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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
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During this election year, we are destined to hear many words that are toxic in the way they misrepresent … Read More.

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Who Is "Fascist"?


Those who put a high value on words may recoil at the title of Jonah Goldberg's new book, "Liberal Fascism." As a result, they may refuse to read it, which will be their loss — and a major loss.

Those who value substance over words, however, will find in this book a wealth of challenging insights, backed up by thorough research and brilliant analysis.

This is the sort of book that challenges the fundamental assumptions of its time — and which, for that reason, is

likely to be shunned rather than criticized.

Because the word "fascist" is often thrown around loosely these days, as a general term of abuse, it is good that "Liberal Fascism" begins by discussing the real Fascism, introduced into Italy after the First World War by Benito Mussolini.

The Fascists were completely against individualism in general and especially against individualism in a free market economy. Their agenda included minimum wage laws, government restrictions on profit-making, progressive taxation of capital, and "rigidly secular" schools.

Unlike the Communists, the Fascists did not seek government ownership of the means of production. They just wanted the government to call the shots as to how businesses would be run.

They were for "industrial policy," long before liberals coined that phrase in the United States.

Indeed, the whole Fascist economic agenda bears a remarkable resemblance to what liberals would later advocate.

Moreover, during the 1920s "progressives" in the United States and Britain recognized the kinship of their ideas with those of Mussolini, who was widely lionized by the left.

Famed British novelist and prominent Fabian socialist H.G. Wells called for "Liberal Fascism," saying "the world is sick of parliamentary politics."

Another literary giant and Fabian socialist, George Bernard Shaw, also expressed his admiration for Mussolini — as well as for Hitler and Stalin, because they "did things," instead of just talk.

In Germany, the Nazis followed in the wake of the Italian Fascists, adding racism in general and anti-semitism in particular, neither of which was part of Fascism in Italy or in Franco's Spain.

Even the Nazi variant of Fascism found favor on the left when it was only a movement seeking power in the 1920s.

W.E.B. DuBois was so taken with the Nazi movement that he put swastikas on the cover of a magazine he edited, despite complaints from Jewish readers.

Even after Hitler achieved dictatorial power in Germany in 1933, DuBois declared that the Nazi dictatorship was "absolutely necessary in order to get the state in order."

As late as 1937 he said in a speech in Harlem that "there is today, in some respects, more democracy in Germany than there has been in years past."

In short, during the 1920s and the early 1930s, Fascism was not only looked on favorably by the left but recognized as having kindred ideas, agendas and assumptions.

Only after Hitler and Mussolini disgraced themselves, mainly by their brutal military aggressions in the 1930s, did the left distance themselves from these international pariahs.

Fascism, initially recognized as a kindred ideology of the left, has since come down to us defined as being on "the right" — indeed, as representing the farthest right, supposedly further extensions of conservatism.

If by conservatism you mean belief in free markets, limited government, and traditional morality, including religious influences, then these are all things that the Fascists opposed just as much as the left does today.

The left may say that they are not racists or anti-semites, like Hitler, but neither was Mussolini or Franco. Hitler, incidentally, got some of his racist ideology from the writings of American "progressives" in the eugenics movement.

Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" is too rich a book to be summarized in a newspaper column. Get a copy and start re-thinking the received notions about who is on "the left" and who is on "the right." It is a book for people who want to think, rather than repeat rhetoric.

To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is



3 Comments | Post Comment
All leaders are "made"--as your friend, Chuck Norris likens himself to one of those cogs--by the network of financier-industrialists who select those to front for their interests...Today, our candidates--as victims of extortion and fraud networks--offer us a choice between one crime syndicate and another....This is NOT a liberal / conservative dialectic--it is the armed, versus the unarmed, and that's all.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Cynthia Bennekaa
Thu Feb 14, 2008 9:17 AM
Are you OK, Professor? I worry, because you seem to have lost even the most tenuous link you had to reason. "Too rich a book...," indeed!!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Antonio Calabria
Fri May 18, 2012 9:26 AM
Interesting "mythbusting" treatise on what Sowell and some others assert are the links between far-left and far-right.
He makes some interesting points, assuming that they are true and not distorted half-truths, but I think the connection between the two sides' extremes can be better explained: What far-right and far-left share is called IDEOLOGICAL TOTALISM.
Ideological totalism is the moral conviction and underlying assumption that human beings and human societies FUNCTION best when directed by a set of comprehensive, rigid, unchanging ideological principles. The actual CONTENT OF the principles is less important to the ideological totalist than the commitment to absolute obedience to unchanging principle, despite the totalist's protestations to the contrary!
QUITE IRONIC and PARADOXICAL INDEED is the contemporary American "center-right"- to- far- (Christian fundamentalist) right's enchantment with the goal of imposing a THEONOMY upon American society.They insist that a theonomy is not a theocracy, a totalitarian dictatorship which imposes religious-based law and doctrine upon society, yet the theonomy supporters fail to explain that when they try to impose the theonomy and some people resist, it is THEN that the theonomists will "discover" that they HAVE TO impose a theocracy to enforce it! Surprise, surprise.
So, children, yes, it is true. We could easily have an ideologically totalistic (totalitarian) dictatorship come to power here. It could be leftist or secularist-statist in origin, OR it could be conservative Christian fundamentalist-theonomist.
PLUS, implicit in Sowell's (and Jonah Goldberg's) argumentation is that they are making a broad-based attack against the entirety of the American left, Euro-left, and a host of other ideological veins with the goal of delegitimizing ALL other political points of view than the traditionalist Christian-conservative "Americanist" one. These guys would love to have the country end up with a one-party, one-ideology political system and culture. I've even heard a few Republicans suggesting that we would be better off with a single party (GOP) America.
Watch out!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Kathy Greene
Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:26 PM
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