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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change (Paperback)

by Jonah Goldberg (Author)

Finally Someone Has Documented the Link between Wilson's "Progressive" Ideas and Fascism, August 30, 2008
By David M. Dougherty (Arkansas)

First of all, allow me to say that I have purchased and read this book -- something I believe few, if any, of the negative reviewers have done.

This is an important work, tracing the intellectual development of the idea that the all-powerful people's State should always trump the individual and be in firm control of all aspects of the population's culture, education, defense or military expansion, information, health and economy, from its modern beginnings under Wilson to the currently epoused nanny state. One could go further back to the French Revolution or further to Thomas More, of course, but given the deplorable state of history knowledge in the US, this might well be counter-productive. Monarchies need not be considered as they are not states that derive their legitimacy from the people -- but rather from God and inheritance.

The most negative aspect of this book is its title, "Liberal Fascism." A careful reader will learn what is meant by the author, but the vast majority will simply see the juxtaposition of the two words, "Liberal" and "Fascism" and read into this anything their pre-conceived ideas suggest. Actually, the author meant to describe something like "Benevolent Fascism", "Soft Fascism", "Smiley-Face Fascism", or my favorite, "Fuzzy Fascism" (e.g. Fascism that will not hurt you.) The word "Liberal" is used to put a more moderate or liberal face on Fascism, something more appropriate to nanny-state fascism. If the reader misinterprets the title, then little rational discussion can ensue.

The strengths of the book are in its rediscovery of the truly disturbing policies of the Wilson administration in 1917 and 1918 whereby opponents of his administration and policies were brutally suppressed. One should review the repressive Alien and Sedition Act and the Espionage Acts that Wilson promulgated. Nor did he shrink from meddling in other countries' affairs and supporting leaders he favored. The reader is advised to study his backing of Carranza and his Vera Cruz expedition in Mexico. At any rate, the Progressive movement in the US really did bring many ideas into the mainstream of American political thought that were later used as cornerstones of fascist ideology.

The author traces the support of communist and fascist states by American progressives until World War II -- an historical fact that should not be denied today as an inconvenient truth.

He also argues succinctly that Fascism replaces a religion based on a supreme being (God) with a religion based on a supreme State. So does communism as a matter of fact. The new God becomes the will of the people as interpreted and enforced by the State's elite for the people's benefit. Hence the development of the nanny-state political philosophy is a direct descendent of Fascism and features many of its evils. Bill O'Reilly has coined the name "Secular-Progressive" to describe thie political philosophy, although I wonder if he realized the historical accuracy of his term. The missing part is the militarism and genocide associated today with Fascism, which were outgrowths of the core ideas of Fascism and may well yet develop in the nanny state. After all, what would there be to stop such a development? It should be remembered that one of Hitler's early steps was to introduce full gun control in Germany to reduce any possibility of internal resistance to his regime.

The argument that "it can't happen here" should be revisited in light of Wilson's actions, Roosevelt's creation of concentration camps for Japanese during World War II, and the more recent Patriot Act. Unfortunately, many turn to the ACLU for solace, but it must be remembered that this organization was founded to foster the spread of communist ideology, and consistently supports the all-powerful leftist and secular state against the individual and religion.

The book bogs down somewhat in the argument that fascism is a product of the left and not of the right (politically.) The author is correct here, but he is swimming upstream against a powerful current from the mainstream American media which is firmly leftist and committed to the creation of a nanny state. In addition, he is trumped by the educational industry, both in public schools and in universities which has consistently taught socialist ideology since World War Two under the rubric of liberal teaching. As of this date, we have had a steady diet of socialist propaganda in our schools and universities for so long than no national or local figure has escaped its pernicious effects. What was thought to be "far-left" in 1960 is now centrist -- so far have we gone down the road towards a fascist state.

Nevertheless, the use of terms that everyone interprets in their own fashion by the author colors this discussion so markedly that constructive dialog between liberals and conservatives over this work is highly improbable. That is a great loss to our democracy.

So what is the solution? There probably isn't one. Politicians eloquently espousing "change" and "hope" have already very effectively learned how to evade issues in favor of vacuous but thrilling demagogy to rise to power. It must be remembered that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama studied Saul Alinsky thoroughly, making him possibly the most important individual in the background of the 2008 election. Senator Clinton even did double duty traveling to California to study under an unrepentant Stalinist. Perhaps they do not understand the road on which they are traveling -- after all, they've never been taught anything different. (That's why home schooling and even charter schools are such threats.) I suspect that the US will survive anything they do in the short term, but they are harbingers of things to come. The trend is there from the days of Wilson, and the ultimate denouement is in sight with Europe cheering us on out of envy every day. Even the mass demonstrations so loved by fascism to demonstrate the power and popularity of the State and its leaders are now being copied.

Before I receive thousands of hate comments from Obama supporters, allow me to state that the epithet "Fascist" does not fit Barack Obama in any way, shape or form. But the parallels I noted should not be overlooked in a study of the historical sweep of events and the acceptance of ideas. There is no question that the US has taken many steps on the road to the author's fascist nanny state, and opposition to this trend is fast being suppressed.

