Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jonah Goldberg Attacked!

George Mason University’s History News Network (HNN) (http://www.hnn.us/articles/122469.html) had a special issue in which they responded to Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism . This book claims that the left, and not as often assumed, the right, is the ideological predecessor to fascism. And while one respondent added to the website after the special issue dedicated to Liberal Fascism credits the book with some merit; all the writers included in the original HNN special issue were all from the Left and against Goldberg. Their style and bias, ironically, proves that the fascist tendencies in the Left are alive and well.

There is some debate of facts herein. The editor of the special, David Neiwert, does admit that the fascists called themselves “socialists” (hence ‘National Socialism’). But asserts that they quickly shifted to the right. There they attacked the Left and labor unions. Goldberg points out that they attacked the communists to wipe out their competition on the left and that if getting rid of unions I not “leftists , then Lenin, Stalin, Mao, were not leftists either.” Goldberg has been invited to refute the panel with an article. But Neiwert is the only person that even pretends to take Goldberg’s arguments seriously.

Several of the contributors to this issue use collusion between big business and government as proof that the fascists were of the right and not the left. They do not even air Goldberg’s argument that the left’s business regulation ties corporations to the State and strengthens them by making competing start-ups prohibitively expensive. Goldberg makes the case that big business, in fact, prefers collusion with the government to Laissez Faire policies. Indeed, FDR’s desire to meld the State and industry, the visual style of FDR’s ‘Blue Eagle” campaign, his packing of the Supreme Court, and ignoring of the tradition of two Presidential term limits, make Goldberg’s case of government regulation and fascist trappings feasible.

The second essayist, Robert Paxton says that “Liberal Fascism is an oxymoron . . . a fascism that means no harm is a contradiction in terms.” Goldberg provides great evidence to counter these claims. As left-leaning scholars like Matthew Frye Jacobson who never tire of reminding us of our imperialist moment will tell you, Teddy Roosevelt largely wanted War with Spain to strengthen the virility of our nation. Woodrow Wilson created a 250,000 person citizens’ army to spy on dissenters during World War One and outlawed free speech with his sedition laws. The violence of the 1960s Left can be ignored in these neo-hippies rewriting of history, but the Weatherman and current academic Bill Ayers helped launch our left-leaning Presidents run for office. Violence and the American Left are not incompatible.

Roger Griffin, in his HNN essay “An Academic Book - Not,” calls Goldberg’s work “an airbrushed Playboy variant of racist political pornography.” And, he says that “neo-Conservatives and Republican fundamentalists” have an “obsession with restoring Aryan purity and white supremacy.” This obscene diatribe of guilt by association proves one of Goldberg’s main contentions; the left slanders others as fascist at the drop of a hat. Mirroring the group-thing rife in HNN’s collection, Griffin says Liberal Fascism has the “anti-intellectual tenor of Bushite politics” and mentions that he has “no academic credentials.” Then he accuses Goldberg of bias for being anti-Democratic and anti-Clinton. Griffin notes that Goldberg claimed that Stalin and the left loved to call all that disagreed with them “fascist.” Then he immediately uses t-shirts apparently worn by a white supremacist musical group to again call the right “fascist.” We wonder if Griffin has ever heard of the concept of irony.

My doctoral dissertation focused on Frances Kellor, the Progressive head of the Americanization movement that greeted immigrants from 1906 to 1921. I contend that her life’s work specifically attempted to deal with the worry her fellow New Nationalist intellectuals, like Herbert Croly, had about the growth of the State undermining democracy and inaugurating a rule by centralized power. Croly called for a strong populist leader to embody the spirit of the nation and labeled his friend Theodore Roosevelt as the best living example. Randolph Bourne, a famous progressive intellectual, very famously worried that most Progressives like John Dewey thought World War I a great opportunity to centralize power.

Every one of these HNN historians know that mainstream intellectual historians like James Kloppenberg and Kevin Mattson peg the clash between rule by Progressive statist elites and democracy as the central question of the Progressive era. These historians know that Goldberg’s work fits right in with such interpretations and Liberal Fascism discusses Croly’s New Nationalism at length. The next to last author, Matthew Feldman, accuses Goldberg of being “selective of facts.” There is a strain of disingenuous propaganda within each of these HNN writers. Every serious historian knows that facts do not piece themselves together to make objective books. Historians use evidence to make arguments. But these academics, instead, feign outrage that there could be any interpretation that conflates fascist leanings and progressive thought.

