The second lecture in Indivisible Eugene’s Portents and Parallels series was energizing and informative. Dr. Gina Herrmann, whose scholarship focuses on Spanish anti-fascist Communist women, gave us an overview of current discussions on the definitions of fascism, modes of anti-fascism, and whether the Trump administration can properly be called fascist.
It was fascinating to hear the current debates on this subject. Some highlights: There are some similarities, especially between Trump and Mussolini: a negative image of society (with leader as savior), symbiosis with the crowd, invocation of nostalgia for a “time of greatness,” rhetoric meant to alleviate anxiety about the emancipation of women and other groups in society. But because Trump is an opportunist with no apparent violent plan, because his administration is maintaining nominal democracy rather than creating a one-party state, and because a big part of their agenda aims to dismantle governmental protections for working people and the environment--and because historical specificity is important--scholars conclude that we cannot accurately call this administration fascist.
Dr. Herrmann observed that interviewers questioning scholars about this question seemed deeply invested in wanting to be able to use the term, and I noticed myself sympathizing. I think that what we’re wanting is permission to see the current situation with as much seriousness as our guts are telling us is warranted. And the scholars do agree about how dangerous it is. Whatever word we use for it, we are facing a real threat to our democracy!
Anti-fascist resistance during World War II was informed by the democratic values of the Englishtenment and covered a spectrum of approaches and levels of “belligerence.” Much of it was rooted in Communism, and thus anti-communism complicated the ability of disparate groups to cooperate. In fact, Spanish anti-fascism devolved into a civil war within the civil war. A warning to us now, for sure…
I was struck by the statement that the resistance movement created a culture of resistance, not just individual actions but a state of being in opposition. I’m thinking about how to live that way myself, joyfully and in community. Our discussion at the end of the lecture focused on how to resist now; wisdom from Ruth Ben-Ghiat, one of the prominent fascism scholars, tells us to avoid normalization, which can lead to passivity and immersion in private life. She says, “Be visible! Bodies on the street!” And Dr. Herrmann feels that the best way to proceed is the Indivisible model of steady pressure on Congress. We’re on the right track!
--Do Mi Stauber