Liberal Fascism

Well, At Least he Tries

The Chicago Reader reviews LF.

There’s a lot — and I mean a lot — of rank nonsense, base-stealing and all around goofy-headed flapdoodle in here. But I must say the guy actually tries to grapple with the book. And he does basically endorse the first half of the book. What he doesn’t like is the second half of the book. But I just find his reasons pretty underwhelming. It seems odd to accuse me of outlandishness and over-reach while at the same time decrying my lack of imagination.

Anyway, this part will annoy many of the right people:

The most deeply rooted of these popular ideas about fascism is that it’s a phenomenon of the political right; without question, the best thing about Goldberg’s book is the way he turns this on its head. Mussolini, who created the brand, was raised a Marxist, authored one socialist tract after another, and edited a journal called Class War. He admired Lenin, who returned the favor. His support for World War I forced him to break with international socialism, but Goldberg insists this was not a move from left to right; rather, it was from “Workers of the World Unite!” to national socialism, socialism in one country. To achieve this end Mussolini became a maestro of political theater and thuggery, but that doesn’t mean he abandoned his principles. In the first platform of the Fascists we find universal suffrage, repeal of titles of nobility, the eight-hour workday, a minimum wage, workers’ representation in government bodies, reform of old-age pensions, “sequestration” of war profits, and nationalization of arms manufacturing. Also, to quote the program directly, “a large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one-time partial expropriation of all riches.” Call him a dictator, a populist, a popinjay—even, if it will make you feel better, a fascist—but you cannot call Il Duce right-wing.

Goldberg reprints the platform of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party—yes, that’s the Nazis—in its entirety. It leaves the same impression, with one big difference: “Only a member of the race can be a citizen.” The Nazis exploited anticapitalist rhetoric no less than the Fascistas, and the notion that Hitler was but the puppet of wicked industrialists has long since been tossed into the dustbin of history, as the Marxists, who dreamed up this fantasy, like to say. Even so, you would sooner nail a blob of mercury than puzzle out the ideology of Adolf Hitler. He worshipped power and he hated Jews; beyond that—a maelstrom. But if the Nazis campaigned as socialists, why are they now regarded as monsters of the right? According to Goldberg, this error stems from Stalinist propaganda that declared nationalism an enemy of the class struggle and, for that reason alone, right-wing. On their side, the Nazis loathed Bolshevism not because it was left but because they believed it was Jewish.

Goldberg portrays Fascism and Nazism as collectivist revolutions, one based on the nation, the other on race. Both were totalitarian (another Mussolini coinage) and both advocated a “third way” between laissez-faire capitalism—a policy of the true right wing, its failures all too evident in the 1930s—and the abolition of private property under Communism. Collectivism, governmental involvement in all areas of life, a chimerical “third way” between the dogmas of left and right, all of it packaged and sold to the masses as an emotional “religion of the state”—when Goldberg says “fascism,” this is what he means. Here is the genetic code, he claims, that has directed the evolution of American liberalism.

Regarding its two biggest icons in the 20th century, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, his case is a good one…. 


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