Whether or not the Trump Presidency constitutes or portends a fascist state and why it matters!
Many writers on the “left” portray the Trump Presidency as the rule of actual or impending “fascism”. Most seem to presume that Trump’s authoritarian aspirations, bigoted demagoguery, and cruel xenophobic and other persecutions equate to fascism; but such behavior has never been unique to actual fascist states. Because actual fascism would be catastrophic for the left and progressive movements, it is of utmost importance that leftist organizations be able to recognize: what it is, what circumstances give rise to it, and when and how to act to prevent it. It is also essential to avoid raising a false alarm every time an odious demagogue appears. In order to ascertain whether or not the Trump Presidency can reasonably be categorized as actual or impending “fascism”, it is necessary: to properly define the phenomenon, and to analyze the relevant current political conditions as well as the motives of those who are crying “fascist”. In order to ascertain why it matters, this must be an inquiry into the nature of the state power and of the constraints which its alternative forms, liberal and authoritarian, impose upon the left.
1. Most basic, which class holds state power? In the capitalist world, it is the capitalist class which has that power. This is so both: under authoritarian regimes, and under liberal “democracy” (aka bourgeois “democracy”). The liberal notion that, in any capitalist country, representative government (chosen periodically by an otherwise mostly passive electorate) can be neutral and above class is delusional. Economic power begets political power, and money rules. As Cecil Rhodes (diamond mining magnate, politician, and architect of the British empire in southern Africa) knowingly remarked “Money is power”.
2. Which kind of political regime – liberal or authoritarian – is normally preferred by the capitalist class? The liberal regime is one in which the government is administered, until the next periodic election, by the political party (or coalition of parties) which dominated in the previous election by popular vote. For capitalists such a regime is ideal for several reasons.
- Both capitalism and liberal “democracy” find their doctrinal “justification” in the political doctrine, liberalism, which holds that individual liberties are sacrosanct (at least for those citizens deemed to be deserving). Those individual liberties are deemed to include private property rights and the freedom to engage in profit-seeking commercial enterprise.
- Most successful politicians are, either capitalists, or are beholden to capitalist interest groups which provide most of the requisite funding for their election campaigns.
- Every capitalist and capitalist interest group is free to participate.
- The people (the working class and its allies) are relegated to a passive reliance upon politicians who largely only pretend to serve their interests, while actual governmental policy is heavily influenced by lobbyists in the hire of capitalist interest groups.
- Normally much of the populace is deceived by the pretense that the governmental administration is one of their choosing. As Marx observed [Civil War in France (1871)] the actual result of popular election under a liberal “democracy” was and is the electorate “deciding once in [every few] years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in [government]” .
Consequently, from a capitalist perspective, the ideal political regime is normally the liberal “democracy”.
3. So then why would the capitalist class ever support an authoritarian state?
The liberal “democratic” regime does not always inspire the capitalist class with confidence that it can and will preserve the capitalist social order. This loss of confidence in liberal “democracy” usually occurs where: the class antagonism between the capitalist class and the people (the working class and its allies which include other oppressed population groups) becomes increasingly transparent, and growing mass popular discontent poses the threat of social revolution. In such circumstances, the capitalist class will often acquiesce as an opportunely-positioned power-holding group within it jettisons the liberal regime and places governmental administration in the safekeeping of an authoritarian state which will: abolish the pluralist electoral regime, abrogate civil liberties, and repress anti-capitalist groups in a much more sweeping and thoroughgoing way than does the liberal regime. (The authoritarian regime will also suppress liberal challenges to its hold on state power.) While such a regime serves the entire capitalist class by preserving the capitalist social order; it foremost represents, and answers to, the most authoritarian faction and/or ruling clique within the capitalist class.
4. What is the function of the state under capitalism? The state, in its naked essentials, is the organized institutional coercive apparatus which the ruling class uses as it deems necessary:
- to make and enforce its laws,
- to defend and/or expand its previous conquests,
- to uphold the established “rights” and privileges of the dominant and favored interest groups, and above all
- to defend and preserve the existing social order.
