3,079 of 3,801 people found the following review helpful
And boy, does Jonah Goldberg have himself some enemies.
It was inevitable that the review section for Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" would degenerate into the Mother of all Flame Wars. The advance dislike for this book simmered for months, and now the floodgates for negative reviews are open. I'd advise all potential readers of this book to bear in mind how few of the negative reviews appear to reflect a reading of the book.
For those willing to give Goldberg the chance, he offers the following thesis: that the label fascist has its roots in the governing philosophies of Italy's National Fascist Party and Germany's National Socialist (Nazi) Party. He argues that there has been a false duality created between the Soviet Socialists of the USSR and the socialists united under the fascists in Italy and Germany. He argues that the totalitarian impulse, the philosophy of state control of decisions taking priority over individual freedoms, is the core uniting principle behind these movements, and he argues that the ongoing home of such statism is in what has come to be known as the "liberal" politics of the modern progressive movement. As you can imagine, that doesn't sit very well with the targets of his argument (hence the rain of 1-star reviews).
I'd encourage open minded readers of all backgrounds to read Goldberg's book and address his arguments. I find his conversational and somewhat informal style to be witty and readable. That said, longtime Goldberg fans should know that this is not a book-length "G-File" (the hip and irreverent column he wrote for National Review Online). This is a serious scholarly work, and it deserves to be read and judged as such. Goldberg is attempting to right a historical injustice. This book is not attempting, as many seem to think, to say that all liberals are closet Nazis, but rather that, contrary to popular misconception, it is not conservatism, but liberalism, that traces its roots to the fascists. In some ways it is a book-length extension of the question conservatives sometimes pose to liberals: "If you leave out the parts about killing all the Jews and invading Poland, what specifically about the Nazi political platform do you disagree with?" (That platform is handily provided in the appendix.) After Goldberg's book, this question is much harder to simply shrug off.
Still, one doesn't need nearly 600 citations just to allow conservatives to say "I'm rubber, you're glue" the next time they are called a fascist. Goldberg argues that our focus on the atrocities committed by fascists in Germany obscures the fact that the fascist drive is, to a degree, universal in modern politics. The heritage and institutions of America lead it to manifest itself in a different form here. Whether it is the smothering embrace of the "It Takes a Village" mommy state or, to a lesser degree, the big-government, "compassionate conservatism" of Bush, fascism in the U.S. is well-intention, "smiley face" fascism, but it still looks first to the state, last to the individual.
In the end, that's what I liked best about this book. Yes, it's great to have a 5-pound rebuttal to the next person who tries to use "fascist" as an epithet to end criticism of a liberal program. However, what comes through in the end is not so much Goldberg's hatred of fascism, but his love of liberty. Fascism in all its forms is the enemy of liberty, and recognizing it for what it is will always be a prerequisite for stopping it. Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" clears away decades of obfuscation to allow that recognition in both the past and present day politics. Those who continue to fight for individual freedom will enjoy and appreciate this book.
800 of 1,018 people found the following review helpful
First of all, allow me to say that I have purchased and read this book -- something I believe few, if any, of the negative reviewers have done.
This is an important work, tracing the intellectual development of the idea that the all-powerful people's State should always trump the individual and be in firm control of all aspects of the population's culture, education, defense or military expansion, information, health and economy, from its modern beginnings under Wilson to the currently epoused nanny state. One could go further back to the French Revolution or further to Thomas More, of course, but given the deplorable state of history knowledge in the US, this might well be counter-productive. Monarchies need not be considered as they are not states that derive their legitimacy from the people -- but rather from God and inheritance.
The most negative aspect of this book is its title, "Liberal Fascism." A careful reader will learn what is meant by the author, but the vast majority will simply see the juxtaposition of the two words, "Liberal" and "Fascism" and read into this anything their pre-conceived ideas suggest. Actually, the author meant to describe something like "Benevolent Fascism", "Soft Fascism", "Smiley-Face Fascism", or my favorite, "Fuzzy Fascism" (e.g. Fascism that will not hurt you.) The word "Liberal" is used to put a more moderate or liberal face on Fascism, something more appropriate to nanny-state fascism. If the reader misinterprets the title, then little rational discussion can ensue.
The strengths of the book are in its rediscovery of the truly disturbing policies of the Wilson administration in 1917 and 1918 whereby opponents of his administration and policies were brutally suppressed. One should review the repressive Alien and Sedition Act and the Espionage Acts that Wilson promulgated. Nor did he shrink from meddling in other countries' affairs and supporting leaders he favored. The reader is advised to study his backing of Carranza and his Vera Cruz expedition in Mexico. At any rate, the Progressive movement in the US really did bring many ideas into the mainstream of American political thought that were later used as cornerstones of fascist ideology.
