Nazism Was Left Not Right.

  • Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg  –  Published January 8th 2008 by Doubleday (first published January 8th 2007). Edition Language: English.


Nazism Was Left Not Right. Defining Fascism, Correcting Misconceptions, Focus on the Culture War, Allusions to Cultural Marxism, and Anticipating the Critics

Having read this work, and those of the critics, I am amazed at how most of them have not grasped what Goldberg has plainly stated. Goldberg defines his terms: FASCISM: “Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is TOTALITARIAN in that it views everything as political and holds than any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good.” (p. 23). LIBERAL FASCISM: “In this book, I have argued that modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism…In the United States, the movement known elsewhere as fascism or Nazism took the form of progressivism—a softer form of totalitarianism that, while still nationalistic, and militarist in its crusading forms and outlook, was more in keeping with American culture. It was, in short, a kind of liberal fascism.” (p. 390). “For another, arguing that progressives were a product of their time simply reinforces my larger argument: Progressivism was born of the fascist movement and has never faced up to its inheritance.” (p. 254).

REDUCTIO AD HITLERUM is a common liberal tactic of today. (p. 244). Very many things usually attributed to conservatism or fascism are not unique to them. Bismarck’s Kulturkampf was liberal. (p. 362). Anti-Semitism was not characteristic of fascism: early Italian fascism was hardly anti-Semitic (p. 62), and Communism became anti-Semitic. (p. 75). Nationalism is not invariably right-wing unless one considers Castro, Pol Pot, Guevara, etc., as right-wingers. (p. 71). Militarism was championed, in the early 20th century, not only by fascists, but also by Communists and the western democracies. (p. 5, 106). The German exceptionalism under Nazism can be compared with some forms of Afrocentrism today. (p. 65). Also, “As a result, the Nazis played the same games against the Jews that today’s left plays against ‘Eurocentrism’, ‘whiteness’, and ‘logocentrism.’” (p. 368). The eugenics movement was not conservative but liberal in that it was squarely based on the perfectibility of society by government action, and was supported by many socialists. (p. 249). The restrictions against freedom under McCarthyism were dwarfed compared with those earlier enacted by the progressive President Woodrow Wilson. (pp. 113-114).

As for the rise of Nazism in Germany, “What cannot be overestimated is that German students were first and foremost rebelling against the CONSERVATISM of both German higher education and the older generation’s ‘bourgeoisie materialism.’” (p. 168). The much-mythologized corporate support for Hitler was virtually absent in the 1920’s, and later tended to follow Hitler’s successes (p. 58, 288-289). Also, “The fascist bargain goes something like this. The state says to the industrialist, ‘You may stay in business and own your factories. In the spirit of cooperation and unity, we will even guarantee you profits and a lack of serious competition. In exchange, we expect you to agree with—and help implement—our political agenda.’” (p. 290). Goldberg’s quip is priceless: “In reality, if you define ‘right-wing’ or ‘conservative’ in the American sense of supporting the rule of law and the free market, then the more right-wing a business is, the less fascist it becomes.” (pp. 285-286).

Other misconceptions are corrected. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was liberal in the sense that it supported many reformist and progressive policies. (p. 259). Contrary to Sinclair’s JUNGLE, meatpackers actually favored government inspection of meat (because it favored selling their products and it handicapped smaller producers.) (p. 291). Father Coughlin was no rightist intellectual grandfather of Rush Limbaugh: Coughlin favored government interventionism over free enterprise, essentially deifying the New Deal. (e. g., p. 138). Pre-WWII American isolationists included liberals, not just conservatives. (p. 157).

Some have argued that the progressive programs enacted by the likes of Bismarck, the European fascists, and the American New Deal were simply tactical moves designed to head-off Communist revolutions. Consider Bismarck. His progressive policies were groundbreaking and far-reaching—so unique that they inspired many socialist policy makers (p. 263). They were clearly far more than would be expected as a mere concession to pacify the masses. Goldberg comments: “Bismarck’s ‘top-down socialism,’ which delivered the eight-hour workday, health care, social insurance, and the like, was the gold standard for enlightened social policy.” (p. 95).

The European fascists favored a large number of socially-progressive policies. (e. g., see p. 46). The connection between Nazi policies and those of the New Deal were not superficial or incidental. In fact, the connection was widely celebrated at the time. (p. 123). In any case, according to Goldberg, whatever the caveats were behind the policies in question, they do not nullify his thesis, but actually reinforce it: “The German and American New Deals may have been merely whatever Hitler and FDR felt they could get away with. But therein lies a common principal: the state SHOULD be allowed to get away with anything, so long as it is for ‘good reasons.’ That is the common principle among fascism, Nazism, Progressivism, and what we today call liberalism.” (p. 131).

Goldberg compares the culture war in Nazi Germany to the more recent one in the U.S. He comments: “In 1935, mandatory prayer in school was abolished, and in 1938 carols and Nativity plays were banned entirely. By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether and Jacobinism ruled supreme…In like manner, the American Kulturkampf of the 1960s begins not with the hippies, the Vietnam War, or even civil rights. As befits an attempt to clear the way for a new political religion, it starts with the effort to eliminate prayer in school.” (p. 365).


Jan Peczkis

Published with the author’s permission.


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  • Title image: „Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning” by Jonah Goldberg, part of the cover / selected by wg.pco

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