5. How does political repression of dissent differ between liberal and authoritarian states? To whatever degree dissident political activity (including peaceful advocacy and protest) is deemed to pose a threat to the capitalist social order or to the valued concerns of any politically powerful interest group; the state is routinely used: to restrict, disrupt, and suppress said political activity, and to harass and otherwise persecute the troublesome dissidents. However, in this regard, there is a significant difference between liberal and authoritarian states.
1st. Authoritarian. In order to “justify” their being, authoritarian regimes typically: reject liberal ideals, such as civil liberties and rule of law, as unacceptably permissive; and portray themselves as champions of the nation, or of God and traditional values, or both. Consequently, under authoritarian regimes there are few constraints upon the use of repression against unwelcome dissidents; and victims often number in the tens or hundreds of thousands (imprisoned, and/or tortured, and/or murdered).
2nd. Liberal. Liberal “democracies” differ in that they must pretend: to be tolerant of peaceful dissent, and to respect civil liberties and the rule of law. However, such tolerance is readily accorded only to those dissidents whose activities can be easily ignored as posing no real threat: to the social order, or to the prized concerns of any powerful interest group. While the US and other Western “democracies” hypocritically condemn adversary countries for alleged persecutions of their “democratic” oppositions, these Western states perpetrate their own persecutions of dissidents who engage in universally legitimated but unwelcome dissent – dissent legitimated by the United Nations under its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In actual fact, these “democracies” concoct “national security” and other pretexts to “justify” all manner of civil liberties violations, both overt and covert, against targeted dissidents. Examples .
♦ Criminalization. Membership in specified revolutionary parties has been criminalized even though the targeted party had committed itself to legal peaceful means, for example: the Communist Party in the US during the Smith Act prosecutions (1948..57), and the Communist Party in Germany (in and since 1956).
♦ Covert repression. The Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] and other state agencies in the US used illegal covert operations (as in COINTELPRO) to disrupt a number of dissident organizations including those seeking racial justice and/or protesting the Vietnam War.
♦ Surveillance. Massive unwarranted surveillance has been and remains pervasive. A few illustrative examples, not a complete list.
- Between 1960 and 1974, the FBI created files on 500,000 Americans.
- Main Core, originally created in 1982, is a federal government database which (without court-approved search warrant) collects and stores personal and financial data on millions of Americans whom the intelligence agencies (FBI, NSA, CIA, and others) deem (often for trivial reasons) to be “threats to national security”. These individuals may be tracked, questioned, and/or detained whenever there is deemed to be a national security “threat”. At one point during the Cold War more than 26,000 Americans were listed to be interned in case of national security “emergency”.
- PRISM is a National Security Agency [NSA] data collection program which covertly intercepts internet communications (email, VoiP, photos, videos, file transfers, etc.) throughout the US and much of the rest of the world. Its existence remained secret until exposed in 2013 by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
- MAINWAY is a program thru which the NSA has secretly collected and stored telephone metadata (phone numbers of caller and recipient plus time, locations, and durations of calls) on the landline and cell calls routed thru the systems of the four largest telephone companies in the US. MARINA does the equivalent with internet traffic. The telecom companies and internet service providers evidently also provide access to their lines so that, with secret Presidential approval, NSA can eavesdrop on calls without a judicial warrant and has used the results to order investigations of tens of thousands of Americans.
- The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program [MICT] photographs the outside of every piece of mail processed in the US and provides the information to state agents upon request without a warrant. MICT was created in 2001, but not publicly revealed until 2013.
Since 2001 the US and allied states, operating similar surveillance programs, have used terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda as pretext for an intensification of such massive surveillance of their citizens.
