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Trump’s danger isn’t that he’s a fascist

It’s that he’s a centrist

Dan Davison and Sacha Marten argue that Donald Trump is best understood as oscillating in a middle space between conventional Republicans and the fascist right.

The imminent rematch between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. presidential election has reignited the “fascism debate.” Lengthy arguments over whether Trump is a fascist have been a regular feature of political commentary and analysis since the emergence of Trumpism as a reactionary, authoritarian, populist movement.

These debates have only proliferated since Trumpist rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 to prevent Congress from formalizing Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, fuelled by the conspiracist belief that Biden had “stolen” the election through voter fraud. Our contention is that, while Trump is dangerous, he’s not a fascist, “creeping” or otherwise. Rather, Trump is dangerous because he’s a centrist.

As most readers have probably gathered, we’re using “centrist” very differently from its normal, contemporary meaning of someone with “moderate” political views positioned somewhere between left and right. Instead, we’re using “centrist” in a sense inspired by its older Marxist meaning of someone whose political positions stand or oscillate between being reformist and being revolutionary. In the early interwar period, centrism in this sense was perhaps most closely associated with the short-lived International Working Union of Socialist Parties (IWUSP), often called the “Two-and-a-Half International” to denote its position midway between the reformist Second International and the revolutionary Third International.1 Naturally, we’re not suggesting that a right-winger like Trump is literally a centrist in this historical sense. Rather, we’re using the term figuratively in light of a widely noted division within the contemporary far right.

The contemporary far right: reformists and revolutionaries

In brief, both Marxist and non-Marxist writers highlight that the contemporary far right has both a “reformist” and a “revolutionary” wing. On the non-Marxist side, Cas Mudde describes the “far right” as “those on the right who are ‘anti-system’, defined here as hostile to liberal democracy.” 2 He divides the far right into two further categories: the “extreme right,” which “rejects the essence of democracy, that is, popular sovereignty and majority rule”, and the “radical right,” which “accepts the essence of democracy, but opposes fundamental elements of liberal democracy, most notably minority rights, rule of law, and separation of powers.”3 As such, while both oppose the postwar liberal consensus, they do so in markedly different ways: “While the extreme right is revolutionary, the radical right is more reformist.”4

On the Marxist side, Neil Davidson and David Renton draw similar distinctions. In Davidson’s view, the fascist and non-fascist hard right share “a primary social base of membership of support in one or more fractions of the middle class” and “an ideology of extreme nationalism, in which the nation is usually under double threat from above and inside by treacherous elites and from below and outside by disruptive external intruders.” In addition to these commonalities, Davidson identifies three main differences. First, unlike other sections of the hard right, fascist movements seek to destroy working class organizations. Second, while fascists may make use of elections to gain power, they mainly rely on paramilitary organization and violence, whereas the non-fascist hard right is primarily electoral, seeking to attain office through the normal operation of bourgeois democracy. Third, while the non-fascist hard right’s objective is restorationist, aiming “to push popular attitudes and legal rights back to some lost Golden Age, a time before the homogeneity of the people was polluted by immigration and its virtues compromised by decadent elites,” fascism is characterized by

a project of transformation which seeks the creation of a “new” society, the final realisation of a national destiny which had hitherto been denied. But to achieve this the people—inevitably conceived in racial terms—themselves must be purified, must prove themselves worthy of the world which the fascists hope to bring into being.

In other words, the differences between the fascist and non-fascist wings of the hard right aren’t simply differences of method; that is, it’s not just that fascists make recourse to extra-parliamentary activity. There’s also a difference in purpose. This is what makes fascism “revolutionary” and the non-fascist hard right “reformist.” In Davidson’s view, fascist seizures of power are “political revolutions”; that is, they are “actions which change the nature and personnel of the political regime without changing the mode of production.” Largely agreeing with Davidson’s analysis, Renton remarks that one can think of these contrasts between different traditions of the right in terms of “how far they are willing to go in the defence of capitalism.” 5 As Renton goes on to say:

For conservatives, the best means are to maintain social relationships which already exist; for the far right the task is to restore relationships which are perceived to have been lost; for fascists the task is counter-revolution, the nation must be purged of its enemies.6

None of this is to say that there’s an unbridgeable chasm between the “reformist” and “revolutionary” wings of the hard right. Ultimately, both sprout from the same ideological seedbed and, as we’ll see in detail below in the U.S. context, the “pull” that different sections of the right exert on each other often generates a dynamic, even mercurial, interrelationship, with individual political parties shifting from more “reformist” to more “revolutionary” modes and vice versa.7 Still, however relational and unstable the differences between these wings of the hard right are, they do exist and are essential to bear in mind if we’re to understand the political dynamics, fortunes, and misfortunes of contemporary far-right movements like Trumpism.

