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Definitions and Double Standards

First, I'd like to thank HNN for paying me the compliment of all this attention.  Not many authors draw this much firepower at all, much less two years after publication.  I’m not sure what prompted the decision to tackle my book now, but I think it’s a sign of its impact that such eminent scholars as Robert Paxton and Roger Griffin feel the need to crush it (that Dave Neiwert and Chip Berlet attack it is hardly surprising and much less interesting).  I suspect that one reason for this discussion is that the book is starting to catch on in academia itself.  Every few weeks or so, I get an email from another professor letting me know that they will be using part or all of the book in their classes.  By no means do they agree with all of it, but they treat it respectfully and have very interesting thoughts on one aspect or another of Liberal Fascism.  It seems that in some circles this will simply not do and so we have a new round of attacks.

What’s that old saying?  “If you’re catching flak, you must be over the target.”

Let me say up front that selecting David Neiwert to “introduce” the discussion – without telling me in advance –  is pretty strong evidence that this symposium was intended a priori to discredit the book  rather than honestly discuss it (usually, introducers at least pretend to be evenhanded).  The slanderous and absurd bile in some of these initial responses – comparing my book to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and me to a Nazi propagandist  –  runs completely counter to the spirit of open debate.  I would like to think that HNN didn’t know what it was getting into when it started this project.

So forgive me if I take all of this gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth over the polemical – as opposed to scholarly – nature of Liberal Fascism with a grain of salt.  Neiwert and Bertlet are deeply invested in their cottage industry of spotting fascism and Nazism in the Republican Party, talk radio and elsewhere.  In nearly every respect they are both caricature and embodiment of precisely the mindset I attack in my book (a mindset Professor Paxton claims doesn’t exist).  Heaven forbid I adopt a Marxist mode of analysis, but it’s fair to say that for them to treat Liberal Fascism respectfully would be like a Luddite welcoming the cotton mill.  I’ve dealt with Neiwert’s arguments before, so I won’t waste more time on him here.

On Definitions and Terms

Instead, let me make a general point in response to all of my hostile reviewers. They deeply misunderstand Liberal Fascism to one extent or another (by the way, I’ve addressed similar attacks before and all of the contributors would have been well served to have taken a look at my responses here and here).

They are furious at the way I define fascism. They are appalled by my selection of what I consider to be the relevant facts. They are aghast by the stories I leave out. But their examples for the most part amount to thin gruel.  The vast majority of their corrections could have easily been acknowledged in my book (and often were!) without changing its overall argument one bit.  Meanwhile, in their anger, they fail to deal with most of the major arguments of my book.  Their silences are more significant that their sound and fury.

Indeed, the rage over all of my book’s footnotes and scholarly citations is at times bizarre.  Griffin writes that Liberal Fascism “[i]s a work of sustained pseudo-historical calumny and defamation disguised under the (constantly slipping) carnival mask of an ‘alternative history’.” “The journalist Goldberg,” fumes Griffin, is akin to Nazi propagandists and the Holocaust denier David Irving.  So much for the idea that liberals don’t argue ad Hitlerum. “Given this situation,” Griffin hyperventilates, “it is pointless to expend more than a few ergs of serious scholarly energy on refuting the legion distortions, calumnies, and lies ― both historiographical and definitional ― that pullulate in the pages of Goldberg’s book.” 

By all means conserve your ergs.  But Griffin, et al., seem to be arguing that by offering all of these footnotes and quotations I’m deceiving the reader.  Griffin’s hilarious rhetorical overreach notwithstanding, if you read closely and with a cool head, his and his colleagues objections ultimately boil down to the fact that they don’t like the way I define my terms.  That’s fine.  But would it be better if I didn’t define my terms?  Would it be better if I didn’t provide sources? 

Griffin notes that “[Herbert] Marcuse accused liberal society of being totalitarian but at least this was based on a consistent Marxist critique of capitalism.”  Can’t I be consistent on my own terms or is consistency a defense only for Marxists?  I define Leftism in a way that places the National Socialists of Germany on the Left.  Why?  Well, one reason is they were socialists. Another is that they were cultural radicals who wanted to overthrow, among other things, traditional religion and custom.