♦ Assassination. Victims of assassinations (by state agents or thru collusion or incitement by same) have included:
- Cameroonian revolutionary independence-movement leader Félix-Roland Moumié (Geneva 1960) by the French secret service (Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage[SDECE]);
- Malcolm X (New York 1965) by assassins incited by undercover operatives of local police and the FBI;
- Black Panther Party [BPP] leader Fred Hampton (Chicago 1968) by local police in a conspiracy directed by the local prosecutor and the FBI;
- BPP leaders Bunchy Carter and John Huggins (Los Angeles 1969) by members of a rival group incited thru false-flag poison-pen letters actually sent by the FBI;
- leading female American Indian Movement [AIM] activist Anna Mae Aquash (South Dakota 1975) by rivals after FBI infiltrators planted false insinuations that she was a snitch;
- anti-colonialist revolutionaries Arnaldo Darío Rosado Torres and Carlos Soto Arriví (Puerto Rico 1978) by local police;
- civil liberties lawyer Patrick Finucane (Northern Ireland 1989) by a loyalist paramilitary acting in collusion with Britain’s Security Service [MI5];
- civil liberties lawyer Rosemary Nelson (Northern Ireland 1999) by a loyalist paramilitary acting on information provided by British state security forces.
♦ Rigged prosecutions. Imprisonment by means of rigged trials on false allegations (using: false bribed/coerced testimony, withholding of exculpatory evidence, biased juries, and/or biased judicial rulings which prejudice the proceedings against the accused). Victims: Marshall Edward Conway, David Rice and Edward Poindexter, Elmer Pratt, Veronza Bowers Jr, Assata Shakur, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Cuban Five, Rafil Dhafir, Ricardo Palmera, Holy Land Five, and others.
♦ Pretense. Because of their need to pretend to respect civil liberties and the rule of law, in liberal “democracies”:
- repression is usually targeted selectively against groups and individuals who can be effectively vilified and stigmatized,
- persons directly victimized generally number in the ones and tens, and
- suppression of dissident leftist organizations is generally less than absolute.
Thus, such regimes are normally far less repressive than authoritarian states.
6. Is repression the only method which the state can use to save capitalism? The capitalists, their politicians, the educators and mainstream media, and other influential establishment institutions maintain a pervasive ongoing propaganda to whitewash capitalism, discredit socialism, and vilify any organization which threatens the power and privileges of capital (especially when said organization is a proponent of social revolution). This propaganda is often largely effective. However, sometimes crises or other conditions arise whereby much of the populace no longer readily accepts that propaganda message. When anti-capitalist critiques or socialist ideas and their revolutionary proponents gain substantial popular sympathy, capitalists and their agents naturally become alarmed and turn to the state for action to remove this threat to their cherished social order. Within the confines of liberal “democracy”, the state has three options which it can use for this purpose.
1st. Selective repression thru legalistic contrivance and/or covert action. US examples: the Palmer Raids and the criminalization of anti-capitalist social-revolutionary organizations following the Great War; and the anti-Communist witch-hunts and re-criminalization of the Communist Party from late 1940s to late 1950s. Note: while this selective repression typical of liberal states has sometimes achieved semi-fascist reach (as in the two foregoing examples), its scope and severity differ hugely in comparison with the sweeping and unconstrained repression which is usual in authoritarian states.
2nd. Ameliorative reforms (not to replace capitalism, but to save it). US example: New Deal labor rights legislation and welfare programs during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
3rd. Combination of ameliorative reform and selective repression. US example: mass surveillance plus COINTELPRO and other mostly covert repressions along with Great Society welfare programs and human rights legislation (1960s and 1970s).
7. How do authoritarian states take form?
1st. Arbitrary state. One commonplace type of authoritarian regime is the arbitrary state which is installed by a cabal within the state administration using armed force to seize and retain state power as, for example, with a military junta. Such regimes usually occur in developing countries which lack a politically potent middle class.
2nd. Fascist state. Another type is the fascist state which differs in that it claims legitimacy based on its support from a large reactionary populist political constituency. However, the controlling power in a fascist state remains with the capitalist class, specifically with its most intolerant and authoritarian factions. Thus, the Comintern [as reported by Georgi Dimitrov (1935 Aug 02)] noted the class character of fascism and defined it “as the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital” .
8. What is the basis of the reactionary constituency? Reactionary political constituencies develop as response to the unwillingness or incapacity of the liberal regime to prevent social and/or political developments which provoke feelings of economic insecurity and/or cultural alienation in that backward-looking part of the population which then becomes nostalgic for the past or a fantasized conception thereof. These constituencies, consisting of much of the middle class (aka petit bourgeoisie) and the most bigoted and antisocial of the workers, are generally fostered by demagogues who exploit that discontent by pandering to often-latent group prejudices (usually racial, xenophobic, national chauvinist, sectarian religious, homophobic, and/or patriarchal/misogynist).
