Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
50
4.1 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 7 January 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. The Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau occupies a central place in the thought of both as intellectual primus motor of the Left.)

Consider, for example, that Benito Mussolini started out as Italy's most prominent socialist, before he rejected the internationalist Marxist-Leninist interpretation of socialism in favor of a nationalist one, and founded the fascist movement. In 1920's Germany, red and brown factions supported by paramilitary groups vied murderously to achieve domination of the same constituency. It is from the bloody rivalry between socialists faithful to the internationalist interpretation, and heterodox nationalists, that the popular present-day usage of the term `right-wing' derives. Stalin labeled as `rightist' anyone whose socialism did not entail loyalty to Moscow (which, for Stalin, came to include Leon Trotsky). In many ways, popular usage follows his lead today. This flawed understanding is a source of endless paradox and deception. The absurd identification of eugenics with the right fails to square with the conservative stance on abortion, or with the fact that social democratic countries Norway and Sweden practiced, until the 1970s, enforced sterilization of patients suffering certain forms of mental impairment. And when the facts fail to jive with cherished conceptions, truth is the first casualty. Think of media portrayals of the present day Ku Klux Klan. A quintessentially conservative rural movement, right? The inconvenient truth, that it is a largely cosmopolitan `progressive' phenomenon, originating as a fan club of D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation, with its white supremacist take. It was the highest grossing film of the silent era. More recent examples that spring to mind include the war reenactment controversy surrounding Tea Party candidate Rich Lott, and the sickening celerity with which certain liberal commentators imputed `right-wing' motives to the disturbed (and politically illiterate) Jared Loughner, the would-be assassin of Gabrielle Giffords, and the murderer of six others.

It is not hard to understand why these perverse equations endure, although it is no less regrettable for that. In the wake of the Holocaust, Nazism became petrified in public opinion as the ultimate expression of human evil. The `right-wing' label stuck. It is an enduring tragedy of the Second World War and the post-war period that only a few souls have had the bravery and honesty to penetrate the cloak of taboos surrounding Nazism to try and really understand the connection between the war's unique horrors and the system of beliefs and attitudes that created the conditions that allowed them transpire --- beliefs and attitudes that are not only alive today, according to Goldberg, but at the most fundamental level part of the mainstream. Behind the widespread caricatures of Nazi evil, the essential nature of Nazism and Fascism remain widely misunderstood.

Before the War, things were all very different. National Socialism and Fascism were widely regarded not only as benign, but as models to be emulated by progressive politicians like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose New Deal was sufficient proof to Mussolini that the American president was "on side". Goldberg skillfully lays bare the parallels between the national socialist political systems of Europe and several US administrations with profound and lasting influence on the history of the West. Woodrow Wilson's war socialism brought with it unprecedented violations of civil liberties and free speech, and the first propaganda ministry in world history. John Kennedy too presided over one of the most militaristic and nationalistic periods in US history. Lyndon Baines Johnson was FDR's direct ideological successor.

Democrats figure predominantly, but by no means exclusively, amongst America's `friendly fascists'. An important lesson that emerges from this book is that it is impossible to equate the Republican vs. Democrat dimension with the opposition Right vs. Left, properly understood in terms of the role of the state. Goldberg argues several leading republicans have succumbed to the progressive temptation, including Pat Buchanan, John McCain, and George W. Bush who, as a "compassionate conservative", presided over significant increases in health and education spending during his incumbency. Interestingly, Goldberg is supportive of the Bush administration's commitment to bringing Western-style democracy to the world, which might explain his silence on the question of the ideological connections between the neo-cons in Bush's administration and the radical left, where several prominent neo-cons started out their political lives. Ronald Reagan, however, emerges as a genuinely conservative liberal figure.

