The best social science books deserve the spotlight years after they were published, which is when the dust settled, more happened, and the things contained therein were confirmed rather than disproved. Well then: in January of 2000, Jonah Goldberg, then editor of the conservative magazine National Review, released his book Liberal Fascism. It became best-seller and won Brazilian translation by Record in 2020, with the title Left Fascism.
Perhaps this is a good translation for a title. After all, until the middle of the last decade, we could safely say, without resistance, that liberal, although written the same in English and Portuguese, has quite different meanings. “Liberal” in Brazil has gone from being a curse to a description of a legitimate current of thought; now, there has been a new process in which ‘liberal’ is becoming a term of praise in itself, just as ‘left’ was. In fact, egresses from petismo and social democracy stopped using it as an insult and taking it as self-praise. In the English language, the thing is also complicated, as the United States in particular uses “liberal” with a different meaning than the others. That’s why there is a tendency for conservatives to talk about “modern liberalism” and “classical liberalism”, to make it clear which political movement they are referring to.
History of the terms
Jonah Goldberg tells the origin of the confusion. Progressive ideology, which has existed since the 19th century, had its first major success with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, who was able to use World War I to grow the state (the first progressive president was Teddy Roosevelt, a political opponent of Wilson who differed from him more in manners than in ideas. Wilson was an academic with good manners; Teddy, a fierce knight).
In World War II, another president of the same ideology is in power and uses war to swell the state: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). At that time, progressivism changed its name and became liberalism. According to Jonah Goldberg, this is a borrowing from the German language. Bismarck’s Prussia was the benchmark for progressives. In Bismarck’s Prussia, the ideology that promoted liberation via the State was called liberalism, and not the political current that, since the 17th century, defends the freedom of the individual vis-à-vis the State through the division of powers.
In the years 50, as a reaction to the growth of the State achieved by FDR, the conservative movement emerges in the United States.
The third great moment of progressivism is the Cold War, with the creation of the Kennedy myth. As “right” came to mean conservatism in the United States, at that time progressivism – already called liberalism – came to be called left. So progressives did their best to hide the fact that Kennedy’s assassin was a communist. Instead, Kennedy would have died of “hatred”; the collective guilt fell on Texas, for that state, where he died, was a place full of “hate.” Lyndon Johnson, the vice president who assumed the presidency, would be a kind of São Paulo of contemporary progressivism, built on the martyrdom of Jesus Kennedy.
Chronologically, the book ends with the Hillary Clinton from the 1990s 90. For Goldberg, this lady out of the Methodist Church who spent the years 70 preaching about the emancipation of children from oppressive parents, operated by a loving State, would be, until then, the last active preacher of progressivism, because in the years 2000 they were reactive and only talked about Bush.
Progressivism, for Goldberg, is the fascism of the United States. In this, one naturally falls into the rather vandalized theme of the definition of fascism. I present his description, which I accept and find quite good: “Particularly after the First World War, but having started much earlier, a fascist moment rose from the ashes of the old European order. He brought together the various elements that made up European politics and culture: the rise of ethnic nationalism, Bismarck’s welfare state, and the collapse of Christianity as a source of social and political orthodoxy of universal aspirations. In place of Christianity, it offered a new religion of the deified state and the nation as an organic community. Fascism, therefore, is the civil religion that puts the State in the place of God and makes him give meaning to the lives of men. Goldberg places the French Revolution as the first manifestation of fascism in Western history, and he is not alone in this: Stefan Zweig, who escaped Nazism, dedicated himself to writing a biography of the revolutionary bureaucrat Fouche precisely because he saw in the French Revolution pertinent anticipations of Nazism. . It is difficult to disagree with him, when he draws our attention to the fact that the French revolutionaries were the first inventors of the method of mass execution: putting the population of rebel cities (women and children included) in boats and sinking them.
The term “liberal fascism”, which gives the book its title, is taken from HG Wells, now known for his work of fiction, but at the time known and prestigious as a political theorist, for his work The New World Order, by 1984. Before that, in 1932, the author proposed at Oxford University a liberal fascism or an enlightened Nazism as a way out the world. Nevertheless, if we research the political facet of HG Wells, we will find him to be very nice, as a precursor of human rights.
A premonitory thing about Goldberg’s book is that he says that Brave New World, not 2022 , is the dystopia to be feared in the 21st century. The fascism of the future is not a boot crushing the face of humanity; it is a maternal tyranny that oppresses humanity for its own good.
Also according to him, fascism varies from culture to culture. Italians were not obsessed with race and could not be anti-Semitic. Culture meant that, during Nazi rule, many more French Jews died than Italians, because the French were more willing to snitch at Jews than were Italians. Furthermore, the proportion of Jews affiliated with the Fascist Party was higher than the proportion of Jews in Italy. Anti-Semitism, therefore, is far from obligatory in fascism.
