I was reading this review of Jonah Goldberg’s upcoming tome, Liberal Fascists. Its very complementary. I haven’t read the book – I don’t think its come out yet, and its not like anyone has sent me a complementary copy.
So I’ll rely on reviews. And a complementary review – one that gets mentioned as such by Goldberg himself, is presumably a fair place to start.
What Goldberg is arguing is evident from the title of his book – the true fascists are liberals. But he goes further than that… the Nazi is short for National Socialist, and Benito Mussolini considered himself a socialist. (As an aside… the folks who buy into this argument have a conniption when its pointed out that Hitler considered himself a Christian rather than the atheist they make him out to be.) And of course, here in the US, FDR is the obvious example of liberal fascism.
But that then raises the obvious issue… if everyone from Stalin to Mussolini was a fascist, who exactly wasn’t? The monarchists, who felt the state, through the king and nobility should call all the shots? How very unfascist. Perhaps the industrialists and captains of industry – but didn’t Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, to name the two most prominent examples of fascism (even by Goldberg’s argument, presumably) have a “big corporations working with the state” type policy? What European movements of the 1920s to the 1940s, to name a prominent period, can’t be “shown” to be fascist by Goldberg’s definition?
But maybe its just Europe. Buncha damn foreigners anyway. Here in the US, no doubt, we have some good Americans. Not fascists. Now, since FDR is a big fascist, clearly we’re talking people who opposed FDR. Could it be Hoover – who “repatriated” (i.e., expelled) American citizens of Mexican descent? (Doesn’t that sound suspiciously like the Volk thing the Nazis were spewing, coupled with Mussolini’s profound nationalism?) The America First people who opposed war with Germany and saw it as Jewish plot?
So to repeat… is there any movement of any size in Europe or the US in the 1920s to 1940s, on the left or the right, that cannot be described as fascist using Goldberg’s definition? The best I could come up with: some of the libertarians, most of the anarchists, and a good percent of the residents of mental institutions. My bet is that if I think long enough, I could come up with reasons why, under Goldbergian logic, they’d be considered fascist too…
And perhaps that’s the point…. the reviews ends with this, which Goldberg highlights when linking to it:
“We are all fascists now,” he concludes. Disagree if you must, but go out and read this brilliant, insightful, and important book.
When a term applies to everything, it means nothing. And Goldberg’s goal, apparently, is to make the term fascism become meaningless. And why not? After all, the movement he is a part of has already pulled that stunt off with the term “Fiscal Responsibility.”
Update… Edited the conclusion marginally.