The author traces the support of communist and fascist states by American progressives until World War II -- an historical fact that should not be denied today as an inconvenient truth.
He also argues succinctly that Fascism replaces a religion based on a supreme being (God) with a religion based on a supreme State. So does communism as a matter of fact. The new God becomes the will of the people as interpreted and enforced by the State's elite for the people's benefit. Hence the development of the nanny-state political philosophy is a direct descendent of Fascism and features many of its evils. Bill O'Reilly has coined the name "Secular-Progressive" to describe thie political philosophy, although I wonder if he realized the historical accuracy of his term. The missing part is the militarism and genocide associated today with Fascism, which were outgrowths of the core ideas of Fascism and may well yet develop in the nanny state. After all, what would there be to stop such a development? It should be remembered that one of Hitler's early steps was to introduce full gun control in Germany to reduce any possibility of internal resistance to his regime.
The argument that "it can't happen here" should be revisited in light of Wilson's actions, Roosevelt's creation of concentration camps for Japanese during World War II, and the more recent Patriot Act. Unfortunately, many turn to the ACLU for solace, but it must be remembered that this organization was founded to foster the spread of communist ideology, and consistently supports the all-powerful leftist and secular state against the individual and religion.
The book bogs down somewhat in the argument that fascism is a product of the left and not of the right (politically.) The author is correct here, but he is swimming upstream against a powerful current from the mainstream American media which is firmly leftist and committed to the creation of a nanny state. In addition, he is trumped by the educational industry, both in public schools and in universities which has consistently taught socialist ideology since World War Two under the rubric of liberal teaching. As of this date, we have had a steady diet of socialist propaganda in our schools and universities for so long than no national or local figure has escaped its pernicious effects. What was thought to be "far-left" in 1960 is now centrist -- so far have we gone down the road towards a fascist state.
Nevertheless, the use of terms that everyone interprets in their own fashion by the author colors this discussion so markedly that constructive dialog between liberals and conservatives over this work is highly improbable. That is a great loss to our democracy.
So what is the solution? There probably isn't one. Politicians eloquently espousing "change" and "hope" have already very effectively learned how to evade issues in favor of vacuous but thrilling demagogy to rise to power. It must be remembered that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama studied Saul Alinsky thoroughly, making him possibly the most important individual in the background of the 2008 election. Senator Clinton even did double duty traveling to California to study under an unrepentant Stalinist. Perhaps they do not understand the road on which they are traveling -- after all, they've never been taught anything different. (That's why home schooling and even charter schools are such threats.) I suspect that the US will survive anything they do in the short term, but they are harbingers of things to come. The trend is there from the days of Wilson, and the ultimate denouement is in sight with Europe cheering us on out of envy every day. Even the mass demonstrations so loved by fascism to demonstrate the power and popularity of the State and its leaders are now being copied.
Before I receive thousands of hate comments from Obama supporters, allow me to state that the epithet "Fascist" does not fit Barack Obama in any way, shape or form. But the parallels I noted should not be overlooked in a study of the historical sweep of events and the acceptance of ideas. There is no question that the US has taken many steps on the road to the author's fascist nanny state, and opposition to this trend is fast being suppressed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2014
The warning that American progressivism has "fascist" tendencies is an important one: the obsession with economic fairness, inequality, and the power of capitalists and bankers was a core component of fascist ideology. The modern American left also shares other ideas and ideals with German fascism. However, that is not the whole story. German fascism also shares many aspects with modern American conservatism, such as a focus on the importance of the family and strong political support for Christian values (at least in speeches and money). You can dig through Nazi speeches and find sections that are key to Nazi politics and ideology yet fit politicians across the political spectrum.
But such details aside, there is one simple reason it's hard to assign the blame for fascism to the political left: the political left voted against and fought the Nazis, while German conservatives and Christians supported them and cooperated with them politically; the cooperation was perhaps grudging, but it was voluntary and essential to the success of Nazism and fascism in Germany. But this is hardly exculpation for the American political left, because the American political left is neither socialist nor communist nor working class, it is progressive, populist, educated, and middle class.
What fascism really was was quintessentially anti-individual and anti-freedom, and unfortunately, we find these tendencies in both major parties in the US today. Whether it is American progressives or American conservatives, both want to use the federal government to realize their social, moral, political, and economic visions, overriding individual choices and individual liberties. Technically, it is probably true that the American left tends more towards ideologies similar to German fascism. But the American right (meaning, social conservatives), if not tending towards fascism, tend towards theocracy, an ideology that has historically been just as corrupt, destructive, and genocidal as fascism, if not more so.
