Is The World Turning To The Right?

In January 2016, as tension mounted in the US Presidential election campaign, author Robert Kagan issued a stark warning for the future

He saw dark times ahead, were Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination “This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutesbut with a television huckster…and with an entire national political party …falling into line behind him

” But his words fell on silent ears Trump’s broadly xenophobic and authoritarian policies took him all the way A year after the article’s publication, Trump became America’s 45th President His success reflects the rise of far-right parties in other countries Is fascism taking over the world? Fascism is an authoritarian form of government based on strongly nationalistic principles

It emerged in Europe after the First World War, giving rise to a series of bloodthirsty regimes, including Hitler’s Germany In 1925 Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini set out its principles, proclaiming “Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” The ideology glorifies heroism through the so-called “cult of death”, which encourages citizens to sacrifice themselves in battle to strengthen the state It resulted in millions of brutal deaths in the first half of the twentieth century Yet, worryingly, many believe it is now coming back with a vengeance

The features of fascism were outlined by philosopher Umberto Eco He described how fascists come to power by exploiting the fear of minorities and foreigners, economic crisis and political grievances, particularly in the middle classes They praise military strength, see pacifism as treason, and are obsessed with tradition Once leaders are installed they present themselves as the Voice of the People, oppressing individual thought and intellectual debate, instead advocating violence and warfare Journalist Yannik Thiem believes that Trump is at the front of this dangerous political shift

Thiem says that his campaign slogan, Make America Great Again, “fits into the pattern of early 20th-century European fascism that painted an image of a country in demise and that emphasized the urgency of needing to bring the country back to a former glory” Alarmingly, this is not the only sign that Trump’s Presidency marks a return to fascism In January 2017 Trump issued an executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim countries from entering the US This controversial order was compared by political journalist John Wight to Nazi policies that demonised Jews and other minorities

Trump's leadership style is also chillingly similar to that of one Adolf Hitler Historian Volker Ullrich says, “[Trump's] egomania, the total egocentricityand the inclination to mix lies and truth – that was very characteristic of Hitler

” But this political situation is not confined to US borders Many believe American populism is just part of a global trend Telegraph reporter Peter Foster believes that Europe is also experiencing a second wave of fascism

He says “the toxic combination of the most prolonged period of economic stagnation and the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War has seen the far-Right surging” These conditions may explain the shocking rise of right wing populism in Europe, where proto-fascist parties such as France’s National Front, Austria’s anti-Islam Freedom Party and Germany’s Alternative for Germany are poised for success in 2017 national elections These factions represent a second generation fascism, in which the “underlying ideology of xenophobia and nationalism remain unchanged” Simultaneously, governments in Hungary, Poland and Turkey are becoming increasingly authoritarian, and support for extreme right-wing parties is surging In 2015, the French National Front won its largest ever vote share with 6

8 million votes Meanwhile, the Freedom Party lost Austria’s 2016 election by a tiny 06% margin Jobbik – Hungary’s anti-semitic party, famous for building an electric, razor-wire fence to keep out refugees – has seen its share of popular support grow from 2 to 22% since 2006 Journalist Sean Illing claims that the 2014 European Union election results typify this new authoritarian political agenda

Newly elected representatives included one in favour of exterminating unwanted migrants with the deadly Ebola virus, a crop of Holocaust deniers and Mussolini’s pro-fascist granddaughter With so many extremists wielding power, the world may be – as journalist Yousef El-Gingihy fears – at “a critical juncture with one road leading to fascism” However, these political trends are not in and of themselves fascist The same is true of Trump’s more extreme and controversial policies Journalist Barton Swaim notes that there are fundamental differences between his brand of politics and European fascism

He says that “the parallels work only if you believe Trump’s views on immigration arise from a desire for racial purity rather than a misguided obsession with national security” In 2016 the Washington Post assessed whether Trump was a fascist by comparing his policies to fascism’s key ideological tenets Out of a possible 44 points, he scored 26 Volker Ullrich reached the same conclusion, explaining that fascism demands full allegiance from all sections of society In contrast, Trump just targets the economically squeezed lower middle classes to gain votes, making his type of politics highly divisive rather than mainstream

Fortunately, the American judicial system has stringent checks in place to prevent an authoritarian dictatorship from establishing power Thanks to these, both of Trump’s controversial immigration bans have been stopped by federal courts Though Trump has the legislature in his pocket, for now there are enough restraints on Presidential power to make autocracy impossible The world has experienced a stunning shift to the right wing in the last few years At times it appears we are coming perilously close to a fascist resurgence

However, like any political movement, it is not inevitable If enough people who are against fascism exercise their right to vote, its global takeover can be prevented

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