One of the most pernicious myths bequeathed us from the first half of the Twentieth Century is the notion that fascism and national socialism are uniquely bourgeois in origin, in collusion with or a direct expression of capitalism in its dying phase. The myth was shaped and propagated by doctrinaire Marxist-Leninists, perhaps partly because they stood to lose most from fascist gains, but also because Marxist-Leninist theory was unable to accommodate national socialism within the simple dichotomy of capitalist exploiter and oppressed proletariat. If national socialism could not be construed as working towards the international socialist revolution, the logic of the theory leaves only the interpretation that it was a manifestation of capitalism. This myth has gone on to become a received wisdom in the media, the film industry, in academia (except, of course, scholars that actually specialize in the subject). In Germany at least, the support of big business for the Nazis came after the fact of Hitler's political success, and then it was motivated by opportunism, not ideology. And yet, the ahistorical, ideologically motivated equation of big business interest and `the (quasi-)fascist right wing' (as popularly understood) persists to our day.

There is indeed significant collusion between government and business, and this is the subject of much critique, from liberals, certainly, but also from true conservatives. Goldberg writes (p. 290) "Many liberals are correct when they bemoan the collusion of government and corporations. [...] What they misunderstand completely is that this is the system they set up. This is the system they want. This is the system they mobilize and march for." The de facto collusion of governments and corporations is an emergent by-product rather than ideologically motivated, however. Because regulations are so costly to implement, small businesses end up being punished for the reason they can't afford lawyers to negotiate the regulations or lobbyists to represent their interests to the regulating bodies. The increased regulation so favored by liberals ends up rewarding big business and promoting the collusive pattern of government by proxy by large corporations. Liberals fail to grasp the connection, and the collusion takes on the complexion of a conspiracy. The truth, though, is more prosaic.

All left-wing movements, according to Goldberg, have an emphasis on mobilization against a common enemy. Socialism may come naturally in times of war, but in peacetime, left wing groups must find a `modern equivalent of war'. The pretext for mobilization, whether it is poverty, the environment, patriarchy, perceived oppression of one kind or another, varies depending on the place and time. However it manifests itself, the author discerns in the endless quest for action a profound sense of ennui. And anyone who cannot or will not march to the beat will be vulnerable. Because the left-wing reasons using an alphabet of defined groups (`the nation', `the ethnic group', `humanity', `women', and so on), discrimination is an inherent, reflexive feature of left-wing politics. And for Goldberg mainstream liberalism too "is joined at the hip with racial and sexual identity groups of one kind or another".

Goldberg devotes attention to parallels between our own obsessions and those of Nazi Germany. The parallels are disturbing: vegetarianism and organic food, environmentalism, paganism and New Age spirituality, hatred of Christianity, language hygiene and `political correctness', technological and managerial solutions. If some of these sound contradictory, I can thoroughly recommend Irving Babbitt's Rousseau and Romanticism for an insightful treatment of the deep connections between scientific naturalism and romanticism.

In sum, learned a very great deal from this book. I was unable to put it down, and whatever your political views, you won't be either.
44 comments| 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 March 2009
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. The author is CLEAR and says many times that he is not saying that the left wing in general and especially that the left of today is NOT guilty of the holocaust nor is he saying that their policies would lead to such a monstrous outcome.

We next move to Woodrow Wilson through to Franklin Roosevelt and the ways in which they introduced fascist policies within America and in our foreign policy. The kind of public suppression of individual liberty and thought under Wilson is swept under the rug today and I hope the events Goldberg describes in this book get brought back into popular awareness. We would be horrified at someone being shot for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance, but in that time it was seen as a justifiable and heroic act!

Franklin Roosevelt's true history is getting broader play today and the all but universal praise he received in my youth is justly being reconsidered. This book does a fine job in setting those policies in a clear context of the worldwide progressive and fascist movements. Remember, you cannot use your present suppositions about what fascism means to judge this use of the term. It was a term that was used with praise prior to World War II and the holocaust.

