Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Roots of Liberal Fascism by Chip Berlet

Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates (PRA), is co-author of Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. His most recent study for PRA is titled Toxic to Democracy, and his article on the Tea Party protests appears as the cover story in the February 2010 issue of the Progressive magazine.

The Tea Party Patriots and Town Hall Criers are alerting us to the coming totalitarian apocalypse provoked by liberal misfeasance, nonfeasance, malfeasance, and just plain treason. In a nutshell, this mirrors the basic theme in Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. The specific looming threat, according to Goldberg and the tea-partiers, is that liberals and their closet commie/fascist friends are pushing America onto a slippery slope toward tyranny that begins with government social planning.

Other scholars in this series have explained the weakness of Goldberg’s analysis of the nature of fascism. I will explore the roots of the idea of “liberal fascism” as emerging from right-wing ideologues at very specific historic moments.

According to Goldberg, “Today we still live under the fundamentally fascistic economic system established by Wilson and FDR. We do live in an ‘unconscious civilization’ of fascism, albeit of a friendly sort infinitely more benign that that of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, or FDRs America” (p. 330).

Up until the early 1900s in the United States it was widely believed that a healthy economy and, indeed, democracy itself relied on the “Invisible Hand” of the “Free Market” which stroked the members of the benevolent elites so that wealth trickled down the social ladder to their social inferiors. The government merely played the role of a “Night Watchman,” identifying trash heaps containing criminals and political dissidents to be hauled off to jail or simply deported, as in the 1919-1920 Palmer Raids.

Just after the nation crashed into the Great Depression, the 1932 presidential campaign focused on whether or not the government should directly develop policies and programs promoting economic fairness, and social justice. Unions and most working people backed this concept and thus the candidacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR faced the incumbent President, Herbert Hoover, whose 1928 campaign speech on "Rugged Individualism" left no doubt where he stood on the question.

According to Hoover, during World War I, in order to ensure the "preservation of the State the Government became a centralized despotism." After the war the nation was faced "with the choice of the American system 'rugged individualism' or the choice of a European system of diametrically opposed doctrines—doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. The acceptance of these ideas meant the destruction of self-government through centralization of government." Hoover argued that the proposals of Franklin D. Roosevelt would "wreck our democracy" and weaken the "foundations of social and spiritual progress in America."

After his inauguration in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt slapped Laissez Faire elites in the face with a clearly visible hand when, as President, he launched a number of massive and controversial federal government programs to restore the economy. The conservative elites and their ideologues slapped back, handing out over the next two decades millions of dollars in pamphlets, advertisements, movies, and books equating the defense of democracy and the “American Way of Life” with restoring “Free Market” government policies. Ringleaders included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), but they were hardly alone. This broad propaganda campaign was recently documented in the excellent book Invisible Hands: The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal by Kim Phillips-Fein.

Conservative ideologues in both the United States and Europe began to bemoan creeping socialism, and in 1935 Austrian School economist Friedrich A. Hayek edited a volume on Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism. In the U.S., the anti-socialist crusade built to oppose the policies of FDR forged an alliance between the ideological Free Marketeers and the theologues of the Christian Right. The latter worried that big government and big labor union “collectivism” threatened the social contract, the radical individualism of unrefined Calvinism, and the proper relationship between the Godly individual and both church and state. Max Weber studied the roots of this tendency in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

While publicly praising civic participation, many of these same conservative & libertarian ideologues tried to curtail or crush labor unions as a form of “collectivism” just as detrimental to democracy as those “European” collectivist schemes: socialism and national socialism aka Nazism. Thus today President Obama is said to be both a socialist and a fascist—both Hitler and Stalin. Back in the 1930s FDR was also tarred by conservatives for bringing socialist and fascist ideas into the political economy of the U.S.

In 1944 Hayek warned about the dangers to freedom inherent in social planning in his classic book, The Road to Serfdom. Hayek argued that the practical needs of coordination and efficiency inherent in government central planning tended to create totalitarian systems of social control. In his foreword, Hayek claimed that “economic planning” in Britain under a Labour government was “despotism exercised by a thoroughly conscientious and honest bureaucracy for what they sincerely believe is the good of the country.” Hayek penned chapters on “The Socialist Roots of Nazism,” and “The Totalitarians in our Midst.”

No serious scholar of fascism disputes the fact that Italian Fascism and German Nazism borrowed themes and personnel from existing socialist movements. Writing in 1944, Hayek had three disadvantages. First, the analytical work of Hannah Arendt on the nature of totalitarianism did not appear until the early 1950s. Second, the serious scholarly study of fascism was still in its early stages. Third, the book Road to Serfdom was written as a polemic and was not (and never intended to be) a serious study of fascism reflecting the academic disciplines of economics, political science, or history.

Fascism, Nazism, Communism, the Roosevelt administration, and the modern Welfare State share degrees of government intervention in the economy. They are not equivalent, and there is no evidence that government planning leads to totalitarianism any more than drinking tea leads to opium addiction. This is a classic logical error. Arendt detailed how it was the totalitarianism shared by Hitler and Stalin that created similarities in terms of ruthless government repression.

There is a problem, then, for Goldberg to adopt outdated and repudiated ideas from the 1930s and 1940s—skip over 50 years of scholarship—and then helicopter in to claim we in the now live under a regime of “liberal fascism.” Goldberg is not alone in his beliefs, however, as the Tea Party and town hall movement rhetoric demonstrates.

Back in 1944, two other right-wing books were published on related themes: John Flynn’s As We Go Marching, and Ludwig von Mises’ Omnipotent Government, the Rise of the Total State and Total War. The books of Hayek, Flynn, and von Mises became sacred texts to generations of right-wing libertarians… often shelved next to the idiosyncratic Gnostic gospels of Ayn Rand and Albert Jay Nock.

Staring in the mid 1940s, von Mises was the main torch bearer for anti-collectivism. He worked for the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and was appointed to a NAM commission on economics. In addition to writing for the FEE journal The Freeman, von Mises also wrote for Christian Economics published by the right-wing Christian Freedom Foundation; National Review captained by conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. (his father gave him books by Nock); The Intercollegiate Review from the ultraconservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute; Faith and Freedom, published by the Christian Right group Spiritual Mobilization; and American Opinion, published by the John Birch Society. This is the same Birch Society that Buckley once urged serious conservatives to shun as too kooky.

In our book Right-Wing Populism in America, Matthew N. Lyons and I traced how these anti-statist, anti-collectivist ideas were brought into the Republican Party by members and allies of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, many of whom had worked on the failed 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. Many other authors have noted the influence of the JBS on the contemporary Republican Party, including Michelle Goldberg in Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, which highlights the JBS as a player in Christian Right circles.

It is worth noting that the founder of the Society, Robert Welch, worked as a researcher for the anti-collectivist NAM before setting up the JBS. In 1964 the masthead of the JBS magazine American Opinion read like a Who’s Who of ultraconservatism: Editorial Advisory Committee, Clarence Manion, Ludwig Von Mises, J. Howard Pew, and Robert W. Stoddard; Associate Editors Revilo P. Oliver and E. Merrill Root; Contributing Editors Medford Evans and Hans Sennholz.

Anti-collectivism then went mainstream. While working on an investigative article in the early 1980s, a harried Reagan White House switchboard operator mistook who I was and plugged me into the office of presidential adviser and ultra-conservative guru Morton Blackwell. We had a marvelous discussion about how important the John Birch Society literature was for training young conservatives; how he had shelves full of JBS material in his office; how he shared the JBS books with the White House Staff; and how he was trying to see if JBS and similar literature could be sent to U.S. embassy libraries around the world. Marginal ideas? Not.

Jonah Goldberg does not list the John Birch Society as a major source, but he should have, since his book is like a compendium of JBS articles published over the last fifty years. These ideas are now ubiquitous among right-wing populists in the Tea Party movement. Am I suggesting that Birchers, the Christian Right, and right-wing libertarians have taken over the Republican Party? Yes, although old-fashioned conservatives and political pragmatists are putting up a splendid fight for control of the Party. Do I think right-wing TV, radio, and print media are awash with right-wing conspiracy theories pioneered by the Birchers? Yes, that’s what my research shows.

A younger generation now carries the torch of anti-collectivism forward. It was young acolytes of right-wing fanatic Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. who created those Town Hall protest placard images of Obama morphed into a Hitler avatar with a little extra mustache and hair. The irony here is that LaRouche is an actual neofascist who has spent his career calling everyone he despises a fascist. LaRouche has more pages of content on Wikipedia than most U.S. Presidents; and fanatic fans spent years trying to keep the term “fascist” off of LaRouche’s main entry.