Why Trump is a centrist

As many readers would presumably have surmised by this point, this is what we mean when we figuratively call Trump a “centrist.” As historical “centrists” stood or oscillated between the reformist and revolutionary Left, Trump stands or oscillates between the “reformist” and “revolutionary” far right. This analysis contrasts with a substantial proportion of writing on whether Trump is a fascist, much of which tends to conclude that he is, with little contestation. We believe this is partially due to a tendency to view all far-right movements through the lens of fascism, rather than situating fascism as one form of far-right politics among many.

President Donald Trump stands at a podium in front of a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, smiling and shaking the hand of economist Arther B. Laffer.
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony for economist Arthur B. Laffer, the “Father of Supply-Side Economics“ Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In the wake of January 6, Robert O. Paxton, author of an influential book that sought to establish a more concise definition of fascism, wrote a piece providing a fairly detailed outline of concerning things about Trump that lead people to see the threat of fascism in his political successes. One similarity Paxton notes between Trump and historical fascist leaders is Trump’s use of modern communication to talk about national decline, echoing Trotsky‘s writings on how fascism is modernity and reaction combined, a “cultural  excrement.”

For Paxton, like many, January 6, with the terrifying image of Trumpists storming the Capitol to try to keep Trump in power, represented a turning point in Trumpism. This event caused Paxton to view Trump as a fascist after initially not doing so. Indeed, Davidson, whose distinctions between the fascist and non-fascist hard right have been significant for our own analysis, remarked that “[i]f defeated in 2020, Trump almost certainly will claim electoral fraud, but will not attempt to cling to power through a coup.” On that point, history has clearly proved him wrong.

Paxton compares Trump’s unsuccessful coup with the Veterans’ Riots of February 6, 1934 in France. These riots took place on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, near the National Assembly building. They were the culmination of a long, demagogic campaign by the fascists and their supporters against parliamentary corruption and provoked a major political crisis, causing Prime Minister Édouard Daladier to resign. Despite the parallels, Paxton concludes that January 6 ironically left Trumpism with less support in American society than the Veterans’ Riots did for the far right in France. In Paxton’s view, the latter riots deepened divisions in French society and paved the way for the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime.

Black and white photo. on the left wearing a military hat and suit is an older man who is Philippe Petain; On the right shaking his hand is Adolf Hitler in military uniform. They are surrounded by other Nazis.
October 24, 1940: Handshake between Hitler and Philippe Pétain, the French general who commanded the French Army in World War I and became the head of the collaborationist regime of Vichy France from 1940-1944 during World War II Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Paxton’s analysis raises a serious point. Trumpism includes far-right elements who engage in street-level violence with sometimes lethal results, perhaps seen most vividly in Charlottesville in 2017. QAnon as a conspiracy theory and movement has created a messianic mythos around Trump. January 6 undoubtedly saw a mob attempt to block a formal, bourgeois-democratic handover of power, with Trump encouraging them to do so.

Nevertheless, serious complications arise. To begin with, the individual motivations of January 6 protesters were disparate. Some might have known that it was a coup and wanted to overthrow democracy to make Trump their Führer. However, many bought into conspiracies that a shadowy cabal of Democrats had perverted the electoral process and therefore saw themselves as defending American democracy.

Two things spring to mind here. First, as Davidson notes, in contrast to historical fascism’s explicit hostility to democracy as “an impediment to the pure expression of the people’s will to which their party or leader has direct access,” contemporary fascism can face both ways regarding democracy, even if they’d still attempt to suppress democracy once in power. Thus, Trump positioning himself as upholding a democratic outcome against the machinations of a corrupt establishment, and many of his supporters buying into this, doesn’t automatically discount Trump from being a fascist. All the same, the point made earlier about how fascism is distinguished not only by its recourse to extra-parliamentary methods, but also by its purpose, still stands.

Trump’s infamous slogan to “Make America Great Again” is fundamentally restorationist. While fascist movements often invoke a mythologized national past, as previously stated, this is coupled with a much more conscious and thoroughgoing project of creating a new society that actualizes the nation’s denied destiny. Although Trump is promising more extensive replacements of personnel in the U.S. federal civil service and other state machinery, this is a long way off from a political revolution, especially when one bears in mind that, compared to countries like the U.K., the employment and dismissal of civil servants in the U.S. is already very politically partisan.

