First, in case you didn’t know, Reihan Salam is now a blogger for NRO. I think this astoundingly good news. Now, on to business. He writes:
Earlier this week, Will Cain very kindly asked me to participate in a series of online debates with Chris Hayes of The Nation, a leading left-of-center thinker. To his credit, Hayes describes himself as a social democrat, a political tradition that remains obscure in U.S. political discourse. Unlike left movements in Europe, the American left has traditionally had a strong individualist streak, hence the resonance of the “liberal” label that many center-left Americans now eschew in favor of “progressive.” The best book I’ve read on the origins of social democracy is Sheri Berman’s The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century, a sympathetic account that describes the movement as an outgrowth of the various revisionist movements that emerged in tension with and in opposition to Marxist orthodoxy. Another movement that emerged from the intellectual ferment of revisionism is, of course, fascism, and Jonah Golderg has vividly described the awkward relationship between these traditions at great length. Though it should go without saying that egalitarian social democracy and racial fascism are deeply different, both see the creation and cultivation of social solidarity as vitally important.
He goes on to make many fine points. I just want to offer a slight — really slight — dissent. I agree that social democracy and racial fascism are deeply different (a point I make several times in my book). And I’m grateful that Reihan actually recognizes a distinction between fascism and “racial fascism.” In the 1920s, Mussolini’s fascism was not racial (it became racial in the late 30s when Mussolini wanted to justify his North African adventures and, later, when he fully became Hitler’s stooge). The question is, how different are social democracy and non-racial fascism? The problem for many people is that they cannot imagine the possibility that fascism isn’t shorthand for racial fascism, never mind get their heads around the idea that Nazism was — and was understood at the time as — racial socialism. The word “fascist” appears twice in Mein Kampf and neither time as a meaningful label for National Socialist ideology. Meanwhile the word socialist appears nearly 200 times, if memory serves, and it is often used as an accurate description of Hitler’s preferred policies.
Regardless, I will concede that non-racial fascism and social democracy are still different, just as social democracy and, say, Leninism are different. But few eyebrows would be raised were one to note that Leninism and social democracy share common roots and more than a few common aspirations. But when one says similar stuff about fascism and social democracy, teeth are gnashed and cloth rent.