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Liberal Fascism: the Secret History of the American Left, by Jonah Goldberg 2007 More Images
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Liberal Fascism: the Secret History of the American Left, by Jonah Goldberg 2007

A masterpiece. Densely researched and documented, well-organized, and a skillful riposte to so-called “Progressives” who, in Goldberg’s view, not only disguise their contemporary political aims of attempting to remake society and human nature by government fiat, but firmly thrust their heads into the sands of history, determinedly obscuring both their own intellectual origins and the repeated failure of Progressive ideas to better the lot of the average citizen whenever previous political successes gave them the opportunity to implement them.

The core of Goldberg’s thesis is that the American Left, which unaccountably but persistently misrepresents itself as concerned with the welfare of the common people, the poor, and especially children, shares the same intellectual roots as Fascism, unlike the American right-wing, which remains committed to notions of individual freedom and Constitutionalism and shares little or nothing with political Fascism, and that the modern Progressive movement, therefore, is living a lie when it cynically hurls its favorite charge of “fascist” against rightists in the U.S. and against traditional adherents of American politics and culture.

Goldberg traces the Left’s roots from its interwar love affair with the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, whom many of the same prominent Progressives who toured Stalin’s Soviet “workers’ paradise” also visited and praised, to the modern “politics of change” which raise the same illusory notions of top-down dictatorial “solutions” that forever promise to engineer a new Society and a New Man if only complete power be given to them. Lincoln Steffens, but one example of many, having taken “the tour” of the Soviet “workers’ paradise”, which was as obligatory among prominent left-wing intellectuals in the interwar US as the Hajj to Mecca for pious Muslims, pronounced “I have been over into the future, and it works”. Returning from a similar tour to Mussolini’s Italy, the same Lincoln Steffens spoke glowingly of “the Russian-Italian method” emphasizing the similarity of their authoritarian political projects.

Goldberg’s thesis is masterful because he accomplishes his task by a public-relations sleight of hand, in effect making the American Left “an offer it can’t refuse”, a dilemma with two prongs. The crux of Goldberg’s dilemma is this: Was Progressivism fascistic, and by implication so also must be the modern American Left? Or was Fascism progressive, and by implication, since the American Left will not give up its love affair with Wilsonian Progressivism, so also must have been the Fascist movements of recent history, suggesting that the entire course of the American struggle in the 20th century against Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy was misguided and wrong? Given that no public figure in the US would ever dare suggest that Fascism was anything but evil, or that the US might have fought “on the wrong side” in World War II, this prong of the dilemma is clearly not available to modern adherents of the American Left. Therefore – if they accept the research and the framework of the dilemma as posed by Goldberg – American leftists must acknowledge that Progressivism was a variety of Fascism, both broadly (“fascism”) and historically (“Fascism”), and therefore is fundamentally tainted as an agenda for social change in the US.

The problem with this view is twofold. First, despite Goldberg’s massive documentation of fascistic tendencies in the American Progressive movement and in its glory days of the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations, the ties between American Progressives and the New Deal on the one hand, with historical European Fascism on the other remained tenuous. Mussolini not only made Italian trains run on time, he made Italian planes bomb Abyssinia and Libya just as effectively, and launched invasions of France, Albania, and Greece to boot. National Socialist Germany, and the Soviet Union which could just as easily be termed fascist as communist, similarly engaged in expansionist programs, with a corresponding glorification of militarism and entrenching of their military-industrial complexes in commanding positions of their respective states. The only reason Spain did not do likewise was due to the exhaustion of Franco’s regime in the wake of the long civil war of the late 30’s, though Franco did find the resources to provide troops to aid Hitler in his invasion of Russia, as did the Romanian Iron Guard, and every other historical Fascist movement in Europe during World War II. This glorification of militarism in Europe, and its eager adoption by the militarist Japanese, found no more than a pale reflection in interwar US. Despite Wilson’s militarization of the American economy organized by Bernard Baruch, and the attempts at social regimentation under the Blue Eagle under Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the continued US occupation of the Philippines, no such militarist expansion or glorification of war has ever occurred in the US. Even the current military deployments cannot be said to be originated or championed by American progressives except as reluctant endorsements of conservative policies and agendas.

Second, although Goldberg’s public relations calculations are discerning in that he quite correctly anticipates that no contemporary left-wing figure in the US will openly select the second prong of his dilemma over the first prong, the more correct choice may in fact be the second prong. That is, it may be more correct to say that Fascism was a branch of Progressivism than to assert the opposite. Proposing this view, needless to say, exposes one more generally to the charge of “fascism”, however, it is long past time in the modern US to cease its childish obsession with this word, which is hurled about among so-called “intellectuals” and media “journalists” like so many school-yard spit-wads, and with no more justification or effect. In modern America to be charged with fascism, as to be charged with racism, means merely that one has ventured to state an opinion. No more and no less.

Fascism with a capital “F”, i.e., in its precise usage, refers exclusively to that political movement founded by the progressive socialist Benito Mussolini to halt the economic collapse of Italy in the wake of World War I. This movement ceased to exist in 1945 when American armies overran its last holdouts in northern Italy; fascism with a small “f” is merely a pejorative term bandied about for so long and with such little regard for any meaning of the term, that it has come to mean merely “bad” or “evil”. Even if we accept the common left-wing assertion that “fascism” as a movement extended beyond Mussolini’s Italy and had broader meaning in the interwar years, we must still reply that “fascism” in this sense was a branch of Progressivism, at least in its central-planning aspect, and that militarist “fascism” was the result of the application of Progressivism in the European environment where local military traditions and glorification of national history was in the 19th century fusing with the advent of industrialism which had the effect of conferring temporary economic and military advantages on the early adopters of industrial methods. The social programs of Bismarck, which remain among historians the jumping off point and earliest standard for comparing all subsequent top-down social welfare projects, long predated all 20th century fascist-type movements, including Social Democracy and Communism as well. Therefore, “fascism” and Fascism, and Naziism and Communism can all be said to be offshoots – paranoid or lethal tho they may have been – of the late 19th century Progressive-style movements that arose in both the US and Europe between the 1870’s and the 1930’s.

The implication of all this not that Fascism (or “fascism”), necessarily taints contemporary progressivism and drags it down, but rather that historical Fascism, and other fascist movements, should finally be cut down from the gibbet of public execution and re-examined dispassionately for what they were, with and without their faults, being – in certain times and places – progressive and beneficial social movements that had the welfare of the average citizen at heart as much as did America’s Progressive movement.

Strangely enough, few wish to argue this point when it comes to the militarist and expansionist fascistic Soviet Union with its parades of tanks and troops, and bloody occupation of a dozen foreign nations. But when it comes to Italian Fascism, which did avert the economic collapse of that country in 1921, or National Socialist Germany, which revived a prostrate German economy in the face of a Depression greatly worsened by the predatory Smoot-Hawley Tariff in the US, and Franco’s Spain, Hungary, or Romania, the domestic benefits of their social programs, or the progressive nature of their Wilsonian-style desire to reunify scattered and vulnerable ethnic conclaves, remain steadfastly ignored, forever overshadowed by the tragic holocausts that followed the military aggressions of Hitler’s criminal regime. —SiriusReviews.com.

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