Chapter 5 takes us through the 1960s and the cultural revolution that revived many of the fascist notions and spread them into the radical youth who are now striving for power in our political (and economic) institutions today. Chapters 7 reviews how eugenics was originally stated and how its echoes remain in present left-progressive policies (without their advocating the kind of eugenics policies that seemed so useful to intellectual advocating social and racial hygiene a century ago). Chapter 8 tours the economic bargains the participants in various progressive economies were willing to strike with fascism. Goldberg shows clearly why big companies are no longer capitalist and why they work for state protection from competition, for tax breaks and subsidies, and end up supporting progressive-left state policies.

Chapter 9 is a useful and clear headed analysis of the kinds of policies Hillary Clinton and her progressive compatriots advocate and how they have changed the techniques of persuasion in order to sell the old progressive nostrums in the name of "the children". We see clearly our own acceptance of these old fascist notions and how the old-time religion of individual liberty and limited government is weakening under the administrations of BOTH the Democrats and Republicans, especially George W. Bush.

This is a very useful book and I hope it is widely read and discussed seriously. We don't need any shouting down, spitting, or claims about what the books says or proves that it doesn't say for itself. In any case, Goldberg has my sincerest praise for his accomplishment. Superbly done. Thanks, Jonah.
11 comment| 50 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 March 2009
Mr. Goldberg makes an excellent case exposing the progressive roots of both classical fascism and Nazism (aka National Socialism) and their connection to contemporary and later "liberal" and left wing ideology. In particular, he draws on the American progressive movement of the early twentieth century. Much is startling (though historically well attested and no historian has disproved Goldberg's facts) and shows that mid century fascism is not some "far right" perversion, but well in keeping with the ideals of the left at the time. One wonders why, since most of this information is quite easily assessible, and the obvious socialist leanings of the Nazis and fascists generally, it has remained obscure for so long. (Conservatives would say the leftist runnings of universities)

Goldberg does focus largely on a great deal of American characters who may be more well known to his US readers than those on this side of the pond. This may be problematic to some British readers. It would be interesting to trace the British connection to all this.

However, the book is full of invaluable information. Goldberg divides up the 20th century into 3 American 'fascist' (by which he means authoritarian/statist) periods. The first (and nastiest) was under Woodrow Wilson, the racist Aryanist Democrat president (he happily segregated the White House after years of blacks made inroads there, for example) who Goldberg considers the father of the modern Left/Liberal/progressive thinking. Next is FDR, whose New Deal (admired by the Left to this day) is strikingly similar to Nazi economics. Finally he looks at the youth movement of the 60s which founded the modern obsession (shared by fascist states) with environmentalism, identity politics, health living etc. The similarity between the 'new left' and National Socialism has been observed by many people even on the left itself.

Finally Goldberg has some fun critiquing Hollywood's 'Liberal' films for fascist themes (and not the obvious ones) and having a laugh at modern health food fads, anti-smoking campaigns (pioneered by the Nazis) and leaves us in no doubt as to what side of the political divide Hitler would fit on if alive today.

Although many academics have been brought forward to try to disprove Goldberg's facts, none has been able to do so.

Highly recommended.
22 comments| 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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.
0Comment| 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 7 July 2008
This remarkable book has been a huge hit in the USA, less so in the UK as most of the potent examples Jonah Goldberg deploys in pointing up the explicitly authoritarian roots in much modern Leftism are primarily American.

The book's sheer density of grisly examples of 'progressive' oppressiveness is maybe a problem - after a while there is Just Too Much to cope with comfortably. But what gruesome and spectacular examples many of them are.

For me the best part of the book (apart from the gushing praise for the likes of Mussolini from so many seemingly clever people at the time) is the demolition job done on 60s radicalism in the USA. Goldberg nails down in convincing detail how these people managed to veil their openly vicious revolutionary drivel behind all the blathering about 'peace', and (worryingly) how a strain of their totalitarian thinking is still with us, mutating into ever more ingenious ways of extending state control over all aspects of our lives.