For those who don’t know:  I contend that in America (unlike Europe in important respects) “the right” is defined by two pillars:  religious and cultural traditionalism on the one side and classical liberalism or economic libertarianism on the other.  We can get hung up on the labels, but it is fair to say that people who are very culturally conservative are usually identified as “right-wing” and those who are very libertarian on economic matters are dubbed right-wing as well.  Modern conservatives, for the most part, adhere to the “fusionist” school which tries to marry both traditionalism and laissez-faire in one coherent vision.  Meanwhile, the Nazis – and, to a lesser extent, the Italian Fascists – rejected both of these worldviews while embracing statism.  In my book (literally and figuratively) that puts you on the left.  To date no one has successfully rebutted this argument.

Though Professor Feldman tries – and fails. He begins by quoting Mussolini’s The Doctrine of Fascism from 1932 as if it is definitive of fascism.  He of course knows, but fails to say, that Mussolini was constantly changing his definitions of fascism and by 1932 was desperate to reboot the now decade-old “movement.”  But even so, even if Mussolini’s statement that Fascism stands opposed to liberalism were correct, I’m still right and Feldman is still wrong.  Mussolini makes it very, very clear in The Doctrine of Fascism that the “liberalism” he is speaking of is individualistic, free-market, democratic “classical liberalism” (Mussolini’s term).  Contemporary liberalism – the liberalism in Liberal Fascism – is not that.  It is progressivism by another name.  The classical liberalism Mussolini (and the American Progressives, the Fabian Socialists et al) sought to bury is now called “libertarianism” in America.  And in America, this kind of libertarianism is a right-wing phenomenon.

Meanwhile, others respond that in Germany Hitler was called a “right-winger,” as if that was dispositive.  So what?  Bukharin was a “right-winger” according to Stalin.  Indeed, he was killed for his “right deviationism.”  Does that mean we must call Bukharin a right-winger in the American context?

The Point of Liberal Fascism

Michael Ledeen, who has serious disagreements with my book, is nonetheless basically right. Liberal Fascism is “a work of political theory, not a history.”  My historical analysis was always intended to illustrate and illuminate my theoretical argument.  I have said many times that one of my biggest mistakes in the book was opting to “show” too much while “telling” too little.  I think this is particularly true in the second half of the book.  Some of the confusion it has generated is surely my fault; but the hysterical reaction of many critics is less a product of misunderstanding than the result of the baggage they bring to the book, professional wagon-circling and rank partisanship.  I’m not going to dilate on this point too long.  But I think contemporary liberals and leftists have grown so comfortable in their self-anointed role as arbiters of fascism in particular and political evil in general, that my book elicits a certain panic for those whose thinking is propped up by ideological clichés.  For the professional historians, it’s hard not to detect a bit of a guild mentality behind some of the (hopefully) canned outrage.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that my basic argument is hardly as new or radical as many of my detractors pretend.  Albert Jay Nock, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Eric Voegelin, Friedrich Hayek, Paul Johnson, and A. James Gregor have made many similar arguments, dating back decades.  The intellectuals around Dwight MacDonald were discussing these issues in similar terms as well.  That my argument is more controversial today than it was two generations ago is interesting, but it’s no more than that.  Indeed, some of my critics might wish to revisit the works of such contemporary scholars as Gregor, Michael Burleigh, Sheri Berman, Wolfgang Schivelbusch, and David Cieply.

More to the point, the idea that one should uncritically genuflect to the “consensus” of historians is just silly.  The consensus of experts always deserves attention, but it does not deserve blind loyalty.  The consensus among historians (and all experts really) has been wrong so many times, we need not dwell on that point.  Where I find the consensus from historians most useful is in the realm of facts.  When a sufficient number of serious historians say X happened, I generally take their word for it (indeed, Professor Paxton backhandedly concedes that I get my facts right).  But when the historians say X happened because of Y or you must understand X in this—and only this—way, I am less deferential.  I suspect this lack of deference is one of the things that has put Professor Griffin off his feed.

