I attended a local meeting of Indivisible in which regressive Tea Party followers were scattered throughout the audience. They were kept under control by the organizers, but near the end, one comment stirred up a ferocious (and frustrated) frothing by one of the Tea Partiers — someone mentioned that Trump was building a fascist regime, which led to much indignation and insistence that no, he was nothing like Hitler.
This will happen to you, too, in conversations with Trump followers. Prepare yourself by reading Sunsara Taylor’s article, Why It’s Not Just Right, but Highly Illuminating and Very Necessary to Compare Trump to Hitler. In this instance, the Trump defender was shut down to prevent him from disrupting the meeting, but you might have to explain this situation to someone else.
First, let’s get something out of the way. History never repeats itself exactly. During Hitler’s rise, Germany was coming out of defeat in World War 1, was in the throes of a major depression, and faced a popular communist movement and broad sections of very combative and progressive working people. The U.S. ruling class does not face that situation. But it does face an international situation increasingly fraught with challenges to its geopolitical, military, and economic domination. It does face a situation in which different sections of the ruling class are sharply divided over the “legitimating norms” of society—that is, the common set of values and morality around which the society is broadly understood, held together, and cohered.
Quite a bit of this crisis flows out of the conflict between the foundational and structural character of the U.S. as a white supremacist society, and the way this has been challenged over the past 50 years—both through righteous liberation struggles and through major demographic changes, like the growing number of immigrants. And while the U.S. does not face a major depression right now, there is no work for huge sections of the working class (speaking here of the multinational U.S. working class, made up of Black, Latino, Arab, Asian, and other nationalities, as well as white), living standards and future prospects have gone significantly down for sections of the working class that do have jobs, and large sections of the middle class also face great uncertainty.
So, no, the U.S. does not face the exact circumstances of Germany; but the contradictions and problems it DOES face have proven extremely intractable. In the face of this, there have been increasingly strong fascist currents brought forward over a whole period of decades. In this situation, Trump has been able to cohere forces and come to power determined to carry out a fully fascist restructuring of society. And let us not fail to notice, Trump has already inherited—and has vowed to massively strengthen—a repressive apparatus that goes far beyond what Hitler inherited when he came to power. And, Trump—unlike Hitler—has unchecked personal control over the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and is clearly itching to use it. During a briefing, he asked three times, “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”
Don’t dismiss the comparison out of hand. There are differences, but also deep similarities. We are seeing a racist, nationalist regime coming to power, and you can’t ignore it by telling us that Trump doesn’t have a toothbrush mustache.