How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

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An Inspiring Song


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Liberal Fascism Quote #2

We cannot easily recognize these similarities and continuities today, however, let alone speak about them, because this whole realm of historical analysis was foreclosed by the Holocaust. Before the war, fascism was widely viewed as a progressive social movement with many liberal and left-wing adherents in Europe and the United States; the horror of the Holocaust completely changed our view of fascism as something uniquely evil and ineluctably bound up with extreme nationalism, paranoia, and genocidal racism. After the war, the American progressives who had praised Mussolini and even looked sympathetically at Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s had to distance themselves from the horrors of Nazism. Accordingly, leftist intellectuals redefined fascism as "right-wing" and projected their own sins onto conservatives, even as they continued to borrow heavily from fascist and pre-fascist thought.

Must of this alternative history is quite easy to find, if you have eyes to see it. The problem is that the liberal-progressive narrative on which most of us were raised tends to shunt these incongruous and inconvenient facts aside, and to explain away as marginal what is actually central.

For starters, it is simply a fact that, in the 1920s, fascism and fascistic ideas were very popular on the American left. "That Fascism stunk in the nostrils of the New Masses," John Patrick Diggins writes of the legendary hard-left journal, "may have been true after 1930. For the radicals of the twenties the whiff from Italy carried no foul ideological odor." There was a reason for this. In many respects, the founding fathers of modern liberalism, the men and women who laid the intellectual groundwork of the New Deal and the welfare state, thought that fascism sounded like a pretty good idea. Or to be fair: many simply thought (in the spirit of Deweyan Pragmatism) that it sounded like a worthwhile "experiment." Moreover, while the odor of Italian Fascism eventually grew rancid in the nostrils of both the American left and the American right (considerably later than 1930, by the way), the reasons for their revulsion did not for the most part stem from profound ideological differences. Rather, the American left essentially picked a different team--the Red team--and as such swore fealty to communist talking points about fascism. As for the non-communist liberal left, while the word "fascism" grew in disrepute, many fascistic ideas and iimpulses endured.

It was around this time that Stalin stumbled on a brilliant tactic of simply labeling all inconvenient ideas and movements fascist. Socialists and progressives aligned with Moscow were called socialists or progressives, while socialists disloyal or opposed to Moscow were called fascists. Stalin's theory of social fascism rendered even Franklin Roosevelt a fascist according to loyal communists everywhere. And let us recall that Leon Trotsky was marked for death for allegedly plotting a "fascist coup." While this tactic was later deplored by many sane American left-wingers, it is amazing how many useful idiots fell for it at the time, and how long its intellectual half-life has been.

Before the Holocaust and Stalin's doctrine of social fascism, liberals could be more honest about their fondness for fascism. During the "pragmatic" era of the 1920s and early 1930s, a host of Western liberal intellectuals and journalists were quite impressed with Mussolini's "experiment." More than a few progressives were intrigued by Nazism as well. W.E.B. DuBois, for example, had very complex and mixed emotions about the rise of Hitler and the plight of the Jews, believing that National Socialism could be the model for economic organization. The formation of the Nazi dictatorship, he wrote, had been "absolutely necessary to get the state in order." Hewing to the progressive definition of "democracy" as egalitarian statism, DuBois delivered a speech in Harlem in 1937 proclaiming that "there is today, in some respects, more democracy in Germany than there has been in years past."

For years, segments of the so-called Old Right argued that FDR's New Deal was fascistic and/or influenced by fascists. There is ample truth to this, as many mainstream and liberal historians have grudgingly admitted. However, that the New Deal was fascist was hardly a uniquely right-wing criticism in the 1930s. Rather, those who offered this sort of critique, including the Democratic hero Al Smith and the Progressive Republican Herbert Hoover, were beaten back with the charge that they were crazy right-wingers and themselves the real fascists. Norman Thomas, the head of the American Socialist Party, frequently charged that the New Deal was fundamentally fascistic. Only Communists loyal to Moscow--or the useful idiots in Stalin's thrall--could say that Thomas was a right-winger or a fascist. But that is precisely what they did.

Even more telling, FDR's defenders openly admitted their admiration of fascism. Rexford Guy Tugwell, an influential member of FDR's Brain Trust, said of Italian Fascism, "It's the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious." "We are trying out the economics of Fascism without having suffered all its social or political ravages," proclaimed the New Republic's editor George Soule, an enthusiastic supporter of the FDR administration.
You can buy the book here. You're just dying to read it, now, aren't you? Even if all you want to do is explain to me later how wrong Goldberg is.

1 comment:

  1. The thing about fascism is that it can come from both the left and the right. Fascism in and of itself doesn’t hinge on one political philosophy or another. The cool thing now is to call liberals fascists (not that there aren’t liberals who are fascists and not that liberals aren’t grotesquely guilty of throwing that word around), but what good does that do. Have the time I have someone drop the fascist or Nazi label, I completely tune out because it is so tired and meaningless at this point that its overuse has almost deadened us to the horrors that those things brought about in practice.