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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The totalitarian temptation, 19 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (Paperback)
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. During Roosevelt's New Deal the term Liberalism replaced Progressivism; it was the leftist author HG Well's who first advocated 'liberal fascism.' Goldberg shows how closely the programmes of Roosevelt, Mussolini & Hitler resembled one another. Fortunately, democratic parliamentarianism is an Anglo-Saxon tribal institution so the global trend didn't gain totalitarian power in the UK or USA.

The third fascist movement exploded in the 1960s with the student riots, assassinations and terrorism of groups like the Weather Underground & Black Panthers. This tumult flowed from the writings of European academics like Paul de Man, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, Carl Schmitt and Derrida whose 'deconstruction' was a direct offshoot of Heidegger's variety of existentialism. The Reckless Mind by Mark Lilla takes a closer look at these intellectuals and what they promoted. They in turn influenced Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin & Hillary's mentor Saul Alinsky. A wide chasm separates the aforementioned from the classical liberal, conservative or libertarian thinkers like Adam Smith, Montesquieu, Burke, Locke and Hayek. Classical Liberalism focused on the individual whilst its collectivist opponents favored the group, whether based on race, gender or whatever. In other words, Multiculturalism.

The author traces the seeds of the 'god-state' idea from Hegel, Darwin and Bismarck's Prussia through the Frankfurt School and the marriage of psychology & Marxism by Adorno, Marcuse & Fromm. Its chief propagandist was Richard Hofstadter. The Kennedy Myth underpinned Lyndon B Johnson's idea of the 'Great Society.' In truth, the 1960s tumult was a spiritual phenomenon that transpired simultaneously on campus and in government with its vast spending sprees that resulted in family breakdown, the escalation of crime and street violence. The notion of 'unity', neutral in itself, is easily hijacked for the purpose of irrational groupthink.

Earlier in the 20th century, Eugenics was promoted by progressives like the Fabians, George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells & Maynard Keynes and opposed by traditionalists like GK Chesterton. The author quotes Nietzsche on eugenics and investigates Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood & the birth control movement. In the economic sphere, the Italian & German collectivist states enforced corporatism (co-ordination) and the New Deal was the same. Government meddling, regulating and corporate lobbying limit competition, are detrimental to small businesses and consumers, and resemble the corporatism of Mussolini's Italy, Nazi Germany and Bismarck's Prussia. Hillary's 'politics of meaning' is a theocratic concept since it claims that the collective can solve all problems via the state, leaving no room for voluntary associations. Polanyi's Science, Faith And Society provides valuable insights on this matter.

Today's culture wars echo Bismarck's Kulturkampf, with liberals as the aggressors. Then as now, the enemy is traditional religion and the battlefields are identity, morality, the family and nature, including environmentalism and the cult of the organic. By undermining truth, tradition and reason, ideologies like deconstruction, existentialism, postmodernism, pragmatism and relativism pave the way toward dystopia as Stephen Hicks argues so eloquently in Explaining Postmodernism. Liberalism in the USA is really Leftism, a secular salvationist ideology. No matter how 'nice' it appears on the surface, it has been subverting Enlightenment standards for many decades. And without those standards, society decays into the Nietzchean abyss where brute force supplants reason.

In the Afterword, Goldberg looks at the tempting of American conservatism which is a blend of cultural conservatism & classical political liberalism. He examines the writings of Patrick Buchanan, the most notorious champion of tribalism on the Right and looks at 'compassionate conservatism,' a well-meaning policy that nevertheless extended state powers. Finally, Goldberg observes that transforming the USA into a European welfare state is not the end of the world (although there's plenty of evidence that the real thing is unsustainable, nearing implosion and civilizational collapse). He warns against what might come after a welfarist America. The Western European utopias so beloved of American liberals will show the way in the next two decades. Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe and Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept offer intriguing glimpses into the continent's current condition & possible future. The causes and effects are highlighted by the philosopher Chantal Delsol in her illuminating books Icarus Fallen and The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century.

This well-researched and brilliantly argued book concludes with an appendix (The Nazi Party Platform), 54pp of bibliographical notes and an index. For further reading, I recommend United in Hate by Jamie Glazov, A Conservative History of the American Left by Daniel Flynn, Unholy Alliance by David Horowitz, The Road to Serfdom by FA Hayek and Leftism Revisited by by Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.
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