By Juan Cole
Fascism as a political ideology is difficult to define, in part because it usually contains a big dose of populism, and the content of populism differs from people to people
In my view Mussolini’s fascism in Italy is a fair exemplar of the phenomenon.
One characteristic fascist societies have in common is social hierarchy. Men are better than women, they hold. Men are entitled. Some ethnicity is better than all the other ethnicities. White people are entitled (even if some white supremacists in Anglo-Saxon societies wouldn’t consider Mussolini’s Italians or Franco’s Spanish to be “white.”
Hitler put off an alliance with Italy because he was still hoping he could get the white British to join him and they seemed to him a superior race). A corollary is that some ethnicities are sick or polluting to society and need to be eliminated, made to emigrate or diminished in some more sinister way.
Another hierarchy is economic. The wealthy and the middle classes are better than the poor, and the poor should be punished for being poor. Under Mussolini in the 1930s the condition of the poor plummeted.
Yet another thing that is common to fascist societies is militarism. Because they affect a macho and militaristic stance, they glorify war and generals. And they prefer to deal with problems through war rather than diplomacy, which they code as effeminate.
People kept hoping that Trump was only kidding, only playing to some base, and that once he won the generals he would pivot.
He hasn’t pivoted, except further toward fascism.
His shouting match with North Korea, essentially boasting of a bigger nuclear arsenal (and implicitly threatening to use it) is typical of fascist braggadocio.
His budget, which aims to kick 26 million working and middle class people off of health insurance, is punitive to the poor. They shouldn’t get sick, he is saying, and if they do they should try please to die quickly, as a congressman once said.