Trump and 21st Century fascism

By: William I. Robinson *

Piñatas of Donald Trump are popular in California.

Piñatas of Donald Trump are popular in California.

Contrary to what is thought, Donald Trump is a member of the transnational capitalist class (TCC), since he has strong investments around the world and a very important part of his “populism” and anti-globalization discourse responded to political demagoguery and manipulation in performing the duties of the presidential election.

At the same time, this transnational capitalist class and Trump himself depend on the migrant labor for their accumulations of capital and don’t really seek to get rid of a population in labor peonage, due to their status as a migrant and not of citizen or “legal” resident. His sought-after plans for deportation, already reduced in number as president-elect, and his proposals for criminalization of immigrants on a larger scale seek, on the one hand, to convert the immigrant population into a scapegoat for the crisis and channeling the fear and action of the citizen working class (the majority white) against that scapegoat and not toward the elites and the system. On the other hand, the dominant groups have explored how to replace the current system of super- exploitation of migrant labor (based on lack of documentation) with a system of un migrant workers with visas; in other words, guest worker programs.

At the same time Trump seeks to intensify the pressures for lowering wages in the United States, for the purpose of making American labor “competitive” with foreign labor; in other words, with the cheap labor from other countries. The transnational leveling of wages downward is a general tendency of capitalist globalization that continues ongoing with Trump, this time with a discourse of “returning competitiveness” to the U.S. economy and “bringing jobs back” to the country.”

One must not overlook the dimension of Trump’s extreme racism, but rather analyze this dimension more in depth. The United States system and the dominant groups find themselves in a crisis of hegemony and legitimacy, and the racism and the search for scapegoats is a central element for challenging this crisis. At the same time, important sectors of the American white working class are experiencing a de-stabilization of their working conditions and living conditions, a downward mobility, “precariousness,” insecurity and very great uncertainty. This sector had historically certain privileges thanks to living in what’s considered the first world and because of “racial”-ethnic privileges with respect to Blacks, Latinos, etcetera. They are losing that privilege by gigantic steps versus capitalist globalization. Now the racism and the racist discourse from above channel that sector towards a racist and neofascist conscience.

Equally dangerous is Trump’s openly fascist and neofascist discourse, which has achieved “legitimizing” and unleashing the ultra-racist and fascist movements in United States civil society. In that direction I have been writing about the “fascism of the 21st Century” as a response to the grave and greater all the time crisis of global capitalism, and that it explains the turn towards the neofascist right in Europe, as much in the West as in the East; the resurgence of a neofascist right in Latin America; the turn towards neofascism in Turkey, Israel, Philippines, India and many other places. One key difference between the fascism of the 20th Century and that of the 21st Century is that now it’s about the fusion not of national capital with reactionary political power, but rather a fusion of transnational capital with that reactionary political power.

“Trumpism” represents an intensification of neoliberalism in the United States, together with a greater State role for subsidizing the transnational accumulation of capital in the face of stagnation. For example, Trump’s proposal to spend one trillion dollars on infrastructure, when we study it well, his objective in reality is to privatize that public infrastructure and transfer taxes of the workers to capital in the form of tax cuts to capital and subsidies for the construction of privatized public works. An epoch of changes is coming in the United States and in the whole world. I fear that we are on the edge of the inferno. There will surely be massive social explosions, but also a horrifying escalation of state and private repression.

The crisis in the spiral of global capitalism has arrived at a crossroads. Either there is a radical reform of the system (if not its overthrow) or there will be a brusque turn towards “21st Century fascism.” The failure of elite reformism and the lack of will of the transnational elite to challenge the depredation and rapaciousness of global capitalism have opened the way for an extreme right response to the crisis. “Trumpism” is the United States variant of the rise of a neofascist right facing crisis all over the world; Brexit, the resurgence of the European right; the vengeful return of the right in Latin America, Duterte in Philippines, etcetera. In the United States the treason of the liberal elite is as responsible for Trumpism as the extreme right forces that mobilized the white population around a program of racist, misogynist scapegoating based on the manipulation of fear and economic destabilization. Critically, the political class that has prevailed for the last three decades is more than bankrupt and has paved the way for the extreme right and eclipsed the language of the working and popular classes and of anti-capitalism. It contributes to derailing the revolts underway from below, pushes white workers to an “identity” founded on white nationalism and together with the neofascist right helps to organize them into what Fletcher names “a united white and misogynist front.”

* Professor of sociology at the University of California Santa Barbara and author of the book Latin America and global capitalism, a critical perspective of globalization (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).


Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





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