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The Right Reads Gramsci: Project 2025 and Neo-Fascism

“We need to understand fascism as a dynamic and revolutionary movement. It is not a conservative political force safely embedded in US institutional power. It has a radical vision of power and reconstruction that Project 2025 gives voice to.”


It may come as a surprise, but the Right has been studying the work of Antonio Gramsci for years—and his ideas on the importance of culture and ideology have made a big impact on them. They concluded the Left has been following Gramsci’s lead ever since the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and captured the press, the universities, civil society, and most government institutions. To counter that, they have built their own media and think tanks, cultivated an institutional base in Christian churches, and developed a narrative focused on attacking abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, immigrants, and the civil rights advances since the 1960s.

This “war for the soul of America” is central to Project 2025’s “Mandate For Leadership” report, which presents a blueprint for MAGA and a strategic plan for the use of power should Trump win in 2024. According to its logic, left-leaning elites who promote human rights, racial justice, gender equality, and environmental protection are enemies of the people—that is, the hardworking (white) Americans for whom the ruling elites show contempt.

Referencing Gramsci, the report states: “The long march of cultural Marxism through our institutions has come to pass. The federal government is a behemoth, weaponized against American citizens and conservative values, with freedom and liberty under siege as never before.” Anyone who adheres to leftist ideology is a member of this elite, dominating most major institutions of American life: the media, big tech, education—and “nothing less than a counter-revolution will save the nation.”

Understanding how the ruling class rules

Gramsci explained how leading elements of the capitalist class build hegemonic blocs to create a ruling consensus. The bloc establishes commonly accepted forms of accumulation and political rule, as well as cultural and ideological domination, or ideas that become accepted as “common sense.”  The main components are accepted by both major political parties, although there may be policy differences that exist within the scope of the broad consensus. The bloc, essentially a coalition of ruling class factions, forms a mass base by both repressing the opposition and creating political support among other sections of the population. They build that support mainly by using the tools of culture and ideology to support their political and economic project, but economic success and stability also play an important role. 

From about 1932 to today there have been two major hegemonic blocs in the US. The first was the Keynesian bloc developed during the Roosevelt administration, which lasted into the late 1970s. It included social welfare, the acceptance of unions and civil rights reforms for women and people of color, measures to raise living standards, an economically active state sector, nation-centric economics, repression of the Left, building the military-industrial base, and imperialism abroad. It was replaced in the 1980s by neo-liberalism, which included the globalization of production, vast cross-border financial flows, broad-scale attacks on unions, precarity, deindustrialization, undermining the social contract, free-market ideology, expanding the military-industrial complex and imperialism, while militarizing policing and promoting the carceral state.

Ruling class splits

The deep economic crisis of 2008 began to unravel the neoliberal hegemonic bloc. A rapidly growing crisis of legitimacy disrupted politics, with social movements developing to the left and right.  Significant sectors of the ruling class concluded they needed to form a new consensus to stabilize capitalism and reestablish political support for the system. Two different power blocs have formed, although neither has yet achieved hegemony.

The neo-fascist bloc seeks stability through repression, and creating a mass base through religious fundamentalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. The neo-Keynesian bloc seeks stability and renewed political legitimacy through neo-Keynesian reformism, and economic expansion through the green modernization of the means of production. Both still pursue imperialism and maintaining military dominance.

This is a deep split within the ruling class over internal policies, different from the McCarthy era in which the ruling class and both political parties were united in purging the Left and expanding the US empire. The current splits may be beneficial to the Left in forming a common project to defend and expand democracy and protect civil society. That would entail aiming our main blow against the neo-fascist bloc, building the socialist core, working closely with progressives, and pushing the center to the left.

There are numerous important issues that unite a broad array of political forces: defending abortion rights, defending the queer and trans community, expanding voting rights, teaching about institutional racism in our public schools, defending public libraries and access to books, promoting more environmental legislation and regulations, maintaining a pro-labor National Labor Relations Board, defending Social Security and greater taxation on corporations. The list could go on. These issues encompass questions of race, class, and gender as well as democracy. Even within this common project socialists need to maintain independence and initiative, particularly in opposing US imperialism

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The movement behind Trump is a coalition of reactionary and conservative forces. Its major organized elements are Christian Nationalists, reactionary Catholicism, laissez-faire capitalists like the Koch network, tech libertarians such as Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, right-wing think tanks, and neo-fascist militias. It’s important to see beyond Trump and understand the social/political movement which has gathered around him. This movement desires to coalesce as a long-term ruling hegemonic bloc, turning the US into an authoritarian Christian country, end bourgeois democracy, and severely curtail civil society. 

Project 2025: a fascist vision for the US

Project 2025 was initiated and published by the Heritage Foundation, the most influential rightwing think tank, and the one closest to the power centers of the Right and the Republican Party. It has united much of the conservative movement, their think tanks, activists, and lobbying groups with the goal of installing a much more effective, more ruthless right-wing regime. It comes with tremendous funding and the backing of much of the political Right and believes there is a socialist plot in the highest echelons of American power. It sees a vast conspiracy with enemies everywhere, and that un-American forces have overtaken every institution.

Project 2025 is a major policy and ideological projection. It is a fascist document and puts forward a strategic path to create an authoritarian Christian dominated society through control of the state. There are other statements from within the authoritarian bloc with somewhat different formulations and viewpoints. Project 2025 is the most developed, and has been signed by over 100 groups and think-tanks. They want to be the ideological and policy brain behind Trump, who is useful as a mass fascist leader, but lacks the intellectual capacity to carry out a strategic project.