All over Wikipedia there is an ongoing struggle to amplify and defend the ideas of arch anti-collectivist libertarians like Goldberg. There have been repeated attempts to change the name of the Wikipedia entry “Nazism” to “National Socialism” as part of a larger effort to redefine all forms of collective effort by governments as an example of tyranny. Some pages have become virtual shrines to the anti-collectivists, especially the pages on Ludwig von Mises, and the von Mises Institute. I finally gave up editing on Wikipedia—I spent more time in “mediations” with abusive fanatics than editing entries. Wikipedia still has yet to solve this type of problem, and too many of its entries remain biased because bullies of all political stripes are seldom effectively sanctioned.

Editing Wikipedia entries led me to agree with Goldberg on one point with which he opens his book: Most liberals (and others on the Political Left) have no coherent and accurate definition of what fascism is. The most popular idea on the Left is that fascism is when corporations run the government. Thousands of Internet pages sport this passage attributed to Mussolini discussing his Italian Fascist movement: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." Hit the delete button! So far no scholar I know has been able to find the original source of this quote. It’s not in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana as widely claimed. (If you have a print copy of the quote from the 1930s, please let me know, otherwise please refrain from e-mails saying you found it on the internet). The apparent hoax quote also contradicts everything else Mussolini wrote on the subject.

Right-wing libertarians and their right-wing populist cousins have a First Amendment protection to believe what they want and say what they think about fascism, socialism, collectivism, and the Obama administration. Why worry about the bad history and worse analysis in Liberal Fascism? I worry because in civil society, democracy is based on informed consent. We don’t have it here.

Today, I see a growing mass base of angry people who have good reasons to be mad at the government, but who are demonizing opponents and scapegoating social and economic problems on immigrants, people of color, and Muslims. I see people across the political spectrum picking up rhetoric about the “banksters,” “plutocrats,” “secret elites,” and “finance capitalists” without considering that antisemites and fascists have used this language for decades to scapegoat Jewish bankers for economic woes. Just search two words, “Jew” and “bankster” on the Internet and read a few horrifying websites.

If activists running economic justice campaigns had a better understanding of the relationship between right-wing populism and fascism, they would make it clear they renounce bigoted interpretations of their reform movements and be more careful in building coalitions with or praising the work of people carrying the baggage of prejudice or conspiracism and into the debate.

This is a time when a clear-headed understanding of the relationship between right-wing populism and fascism could play an important role in helping Democrats and Republicans to develop electoral slogans and strategies that encouraged actual debate rather than glib demonization that exacerbates the tensions in an increasingly polarized population.

We now know that fascism is the most militant and violent form of right-wing populism. Alas, far too many people eschew serious contemporary theories of fascism for ideas found in books like Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism—ideas being embraced by an audience that ironically could build an actual mass base for fascism. Already we see ultra-right and neofascist ideologues in the U.S. trying to organize the right-wing populist movement of Tea Party protesters further to the Right toward aggression and violence. It could happen here, but it probably won’t.

Most right-wing populist movements never become full blown fascist movements; and most fascist movements fail to gain state power. Yet both movements have historically used demonization and scapegoating woven into conspiracy theories and apocalyptic calls for action “now before it is too late.” This creates a dynamic that is toxic to democracy, as the named scapegoats suffer the consequences and are attacked first verbally, then physically. This is what I am hearing as I interview immigrant-rights and anti-racist organizers across the American heartland. There are already too many victims.

Poor Scholarship, Wrong Conclusion

By Dr. Matthew Feldman

Dr Matthew Feldman is Senior Lecturer in 20th century history at the University of Northampton, a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford¹s Rothermere American Institute, and an editor of Wiley-Blackwell¹s online journal Compass: Political Religions (; he also directs Northampton¹s Radicalism and New Media research network, and co-edits Continuum Books¹ new monograph series, Historicising Modernism. He has published widely on twentieth century literary modernism, including several volumes on Samuel Beckett¹s manuscripts and recently-released archives, in addition to various publications on fascist ideology, wartime propaganda and far-right extremism since World War One. He also acts as an expert witness on cases against the contemporary radical right in Europe and the US, and is working on a both monograph and documentary film exploring Ezra Pound¹s influence on American fascism after 1945.

"Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and the economic sphere," proclaimed Mussolini in his co-written The Doctrine of Fascism from 1932, for this is the century of authority, a century tending to the "right", a Fascist century. If the nineteenth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the "collective" century, and therefore the century of the State. It is quite logical for a new doctrine to make use of the still vital elements of other doctrines.

But what did he know? Had Mussolini's co-author been a pugilistic journalist like Jonah Goldberg rather than a fascist intellectual like Giovanni Gentile, that keystone of texts on fascist ideology would have sounded more like this, from a chapter remarkably entitled "Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left": "What distinguished Nazism from other brands of socialism and communism […] was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics." Or this: "saying 'it's a black thing' is philosophically no different from saying 'it's an Aryan thing.'" Or again: "The white male is the Jew of liberal fascism." And finally: "Vegetarianism, public health and animal rights were merely different facets of the obsession with the organic order that pervaded the German fascist mind then, and the liberal fascist mind today." (73, 282, 368 389; references made to 2007 edition). If you believe Liberal Fascism – and if you do, truly, you will believe anything – fascism is absolutely apposed to liberalism, part of a century tending to the left, not the right. All the same, in his afterword, Goldberg claims to "have written this book largely to set the record straight and to educate myself – and others – about the real meaning and nature of fascism." (393)

Yet even The Doctrine of Fascism would not be fascism in Goldberg's hands. For fascism is not fascism here. It is anything Goldberg wishes it to be; notably trends in modern American politics and culture that he clearly dislikes. The few references above make Goldberg's polemicist style evident; this is certainly not a book for anyone attempting a better understanding of fascist ideology, although it may be a useful barometer of the so-called "culture wars" in the contemporary United States. At points, Liberal Fascism even admits as much; for example, "one of the main reasons I've written the book [is] to puncture the smug self-confidence that simply by virtue of being liberal one is also virtuous" (317-8). Indeed, the book's first paragraph already sets out the real antagonists in Goldberg's account, namely "[a]ngry liberals" and "besieged conservatives." Regrettably, his hostility better characterizes the rhetoric of ideological rivals like fascism and communism – radical right-wing and radical left-wing, respectively, despite Goldberg's sleight of hand – rather than one end of a democratic spectrum. And you certainly wouldn't know that fascists and communists fought it out on the streets and battlefields for very different ideological doctrines. Instead, reading Liberal Fascism, you might think they rather liked one another.

Then again, this book is selective of facts and irresponsible of interpretation to the point historical obfuscation. This is in order to serve the underlying thesis, such as it is: "many of the ideas and impulses that inform what we call liberalism come to us through an intellectual tradition that led directly to fascism." (9) From this utterly fanciful suggestion follows, astonishingly, that "Woodrow Wilson was the twentieth century's first fascist dictator…. In Italy they were called Fascists. In Germany they were called National Socialists. In America we called them progressives." (80-1) Never mind that Mussolini founded the first fascist movement in 1919, just as Wilson was being outflanked by Congress on the Treaty of Versailles. And never mind that Mussolini was totalitarian precisely because he sought to abolish a constitutional order with checks and balances for an explicitly proclaimed revolution against liberal decadence. In fact, never mind that "he made up the word," (52) but that, in actuality, the term "totalitarianism" was coined earlier by an Italian anti-fascist liberal named Giovanni Amendola (and it is worth noting, killed for his opinions by Fascist Italy). And again, never mind that Gregor Strasser's quote advocating socialism was made in the mid-1920s (71) – a time when Nazism sought working-class support from Northern Germany via regional leaders like the Strasser brothers and Joseph Goebbels – a few years before just such "left-wing" views helped cost him all Nazi Party posts in late 1932, finally resulting in his murder during the "Night of the Long Knives."

It is the latter tactic Liberal Fascism deploys most frequently throughout: selectivity. For Gregor Strasser's story is that of the crushing of leftism by the NSDAP (even before abolishing the German trade unions on 2 May 1933), not proof of the Nazis' embrace of socialism, let alone liberalism. Yet reading Goldberg’s account, you might forget that Wilson's famed "Fourteen Points" were democratic blueprints for a peaceful future in Chapter 3; or even, in Chapter 4, you may think that FDR actually fought alongside Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy rather than first acting as the "arsenal of democracy" and then joining the Allies in World War II. Similarly in Chapter 5, Nazi scapegoating of Jews during the 1930s betrayed "an identical spirit" (178) later shown by "black fascists" (174) on 1960s American college campuses – but only if you forget that both were historically persecuted groups, and the latter were not acting in the context of an ethnocentric dictatorship. The same interpretative shenanigans is at work everywhere in Liberal Fascism: from JFK's "fascist aesthetics" in Chapter 6 (209) to America's "fundamentally fascistic economic system" decried in Chapter 8 (303); from Hillary Clinton's "politics of meaning" as "thoroughly totalitarian" (330) in Chapter 9 to the rant against American popular culture in Chapter 10 [e.g. "Hip-hop culture has incorporated a shocking number of fascist themes," or, "in terms of what we like on both big screens and small, we are all fascists now" (368, 374)]: all these things are only true if you treat fascist ideology so elastically as to make it mean whatever you want.