This for me is the main danger in the UK's current binge of Big Statism as inflated by unrelenting EU requirements.

Not just a sly erosion of responsibility and our freedoms. Much worse, erosion of the very idea of responsibility, of freedom as something worth having - and worth fighting for.

Arrangements of an astonishingly subtle sort which have helped define some of the highest standards for public life and process ever seen in human history might casually come to be dismissed as boring, old-fashioned - not part of the `contemporary narrative'.

Is there a point at which Liberal Fascism via Big Government wins?

Has an unrecognised tipping-point been reached - and (worse) been passed? When state-sponsored passive cynicism and attendant public spending are so enormous a part of our lives that instead of our owning the state, the bland state owns us?

How would we tell? Would we care? Read the book, think, and decide for yourself.
0Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 January 2008
Liberal in the American political sphere means left, Socialism was and is a dirty word in America thus the American left adopted the word "liberal" thus you have to be aware of the American meaning of "Liberal" as you read this book.

To a large degree this book is nothing new, Both Karl Popper and his friend and noble prize winner, Friedrich Hayek both pointed out the roots of Nazism, popper in his "open society" and Hayek in "the road to surfdom", both were Austrians and saw at close quarters the birth of Nazism.

The difference between the two most evil ideologies of the 20th centruy is written in their respective names, "international Socialism" and "national socialism" both although manifesting themselves in different guises they both come from the same well of philosophical thought, as popper pointed out Hagel

As a "classical Liberal" myself I can recommend this book, it is sure to upset the right and left kind of people, its a good introduction to the issue of "statism" but to truly understand the sources of the killing fields of the 20th century, Belsen to Cambodia, Gulags of Siberia to the cultural revolution you will have to go much further than frothy American politics, but in essence Goldberg is right, Fascism is off the Left, thats not to say people on the left are authoritarian or anti-libertarian but they can be and they have been.
0Comment| 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 August 2012
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". Well, I certainly managed to put it down in the physical sense many times - it's taken an eternity to plough through, and I can find plenty of reasons for putting it down for reasons of its content. There is certainly an element of "you can't call us fascists - you're fascists - so there - ner-de-ner-de-ner!"

The basic thrust is that fascism in its original form is about high levels of social and government control, use of militarism, and is actually as concerned with improving the lot of the poorest in society as any modern day socialist. It is clearly an enormous irritation to Mr Goldberg that he feels that 'fascist' and 'nazi' are terms often used in insulting references to those of 'conservative' nature. He feels that these terms may be more accurately applied to 'liberals'. The book is mostly referencing the situation in the USA, although references to the UK do occur. There is a tendency by the author to view political views in 2 dimensions, as a simple left to right continuum, when in fact it may be better seen as crystal with many facets or as sphere.

Clearly this book has sent those of a more 'conservative' nature into raptures of almost onanistic delight. See how Mr Goldberg dumps buckets of crud over the heads of 'liberal' icons and sacred cows! Titter as he sneers at smug lefties! I would not claim to be 'conservative' in any sense of the word, but it is always useful to assess your own values and opinions by not just reading material that reinforces your own views. Does Mr Goldberg have a point? Well, actually, to an extent, he does. The problem is that he very much overdoes it, so that the book is full of sweeping generalisations, statements made with little justification or supporting evidence, bewildering contradictions, clear factual errors, and some unedifying personal abuse. I contrast this book with the very excellent books on Stalin by Simon Sebag-Montefiore where every aspect was researched meticulously, you knew exactly why the author expressed certain opinions, and that brought you to a much clearer insight of how this complex and utterly ruthless man operated. Whereas Sebag-Montefiore's books are utterly detached and professional works of a terrific historian, Mr Goldberg's historical and political analysis is tainted by an ever-present lip-curling sneer and a barely concealed hatred of those whose views he dislikes. I think it is safe to say that Mr Goldberg does not hold a high opinion of Hillary Clinton.

