Is Donald Trump a Nazi sympathizer

»Hail our people! Sieg Heil! ”With these words, Richard Spencer, known in the USA as a right-wing extremist, ended a speech on the election victory of Donald Trump in the American capital Washington, D.C. Cheering supporters responded with "Heil Trump!" Spencer belongs to the so-called "Alternative Right" (Alt-Right), a right-wing extremist movement in the United States that has worked successfully to get one of its own in the White House: the far-right publicist Stephen Bannon was appointed his chief strategist by Donald Trump immediately after the November 8 election. Bannon had also led the Republican candidate's election campaign for the preceding months. Before that, he was the website's editor-in-chief Breitbartwho have favourited Bannon himself as the mouthpiece of the Alt-RightMovement.

Since then, leading American media have been overturning in comparing Trump's success story with the novel It Can’t Happen Here (That is not possible with us) by Sinclair Lewis from 1935.

The liberal weekly magazine The New Yorker - a news, culture and literary magazine for which there is no comparable counterpart in this country - was the first newspaper headlined before election day: "Getting close to fascism with Sinclair Lewis’s› It can't happen here ‹". Why does this 70-year-old novel move American hearts so?

Sinclair Lewis wrote the book under the impression of Adolf Hitler's seizure of power, who, like Trump, declared his motto for the United States to be »to make Germany great again«. Just as Trump announced today that he would revoke treaties, Hitler had also revised the Versailles Treaty of 1919. B. reintroduced the armed forces. Regarding the novel: At that time the economic and political situation in the USA did not differ much from that in the depressed Europe: In Harlem there was social race riots, in the Midwest sandstorms destroyed the crops, millions of Americans wandered across the continent in search of work - Migrants in their own country. The then Liberal President Franklin D. Roosevelt therefore launched an economic program called the New Deal, which, however, did nothing for most Americans. The people longed for security and the classic values ​​of the founding fathers: self-realization, the pursuit of happiness and the feeling of being part of a great idea or nation.

Lewis took up this mood among the people and played through what could happen if a tribune came to power. Using the fictional Senator Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip from the Democratic Party, which, by the way, stood for conservative values ​​back then, he describes the rise of a populist. In the fictional election campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt, Windrip fuels the fear of the "left behind" and promises drastic economic and social reforms, while at the same time he emphasizes "traditional" American values ​​and presents himself as a true patriot. In the novel, Windrip wins the 1935 presidential election and manages to gain complete control of the Senate and the House of Representatives (the parallel to today's Republican majority in both houses is obvious!). Windrip soon ruled authoritarian and switched off opposition forces by loyal to him paramilitary forces, the Minute Men, named after the first American resistance fighters against British colonial rule in the 18th century. Lewis describes the Minute Men like Hitler's SA. However, the story ends well at some point. Because Windrip turns out to be unable to keep his election promises. That is why resistance is building up even among his former sympathizers. Windrip is eventually overthrown and exiled to France. Lewis' message is: American society is not immune to fascism, but it is strong enough to defend itself against authoritarian rule; a point of view that Americans of all stripes like to hold against the Germans to this day.

The iron heel

But Sinclair Lewis' dystopia already had a forerunner. Jack London, wrongly known only as an adventure writer in this country, sat down with the novel as early as 1907 The iron heel (The iron heel) deal with similar mind games. London called the US trusts and financial oligarchs who exploit the people an "iron heel." The novel has science-fiction-like features, its plot extends as a "class war" for over 300 years. Jack London, who was temporarily a member of the American Socialist Party, did not devote himself to the rise of a single tyrant, but saw in the US business family clans such as the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Lyndhursts and Duponts a "tyranny" that did not correspond to the American dream and therefore must be fought. George Orwell once stated that his famous novel 1984, in which a totalitarian surveillance state is portrayed, directly from London Iron heel had been influenced. Orwell: "London has written a very remarkable foresight on the rise (of a form) of fascism", making him "a greater prophet than many other logical thinkers and better informed than him."

Parallels between the novel could be drawn without contortion The iron heel and real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who claims to have $ 10 billion in assets, making him the richest US president of all time. The oligarchical traits of power are already evident in Trump's family, for example the influence of his daughter Ivanka Trump, who is now officially supposed to co-manage the father's fortune, but makes a fortune in the jewelry and fashion business, and her husband Jared Kushner, like Trump Real estate mogul whose role in politics is still unclear.

