Magazine March 8, 2010, Issue

Letters

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

Articles

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

EUbris

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 ...

Features

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 ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

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

Poetry

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

Immigration

The Party’s Over — No More Guest(worker)s

Last month's Presidential Proclamation temporarily suspending a tiny sliver of permanent immigration in response to Great Depression 2.0 also called for a review of the alphabet soup of foreign-worker programs. The relevant cabinet departments were instructed to offer recommendations "to stimulate the United ... Read More
Immigration

The Party’s Over — No More Guest(worker)s

Last month's Presidential Proclamation temporarily suspending a tiny sliver of permanent immigration in response to Great Depression 2.0 also called for a review of the alphabet soup of foreign-worker programs. The relevant cabinet departments were instructed to offer recommendations "to stimulate the United ... Read More
U.S.

Unsustainable America

Americans are having fewer babies than ever, or at least than since the government began tracking the general fertility rate in 1909. The total fertility rate ticked down to 1.7 in 2019, meaning that the average number of babies an American woman would have over her lifetime is well below replacement ... Read More
U.S.

Unsustainable America

Americans are having fewer babies than ever, or at least than since the government began tracking the general fertility rate in 1909. The total fertility rate ticked down to 1.7 in 2019, meaning that the average number of babies an American woman would have over her lifetime is well below replacement ... Read More

The Makings of Modern Madness

The paradigm of mind–brain dualism, like the story of syphilis, is by no means virgin territory. However, Allan Ropper and Brian Burrell’s How The Brain Lost Its Mind: Sex, Hysteria, and the Riddle of Mental Illness puts both the legacy of dualism and the story of syphilis under the microscope, and offers a ... Read More

The Makings of Modern Madness

The paradigm of mind–brain dualism, like the story of syphilis, is by no means virgin territory. However, Allan Ropper and Brian Burrell’s How The Brain Lost Its Mind: Sex, Hysteria, and the Riddle of Mental Illness puts both the legacy of dualism and the story of syphilis under the microscope, and offers a ... Read More
World

‘Professor Lockdown’ Modeler Resigns in Disgrace

Neil Ferguson is the British academic who created the infamous Imperial College model that warned Boris Johnson that, without an immediate lockdown, the coronavirus would cause 500,000 deaths and swamp the National Health Service. Johnson’s government promptly abandoned its Sweden-like “social ... Read More
World

‘Professor Lockdown’ Modeler Resigns in Disgrace

Neil Ferguson is the British academic who created the infamous Imperial College model that warned Boris Johnson that, without an immediate lockdown, the coronavirus would cause 500,000 deaths and swamp the National Health Service. Johnson’s government promptly abandoned its Sweden-like “social ... Read More

John Wayne: The Hero We Need Now

America fits into John Wayne's filmography, and this does not make America small. It makes John Wayne huge. The coronavirus has brought us back to the Wild West. Lonely lives, deserted streets, looks of distrust, and whiskey for throat disinfection; the scientific community has not made an official statement as ... Read More

John Wayne: The Hero We Need Now

America fits into John Wayne's filmography, and this does not make America small. It makes John Wayne huge. The coronavirus has brought us back to the Wild West. Lonely lives, deserted streets, looks of distrust, and whiskey for throat disinfection; the scientific community has not made an official statement as ... Read More