Donald Trump is not part of the “ruling class” (a term often used by the right to describe the elite). Instead, Trump is characterized as an outsider, a business maverick who disdains elite language and the club of Washington insiders. 

China, globalists, political and academic elites, the left, socialists, communists–for Project 2025 it is all just one enemy. “Today, nearly every top-tier university president or Wall Street hedge fund manager has more in common with a socialist, European head of state than with the parents at a high school football game.” Moreover, America’s corporate and political elites, are fully in cahoots with the nation’s foreign enemies, and against the “real America made up of humble, patriotic working families.”

“Every hour the Left directs federal policy and elite institutions, our sovereignty, our Constitution, our families, and our freedom are a step closer to disappearing. Conservatives have just one shot to get this right. With enemies at home and abroad, there is no margin for error. Time is running short. If we fail, the fight for the very idea of America may be lost. This is the last opportunity to save our republic.” The solution to all the above problems is not to tinker with this or that government program, to replace this or that bureaucrat. … “We solve them by ripping out the trees—root and branch.”

We need to understand fascism as a dynamic and revolutionary movement. It is not a conservative political force safely embedded in US institutional power. It has a radical vision of power and reconstruction that Project 2025 gives voice to. As Trump has stated, he plans to rid the country of “left vermin.”

The Right’s unified plan and committed cadre

The Project outlines what the Right wants to do with the executive branch and the state apparatus immediately upon returning to power, department by department and agency by agency. Including purging 50,000 federal employees.  Following is an examination of the Project’s nearly 900-page document, with much of the following content based on quotes.

Executing a president’s agenda requires a well-conceived, coordinated, unified plan and a trained and committed cadre of personnel to implement it. “We need to assemble an army of aligned, vetted, trained and prepared conservatives to go to work on Day 1 to deconstruct the administrative state and to use the state as a tool for concentrating power and entrenching ideology.” Interviews are already being conducted. Accepted are only those who agree that the 2020 election was stolen.

The president’s “needs,” “goals” and “desires” are always consistent with the law. And the president is the “personal embodiment of popular will.” Mussolini and Hitler would be particularly pleased with this section. 

Plans to transform the state

  1. Purge Left Elites in Major Departments. According to the Project, large sections of the State Department’s work force are left-wing and predisposed to disagree with a conservative president’s agenda and vision. And the Department of Justice (which oversees the FBI) “has been captured by an unaccountable bureaucratic managerial class and radical left ideologues who have embedded themselves throughout its offices and who are infatuated with the perpetuation of a radical liberal agenda.”
  2. Reverse Gains in Gender Justice. Women’s and gender rights are targets that generate a particular degree of fear and hatred. Project 2025 advocates the abolishment of the Gender Policy Council, and it wants to delete a host of terms such as: sexual orientation, gender identity, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights and diversity, equity, and inclusion out of every federal rule, internal agency regulation, contract, grant, public regulation, and piece of legislation that exists. Every U.S. state should be required to report exactly how many abortions take place, the gestational age of the child, why the abortion took place, and the mother’s home residency.
  3. End Environmental Justice and Protection Projects. When it comes to environmental science and regulations, the Project takes the same extreme approach. It wants to abolish the Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the Office of Environmental Justice and Civil Rights, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration because it “constitutes one of the main drivers of the climate change alarm industry.” It goes on to state that environmental extremism serves to undermine the strength of the US. “It is not a political cause, but a pseudo-religion meant to baptize liberals’ ruthless pursuit of absolute power in the holy water of environmental virtue.”
  4. Dismantle Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives. As for confronting racial inequality and discrimination the Project wants every department from the Department of Labor to the U.S. Agency for International Developmentto be scrubbed clean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI” is a policy adopted by many corporations, universities and government agencies), and treat the “participation in any critical race theory or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives as grounds for termination of employment” as they violate constitutional and moral principles. The government should prohibit the collection of employment statistics based on race or ethnicity. Illegal immigration should be ended, the border sealed. Furthermore, bureaucrats at the Department of Education “inject racist, anti-American, ahistorical propaganda into classrooms.” And “critical race theory and gender ideology should be excluded from curriculum in every public school in the country, because they poison our children.” This coincides with Trump calling immigrants “animals” that “poisons the blood of our country.”
  5. Restore Traditional Values Through State Action. All policies should be guided by traditional values. According to Project 2025 the pursuit of the good life is found primarily in family — marriage, children, and above all, in religious devotion and spirituality.

This is serious

For those who say there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, or that the US is not a democracy, or that we are already living under an authoritarian government, please take Project 2025 seriously. We are facing a well-organized, very well financed, highly motivated and an ideologically rigorous enemy. As leftists we exist in civil society. We use the political tools of free speech, free press, free association, and the right to assemble and protest to organize for our ideas, our cause, and to create a working-class mass base. There are always tensions, limitations and violence within bourgeois democracy. But what we have today is qualitatively different from the strategic plans of the neo-fascist movement.

There is an anti-fascist majority in the US, but it is unorganized and centrist Democrats are incapable of giving it full expression or leadership. I believe the role for socialists is to unite the many and aim our main blow against the most reactionary and dangerous enemy we currently face. We need to block MAGA as a national movement over a broad front of combat, as we build the capacities of left forces to move us toward a progressive future. It’s not just about a presidential election, but that is one aspect of the battle.

Jerry Harris is National Secretary of the Global Studies Association of North America. He is the author of Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy (Clarity Press, 2016). His articles have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Slovak and Czech. 

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