Paxton vs. My Scholarship

For reasons of length and the repetition of so much of the criticism, I think I should concentrate my fire.  And since Robert Paxton—the most respectable of my attackers—is the only one who offers an argument approaching something like scholarly sobriety, let me concentrate on his broadsides.  I will try to take them more or less as they come, though he doesn’t make that easy, since he repeats and contradicts himself in odd ways.  At the end I will deal with his factual errors and misstatements.

Professor Paxton begins by noting that I have long been vexed by ad Hitlerum arguments from the left.  That this was part of my motivation is hardly a secret, I admit it in the book (again, would it have been better had I kept it a secret?).  Would that professional historians were more honest about that their motives.  I fail to see how my honesty should be a strike against me, never mind how it proves that I am taking liberties out of some sense of victimhood.

His first substantive and “bottom line” charge:

The bottom line is that Goldberg wants to attach a defaming epithet to liberals and the left, to “put the brown shirt on [your] opponents,” as he accuses the liberals of doing….  The reader perceives at once that Goldberg likes to put things into rigid boxes:  right and left, conservative and liberal, fascist and non-fascist.  He doesn’t leave room for such complexities as convergences, middle grounds, or evolution over time.

Except, as anyone who has read my book knows, I insist (sincerely, I assure you!) countless times this is not my intent.  But don’t take my word for it, take Professor Paxton’s.  Later in his own critique, he notes that I distinguish “liberal fascism” from “classical fascism” (i.e. Nazism and Italian Fascism).  In fact, I define liberal fascism very differently than classical fascism and note over and over that liberal fascism evolved to shed militarism and the genocidal racism of Nazism (just as I acknowledge that liberalism has shed its fondness for the hard eugenics of the Progressives).  If only Dr. Paxton could “leave room for such complexities as convergences, middle grounds or evolution over time” when reading the plain text of my book.

Ah, but “liberal fascism” is a gobbledygook word according to Paxton: 

Liberal Fascism is an oxymoron, of course.  A fascism that means no harm is a contradiction in terms.  Authentic fascists intend to harm those whom they define as the nation’s internal and external enemies.  Someone who doesn’t intend to harm his or her enemies, and who doesn’t relish doing it violently, isn’t really fascist. 

Here we are getting closer to the rub.  Robert Paxton wants to talk about the anatomy of fascism and he has opted to emphasize harm as its defining characteristic (a claim not universally accepted, by the way).  I find this understandable but not entirely persuasive.  I find it much more obvious that the justification, indeed exaltation, of violence is not a specifically fascist attribute but is characteristic of nearly all revolutionary movements.  Surely “harm” is a major component of Stalinism, Maoism, Pol Potism and Jacobinism.

Moreover, it would be nice if Professor Paxton could at least nod to the fact that I am not the first person to use the phrase “Liberal Fascism”—that was the impeccably socialist H.G. Wells—or acknowledge the fact that the title of my book was intended to have at least some attention-grabbing irony to it.

I’m skipping ahead for a moment because it’s relevant to this discussion.  Paxton writes:

Once in power, the two fascist chieftains worked out a fruitful if sometimes contentious relationship with business.  German business had been, as Goldberg correctly notes, distrustful of the early Hitler’s populist rhetoric.  Hitler was certainly not their first choice as head of state, and many of them preferred a trading economy to an autarkic one.  Given their real-life options in 1933, however, the Nazi regulated economy seemed a lesser evil than the economic depression and worker intransigence they had known under Weimar.  They were delighted with Hitler’s abolition of independent labor unions and the right to strike (unmentioned by Goldberg), and profited greatly from his rearmament drive.  All of them would have found ludicrous the notion that the Nazis, once in power, were on the left.  So would the socialist and communist leaders who were the first inhabitants of the Nazi concentration camps (unmentioned by Goldberg). 

