Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

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“Fascists,” “Brownshirts,” “jackbooted stormtroopers”—such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. Calling someone a fascist is the fastest way to shut them up, defining their views as beyond the political pale. But who are the real fascists in our midst?

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler's Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out and shows us the true meaning of Liberal Fascism.
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About the author

JONAH GOLDBERG is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and contributing editor to National Review. A USA Today contributor and former columnist for the Times of London, he has also written for The New Yorker, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Crown Forum
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Published on
Jan 8, 2008
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780385517690
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Language
English
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Genres
History / World
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Fascism & Totalitarianism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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#1 New York Times Bestseller

Best Books of 2018 --The Economist

A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state

A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.” 

The twentieth century was defined by the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainty about the survival of human freedom and left millions dead. Given the horrors of that experience, one might expect the world to reject the spiritual successors to Hitler and Mussolini should they arise in our era. In Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright draws on her experiences as a child in war-torn Europe and her distinguished career as a diplomat to question that assumption.

Fascism, as she shows, not only endured through the twentieth century but now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice than at any time since the end of World War II.  The momentum toward democracy that swept the world when the Berlin Wall fell has gone into reverse.  The United States, which historically championed the free world, is led by a president who exacerbates division and heaps scorn on democratic institutions.  In many countries, economic, technological, and cultural factors are weakening the political center and empowering the extremes of right and left.  Contemporary leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are employing many of the tactics used by Fascists in the 1920s and 30s.

Fascism: A Warning is a book for our times that is relevant to all times.  Written  by someone who has not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past.

For more than six decades, the term "totalitarian" was applied to everything from Franco's Spain to Stalin's Soviet Union. One of the most enigmatic and yet compelling ideas of our time, it has been both an almost meaningless political catcall and an indispensable concept for understanding the dictatorships that have marred the history of this century. Now historian Abbott Gleason provides a fascinating account of the life of this idea. Totalitarianism offers a penetrating chronicle of the central concept of our era--an era shaped by our conflict first with fascism and then with communism. Interweaving the story of intellectual debates with the international history of the twentieth century, Gleason traces the birth of the term to Italy in the first years of Mussolini's rule. Created by Mussolini's enemies, the word was appropriated by the Fascists themselves to describe their program in what turned out to be one of the less totalitarian of the European dictatorships. He follows the growth and expansion of the concept as it was picked up in the West and applied to Hitler's Germany and the Soviet Union. Gleason's account takes us through the debates of the early postwar years, as academics in turn adopted the term--notably Hannah Arendt. The idea of totalitarianism came to possess novelists such as Arthur Koestler (Darkness at Noon) and George Orwell (whose Nineteen Eighty-Four was interpreted by conservatives as an attack on socialism in general, and subsequently suffered criticism from left-leaning critics). The concept fully entered the public consciousness with the opening of the Cold War, as Truman used the rhetoric of totalitarianism to sell the Truman Doctrine to Congress. Gleason takes a fascinating look at the notorious brainwashing episodes of the Korean War, which convinced Americans that Communist China too was a totalitarian state. As he takes his account through to the 1990s, he offers an inner history of the Cold War, revealing the political charge the term carried for writers on both the left and right. He also explores the intellectual struggles that swirled around the idea in France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. When the Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s, Gleason writes, the concept lost much of its importance in the West even as it flourished in Russia, where writers began to describe their own collapsing state as totalitarian--though left-wing Western thinkers had long resisted doing so. Abbott Gleason is a leading scholar of Soviet and Russian history and a contributor to periodicals ranging from The Russian Review to The Atlantic Monthly. In this stimulating intellectual history, he offers a revealing look at one of the central concepts of modern times.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Epic and debate-shifting.” —David Brooks, New York Times

"More than any book published so far in this century, it deserves to be called a conservative classic." —Yuval Levin, National Review

With his trademark blend of political history, social science, economics, and pop culture, two-time NYT bestselling author, syndicated columnist, National Review senior editor, and American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg makes the timely case that America and other democracies are in peril as they lose the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. Instead we are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism.
 
Only once in the last 250,000 years have humans stumbled upon a way to lift ourselves out of the endless cycle of poverty, hunger, and war that defines most of history—in 18th century England when we accidentally discovered the miracle of liberal democratic capitalism.
 
As Americans we are doubly blessed that those radical ideas were written into the Constitution, laying the groundwork for our uniquely prosperous society:
·         Our rights come from God not from the government.
·         The government belongs to us; we do not belong to the government.
·         The individual is sovereign. We are all captains of our own souls.
·         The fruits of our labors belong to us.
 
In the last few decades, these political virtues have been turned into vices. As we are increasingly taught to view our traditions as a system of oppression, exploitation and “white privilege,” the principles of liberty and the rule of law are under attack from left and right.

At a moment when authoritarianism, tribalism, identity politics, nationalism, and cults of personality are rotting our democracy from within, Goldberg exposes the West’s suicidal tendencies on both sides of the ideological aisle. For the West to survive, we must renew our sense of gratitude for what our civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals that led us out of the bloody muck of the past – or back to the muck we will go.

Suicide is painless, liberty takes work.
The bestselling author of Liberal Fascism dismantles the progressive myths that are passed-off as wisdom in our schools, media and politics.


According to Jonah Goldberg, if the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist, the greatest trick liberals ever pulled was convincing themselves that they’re not ideological.


Today, “objective” journalists, academics and “moderate” politicians peddle some of the most radical arguments by hiding them in homespun aphorisms.  Barack Obama casts himself as a disciple of reason and sticks to one refrain above all others: he’s a pragmatist, opposed to the ideology and dogma of the right, solely concerned with “what works.” And today’s liberals follow his lead, spouting countless clichés such as:

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter: Sure, if the other man is an idiot. Was Martin Luther King Jr. a terrorist? Was Bin Laden a freedom fighter? Violence never solves anything: Really? It solved our problems with the British empire and ended slavery. Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer: So you won’t mind if those ten guilty men move next door to you? Diversity is strength: Cool.The NBA should have a quota for midgets and one-legged point guards! We need complete separation of church and state: In other words all expressions of faith should be barred from politics …except when they support liberal programs.

With humor and passion, Goldberg dismantles these and many other Trojan Horses that liberals use to cheat in the war of ideas. He shows that the grand Progressive tradition of denying an ideological agenda while pursuing it vigorously under the false-flag of reasonableness is alive and well.  And he reveals how this dangerous game may lead us further down the path of self-destruction.

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