The Best Quotes From Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”


If you haven’t read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, I’d highly recommend it.

Although it’s not as witty as Goldberg’s columns, it’s a well researched, incredibly important book that will change the way you view fascism, Nazism, and liberalism. You’ll get a sense of that as you read these quotes…

(Liberal) logic seems to be that multiculturalism, the Peace Corps, and such are good things — things that liberals approve of — and good things can’t be fascist by simple virtue of the fact that liberals approve of them. — P.7

The major flaw in all of this is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left. This fact — an inconvenient truth if there ever was one — is obscured in our time by the equally mistaken belief that fascism and communism are opposites. In reality, they are closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents. — P.7

Before the war, fascism was widely viewed as a progressive social movement with many liberal and left-wing adherents in Europe and the United States… — P.9

Indeed, it is my argument that during World War I, America became a fascist country, albeit temporarily. The first appearance of modern totalitarianism in the Western world wasn’t in Italy or Germany but in the United States of America. How else would you describe a country where the world’s first modern propaganda ministry was established; political prisoners by the thousands were harassed, beaten, spied upon, and thrown in jail simply for expressing private opinions; the national leader accused foreigners or immigrants of injecting treasonous “poison into the American bloodstream;” newspapers and magazines were shut down for criticizing the government; nearly a hundred thousand government propaganda agents were sent out among the people to whip up support for the regime and its war; college professors imposed loyalty oaths on their colleagues; nearly a quarter-million goons were given legal authority to intimidate and beat “slackers” and dissenters; and leading artists and writers dedicated their crafts to proselytizing for the government? — P.11-12

American progressivism, from which today’s liberalism descended, was a kind of Christian fascism (many called it “Christian socialism”). This is a difficult concept for modern liberals to grasp because they are used to thinking of the progressives as the people who cleaned up the food supply, pushed through the eight hour workday, and ended child labor. But liberals often forget that the progressives were imperialists, at home and abroad. They were the authors of Prohibition, the Palmer Raids, eugenics, loyalty oaths, and, in its modern incarnation, what many call “state capitalism.” — P.15

Heinrich Himmler was a certified animal rights activist and an aggressive promoter of “natural healing.” Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, championed homeopathy and herbal remedies. Hitler and his advisers dedicated hours of their time to discussions of the need to move the entire nation to vegetarianism as a response to the unhealthiness promoted by capitalism. Dachau hosted the world’s largest alternative and organic medicine research lab and produced its own organic honey. In profound ways, the Nazi antismoking and public health drives foreshadowed today’s crusades against junk food, trans fat, and the like. A Hitler Youth manual proclaimed, “Nutrition is not a private matter!” — P.19

The introduction of a novel term like “liberal fascism” obviously requires an explanation. Many critics will undoubtedly regard it as a crass oxymoron. Actually, however, I am not the first to use the term. That honor falls to H.G. Wells, one of the greatest influences on the progressive mind in the twentieth century (and, it turns out, the inspiration for Huxley’s Brave New World). Wells didn’t coin the phrase as an indictment, but as a badge of honor. Progressives must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis,” he told the Young Liberals at Oxford in a speech in July 1932. — P.21

Finally, since we must have a working definition of fascism, here is mine: Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism. — P.23

Before Hitler, in fact, it never occurred to anyone that fascism had anything to do with anti-Semitism. — P.26

What distinguished Nazism from other brands of socialism and communism was not so much that it included more aspects from the political right (though there were some). What distinguished Nazism was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics. This was what distinguished Nazism from doctrinaire communism, and it seems hard to argue the marriage of one leftist vision to another can somehow produce right-wing progeny. If this was how the world worked, we would have to label nationalist-socialist organizations like the PLO and Cuban Communist Party right-wing. — P.73

Hitler’s hatred for communism has been opportunistically exploited to signify ideological distance, when in fact it indicated the exact opposite. Today this maneuver has settled into conventional wisdom. But what Hitler hated about Marxism and communism had almost nothing to do with those aspects of communism that we would consider relevant, such as the economic doctrine or the need to destroy capitalists and bourgeoise. In these areas Hitler largely saw eye to eye with socialists and communists. His hatred stemmed from his paranoid conviction that the people calling themselves communists were in fact in on a foreign, Jewish conspiracy. He says this over and over again in Mein Kampf. — P.75