9. How do fascist regimes come to power? Fascist regimes can come to power either: by means of a violent ouster of the existing government, or thru constitutional means. While Franco in Spain waged a genocidal civil war (1936..39) in order to conquer state power, and Pinochet in Chile staged a bloody coup d’etat (1973); Mussolini (1922..23) and Hitler (1933) obtained power when elected liberal-democratic governments voluntarily ceded control to the fascist parties.
10. What makes a fascist takeover possible in a liberal “democracy”? The mere existence of a significant reactionary populist political constituency does not, of itself, portend the coming to power of a fascist regime. Three conditions are required for the placement of state power in the control of a fascist organization.
1st. Potent constituency. The reactionary populist constituency: must be of sufficient magnitude to be politically potent, and must be susceptible to being mobilized as a coherent political force.
2nd. Potent organization. There must be an authoritarian fascist organization which is: (1) capable of obtaining and commanding the allegiance of that reactionary constituency; and (2) capable of taking control of the coercive state apparatus and directing it to abrogate the pluralist liberal “democracy” and to impose the overall suppression of civil liberties, especially as exercised by the left. Past examples: the Fascist Party in Italy; the Nazi party in Germany; the Falange in Spain; Patria y Libertad together with the Gremialistas and the pro-coup reactionary wing of the (previously-governing) Christian Democrat Party in Chile .
3rd. Ruling class role. There must be substantial ruling class support for the abolition of liberal “democracy” and the placement of state power under the control of a potent fascist organization. In every case where a fascist regime displaced an established liberal “democracy”, it was with support, usually in fear of potential or threatening social revolution, from a large and influential part of the ruling capitalist class. For example, ruling class embrace of fascist organizations increased greatly, during the revolutionary working-class upheavals in the years immediately following the Great War and again in the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the threat of social revolution was very real throughout much of the capitalist world.
Ω. Restoration. When the conditions, which have impelled the capitalist class to yield state power to an authoritarian regime have dissipated; factions of that class, which have been excluded from political power and/or no longer see the need for authoritarian rule, join other discontented liberal factions in pressing for, and eventually achieving, a restoration of the liberal regime. Examples: Greece (1974..75), Portugal (1975..76), Spain (1975..78), Chile (1990..94).
11. Does the Trump Presidency constitute or portend a fascist takeover of state power in the United States? There are five points to be considered.
1st. The reactionary bigoted constituency? There has always been a sizable part of the US electorate which is imbued with patriarchal/misogynist, racist, sectarian religious, and/or other bigoted prejudices. GOP pandering to that constituency (with: Goldwater’s condemnation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a violation of “states’ rights”, Nixon’s “southern strategy”, Reagan’s speeches about “welfare queens”, G H W Bush’s “Willie Horton” campaign ads, the Republican embrace of anti-abortion policies, rightwing attacks on affirmative action policies, rightwing attacks on government neutrality toward religion, etc.) has made GOP electoral success dependent upon the votes of this constituency. While bigotry is invariably an element in fascism, bigotry can and does exist widely without being an embrace of the authoritarian state; and it has in the US for most of its history. Although said constituency had been mobilized as a political force, and there were some on the left who deemed Nixon’s sweeping electoral victory in 1972 and/or Reagan’s in 1980 as a fascist takeover of the state; that was not a reasonable assessment. Nevertheless, the reactionary bigoted constituency has now been mobilized by Trump as an active and significant political force. Therefore, the first of the aforementioned three conditions is satisfied.