Despite superficial references to scholars of fascism on pages 2 and 3 (and conservatively scattered throughout the rest of the book), there is virtually no engagement with the term beyond, ironically, precisely that which Goldberg accuses his liberal straw-men of throughout: employment of "fascism" as a simple term of abuse. The only difference here is that this bestselling book uses fascism as a complex term of abuse over nearly 500 pages (including outdated references and a detailed index). Needless to say, Goldberg's use of scholarship on fascism, like his use of the term itself, is haphazardly employed throughout. Despite Liberal Fascism’s attempt to muddy the conceptual waters, fascism remains a coherent ideology defining itself against liberalism and socialism (hence "Third Way" in a decisively non-democratic sense) by way of revolutionary change, one aimed at comprehensively purifying and homogenizing all aspects of society – political, cultural, and economic. This was to be a national regeneration, or more specifically and explicitly during fascism's heyday in the 1930s, a revolution from the right.

For a decade or more, an impressive array of scholars has subscribed to this "new consensus" on generic fascism. For instance, it has long been recognized, as Mussolini notes in the quotation above, that fascist ideology was "syncretic"; that is, it was a notorious ideological "scavenger" – it appropriated ideas from both left and right, conservative and radical, foreign and domestic, in its formation between the wars. Because fascist ideology was the "latecomer" vis-à-vis liberalism and socialism, radical nationalists needed to play the hand they were dealt. But Goldberg studiously ignores such consistency of interpretation in favor of merely selecting characteristics frequently visible from interwar fascist movements, like youth activism or racism, and then haphazardly applies them to a risible rewriting of twentieth century American history. Thus when Goldberg compares, say, Hillary Clinton's child welfare programs to a Hitler Youth manual asserting "'you have the duty to be healthy!'" (388), it may sound credible at first – but only until it is remembered that young male membership was mandatory for the Hitler Youth, whose motto was "We were born to die for Germany." There is nothing remotely resembling a eugenic cult of a single racial type like this in the annals of liberal democracy, of course. How about Goldberg's asides such as "Or as the Nazis said more pithily, 'Work makes you free'" (334; actually used over the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau); or again, "This is the Volksgemeinschaft reborn as a Social Gospel day-care center" (339): no it isn’t, not nearly. In fact, it is irresponsible to make the comparison.

In sum, Liberal Fascism is less a work of neutral scholarship or unbiased journalism than thinly veiled historical revisionism. It is this latter point that bears underscoring in conclusion: irresponsibility. For in so one-sidedly, so superficially, so wrongly applying fascist ideology to American history, Goldberg does not just confuse understandings of generic fascism – proper scholarship will be untroubled by this nonsense, although popular views of the term may be set back a generation. Worse still, he gives aid and succor to enemies of liberal democracy, enemies who wish to see fascism rehabilitated, normalized, and recognized as beneficial. To name but one: actual fascist ideologues like Lyndon LaRouche gain tremendously from calling liberal democrats "fascists," and Goldberg's handful of caveats will do little to dispel his catchy semantic elision "liberal fascists." In fact, it has been part of LaRouche’s shtick for years – calling his enemies "fascists", seeking to invert the term for his own prejudices and political purposes – despite running for president on the Democratic ticket (!) no less than nine times. The political cult’s campaign against "Green fascism" (381ff) is but one longstanding example amongst many. Unlikely bedfellows, perhaps. But no less an ideological conflation and historical caricature than Goldberg’s wholly unrecognizable portrait of what is, and must remain, an oxymoron for the perverse formulation "liberal fascism."

Goldberg's Book as Academic Fraud

An Academic Book — Not!
By Roger Griffin

Roger Griffin is Professor in Modern History and lectures principally on aspects of the History of Ideas relating to ideologies and values that have shaped the modern world. His latest book is Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

[All page references are to the Penguin paperback edition of 2007]

Even if it purports to be (i.e. masquerades as) a thoroughly researched ‘alternative’ or ‘secret’ analysis and history of fascism, Liberal Fascism is to the trained eye a patent exercise in propaganda. Even ‘polemics’ is a euphemism here, implying a provocation to heated debate rather than the attempt to pass off an Ersatz for the real thing. An example of such propagandistic ‘substitution’ is the Nazi attempt to popularize an anti-Semitic variant of jazz to counter the appeal to young Germans of the ‘degenerate’ U.S. original, resulting in grotesque and deeply unfunny parodies which fooled no genuine jazz lover anywhere in the Reich!

Goldberg’s book perverts historical and historiographical truth with the scarcely hidden agenda (perhaps the real ‘secret’ alluded to unwittingly in the subtitle) of tarring and feathering with negative, anti-democratic, and inhumane connotations a broad current of reformist policy and social justice campaigns which has for decades been a legitimate current of liberalism within U.S. democracy (and not exclusively the Democratic sector of it). It does so with the blatant aim of making this current guilty (by association) of some of the most heinous crimes ever committed against humanity. It is a work of sustained pseudo-historical calumny and defamation disguised under the (constantly slipping) carnival mask of an ‘alternative history’.

Liberal Fascism is to be seen as a mischievous exercise in party-political journalism writ large as a pseudo-academic monograph, its revisionism far removed from that of a legitimate academic exercise in rethinking a basic historical issue from a fresh angle. Rather, its revisionism directly parallels that of the Institute of Historical Review, which produces euphemistic essays in Holocaust Denial misleadingly adorned with full scholarly apparatus, an airbrushed Playboy variant of racist political pornography.

Historiographically, Liberal Fascism is, as the insidiously clever ‘Hitler smiley’ within a red cover on its cover semiotically proclaims so blatantly, from start to finish a piece of fiction. It is no more ‘true’ than the Da Vinci Code (and contains for the gullible an equivalently alluring subtext of conspiracy theory). But instead of stirring up latent anti-Christian/anti-Vatican paranoia, it aims to enlist the political passions of neo-Conservatives and Republican fundamentalists with its barely subliminal equation of Obama with Hitler ― an equation that Nazis themselves would actually have found mind-blowing, given their obsession with restoring Aryan purity and white supremacy!

The elision of the distinction between progressive or social liberalism with Nazism becomes grotesquely explicit on p. 81 when he claims that Wilson’s followers, called progressives in the U.S., were called National Socialists in Nazi Germany.

A sample of Goldberg’s academic fallacies concerning ‘fascism’

Given this situation, it is pointless to expend more than a few ergs of serious scholarly energy on refuting the legion distortions, calumnies, and lies ― both historiographical and definitional ― that pullulate in the pages of Goldberg’s book. Despite its duplicitous format and linguistic register, it is not written as an academic monograph and is hence is not to be judged by academic yard-sticks.

If we focus simply on the abuse of the term fascism, the result of the book’s tendentious purpose means that it at no point attempts to treat fascism or the scholarly debate surrounding it seriously from an academic point of view or to make a genuine contribution to comparative fascist studies (had it done so it would not have been devoured by broad swathes of the general public). Symptomatic of this is the blend of obscurantism (borne of perverse propagandistic intent blended with sheer ignorance) and tautology (expressing a deep-seated desire to deceive the reader: the con of neo-Con) surrounding the concept of fascism which is the alleged subject of the book.


Regarding the obscurantism, it speaks volumes that only one of the 32 pages referred to in the index under the heading ‘definition of fascism’ (p. 24) actually yields a definition of fascism.

When Goldberg refers to other people’s definitions in an early passage citing the work of a variety of academics (including mine), he clearly has no understanding of what I or anyone else actually has meant by the words and certainly has not made it the brief of his researchers to find out, let alone try to find out himself. He cites theories solely to ridicule their abstruseness.

In fact, the definitions are reproduced in a section whose sole purpose is to lampoon academic scholarship in a spirit consistent with the generally anti-intellectual tenor of Bushite politics. In so doing, Goldberg deliberately muddies the conceptual waters so as to convince the uninitiated that academics either 1) deny fascism has a meaning and find the term impenetrable (thereby justifying a fresh bid to redefine the term since ‘anything goes’), and 2) offer definitions so impenetrable or contested that it is reasonable for anyone to enter the debate to shed some new light on the term whatever their background and ― lack of ― qualifications to do so. Either way, Goldberg’s radical redefinition is implicitly legitimized.