Fascism, at its core, is the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state. “Everything in the state, nothing outside the state,” is how Mussolini defined it. Mussolini coined the word “totalitarian” to describe not a tyrannical society but a humane one in which everyone is taken care of and contributes equally. — P.80

Today, liberals remember the progressives as do-gooders who cleaned up the food supply and agitated for a more generous social welfare state and better working conditions. Fine, the progressives did that. But so did the Nazis and the Italian Fascists. And they did it for the same reasons and in loyalty to roughly the same principles. — P.81

Lord Acton’s famous observation that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has long been misunderstood. Acton was not arguing that power causes powerful leaders to become corrupt (though he probably believed that, too). Rather, he was noting that historians tend to forgive the powerful for transgressions they would never condone by the weak. — P.84

Today we unreflectively associate fascism with militarism. But it should be remembered that fascism was militaristic because militarism was “progressive” at the beginning of the twentieth century. — P.106

It’s true: under McCarthyism a few Hollywood writers who’d supported Stalin and then lied about it lost their jobs in the 1950s. Others were unfairly intimidated. But nothing that happened under the mad reign of Joe McCarthy remotely compares what (Woodrow) Wilson and his fellow progressives foisted on America. Under the espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of May 1918, any criticism of the government, even in your own home, could earn you a prison sentence (a law Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld years after the war, arguing that such speech could be banned if it posed a “clear and present danger”). In Wisconsin a state official got two and half years for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood producer received a ten-year stint in jail for making a film that depicted British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution. One man was even brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he didn’t want to buy Liberty Bonds. — P.114

For example, one will virtually never hear that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, or American eugenics were thoroughly progressive phenomena. These are sins America itself must atone for. Meanwhile, real or alleged “conservative” misdeeds — say McCarthyism — are always the exclusive fault of conservatives and a sign of the policies they would repeat if given power. The only culpable mistake that liberals make is failing to fight “hard enough” for their principles. Liberals are never responsible for historic misdeeds because they feel no compulsion to defend the inherent goodness of America. Conservatives, meanwhile, not only take the blame for events not of their own making that they often worked the most assiduously against, but find themselves defending liberal misdeeds in order to defend America herself. — P.118

The German and American New Deals may have been merely whatever Hitler and FDR felt they could get away with. But therein lies a common principle: the state should be allowed to get away with anything, so long as it is for “good reasons.” This is the common principle among fascism, Nazism, Progressivism, and what we today call liberalism. — P.131

Ever since FDR’s presidency — when “liberalism” replaced “Progressivism” as the preferred label for center-left political ideas and activism — liberals have had trouble articulating what liberalism is, beyond the conviction that the federal government should use its power to do nice things whenever and wherever it can. — P.132

In 1927 H.G. Wells couldn’t help but notice “the good there is in these Fascists. There is something brave and well-meaning about them.” By 1941 no less a figure than George Orwell couldn’t help but conclude, “Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany. — P.135

This is as good a place as any to tackle the enduring myth that (Huey) Long and (Father) Coughlin were conservatives. It is a bedrock dogma of all enlightened liberals that Father Charles Coughlin was an execrable right-winger (Long is a more complicated case, but whenever his legacy is portrayed negatively, he is characterized as right-wing; whenever he is a friend of the people, he’s a left-winger). Again and again, Coughlin is referred to as “the right-wing Radio Priest” whom supposedly insightful essayists describe as the ideological grandfather of Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and other putative extremists. But Coughlin was in no meaningful way a conservative or even a right-winger. He was a man of the left in nearly all significant respects. — P.137

That (Father) Coughlin garnered 40 million listeners in a nation of only 127 million and that his audience was largest when he was calling the New Deal “Christ’s Deal” should tell us something about the nature of FDR’s appeal and Coughlin’s. — P.145