About a dozen white men wearing khaki pants carry Confederate, Nazi, and Gadsden (don't tread on me) flags in a sunny street. News vans in background.
Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate Battle, Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me,” League of the South, and Thor’s Hammer flags, at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, August 12, 2017. Photo: Anthony Crider.

Second, while Trumpism may have its thugs, including far-right militias, and Trump has encouraged violence against political opponents at home, compared to historical fascism, Trump’s organization and deployment of extralegal violence has been very unsystematic. As the celebrated historian of the Third Reich Richard J. Evans puts it, what we’ve seen from Trump and his supporters even after January 6 “bears no comparison to the hundreds of thousands of armed and uniformed stormtroopers and Squadristi that the Nazi and fascist leaders deployed on to the streets daily in the 1920s and early 1930s to intimidate, beat up, arrest, imprison and often kill political opponents.”

One sees this contrast from January 6 itself. The rioters’ storming of the Capitol wasn’t an organized, pre-planned attempt by Trump to seize power and, by the time Trump called on the extra-parliamentary forces around Trumpism, it was too little, too late. He lost the initiative to rally these forces and take command, and they ultimately proved too disunited and undisciplined for a successful assault on the institutions of bourgeois democracy.

To be clear, we’re not claiming that Trump’s words and actions prior to the riot provided no encouragement for it: clearly, the rioters saw Trump as their leader and felt emboldened by his continued “stolen election” claims. Rather, we’re making the point that Trump’s relationship to those supporters of his who are willing to use extralegal violence is evidently not the very direct commander-footsoldier relationship that characterized historical fascist paramilitaries.

This is not to say that the movement can never become more organized and effective. As well as the Veterans’ Riots of 1934, January 6 has some echoes of the Nazis’ failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich on November 8-9, 1923. As Evans observes, from that experience, Hitler learned that he couldn’t seize power through an open, armed confrontation with the government and that he needed to use the ballot box and win “the support of the political elite, the army, business, the civil service and the police.” The Nazis’ electoral successes in 1932 and 1933 enabled Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor and his consolidation of power once in office. Looking at Trump’s new campaign for the presidency, one can justifiably wonder if he could achieve something similar.

We have reasons to be doubtful. While the Nazis made use of elections to come to power, this electoral strategy was deployed alongside a growing, coordinated street movement and regimented paramilitary, with the SA reaching approximately 400,000 members by January 1932.8 In the three years since the Capitol was stormed, lay-Trumpists have become less organized, not more, with the exception of the “Freedom Caucuses” now found in some deep red states.

Black and white image of crowd on a city street with Nazi troops on balcony above. In the background, a man is elevated and speaking to the crowd.
Nazis at the Marienplatz in Munich during the Beer Hall Putsch, Where Hitler and the Nazi Party planned to seize Munich and use the city as a base for a march against Germany’s national government. November 9, 1923. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Trump has continued with his claims of conspiracy, but has fallen back on the electoral path to the White House rather than violence precisely because he can’t do anything else. No organized street movement or paramilitary has been forthcoming, and many of the True Believers who may have participated in January 6 are now prosecuted, demoralized, or so off the deep end as to make very unreliable Brownshirts.

Then there’s the important matter of ruling-class support. As Kit Wainer and Charles Post observe,

Trump’s attempts to retain office despite losing the election failed for a simple reason: the complete absence of any interest among leading capitalists or state bureaucrats to eradicate or even weaken the Constitutional order in order to extend Trump’s presidency…. None of the players Trump needed to play central roles in his efforts to hold on to power had any incentive to cooperate. Quite the contrary, their futures were bound up with the stability of the capitalist state, a state whose limits can not easily be stretched by a single politician.

This contrasts starkly with the substantial support from leading capitalists and political elites gained by the Nazis between the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 and Hitler’s declaration of himself as Führer in 1934, as well as that gained by the new right in France between the Veterans’ Riots of 1934 and the founding of the Vichy regime in 1940. While Trump’s road to the Republican presidential candidacy shows the extent to which he enjoys political hegemony over the Republican Party and support from right-wing think tanks, this by itself doesn’t mean that he has or is likely to win even the reluctant backing of the ruling classes.

