Helen Szamuely watches a happy warrior against liberal fascism
If there is one problem we face on the right it is that we are given to gloom and doom, often for understandable reasons. We have most certainly allowed the left to assume cultural control in the West, even in the Anglosphere. But where does all that gloom and doom get us? Let us have a few happy warriors. Bill Buckley was one and Jonah Goldberg, who launched his book “Liberal Fascism” the other day at the NCF meeting in the House of Commons (and anyone who can keep happy in Portcullis House deserves a medal), is another.
We have all suffered from the extraordinary double standard whereby the fully democratic right in the grand Anglospheric liberal tradition is enjoined over and over again to renounce all existing or non-existing links with other organizations that can be called fascistic or neo-fascistic for whatever reason while the left continues to skate over links with existing murderous political systems that call themselves communist or something like it. But as Jonah Goldberg points out in his book and reiterated in his talk, those fascists were of the left as well. It is not just that the Nazis were socialists by any definition but the actual fascist ideology, stripped of the racist and genocidal attributes that were added by Hitler, remains a left-wing one, shared by most so-called liberals or the Left, as we prefer to call them in this country. The totalitarian temptation (a phrase first used by Jean-François Revel back in the seventies about the Communist-supporting French intelligentsia) is a love affair with the state – a disease of the left rather than the right, at least in the Anglo-American tradition.
Jonah, we have to admit, glories in the trouble he has caused to the liberal establishment in America. He enumerated the various attempts to kill the book before it even came out. They all failed and “Liberal Fascism” has done extremely well, staying on for many weeks in the New York Times bestseller list. (That must have really annoyed them.) There was more to his talk than gleeful trumpeting of the rightness of his cause. Jonah showed very cogently the links between Mussolini’s political ideas (a man of the left and an extremely important political thinker, whose grisly end has obscured both these facts) and FDR’s New Deal. There was a great deal of mutual admiration between the two groups. The only reason why the New Deal-supporting liberals turned against fascism is because Stalin, who understood the essence of that movement and saw it as a rival to his own powerbase, seduced them away. The fact that old Joe was a bigger thug than Mussolini and, possibly, even Hitler played a part in this seduction.
The most exciting part of the talk was, however, Jonah Goldberg pointing a finger at what he called the first twentieth century totalitarian state. No, I did not guess it either, though the villain of the piece has been my own bête noire for many years. It was the most highly educated and intellectual of modern American Presidents: Woodrow Wilson who, during the brief period the United States was participating in the First World War, put into effect a totalitarian structure. FDR merely promised and did his best to revive it, while looking to Mussolini for guidance.
If you lay it all out like that with ample evidence, the case against liberal fascism looks damning. No wonder Jonah Goldberg is hated by the liberals. But they have not managed to prove him wrong and he continues to chuckle at their discomfiture.