The final article, by Chip Berlet, notes that Tea-Party Patriots believe “liberals are pushing America onto a slippery slope towards tyranny that begins with government social planning.” This is presented as total paranoia that no intellectual could stomach. Instead, in the final article, Berlet warns that we see “ultra-right and neofascist ideologues in the U.S. trying to organize the right-wing populist movement towards aggression and violence.” In the next and last paragraph he says we must fight such “demonization and scapegoating.” In explaining that fascism and liberalism have the same roots, Goldberg mostly looks at history. Ironically and characteristically, rather than engaging the argument and admitting some historical truth exists in Goldberg’s argument, this HNN collection ends by slandering its political opponents.

15 comments:

Lexcen said...

The notion that Fascism is left wing in orientation might at first sound a bit strange but then we only have one example of a right wing fascist state and that is the Nazi Germany. On the other hand there are many examples of left wing fascist states. The question in my mind is this, why do we think of Nazi Germany as right wing? How different was Nazi Germany to Stalin's rule?

Always On Watch said...

From this source:

"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions." --Adolf Hitler

(Speech of May 1, 1927. Quoted by Toland, 1976, p. 306)


More information at the above link.

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Culturist John said...

Vijay,

I would love to have you as a friend link. I have not updated my site for a while, and my dreamweaver keeps crashing! When I fix it, I will be sure to add your site.

BTW, I am a science nut. Your site looks great!

Thanks, John

Culturist John said...

Lex,

From my perspective the similarities overwhelm the differences between totalitarian states. Hitler had a special meglomaniacal plan with the Jews. But both centralized everything.

You seem to be labeling Nazi Germany as right wing. By what definition? He was anti tradition and for big government. Neither of those are right wing.

My article failed to convey another Goldberg criteria, the use of identity politics. If you look at who seeks the color blind society and who wants to divide by essentialized racial characteristics, the left again aligns with Hitler.

BUT, we must be careful, as Goldberg is to just say that fascism and the left are cousins. Those on the left do not want concentration camps (FDR only wanted the interment of Japanese reluctantly).

The valid point is that it is incorrect to always say that the fascists were "right wing."

Thanks again for the comments! I really appreciate them!

John

Z said...

Enjoyed hearing you today, John...and congratulations on your doctorate! GOOD GOING! z

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Lexcen said...

Dr John, to answer your question. Hitler was not only an ally of Mussolini, but was if nothing else inspired by Mussolini. Further, the Neo Nazi movements that pop up from time to time including the groups in America that are motivated by white supremacist ideologies and align themselves with Nazism are definitely right wing. Of course, when it comes down to policy and which policy is more in tune with right wing/left wing ideology I confess to being confused. For example, corporations might preach laissez faire economics while at the same time lobby governments for protection. That sort of contradiction is what I find confusing.Multi-nationals like GM operate globally but within the countries they establish satellite companies, such as Australia, their very existence depends upon government protection from imported goods that compete with their local production. With centralized government and government confiscating businesses as in Communist Russia and as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; this was not the case in Nazi Germany where businesses such as Krupp and IG Farben thrived under Nazism.

Lexcen said...

John, there's only one way to discourage spam comments and that's to delete them as soon as they appear.

Culturist John said...

Thanks Lex,

I had just sort of acquiesced on the spam front. Usually it happens to older posts. This is the first time I have seen it on a new post that I recall.

LEX,

Of course I know that Hitler was inspired by Mussolini. Is that the answer to my question "by what definition was Hitler right wing?" Goldberg points out that several Progressives openly admired Mussolini.

Yes, the white supremacist groups are right wing to the extent that they are anti-government. Goldberg would note that the Progressives, like birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger, were very pro-Eugenics. That was one of their government interventionists schemes.

But by what measure is racism "right - wing?" The left is still obsessed with race. In our nation's history Lincoln was a Republican. The democrats were perhaps at times more for civil rights. But remember George Wallace, a harsh segregationist, was a Democrat. And, recall that the Democrats controlled much of the racist South in the US.

So I deny the association that just because you are a white supremacist or racist, you are automatically "right wing." And I worry about the dangerous and common reverse statement that just because you are right wing you are racist.

I agree that the distinction between right wing and left wing on economic policy can be confusing. But by and large, I think that democrats wish to regulate corporations more. Goldberg argues that this is a pro-business stance as only the large can then navigate regs and compete. The right, here in the US, is more likely to let them be free to dominate and free to fail. But, Bush's corporate bailouts makes for confusion.

I think Goldberg's hope is that you'd also be a bit unsure when you automatically associate "right wing" or "right supremacist" with with racists. He has a good point.

Thanks for the spam tips, sorry for the slow reaction time on the posts. After I write and post I often feel a bit burned out. I have been to your website recently, ( http://gripes-of-wrath.blogspot.com )and appreciate the mentioning of culturism.

Thanks again, John

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