Saturday, October 29, 2005

Liberal Fascism... as opposed to the regular kind

The conservative writer Jonah Goldberg has come out with a new "book" called Liberal Fascism. To me it indicates the lack of ideas on the right, but more importantly, the lack of intellectual seriousness more than anything else. I mean, how divorced from reality do you have to be to compare Fascism – the international enemy of left-of-center movements of all types, from liberal to socialist to communist, universal friend of conservative movements (for that is who they invariably formed coalition governments with) – to liberalism, the ideology of pluralism? Answer: all the way divorced. That’s how much.

Author David Neiwert explains:

Mussolini was indeed an active socialist at the beginning of his political career. But he was remarkable for shifting his alliances and adjusting his ideology accordingly as he climbed the ladder of power; and by the time he had completed his climb, he was an outspoken and lethal anti-socialist.

Hitler's fascists, somewhat in contrast, only adopted a limited socialist rhetoric as a sop to its efforts to recruit from the working class. Hitler quickly jettisoned these aspects of the party as he obtained power, particularly in forming a ruling coalition with conservative corporatists. There was little doubt that Hitler and the Nazis were devoutly anti-leftist: their Brownshirts made a career of physically attacking socialists and communists wherever they gathered, and the first people sent to the concentration camp at Dachau in 1933-34 were socialist and communist political leaders.

Structurally, the fascists had to be anti-left. Their base was not the unionized workers and intellectual middle class. The Nazis disbanded unions the second they got the chance. They terrorized universities and destroyed the modern art and modern science that they gave rise to. Politically, their reason for being was that the left was a dual threat to society: Communists and Socialists were attacking society, and the flabby liberal government couldn’t keep people safe. This same line played itself out over and over again; in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and even the US (though thankfully the silver shirts didn’t get far in the US). Again and again the fascists came to power in coalition governments with other conservatives. Again and again they were bankrolled by the same corporatists that bankrolled other conservative movements. Again and again they instituted the same policies which left the rich richer and the poor poorer. Again and again they attacked liberal pluralism as “relativism” and tried to replace it with one true faith.

The left has often been accused of comparing Republicans to Fascists. Besides a few stoned out radicals from the 60s, I'm happy to say this is generally false. What’s true is that no respected liberal thinkers have made this accusation seriously (although of course we keep an open mind on the subject if new facts come to light). With this book, Jonah Goldberg, nationally syndicated columnist and an editor-at-large for the National Review, has stepped over the line. If he earnestly made this accusation, then he - and the conservative movement that backs him - is intellectually bankrupt; if he made it dishonestly, then he guilty of the worst kind of smear-campaign. Either way it does not bode well for the seriousness of the conservative movement.


Your analysis is terribly incorrect about fascist movements. The Italian fasicst movement at its origins had a majority of its base (500,000 in the fascist party) workers and its core leadership were syndicalist labor supporters. At a time when capitalists were the stalwarts of the conservative regimes, workers found fascism's corporatavism very attractive (submerging labor and capital underneath a state that would work to advance both).

With respect to individual freedom, yes fascists were very illiberal. However, the roots of fascism were born from socialist economic central planning, they adopted socialism and government control of the economy and in turn this was supposed to advance workers. If the Democrats int his country even tried to implement government control of the economy in a way the Italian Fascists were able to, they would be accused of being socialists by the Republicans.

I think looking at fascism as a left/right distinction is extremely fallacious. The Italian Fascists, Bolsheviks, and even Stalinists had very similar roots as well as carrying out their plans. They were all regimes that came from poor third world origins and they wanted to industrialize. To industrialize they had to utilize an illiberal model of industrial development that shunned both libertarian social values and the free market.
A couple of quetions.

a) Are you so ignorant of Italy's history as to seriously believed that it was not already industrialized as of 1930? Do you really think the Italian fascists corpratism actually increased the power of workers? If not, was this some increadible mistake on the part of Mussolini or was it an intentional way of apealing to unionized workers without actually giving them anything?

b) Why are you peeling off Italian fascism and ignoring Hitler, Franco, and the other movements? Is it because they were also obviously already industrialized? Is it becuase they put the lie to the idea that fascist movements were not fed and aproved by conservatives?

c) Why do you conflate Fascism, a movement propelled by lower-middle class populism with communism which found its base of support exclusivley in the agricultural poor of unindustrialized countries?

d) Why did people of the day consider fascists to be a right-wing phenomena? Were they all tricked, too?
Ok, zack, why was fascism considered right wing? Because they opposed socialism? The Democratic party opposes socialism in the United States, does it make them right wing?

If you want to talk Italy, yes Italy was not industrialized untilt he 1930's. And I suppose the "left-wing" Stalinist and Leninist regimes helped the workers as well? Stalin's victims were almost exclusively workers and farmers.

I am not peeling off Italian Fascism, Italian Fascism is different from Nazism because of the focus on national unity as opposed to racial unity. Racial unity is not Fascism.

"Is it becuase they put the lie to the idea that fascist movements were not fed and aproved by conservatives? "
The conservatives hated Mussolini, Hitler and the other totalitarian leaders. Stability was destroyed, their businesses were confiscated by the state and the fascists brought wars to their countries.
Opps, that wasn't zack. That was me Tommaso. I will respond to your points after eating delicious japanese curry.
"communism which found its base of support exclusivley in the agricultural poor of unindustrialized countries?"

Interesting, communism was supposed to be a movement that did not include the agricultural poor. As we've found out from this year's electiont he agricultural poor are conservative reactionaries guided by religion. The communists knew that no peasants were going to be involved in a revolution that would provide equity and abolish capital. Peasants who were poor (petty bourgeoisie), just wanted more money. this is why communist regimes fell. They never adhered to Marxist theory, mainly because Marxist theory would work nowhere.
Post a Comment