2nd. The authoritarian organization? Donald Trump, with his demagoguery and his scapegoating of the “other” and his all-around pandering to racist, sectarian religious, and misogynist bigotry, has molded that reactionary populist constituency into a cohering political movement devoted to himself. However, while a part of Trump’s base would perhaps accept a move toward authoritarian governance, only a neo-fascist fringe on its margins consciously aspires to an authoritarian state. In fact, most of that reactionary movement is an anti-establishment protest seduced by nostalgic appeals for retrogressive policies and dismissive in varying degrees with respect to the rights of the “other”, also neither novel nor unique to fascism. It is not seeking an unconstrained authoritarian form of governance. In fact, much of this constituency is so blindly partisan and/or misinformed by its reliance upon deceptive sources, such as Fox News, that it is actually largely (and often somewhat willfully) ignorant and/or simply dismissive of Trump’s prevarications and abuses of power. It is true that Trump has been able, to a limited extent, to use repressive state agencies to persecute vulnerable population groups, most notably stigmatized immigrants and asylum seekers; but, crucially, Trump’s political organization lacks the capacity to convert the coercive state apparatus into an instrument for the suppression of the civil liberties of his numerous critics and broad-based political opposition. Consequently, the second condition, namely a politically potent fascist organization with the capacity, as well as the desire, to replace liberal “democracy” with an authoritarian state, is not currently fulfilled.
3rd. Ruling class embrace? With the very limited exception of sectors (such as health insurance) where there is already partial government ownership, those “socialist” organizations, which have some significant popular support in the US, are not currently demanding public ownership of the means of production (not even of the big banks). What they (Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialists of America included) seek is a new “new deal” ameliorated capitalism. Their program, while worthy of critical support, is reformist, not truly anti-capitalist. Meanwhile, groups advocating for actual social revolution currently do not have anywhere near the level of popular support to inspire the ruling capitalist class with fear for the continuation of its cherished social order. While those demanding new-deal type reforms are unlikely to obtain more than partial progress in the near term (and that only if and after Democrats sweep the 2020 elections), they are far from displacing capital from domination of government in the US and unlikely to do so anytime in the foreseeable future. Moreover, and crucially, there is very little support within the ruling class for replacing the pluralist liberal “democracy”, which they can and do rig to some degree thru gerrymanders, voter suppression, and other anti-democratic manipulations. Consequently, the requisite ruling-class support for displacement of the existing liberal “democratic” regime in the US [⁑] by an unconstrained authoritarian state does not currently exist. Finally, although Congress is beset with considerable partisan strife; at the federal level nearly every politician, Democrat as well as Republican, is subservient to capitalist interest groups and committed to the preservation of private-enterprise capitalism. Thus, the third condition, significant ruling class support for a move to fascist rule, is not even remotely within sight of being fulfilled.
[⁑ Note. The ruling class in the US and in allied Western imperial countries happily back subservient authoritarian states in the peripheral countries in order to perpetuate their systematic subjugation and exploitation by transnational capital.]
4th. The persecutions. Most of the persecutions which Trump has imposed on racial minorities, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups are presaged by policies dating back to previous Presidencies including those of Clinton, Bush-Cheney, and Obama. Examples.
♦ Racially disproportionate mass incarcerations are deeply rooted in Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill.
♦ The persistent privation and increased abuse which the working poor (especially in female-headed households) must endure is largely a result of the punitive features in Bill Clinton’s draconian so-called “welfare reform”.
♦ Excesses in Bush’s “war on terror” included: extraordinary renditions, torturing of captives (torture having been common practice under Democrat as well as Republican Presidents in the Korean and Vietnam Wars), and fixed-outcome prosecutions targeted against dissident Muslim charities (e.g. Help the Needy Foundation, and Holy Land Foundation) and Arab human rights activists (e.g. Sami Al-Arian) in the US.
♦ Obama earned the moniker “deporter-in-chief” as he deported more undocumented immigrants in his first five years than did Bush-Cheney in all eight years, and finally more than all of his predecessors combined. The majority of Obama’s deportees had not been convicted of any crime. Under Obama, family separation included 152,000 children deprived of their undocumented parents in 2012 alone. In 2011 DHS took some 5,100 children from their parents and placed them in foster care. Local law enforcement, which often engaged in racial profiling, was recruited to engage in immigration enforcement. ICE conducted middle-of-the-night house searches. Deportation procedures were expedited in order to deny, to recent arrivals, their right of access to lawyers and due process for asylum claims. Scores of desperate deportees including many children were subsequently murdered in their home countries. Detention facilities (in large part privately owned and operated for profit) subjected detainees to abuse and neglect: confinement in extremely cold cells (aka “ice boxes”) or cages (aka “dog kennels”), overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, lack of access to needed medical care, victimization with physical (including sexual) violence, detention officers allowed to abuse with impunity, and other abuses. While Obama was President, most Democrat politicians and the mainstream news media took little interest. Now under Trump, such abuses (now, as then, somewhat limited by court order) have become a cause célèbre. 