Here we go again.  Since my book has come out, I’ve come to learn that the plight of independent labor unions under Nazism is of abiding importance to understanding Nazism.  It has come up in reviews and debates many times.  If I understand the argument, it goes something like this. Nazis “crushed” labor unions (the Nazis actually saw themselves as folding labor into the government, giving it a “seat at the table” as it were) and sent labor and other socialist activists to concentration camps.  Hence, proof of the “rightwingness” of Nazism.

I find this argument bizarre.  First of all, how did independent labor unions do under Stalin? Under Castro? Under Mao?  Are those regimes not left-wing?  Hitler sent Communists and rival socialists to concentration camps.  This was evil, to be sure, but how was it right-wing? Stalin liquidated the Trotskyites (and 31 other flavors of socialists) too.  Why is killing rival Communists and socialists right-wing when Hitler does it and not when Stalin does it?  If your answer is that Stalin was somehow “right-wing” when he did these things, then your definition of right-wing is simply “evil”—and that validates a big chunk of my book.

Now, Professors Paxton and Griffin might respond—with some merit—that they don’t consider fascism “right-wing.”  It’s “neither right nor left” as the famous saying goes.  That is a fine and respectable argument for them to make. But not only do I disagree with them (I think fascism – a “heresy of socialism” in Richard Pipes’ words – is left-wing), so do the vast majority of liberals who insist – and have insisted for generations –  that fascism is right-wing.  Curiously, this sixty-odd-year-old refrain from the left doesn’t seem to prompt stern letters and essays from the “neither-nor” school.  

Moving on, Paxton writes:

Fascism is given an equally broad definition:  it is any use of state power to make the world better and to create a community.  This is not only too vague to mean much, it is simply wrong.  Authentic fascists have never wanted to make the whole world better.  As uncompromising nationalists, they want to make their own group stronger, purer, and more unified, and establish its domination over inferior groups, by force if necessary.  Goldberg’s real target is state activism, and matters would be much clearer if he had just left it at that.

Put aside that this is not how I define fascism, I agree that “authentic fascists have never wanted to make the whole world better.”

Which is why I never say they did.  Again, Professor Paxton is the one using rigid boxes, not me.  He’s already noted that I distinguish liberal fascism from classical or authentic fascism, but whenever this causes him trouble he ignores the distinction to suit his rhetorical purposes.  Just in case, here are just a few instances where I make this distinction.

Less than a full page into my book I write:

If fascism does come to America, it will indeed take the form of “smiley-face fascism”—nice fascism.  In fact, in many respects fascism not only is here but has been here for nearly a century.  For what we call liberalism—the refurbished edifice of American Progressivism—is in fact a descendant and manifestation of fascism.  This doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as Nazism.  Nor is it the twin of Italian Fascism.  But Progressivism was a sister movement of fascism, and today’s liberalism is the daughter of Progressivism.  One could strain the comparison and say that today’s liberalism is the well-intentioned niece of European fascism.  She is hardly identical to her uglier relations, but she nonetheless carries an embarrassing family resemblance that few will admit to recognizing.

On page 8-9:

Now, I am not saying that all liberals are fascists.  Nor am I saying that to believe in socialized medicine or smoking bans is evidence that you are a crypto-Nazi. What I am mainly trying to do is to dismantle the granitelike assumption in our political culture that American conservatism is an offshoot or cousin of fascism. Rather, as I will try to show, many of the ideas and impulses that inform what we call liberalism come to us through an intellectual tradition that led directly to fascism.  These ideas were embraced by fascism,  and remain in important respects fascistic.

On page 16 I write:

I would not dream of saying that today’s liberals are genocidal or vicious in their racial attitudes the way Nazis were.

On page 22: 

Today’s liberalism doesn’t seek to conquer the world by force of arms.  It is not a nationalist and genocidal project.  To the contrary, it is an ideology of good intentions.  But we all know where even the best of intentions can take us.  I have not written a book about how all liberals are Nazis or fascists.  Rather, I have tried to write a book warning that even the best of us are susceptible to the totalitarian temptation.

Dr. Paxton is of course free to disagree with this assessment, but intellectual honesty would seem to require he simply acknowledge it.