(In 1933 members of Mussolini’s press office) issued an order: “It is not to be emphasized that Roosevelt’s policy is fascist because these comments are immediately cabled to the United States and are used by his foes to attack him. — P.148

According to a document unearthed by the Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, FDR’s staff prepared a radio address to the American Legion, the first to be delivered after his inaugural, in which FDR was to instruct the veterans that they should become his own “extra-constitutional” “private army” (Alter’s words). “A new commander-in-chief under the oath to which you are still bound,” Roosevelt’s prepared text read, “I reserve to myself the right to command you in any phase of the situation which now confronts us.” While Alter concedes this was “dictator talk — an explicit power grab” and showed that FDR or his minions contemplated forming “a makeshift force of veterans to enforce some kind of martial law,” he minimizes the importance of his own discovery. — P.151

Progressivism, liberalism, or whatever you want to call it has become an ideology of power. So long as liberals hold it, principles don’t matter. — P.158

The government cannot love you, and any politics that works on a different assumption is destined for no good. — P.159-160

It’s bizarre how many people remember the 1960s as a time of “unity” and “hope” when it was in reality a time of rampant domestic terrorism, campus tumult, assassinations, and riots. — P.171

One of the most illuminating symptoms of left-wing revolutionary movements is their tendency to blur the difference between common crime and political rebellion. The Brownshirts beat up storekeepers, shook down businessmen, and vandalized property, rationalizing all of it in the name of the “movement.” Left-wing activists still refer to the L.A. riots as an “uprising” or “rebellion.” — P.186

(Che Guevara’s) motto was “If in doubt, kill him,” and he killed a great many. — P.194

Benjamin Chavis, the future head of the NAACP, first attained national recognition when he was arrested and convicted as a member of the Wilmington Ten, a group that allegedly conspired to firebomb a grocery story and then shoot the police when they responded to the scene. — P.196

It was in the 1960s that the left convinced itself that there is something fascistic about patriotism and something perversely “patriotic” about running down America. Anti-Americanism — a stand-in for hatred of Western civilization — became the stuff of sophisticates and intellectuals as never before. Flag burners became the truest “patriots” because dissent — not just from partisan politics, but the American project itself — became the highest virtue. — P.197

After Roy Cohn, Bobby Kennedy was (Joe) McCarthy’s most valued aide. — P.207

It is worth recalling that the origins of the modern conservative movement stem from an instinctive desire to shrink the state back down to a manageable size after the war. But the Cold War changed that, forcing many conservatives to support a large national security state in order to defeat communism. This decision on the part of foreign policy hawks created a permanent schism on the American right. — P.214

Despite his flaws and unforgivable excesses, (Joseph McCarthy) accurately called attention to the fact that much of the liberal establishment had been infested with communists and communist sympathizers. For that crime he, too, was dubbed a fascist. — P.225

Liberals love populism, when it comes from the left. But whenever the people’s populist desires are at cross purposes with the agenda of the left, suddenly “reaction,” “extremism,” and of course “fascism” are loosed upon the land. Bill Clinton titled his “blueprint” for America Putting People First, but when the people rejected his agenda, we were informed that “angry white men” (read white “authoritarian personalities”) were a threat to the Republic. — P.229

In 1964 Senator Barry Goldwater was National Review’s candidate of choice rather than of compromise. Goldwater was the first Republican presidential candidate since Coolidge to break with the core assumptions of Progressivism, including what Goldwater called “me-too Republicanism.” — P.232

The most important legacy of the 1960s has to be liberal guilt. Guilt over their inability to create the Great Society. Guilt over leaving children, blacks, and the rest of the Coalition of the Oppressed “behind.” Guilt is among the most religious of emotions and has a way of devolving into a narcissistic God complex. Liberals were proud of how guilty they felt. Why? Because it confirmed liberal omnipotence. — P.237

The American right is constantly required to own the darkest chapters in the country’s history: the accommodation of segregationists, McCarthyite excesses, isolationism prior to World War 2, and so on. Rarely mentioned is the liberal side of these stories, in which the Democratic Party was the home to Jim Crow for a century; in which American liberalism was at least as isolationist as American conservatism; in which the progressive Red Scare made McCarthyism look like an Oxford Union debate; in which successive Democratic presidents ordered such things as the detention of Japanese-Americans, sweeping domestic surveillance of political enemies, and the (justified) use of horrific weapons on Japan; and in which Moscow-loyal communists “named names” of heretical Trotskyites. — P.244

