Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Liberal Fascism Chapter Three

I've given my definition of "fascism" (totalitarianism with cult of personality) a couple of posts below. I would also say that fascism has a vision:

We're all marching off to create a radically new society in which the maladies of human society are wiped away, the worker is not deprived of his wealth by capitalists, and everyone fulfills himself in a collective that is designed by men of action and innovation who intuitively know the will of the people. Anyone who stands in the way will be eliminated or forced to bend his will to this project.

The rest is details. There are socialist, militarist, pacifist, and bureaucratic varieties, there are varieties in which the state and big business act as partners, and there are varieties in which the state owns all business. There are fascist police states that brutalize deviation of thought and individuality of action, and there are states that use a more subtle way of compelling compliance of will by hypnosis or causing their people gradually to become slothful and dependent upon the state. There are fascist states that eliminate intellectuals and ones that elevate them. There can be "top-down" fascist states spearheaded by and elite, and there could conceivably be "bottom-up" decentralized ones in which every man is a bully.

It is best not to get lost in the details, but much to the chagrin of the reader, Goldberg's Chapter Three reveals the terrible truths about Woodrow Wilson, "the twentieth century's first fascist dictator." There is no point in retelling them here. They constitute one of the darkest stories in our history. Instead, I'll note that Michael Ledeen has laid out quite a few objections to Liberal Fascism, and in particular, he objects to Goldberg's characterization of Wilson.

Ledeen argues that Wilson was not a fascist because he was not a one-party dictator. However, Mussolini was a fascist leader at times when he was not a one-party dictator. And I don't see any contradiction between "there are two parties in the state" and the vision and definition of fascism that I have offered. There may be some practical reason perceived by the fascists for the need of two parties. Perhaps there is a labor party and an intelligentsia party, or a military party and a labor party. The Ledeen article, while instructive, is composed of non sequiturs to the effect that since X lacked detail #472, he wasn't a fascist or wasn't a leftist, or since Y lacked detail #83 he wasn't a fascist. What is so obvious is that X and Y share the vision and the definition of fascism.

Ledeen is like the ichthyologist who has forgotten that what he is studying is fish and not an irreducible plurality of carp, haddock, herring, etc. Goldberg has claimed that Mussolini, Hitler, and Wilson were all fish. Ledeen points out that they were demonstrably different kinds of fish in unobvious ways, thereby missing the obvious.

UPDATE: Yikes. Richard Jansen, in a comment on Ledeen's post, recites quite a few Nazi socialist platform planks, concluding quite judiciously:

Of course other elements were involved: ein folk, ein Reich, ein fuhrer, but socialism was strongly in the mix.

It is unfortunate that Ledeen responds in this way:

Racism is the core of Nazism, these economic/social "principles" are epiphenomena. I don't know a serious scholar of Nazism who thinks otherwise, frankly, except the Holocaust deniers, who are 'serious' in a sick way.

That's sophistry. First, the claim that Nazism was socialist does not entail holocaust denial. It appears to me that Ledeen has at least obliquely associated Jansen with holocaust denial. Second, it is impossible to be epiphenomenally socialist and yet not socialist. Perhaps Ledeen meant that the socialism was "not essential." But what would count as evidence that Nazi socialism was not an essential part of Nazism? What sort of thing is a Nazism that doesn't champion the socialist platform Jansen recites? Who knows. But we have a term, "genocidal anti-semite," and we shouldn't confuse it with "Nazism." In any event, Ledeen offers no substance. He should rethink his reply and emend it. It's unworthy of him, to put it mildly.

UPDATE: Goldberg has more. Welcome NRO readers!