So where do I feel Mr Goldberg has a valid point?

1) It is certainly the case that fascist movements of the 30s were focused on the working classes almost as much as communist were. However, this is no great surprise, since any 15 year-old GCSE History student could probably tell you the same. They were after all called the National SOCIALIST Party. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that modern day 'conservatives' may NOT be equated to classical fascism in this way.
2) That some governments, whilst ostensibly liberal / progressive, did share some classically fascist traits in their attempts to impose social control and foist certain views on to the population.
3) That the actions of some groups (radicals / 'Black Panthers') were difficult to separate out from the way that fascist thugs in nazi Germany operated.
4) That there is an arrogance and smugness in some of those Goldberg classes as liberals, where it seems they think that they can tell people how to live their lives - "Political Correctness Gone Mad" as the Daily Mail might say.

The problems for me are many...
1) Mr Goldberg is attacking 'liberals' - who ARE these people? Well apparently they're 'progressives'. No, no - wait a minute - they're 'socialists'. Or is that the 'left'..or may be even 'communists'? Well, for God's sake - make your mind up! What we have is a specific charge which is being applied scattergun fashion to a huge spectrum of political opinion - all the way from the majority of the Democratic Party right across to the farthest reaches of the left. From the UK context, much of the Democratic Party would probably occupy the political ground inhabited by the left of the Tories to the right of Labour.
2) Mr Goldberg does maintain that what has happened in the past is relevant to today's 'liberal' views. Is it? If we go back 20 / 30/ 40 / 50 years etc we will find that views and commonly accepted social attitudes change across the whole spectrum. What was thought acceptable in the past is no loner considered as such. It is no surprise that there may have been politicians in the past whose views might shock people today. This does not just apply to 'liberals' - Winston Churchill had come out with some pretty outrageous statements before he became Britain's great war leader. Many in today's UK Conservative Party could be seen in the past sporting "Hang Nelson Mandela" badges in their past days in the Young Conservatives - I'm sure that they would cringe to be reminded of that now. The socio-cultural and economic context is relevant.
3) Factual inaccuracies: How can we take seriously someone who seems to believe that WW1 carried on until 1919 (p115 "the American Legion was born under inauspicious circumstances during the hysteria of WW1 in 1919") or that Italy was a victim of the Versailles Treaty? As far as I am aware Italy fought on the side of the British & French against the Germans and Austrians.
4) Name calling; All vegans are -get this - "crystal worshiping". I know a few and I don't believe any of them indulge in this arcane religious offshoot. Hillary Clinton possesses (apparently) a "dull and unremarkable personality" - oo-er! I'm not sure whether I would find Mrs Clinton a person I would like or not, but surely, to get as far politically as she has done does require a degree of character and, indeed, personality.
5) Glaring inconsistencies / hypocrisy: Throughout Mr Goldberg bemoans increasing state interference (statism) which is, he believes, a characteristic of the fascist proclivities of 'liberal' politicians. The state interferes too much in health care, in (amazingly) regulation of business, controls on tobacco etc - all undermining individual liberty. Yet, when it comes to the issue of abortion, and women having the 'right to choose' then this is an aspect of fascist eugenics, and, presumably, the state needs to interfere heavily to restrict it and prosecute those who do not conform.
6) Too much regulation of business is fascist??? - OK - this was written in 2008, but what conclusions would one draw from the consequences of the Gaderene rush to deregulation of banking and finance on both sides of the Atlantic? The Conservative Party in the UK have always favoured a 'laissez faire' approach to regulation (pushing back the boundaries of government) and this was followed by Labour also - this was inspired by the same approach in the US. It hasn't exactly turned out well, has it?
7) Mr Goldberg complains about 'increasing anti-semitism on the left' - really? This is something I have never encountered even from those I know in more Marxist groups such as the SWP. I suspect that Mr Goldberg may be making the classic error of conflating opposition to the often repressive actions of the Israeli Government with anti-Jewish views. Ironic that these actions must seem to the people on the receiving end of them as fascistic, but then feed and sustain a particularly fascistic brand of Islamic terrorism, which then feeds into more repression and so on 'ad infinitum'.
8) Science - take it seriously, or you're fascist!..or maybe not. It is a matter of ridicule and contempt that so many liberals / progressives / whatevers are in thrall to 'unscientific' new age theories / therapies and, God help us, organic food (well the Nazi's were quite keen on it ergo if you are you must be fascist?). Yet when it comes to climate change this is another type of fascism (green fascism) and Mr Goldberg doesn't like it because environmentalist are imposing their views and, yep -it will damage business. So it's OK is it in this case to absolutely and totally disregard the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who have researched this and conclude that we do face a very big problem? These are not any old bunch of 'quack' scientists - they are the leading experts, including the Royal Society in the UK. This smacks of 'cherry-picking' the bits of science that suit you, and ignoring the bits that don't (see the excellent 'Bad Science' by Ben Goldacre).
9) Stretching the point MUCH too far: Is giving children more consideration and a greater voice in society somehow fascist? Comparing Hillary Clinton's statements on the importance of children and the role of the state and 'society' in their upbringing to the brainwashing that occurred in Nazi Germany is a step too far. Yes, she's had some daft ideas - show me a politician who hasn't. But an interest in children and their needs does not make her fascist in any sense of the word. Trying to portray the KKK as not really racist does strain credibility somewhat - perhaps Billie Holliday got it all wrong?
10) Government 'interference' is always bad?: The Obama administration's healthcare reforms will no doubt have had Mr Goldberg frothing at the mouth - it was instructive in the debate that Britain's NHS was held up by 'conservatives' as verging on Marxist! If you really believe that the 'market' will always operate in the best interests of everyone in society (nationally or globally), then I would say that the evidence points very strongly the other way. The gap between rich and poor grows ever larger as 'globalisation' and the fashion for less government interference and regulation increase.

