focusing on the writings of Angela Davis and Soledad Brother author George Jackson, Toscano shows that U.S. fascism is not a static form but a process, one of racial counterrevolution. “As the Black Lives Matter movement has made clear,” Toscano writes, “the threat is not of a ‘return of the 1930s’ but the ongoing fact of racialized state terror. To this end, anti-fascism cannot confront only those who self-identify as fascists.”
As we head into what could be the final days of Trump’s presidency, other writers in today’s reading list give context to the last four years, with several essays looking at Trump’s authoritarian streak, and what a now forgotten Frankfurt School book can teach us about it. In addition, historian Jefferson Cowie argues that talk of American freedom has long been connected to the presumed right of whites to dominate everyone else, while psychiatrist and public health scholar Jonathan M. Metzl explores the phenomenon of white anxiety, its leveraging by Trump, and how a symptom becomes an identity. Lastly, a new essay from three scholars argues that the simultaneous success of Trump and Brexit was no coincidence: white supremacist politics are international in scope and often share entwined histories. “Trump’s emergence can’t be explained by looking at the U.S. alone,” they argue. “Rather, he must be understood for his place in a long line of Anglophone leaders who claimed to speak for besieged whites.”
A debate is roiling about the aptness of comparing Trump to European fascists. But radical Black thinkers have long argued that racial slavery created its own unique form of American fascism.
In a political season of dog whistles, we must be attentive to how talk of American freedom has long been connected to the presumed right of whites to dominate everyone else.
Fixating on whether Trump’s response to COVID-19 is totalitarian makes it difficult to have a nuanced discussion about the role government should play in times of crisis.