Magazine | March 8, 2010, Issue


John Dewey, Liberal Fascist?

Your article “John Dewey and the Philosophical Refounding of America” (Tiffany Jones Miller, December 31) astutely identifies its subject’s rejection of the Founders’ natural-rights tradition — seeing through Dewey’s attempt to conscript Thomas Jefferson as an intellectual forerunner to his brand of liberalism. The author overreaches, however, by insisting that Dewey’s residual Hegelianism led to totalistic condemnation of “virtually every aspect of life in America.” This would situate Dewey’s embrace of social democracy, with democracy prioritized over socialism, in the same camp as the Frankfurt School.

Herbert Marcuse and Max Horkheimer, two of that school’s leading theorists, deemed pragmatic liberalism their most formidable ideological enemy. Parroting the Stalinist line, they attacked Dewey as a defender of the political status quo and therefore a “fascist.” Marcuse repeated this canard in his book One-Dimensional Man. To be sure, there is much to criticize in Dewey. However, by the late 1930s, he occupied what was later described as “the vital center” in American politics.

Neither Bill Ayers nor Barack Obama manifests the “progressive” legacy of John Dewey, which is best exemplified by his chief disciple, Sidney Hook. Obama’s heritage can more appropriately be linked to the New Leftism of the 1960s. Conflating Dewey with “liberal fascism” mirrors the Communist propaganda line that cynically undermined the Weimar resistance to the triumph of Hitler.

Gary Bullert

Author, The Politics of John Dewey

Tiffany Jones Miller replies: Mr. Bullert contends my treatment of Dewey “mirrors” the Stalinist/Frankfurt School’s deliberate mischaracterization of Dewey “as a defender of the political status quo and therefore a ‘fascist.’” Dewey was no fascist, he suggests, but in falsely characterizing him as such, the Communists (inadvertently) helped foster the triumph of a genuine fascist, Hitler.

By clarifying Dewey’s rejection of America’s first principles, accordingly, I am undermining Dewey’s brand of “social democracy,” only to empower the more radical brand of socialism represented by the New Left, Bill Ayers, and Barack Obama — the “liberal fascis[ts].” Setting aside Mr. Bullert’s confusing use of the term “fascist,” as well as the important role Dewey’s thought played in the formation of the leading New Left student organization, Students for a Democratic Society, his point seems to be that Dewey’s disagreement with his fellow socialists over the preferred means of effecting a socialist reorganization of society is more important than the fact that their common goal in this regard (be they progressives, Marxists, or fascists) rests upon a denial of the first principle of the American founding — that “all men are created equal,” and thus have a right by nature to rule themselves. I disagree. 

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

Mortgage Morality

‘Political writers,” David Hume once wrote, “have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every ...
Politics & Policy


It’s a cliché to use the word “hubris” in an article involving Greece, but when that article is about the single European currency, what else will do? From its very beginning, ...
Politics & Policy

An Iranian’s Life

When Khomeini created his Islamic dictatorship in Iran, he also created an Iranian diaspora: Some 3 million Iranians now live abroad, in various countries, on various continents. Many of them ...


Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Gender Gaps

The famous Title IX provision in the 1972 civil-rights legislation sounds quite sensible: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, ...
Politics & Policy

Cold Hearts

Movie criticism, like most human affairs, suffers during extreme weather. Before Washington, D.C., was buried beneath successive blizzards, I was planning to review The Wolfman, and distinctly looking forward to ...
City Desk

City of Many Worlds

  Lexington Avenue begins at 21st Street, and runs pretty flat until Murray Hill in the 30s, where National Review lives. But in between is a stretch of short 19th-century buildings ...


Politics & Policy


John Dewey, Liberal Fascist? Your article “John Dewey and the Philosophical Refounding of America” (Tiffany Jones Miller, December 31) astutely identifies its subject’s rejection of the Founders’ natural-rights tradition — seeing ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ The stimulus did create at least one job in the private sector, soon to be filled by Evan Bayh. ‐ A year ago, Rick Santelli, CNBC business-news reporter, asked from ...
The Bent Pin

The Late Lady

Chop off another piece of my childhood. Jean Simmons died January 22, a week before her 81st birthday. Actually her movies bridged my childhood and my girlhood and went on into ...
The Long View

Bethesda Mental-Health Clinic

  Doctor’s Notes Tuesday 1/19 Convened our first group session. Technically, we’re calling it “Dealing with Setbacks in Home and Career,” but I’ve decided to let the discussion encompass a wide range of ...
Politics & Policy


DAY AND NIGHT A fondness for twilight and for dawn, touches everyone. Both are connection; but not like the hazy horizon of summer dusk across the lake – where only God can discern where water ends and sky ...
Happy Warrior

Zamboni Baloney

Zamboni makes the ice-resurfacing carts that are a familiar sight at any hockey game, and also at any number of Winter Olympics — Turin, Salt Lake, Nagano, and way back ...

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Pelosi’s House of Pain

Not so long ago — as recently as the cover of the March 2019 Rolling Stone, in fact — they seemed like the best of friends. I'm referring to Nancy Pelosi and the members of "The Squad": Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and (not pictured) Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. They shared some good ... Read More

Gender Dissenter Gets Fired

Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation ... Read More
Film & TV

How Seinfeld Mastered the Comedy Domain

I can’t say whether Larry Charles, Larry David, Alec Berg, Spike Feresten, and the rest of the brilliant writers of Seinfeld were students of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but they might as well have been. Fitzgerald supplied the best advice for sitcom writers: Start with an individual, and before you know it you find ... Read More