Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Trump

Trump, Fascism and Democratic Socialism.

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Trump’s New Residence? 

There is debate on the left, across the world, on Donald Trump’s national populism and its relation to fascism. Many are now talking of David Renton’s study on the way in which different factions on the right have converged. (The New Authoritarians: Convergence on the Right. 2019).

One theme of the last twelve months has been the convergence of people and groups emanating from a conservative or a fascist starting point which, despite their different origins, have been working together since Brexit.

Convergence on the right

Nick Cohen writes in the Observer today,

If Trump looks like a fascist and acts like a fascist, then maybe he is one

I can see three objections to calling a large section of the Republican party pre-fascist. The first can be dismissed with a flick of the fingers as it comes from a self-interested right that has to pretend it is not in the grip of a deep sickness – and not only in the United States. The second is the old soothing “it can’t happen here” exceptionalism of the Anglo-Saxon west, which has yet to learn that the US and UK are exceptional in the 21st century for all the wrong reasons. The third sounds intelligent but is the dumbest of all. You should not call Trump or any other leader a pre- or neo-fascist or any kind of fascist until he has gone the whole hog and transformed his society into a totalitarian war machine.

Perhaps we can learn something about how to react from the history of other “pre-fascist’ movements.

For the specialist in the history of French fascism, Zeev Sternhell, the European far-right was born out of a will to break with “l’ordre libérale” in the late 19th century. One of the first stirrings was “Boulangism”  1885-1889 (named after General Boulanger). Boulanger was seen by many French people  as the man destined to avenge France’s defeat in the Franco-German War. This movement was,, Sternhell argued, a synthesis between nationalism and certain forms of ultra-republican socialism (Blanquisme).  anti-liberalism, nationalism (Bonapartists), with an anti-Semitic overtow, (La droite révolutionnaire, 1885–1914. Les origines françaises du fascisme.1978).

A kind of Make France Great Again movement, Boulangism was an electoral event, a coalition of candidates around a figure who would carry the “will of the people” to power against corrupt elites. They were seen to be behind Revanche (Revenge on Germany), Révision (Revision of the Constitution), and, for at least one section of their supporters, Restauration (the return to monarchy). Despite the success of Boulangist candidates never came near to winning a majority in the French election of 1889, 72 deputies against 366 for the Republican side .

Efforts to pin Boulangist ideas down in one ‘populist’ nationalist direction, nostalgia for Bonaparte’s First Empire, run up against the fact that Boulanger had not just the votes but the financial backing of wealthy Monarchists (exposed by a former supporter in  Les Coulisses du boulangisme).

Despite this, some on the left, like Paul Lafarge, considered that the demands of the ‘people’ against the “les gros bourgeois” and their impatience with republican ‘réformisme’  could be turned  in a socialist direction. An important section of the left opposed Boulanger, accusing him of Césarisme, the wish to override democratic procedures.  For Jean Jaurès popular support for Boulanger was not just socialist aspirations gone astray, it was not socialist in any sense.

After initial electoral appearance, with support from working class districts, Boulanger himself took the stage and  was urged to take power by a coup d’état.

In January 1889 Boulanger was returned as deputy for Paris by an overwhelming majority. When the election results were announced, wildly shouting masses of his supporters urged him to take over the government immediately. Boulanger declined and spent the evening with his mistress instead. His failure to seize control at the crucial moment was a severe blow to his following.

A new government under Pierre Tirard, with Ernest Constans as minister of the interior, decided to prosecute Boulanger, and within two months the Chamber was requested to waive the General’s parliamentary immunity. To his friends’ astonishment, Boulanger fled from Paris on April 1, going first to Brussels and then to London. He was tried in absentia for treason by the Senate as high court and condemned on Aug. 14, 1889, to deportation. In the elections of 1889 and 1890 his supporters received setbacks, and public enthusiasm for his cause dwindled away. In 1891 Boulanger committed suicide in Brussels at the cemetery of Ixelles, over the grave of his mistress.

Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Frederick Engels set out some reflections that stand up well today,

Although the Boulangist movement appeared to be ephemeral in retrospect, Frederick Engels paid close attention to it. Engels saw the threat of a Boulanger dictatorship, warning socialists in France:


The finest thing of it all is that three months after these two congresses Boulanger will be in all probability dictator of France, do away with parliamentarism, expurgate the judges under pretext of corruption, have a gouvernement à poigne and a chambre pour rire (trans. mock chamber), and crush Marxists, Blanquists and Possibilists all together. And then, ma belle France—tu l’as voulu! (trans. my beautiful France – that’s what you wanted!)

Engels recognized the danger of a Boulangist dictatorship as spelling the end not only to the socialist movement in France, but the Third Republic itself. For him, the question was not just how to analyse Boulangism, but how to fight it.

Engels, Boulanger and the Fight Against Fascism

That could stand for the position democratic socialists should take towards Trump’s supporters and their assault on the Capitol.



Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Trump, Democracy, Fascism and….Counterfire.

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 © Leon Kuegeler / Anadolu Agency via AFP

The New Brown Threat?

Many groups on the left have published useful and thoughtful articles on the Trump Riot in the Capitol. Some have looked for analogies with the 1930s extreme-right. That is not just the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini but events like  the riots of the Ligues in 1934.

February 6, 1934

Bloody demonstration in Paris

On February 6, 1934, the radical Édouard Daladier presented his new government to the Chamber of Deputies.

It was the pretext for a violent anti-parliamentary demonstration which would  make the Republic tremble and ultimately bring about the union of the Socialists and the Communists, until then contested by the latter.


These leagues – mass political movements – brought  together discontented people of all stripes. They had multiplied on the right and on the left, on the margins of parliamentary parties, thanks to the economic crisis .

They benefitted from the support of three influential right-wing or far-right weeklies: Gringoire  (600,000 readers), Candide  (Pierre Gaxotte, 300,000 readers), Je suis partout  (Robert Brasillach, 100,000 readers).

They equally benefited from the support of a newcomer, Philippe Henriot (45), elected deputy for Bordeaux a few months earlier. A strongly Catholic militant on the right, anti-Republican, anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic, an excellent orator, he called three times in January 1934, at the rostrum of the Chamber of Deputies, to “sweep away the Republic”  (under the Occupation, he would put his voice at the service of Radio-Vichy ).

Wikipedia says,

The 6 February 1934 crisis was an anti-parliamentarist street demonstration in Paris organized by multiple far-right leagues that culminated in a riot on the Place de la Concorde, near the seat of the French National Assembly. The police shot and killed 15 demonstrators. It was one of the major political crises during the Third Republic (1870–1940).[1] Frenchmen on the left feared it was an attempt to organize a fascist coup d’état. According to historian Joel Colton, “The consensus among scholars is that there was no concerted or unified design to seize power and that the leagues lacked the coherence, unity, or leadership to accomplish such an end.”

There are many differences between the mass — far-right of the 1930s and today.

The obvious point is that the Washington riots were not stimulated by an outgoing President.

The next is that national populist ideas, MAGA,   fascist white nationalism, and modern conspiracy theorists have had plenty of time to develop since the 1930s. Observers point to their diversity, from a kind of Brexit Party nationalism, to  ‘paleo-conservatism’ , in the writings of  Patrick J. Buchanan (The Death of the West,2002) and  Stephen Bannon , founder of Breitbart, and and chief Trump strategist during the first 7 months of his regime., to the overt racism of Jared Taylor, a theorist of White Identity (White Identity, Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century 2011).

There is this as well:

Several prominent activists were spotted inside the building, and others flew Q-themed banners inside and out.

Others have some of the ideas of ‘identarian’ politics, and even the ‘libertarian’ identity politics of traditinal ‘somewhere’ people propagated by groups like the British Spiked network and others who reject ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ . 

Finally, despite the existence of armed far-right militias in the USA they do not have the hundreds of thousands of members that the 1930s Ligues in France, as in other European far-rights of the time, had. Nor is their experience of combat echoed outside of the small numbers of Veterans in the American armed services. They, unlike the totaliarian parties of the past, are also decentralised.