Is it wrong or beyond the pale for me to argue that today’s liberals have inherited progressive notions that have much commonality with fascism?  Look, Bolshevism can fairly be called a variant of Marxism and so can democratic socialism, right?  I would not accuse democratic socialists of being would-be mass-murderers (like the Bolsheviks) but I should be able to argue that they share a certain Marxist lineage with Bolsheviks.  Meanwhile, Paxton is shocklingly—and encouragingly—silent in response to my argument that Progressivism in America had much in common with fascist currents in Europe, save for his grudging acknowledgment of Progressive eugenics.  Just for the record, I would have loved to have heard his thoughts – no matter how critical –  on the links between Italian and American Pragmatists, an area ripe for further investigation by scholars of fascism.

Paxton also writes:

Having headlined the violent history of “liberalism,” Goldberg soft-pedals that of fascists, especially Mussolini.  There are the ritual references to Auschwitz, but he denies that racial extermination is integral to Nazism by noting how many Progressive reformers fell for Eugenics in the early twentieth century. 

This is simply untrue, and terribly unfair.  I do not deny that “racial extermination is integral to Nazism by noting how many Progressive reformers fell for Eugenics.”  In fact, I concede over and over that racial extermination is integral to Nazism.  I do not claim, however, that it is unique to Nazism because it isn’t. If Dr. Paxton would like to argue otherwise, I’m all ears.

Similarly, I deny that racial extermination is integral to fascism because it isn’t.  As a group, the Italian Fascists, as Paxton well knows, did not embrace racial extermination, even under intense pressure from the Nazis.  They eventually adopted some Nurembergesque laws (again under intense pressure from the Nazis), and they embraced colonialism and many other sins, committing war crimes in Abyssinia, but they were not driven by or exponents of genocidal racism.  Rabid nationalists?  Si.  Bigots?  Forse.  Genocidal racists?  E no.  Since the doctrine and term Fascism were born in Italy, not Germany, I think this is highly relevant.  That is why I try to clarify the issue by speaking of “Hitlerism” when speaking of the Nazis’ genocidal racism. 

Rather than acknowledge any of this, Dr. Paxton opts to muddy important distinctions, while denouncing me for my alleged failure to make them.

Onto Liberalism

With fascism reclaimed, Paxton moves on to defend the term liberalism.

Several times, he criticizes me for painting with too broad a brush when discussing liberals and how they think.  Obviously, there’s some merit to the complaint. But there is merit to all such complaints about books even remotely similar to mine.  No doubt Chris Hedges speaks too sweepingly of how “conservatives” think and the “conservative mind” in his book American Fascists.  Ditto Naomi Klein, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Naomi Wolf, Robert Reich and virtually every journalist, pundit, intellectual and—yes—scholar when writing for a broad audience about contemporary politics  (if you don’t believe me, I once again refer readers to the oeuvres of Messrs. Neiwert and Bertlet).  I think it’s safe to say that my book is better sourced, footnoted and backed up with examples than the vast majority of such books.

If Professor Paxton wants to stroll past the evidence and assert I am creating a strawman out of contemporary liberals, that’s his right.  But does he really want to claim that liberals and leftists don’t routinely argue that the further away you get from them the closer you get to fascism?  This was accepted either as a doctrinal truth by Marxists like Adorno and Horkheimer or as an ill-defined sentiment by liberals like Richard Hofstadter and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.  It is a regular theme running through progressive journalism and campus activism.  In mainstream politics, advocates of limited government—in economics and race relations—have been dubbed fascists for half a century.  Harry Truman insisted that Thomas Dewey was the front man of a Hitlerian plot.  Barry Goldwater was derided as a fascist by LBJ and the liberal commentariat, and Reagan of course was routinely dubbed a fascist.  When Newt Gingrich introduced the Contract with America, Rep. Charlie Rangel exclaimed “Hitler wasn’t even talking about doing these things.”  Which is true enough.  And let us not even start with George W. Bush.  It’s fine to scorn me for taking too much offense at such things, it is another to insinuate that I’m imagining it, particularly when two of the contributors—Messrs. Neiwert and Bertlet—make their living from precisely the practice Professor Paxton claims do not exist.