Any unwary or complicit reader duped by/compliant with this line of argument is thus liable to assume it is acceptable and even desirable for a maverick journalistic with no academic credentials (but actually with well-documented anti-Democrat, anti-Clinton, and pro-Bush credentials) to storm into this area with barrels blazing to pepper ‘conventional’ historians with ill-aimed pellets and then force a shot-gun marriage on two political concepts conventionally (at least among ‘progressives’) considered antithetical: liberalism and fascism.

Neo-Cons have previously arranged a similarly grotesque marriage between Islam and fascism to beget the abortive concept Islamo-fascism, another attempt to wrest cultural hegemony in a right-wing Gramscian spirit away from a demonized Left and conquer the citadel of ideas for neo-Con fundamentalism.

Typical of the misleading, ahistorical analysis that permeates this book is that it presents the debate about fascism as still being hopelessly confused. There was a time, namely between the 1960s and early 1990s, when many academics outside the Marxist camp expressed despair at the prospects of ever finding a broadly consensual definition but this is no longer true and has not been for well over a decade.

Symptomatic of this willful distortion of facts is the way he cites my assertion about the ‘welter of divergent opinion’ concerning the definition of fascism without mentioning (there is no endnote) the awkward point that this was written in 1990 (published in 1991) and that it is a statement now radically superseded by the growth of a general acceptance of fascism’s futural thrust towards a reborn national or ethnic order beyond conservative communism, and above all liberalism (in the economic, political and ethical sense).

To repeat (since Goldberg perversely writes as if it is not the case): the core of the partial new consensus that has emerged since 1991 (partly, but only partly, as a result of my work in this field) is not that fascism was mainly right wing or left wing, but that it was and remains a revolutionary form of racism/nationalism, one whose sworn enemies include Soviet communism, pluralist liberal democracy and the multi-cultural, multi-faith society celebrated by ‘progressive liberals’.

In fact many scholars would today accept Zeev Sternhell’s basic thesis (expounded in his in Neither Right nor Left) that fascism produced various syntheses (including Nazism, though Sternhell denies this) of elements taken from left and right welded into a revolutionary assault on conservative or liberal or democratic society.

However, no serious scholar has ever suggested that fascism a) drew exclusively on left wing traditions of state intervention in laissez-faire social and economic politics b) that it did not want to overthrow and replace liberal democracy.


After much misleading rumination aimed at producing a smoke-screen of doubt about the meaning of the term (a bit like a detective story writer laying false clues and offering red-herrings), Goldberg finally offers, Poirot-like, his solution to the mystery. (p. 23) Et voilà: “Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve that common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the "problem" and therefore defined as the enemy.”

He then adds “I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all these aspects of fascism.” [The original in my edition reads “liberalsim”, which perhaps alludes to some secret mobile phone network through which political elites communicate!].

This last, almost throwaway, phrase is the clue that Goldberg has unwittingly left for anyone who wants to get to the bottom of the motivation for the various crimes and misdemeanors against historical truth and scholarly precision he has committed with intent in this book. He has succeeded in dramatically pulling a definition out of the hat that seems to fit his misrepresentation of social liberalism because he deliberately cropped the definition to fit his target, butchering it down crudely to a size where it can be tethered to the Procrustean bed he has already prepared for it in his mind at the outset of the project: an approach methodologically flawed in inverse proportion to its rhetorical and propagandistic effectiveness.

The key fallacies of this definition, judged by the broadly prevailing scholarly consensus in comparative fascist studies, are:

1. There is now wide scholarly agreement that fascism exists a) as an ideology of total national rebirth and renewal in anew order, b) as a revolutionary movement bent on overthrowing liberal democratic, communist, absolutist, or conservative authoritarian regimes, or c) as a regime which attempts to inaugurate a new order based on a utopia vision of the reborn national or racial community;

2. The ‘organic unity’ Goldberg alludes to is thus completely at variance with the pluralistic, non-homogenous society which social liberals conceive of as constituting the nation, the ‘unum’ never being welded ‘ex pluribus’ through mass coercion or imposed on it through the abolition of representative institutions or the separation of powers or the state monopoly of the organs and institutions of commercial activity culture, or thought;

3. The ‘national leader’ of fascism is a charismatic one whose authority and legitimacy resides in his person as the spontaneous embodiment of organically conceived nation, national will, and national destiny and is thus utterly incompatible with the U.S. presidential system even at its most corrupt and dynastic: the election of such a leader to power (which only happened in the case of Hitler) is the prelude for the wholesale destruction of the democratic state not just in ethos but in a series of systemic constitutional and institutional changes;

4. Such fascist ‘totalitarianism’ is rooted in a bid to create a social and anthropological revolution anathema to social or progressive liberalism since it means the suppression or destruction of autonomous liberal political and social institutions and the eradication of effective liberal humanist values and the civil society on which their survival and health depends. These are then replaced by a highly centralized state with no countervailing forces, a process promoted and theorized by all fascist ideologues and movements and extensively actualized in very different ways by Fascism, Nazism and the Ustasha State, the last two with genocidal consequences for the enemy.

5. The possibility of ‘imposition’ and ‘alignment’ brought about by any administration which retains democratic institutions and the demonization of ‘enemy’ opposition parties or policies possible in a liberal democratic society, no matter how corrupt, can never be as radical in the measures taken to crush freedom or silence remove perceived enemies as in a fascist regime. To take the three historical examples of such a regime, forced ‘alignment’ involved in the case of Fascism internal exile, prison, internment, assassination and the suppression of opposition parties and freedom of speech. In the case of Nazism and the Ustasha state it involved beyond this not just mass internment, forced labor, and torture in concentration camps, but mass murder and genocide in extermination camps.

6. The ‘political religion’ of fascism alluded to by Goldberg in the first sentence is thus integral to the destruction of liberalism and the inauguration of a national, political, social, and temporal revolution which is incomparably more radical and permanent than in any democratic system with its imposed limited terms of administration and presidency and guaranteed separation of powers and party-political pluralism.

Despite not being an academically trained historian, Goldberg is too astute and educated (in a general knowledge sense) not to know or sense all these points. His decision to create a definition which omits any reference to the REVOLUTIONARY dimension of fascist politics so that it can be insidiously stretched to accommodate a caricature of progressive liberalism and Democrat politics thus smacks of Machiavelli and Joseph Goebbels rather than of Thomas Jefferson or J. S. Mill.

There are other symptoms of pseudo-scholarship later in the book where ‘facts’ have been deliberately and cynically distorted to serve a revisionist thesis in a spirit worthy of the Holocaust Denier David Irving rather than any genuine academic historian (I will leave comment on Goldberg’s hatchet job on the French Revolution to others):

1. The verbal sleight-of-style which turns Woodrow Wilson into a fascist on p. 80: ‘Fascism, at its core, is the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union towards the same goals overseen by the state... (Within Mussolini’s concept of totalitarianism) (t)he militarization of society and politics was considered simply the best available means toward this end. Call it what you like ― progressivism, fascism, communism, or totalitarianism ― the first true enterprise of this kind was established not in Russia or Italy or Germany but in the United States, and Woodrow Wilson was the twentieth century’s first fascist dictator.’ Goldberg is actually calling ‘it’ what he likes in a crudely manipulative way.

2. The way (p. 148) he cites Mussolini as independent testimony for the assertion that Franklin Roosevelt was imposing a fascist state on the U.S. (e.g. in the New Deal), implying that they ‘recognized their own’. It would be equally revealing if a critic of Goldberg’s characterization of social liberalism as itself ‘fascist’ cited Stalin or Trotsky as corroboration of his accusation.

3. The elision of fascism of totalitarianism with any movement towards government intervention in society or the economy within a democracy. This lies at the nub of the book’s wilful perversion of historical truth and political scientific theory evident in such passages. Significantly it occurs again without the word being used explicitly in the slightly modified short definition Goldberg gives in his interview for California Literary Review ( “an instinctual religious impulse – usually gussied-up [sic] as a secular or modern ideology – that seeks to impose uniformity in thought and action throughout the entire society. All oars in a fascistic society must pull together. The personal is political because everything goes together. Political correctness is one name we give to such efforts in civil society.”

Note the way that this definition is, even more obviously than the original one, not of fascism at all, but actually of totalitarianism, which is now stretched even to embrace the ‘PC’ culture of modern liberal democracy. Goldberg thus abandons any notion that totalitarianism involves state monopolizing or harnessing of political, economic, and cultural power to create a new order in which individual human rights, pluralism and diversity are severely compromised.

The idea that the U.S. under FDR was a totalitarian society in this sense is another example of the distortion of language and history that permeates this book (Marcuse accused liberal society of being totalitarian but at least this was based on a consistent Marxist critique of capitalism).

