By STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH - October 26, 2015
The Web is suddenly crawling with images of Trump as Hitler—the idea has apparently caught on. To what extent this is the weight of the establishment attempting to quash Trump as an unwelcome messenger is anybody’s guess at this time. In America anything goes, given the appalling level of political illiteracy in the political class and media, not to mention the masses. Thus there is now an increasing amount of speculation —- the new “buzz” —- that Donald Trump has one or more characteristics in common with the German Nazi Chancellor/President/Dictator (yes, he was all of those things) Adolf Hitler:
And there has been at least one plea to stop doing so: http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/259898/can-we-please-stop-comparing-donald-trump-hitler-daniel-greenfield).
So, I thought, I might as well enter the game.
First, the similarities. There’s the racism, the xenophobia, and in Trump’s case substituting for Hitler’s extreme prejudice against one religious grouping, the Jews, it’s another, the Muslims. There’s the speaking style and with it the ability to whip up the right audiences into a frenzy. (One difference: Hitler’s was apparently well-practiced, while Trump’s apparently isn’t.) There’s the frequent name-calling in re opponents.
There’s the “our nation must be great again.” Come the 1920’s and 30’s, Germany had lost the last big war it fought. Now while the U.S. cannot be said to have “won” the last big one it engaged in, the War on Iraq, while millions of people on the region have clearly lost much, starting with their lives, militarily at least the U.S. did not lose. (However, the U.S. may actually be on the verge of losing militarily in Afghanistan, joining a long line of foreign forces, from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union that failed there, militarily.) But that doesn’t stop Trump from trumpeting on the “great again” theme, just like Hitler did.
For Hitler, after the Jews, the Great Enemy was “Soviet Bolshevism.” For Trump it seems to be Russia (although I do think that bunches of U.S. persons are confused on the point of whether the U.S. enemy is Russia or the no-longer-in-existence Soviet Union, especially with the constant demonization of Russian President Putin who is the new “Stalin”, of course). (And yes folks, on a newscast on MSNBC on the morning of October 1, 2015 I actually heard a reporter refer to Russia as “the Soviet Union,” not once but twice, before she caught herself.)
Then there are the vague promises of a great future, without telling much about exactly how they planned/plan to get there. There’s the ample use of the Big Lie Technique (but that is common to all of the current crop of Republican leaders, and most of the rest of the political class in America). There are other similarities too, but among the most important, a characteristic that kept/keeps both men going is that they didn’t/don’t embarrass. They never had/have to apologize, explain, defend. They were/are the prefect avatars of Lee Atwater’s consummate principle of politics: “Always attack; never defend.” (Would that the Democrats would learn this principle, but that’s another story.) Finally, it is clear that Trump just loves personal power, just like Hitler did.
Now for the differences, which are very significant, for they have to do with substance. Not just style and rhetoric. First, as most readers of this site are well aware, Trump does not have nearly the mass following that Hitler had. While before the functional coup d’etat of January 30-31, 1933, Hitler’s Nazi Party did never command more than about 37% of the vote (in a country where most people voted), Trump has only gotten into the 30’s, of Republican voters, which amounts to about 15% of the total. )Of course, we do have to remember that in a Presidential election, only about 50% of the eligibles vote and in 2016, Republican voter suppression will begin to exact a major impact on the number of Democratic votes recorded.)
Second, Trump does not have a mass, very well-organized political party behind him, personally. For Hitler the National Socialist German Workers Party (yes, hard to believe, but that was indeed the literal translation of what “Nazi” in German stood for, a calculated move to steal some wind from the Socialist Party of Germany’s [SPD] sails and other genuine workers’ formations including the Communist Party of Germany [KPD]) provided huge electoral clout in the localities in which it was powerful. If Trump does get the Repub. nomination, we really don’t know what the National Republican Party will do for him. But whatever that would be, it could not compare to the personally loyal Nazi Partei.
Third, Hitler had a huge (up to three million part-timers strong) private army, the “Sturmabteilung,” the SA, the Storm Troopers, the much feared and despised—and in other quarters admired—“Brownshirts.” They were his enforcers, frequently engaging in violence against his primary opponents, the Communists and the Socialists. As documented by numerous historians and journalists, the NSDAP was cradled from inception by the Reichswehr (the German Army under the post-World War I Weimar Republic) and paid for from the beginning by major members of the German ruling class led by the steel magnate Friedrich “Fritz” Thyssen. (An early  foreign supporter of the Nazis was a U.S. person named George Herbert Walker. [Sound familiar?]) Trump has nothing like this. But since there is no organized resistance at present to the kind of long-term authoritarian threat that Trump might become —or suggest to better skilled politicos—in the future, that is immaterial.
Fourth, one huge (huuuuge [!]) difference in practice is that while Hitler was arguably the world’s greatest Keynesian political economist, in terms of his vision of the government’s role in making the economy hum, Trump would likely get as far away from that as he possibly could. The one exception might be the U.S. massively crumbling infra-structure, which might be as big a focus for Trump as it was for Hitler (except that Trump would likely attempt to privatize any major expansion).
Fifth, as far as we can tell so far, Trump has no Thyssen equivalents. He is wealthy (although it is not known for sure just how wealthy he is). And he seems—as part of his calculated appeal of being “unbribable” —not to be seeking outside ruling class money. So we don’t know how much he could attract.
Finally, and this is certainly another major difference, obvious to many here but important to note for the record: Trump seems to have no firm belief system. Presently, he is of course riding racism of two types: a) no one who supports him has forgotten his racism-based, dog-whistled “birtherism,” you can count on that, and b) of course the anti-Latino (especially Mexican for some unknown reason — maybe because they are the closest ones) variety. His tax plan clearly benefits the wealthy (including himself) even more than they are already benefitted. His xenophobia is right out front — see his attack on the Syrian refugees. As noted has grandiose ideas for “making America great again” (as if it were not, militarily at least, right now). But, characteristically, he has given no clear ideas on how will do that, on either the financial or the military side. And so on and so forth.
Further, Trump has moved around on the ideological side of things. He has in the past been rather a liberal, endorsing a single-payer health care payment system and freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy, being some sort of friend of the Clintons, and was certainly not until 2012 not an outspoken Republican. Hitler, in contrast, had his malignant political philosophy --- a very firm belief system --- based on the relatively new political anti-Semitism that was first formed in his native Austria in the 1880s, as well as his xenophobia, probably based in part on the fact that he was not German himself. For Hitler, this was all firmly wrapped around his messianic ego (in that sense like Trump, who appears to be a raging megalomaniac). Just read Mein Kampf.
But Hitler was not an anti-Semite in the first instance for electoral purposes (although he used it in that way). He really believed that “The Jews” were not only the cause of every single problem facing Germany, but the rest of Europe as well. He really believed that if “The Jews” were all killed, the world would be a much better place. He really believed that the “Aryan” German people (you know, blond like Hitler, slim like Goering, and tall like Goebbels, as the old joke goes) amounted to a “race,” were superior to everyone else, and deserved to rule the Earth. He really believed that “The Slavs” were an inferior people too (a belief that may well have remained with him even when the Red Army was closing in on the entrance to his Berlin bunker in April, 1945). Trump doesn’t seem to have that level of racialism or even that degree of intellectualism. In that area, Trump is a midget.
And so, do I think that “Trump” equals “Hitler?” Well, not yet. But hey, you never know in a land as benighted as America. And remember: international events always play a big role in how the capitalist ruling class plays its cards at home.
Note: This column (with illustrations) was first published on The Greanville Post,