Just what do we call the policies espoused by the 'conservatives / neo-cons' in the USA and the 'right' of the Conservative Party in the UK? The 'new right'? "Freedom Fascism"? Some of it (in the US mainly) is inspired/funded by fundamentalist religious groups, and if, as Mr Goldberg says, some Islamic extremists are 'fascist' (or 'Islamo-fascist) then why aren't the extreme Zionist Jewish and Christian fundamentalists? What are we to make of the increasing and pernicious influence of Ayn Rand on Republican and Conservative thinking in the USA and UK? The consequences of these policies also increase poverty, attack the benefits of poor / disabled, and the fat cats get fatter. Of course, rather confusingly for the religious fundamentalist elements of the 'conservatives', Ms Rand espoused atheism! Totalitarianism of any type is bad - whatever it calls itself. Ostensibly democratic Governments being run by small interest groups and in which the wealthy and powerful in business and narrow religious interests have too much influence may end up the same way. I find this a much more likely prospect than some putative group of busy-body do-gooder liberals imposing their views on everyone (in the manner of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" - read David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" for a fascinating modern take on the future dystopia)) at some unspecified point in the future. I'm not even sure Mr Golberg really believes a lot of the dubious stuff in this book - it smacks rather of 'leftie (liberal?)-baiting just for the hell of it.

In truth, I rarely hear Conservative politicians in the UK referred to as "fascist" (unless they have a tendency in their leisure time to dress up in Nazi regalia and toast "the Reich") - the term tends to be applied to those who really deserve it. In the UK this would be the BNP, EDL, and other fringe groups, which are, in an interesting parallel, largely white 'working-class' in their membership.