The illegitimate stretching of fascism and totalitarianism to embrace progressive liberalism is the hallmark of the illiberalism at the cold heart of Goldberg’s thesis and its bid to demonize democratic and Democratic opposition to the neo-Con travesty of U.S. politics.

In the same interview Goldberg states: "If I had to pick a single overall theme in the book, I would say it’s to rectify the misunderstanding of what fascism is and to highlight the deep historical, ideological and emotional ties between progressivism (now called liberalism) and fascism." Note: a) his disingenuous claim that the book sets out to correct misunderstandings about fascism (rather than admitting that it hijacks the term fascism and attaches it to social or democratic liberalism for strictly propagandistic ends; b) his candid admission that he is seeking to establish continuities between fascism and progressive liberalism, in other words that it is tendentious and propagandistic in its very conception.

A Polemical Verdict on a Propagandistic Tract

Since the journalist Goldberg has appropriated an academic register to attack progressive liberalism, then it is perhaps appropriate for a genuine academic to finish his critique by appropriating a journalistic register to attack the thinly disguised political subtext of this mendaciously and perversely anti-academic and anti-liberal book.

Liberal Fascism is a Business Class airport read for those who sit smugly in Priority Lounges and, once airborne, feel a sense of superiority as they sip alcohol in front of the flimsy curtain which separates them from ‘economy class’ fellow passengers whose fate they are likely to share only in the event of a crash (in contrast to The Titanic, where passenger class determined death rates).

Its purpose is to airlift complicit readers who feel threatened by the return of a Democratic administration to the moral equivalent of the Cayman Islands. Here they can rationalize their fear and loathing of ‘socialists’ and ‘progressives’, while basking in the satisfaction of having thoroughly ‘earned’ a lifestyle from which the bulk of the world’s population is excluded because, apparently, they have NOT earned it, or, in the phraseology of the L'Oréal advert, they are NOT ‘worth it’.

In academic terms the idea of a political force termed ‘liberal fascism’ is not just oxymoronic but moronic. The accompanying ‘history’ is predictably as devoid of substance as candy floss, but one that leaves a sour taste for all those who resist the sweep of its populist diatribe against social liberalism and are not taken in by the crudely travestied and demonized simulacrum of the Democrats it fashions out of a viciously ransacked history.

In short, it thus owes its success partly to masquerading as a serious work of academic analysis, one which mendaciously claims to unmask the conventional wisdom within the political and historical sciences on the subject of fascism as politically biased and conceptually confused. Its true purpose is to uncover subterranean (and, to the non-paranoid, wholly fictitious) links between contemporary U.S. Democrats and the values of the same Axis regimes the U.S. fought so heroically on D-Day and beyond to rid the world of genuinely fascist totalitarian regimes.

If it has become the Mein Kampf of Neo-Cons in their assault on the Democratic Left, the Obama administration, and any sort of liberal radicalism (whether in the context of the welfare state, ecology, the South, or the ‘War on Terror’), it is because as a contribution to fascist studies it is not worth the paper it is printed on. Abridged to become an undergraduate essay, its neo-McCarthyite rhetoric (now curiously directed against fascists rather than commies under the bed) would condemn it to fail miserably in any academic institution (apart perhaps from those that sell degrees on the internet).

As a work of fiction, it is more akin in genus and in reasons for its publishing success to the apocalyptic fantasies of the U.S. Christian extreme right Left Behind (another airport bestseller) than The End of History.

As an elaborate piece of conspiracy theory and demonization of an alleged internal enemy, Liberal Fascism also has some affinity with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Not only does Goldberg’s tract serve to rationalize the antidemocratic resentments and anxieties of the neo-Con and Bushite electoral constituency in the U.S., it also serves to bolster the anti-liberal passions of the genuine fascist right in the U.S. If this sounds hysterical, consider the T-shirts worn in 2005, well before Goldberg’s book hit the stands, by 13-year-old twins Lynx and Lamb Gaede (a.k.a. Prussian Blue, a white supremacist music act), who ‘tour the nation performing at white nationalist rallies’. They are allegedly fans of the Prussian Blue computer game Ethnic Cleansing, made by Resistance Records.

I rest my case.


On page 10, Goldberg, in a revealing passage, asserts that in the 1930s, “Stalin stumbled on a brilliant tactic of simply labelling all inconvenient ideas and movements fascist.” I accuse Goldberg of brazenly deploying the identical tactic, albeit in a totally different historical context, in order to discredit the involvement of the democratic left and Democrats in U.S. politics and social policy.

This does NOT, of course, make Goldberg a Stalinist. Nor am I alleging he is a fascist. But nor is he a liberal. Two hundred years ago he might have been considered an embodiment of classical liberalism (which was a profoundly anti-democratic force generally opposed to racial, social, and gender equality), but history moves on, such values are now a perversion of liberal democracy and his technique for diffusing them a parody of the intellectual tradition of liberal humanism. The pandemic success of his book underlines the need for liberalism always to be seen as a value system to be constantly revised and reasserted rather than taken for granted.

Contrary to what was proclaimed by Jefferson and Timothy McVeigh’s T-Shirt, the tree of liberty needs to be watered and tended constantly by the words and actions of liberals in the defence of basic human freedoms and rights, and NOT refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants (or the incitement to hatred emanating from pseudo-liberal journalists).

Columbia University's Robert Paxton Refutes "Liberal Fascism"

The Scholarly Flaws of Liberal Fascism
By Robert Paxton

Robert Paxton is emeritus professor of history at Columbia University. His latest book is Anatomy of Fascism (Vintage, 2005).

Jonah Goldberg tells us he wrote this book to get even. The liberals started it by “insist[ing] that conservatism has connections with fascism” (p. 22). Conservatives “sit dumbfounded by the nastiness of the slander” (p. 1). “The left wields the term fascism like a cudgel” (p. 3). So Jonah Goldberg has decided it is time to turn the tables and show that “the liberal closet has its own skeletons” (p. 22). After years of being “called a fascist and a Nazi by smug, liberal know-nothings” he decides that “responding to this slander is a point of personal privilege” (p. 392).

Feeling oneself a victim is wonderfully liberating. Anything goes. So Jonah Goldberg pulls out all the stops to show that fascism “is not a phenomenon of the right at all. It is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left” (p. 7). The reader perceives at once that Goldberg likes to put things into rigid boxes: right and left, conservative and liberal, fascist and non-fascist. He doesn’t leave room for such complexities as convergences, middle grounds, or evolution over time. Thus Father Coughlin was always a man of the left, and so was Mussolini (Giacomo Matteotti or the Rosselli brothers, leaders of the Italian left whom Mussolini had assassinated, would have been scandalized by this view). The very mention of a “Third Way” puts one instantly into the fascist box.

That’s too bad, because there really is a subject here. Fascism – a political latecomer that adapted anti-socialism to a mass electorate, using means that often owed nothing to conservatism – drew on both right and left, and tried to transcend that bitter division in a purified, invigorated, expansionist national community. A sensitive analysis of what fascism drew from all quarters of the political spectrum would be a valuable project. It is not Jonah Goldberg’s project.

The bottom line is that Goldberg wants to attach a defaming epithet to liberals and the left, to “put the brown shirt on [your] opponents,” as he accuses the liberals of doing (p. 392). He goes about this task with a massive apparatus of scholarly citations and quotations. But Goldberg’s scholarship is not an even-handed search for understanding, following the best evidence fully and open-mindedly wherever it might lead. He chooses his scholarly data selectively and sometimes misleadingly in the service of his demonstration.

Jonah Goldberg knows that making the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR the creators of an American fascism – indeed the only American fascism, for George Lincoln Rockwell and other overt American fascist or Nazi sympathizers are totally absent from this book – is a stretch, so he has created a new box: Liberal Fascism. The Progressives and their heirs who wanted to use government to rectify social and economic ills, and who, in Goldberg’s view, thereby created an American Fascism, acted with good intentions, rarely used violence, and had nothing to do with Auschwitz. Even so, they share an intellectual heredity and a set of common goals with the European fascists. So they go into the “Liberal Fascist” box.

Liberal Fascism is an oxymoron, of course. A fascism that means no harm is a contradiction in terms. Authentic fascists intend to harm those whom they define as the nation’s internal and external enemies. Someone who doesn’t intend to harm his or her enemies, and who doesn’t relish doing it violently, isn’t really fascist.

But the problems go much deeper. Pushing Liberalism and Fascism together requires distorting both terms. It doesn’t help that these are two of the most problematical words in the political lexicon. To his credit, Goldberg is aware that the term “liberal” has been corrupted in contemporary American usage. It ought to mean (and still means in the rest of the world) a principled opposition to state interference in the economy, from Adam Smith to Ronald Reagan. Goldberg sometimes refers to “classical liberalism” in this sense, and with approval. Unfortunately he has capitulated to the sloppy current American usage by which “liberal” means, usually pejoratively nowadays, any and all of the various components of the Left, from anarchists and Marxists to moderate Democrats.