♦ Obama refused to free federal political prisoners (Bowers, Peltier, Dhafir, Palmera, Holy Land Five) who were unjustly convicted and imprisoned thru rigged trials under previous Presidents.
♦ Add to this the bipartisan imperial regime-change interventions (coups, invasions, bombings, economic-siege sanctions regimes, etc.) which have been perpetrated all around the world by every President and Congress since 1945 (often resulting in horrendous persecutions and mass-murder with cumulative death toll in the millions), as well as the longstanding bipartisan US backing for often-extremely-repressive foreign states as long as they are pro-West (i.e. client states).
Ω Trump’s not-at-all-unprecedented persecutions and crimes against humanity do not differ substantively or qualitatively from those under his predecessors. What distinguishes Trump’s posture is his blatant pandering to bigotry and his naked indifference to the resulting cruelty and human suffering, in contrast with the sneaky concealments and artful pretenses involving persecutions under previous Presidents. In fact, Trump’s bigotry and persecutions are blatant, obsessive, absolutely transparent, and undeniable. This transparency makes it much easier to organize against; and that is a good thing.
5th. Despotic power? Trump has been repeatedly stymied on particular issues: by the foreign-policy establishment; by Congress; by the courts; by obstruction within his own administration; by his own narcissism and incompetence; and sometimes even by overwhelming public disgust at some of his most abhorrent pronouncements. Trump failed in his first attempt to coerce the Congress into funding his anti-immigrant border wall, and he only succeeded in his second attempt when Congressional Democrats caved in return for modest funding for a few of their priorities. He has been utterly unable to muzzle his critics: in the mainstream news media, in the Democratic Party, and on the left. Moreover, despite his obsession to put an end to the Mueller investigation of his Presidential campaign, Trump was unable (or too fearful) to do so. Finally, he failed to prevent House Democrats from impeaching him. He certainly does not possess anywhere near the absolutist power of a fascist despot. Moreover, with the persistence of broad and intense popular opposition to Trump, he is very unlikely to achieve such power.
Ω. Conclusion. The Trump Presidency, despite Trump’s abhorrent policies and authoritarian aspirations, is not a fascist state. (Note. This analysis applies to the US. The politics of any other country with an extreme reactionary populist party in power, or about to take power, needs its own separate fact-based analysis.)
12. Why does it matter whether the Trump Presidency is, or is not, branded as fascism? Whether it is, or is not, determines what must be the appropriate current strategic objective for the social justice movements. For long-term success, the appropriate strategic orientation is essential.
1st. If fascism. If a political regime of unconstrained state repression of progressive dissent were in effect (or if forces seeking such regime were on a trajectory to achieve it); then the appropriate current strategic objective would be: to remove (or prevent the establishment of) such regime, and to restore (or maintain) the liberal freedoms of political action for the progressive movements. To achieve that strategic objective, the left, as in the antifascist popular fronts of the 1930s and 1940s, would need to forge a broad anti-fascist alliance [⁑] including all who are committed to the pluralist liberal regime notwithstanding its inconsistent respect for dissident political freedoms and the rule of law as well as its many anti-democratic abuses and anti-people policies. This alliance would naturally include the anti-fascist factions of the capitalist class, along with their politicians; and it would necessarily need to suspend its active opposition to private-enterprise capitalism until after the anti-fascist strategic objective had been achieved.