In summary, the book was worth reading in the sense that it does make the reader think carefully about political ideas and where they come from. However, as a cogent dismissal of any views left of the neo-con end of the Republican Party it is undermined by its major flaws.
66 comments| 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 March 2009
Jonah Goldberg has written a scholarly work. He is very careful with the evidence---which clearly shows that Fascism is primarily a socialist phenomenon. Goldberg is, after all, well aware that his critics will exploit even minor inconsequential errors. The only substantial difference between Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin is that the Nazi's vision was restricted to those possessing imaginary Aryan racial characteristics. The latter gentleman at least paid lip service to the notion of international and racially inclusive socialism. There is also no such thing as a fascist libertarian. They were inherently hostile toward the individual freedoms of capitalism. Every last single one of them advocated a command economy where designated elites gave orders to the hoi polloi on how to carry out the economic aspects of their lives. The author points out the adulation of Benito Mussolini by numerous American left-wingers who adored the infamous Italian leader. Even British socialist H.G. Wells had kind words for the Nazis and thought them to be the positive wave of the future.

The perverse doctrines of genetic superiority underpinned much of the infatuation of the West's elites with Nazi ideology. How many people realize, for instance, that the majority of academically credentialed liberals in the early 20th Century were outright racists? But please don't take my word on anything. Read the book and double check Goldberg's assertions. And if you do so---you will never again perceive Fascism as merely a right-wing phenomenon premised entirely on ancient traditionalist fantasies. You might even endure a personal existential and psychological meltdown.
0Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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 early 20th century, 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 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 promoted 'liberal fascism.' Goldberg shows how closely the programmes of Roosevelt, Mussolini & Hitler resembled one another.

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. Identity politics, 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 through to 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 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 the European Axis powers and Prussia before that. 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.

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 where brute force supplants reason.

In the Afterword, Goldberg looks at the tempting of American conservatism which is a blend of cultural conservatism and classical political liberalism. The most notorious champion of tribalism on the Right is Patrick Buchanan, whose writings are examined. The author also looks at 'compassionate conservatism,' a well-meant 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 beyond 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 mindset & possible future. The causes and undesirable trends 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 and A Conservative History of the American Left by Daniel Flynn.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 September 2010
"Liberal Fascism" speaks of the relationship between the Fascist intellectual tradition and practice and the Liberal-Progressive movement in Twentieth Century America. Author Jonah Goldberg draws comparisons between the practices of Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and modern liberals with those of fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. The section on the Wilson administration raises interesting facts about the numbers of people imprisoned for criticism of the government. Administration standards for loyalty were shocking by today's standards. The New Deal programs setting wages and prices fits into the fascist economic model.

Goldberg makes the case that fascism is really a phenomena of the left that is identified with the right only because leftists wanted to distance themselves from what had become an unpopular movement and the fact that, where they competed, leftists and fascists hated each other.

This book makes for some interesting thinking. I think that Goldberg makes a good case that fascism is close to liberalism in that both movements emphasize government direction and control of the economy and details of everyday life. This is in contrast to modern conservatism that finds its roots in classical liberalism which emphasizes freedom from government economic controls and intrusions into everyday life. I am somewhat skeptical of comparisons between the various regimes. Does it really follow that because Nazis and the modern liberals assert an obligation to be healthy and want to restrict unhealthy products and practices establishes that they are similar movements?

Jonah Goldberg states that he wrote the book because he was tired, as a conservative, of being labeled a fascist. I think that the import of this book is what it tells us about labels. It tells us that anti-Semitism is not a characteristic of fascism, but is merely a practice of some, but not all, fascists. It tells us that modern conservatives are the heirs of classical liberals, not fascists who are really left wing, not right wing. It tells us that modern Progressives and liberals really do have something in common with fascist movements. As Goldberg says, that does not mean that Woodrow Wilson, Hughey Long, FDR, LBJ, and Hillary are fascists. It does mean that they share some values and tactics with fascists and that says as much or more about fascists than it does about American liberals.
66 comments| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)