Goldberg stereotypes liberals to make them abstract, uniform, robotic. The telltale phrase is “liberals say” or “liberals think” (mostly without anyone quoted or footnoted). For example, “Liberals . . . claim” that free-market economics is fascist (p. 22). Could we please have a few examples of “liberals” who say this? It is a straw man, as is the vast, ghostly “liberal mind” that sounds like a physical reality: “fascism, shorn of the word, endures in the liberal mind” (p. 161). Does this liberal mind have a telephone number, as Henry Kissinger said famously of the European Union?

This “liberal mind” is a very big tent. Goldberg believes that moderate reformists are essentially involved in the same project as radical activists. Bernardine Dohrn, Mark Rudd, Al Gore, Hilary Clinton are all devoted in one way or another to the allegedly fascist project of taking action to make a better world.

Goldberg makes sure we understand that force and violence are integral to this “liberal” project of state action to improve society. Robespierre’s terror begins “liberalism” in this sense, and Goldberg attributes to it a fanciful fifty thousand deaths (the scholarly consensus is 12,000, which is bad enough). Later he spends a lot of time on the worst excesses of 1960s radicalism, as if the Weathermen and Hilary Clinton belong together as seekers of a new community.

Fascism is given an equally broad definition: it is any use of state power to make the world better and to create a community. This is not only too vague to mean much, it is simply wrong. Authentic fascists have never wanted to make the whole world better. As uncompromising nationalists, they want to make their own group stronger, purer, and more unified, and establish its domination over inferior groups, by force if necessary. Goldberg’s real target is state activism, and matters would be much clearer if he had just left it at that.

Having headlined the violent history of “liberalism,” Goldberg soft-pedals that of fascists, especially Mussolini. There are the ritual references to Auschwitz, but he denies that racial extermination is integral to Nazism by noting how many Progressive reformers fell for Eugenics in the early twentieth century. His Mussolini – that lifelong “man of the left – is seen largely through the eyes of his many foolish American admirers. Che Guevara killed more people than Mussolini, he asserts (p. 194). This is possible only if one leaves out of the picture the murder of over a thousand Italian citizens by the squadristi who brought Mussolini to the brink of power in 1922, or of the Italians’ use of poison gas, forced displacement into camps, and aerial strafing against the populations of Libya and Ethiopia.

Goldberg simply omits those parts of fascist history that fit badly with his demonstration. His method is to examine fascist rhetoric, but to ignore how fascist movements functioned in practice. Since the Nazis recruited their first mass following among the economic and social losers of Weimar Germany, they could sound anti-capitalist at the beginning. Goldberg makes a big thing of the early programs of the Nazi and Italian Fascist Parties, and publishes the Nazi Twenty-five Points as an appendix. A closer look would show that the Nazis’ anti-capitalism was a selective affair, opposed to international capital and finance capital, department stores and Jewish businesses, but nowhere opposed to private property per se or favorable to a transfer of all the means of production to public ownership.

A still closer look at how the fascist parties obtained power and then exercised power would show how little these early programs corresponded to fascist practice. Mussolini acquired powerful backing by hiring his black-shirted squadristi out to property owners for the destruction of socialist and Communist unions and parties. They destroyed the farm workers’ organizations in the Po Valley in 1921-1922 by violent nightly raids that made them the de facto government of northeastern Italy. Hitler’s brownshirts fought Communists for control of the streets of Berlin, and claimed to be Germany’s best bulwark against the revolutionary threat that still appeared to be growing in 1932. Goldberg prefers the abstractions of rhetoric to all this history, noting only that fascism and Communism were “rivals.” So his readers will not learn anything about how the Nazis and Italian Fascists got into power or exercised it.

The two fascist chiefs obtained power not by election nor by coup but by invitation from German President Hindenberg and his advisors, and Italian King Victor Emanuel III and his advisors (not a leftist among them). The two heads of state wanted to harness the fascists’ numbers and energy to their own project of blocking the Marxists, if possible with broad popular support. This does not mean that fascism and conservatism are identical (they are not), but they have historically found essential interests in common.

Once in power, the two fascist chieftains worked out a fruitful if sometimes contentious relationship with business. German business had been, as Goldberg correctly notes, distrustful of the early Hitler’s populist rhetoric. Hitler was certainly not their first choice as head of state, and many of them preferred a trading economy to an autarkic one. Given their real-life options in 1933, however, the Nazi regulated economy seemed a lesser evil than the economic depression and worker intransigence they had known under Weimar. They were delighted with Hitler’s abolition of independent labor unions and the right to strike (unmentioned by Goldberg), and profited greatly from his rearmament drive. All of them would have found ludicrous the notion that the Nazis, once in power, were on the left. So would the socialist and communist leaders who were the first inhabitants of the Nazi concentration camps (unmentioned by Goldberg).

In the Italian case, Goldberg somehow imagines that Mussolini’s much-vaunted corporatism was a device to subject businessmen to total state control. Scholars who have looked at the way corporatism actually worked have generally concluded that Italian businessmen simply ran the economy through the corporatist agencies that they easily dominated. Corporatism – the management of an economy by joint committees of businessmen, labor representatives and government officials who organize the economy sector by sector, to emphasize common interests over class differences – functions quite differently, of course, under different regimes. In the Italian Fascist case, quite unlike the New Deal, labor representatives were, in the end, excluded from any meaningful role.

Having set up distorted stereotypes of “liberalism” and “fascism” Goldberg finds them united by a host of similar projects such as campaigns against smoking (it was Nazi doctors who first established the link between smoking and cancer, and Hitler was a fanatical anti-smoker). These similarities concern peripheral matters. The foundational qualities that separate liberalism from fascism simply vanish from the analysis: political pluralism vs. single party; universal values vs. the supremacy of a master race; elections vs. charismatic leadership; fascism’s exaltation of feelings over reason.

Goldberg has indeed unearthed plenty of skeletons in the liberal closet, such as the Eugenics fad. Some liberal violations of human rights were temporary, as in war government. Others were the work of radicals of the left who made war on liberals, hated them, and have no place in an analysis of liberalism properly understood.

This book is stuffed with references to scholarly work that make it look authoritative. But when something really surprising comes along, we look in vain for a footnote. Did Hitler really write a fan letter to that Jew-loving plutocrat FDR in 1935? No footnote. How do we know that the New Dealer Hugh Johnson read Fascist tracts, and for what purpose (p. 156)? And that FDR put a hundred thousand American citizens into camps (p. 160)? Does he mean that C.C.C.? In what sense was “deconstruction” a Nazi coinage (p. 173)? Goldberg probably means Heidegger, but he wants us to think Goebbels. Just which proponents of affirmative action claimed that their opponents were on a slippery slope to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and in what words (p. 243)? Exactly where and when did Al Gore say that global warming is the equivalent of the Holocaust, and what were his actual words (p. 314)? The list of bombshell remarks smuggled into this text without any reference to a credible source could go on and on.

Goldberg hijacks scholarly work and applies it in misleading ways for his own purposes. Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., showed conclusively that German businessmen were often skeptical of Hitler in the early days. Since they gave money to all non-Socialist parties, the small amounts they gave the Nazis prove nothing. But Turner’s book stops in January 1933. Goldberg extends Turner’s conclusions misleadingly into the later period, ignoring the way German businessmen adjusted to the new situation. David Schoenbaum meant his title Hitler’s Social Revolution ironically: Hitler recruited all the losers in Germany’s 1920s crises, and then betrayed them by following policies favorable to big business and big agriculture after January 1933. Goldberg appropriates this book’s first half misleadingly to support his fantastical conclusion that Hitler was always “a man of the left.”

Jonah Goldberg sometimes sounds sweetly reasonable. Liberals mean well, they aren’t taking us toward Auschwitz. The filiation is intellectual, not a matter of exact identity. Fascism takes a different form in each national setting (very true), and it takes a “softer form” (p. 391) in the United States. Then he drops the mask and goes on a rant. In the chapter headings and subheadings – the parts that casual readers will remember -- liberals are fascists pure and simple. For example: “Franklin Roosevelt’s Fascist New Deal” (p. 121); “The Great Society: LBJ’s Fascist Utopia” (p. 329), and so on.