This is not to say that Trump is entirely lacking in ruling-class confidence, and he gets some leeway in his radicalism due to the currently rigid two-party system of the U.S. Still, it is notable that the legal cases for fraud and sexual assault that have dogged him since 2021 have been quite ruinous for his personal and business finances. It seems no rich benefactors have helped pay his fines or bonds, necessitating at some point a fire sale of property or declaration of bankruptcy. So, to prevent this, he resorts to peddling cheap junk to his True Believers to raise funds and delay the inevitable until he gets back into the White House.

While it’s far from impossible, it would certainly be odd for the bourgeoisie to see fit to make a dictator out of the man they don’t trust enough to lend money to. And while we certainly live in an era characterized by overlapping crises (e.g., climate change, mass involuntary migration), as well as large protest waves (e.g., Black Lives Matter, Palestine solidarity) that have elicited repressive law-and-order measures, these don’t threaten the overall stability of bourgeois rule or the capitalist system in anything like the way the conditions of extensive militarization and demobilization, widespread unemployment, high inflation, and the Russian Revolution and subsequent mass workers’ movements did in Europe shortly after the First World War.

In other words, there’s currently no crisis of the sort that could plausibly be used to turn the U.S. into a fully-fledged dictatorship, let alone to attempt to reshape society to the revolutionary extent of a fascist. Therefore, any attempt by Trump to do this would almost certainly lack any major ruling-class support and erode whatever ruling-class or more moderate support he currently enjoys.

Why Trump’s “centrism” makes him dangerous

As already suggested in our discussion of the historical “Two-and-a-Half International,” the position of left-wing centrists in the older Marxist sense was often seen as weak: too radical for the respectability of the electoralist, reformist Left, but too timid to be comfortable around the revolutionaries, leaving the centrists hopelessly vacillating between the two. So, if Trump and those similar to him are in an analogous position on the right, why is this a cause for concern? Surely he’d succumb to the same weakness?

The issue here comes in the relationship between these ideologies on the one hand and capital on the other. When the centrists of the Left face pressure from capital, they have to choose whether to throw their lot in with the revolutionaries or the electoralists—but capitalists are much less threatened by the Right than by the Left, even when that Right is “revolutionary.” For the most part, fascists and other far-right movements have left capitalism intact after taking power, even when such movements have heavily relied on anti-establishment or pro-worker rhetoric. In a crisis so serious that the usual means of maintaining rule prove inadequate, capitalists see fascism as a safer bet than the failed mainstream politics, or the threat of a workers’ revolution, and this benefit is afforded even more so to less “revolutionary”—but still unorthodox—politicians on the far right.

In many ways, this makes Trump stronger and less easily fought than fascism. His ability to sit between reform and revolution on the far right allows him to utilize the standard democratic apparatus, like the Republican National Committee, but also appeal to extra-parliamentary forces, like the January 6 mob. He can stand in a fair democratic election, then call foul when he loses and pursue it in the courts. The more conservative capitalists and think-tanks behind Trump will support him. And in the middle of this, Trump is unpredictable and recalcitrant as ever, holding bourgeois democracy hostage like the climax of an action movie. We don’t know whether Trump needs it for bargaining, or will just shoot it and try to escape in the chaos.

In a recent article, Renton puts forward a possible image of Trump’s second presidency. He rejects narrowly analyzing how fascist a given figure is according to an ideal-typical checklist. We need to look at circumstances, both historically and in the present. Trump doesn’t need  a fascistic revolution to be a dangerous dictator. The U.S.’ institutional structures and practices already have enough anti-democratic elements, such as voter suppression and electoral rules to keep third parties off the ballot, which could enable a transition to an authoritarian “managed democracy” like Hungary—in which democracy and the media still exist on paper, but are tightly controlled by the ruling party—without resorting to fascism. This requires some qualification: as Mudde notes, the U.S.’ complex federal structure, with major competencies retained by the states, prevents an Orbán-style power grab that changes the constitution, since the federal government can’t control the entire political agenda of the country. Still, even without such recourse to major constitutional change, a threatening pattern is emerging: one which Renton compares to a “Frankenstein’s Monster” of fascism, not yet fully complete or clear, but taking some horrible shape all the same.