The book has a lot of valuable observations and insights. In particular, the message that there is a disturbing degree of commonality between the economic agenda of American progressives and European fascists of the 1930's is an important one. But ultimately, that important message is lost because the author pursues a partisan agenda. That means that the people who really need to understand this, namely the American left, will not listen. And churches and social conservatives, who were also a big part of the rise of fascism in Germany, get largely a free pass. Sadly, despite making many important observations, due to its political partisanship, this book will serve to educate few and change few minds. We need books that persuade both American liberals and conservatives to remember the importance of liberty, not a book that serves as further ammunition in their petty ideological wars with each other.
264 of 362 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2008
At this point, I'm only about two thirds of the way through Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. So far, I've found the book to be fascinating. Growing up thinking that "this is just how things are", or hearing the sanitized (or romanticized) versions of recent history, it's really good to see the origins of "liberal" or "progressive" thought, its connection to the fascist or Nazi world view and the context of certain events -- like the unrest and the Great Society agenda of the 1960s.
The author approaches the subject of Liberal Fascism with considerable thoroughness. That is good, because you can get a very good sense of how things fit together, looking at things from several different angles and in different contexts. However, by the time I got halfway through the book, a lot of things were starting to sound very familiar. Since I'm not an historian, I almost wish I had waited for the Readers Digest version to come out.
The author also makes very strong links between the progressives of the early 1900s and the liberal politics of today. And, while you can draw a straight line through these respective agendas, I think the author might be overstating the links. However, as he states, "even when motives and arguments change, the substance of the policy remains in its effects" (p. 276).
All-in-all, I think this book is well worth the time it takes to read it. Certainly, anyone from the Right would gain insights from this book; but, those from the Left could also benefit from the historical perspective of his or her own political view. I think this book would be a great textbook for a college course on political history, and would provide valuable insights into a study of 20th Century American History.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
Question: What do Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR have in common? Answer: More than you think! Jonah Goldberg in this well researched, detailed, and introspective look at the history of Progressivism, Liberalism, and Fascism, and how there are similarities is an eye opening look at not only the European past but our own American background. Goldberg, if one is familiar with his columns and his interviews, displays humor and a lot of witticism in his relaying of various examples of how government both local and national in their endeavors in looking out for everyone's well-being invariably overreaches and interferes with citizens' rights. Some of the examples are funny but some of them are a bit scary. My favorite example was the progressive daycare in Seattle where LEGOS were banned because "children were building assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." Supposedly the teachers wanted a playtime that reflected "collectivity" not something that "mirrored a class-based,capitalist society." Really? What happened to creativity here? I thought that's what LEGOS were meant to do--encourage children to use their minds and develop dexterity. Not everyone will like this book but I think most people would at least embrace the history aspect of it. I learned a lot of information that I wasn't aware of.
37 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2008
Dear Professor, may I speak?
When I attended an out-of-state university for one year, I was greeted with a less than enthusiastic reception by two of my professors. First was a philosophy class where I objected to the worship of Jean-Jacque Rousseau as the "god" of intellectualism, ethics, and environmentalism. I asked the professor (female) how she could give so much credibility to a man who wrote books about raising children, who advocated removing children from the home at the earliest possible moment, such as 3 years of age, to indoctrinate them into a product (proletariat) that served the "states" interests, when he had killed his own 5 children. So I was removed from the class.
My second incident occurred in a poly-science course, when I argued the political model that showed the Liberals in the center of the political spectrum, Communism on the left, Conservatives on the right with Fascism just a little further to the right. He had drawn the model on the black board. I argued that this was not correct, and I believed almost all policies used to achieve societal consolidation, i.e. Communism, Socialism, and Fascism were identical. "Only the degree of recognition of international and national borders" determined the course to government totalitarianism. I was kicked out of the class and banded from any courses in the College of Liberal Arts, forcing me to transfer back to our instate University of Idaho.
It took me until 2 years ago, after frequent consideration, to come up with a working model. And Jonah Goldberg has given me confidence and validation that my model was correct. Left-wingers are simply mouthing the propaganda of Joseph Stalin when they say that right-wingers are fascists. The "rising star" of communism, as Benito Mussolini was joyously named by Vladimir Lenin, broke the accepted communist model when the theory of borderless nations and class warfare was broken by ultra-nationalism in Mussolini's effort to unite his nation around socialist ideals. As Goldberg demonstrates, Communism, Socialism, and Fascism are differentiated by the rejection or recognition of international and national borders, but the ideology and "ends" are exactly the same. A proletariat is created as a tool or "means" of the over-throw of Capitalism or other form of government to create a new society of "social justice and equality" to be controlled by the elites, experts and professors, and ideologs who understand their "needs" better than the ignorant proletariat understand themselves.
