Rich Lowry

On the other hand, the progressive movement of the early 20th century looked to Mussolini as an inspiration and shared intellectual roots with European fascism, including an appreciation of the "top-down socialism" of Otto von Bismarck. Goldberg eviscerates Woodrow Wilson as the closest we have ever had to a fascist president. Wilson and his supporters welcomed World War I as an opportunity to expand the state, instituting "war socialism" and a far-reaching crackdown on dissent.

FDR picked up where Wilson left off. The crisis of the Great Depression was the occasion for reviving "war socialism." The man who ran the National Recovery Administration was an open admirer of Mussolini, and the alphabet soup of New Deal agencies had their roots in World War I and the classic fascist impulse to mobilize society and put it on a war footing.

Goldberg sees the fascist exaltation of youth, glorification of violence, hatred of tradition and romance of "the street" in the New Left of the 1960s, still the subject of the fond memories for the liberal establishment in this country. Goldberg argues that "liberal fascism" -- the phrase was coined by H.G. Wells, and he meant it positively -- is a distant heir to European fascism. The liberal version is pacifist rather than militaristic and feminine rather than masculine in its orientation, but it also seeks to increase the power of the state and overcome tradition in sweeping crusades pursued with the moral fervor of war.

Goldberg's keen intellectual history is, at bottom, a profound cautionary tale about the perils of state aggrandizement and of revolutionary movements. If nothing else, it should convince liberals that it's time to find a new insult.


Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
 
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