[⁑ Note, in some countries, including the US, the Communist parties made gross errors in their implementation of the anti-fascist alliance. In fact, the US Communist Party [CPUSA] went beyond alliance on the shared anti-fascist objective and lapsed into de facto allegiance (1941..45) to the ruling liberals. It largely failed to recognize that: alliance does not preclude appropriate criticism, nor does it preclude demands for remedial action on immediate social justice issues as well as for progressive reforms. By giving up its policy independence, the CPUSA then objectively acquiesced to the anti-people policies (for example: suppression of labor struggles, and inaction on demands for racial justice) of the ruling factions thereby largely abandoning its social justice principles and losing much of the trust of its natural constituencies.]
2nd. If not fascism. If unconstrained state repression of the progressive movements is neither in effect nor about to be; then the current strategic objective must be to create the requisite conditions for the socialist acquisition of state power without which there is no possibility for fully or permanently eradicating the many social evils of capitalism. To achieve this strategic objective, socialists must include the following in their program.
♦ Organize and mobilize the progressive working class and its allies into a popular revolutionary movement for comprehensive social justice with a firm commitment to a program of specific demands with respect to: economic justice, environmental justice, racist and sexist and all other violations of human rights, civil liberties, militarism and imperialism.
♦ Engage in political struggles to empower the people (i.e. the working class and its allies) and to reduce and constrain the power of the capitalist class, and thereby to create the requisite conditions for that socialist acquisition of state power and for the socialist reconstruction of the social order which is to follow. People empowerment includes: collective bargaining, litigation rights, citizen initiatives, public participation and oversight, FOIA access, voting rights, civil liberties, human rights enforcement, etc. Measures to reduce and constrain the power of the capitalist class include: public interest regulation of for-profit businesses, ending and reversing privatizations, expanded public services and social welfare programs, bans on corporate money in election campaigns, statutory restraints upon the powers and reach of the repressive state apparatus, etc.
♦ Counter the influence of the agents of capitalist indoctrination in academia and in the mass media; and educate the public as to the fact that contemporary social evils are inherent in the normal operation of private-enterprise capitalism.
♦ Expose both the Republican Party and the centrist-dominated Democratic Party as antisocial agents of capital against the real interests of the people; and establish electoral independence: by making reasonable demands of Democrat politicians (who need the votes of social-justice-minded voters), and by challenging those who refuse to cooperate by backing progressive challengers in primary and/or general elections.
♦ All alliances with antisocial factions and/or their agents (including the Democratic Party as currently constituted) must necessarily be temporary and limited to specific immediate objectives, namely those particulars in the social justice program and in the people-empowerment and capital-constraining struggles to which they provide actual support.
3rd. Mis-branding & misdirection. Under an actual fascist state, no political activity in pursuit of progressive reforms would be permitted. In fact, while there is much to hate in the policies of the Trump Presidency, it has provoked an increase in such political activity; and that is a very good thing. Therefore, assertions of fascist rule being in current effect (or about to be) are proven false. Branding as “fascist”, whatever rightwing political actors as are widely deemed to be particularly odious, renders the word largely meaningless. More importantly, those on the “left” bemoaning the purported fascism of the Trump Presidency delude themselves and their listeners with a false analysis, which inevitably tends to influence and misdirect progressive political action by inducing persistence in the counterproductive policy of giving electoral allegiance to the Democratic Party (which, in effect, they mis-portray as the savior of progress and democracy).
4th. Consequences. The cries of Trump “fascist” simply serve as excuse for demands, by Democrat politicians and their “socialist” apologists, that the left unite with the centrists behind the Democratic Party. In fact, the proponents of this “anti-fascist” policy are currently insisting that the essential task for the left in 2020 is: to replace Trump with whatever politician the Democrats select as their candidate for imperial commander-in-chief, and to put the Democrats in control of the federal government. This is a repudiation of the real task, which must be to build the revolutionary movement. Why? Because supporting a neoliberal militarist imperial centrist for commander-in-chief is fundamentally incompatible with promoting consciousness of the need for social revolution.
