Betsy Speicher

Liberal Fascism

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Liberal Fascism:

The Secret History of the American Left,

From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

by Jonah Goldberg

Book suggested for rating by Vespasiano.

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The title of Jonah Goldberg's, Liberal Fascism, is culled from a 1932 Oxford speech by the ardent F.D.R. supporter, H.G. Wells, in which Wells called for a "'Phoenix rebirth of liberalism' under the banner of 'Liberal Fascism'". The theme of Mr. Goldberg's book is that Fascism is and has always been first and foremost a politics of the radicalized, socialist Left. It is his answer to Liberals and their fellow travelers on the political Left who (i) reflexively label as "Fascists" those who disagree with them and (ii) adhere to some vague notion that Fascism is a peculiarly "right-wing" phenomenon.

In order to support his thesis, Mr. Goldberg presents an invaluable compendium of historical facts and basic comparative analyses to show in as transparent a manner as possible that modern Liberals and adherents of the New Left themselves are the direct descendants not only of the Fascist programs of the 1920s and 1930s in Italy and Germany, but of the late 19th and early 20th century Progressive philosophical premises and ideas, many of them of American origin, that Mr. Goldberg contends either served directly as foundational material for those earlier Fascist systems or were virtually indistinguishable from them. I was particularly taken with the eye-opening chapter on Woodrow Wilson whose administration Mr. Goldberg characterizes as the first Fascist regime in history, predating as it did both Mussolini and Hitler.

But . . .

While Mr. Goldberg appears to grasp that the Liberal charge of Fascism against so-called "conservative" George Bush may, in fact, be a valid one, his failure to probe the philosophical fundamentals at issue leads him to downplay and/or excuse generally the historic, Pragmatic complicity of "conservatives" (read, right-wingers) not only in the implementation of Fascistic programs and policies of their own, but in the continuance and expansion of those already in existence. That many so-called "conservatives" other than George Bush might share many of the same altruist/collectivist/statist premises as their Liberal brethren is left unexplored, and Mr. Goldberg himself illustrates the point when, periodically he writes such things as:

But just as the line between 'good' totalitarianism and bad is easily crossed . . .

or this howler:

While the New Left relentlessly denounced the founding fathers as racist white males and even mainstream liberals ridiculed the idea that the text of the Constitution had any relevance for modern society [interesting, Mr. Goldberg's use of the word "text" here], conservatives [sic] were launching an extensive project to restore the proper place of the Constitution in American life. No leading conservative scholar or intellectual celebrated fascist themes or ideas. No leading conservative denigrated the inherent classical liberalism of the United States' political system. To the contrary, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the conservatives around National Review dedicated themselves to restoring the classically liberal vision of the founders.

Having voiced this criticism, however, I find that Mr. Goldberg's book remains imminently readable and informative for its detail. Liberal Fascism is one book I recommend with reservations.

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Does the book address the Christian Right?

Yes, most particularly in a discussion of the dangers of tribalism in the chapter "The Tempting of Conservatism". It is a mixed-bag analysis since Mr. Goldberg appears to believe that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the only proper basis for good and moral behavior. However, he does have this to say:

. . . it is the desire to impose a vision of white Christian America that is dangerous, for in the effort to translate such a vision into a government program, an open society must become a closed one.

Mr. Goldberg's emphasis.

Does the book address . . . men like Rumsfeld?

Not Rumsfeld specifically. However, he does spend a good deal of time discussing individuals like Patrick Buchanan whom he classifies as a "neo-Progressive".

Does the book address . . . previous Right wingers like Henry Ford in relation to "Fascism"?

There are brief mentions of Henry Ford. In particular, Mr. Goldberg discusses Hitler's admiration for Ford which had little if anything to do with Ford's well-documented anti-Semitism (contrary to Liberal mythology, anti-Semitism is NOT an essential of Fascism). He quotes Hitler's remark praising Ford for producing "for the masses. That little car of his had done more than anything else to destroy class differences."

But I wonder which other "right wingers" you refer to. Certainly, Liberal mythology holds that both Mussolini and Hitler were, themselves, "right-wingers" a notion Mr. Goldberg quite effectively demolishes. But he also makes a point of showing that several other notable individuals who have been painted with the "right-wing" brush were, in point of fact, as far to the Left as one could go -- namely, the bona fide fascists Huey Long and Father Coughlin. He also points to the Stalinist tactic of calling any opponent, even a socialist one, a "right-winger" or a "reactionary" in order to discredit him (Stalin referred to Trotsky, for example, as a right-winger!!).

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If you were a liberal with crypto-fascist tendencies, you might try these 14 measures

1. Make guns illegal and people defenceless, tell people it’s for their own good. Ignore the fact that gun crime rockets after the ban.