With the Trump family clan, the United States is actually facing the danger for the first time that Jack London's prophecy of an economic oligarchy coming to power could become a reality.

Another recent author was preoccupied with the idea of ​​a fascist takeover of power in the USA: Philip Roth published the book halfway through George W. Bush's administration in 2004 Plot Against America (Conspiracy against America). With an obvious loan from Sinclair Lewis, he also lets a candidate run against Franklin D. Roosevelt. This time in the 1940 election and the candidate is Charles Lindbergh. The first Atlantic aviator was known to be an anti-Semite and wins the presidency in Roth's book because he is popular, does not belong to the political establishment and wants to keep America out of a war with Germany. After moving into the White House, the fictional Lindbergh President courted Nazi giants in Washington and began to crack down on Jews. Pogroms break out. As a result, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (who actually did exist) organized resistance. As with Lewis, the president eventually has to flee. Lindbergh's election is also revealed as being financed or brought about by the National Socialists (sounds like Vladimir Putin's alleged support for Trump today). Franklin D. Roosevelt wins again in the upcoming presidential election. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US enters the war - and real history takes its course. Roth tells nothing new with his novel, but shows how much American writers are again and again concerned with the possibility of a fascist government.

"A fascist came to power in the United States," said Jakob Augstein in a comment immediately after Trump was elected Mirror online. The American Robert Paxton, one of the leading experts on the history of fascism, would not agree with Augstein's anger in its generality. Rather, Paxton thinks it is too tempting to use the term fascism as a homicide argument on Trump. Nevertheless, he also sees striking parallels between Trump and Benito Mussolini in particular. On the web platform Slate Already in February 2016, Paxton analyzed what exactly is coming near Trump:

“First of all, of course, it is his issues that he brings to the fore. He uses clichés about ethnic minorities and stirs up fear of foreigners and wants to make America “great” again; they are all elements as if they came straight out of the handbook for fascism. ”He also claims that the country is in decline, which is also equivalent to borrowing from the European fascists of the 20th century, because the US is not in an economic one nor in a different kind of decline. But Trump emphasized this so often that many believed him. "This is exactly how fascism works," says Paxton.

“But there is a second level. His style and manner of appearance. He even looks like Mussolini when he sticks his chin out like that (in his speeches), and so does his rumbling, his ability to absorb the mood of the masses. ”Another scene reminds Paxton of Hitler: Trump came on his campaign tour somewhere in the American West at. His audience was already gathered in an aircraft hangar when he flew in for all to see, got into a car and was driven the few meters to the hangar. “This is exactly how Hitler appeared in 1932 before his first election victory. Because never before had a candidate been seen arriving by plane. A gesture of powerful determination, authority and modernity. "Added to this is Trump's ability to inspire the working class for himself and against the left:" That is exactly what Hitler and Mussolini did. "

Lessons for Germany

A consideration of the political situation in the USA only makes sense if one draws lessons from it in this country. The question must be asked: Where can we find writers like Sinclair Lewis in this country today? Where a new Heinrich Böll or Günter Grass, who have always been involved in the formation of political opinion? Where an artist of the format Joseph Beuys ’, who was committed to DIE GRÜNEN? Where a musician like Kurt Masur, who contributed to the peaceful revolution in the GDR in 1989?

A book like the one by Sinclair Lewis does not exist in Germany today, but the successful novel does He is back by Timur Vermes tells satirical about how Adolf Hitler woke up again in 2011 on a green meadow in the middle of Berlin and started his march through the institutions. With this novel, and even more so with the film adaptation, laughter gets stuck in your throat, because concrete examples from everyday life show you: It would be quite possible - it can happen here!

For France, Michel Houellebecq has with his dystopia submission made an attempt in 2015 to play out in a Lewis’ way how the rise of the right Front National (FN) under Marine Le Pen could be prevented if a charismatic Muslim politician formed a counterforce and was elected French president.

But such literary examples are not enough to stand up to right-wing populist sentiments. Anyone who wants to attract workers, farmers and citizens has to offer "something" in concrete terms. First and foremost is work and the feeling of security at home instead of profits overseas. The lesson from Trump's electoral success can possibly be reduced to one sentence: Globalization has reached its limits; There needs to be a clear shift towards more in German politics at home and less abroad.