I am on my second read, and I was especially surprised at the degree of suppression that Woodrow Wilson subjected this country too. Some parts may be a little bit of a reach, but especially the foundations of the "Progressive Movement" are well outlined. It also helps me to achieve a clearer understanding of the connections between French Marxist philosopher Georges Eugene Sorel's "anarchosyndicalism" model of community and societal organizing, the "Vital Lie", the great "Myth" theories to Woodrow Wilson, and Saul Alinsky (this was not covered in the book). Excellent!
58 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2008
A lot has been written about this book, and I'm not inclined to add much to the debate. If you read LIBERAL FASCISM as providing a grand unified theory of contemporary history you will be able to find some flaws (like most books of the genre). Yet if you read the book to get a quick overview of recent history, I think you will learn a lot. Most people don't know about the importance of eugenics in US history, how "progressive" the Nazis were, the left's infatuation with Communism (and fascism), and many other facts that are brought out in the book.
85 of 118 people found the following review helpful
I have to admit that I had not planned to read this book; the title and cover, as well as some of the reviews in the major media, led me to believ that this was a screed of the Ann Coulter sort, long on invective and short on fact and reason. But I received a copy as a gift a few days ago, and I was surprised to learn that it is anything but.
Goldberg goes to great pains to say that this book is not an attack on liberalism, nor is he saying that liberals are fascists. What he is doing, rather, is uncovering the hidden intellectual antecedents of the modern liberal movement in the Progressive anbd Fascist movements of the past. Now before you jump to conclusions claiming (as some reviews have) that Goldberg is equating liberalism with Nazism, consider that Fascism as a movment long preceeded Nazism by a good 15 years, and that in the 1920 Mussolini was greatly admired by progressives for his social programs. Western intellectuals looked at Fascism as a model for modern progressive government, with its emphasis on social services and cradle-to-grave goverment care. Nazism took these ideas, along with the Fascists' rejection of the Internationalism of the Communists, but added to that his own veneer of antisemitism.
Not that the American Progressives were any less guilty of racism and nationalistic fervor; during the Wilson era, which modern liberals point to as a time of great social progress, this country saw newspapers and magazines shut down for printing dissent, people imprisoned for expressing opinions contrary to government policy in their own homes, and the infamous Palmer Raids, in which suspected radicals- foreigners- were rounded up and imprisoned and expelled.
Those who still think of the McCarthy era- a brief period of history in which a group of Hollywood party members became martyrs for lying to congress- was the time when fascism came to America should really read about the Wilson era- or, for that matter, FDR, who, despite being a great wartime leader, imprisoned and confiscated the property of thousands of native born Americans because of their race, and attempted to stack the Supreme Court in violation of the Constitution.
The legacy of the Progressives is no mere historical artifact. Today's liberal offspring of the progressives often complain of government abuse of power, and yet too often they endorse sweeping government powers in support of their political aims. Consider the great "urban renewal" experiments in social engineering of the 1960s, in which neighborhoods were destroyed, property seized, and populations rounded up into housing projects. Or the famous "HillaryCare" initiative, in which a complete nationalization of health care was dreamed up not in the public forum, or even in Congress, where it could be debated, but behind closed doors.
Liberals are forever accusing Conservatives of being the intellectual heirs to Mussolini and Hitler, but the historical record tells a very different story. I've touched on just a small part of this book; there's a tremendous amount of well-researched history that should be of interest to anyone, whatever their political preferences, if only to see a very different view of history from that written by the Progressives and their followers. Of course, I'm sure this review will get the usual collection of ignorant responses that many other positive reviews have received, mainly by people who have not read the book, and many of whom have, in their comments, opined that it should be burned, or never have been printed. And that is very telling in and of itself.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2013
As a liberal/progressive of long standing and voting as such (never voted for a republican in all of my life) i found this book to be more than just enlighening. I recommend this to any reader interested in history and politics.
74 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2008
Goldberg's book wanders from time to time and there are parts that are hard to follow because of this. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book. Goldberg correctly identifies fascism as a left wing movement, a fact that most do not seem to recognize. He exposes the continuity of thought from the so-called progressives a century ago to the so-called progressives today. While identifying similarities between fascism over the last 100 years and today's liberals, he takes pains to insist that he is not saying that today's liberals are just like Nazis (in contrast to some of the other reviews you may read). This is a thought-provoking and enlightening book. Hopefully the skeptical will be motivated to learn the truth.