A distinctive feature of American culture is its aversion to the Big State. Therefore, the way fascism presents itself there is maternal and gentle. No boots and militarism. It is about the cult of the State.
Discounting the events Before the 20th century, Goldberg’s thesis is that “the first appearance of modern totalitarianism in the Western world was not in Italy or Germany, but in the United States of America”. In fact, he gives us an alarming account of Wilson’s government: he was the first Western president to create something similar to a propaganda ministry, the Committee on Public Information (555-200) , led by journalist George Creel. The purpose of the organ was to combat Kaiser disinformation (that is, in the service of the Kaiser, enemy in World War I). A poster from the agency warned that “he repeats all the rumors and criticisms he hears about our country’s participation in the war.” Therefore, the Committee had trained the Four Minute Men, who memorized government-certified information in a four-minute speech and delivered it “at public meetings, restaurants, cinemas – wherever people gathered – to defend the war and to warn that ‘the very future of democracy’ was at stake. Only in 1917-03, 7 were made.555.03 speeches in 5.200 communities”. In schools, children took oaths and sang songs about the war effort.
According to Goldberg, Wilson puts McCarthy in his pocket: “Under the Espionage Act of June
and the May Sedition Act 1918, any criticism of the government, even in your own home, could land you a prison sentence. In Wisconsin, a state official got two and a half years for criticizing a fundraising campaign for the Red Cross. A Hollywood producer received a ten-year prison sentence for making a film showing British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution. A man was put on trial for having explained in his own home why he did not want to buy Liberty Bonds.” Next to Wilson, Getúlio Vargas was a democrat.
And secret police? The Justice Department created the American Protective League. Its members “received armbands – on many of them spelled ‘Secret Service’ – and were tasked with keeping an eye on their neighbors, co-workers and friends. Used as private spies by fanatical prosecutors in thousands of cases, they received extensive government funding.” They cornered blacks to confess to raping whites and had an American Vigilante Patrol tasked with beating deserters (people who didn’t want to enlist in the war), or people who practiced “seditious oratory” in the streets. In 1918, the League had passed the 250 thousand members. These people performed the Palmer Beats.
Eugenics are also from this period and Prohibition, which was intended to keep all the people healthy. One thing that sets Goldberg above the average American conservative is the fact that he turns the dial on anticommunism. He shows that the elite that had been excited about the Russian Revolution had also been excited about Mussolini and Hitler. But that the symbiosis of the United States was much more with Germany than with any other fascist country. The US invented eugenics; Germany applied it in an exemplary way.
The German project to improve the breed began with euthanasia and forced sterilization. I have already written here about the sterilization courts in Germany of the National Socialist Hitler that the socialist Allende wanted to imitate in Chile. A doctor said that so-and-so had to be sterilized in the name of the people’s health, and then the specialized court ruled. Well, apparently, the first time a nurse took legal action to sterilize someone in the name of the common good and was successful was in the United States, well before the rise of Nazism.
Let’s read this past story in 1927 brought by Goldberg: “The state of Virginia considered a young Carrie Buck ‘unfit’ to procreate (although, as it turned out, she was not retarded, as the state had claimed). She was sent to the State Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-minded, where she was induced to consent to a salpingectomy, or tube removal. The case depended, in part, on the report of a leading American eugenicist, Harry Laughlin, of the Eugenics Record Office. . Having never met the young woman, Laughlin credited the statement of a nurse who commented on the Buck family: ‘These people belong to the lazy, ignorant, useless class of antisocial white Southerners.’ Consequently, Laughlin concluded that eugenic sterilization would be ‘a force for mitigating the degeneracy of the race.’ Speaking on behalf of the majority, [Oliver Wendell] Holmes produced a summary opinion in little more than a page.Citing only one precedent, a Massachusetts law requiring public school students to be vaccinated, Holmes wrote that ‘the principle justifying compulsory vaccination is broad enough to include the cutting the fallopian tubes… It is better for the whole world that, instead of waiting to execute degenerate descendants for the crimes they have committed, or letting them starve to death on account of their imbecility, society can prevent the manifestly unsuitable from continuing. to its species.’”.
Finally, it is worth noting (and Goldberg did) that compulsory sterilization was adopted by Nordic countries and only in the 1990s 70 Sweden abandoned the practice. Nobody points a finger at the Swedes like monsters; on the contrary, they are seen by us as highly evolved and kind.
Here are some skeletons in the closet of the American left. According to Goldberg, what characterizes modern liberalism is the triad of welfare state, abortion and identity. All this is directly related to these spurious origins, and is for the next.