♦ Saviors of progress and democracy or enemies of the people? Centrist Democrat politicians have no firm principles other than: (1) to preserve the existing capitalist social order; and (2) to embrace whatever policies (progressive or regressive) as are expedient and useful to advance their political careers. They readily abandon social justice principles whenever it becomes politically expedient to do so . Because both they and their Republican challengers depend upon capitalist funding for their election campaigns, these Democrats will persist in their neoliberal, militarist, imperialist, anti-environment, and other antisocial policies until compelled to do otherwise. These fake-progressive politicians presume that progressives must vote for them: (1) because of their lip-service progressive sympathies along with their hyped support for some few minimal reforms of some benefit to some fractions of their popular constituencies; and (2) because the voters’ only credible alternative appears to be their unpalatable Republican challengers. These centrist Democrats are self-serving career politicians, bought-and-paid agents of capital, and actual enemies of the people.
♦ America-first racism in the left. “Socialist” and other “progressive” proponents of center-left unity in support of the centrist-dominated Democratic Party have embraced an objectively racist left version of America first. They care that Democrat politicians are marginally less antisocial on domestic issues (generally because they need the votes of women, minorities, and other affected constituencies); but, like said Democrats (including even most avowedly “progressive” Democrats), said proponents of center-left unity acquiesce to the murderous oppressions of the millions of victims of US-led Western imperialism in other countries by giving their de facto allegiance to the Democrat perpetrators. (More detailed analysis can be accessed in noted source .)
♦ Ameliorative reformism and lesser-evil-ism. Avowedly “progressive” proponents of center-left unity behind the Democratic Party, obsessed as always with the pursuit of ameliorative reforms and the electoral defeat of rightwing politicians, evade Democratic Party hypocrisy and inconsistency on human rights, civil liberties, labor rights, environmental justice, militarism, imperialism, and other social justice issues. These proponents of tailing after that centrist-dominated pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist Party rely upon it as their vehicle for treating the social evils of capitalism – evils for which Democrat politicians bear a huge share of culpability. Thus, they act to keep the progressive movements and the broad left ensnared in its counterproductive allegiance to agents of capital who are their ultimate enemies. 
♦ Need for independence. In order to free itself from its servitude to the capital-serving Democratic Party, the left must: (1) create its own independent political organization to struggle for social justice in all relevant arenas, not limited to the electoral and parliamentary arenas; and (2) forge its own independent electoral operation, namely a social-justice solidarity voters’ bloc which will withhold its votes from these career politicians until they seriously commit to act in support of some reasonable minimum part (necessarily varying in time and location) of a comprehensive social justice program . Only then will the revolutionary movement for social justice begin to build its own independent political power, without which it will never achieve sustainable progress toward the elimination of the social evils of capitalism.
Ω Without a politically independent revolutionary movement for comprehensive social justice, there cannot be: any socialist acquisition and retention of state power, any socialist reconstruction of the civil society, or any elimination of the ubiquitous social evils of capitalism.
 Karl Marx: Civil War in France (Third Address, 1871 May 30) ~ § III (re Paris Commune) @ https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/index.htm.
 Charles Pierce: Political repression in liberal “democracies” (2019 May 08) @ https://specter-cp.home.blog ~ post 3.
 Georgi Dimitrov: The fascist offensive and the tasks of the Communist International in the struggle of the working class against fascism – Report delivered at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International (1935 Aug 02) ~ § The Class Character of Fascism @ https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/dimitrov/works/1935/08_02.htm#s2.
 Wikipedia: Falange Española de las JONS (2018 Sep 30); Fatherland and Liberty (2018 Mar 30); 1973 Chilean coup d’etat (2018 Sep 26).
 Carol Dansereau: Whose Moral Stain? Hold Democrats Accountable on Immigration Too (2018 Oct 02) @ https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/10/02/whose-moral-stain-hold-democrats-accountable-on-immigration-too/. Miles Culpepper: Why Democrats Keep Caving on Immigration (2019 Jul 07) @ https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/07/democrats-immigration-border-ice-cbp.
Author: Charles Pierce. Date: 2019 Jul 14, last updated 2020 Feb 16.
Charles Pierce is: a working-class retiree, a past union steward and local union officer, and currently a researcher and writer on history and politics. Other articles by Charles Pierce can be accessed by google search at https://specter-cp.home.blog.