In the hothouse logic of the left, those who opposed forced sterilization of the “unfit” and the poor were villains for letting a “state of nature” rule among the lower classes. — P.257

Almost all the leading progressive intellectuals interpreted Darwinian theory as a writ to “interfere” with human natural selection. Even progressives with no ostensible ties to eugenics worked closely with champions of the cause. There was simply no significant stigma against racist eugenics in progressive circles. — P.258

When modern liberals try to explain away the Klan membership of prominent Democrats — most frequently West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd — they cough up a few cliches about how good liberals “evolved” from their southern racial “conservatism.” But the Klan of the 1920s was often seen as reformist and modern, and it had a close relationship with some progressive elements in the Democratic Party. The young Harry Truman as well as the future Supreme Court justice Hugo Black were members. — P.259

Consider the infamous Tuskegee experiments, where poor black men were allegedly infected with syphilis without their knowledge and then monitored for years. …In fact, the Tuskegee experiments were approved and supported by well-meaning health professionals who saw nothing wrong or racist with playing God. As the University of Chicago’s Richard Shweder writes, the “study emerged out of a liberal progressive public health movement concerned about the health and wellbeing of the African-American population.” If racism played a part, as it undoubtedly did, it was the racism of liberals, not conservatives. But that’s not how the story is told. — P.261

Others, such as the Davis-Bacon Act, reflect the racial animus of the progressives. The act was passed in 1931 in order to prevent poor black laborers from “taking” jobs from whites. Its authors were honest about it, and it was explicitly passed for that reason; the comparatively narrow issue of cheap black labor was set against the backdrop of the vestigial progressive effort to maintain white supremacy…Today the Davis-Bacon Act is as sacred to many labor movement liberals as Roe v. Wade is feminists. Indeed, as Mickey Kaus has observed, devotion to Davis-Bacon is more intense today than it was thirty years ago, when self-described neoliberals considered it a hallmark of outdated interest-group liberalism. — P.265

The Great Society’s racial meddling — often under various other guises — yielded one setback after another. Crime soared because of the Great Society and the attitudes of which it partook. In 1960 the total number of murders was lower than it had been in 1930, 1940, and 1950 despite a population explosion. In the decade after the Great Society, the murder rate effectively doubled. Black-on-black crime soared in particular. Riots exploded on LBJ’s watch, often with the subtle encouragement of Great Society liberals who rewarded such behavior. Out-of-wedlock births among blacks skyrocketed. Economically, as Thomas Sowell has catalogued, the biggest drop in black poverty took place during the two decades before the Great Society. — P.269-270

In 1939 (Margaret) Sanger created the previously mentioned “Negro Project,” which aimed to get blacks to adopt birth control. Through the Birth Control Federation, she hired black ministers (including the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr.), doctors, and other leaders to help pare down the supposedly surplus black population. The project’s racist intent is beyond doubt. “The mass of significant Negroes,” read the project’s report, “still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes….in that portion of the population least intelligent and fit.” Sanger’s intent is shocking today, but she recognized its extreme radicalism even then. “We do not want word to go out,” she wrote to a colleague, “that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” — P.273

So forget about intent: look at results. Abortion ends more black lives than heart disease, cancer, accidents, AIDS, and violent crime combined. African-Americans constitute little more than 12 percent of the population but have more than a third (37 percent) of abortions. …Revealingly enough, roughly 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion centers are in or near minority communities. — P.277

To forgive something by saying “it’s a black thing” is philosophically no different from saying “it’s an Aryan thing.” The moral context matters a great deal. But the excuse is identical. — P.282

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was in every respect a grassroots populist party. Party leaders spouted all sorts of socialist prattle about seizing the wealth of the rich. Mein Kampf is replete with attacks on “dividend-hungry businessmen” whose “greed,” “ruthlessness,” and “short-sighted narrow-mindedness” were ruining the country. Hitler adamantly took the side of the trade union movement over “dishonorable employers.” — P.288