The “far-right centrism” we talk about gives Trump a certain dynamism, for as long as the coalition of far-right and conservative forces behind him holds, it will be powerful. In other respects, Trump’s “centrism” makes him weaker. In the absence of a significant enough crisis, the leading capitalists and state bureaucrats are unlikely to fall behind any dictatorial ambitions. Meanwhile, Trump’s diehard supporters expect presidential pardons for January 6 and the extension of “draining the swamp” into an all-out purge of the diabolic forces in American society, whether these be woke Democrats, trans people and drag queens; adrenochrome-huffing pedophiles; or whatever other paper tigers sensationalist, right-wing media outlets and conspiracist online communities might invoke.

In front of the U.S. capitol in winter wear, about two dozen protesters in hats. One woman in foreground holds a painting of Jesus Christ wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat.
Fanatical Trump supporter at the January 6th capitol riot displays  image of Christ sporting a red MAGA cap. Photo by Tyler Merbler.

Pushed too far, the Trumpist coalition will break down, and like the centrists of the Left, Trump will be forced to come down for reform or revolution, with either choice alienating a major section of his political support base. If what Renton describes is one plausible outcome of a second Trump presidency, another is that Trump will find himself swallowed in the rift between the reformist and revolutionary wings of his constituency.

Indeed, this is exactly what happened on January 6. A failure to wield revolutionary power (and the aforementioned ill-discipline of his mob) led Trump to rebound into electoral politics, backed by a more conventional political machine. He may still claim that the last election was stolen, but he has chosen to try and fight through the very courts and polls that he once denigrated.

Why it isn’t “creeping fascism”

At this point, a skeptic might concede that Trump doesn’t entirely fit the classical fascist mold, but still argue along the lines of the late Neil Faulkner and his co-thinkers that Trumpism represents a form of “creeping fascism” that is incipient in the gradual deepening of reactionary trends within mainstream bourgeois politics.9 On this view, insisting too readily on the narrow application of definitional criteria of fascism, thereby implicitly treating fascism less like a dynamic political process and more like a fixed state of being, risks minimizing the threat that the new far right poses.

Indeed, there are certain similarities between our analysis and that advanced by proponents of the creeping fascism thesis. We agree that there must be some overlap or permeability between mainstream right-wing politics and the far right, including the fascist right, and that it would be overly rigid to expect contemporary fascism to be an exact mirror image of classical fascism given the vastly different historical conditions. Likewise, we advocate wariness of what we would call the fascistic elements or potentialities within new far-right movements like those we have discussed in relation to Trumpism.

Despite these points of agreement, we find the creeping fascism thesis fundamentally flawed. While, as we previously acknowledged via Renton, there are serious limits to “checklist” approaches to identifying fascism, from methods to ideology to class character, Faulkner and his co-authors’ analysis ends up seemingly abandoning any meaningful distinctions between fascism and other forms of reactionary politics. For example, they state that, rather than being defined by the jackbooted militia, or even by extra-parliamentary political forces more broadly, fascism is simply “a mass movement of the right.… [I]t constructs a movement around reactionary myths of nation, race, family, a traditional order, and an imaginary past.”10

However, this can describe most forms of nationalism, especially its more conservative forms. After all, every idea of the nation is built on an imagined past, people, and traditions. One thus walks away with the impression that fascism is simply authoritarian capitalism dialed up to eleven. Indeed, the authors themselves state that “no hard-and-fast distinction can be made between traditional conservatism, right wing ‘populism’…and fully-fledged fascism.”11

This problem of definitional blurring and consequent lack of clarity becomes very noticeable in their analysis of Trump, for whom most of the “fascistic” tendencies pointed to aren’t the more distinctly authoritarian tendencies other theorists have highlighted, but rather the ordinary forms of right-wing state bigotry sadly endemic in the U.S., such as racist policing. Despite stating that they see Trump as exemplary of a “classic fascist programme of authoritarianism, nationalism, racism, and militarism,” the authors acknowledge that he is “so swollen with narcissism…that to attribute any political ideology to him, even one as shallow and incoherent as fascism, seems perverse.”12 When they attempt to interpret Trump’s politics despite this admission, they end up going wildly back and forth on whether he’s a neocon warhawk or a fascist isolationist. This inability to produce a coherent analysis suggests serious weaknesses in the authors’ chosen framework.

We highlight the confusions found in the “creeping fascism” formulation and its applications because, in our view, it’s emblematic of a broader problem of seeing the far right predominantly through the lens of fascism. In other words, there’s a tendency to implicitly frame right-wing politics as running along a single track, with any given reactionary movement, figure, or party either rolling “backwards” into ordinary conservatism or rolling “forwards” into fascism. This obscures how forms of reactionary politics can emerge in the space between ordinary conservatism and fascism and pose a serious threat in their own right.

