LIBERAL FASCISM: The secret history of the American left, from Mussolini to the politics of meaning
by Jonah Goldberg
(New York: Doubleday)
Hardcover: 496 pages
Rec. price: AUD$54.95
What is fascism? And can liberals be fascists? This is the question Jonah Goldberg examines in this lively and thought-provoking book on American liberalism.
Goldberg breaks down current political trends in the United States into four main trends — the far Left, liberals, conservatives and libertarians. “Liberal” in America means someone like Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton — people who believe that the government can, and should, do everything. In that old catch phrase of the Left, liberals believe that “everything is political”.
Those who question the shibboleths of the Left are attacked as “right-wing” or “fascist”. However, as Melbourne University’s Frank Knopfelmacher never ceased to point out, totalitarianism, whether communist or fascist, is neither red or black, it’s one colour.
An inconvenient truth
Or, as Goldberg writes, “The major flaw in this is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left. This fact — an inconvenient truth if there ever was one — is obscured in our time by the equally mistaken belief that fascism and communism are opposites. In reality, they are closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space.” (p.7).
The development of the fascist idea derives from the French revolution, when the Jacobins tried to turn politics into a religion. The divine entity was the “people” — not the individual person. The person was hopelessly corrupt and reactionary and could be disposed of at will, as were some 50,000 “enemies” of the new revolutionary regime. Today, liberalism sees “no realm of human life that is beyond political significance, from what you eat to what you smoke to what you say.” (p.14).
The classical liberal or conservative cannot accept the perfectibility of man. They know life is unfair, mankind is irreparably flawed and that the only utopia is in the afterlife. The “perfectibility of man” killed more people in the 20th century — from Hitler’s Germany to Stalin’s Russia to Mao’s China — than any other nostrum. The liberal infatuation with “programs”, “experts” and “action” is a lineal descendant from the early days of fascist policy-making.
As it turns out, the favourite programs of today’s “socially conscious”, such as organic foods and euthanasia, were all Nazi enthusiasms. However, particularly interesting is the fascist influence on eugenics, leading to the development of artificial birth-control, and the impetus it gave to campaigns for abortion on demand.
Margaret Sanger, whose American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, was the founding mother of the birth-control movement. “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control,” wrote Sanger.
H.G. Wells, the English apostle of science and socialism, said in an introduction to Sanger’s 1922 book, The Pivot of Civilization: “We want fewer and better children … and we cannot make the social life and world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens you inflict on us.”
Wells believed that “progress” was at war with a world “swamped by an indiscriminate torrent of progeny”. While Sanger personally opposed abortion, Planned Parenthood now runs abortion centres — a revealing 80 per cent of which are in or near mainly black communities. As a result, a black pregnancy is more likely to end in abortion than in a live birth.
Liberal Fascism is mainly about culture. Economics receives limited treatment, the author focussing on the manner in which large corporations can become instruments for state control.
“Fascism is the cult of unity, within all spheres and between all spheres. Fascists are desperate to erode the ‘artificial’, legal, or cultural boundaries between family and state, public and private, business and the ‘public good’.”
As to the relationship between business and government, Goldberg compares business to a swarm of bees — leave the bees alone, and they will leave you alone. Goldberg is on less certain ground when he attributes the impetus to modern corporatism to Catholic social teaching. The church has been, objectively, totalitarianism’s firmest and most effective opponent in the modern age.
In all, this is a fascinating book. Although it is written for an American audience, much of it applies to Australia. As with most cultural trends, what happens in the United States is likely to surface in Australia 10 years later — usually on the left. If this trend holds good, we don’t have much to look forward to, except more multicultural insanity.
Goldberg is a columnist for the late William F. Buckley’s National Review and his trenchant support for the individual and the “small platoons” against the encroaching power of state into every sphere of life is to be welcomed.