Upon seizing power, the radicals in the Nazi Party Labor Union threatened to put business leaders in concentration camps if they didn’t increase workers’ wages. — P.288

The fascist bargain goes something like this. The state says to the industrialist, “You may stay in business and own your factories. In the spirit of cooperation and unity, we will even guarantee you profits and a lack of serious competition. In exchange, we expect you to agree with — and help implement — our political agenda. — P.290

This is the hidden history of big business from the railroads of the nineteenth century, to the meatpacking industry under Teddy Roosevelt, to the outrageous cartel of “Big Tobacco” today: supposedly right-wing corporations work hand in glove with progressive politicians and bureaucrats in both parties to exclude small businesses, limit competition, ensure market share and prices, and generally work as government by proxy. — P.308

What seems to motivate people like (Robert) Reich is an abiding conviction that they are on the right side of history. Their aim is to help the people, and therefore they are not required to play by the rules. — P.343

At the end of the day their welfare state — based though it may have been on love, concern, and niceness — resulted in more damage to the black family and specifically to black children that much that can be laid at the feet of racist neglect. Today black children are less likely to be raised by two parents than they were during the era of slavery. — P.347

The simple fact of the matter is this: liberals are the aggressors in the culture wars. — P.360

During his rise to power Hitler — in many respects the heir of Bismarckian progressives — could hardly launch an all-out attack on Christianity. National Socialism, after all, was supposed to unite all Germans. It’s “not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death,” Hitler explained to his aides. — P.363

In 1935 mandatory prayer in (German) school was abolished, and in 1938 carols and nativity plays were banned entirely. By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether and Jacobinism reigned supreme. A Hitler Youth song rang out from the campfires:

We are the happy Hitler Youth;
We have no need for Christian virtue;
For Adolf Hitler is our intercessor
And our redeemer.
No priest, no evil one
Can keep us
From feeling like Hitler’s children.
No Christ do we follow, but Horst Wessel!
Away with incense and holy water pots.

The Nazis played the same games against Jews that today’s left plays against “Eurocentrism,” “whiteness,” and “logocentrism.” When you hear a campus radical denounce “white logic” or “male logic,” she is standing on the shoulders of a Nazi who denounced “Jewish logic” and the “Hebrew disease.” — P.368

The traditional family is the enemy of all political totalitarianisms because it is a bastion of loyalties separate from and prior to the state, which is why progressives are constantly trying to crack its outer shell. — P.377

Nazi attitudes toward homosexuality are also a source of confusion. While it is true that some homosexuals were sent to concentration camps, it is also the case that the early Nazi Party and the constellation of Pan-German organizations in its orbit were rife with homosexuals. It’s well-known, for example, that Ernst Rohm, the head of the SA and his coterie were homosexuals, and openly so. — P.378

When Charles Wuster, the chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was told that banning DDT would probably result in millions of deaths, he replied, “This is as good a way to get rid of them as any.” — P.383

The Nazis were among the first to make fighting air pollution, creating nature preserves, and pushing for sustainable forestry central plants in their platform. — P.384

A top priority of the Nazis upon attaining power was to implement a sweeping animal rights law. In August 1933 Hermann Goring barred the “unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments,” threatening to commit to concentration camps “those who still think they can treat animals an inanimate property.” — P.386

Many progressives seem to think we can transform America into a vast college campus where food, shelter, and recreation are all provided for us and the only crime is to be mean to somebody else, particularly a minority. — P.393

One of the overriding points of Liberal Fascism is that all of the totalitarian “isms” of the left commit the fallacy of the category error. They all want the state to be something it cannot be. They passionately believe the government can love you, that the state can be your God or your church or your tribe or your parent or your village or all of these things at once. Conservatives occasionally make this mistake, libertarians never do, liberals almost always do. — P.412

America is not threatened by a hard fascism the likes of which we saw during the first half of the twentieth century. This country by design and culture would break the spine of any would-be dictator almost instantly and that is one of the reasons I love her so. — P.421-422

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