2. Subjugate parliament to your will absolutely. Ensure the debates are pointless as you can make your own MP’s do anything on threat of their jobs.

3. Remove the right to silence on arrest, make people prove they are innocent and account to you for their actions.

4. Make citizens prove they own stuff legally and seize their assets ahead of any trial much less conviction.

5. Restrict the right to trial by jury, despite what Lord Devlin rightly had to say about this.

6. Make citizens seek your consent, before they protest against you. If they don’t get it, arrest them. This gives you the absolute right to ban protest.

7. Increase the amount of time you can detain anyone to say 42 days, without trial or charge

8. Consider admitting evidence in court obtained under torture. You know this is pointless and anyone will confess to more or less anything given enough pain and time, but hey, it helps with convictions.

9. Ensure a supranational body like European commission that you can neither elect nor dismiss has power to pass laws on a wide range of issues in your country and make your own law makers powerless to over turn these laws.

10. Remove the rules on double jeopardy, so the state can keep prosecuting citizens, for the same alleged crime, until they get the result, they want

11. Pass laws making certain views illegal, like hate-crimes and arrest people for protesting against what they believe to be state pro-gay propaganda thereby further reducing free speech

12. Have the toughest libel laws in the world that only the very wealthy can ever access

13. Introduce an ID card, so that not being able to prove who you are, when challenged by the state becomes a crime !!!! even though you know, this will have no impact at all on "terrorism" which is one of your ever changing arguments to justify it

14. Have a DNA database, and ensure that even if you arrest totally the wrong person, you keep their DNA and fingerprints

It might sound like an Orwellian fantasy, but it's not; the above is a picture of 2008 Britain.

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Edward Cline has quite a bit to say about Mr. Goldberg's Liberal Fascism on the Rule of Reason blog. The piece is so much more than a review, and well worth the read.

Liberal Fascism: A Critical Review (February 9, 2008)

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Edward Cline has quite a bit to say about Mr. Goldberg's Liberal Fascism on the Rule of Reason blog. The piece is so much more than a review, and well worth the read.

Liberal Fascism: A Critical Review (February 9, 2008)

Thanks for that, V. An excellent, detailed review and exploration by Cline. I hope Goldberg is made aware and reads it and maybe learns from it.

He makes a comment about Obama, relative to McCain and Clinton, that he hasn't yet decided what his policies are, yet. Well he has and they involve wiping out every tax cut (translation: raising taxes across the board, with special attention to taxing the most productive) and taking whatever additional burden he can squeeze out to nationalize health care,

Obama and Clinton both promise to reverse Bush's tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers, but the Democratic budget they'll be voting for would allow income tax rates to go up on individuals making as little as $31,850 and couples earning $63,700 or more.
and
Obama has proposed an array of subsidies for higher education, health care and other costs hitting middle-class families. He said he believes he can pay for such plans by closing tax loopholes, placing a new tax on carbon emissions, phasing out the Iraq war and ending the Bush tax cuts for the nation's highest earners.

"We have identified the cuts that we think are available, or the changes in our tax code that are available to pay for our middle-class tax cut as well as our proposals to fund higher education and so on," the Illinois senator said.

He is defining a fascist agenda from the bottom up -- by announcing his plan to acquire the means to implement it.

The idea that such a plan -- publicly trumpeted as if it were the height of good sense and moral necessity -- is not an unrecoverable, massive blunder, but, instead seen as "inspiring," tells us how far our country has sunk into a mire of Statism.

I certainly hope that is an overly pessimistic assessment. But I don't see any candidate or any groundswell of support for reason and freedom. And Waclaw Havel is Czech, so he can't run on a write-in vote.

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I certainly hope that is an overly pessimistic assessment. But I don't see any candidate or any groundswell of support for reason and freedom. And Waclaw Havel is Czech, so he can't run on a write-in vote.

Dr. Peikoff once said many years ago, and perhaps on his radio show, that he was "journalistically pessimistic, but historically optimistic." I think this is an appropriate notion to remember these days. History is and will be on our side, but not without many bumps along the way. The current crop of candidates is pathetic - beneath contempt really - but if we look at the inroads Objectivism has made in a relatively short amount of time, we can rejoice in that.

So, Alan, do I think you're being overly pessimistic? No. I think you are expressing the same exasperation we all are to one degree or another. The short term outlook can indeed be bleak.

Every day I remind myself I am fighting for the future AND living in it.

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Every day I remind myself I am fighting for the future AND living in it.

I'd like to know what you think of Australia after you've been there for a few years, contrasted with America.

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I'd like to know what you think of Australia after you've been there for a few years, contrasted with America.

I will keep everyone here posted on that. I will surely detest the more statist things in Australia, but so far the sense of life of Aussies I find infectious.

To be continued!

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