While Goldberg is reasonably careful of names, dates, and quotations, his more general judgments often go badly awry. It is not true that “the hard left had almost nothing to say about Italian Fascism for most of its first decade” (p. 30). The Third International diagnosed it right away, clumsily, as an agent of capitalism. The Italian elections of 1924 were not “reasonably fair” (p. 50), for according to the Acerbo Election Law passed at Fascist insistence just beforehand, the leading party would automatically receive two thirds of the parliamentary seats. It is untrue that Germany spent relatively little on armaments in the first years; they spent as much as they were allowed under the Versailles Treaty, and then arranged secretly for further training and arms development in the Soviet Union (p. 151), a point that ought to suit Goldberg quite well. Hitler never ever campaigned from the back of an old pickup truck (p. 289).

Jonah Goldberg does not tell us much about his own beliefs, except that he loves America. But it is clear that he inhabits a world where the sole serious danger to individual and national wellbeing is the state. No rogue corporations, no drunk drivers, no polluting factories, no well-funded lobbies threaten us, only the state. Anything that enhances the power and reach of the state is bad, even George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”

If you are looking for brickbats to throw at Democrats, reformers, environmentalists and other do-gooders, you will enjoy this book. If you are looking for some reasoned arguments about the politics of our time, you will find both liberalism and fascism grossly distorted in this tract.

Right-Wing Historians Attacks Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism"

Michael Ledeen Responds to Liberal Fascism
By Michael Ledeen

Michael Ledeen is a noted political analyst and a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Iranian Time Bomb, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, and Tocqueville on American Character, and he is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal. His latest book is Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West (Truman Tally Books, 2009).

Liberal Fascism is a careful book, maybe even too careful. Jonah keeps on telling us that he's not trying to make any sweeping generalizations. Despite the provocative title, he's not saying that liberalism is the same as fascism, or that fascists were really liberals, or any such thing. What he does say is that many of the iconic figures in American liberalism (and among the British left as well) greatly admired Mussolini. As well they might, he says, since he was really one of them in many ways.

It's a work of political theory, not a history. What is important for Jonah is the ideas, and he points out that many of the ideas that found a home in the fascist ideology have a surprising origin: the most radical wing of the French Revolution. And from this, and from other similar historical similarities, he concludes that fascism really has a left-wing genetic code, and therefore it's wrong to “blame” fascism on the right.

On this central claim, Jonah is at least half right. The great masterpiece that drew the blood lines from Robespierre to modern mass movements and regimes, is Jacob Talmon's The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, now nearly half a century old. But Talmon was not just talking about fascism, he wrote about all three of the twentieth century's terrible totalitarian movements: fascism, Nazism, and communism. Talmon showed how the Jacobins, above all at the height of the Terror, laid down the guidelines for the totalitarian ideologies and regimes of modern times. With specific regard to Italian fascism, so far as I know, the first time this thesis was advanced was in a book I coauthored in the mid-1970s, in a book-length interview with Renzo De Felice, the great biographer of Mussolini. When De Felice pointed out that the fascist movement drew in part on the ideology of the French Revolution (although he stressed that the intellectual lineage was somewhat spurious), there was a firestorm of criticism from the Italian left, whose leading lights had always argued that fascism was a purely reactionary phenomenon, and that only left-wing movements could legitimately be called “revolutionary.”

It doesn't seem that Jonah is aware of this literature, but he's got the concept right. He's got it right when he suggests that fascism was a revolutionary movement. But then he shies away from the consequences of that insight, because many of the people he wants to call “liberal fascists” are boring reformers, certainly not revolutionaries. And he shies away from the revolutionary nature of fascism for another reason, too: because it shows that revolution is not just a leftist political phenomenon. Jonah wants to have us believe that fascism was “of the left.”

While certain French revolutionary ideas played into the creation of the fascist movement, and while Mussolini started life as a socialist, and while various radical anarcho-syndicalists supported Mussolini from the very beginning (and some remained to the end), it is still a real stretch to say that fascism was fundamentally leftist. Mussolini came to power because his thugs won the street battles with socialist thugs, not because he won the support of left-wing voters. Mussolini put together a very broadly based movement that enabled him to seize power in 1922, win public support, and over the next twenty years he sorted out fascist doctrine and practice.

Nonetheless, many fascists continued to believe in a revolution, a spiritual revolution, and as the years passed they could not avoid the realization that Mussolini was not leading that revolution. In De Felice's famous terms, there was an abyss between fascism-movement (which embraced the revolutionary ideal) and fascism-regime (which created the reactionary state). The smart communists in Italy knew that “revolutionary” fascists could be recruited to the Italian Communist Party, which was accomplished at the end of the war and immediately thereafter. So while there were fascists with leftist tendencies, they were alienated from the regime, embittered by its reactionary nature, and eventually went elsewhere. If anything, their stories show how little “leftism” survived the twenty years of fascist rule.

What is missing from Jonah's book--he mentions it in passing a few times, but never gives it the weight it deserves--is the specific historical context from which fascism was born: the First World War. Fascism was created in the trenches of that war, it was a war ideology from beginning to end, and the central core of fascism was composed of two basic concepts. First, the conviction that the only people worthy of political power were those who had been tested and proven in combat (for the most part, the brownshirts were veterans, and the socialists they attacked had been pacifists or neutralists). And second, that Western civilization was under siege from the left, that is, from communists and socialists.

Jonah, instead, says (pg. 80) “Fascism, at its core, is the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state.” Certainly Mussolini and his cohorts believed that (how did it go? “Everything in the State; Nothing outside the State”…), but that is not the central core of fascism; it's not Mussolini or his imitators, and certainly not Hitler, whose vision was global, not just national. The issue is "the same goals," not just the methods of rule.

The weakest part of the book has to do with the Nazis. All of us who have worked on fascism have had to try to figure out to what extent Hitler belongs inside the category. As Jonah says, Hitler worshiped Mussolini (a love that was not reciprocated), but the Fuhrer was driven by racism and antisemitism, not by the sort of nationalism the Italians embraced. It is very hard to find a political box big enough to accommodate the two, and, like the rest of us, Jonah huffs and puffs trying to make one. Predictably, he has to downplay Hitler's ideology. He calls Hitler a “pragmatist,” and then adds “saying that Hitler had a pragmatic view of ideology is not to say that he didn't use ideology. Hitler had many ideologies. Indeed he was an ideology peddler.”

So much for the view--the fact--that Hitler was driven, from an early age, by an antisemitism so virulent that he would not rest until he had set in motion the Holocaust. Indeed, in one of Liberal Fascism's most unfortunate phrases, Jonah trivializes Nazi racism, equating it with some American political rhetoric:

What distinguished Nazism from other brands of socialism and communism was not so much that it included more aspects from the political right (though there were some). What distinguished Nazism was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics.

And in case you thought he was kidding, he repeats it a few pages later: “What mattered to (Hitler) was German identity politics.”

The best that can be said about this is that it's imaginative. But it's what happens when you are bound and determined to put liberals, socialists, communists, fascists and Nazis into a common political home. I don't have a final answer to this question, but it is likely that the differences between Italian fascism and German Nazism are greater than their similarities.

He is, however, entirely right to stress the enormous sympathy for Mussolini among "progressive" American intellectuals and politicians. To be sure, it had been said before, but Jonah says it well, he expands the argument with wisdom and good humor, and he has done a real service in battering down the intellectual boundaries that were painstakingly erected after the Second World War. And he is right, in my view, that many of these boundaries were created to protect the left from the sort of critical examination it deserved. Now, in no small part because of the debate over Liberal Fascism, that examination may begin.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The American Nazi Party on "Marxism"

[The Leftists] begin their attack on the minds of our people when the child is still in kindergarten. Subtly, the tots are infused with unconscious doubts about the wisdom and methods of their own fathers and mothers. The tiny minds are led to believe that any discipline and order imposed at home is old-fashioned and "tyranny," - although the kids never hear such words.

On through the grades, the process of misleading our new citizens proceeds. American heroes, Washington, Patrick Henry, etc., were not real heroes at all, but greedy little men out for gain or glory. The Constitution is "out-dated." Religion is an "opium." Morals are "square."

Today, there is abroad in the world an enormous gang operating in almost every nation doing EXACTLY the same thing as the early ship-wreckers, except that the modern "ship-wreckers" have added a tremendous complexity of refinements, and instead of wrecking ships, they wreck whole nations.

They are called "Communists", or "Marxists". But basically, the leaders are out to ROB and murder productive people for loot, just as the ship-wreckers robbed those who had worked for the ship's cargo, and then killed them.

The Red gang of ship-wreckers lure decent, honest and sincere people onto the deadly reefs of Marxist insanity with their fake lighthouses of "brotherhood", "peace", "love", "democracy", "equality". And then they rig all the charts available to show these fake lighthouses as the ONLY safe guides. Meanwhile, these robbers and forgers rig all our charts (the press) to show the real, safe channels, in which America sailed to greatness, as the most deadly and dangerous of all reefs.

Our people fail to see the pattern of what they are doing, and so never realize what is happening to us. Consider the pattern of what happened in China, what happened in Cuba, - and what is NOW HAPPENING IN THE USA.