In this respect, we’re trying to return to the spirit of those Marxist luminaries who sought to theorize fascism in the 1920s and 30s. These leaders and theoreticians lived in an age marked by a wide range of violent, reactionary politics, such as the monarchical restorationists who participated in the White Terror. Therefore, they needed to understand what was specific about the character and dynamics of fascism among these various forms of violent reaction. While the exact political currents on the reactionary right today might differ from those of the interwar period, the fact of diversity in reaction still needs to be taken seriously.

Responding to the new far right

This isn’t simply an academic issue of taxonomy. Muddying the waters of what fascism is, and what the new far right is, inevitably makes it harder for the Left to work out how best to respond to the rising, global wave of far-right politics. Clearly, the “centrism” of Trump and similar figures can’t be countered at the ballot box: A victory emboldens them, and a loss is merely a stolen victory. In the worst cases, they might rig the system as a managed democracy, or call upon a rabble to instill reactionary violence. But the Left runs the risk of being demonized as an equally violent rabble if we make the same arguments for physical confrontation that we would make when dealing with fascists, and of further contributing to an unstable and divisive situation—with unclear gain, if the authoritarian leader is already in office.

This is not to suggest that the Left’s challenges under another Trump administration won’t involve street-level mobilization and physical confrontation. Indeed, we anticipate the need for this against, for example, far-right demonstrations in the mold of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, and emphasize the need for the labor movement to develop its own anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns and resources.

There is, however, a major difference between how we best respond to far-right mobilizations emboldened by a Trump administration and how we best respond to a Trump-led Republican Party in general. For example, would we have to adopt no-platforming tactics against all Republicans on the grounds that their party is now supposedly fascist? Stuart Hall makes an eerily prescient observation on this point in his famous analysis of Thatcherite authoritarian populism from 1979:

There is a sense in which organized Fascism on the political stage seems to solve everything for the Left. It confirms our best-worst suspicions, awakening familiar ghosts and spectres. Fascism and economic recession together seem to render transparent those connections which most of the time are opaque, hidden and displaced. Away with all those time-wasting theoretical speculations! The Marxist guarantees are all in place after all, standing to attention. Let us take to the streets.

As Hall goes on to stress, this isn’t an argument against taking to the streets, noting the importance of direct interventions against the far-right National Front in the U.K. at that time. Rather, it’s an argument against over-reliance on familiar categories and the political responses implied by their application, which tends to shortcut analysis and simplify conclusions. Hall was concerned that “mere name-calling” would mean obscuring what was specific about the form of capitalist state and crisis that was then becoming evident: one which, unlike classical fascism, “has entailed a striking weakening of democratic forms and initiatives, but not their suspension.” Despite our political differences with Hall, these observations remain pertinent in respect of present-day forms of authoritarian populism.

At this stage, we don’t pretend that we can offer especially comprehensive solutions for the problem of Trumpism. Still, we feel confident saying at least two things. First, we need to analyze contemporary right-wing movements as their own forms of politics that give rise to their own challenges. This means that we need to stop assuming that fascism is the only horrible beast to be found on the far right and bending our definitions and observations to fit our unease at facing figures like Trump. Second, we need to take seriously the task of building a healthy, viable, organized Left as the only force that can defeat the root causes of Trumpism and similar reactionary movements.

As the experience of the U.S. since the last presidential election shows, getting a centrist (in the word’s more usual, contemporary sense) into office in order to keep an authoritarian out doesn’t necessarily mean that the Left will get itself together to challenge both the authoritarian and the centrist next time, or the time after that. If anything, the Left in the U.S. has become weaker, more disorganized, and more lacking in a focal point for working-class politics. A clearer understanding of what kind of threat we’re facing and what’s needed to surmount it won’t by itself reverse the Left’s fortunes, but it’s still a necessary step towards achieving this.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

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Dan Davison and Sacha Marten View All

Dan Davison is a British and Venezuelan scholar and labor activist based in the UK. He holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge. In recent years, he has been active in the University and College Union (UCU) and the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

Sacha Marten is an activist and scholar in Birmingham, UK. They have been active in Workers’ Liberty, the Labour Party and various other campaigns. Currently, they are helping to facilitate opposition to the Tory government’s Rwanda Plan and preparing for a PhD in the far-right radicalization of fandom subcultures.