Liberal Fascism

Unfortunately, I probably won’t be digging into Jonah Goldberg’s new book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning anytime soon (I’ve gotta read this, this, and this first, just to scratch the surface of my bookshelf backlog), but judging by the author’s evisceration of a critical review, it’s quite the read. A few excerpts:

Judging from this, you’d think I just made-up the phrase from whole cloth. Nowhere does Neiwert mention that I get the phrase from H. G. Wells, quite possibly the most influential English-speaking public intellectual during the first third of the 20th century. It was H. G. Wells who sought to rechristen liberalism as “Liberal Fascism” or — again, his words — “Enlightened Nazism.”
Then there’s the omnipresent canard that I must be wrong because of fascism’s “overwhelming anti-liberalism.” Neiwert is again displaying either his ignorance or his dishonesty. It is absolutely true that a great many academic definitions — Ernst Nolte’s “fascist negations” for example — cite fascism’s anti-liberalism. And it is true that Mussolini and Hitler spoke of their disdain for liberalism many times, and there are many quotes to that effect. But guess what? These two European statesmen were speaking in — wait for it! — a European context where liberalism generally means limited government: classical or “Manchester” liberalism. They were most emphatically not talking about progressivism or socialism, which are the correct label for American liberalism and/or the American left (as I demonstrate at length in my book).
Secondly, the same sources Neiwert and others cite to cough up this anti-liberalism hairball also usually include another attribute of fascism: It was “anti-conservative” (also on Nolte’s, and many others’, lists). But here’s the fun part: American conservatism is a blend of European conservatism and European liberalism. In other words, the two halves of American conservatism — traditionalism plus classical liberalism — are both considered decidedly un-fascist by most academics who study the topic, as well as by the original fascists themselves.


This point about race that Neiwert brings up is an important one — and one that I anticipate and discuss in my book. Because he believes that racism is inherently right-wing, the fact that the Nazis were racists means they had to be right-wingers. I concede, and talk at length, about the fact that the Nazis were racists. But racism, I’m sorry to say, is not definitively right-wing in my book (literally and figuratively). Stalin’s Russia was replete with anti-Semitism. The American Progressives were astoundingly racist (as I show). The Communists in Germany competed with the National Socialists by trying to out-Jew-bait them. Are the American Progressives, Stalin, or the German Reds now all right-wingers? Moreover, are American conservatives somehow racists because a bunch of socialists in Europe were racists? These dots do not connect.
One last point on this. The issue isn’t racism-as-bigotry. The point is racial essentialism, the idea that race matters (the title of a book by Cornel West, if memory serves). In America, conservatives argue for colorblindness; the Left does not. The Left believes in the iron cage of racial identity, the Right does not. The Left believes in a racial spoils system, the Right does not. And yet, we conservatives are kith and kin of the most intense racial essentialists of the 20th century? These dots, too, do not connect. (Note: As I say countless times in my book, today’s liberals are not Nazi-like bigots, but they are racial essentialists).


Very quickly: As I write in my book, the Nazis were determined to destroy their competition. That is why they hated the Communists. The propaganda that says the Nazis were the opposites of the Communists because they hated each other is idiotic. Hamas and Fatah hate each other deeply, Trotsky and Stalin battled for power, and left-wing academics get their panties in a bunch over where some fellow left-winger puts a comma in a sentence. In none of these cases does mutual hatred translate to ideological divergence. Please: Stalin was a genocidal dictator. Hitler was a genocidal dictator. They both ran totalitarian, militarized regimes of total war. But yes, Nazism and Communism are opposites. Riiiight.

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