Not What You Think It's Going To Be, August 25, 2008
By Samir Quntar al-Muti (Fairfax, Virginia)

So many people, to include certain friends of mine, are all too willing to write this book off as just one more salvo from the Republican noise machine without ever bothering to read it. Goldberg's title is perhaps unfortunate in this regard, as it leaves one with the impression that it is another rightist screed targeting the usual suspects--"feminazis," militant environmentalists, and the like. One friend saw the book on my desk and dismissed the title with a sneer: "Oh, liberals are fascists, right? Now that's a stretch."

Ah, but little did he know that Goldberg did not invent the phrase. It was coined by H.G. Wells, the famous turn-of-the-century science fiction novelist and visionary writer of utopian fiction. Wells, incidentally, was a thoroughgoing progressive and a socialist. He thought "liberal fascism" would be a good thing for society.

But wait! I thought fascism was racism, white supremacy, and all that.

Oh, but get this: W.E.B. Du Bois admired Hitler (specifically for his emphasis on the need for eugenics programs), and Marcus Garvey proudly said, in 1937, "We were the first fascists." Apparently he was miffed that Mussolini and Hitler were getting all the credit for their innovative approaches to government. (For those of you who don't know, Du Bois and Garvey were important early twentieth-century Black leaders).

The word "fascism" (in contemporary discourse), Goldberg points out, has become pretty much emptied of all real meaning. It has become a sort of floating signifier onto which people project various meanings as they see fit. In the last forty years, "fascism" has been served as a sort of stand-in for "extreme conservative" or "Christian fundamentalist" or "white-power racist." But pure fascism has little to do with conservatism, or religion, or the white power movement.

Goldberg begins with an anecdote--Bill Maher and George Carlin confidently asserting their definition of the word "fascism" one night on Maher's show. "Fascism is when corporations own the government," Maher said.

Uh, wrong, you ignoramus. What you've just described is monopoly capitalism, not fascism.

Goldberg does not set out to skewer the Mahers of the world exclusively, though. The neocon types who throw the term "Islamofascism" around in such a cavalier manner are just as ignorant in their own way. If you want to know what real fascism is, look to its purest example in history: Mussolini's Italy. Hitler's Germany is a close second.

Sorry Maher, but fascism is when the government owns and runs the corporations. Do you really think for one minute that the Fuhrer or Il Duce would allow any single corporation to supersede their authority? Ridiculous. And sorry neocons, but in fascism the object of worship is, ultimately, the state. There is no higher authority than the state; not even God. Ask any pious Muslim what he or she thinks of such a government, and you will be quickly disabused of any notions that "fascism" can exist hand in hand with Islam.

One strain of this goes back to the protests of the sixties and continues in protest discourse today (a la Chris Hedges' book, for example). Yet, as Goldberg shows in his detailed historical analysis, "fascism" has never really been synonymous with conservatism in any significant way. Fascism is in fact a form of radicalism, as is Christian fundamentalism, whereas conservatism is a movement that is focused essentially on the preservation of tradition and the moderation of the impulse to institute reforms.

One of the great ironies of sixties-era radicals bandying about the word "fascist" to describe Richard Nixon and his ilk is that many of those radical groups who trafficked in such talk (Weathermen, the Black Panthers) employed many of the classic brownshirt tactics of fascist agitators.

This is a great book for anyone who has been perplexed by all the shifting alliances and labels of our times, and anyone who realizes how slippery and meaningless terms like "liberal" or "conservative" or "progressive" are when you try to pin them down. What it really leads the reader to do is rethink the way we think of the political spectrum, in terms of Right, Center, and Left. The radical Right and the radical Left, for example, have much more in common with each other than the radical Left does with traditional liberalism or the radical Right has with conservatism.

Goldberg's working definition of "fascism" is pretty much this: Total worship of the state, state control of all activities and expression, and state ownership of everything. Fascism is always more and more government. The classic example of Fascism, Mussolini's Italy, is exactly this when you examine the historical record. True conservatism, on the other hand, always seeks to lessen the influence of government.

Certainly, the Franco regime in Spain was heavily Catholic and at the same time in political sympathy with Germany and Italy (but ultimately neutral during WWII), but it is important not to confuse "theocracy" with true Fascism. It had Fascist allies (Italy and Nazi Germany) during the 1930s, but was not a true fascist state itself--it was a theocratic dictatorship. Likewise, the Shah's regime in Iran and certain dictatorial regimes in Latin America (allied with the U.S. for strategic reasons) were very authoritarian, but that doesn't mean they were fascist in the true sense of the word. Authoritarian regimes can of course be very brutal and oppressive, but that does not necessarily make them fascist because they are often not premised on the notion that government should control every single aspect of a citizen's life. The Shah, for example, was fairly hands-off unless you happened to be openly critical of him or invovled in subversive activities (of course, it must be said, if either of those applied you ended up in the hands of the feared SAVAK).

Goldberg's readings of Rousseau, Robespierre, Sorel, Mussolini, Hitler, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and many other figures are lively and very perceptive. Many of his revelations are shocking and surprising. Woodrow Wilson, for example, has gone down DRASTICALLY in my estimation after reading Goldberg's interpretation of some of his major writings.

If Hillary Clinton-style liberalism and fascism have anything at all in common, Goldberg says, it's the notion that the state is the supreme arbiter and caretaker for all and of all. This is not a book which seeks to make a point that "liberals are fascists." It is a book, rather, which seeks to enlighten those individuals who casually throw a word (one that has a very precise meaning) around with little regard for its properly historical definition.