This debate in continuing. Others have looked further back to ‘Bonapartism’ and the Boulanger movement in France for analogies between today’s Trump supporters and populism across Europe and the world.

Most of the left considers that defending democratic institutions against the far-right is a priority, in the US, and everywhere.

The reasons are simple.

In the UK the radical left has stood many times on College Green outside Parliament, in tens of thousands for anti-austerity protests. The internationalist left has joined million strong protests against Brexit which have ended in the same place. We have lobbied our MPs. We have been at meetings inside the Place of Westminster.

Outside London we have protested against government and council policies. Suffolk protests outside the County Council have ended with protestors attending the council meetings making the decisions to implement cuts. In Ipswich we have stood outside the Tory MP of the time, Ben Gummer. He invited us, trade unionists, including members of left socialist and Marxist groups, into his office. We had an amiable, if animated, discussion.

We are democrats.

We do not ‘storm’ Parliament: we want power, not endless protest.

Democracy in its present shape may be imperfect. We are not bound by tradition. The past is not a law code. But if some geezer is going to tell me that the vote I cast in the ballot box is less important than their protest, I would the first to object.

Step forward another approach.

Counterfire is a British groupuscule which believes in the ‘actuality of the revolution’.

It sees it itself as standing at the epicentre of world events, and is prepared to offer its advice to left wing movements across the world.

Their best known members are John Rees and Lindsey German, prominent in the People’s Assembly and the Stop the War Coalition. More recently Rees has emerged as a figure defending Julian Assange.

They have just published a post by Kevin Ovenden, who used to be George Galloway’s bagman. Ovendon advised the French left not to vote for President Macron against Marine Le Pen during the 2017 Presidential elections, He, graciously, was prepared to fight against the far-right, to the last French activist  if….Marine Le Pen took power.

Now he offers a strategy to the US left.

The US left must constitute itself as an independent pole, and not fall in behind attempts to rehabilitate business as usual, argues Kevin Ovenden.

He argues against putting trust in bourgeois institutions,

As with the last effort, this move comes not because Trump has violated the rights of racial minorities, launched drone assassinations abroad or attacked the civil liberties of ordinary Americans. It is because he has tampered with the ruling class settlement – undermining US alliances abroad (Russiagate) and authorising a riot at what they call “the temple of US Democracy” on Capitol Hill.

Many on the US radical left have been quick to point out that this “sacred place” was built upon slave labour, sustained by robbery of US workers enforced frequently by extreme violence, and is the cockpit of projecting big power interests against weaker countries.

In other words, the Capitol is hardly worth a piece of piss its defence.

This is his answer,

A left based upon an insurgent politics and mass activity, capable of changing the overall political constellation.

We should all wish our friends in the Belly of the Beast the very best and do what we can to help. The biggest part of that is acting wherever we are to construct our own insurgent left in mass movements of resistance that are not contained by the old politics.


Not having the gumption to offer advice to the US left in general, I will give an opinion on this type: ignore him and Counterfire.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Trump: The Death of Populism.

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Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor

Populist Rabble in the Capitol.

America shaken after pro-Trump mob storms US Capitol building.


America was shaken on Wednesday as a mob of Donald Trump supporters staged an insurrection at the US Capitol building in Washington DC, storming the debating chambers and clashing with armed police.

Four people died in the unrest that rocked the capital on Wednesday, Washington DC police said, including a woman who was shot dead by the US Capitol police. Three others died in “medical emergencies”, the DC police chief, Robert Contee, said.

The siege was among the worst security breaches in American history and came after Trump had earlier urged a crowd of protesters to march on the Capitol and undo his November election defeat.

One thing should be clear; after yesterday:  populism is dead.

The nationalist and neoliberal regime of Donald Trump has tried to cling to power by inciting mob violence against basic democratic institutions. Their “people” is now shown as a band of far-right wingers prepared to use force to enforce their views. Putschist, they have gone down in history as the most shameful political force in this century’s US politics.

Who is now going to remember their supporters across the world?

Or not:

Another national populist comments,


Just look at the state of the Trumpists:

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Written by Andrew Coates

January 7, 2021 at 10:19 am