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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left [Hardcover]

Jonah Goldberg
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jan 2008

“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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 487 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam USA (19 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385511841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385511841
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 491,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Love it or loathe it, Liberal Fascism is a book of intellectual history you won't be able to put down - in either sense of the term (Tom Wolfe )

Deliciously amusing...witty intelligence that deals in ideas as well as insults (The New York Times )

Brilliant, insightful and important (New York Sun )

Bold and witty...insightful and honest (New York Post ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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 in London, he has also written for the New Yorker, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He lives in Washington, DC. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sprung from the same dark roots 7 Jan 2011
Several conservative commentators have observed that left-wing politics has its basis in the idea that all (perceived) human needs can be satisfied. The conservative, on the other hand, intuitively understands that desires and obligations may be inherently conflicting --- sometimes even tragically so. Left-wing politics centers on a belief (statolatry) that the power of the state can and should be extended to the point where the (perceived) needs of all in society can be maximally satisfied. This faith in Progress, with a capital `P', according to Goldberg's thesis, is definitive of the left; its absence is equally definitive of the right. This understanding is however at odds with the ways in which the terms `left' and `right' are used in everyday political parlance, and Goldberg seeks in this book to realign debate with the proper understanding of the terms.

In addition to socialism, social democracy and communism, Goldberg's definition of the left also includes `centre' or `Third Way' liberalism and, most controversially, fascism or national socialism. (Goldberg uses `national socialism' without capitals to refer to a family of related creeds combining a socialist platform and nationalism. Used in this way, `national socialism' is a synonym for `fascism'. German National Socialism, or Nazism, was of course additionally characterized by aggressive anti-Semitism, but this is not a feature of all, or even most, groups whose politics can be described as both nationalist and socialist.) Goldberg nevertheless shows that these movements share an ideological commitment to the state as well as a common history. (This idea was earlier developed in the work of the remarkable Austrian thinker Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, whom Goldberg regrettably omits to mention.
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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
This is a terrific book that I almost missed. Frankly, I was going to pass on it because I had viewed Jonah Goldberg as a bit of a wise acre and didn't realize he had a book like this in him. And the title and the cover art, while attention getting, contribute to the idea that this is going to be a lightweight attack piece. I guess the title and cover art got a lot of attention and helped the book sell well, but I only read it because a friend told me I shouldn't miss it. I am glad my friend brought it to my attention because it is a valuable book and will provide great information to anyone who is willing to actually read it rather than surmise what it says one way or the other.

If you have doubts or objections to what you think the book might be saying, I encourage you to start with the Afterword in which he anticipates many of the likely criticisms of the book and also shows where he believes conservatism can run off the rails. This is not the one sided or wild-eyed attack piece some have claimed it to be. Goldberg shows us what an imprecise and slippery epithet fascism has become. He then takes us back to the father of fascism, Mussolini, and shows how it grew out of the Progressive movements alive in American and Europe and uses the writings of intellectuals of that movement to show the linkage and their praise of Pre-Hitler Mussolini.

Goldberg then demonstrates how Hitler was a man of the Left and how the accusations of his being "right wing" have to be understood as accusations against a nationalist socialist movement from the USSR's internationalist (read Moscow dominated) communist-socialist movement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Liberal Fascism 14 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am probably not the best person to review this book because it was a little like preaching to the converted for me. I still dip-read it, but can't bring myself to read it from cover to cover. For a complete novice to politics, it is definitely worth a read.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The totalitarian temptation 19 Jun 2009
In the intro, Goldberg discusses the confusion surrounding the term 'fascism' with reference to Roger Griffin, Emilio Gentile, Gilbert Allardyce, Ernst Nolte, Stanley Payne, Roger Eatwell et al. The phenomenon has many variants & names whilst the manner of its expression is influenced by the national culture. Nowadays the term is loosely applied to 'anything not desirable.' The author investigates the characteristics of the movement, its roots in American Progressivism of the late 19th and early 20th century, manifestation during the New Deal and similarities with the agenda of what is today called Liberalism in the USA.

First he examines Mussolini, a favorite of the New York Times, New Republic, Hollywood and many intellectuals until his invasion of Ethiopia in 1934. This chapter includes sections on Jacobin Fascism with observations on the French Revolution, JJ Rousseau, Georges Sorel and Napoleon, and War, which deals with populism and pragmatism as forms of relativism. National Socialism predated Hitler, competed with communism for the same support base, used identity politics and was not identical with Italian Fascism as Goldberg points out in the 2nd chapter. Further information on the similarities, differences and the danse macabre of shifting alliances in 1930s Europe is available in Sinisterism by Bruce Walker.

There's selective amnesia as regards Woodrow Wilson during whose 'progressive' presidency censorship, economic regulation, militarism, propaganda & corporatism dominated the USA. Unimaginable crackdowns on the media, restrictions of civil liberties & other outrages took place.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars book
I can't get into it at the moment. it was recommended,
to me by a friend but their obviously more
thinking than me its in the 5year plan,.
Published 4 months ago by dog steps
4.0 out of 5 stars Learned a lot
in spite of the Neocon Hasbara attempts all along the book. Once Goldberg's dishonesty is taken into account, one is left with a crucial and enlightening text.
Published 5 months ago by Mr. Gilad Atzmon
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
I do think Goldberg got to the issue of Liberal fascism and has exposed the left agenda for what it really is.
Published 7 months ago by jim hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate and Precise
I would not have ventured into the history that is elaborated in this book. Since the title suggested an interesting polemic I thought it would be worth a read. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Colin Holmes
3.0 out of 5 stars O`tt, but only just.
I was in mind of Liberal Fascism before reading this book, which focuses on the USA. Here in the UK liberalism is more widespread and insidious. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. M. Macrae
5.0 out of 5 stars The Road To Utopia Is Paved With Good Intentions
If you were like me and think that the words 'liberal' and 'fascism' are opposites, then you need to read this book.

At first this seems counter-intuitive. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Caped Crusader
2.0 out of 5 stars A mish-mash of contradictions, hypocrisy, and thought-provoking...
According to the the front cover review quote from Tom Wolfe, this is a book that I "won't be able to put down, in either sense of the word". Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2012 by The Mole from the Ministry
5.0 out of 5 stars State Control... Your Dream
This is a life changing book, the first one I have read in ages. I write this review not as a "Jew lover" or as some kind of "Jewish Collaborator", but because I want to remove the... Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2012 by The Boogie Man
1.0 out of 5 stars A Rewrite of the Facts
From what I remember it was the conservatives Reagan and Thatcher that supported death squads in central America and Pinochet in Chile. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2012 by Kavy
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Reading !
An interesting book, thought-provoking. Should be read alongside books by Christopher Lasch - Culture of Narcissism, Revolt of the Elites. Read more
Published on 5 July 2011 by Black Prince
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