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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning [Hardcover]

Jonah Goldberg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 2008

“Fascists,” “Brownshirts,” “jackbooted stormtroopers”—such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. Calling someone a fascist is the fastest way to shut them up, defining their views as beyond the political pale. But who are the real fascists in our midst?

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were 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's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler's Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out and shows us the true meaning of Liberal Fascism.

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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning + More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this provocative and well-researched book, Goldberg probes modern liberalism's spooky origins in early 20th-century fascist politics. With chapter titles such as Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left and Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism—Goldberg argues that fascism has always been a phenomenon of the left. This is Goldberg's first book, and he wisely curbs his wry National Review style. Goldberg's study of the conceptual overlap between fascism and ideas emanating from the environmental movement, Hollywood, the Democratic Party and what he calls other left-wing organs is shocking and hilarious. He lays low such lights of liberal history as Margaret Sanger, apparently a radical eugenicist, and JFK, whose cult of personality, according to Goldberg, reeks of fascist political theater. Much of this will be music to conservatives' ears, but other readers may be stopped cold by the parallels Goldberg draws between Nazi Germany and the New Deal. The book's tone suffers as it oscillates between revisionist historical analyses and the application of fascist themes to American popular culture; nonetheless, the controversial arc Goldberg draws from Mussolini to The Matrix is well-researched, seriously argued—and funny. (Jan. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Certain to attract interest...across the political spectrum." ---Booklist Starred Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Liberazis Among Us! April 16 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In his book, Liberal Fascism, Goldberg argues that fascism clearly belongs on the left side of the spectrum.

Upon reading this thesis I instinctively found it disturbing as if it seemed to go against the natural order of things. Of course the Nazi's and the Italian Fascists were on the far right. Are they not our society's very definition of the far right?

Yet why, asks Goldberg, if the Nazis were so far right on the political spectrum, did they brand themselves as socialists? Indeed, the very word Nazi comes from a shortening of the party's official name, die Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, - German for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Similarly, why did Mussolini, whose parents read Das Kapital to him as a child, consider himself a 'socialist' right up until the moment of his execution at which his acolyte shouted, "Long live Mussolini, long live socialism!"

Goldberg argues, with considerable backing, that fascism began very much as a left-wing movement, with the added embrace of nationalism. In fact, Goldberg suggests that the first categorizing of fascists as right-wing only occurred after Stalin put out the directive that all opponents of the his rule of the Soviet Union, including Trotsky, were to be labeled as such in a bid for control of Germany.

Fascism, says Goldberg, was born of a "fascist moment" in Western civilization, when a coalition of intellectuals under various labels - progressive, communist, socialist - believed the era of liberal democracy was drawing to a close. Leaving little doubt with him that fascism was a project of the left.

Consider Cuba, prods Goldberg.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and Challenging Jan. 21 2008
I suspect the two intensely negative reviews (just how many books of this type are truly one-star awful?) are a reaction to Goldberg's overall conclusion rather than a realistic indication of the book's quality. Goldberg has written a scholarly and challenging work that raises some very good points about the reality behind many of our political labels. Yes, what is today called liberalism (not the liberalism of Gladstone and Arnold) has some strong authoritarian tendencies, as have some supposedly progressive movements in the past. Of course so have some conservatives--but that's a different book and one cannot criticize Goldberg for not writing it any more than one can criticize, e.g., Naomi Wolfe for not writing a book about the positive side of business. It's one-sided, but then polemical books are always one-sided. However, it does make good arguments backed by good data.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly subtle review of collectivism Jan. 16 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a surprisingly subtle and carefully researched account of "collectivism" in European and American political thought over the last hundred years. It brings together information that is known but perhaps not widely appreciated - the extent to which the Nazis (NSDAP) were a socialist movement, for example, or the association of "New Age" ideas with fascism, in particular through Guido von List and Lans von Liebenfels.

Most surprising to me is Goldberg's analysis of Hillary Clinton as a political thinker.
He takes her very seriously indeed. Unfortunately she interprets the catchphrase "it takes a village to raise a child" as necessitating massive government intervention into individual and family life - in Goldberg's interpretation at any rate.

There are many good reviews on and the interested reader should consult them.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Goldberg's book is a well-researched account of the dominant political philosophy of the last 200 years - collectivist fascism of one sort or another. While left-leaning detractors will have their knickers in a knot over Goldberg's account of political history, the bottom line is that he brings to the table some insightful analysis to the table on the similarities between socialism, nationalism and fascism - they all come from the same root: collectivism by elites that believe that they "know better".

There are some problems as Goldberg appears to work out his thoughts in the book rather than in his notepad, and while amusing to read for conservatives, I seriously doubt that Hillary Clinton justifes a whole chapter to her political views and background ... this just came across as political posturing and not very well thought out.

In the end, if Goldberg's work helps readers to view the political spectrum on a collectivist-individualist spectrum rather than a "left-right" or "socialist-fascist" spectrum, then we'll all be better for it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nanny state gone wild June 19 2009
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 and others. The phenomenon has many variants & names (with a fondness for words like 'movement' or 'action') 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 branches that sprouted 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, it 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. There were unimaginable crackdowns on the media, restrictions of civil liberties & many features of a police state.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The road to Fascism is paved with best intentions
There are a few things that we've learned as kids and have since taken for granted: the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, the birds fly south in the Winter, and north in... Read more
Published on May 18 2011 by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
3.0 out of 5 stars A Boook About Labels
"Liberal Fascism" speaks of the relationship between the Fascist intellectual tradition and practice and the Liberal-Progressive movement in Twentieth Century America. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2010 by James Gallen
5.0 out of 5 stars It elevates the level of discussion
Essentially, the thesis of this noble book is that the American Liberalism has more in common with Fascism than the right does. It's all good. Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2009 by Winston
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fascist Side to Liberalism
Goldberg, a regular contributer to the conservative National Review, takes on the liberal-progressive establishment in this book. Read more
Published on June 12 2009 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Alternate Title: How to De-Program a Liberal Arts Graduate
I suspect that the ivory tower elites will despise this book. University acadamia and the media always equate conservative governments such as the USA under Dubya and Canada under... Read more
Published on March 20 2008 by GRH "Ex WHA Jet"
1.0 out of 5 stars Sleight-of-hand for the the terminally gullible
Written as if it were a high school term paper, this tome yields no new ground. It is simply another Rovian attempt to identify what is worst about a movement (authoritarian... Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2008 by James R. Parrett
5.0 out of 5 stars Response to Mr. Billard.
As the Book Description notes, the word "Nazi" derives from "National Socialism" (German: Nationalsozialismus). Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2008 by Parity
1.0 out of 5 stars Mindless Garbage
Has the Neo-con right completely lost their senses. The propagandist literature that now represents the far right in America has gone into Orwellian newspeak. Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2008 by Brian Sofer
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