Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Goldberg's Liberal Fascism Chapter One

The upshot of this chapter on Mussolini is that in the case "leftism vs. fascism" in Italy, "the distinction was hardly a difference." But socialists and fascists fought tooth-and-nail in Italy? Tell that to Leon Trotsky or my cousin Sheldon Harte, Trotsky's secretary. The ice pick in Trotsky's forehead and the bullet in my foolish cousin's back refute the inference that anyone who brutalizes a leftist is anti-leftist. Mussolini was a leftist as surely as the monster who killed Trotsky and Sheldon.

The chapter demonstrates that Mussolini never moved fascism "from left to right," even when his Fascist party lost to the socialists and he reformulated his slogans from "socialist" to "populist." If you've read the chapter, consider this bird's eye view of some of the concepts involved.

A political philosophy can have a variety of implementations. There can even be two vociferously opposed political parties that espouse the same political philosophy but advocate different implementations. Consider that the rhetorical exaggerations of the differences delivered by leaders of the opposed parties - leaders with megalomaniacal and hypnotically persuasive personalities - can propagate very distorted views of each party's position. Indeed, each party's leader is prone to aver of the other that his party is so different as to have reached the point that it doesn't espouse a genuine form of the political philosophy it is supposed to espouse. He might even announce that the opposition's philosophy is precisely opposed to his own party's philosophy. "If the Fascists don't want to implement a socialist totalitarian state using the techniques and low-level platform planks that we Socialists know are the true way to get to the goal, can't we be forgiven for suspecting that they are not socialists at all? Populism? A capitalist ruse!" You see the kinds of confusions and the tricks that were in play. It can result in ice picks and bullets in the back of "traitors" to socialism.

The confusion between philosophy and its implementation, along with the violence, fear and cult of personality that are found amongst both the fascists and the socialists of the 1920's, explain why it could be that fascism would become deeply semantically cloaked in anti-leftist garb and remain there for decades.

The fascists wanted militarism and government control of the economy for the stated purpose of achieving the socialist totalitarian goal. So did the leftists. If you can't understand this, then you can't think about what is at stake in America today between the left and conservatism.

Let's take an even more general bird's eye view of the semantic history. In one region of the terrain below we have squabbling megalomaniacs who yearn to be dictators of a socialist totalitarian state. Each loudly denounces the other as a power-hungry enemy of the working class. They oppose one another, though not philosophically. In addition, they use handy labels to distinguish themselves: "socialist left" and "fascist right," labels which seem to draw a philosophical differences where there in fact is none. In another region of the terrain, called "Liberty," we observe a philosophy according to which the individual is to rely upon himself for his welfare and to be protected from governmental (and other) infringements upon his liberty to pursue happiness as he sees fit. In Liberty there is no totalitarian project, dream of a general will, or utopian urge to consign traditional, common-sense values to the trash heap. Rather, Liberty must perpetually refute this philosophy and repel attempts by the totalitarians to subjugate Liberty. We gaze back again upon the totalitarian terrain, and we notice one of the two competitors - the one labeled "fascist right" - has died. Now, if the modus operandi of the totalitarian who remains - "socialist left" - has been to denounce anyone who opposes him as a power-hungry enemy of the working class and to distort philosophical differences beyond recognition, we should not be surprised when he denounces Liberty in this way. Why should he tell the truth, after all? It isn't in his interest. The philosophy of Liberty gets smeared, therefore, as "fascist right."

Thus does it become possible for the mind to believe that Liberty's attempt to conserve its basic philosophy is the reaction of those with "rightwing fascist" tendencies to the left's attempt to create "social justice." Mind-numbingly stupid beliefs such as this can indeed be embraced because class envy and cults of personality have hypnotic power. When a society has been semantically hoodwinked in this way and then grows wealthy, slothful, and uninterested in clinging to the values self-reliance and individualism that it has long maintained, it can slide neatly into the control of precisely the fascist state that it is so dimly sure it is being careful to avoid.

UPDATE: Goldberg explains. Also, title of post changed from "...Chapter Two" to "...Chapter One."