Professor Paxton also thinks it’s terribly unfair for me to associate contemporary liberals with leftist radicals in the 1960s.  This just comes across as sour grapes.  The fact that Hillary Clinton did have ties to, and sympathies for, radicals is surely relevant.  If Mussolini studied St. Francis of Assisi as dutifully as Hillary Clinton studied Saul Alinsky, I’d wager that professor Paxton would find it interesting and important.  But about Mrs. Clinton, such investigations are beyond the pale.  Likewise, if a Republican had a relationship with David Duke or Lyndon LaRouche remotely similar to President Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers or Rev. Jeremiah Wright, one can only imagine how much the Neiwerts and Bertlets would bang their spoons on their highchairs.  Professor Paxton makes no effort to explain why these linkages are irrelevant and silly, he just says they are.

The Business of Fascism

Let’s move on to the discussion of big business under fascism.  Paxton says that big business ultimately took over big parts of the government under Italian Fascism.  He’s right.  Something similar happened under the New Deal and under Woodrow Wilson, a point none of my critics rebuts or takes much interest in.  He suggests that labor was locked out of the system in Italy more than I let on.  I’m happy to concede that point.  As for big business having outsized influence in Fascist Italy, anyone who read my chapter on fascist economics in good faith wouldn’t expect me to be surprised that “regulatory capture” can happen in Italy too.  

Paxton writes:

Goldberg hijacks scholarly work and applies it in misleading ways for his own purposes.  Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., showed conclusively that German businessmen were often skeptical of Hitler in the early days.  Since they gave money to all non-Socialist parties, the small amounts they gave the Nazis prove nothing.  But Turner’s book stops in January 1933.  Goldberg extends Turner’s conclusions misleadingly into the later period, ignoring the way German businessmen adjusted to the new situation. 

Uh, no.  I apply Turner’s conclusions accurately to what happened after 1933.  One of my central points about big business—in Germany and in America—is that it is opportunistic and pragmatic with no real devotion to free-market principles.  I am at a loss as to why I am correct for invoking Turner on this point to demonstrate how German businessmen behaved prior to 1933 but “misleading” when I argue that big business remained opportunistic and pragmatic after 1933.  Professor Paxton certainly agrees with me that big business was pragmatic and opportunistic after 1933, he just wants to make it sound like he doesn’t.

Then Paxton writes:

David Schoenbaum meant his title Hitler’s Social Revolution ironically: Hitler recruited all the losers in Germany’s 1920s crises, and then betrayed them by following policies favorable to big business and big agriculture after January 1933.  Goldberg appropriates this book’s first half misleadingly to support his fantastical conclusion that Hitler was always “a man of the left.”

I cite Schoenbaum—accurately—on how the Nazis appealed to the masses to gain power.  Dr. Paxton’s own excellent book The Anatomy of Fascism focuses on the differences between fascists in power and fascists out of power.  I have no objection to the argument that Nazi economics were in fact bad for poor and working class Germans and friendly to (some) big business.  In fact, I make that argument in explicit detail.  What I object to is the idea that this makes Nazi economics right-wing or free-market.  Out of power, the Nazis insisted they were socialists.  In power, they made pragmatic concessions with reality, specifically the needs of the war machine, and “betrayed” the masses.  But they nonetheless moved Germany in a socialist and statist direction.  Indeed, Michael Mann—no friend of my book—concedes in his book that had the Third Reich lasted much longer it’s doubtful it could be described as “capitalist” at all.

It’s also a bit ironic, given that as we speak, the Obama Administration has found itself in a mess as it has been very friendly to big business while (allegedly) giving the shaft to labor unions.  Indeed, it has bailed out the banks, it owns two of the three auto companies (along with labor—which has a seat at the table) and has done precious little to tangibly help the poor and working class.  Does that make the President right-wing in any meaningful sense in the American political spectrum?  Maybe in some faculty lounges and faux-revolutionary-cell dorm rooms, but not in the real world.

