March 17, 2008


A Century of "Liberal Fascism": a review of Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., New Individualist)

That so little of this history is remembered, Goldberg argues, is the result of two things. First, since the left has a remarkably firm grip on academia, they tend to write history--and write it in a way that’s favorable to their side of history. Second, the left tends to have a remarkably short collective memory. While most conservatives and libertarians can name those movements’ founders (such as Hayek, Buckley, and Rand), the typical modern leftist tends not to remember his intellectual forefathers nearly as well. Or as liberal journalist and Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. wrote in his 2004 book Stand Up, Fight Back, “Liberals and Democrats tend not to view themselves as the inheritors of a grand tradition. Almost on principle, they are suspicious of such traditions, of too much theorizing, of linking themselves too much to the past.”

The result is that the intertwining of Marxism, Progressivism, and Fascism in the first decades of the twentieth century--the theme of Liberal Fascism--has been virtually forgotten among the modern left. Which is why it is now routine for conservatives (including whichever Republican happens to hold the highest national office at the time, whether it’s Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, or George W. Bush) to be demonized by the left as a Nazi, and for the Nazis--and fascism in general--to be widely described by the left, and much of the culture at large, as rightwing movements.

Of course, it was the Soviets of the 1920s who first began to describe fascism as being on the right. As a more populist strain of totalitarianism, it was, arguably, to the right of communism, which ultimately killed tens of millions more people during the twentieth century. But the collectivist nature of fascism is far, far to the left of American conservatism and especially American libertarianism. To paraphrase a remark by Charles Krauthammer shortly after the 2006 midterm elections: Americans play politics within the middle of the football field; since 1789, Europeans have confined themselves mostly to the forty yards on the left side of the field. This helps to explain why, when the wall dividing Berlin fell in 1989, the same region embraced a corporatist, nanny-state European Union only a few years later.

Goldberg does yeoman’s work researching and documenting material that the American left had consigned to the memory hole since 1945.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2008 7:41 AM
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