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What Happens When You Compare Trump to Five Characteristics of Fascism?

A fascist glorifies a nation and a mythic people led by a charismatic leader. A fascist promotes violence, and vilifies “outsiders” and the Left while upholding the interests of the rich. Make no mistake: Donald Trump fits the description.
Portrait of Donald Trump Standing proudly in front of the U.S Flag.

Portrait of Donald Trump Standing proudly in front of the U.S Flag. © DannyOliva /

November 25, 2023 05:34 EDT

Is Donald Trump a fascist? If you go by political scientist Michael Parenti’s definition, the answer is yes. Definitely.

One of the most important aspects of fascism, and also one of the most overlooked, is the link between fascism and capitalism. Fascism is a last-ditch effort to preserve the existing capitalist system and class structure — by force.

My hero, Michael Parenti, made a fantastic presentation entitled “Functions of Fascism” that is the basis for this piece. You can find it on Youtube or in the TUC Radio archive. I’d highly recommend it. What I would like to do is compare the main characteristics of fascism as outlined by Parenti and compare them to what we see today with Donald Trump.

First, defining fascism can be puzzling for some people because, as Parenti describes, fascism is a confusing combination of revolutionary-sounding mass appeals and reactionary class politics. Fascism promises to solve society’s problems while, at the same time, it uses violence and terror to protect the interests of the wealthy few at the top. It is basically a new order designed to serve the same old system.

Parenti outlines five main characteristics of fascism, using Italy under Benito Mussolini and Germany under Adolf Hitler as his primary examples.

First on the list is the glorification of the leadership cult. This one is so clear it doesn’t really need an explanation. Donald Trump is the leader and his followers rally behind him. Without strongman Trump, we wouldn’t be having this conversation about fascism in the US. Trump is the leadership cult.

Next is the glorification of the nation-state. This too requires little explanation. The MAGA hat. Make America Great Again. Trump promises a restoration of some imagined past American greatness. That’s two big checkmarks already.

Third is the glorification of military conquest. This one is admittedly not a perfect fit. Of the two major candidates, Joe Biden has the more aggressive, warlike foreign policy. However, nobody beats Trump for jingoism and aggressive patriotism. Trump doesn’t point to international conquest so much as suppression of any domestic resistance to his vision. We’ll give a half-check for this one.

The fourth characteristic of fascism is what Parenti calls the propagation of folk mysticism. In Germany, this manifested as the buildup of a Teutonic Aryan race and the vilification of the Jewish population. What we are talking about is the creation of in-groups and a xenophobic rejection of out-groups. Here in the US, this manifests as the preoccupation with white domination and a rejection of Muslims, immigrants from Central America and South America, trans people, women who want bodily autonomy … I’m sure you can come up with more examples.

A member of the Nazi Sturmabteilung stands beside a placard which reads, “Germans, defend yourselves, do not buy from Jews.” Via

Trump recently said he plans to build massive concentration camps and expel immigrants. The Republican Party has been passing all sorts of anti-trans and anti-abortion laws that feel very much of a piece with the shedding of rights as the noose tightened around the German Jewish population in the 1930s. This is a key piece of the fascist puzzle, and Trump and the Republicans slot right in there.

The final characteristic of fascism, according to Parenti, is opposition to socialism, communism, anarchism, or any left-wing, egalitarian movements or doctrines. I am reminded right away of Trump’s words from Veterans Day, 2023, when he promised to “root out the Communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country — that lie and steal and cheat on elections.”

As Parenti notes, most analysts, American analysts especially, ignore this aspect of fascism. While it’s common for the Right to accuse left-wing movements of trying to “destroy democracy,” fascist totalitarianism actively seeks the destruction of democracy — but in a way that protects the interest of property and the existing class structure. This, Parenti emphasizes, is the true difference between left and right. The Right always seeks to preserve or expand the existing hierarchy of power and privilege.

If you’re a member of the working class, meaning you’re part of the vast majority of citizens in this country, Donald Trump isn’t really interested in raising your wages or helping you out in any meaningful way. He already proved this during his first term in office, the passage of his massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations being a prime example.

Is Donald Trump a fascist? Well, he checks four and a half out of five boxes, for a score of 90%. That’s an A minus — but still grade-A fascist.

[Let’s Make Them Pay first published this piece.]

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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