Your Scholarly Powers Are Weak…

Paxton tries to end the rhetorical light show by drubbing me with all of my supposed errors of judgment and scholarship or by insinuating that I’m taking liberties with the facts.  I’ll take them in rough order, starting with the insinuations.

This book is stuffed with references to scholarly work that make it look authoritative.  But when something really surprising comes along, we look in vain for a footnote. 

Did Hitler really write a fan letter to that Jew-loving plutocrat FDR in 1935? No footnote. 

He did (it was technically a cable), and there is a footnote.

The cable in question is footnoted at the end of the paragraph in which it is mentioned. Footnote 38 sends the reader to John A. Garraty’s famous article “New Deal, National Socialism, and the Great Depression,” in which Garraty writes:

At the end of Roosevelt's first year in office Hitler sent him a message through diplomatic channels offering sincere congratulations for "his heroic efforts in the interests of the American people. The President's successful battle against economic distress is being followed by the entire German people with interest and admiration," Hitler announced.

Paxton goes on:

How do we know that the New Dealer Hugh Johnson read Fascist tracts, and for what purpose (p.  156)?

We know it because lots and lots of historians have written about it. Hugh Johnson’s fondness for fascism has been documented in countless works (many cited by me), including John Patrick Diggins justly respected Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America as well as Johnson’s own autobiography.  It also appears in Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s excellent work (which covers some of the same ground) The Three New Deals.  The sentence Dr. Paxton points to does lack a footnote, but these sources and Johnson’s relationship to fascism are frequently cited and sourced throughout the larger discussion.

I’m curious:  is Paxton really suggesting he didn’t know about Johnson’s affinity for Italian Fascism, or is he suggesting that I’m making something up that he in fact knows to be true?  If the former is the case, I beg his pardon for presuming his familiarity with current scholarship and the historical consensus.  If the latter, I await his apology.

And that FDR put a hundred thousand American citizens into camps (p.  160)?  Does he mean that C.C.C.?

When I say that FDR put 100,000 people in camps, I am referring to the Japanese-American internees.  I’m sorry I wasn’t clear enough (not all of the 100,000-120,000 people FDR interned were citizens).  Still, I’m more than a little shocked that Professor Paxton couldn’t figure out what I was talking about.

In what sense was “deconstruction” a Nazi coinage (p.  173)?  Goldberg probably means Heidegger, but he wants us to think Goebbels. 

When I say on page 173 that the philosophical term “deconstruction” was coined by Nazis I mean that the term “deconstruction” was coined by Nazis.  As I write on page 16:

The historian Anne Harrington observes that the “key words of the vocabulary of postmodernism (deconstructionism, logocentrism) actually had their origins in antiscience tracts written by Nazi and protofascist writers like Ernst Krieck and Ludwig Klages.”  The first appearance of the word Dekonstrucktion was in a Nazi psychiatry journal edited by Hermann Göring’s cousin.

Paxton continues:

Exactly where and when did Al Gore say that global warming is the equivalent of the Holocaust, and what were his actual words (p.  314)?  

In his book Earth in the Balance, Al Gore employs several extended Nazi/Holocaust metaphors and analogies.  He writes that “today the evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of glass shattering in Berlin.”  He repeatedly refers to the unfolding “ecological holocaust” and invokes Martin Niemoller’s famous quote (“When the Nazis came for the Communists, I remained silent; I was not a Communist. ... When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; I was not a Jew. ...”) to label himself and other environmentalists “the new resistance.”

The list of bombshell remarks smuggled into this text without any reference to a credible source could go on and on. 

Since the “bombshell remarks” Professor Paxton thought were worth mentioning are all accurate, maybe that will cause professor Paxton to rethink some things?

Paxton goes on:

While Goldberg is reasonably careful of names, dates, and quotations, his more general judgments often go badly awry.  It is not true that “the hard left had almost nothing to say about Italian Fascism for most of its first decade” (p.  30). The Third International diagnosed it right away, clumsily, as an agent of capitalism. 