Quotes from:
"White Power" by George Lincoln Rockwel, founder of the American Nazi Party

Jonah Goldberg, Again!

Henry Ford, Socialist?

Henry Ford, the most sucessful industrial capitalist of the Pre-WWII U.S. distributed this Nazi Propaganda book. Does Glenn Beck actually think Henry Ford was a socialist?

Nazi Version of Republican "Welfare Mother" Rhetoric

The poster above translates to "This Man Costs Us 60,000 Marks A Year."

The poster seems to bemoan how "hard working" Germans had to pay for social programs to help the disabled. Hardly a socialist or even liberal message.

"Only Hitler Can Save Us From Bolshevism"

Translation: "Only Hitler Can Save Us From Bolshevism"

Soviet Propaganda Poster: "Kill The Fascist Reptiles!!!!!"

Translates to "Kill The Fascist Reptiles."

Nazi Propaganda Poster

It translates to "The Danger of Bolshevism."

Fascist Italian Propaganda Post

Hmmm..... It seems this Italian Fascist Poster isn't exactly Pro-Communist, is it?

Hitler Palled Around with Auto-Makers, not Communists....

Here's Hitler meeting with one of his allies in the Auto-Industry. Hitler smashed the trade unions and supplied the German Auto-Makers with concentration camp prisoners as slave labor.

That doesn't very "anti-capitalist" to me.

Jonah Goldberg

Ron Paul


Pat Buchanan

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Glenn Beck, Historical Revisionist!

Hitler did not Nationalize things, He Privatized The Economy


The document linked above is research done by Germa Bel of The Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology.

Mussolini: "Supercapitalism is the ideal!"

At this stage, supercapitalism finds its inspiration and its justification in a utopia: the utopia of unlimited consumption. Supercapitalism's ideal is the standardization of the human race from the cradle to the grave. Supercapitalism wants all babies to be born exactly the same length so that the cradles can be standardized and all children persuaded to like the same toys. It wants all men to don the very same uniform, to read the same book, to have the same tastes in films, and to desire the same so-called labor-saving devices. This is not the result of caprice. It inheres in the logic of events, for only thus can supercapitalism make its plans

Fascist Mussilini, unlike what is told in the lies of Jonah Goldberg, was not just a capitalist. He even called himself a "Supercapitalist."

Rather odd, if Fascism is a form of Socialism.

Video: Hitler Speech "I Eradicated the Marxist Party"

In His Own Words: Speech of Jan. 30th, 1937

If Europe does not awaken to the danger of bolshevist infection, commerce will decrease in spite of all the good will of individual statesmen. Therefore I am not in a position to judge the economic future of Europe as optimistically as Mr. Eden apparently does. I rejoice at every increase of our foreign trade, but in view of the political situation I shall not regret anything that will guarantee to the German people their existence when other nations have perhaps become the victims of bolshevist infection.


In His Own Words: Proclamation to the German People (1933)

All about us the warning signs of this collapse are apparent. Communism with its method of madness is making a powerful and insidious attack upon our dismayed and shattered nation. It seeks to poison and disrupt in order to hurl us into an epoch of chaos.... This negative, destroying spirit spared nothing of all that is highest and most valuable. Beginning with the family, it has undermined the very foundations of morality and faith and scoffs at culture and business, nation and Fatherland, justice and honor. Fourteen years of Marxism have ruined Germany; one year of bolshevism would destroy her. The richest and fairest territories of the world would be turned into a smoking heap of ruins. Even the sufferings of the last decade and a half could not be compared to the misery of a Europe in the heart of which the red flag of destruction had been hoisted. The thousands of wounded, the hundreds of dead which this inner strife has already cost Germany should be a warning of the storm which would come....

If, however, Germany is to experience this political and economic revival and conscientiously fulfill her duties toward the other nations, one decisive step is absolutely necessary first: the overcoming of the destroying menace of communism in Germany. We of this Government feel responsible for the restoration of orderly life in the nation and for the final elimination of class madness and class struggle. We recognize no classes, we see only the German people, millions of peasants, bourgeois, and workers who will either overcome together the difficulties of these times or be overcome by them. We are firmly resolved and we have taken our oath. Since the present Reichstag is incapable of lending support to this work, we ask the German people whom we represent to perform the task themselves.

Hitler Speech Archive

In His Own Words: Speech Before the Munich Court

Then I was seventeen I came to Vienna, and there I learned to study and observe three important problems: the social question, the race problem, and, finally, the Marxist movement. I left Vienna a confirmed anti-Semite, a deadly foe of the whole Marxist world outlook, and pan-German in my political principles. And since I knew that the German destiny of German-Austria would not be fought out in the Austrian Army alone, but in the German and Austrian Army, I enlisted in the German Army....

When, on November 7, [1918] it was announced that the Revolution had broken out in Munich, I at first could not believe it. At that time there arose in me the determination to devote myself to politics. I went through the period of the Soviets, and as a result of my opposition to them I came in contact with the National Socialist German Workers Movement, which at that time numbered six members. I was the seventh. I attached myself to this party, and not to one of the great political parties where my prospects would have been better, because none of the other parties understood or even recognized the decisive, fundamental problem.

By Marxism I understand a doctrine which in principle rejects the idea of the worth of personality, which replaces individual energy by the masses and thereby works the destruction of our whole cultural life. This movement has utilized monstrously effective methods and exercised tremendous influence on the masses, which in the course of three or four decades could have no other result than that the individual has become his own brother's foe, while at the same time calling a Frenchman, an Englishman, or a Zulu his brother. This movement is distinguished by incredible terror, which is based on a knowledge of mass psychology....

The German Revolution is a revolution, and therefore successful high treason; it is well known that such treason is never punished....

For us it was a filthy crime against the German people, a stab in the back of the German nation. The middle class could not take up arms against it because the middle
class did not understand the whole revolution. It was necessary to start a new struggle and to incite against the Marxist despoilers of the people who did not even belong to the German race - which is where the Marxist problem is linked with the race problem, forming one of the most difficult and profound questions of our time....


Hitler Speech Archive

In HIs Own Words: Speech of April 13, 1923

Why have the Jews been against Germany? That is made quite clear today - proved by countless facts. They use the age-old tactics of the hyena - when fighters are tired out, then go for them! Then make your harvest! In war and revolutions the Jew attained the unattainable. Hundreds of thousands of escaped Orientals become modern 'Europeans.' Times of unrest produce miracles. Before 1914 how long would it have taken, for instance, in Bavaria before a Galician Jew became - Prime Minister? - Or in Russia before an anarchist from the New York Ghetto, Bronstein (Trotsky), became - Dictator? Only a few wars and revolutions - that was enough to put the Jewish people into possession of the red gold and thereby to make them masters of the world.

Hitler Speech Archive

In His Own Words: Speech of Munich, July, 28, 1922

And the Jew's second instrument was the Marxist theory in and for itself. For directly one went on to assert that property as such is theft, directly one deserted the obvious formula that only the natural wealth of a country can and should be common property, but that that which a man creates or gains through his honest labor is his own, immediately the economic intelligentsia with its nationalist outlook could, here too, no longer co-operate: for this intelligentsia was bound to say to itself that this theory meant the collapse of any human civilization whatever. Thus the Jew succeeded in isolating this new movement of the workers from all the nationalist elements....

On one point there should be no doubt: we will not let the Jews slit our gullets and not defend ourselves. Today in Berlin they may already be arranging their festival-dinners with the Jewish hangmen of Soviet Russia - that they will never do here. They may today begin to set up the Cheka - the Extraordinary Commission - in Germany, they may give it free scope, we surrender to such a Jewish Commission never! We have the conviction, firm as a rock, that, if in this State seven million men are determined to stand by their 'No' to the very last, the evil specter will collapse into nothingness in the rest of the Reich. For what Germany needs today, what Germany longs for ardently, is a symbol of power, and strength.

That process today in Russia is practically complete. The whole of present-day Russia has nothing to show beyond a ruined civilization, a colony ripe for development through alien capital, and even this capital in order to supply resources in labor for its practical work must introduce Aryan intellects, since for this again the Jew is useless. Here, too, he is all rapacity, never satisfied. He knows no ordered economy, he knows no ordered body of administrators. Over there in Russia he is laying his hands on everything. They take the noble's diamonds to help 'the People.' The diamonds then stray into foreign societies and are no more seen. He seizes to himself the treasures of the churches, but not to feed the people: oh no! Everything wanders away and leaves not a trace behind. In his greed he has become quite senseless: he can keep hold of nothing: he has only within him the instinct for destruction, and so he himself collapses with the treasure that he has destroyed.

From: Hitler's Speech Archive