Donald Trump’s honesty has played a cruel joke on him. Having spread the blame for the violence in Charlottesville in his first statement to “many sides, many sides” on Monday, Trump, under pressure from his administration, read a text specifically condemning the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. But, already the next day he couldn’t live with such a truth and reaffirmed his first statement about “many sides, many sides,” attesting that “everybody said his statement was beautiful.” His” is Trump speaking about himself in the third person. And he added that there were “fine, very fine people” among the far-right demonstrators. When Trump speaks without a piece of paper in front of him, his every word is imbued with single-mindedness and frankness.
I wonder, who among the racists, white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-fascists, and other members of the far right that had gathered does Trump consider the most “fine?” Opponents of removing monuments to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee?
Though made of stone, monuments to the generals of the slave-owning South have turned out to be full of profound meaning. Here’s what the great-great grandsons of Confederate Gen. Thomas Jackson, the second most famous commander of the South after Robert E. Lee, said about them: “Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists.”
“Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols. Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy,” said William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian in The Wall Street Journal,* asking a commission on monuments to remove the statue to their ancestor.
While at the same time a campaign to remove monuments is underway in Ukraine and Poland, a parallel suggests itself, although the parallel is reversed. If monuments to Soviet soldiers and generals who fought against fascism are being removed there, in America monuments that modern fascists and racists are turning into vehicles of their ideology are being removed.
Taking on historical figures as symbols for the far right − or “alt-right,” as they call themselves nowadays − is very expedient.** By speaking about “our history, our heritage, our white Christian culture,” the “alt-right” moves away from banned terms and from open propaganda that is against the law. And at the same time, they attract to their ranks opponents of immigration and the conservatives among those unversed in politics.
Of course, racism has existed in America this entire time, assuming more hidden and subtle forms. Racists, for example, oppose the welfare system because proportionately more of the non-white population benefit from it. They even show concern, saying: “people of color need to be given the opportunity to preserve their unique culture, and therefore it’s necessary to prevent their mixing with other peoples.” There’s a shorter way of saying it − segregation.
And fascism has also always existed in America, changing its color to adapt to the political situation. The best description of this process was presented by American researcher Martin Lee in his book, “The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists.”
Until recently, the far right sat in the dungeon of the political world with their little-known internet resources and small organizations. “Alt-right”** ideologue Stephen Bannon played a major role in organizing and popularizing the far-right trend. His appointment by Trump to the position of chief strategist in the White House pulled the far right into the legitimate political space and gave it a voice.
Watching the struggle between members of the far right and their opponents on American streets, some in Russia are now triumphant: There you go, it’s your turn to deal with chaos! Actually, there’s little reason for rejoicing. First of all, there’s no need to wish violence and fascism upon other nations − in the process a lot of innocent people lose their lives.
Second, the success of the American far right strengthens the far right in other countries: They’re united in a network in exactly the same way as the activists of the “colored revolutions” once were. The “Black Internationale” meets regularly at events in various countries, publishes and translates its methods and propaganda into other languages, and arms and trains itself.
Third, fascism quickly begins to make territorial claims to its neighbors and the rest of the world to see how far it can get. Violence, the path to which Trump has opened inside the country, is also bound for North Korea, Venezuela, and the Middle East – as Trump says it will be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”***
We in Russia had a lot of illusions about Trump. For the most part, he’s already helped us get rid of them by dropping bombs on Syria, imposing new sanctions on Russia and increasing the already gigantic U.S. military budget. Now that he’s clearly come out on the side of an ideology of hatred, violence, and aggression − the mask has been thrown off once and for all.
We thank Donald for his honesty and we’ll take the information into account in our work.
*Editor’s note: The letter was published in the online magazine Slate, not The Wall Street Journal.
**Editor’s note: “Alt-right” is defined as an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism, or more simply, a white nationalist movement.
***Editor’s note: This passage refers to Trump’s language on Aug. 8, warning North Korea not to issue further threats against the United States.