Professor Paxton may have the better part of the argument, but I took my lead on this point from, among others, John P. Diggins, who writes “The misreading of events in Italy may be due to the unfortunate fact that in the twenties few outstanding European Marxists gave serious thought to the subject.”  He adds in a footnote:  “Aside from the Italians, the only important European radicals to devote attention to Fascism in the twenties were Leon Trotsky and Karl Radek [both of whom I discuss—JG].  In 1924  Trotsky stated that Fascism was merely an emergency instrument of the bourgeoisie for use in extreme situations and that it would  soon be replaced by Menshevism…”

The Italian elections of 1924 were not “reasonably fair” (p.  50), for according to the Acerbo Election Law passed at Fascist insistence just beforehand, the leading party would automatically receive two thirds of the parliamentary seats. 

Of course, we are very deep in the weeds now.  As to the fairness of the 1924 elections I defer to Dr. Paxton, though I’m hardly alone in my characterization.

It is untrue that Germany spent relatively little on armaments in the first years; they spent as much as they were allowed under the Versailles Treaty, and then arranged secretly for further training and arms development in the Soviet Union (p.  151), a point that ought to suit Goldberg quite well. 

This is a misreading.  I wrote, in the context of the shocking militarism of the early New Deal:

Presumably it is not necessary to recount how similar all of this was to developments in Nazi Germany.  But it is worth noting that for the first two years of the American and German New Deals, it was America that pursued militarism and rearmament at a breakneck pace while Germany spent relatively little on arms (though Hitler faced severe constraints on rearmament).

Relatively refers to “in relation to America,” or at least that was my intent.  I’m sorry if that is unclear.  And, yes, it does suit my argument that the Nazis had common interests with the Soviets.

Hitler never ever campaigned from the back of an old pickup truck (p.  289).

As for Hitler and his truck, I concede error.  I had read in Henry Ashby Turner’s book that Hitler was “reduced to riding back and forth across Berlin in the back of a paneled delivery truck.”  I guess I misread that as “pickup truck.”  How much Dr. Paxton wants to invest in this automotive taxonomical dispute is entirely up to him. 

Oh, and there was one charge he made at the beginning of his essay that’s worth rebutting as well:

Jonah Goldberg knows that making the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR the creators of an American fascism – indeed the only American fascism, for George Lincoln Rockwell and other overt American fascist or Nazi sympathizers are totally absent from this book – is a stretch so he has created a new box:  Liberal Fascism. 

George Lincoln Rockwell does appear in my book – on page 196, in the context of the Nation of Islam’s efforts to join forces with American Nazis.  Other Nazi sympathizers such as Joseph Kennedy and Father Coughlin  appear at great length in the book.  I also discuss W.E.B. DuBois’s initial sympathies for National Socialism.

Professor Paxton ends with another strawman about how I believe all state action is evil, and spirals off with some more smash-mouth stuff.

I must say that I was terribly disappointed in Paxton’s response because I hold him in such high regard.  I’m not shocked he disagrees with me, I just thought he would do a better job of explaining why.  Still he stands head-and-shoulders above some of the spittle-flecked ranters.

This is not to say that there aren’t good criticisms to be made.  I think Griffin is correct that I should have included in my definition of fascism some reference to the revolutionary nature of fascism (though why he finds the need to put revolutionary in ALL CAPS is beyond me).

As I have argued elsewhere, I think some of the criticisms about the title and the cover—and, for Paxton’s benefit I will throw in the chapter headings and subheadings—are certainly legitimate, even if I disagree with them.  This book was unfairly attacked two years before its publication and, now, two years after.  I wish it had been dealt with more seriously and honestly by its liberal critics, but it’s worth noting that if they had their way, the book would have been completely ignored.  If it seems like I sometimes shouted my points where I might have more persuasively whispered them, I regret that.  But if shouting was necessary to open the debate and change the way people think about these issues, and perhaps even shake up the historical consensus, I make no apologies for raising my voice.

Thanks again to HNN for this opportunity.  Perhaps we can meet here again in two years when everyone has had a chance to calm down.

HNN Special: A Symposium on Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism