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Trump’s America looks more and more like a Central European 1930s-era fascist state

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In 1939, a Roman Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso, became president of the newly-created Slovak republic, in Eastern Europe, which had been created earlier that year with the approval and help of Adolf Hitler. The Fuehrer wanted an independent Slovak state as part of his effort to demolish Czechslovakia, which he viewed as a Frankenstein country created by the hated Versailles Treaty. In its place, Hitler desired two countries—the Slovak Republic and a new Czech “Protectorate of the Reich.” Both states would become vassals of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Tiso, who ran Slovakia with an iron fist until Germany and its allies lost World War II, in 1945, was executed in 1947 for war crimes. His brief rule was marked by the sort of qualities Hitler admired. The historian Lonnie R. Johnson, in his 1996 book “Central Europe,” describes Tiso’s Slovakia as “a concoction of clericalism, fascism, nationalism, corporatism, and anti-Semitism embodied by its leader, Tiso.”

Donald J. Trump likewise is a fascist, in the Tiso-Hitler mold, and his American fans—red state, Christian, conservative reactionaries—closely resemble the Slovaks who constituted Tiso’s base. Let’s break it down.

“Clericalism.” This term refers to political movements and governments in which religious, church-based authorities have powerful sway in a nation’s affairs. We see clericalism most clearly in Muslim countries, like Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia; but the U.S. has seen a steadily growing movement towards Christian-evangelicals intruding into government, both local and Federal; and these Christian extremists make no secret of their desire to forcibly turn America into a Christian-clerical country.

“Fascism.” Technically, “fascism” is “a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.” The two most infamous fascists of the 20th century were Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, but more modern forms of “neo-fascism” have arisen, from the military dictatorships of South America to the authoritarian rule of Erdogan in Turkey and the emergence of neo-fascist, racist movements across Europe. There has long been a fascist strain within the American Republican Party, a strain that has grown stronger under Trump.

“Nationalism” is the movement that arose in the 19th century, characterized by an obsession, mainly in Europe, to organize the political map of nations on the basis of linguistic, cultural and often racial similarities. In general, “nationalists” believe that dedication to one’s country is the highest political and social ideal; the opposite of “nationalism” is “multi-culturalism” or “internationalism.” The Republican Party has always had a strong streak of nationalism (or an aversion to internationalism) that expresses itself through patriotic slogans, tightening of borders, focusing on English as the official language, isolationism, and a dislike of foreign aid.

“Corporatism” means the control of the nation-state by huge corporate interests. “Corporatism” was a big part of Mussolini’s fascism. Here in America, both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, have shown corporatist tendencies, through generous tax breaks to giant corporations, government contracts, allowing corporate lobbyists to help craft laws, and “swinging doors” that enable government bureaucrats to work for private industry, and vice versa.

“Anti-Semitism” is, of course, the anti-Jewish policy practiced by Hitler, and adopted by enemies of the Jews everywhere. Anti-Semitism has not found a congenial home in America, but every once in a while it rears up, especially among the white supremacist, neo-nazi and “Christian” organizations that constitute one of the most loyal parts of Trump’s base. (Closely related to anti-Semitism is homophobia, which is widespread among Trump’s base.)

“Leader.” Fascist states, much more than democracies, tend to be led and dominated by charismatic, authoritarian leaders: Germany had Hitler, Italy had Mussolini, Soviet Russia had Stalin, and so on. America has done a pretty good job of avoiding dictators who form personality cults, but we’re seeing that tendency erode under Trump, who has declared that his own personal interests are identical to the nation’s interests.

Viewed from these definitional standpoints, we can see that America, under Trump, has entered into a sort of Central European, 1930s-type fascism that will not slow down unless Trump is defeated and replaced by a Democrat—any Democrat. This will not be easy, as the fans of fascism—corporate interests including billionaires, radical rightwing Christians, gun freaks and survivalists, white nationalists, resentful declassed workers, law-and-order types, overt racists and homophobes—will go to extremes in order to defend fascism and their leader, Trump. Most troubling is that these people will probably be willing to utilize more extreme methods to preserve and increase their power, than liberals on the left are willing to, or perhaps even capable of.

We’ve seen few elections in the history of this country more important than the coming one. In the late 1930s, as fascist control over Europe, led by Hitler, strengthened, and the will of the democracies to resist it weakened, the seeds of World War II were implacably scattered. The result is well-known: perhaps 100 million dead, entire cities leveled, maps redrawn, populations shifted across hastily-redrawn borders, the world thrown into a prolonged period of chaos that has not been resolved to this day. Republicans often speak of “tearing down the system,” of destroying the old order completely, in order to build a new one, more to their liking, on its ashes.

That is what we’re going to be voting on in November. Will Donald Trump become another Tiso or, worse, another Hitler? Is he an aberration in U.S. history, or the inevitable culmination of long-simmering fascist tendencies? The American people will have the chance to speak out loud and clear in just six months.

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