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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

Publisher: Crown Forum • 2009 • 512 pages
4.59 out of 5 • View Ratings Details • 64 Ratings

“Fascists!” “Brownshirts!” “Jackbooted stormtroopers!” Such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. But who are the real fascists in our midst? In “Liberal Fascism,” National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists are 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 and Mussolini.

Replacing manufactured myths with enlightening research, Goldberg begins by showing how the Italian fascism, German Nazism and American Progressivism (forebear of modern liberalism) all drew from the same intellectual foundations the idea that the state can create a kind of social utopia for its citizens. He then traces fascism’s history in the U.S. — from Woodrow Wilson’s war socialism and FDR’s New Deal to today’s liberal push for a greater alliance between big business and government. Finally, Goldberg reveals the striking resemblances between the opinions advanced by Hitler and Mussolini and the current views of the left on such diverse issues as government’s role in the economy, campaign finance reform, campus “speech codes,” education, environmentalism, gun control, abortion, and euthanasia.

Impeccably researched and persuasively argued, Liberal Fascism will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment — and rousing cheers from the right.

  • How fascism, Nazism, Progressivism, and modern liberalism are all alike in principle, in that all believe that government should be allowed to do whatever it likes, so long as it is for “good reasons”
  • How, before World War II and the Holocaust, fascism was considered a progressive social movement both in the U.S. and Europe — but was redefined afterwards as “right wing”
  • How the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National Socialism”) who loathed the free market, believed in free health care, opposed inherited wealth, spent vast sums on public education, purged Christianity from public policy, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life
  • How the Nazis declared war on smoking; supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control; and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities — where campus speech codes were all the rage
  • Adolph Hitler, Man of the Left: how his views and policies regarding capitalism, class warfare, environmentalism, gun control, euthanasia and even smoking are remarkably close to those of modern liberals
  • How Woodrow Wilson and the other founding fathers of American liberalism were far crueler jingoists and warmongers than modern conservatives have ever been
  • How Wilson’s crackdown on civil liberties in the name of national security far exceeds anything even attempted by Joe McCarthy, much less George W. Bush
  • How Mussolini and Hitler both thought — quite rightly — that they were doing things along the same lines as FDR
  • How, in the 1930s, FDR’s New Deal was praised for its similarity to Italian Fascism — “the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery,” said an influential member of FDR’s team
  • How, just like modern liberals, Mussolini promised a “Third Way” that “went beyond tired categories of left and right” in order to “get things done”
  • Mussolini’s and Hitler’s not-so-secret admirers: how many prominent progressives — from W.E.B. Dubois in the U.S. to George Bernard Shaw England — publicly praised German Nazism and Italian Fascism
  • Liberal fascism and the cult of the state: how progressivism shared with fascism a conviction that, in a truly modern society, the state must take the place of religion
  • How American Progressives, like Hitler’s Nazis, were convinced that the state could, through planning and pressure, create a pure race, a society of new men
  • How Nazis, fascists and American progressives — including Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger — all shared a belief in racial engineering through eugenics, and the alleged “need” for abortion and euthanasia it implied
  • How it was largely Christian conservatives who stood against the progressive enthusiasm for racist eugenics
  • The fascist underpinnings of progressive education
  • The 1960s: fascism takes to the streets — how the New Left used the means and methods of Hitler’s brownshirts and the fascist squadristi to further their agenda
  • How the Kennedy-Johnson era marked the final evolution off Progressivism into a full-blown religion and a national cult of the state — with Kennedy its sacrificial “Christ” and LBJ its Pauline architect
  • The Great Society: LBJ’s fascist utopia
  • How the modern heirs of the fascist tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood
  • The tempting of conservatism: the fascist tendencies lurking in “compassionate conservatism” and other pseudo-conservative trends

“‘It is my argument that American liberalism is a totalitarian political religion,’ Jonah Goldberg writes near the beginning of Liberal Fascism. My first reaction was that he is engaging in partisan hyperbole. That turned out to be wrong. Liberal Fascism is nothing less than a portrait of twentieth-century political history as seen through a new prism. It will affect the way I think about that history — and about the trajectory of today’s politics — forever after.” —-Charles Murray, author of “Human Accomplishment” and coauthor (with Richard J. Herrnstein) of “The Bell Curve”

“In the greatest hoax of modern history, Russia’s ruling ‘socialist workers party,’ the Communists, established themselves as the polar opposites of their two socialist clones, the National Socialist German Workers Party (quicknamed ‘the Nazis’) and Italy’s Marxist-inspired Fascisti, by branding both as ‘the fascists.’ Jonah Goldberg is the first historian to detail the havoc this spin of all spins has played upon Western thought for the past seventy-five years, very much including the present moment. 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, author of “Bonfire of the Vanities” and “I Am Charlotte Simmons”

“Liberal Fascism will enrage many people on the left, but Jonah Goldberg’s startling thesis deserves serious attention. Going back to the eugenics movement there has been a strain of elitist moral certainty that allows one group of people to believe they have the right to determine the lives of others. We have replaced the divine right of kings with the divine right of self-righteous groups. Goldberg will lead you to new understanding and force you to think deeply.” —Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, author of “Winning the Future”

“Jonah Goldberg argues that liberals today have doctrinal and emotional roots in twentieth century European fascism. Many people will be shocked just by the thought that long-discredited fascism could mutate into the spirit of another age. It’s always exhilarating when someone takes on received opinion, but this is not a work of pamphleteering. Goldberg’s insight, supported by a great deal of learning, happens to be right.” —David Pryce-Jones, author of “The Strange Death of the Soviet Union”

“Jonah Goldberg brilliantly traces the intellectual roots of fascism to their surprising source, showing not only that its motivating ideas derive from the left but that the liberal fascist impulse is alive and well among contemporary progressives-and is even a temptation for compassionate conservatives.” — Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine

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