Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Magazine article Monthly Review

Notes from the Editors

Article excerpt

Since the events in Charlottesville in August, seven months into the Trump administration, it has become common in left and even liberal circles to point to the presence of neofascism in the White House, as evidenced by the president himself and some of his closest associates. The departure of Steve Bannon, freeing Trump's former chief strategist once again to mastermind Breitbart News, has done nothing to alter these perceptions.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that prior to the white supremacist rally and the accompanying violence in Virginia-whose participants Trump has defended as "very fine people"-few commentators or publications on the left were willing to speak frankly of the new administration's neofascist tendencies. While some questions were raised in this respect during the presidential campaign, after the election, such criticisms were widely dismissed as alarmist and inappropriate, even on the left.

Monthly Review thus stood out in arguing both before and after the election that Trump's campaign and administration have had a neofascist thrust. Before last November, we warned in the Notes from the Editors of both Hillary Clinton's warmongering and Trump's reactionary nationalism (as well as Trump's own embrace of unrestrained military destruction). After the election, we immediately ran a series of articles by John Bellamy Foster, Henry Giroux, and Michael Joseph Roberto on the origins and growth of neofascism in the new administration and the country in general, and Monthly Review Press has just published Foster's Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce, building on his articles from that series. (For more on the rise of neofascism in the United States, see not only the February, April, May, and June 2017 issues of MR and Foster's new book, but also Samir Amin's "The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism" in the September 2014 issue, as well as Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, People Get Ready [Nation, 2016].)

Why was MR so quick to identify a sharp neofascist turn in both the U.S. body politic and the Trump White House, even as other publications shied away from this conclusion? The magazine's critical assessment cannot be attributed to a greater radicalism on our part; rather, these conclusions derived from a tradition of historical-materialist analysis of fascism reaching back to the 1930s and '40s. This Marxian critique of fascism and neofascism is complex and multifaceted, but a few summary points can be made. Marxist theorists have long understood fascism as an alternative mode of governing the capitalist system, one that arises in periods of crisis and seeks to overturn liberal democracy-the preferred form of capitalist management of the state during most of its history. Fascism generally emerges in times of economic downturn and political impasse, coupled with a pervasive weakness of the left. Invariably involving struggles over international hegemony-the place of a given nation in the hierarchy of states-it thus combines nationalism, jingoism, racism, militarism, and imperialism.

In class terms, fascism takes the form of an alliance between the lower-middle class or petty bourgeoisie and key sectors of monopoly capital (today, monopolyfinance capital). The mass base of fascism is thus deeply entrenched in the lowermiddle class and some more privileged sectors of the working class, particularly among dominant racial groups and in more religious and rural sectors of the population. Ideologically, the radical right opposes the working class and unions, promotes a retrograde chauvinism with respect to race and gender, and holds deep contempt for the more marginalized populations of the poor and racially oppressed. At the same time, it finds itself deeply at odds with the upper-middle class, perceived as liberal in culture and politics, and with what today is called the "swamp" of corrupt elites in both the state and the economy-at times extending to "crony capitalists. …

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