Friday, January 29, 2010

What fun! HNN has just run a "special" denying that Fascism/Nazism was Leftist!

It is Jonah Goldberg's book that has got them steamed -- and steamed is the word. Most of the "critique" is little more than abuse, liberally leavened with unsupported assertions. What has got them steamed is that a recognition of the philosophical affinities between historical Fascism and modern "liberalism" has become rather widespread among conservative writers and broadcasters. The Left tried to ignore Jonah at first but now that the cat is out of the bag they are desperately trying to stuff it back in.

I note with some amusement that Jonah seems to be the sole villain as far as the HNN writers are concerned. I have been aware since my late teens (now more than 40 years ago) that Nazism was simply national socialism whereas Stalinism was international socialism so the information has always been there for anybody who cared to look. Additionally, my monograph on the subject much preceded Jonah's book. My monograph was was originally written in the '90s and was available on the net from around the year 2000. And I noted a growing awareness among conservative writers about the Leftist nature of Fascism well before Jonah's book came out two years ago. But Jonah is a much more energetic communicator than I am so he rightly deserves pride of place in the matter.

If interested in the "debate", you can start reading here. There are five "anti-Jonah" writers and Jonah responds here. Jonah notes that there is only one substantial historian -- Paxton -- among his critics and so concentrates his return-fire on Paxton's effusions. Although Paxton knows a lot about history, however, he has always been heavily biased. He has explicitly claimed, for instance, that Hitler was "anti-socialist".

I think Jonah demolishes Paxton pretty thoroughly so will not try to add much to Jonah's remarks. I think, however, that Jonah could have said more about the American Left (the "Progressives") of the prewar era. The similarity between the American Left and the Fascists in the prewar era was crystal clear and the Progressives were actually in some ways the progenitors of European Fascism.

A knowledge of that history would go a long way towards removing what is the big stumbling block these days towards recognizing the Fascism in modern Leftism. The stumbling block is that the Nazis were white-racists, nationalists and eugenicists while the modern Left are not. So comparing the current Left with the Nazis does seem to be missing the central point of it all. But the prewar American "Progressives" WERE white-racists, nationalists and eugenicists. White racism, nationalism and eugenics are no longer central political issues. They were simply the important political issues of the prewar era. They were not of the ESSENCE of Leftism or Nazism. But when they WERE big issues, the American "Progressives" and the Nazis were on the same side.

So what is the essence that Nazism and the modern Left share? Simple: A devotion to comprehensive control of everybody and every thing important in the life of the nation -- a hatred of individual liberty and a yen for lockstep unity behind the current doctrines of the party. Hitler controlled everything in Germany by laws and regulations and that is the always-obvious aim of the modern-day Democratic party too. They positively SPROUT regulations of just about everything that moves. Hitler eventually had a party representative in every factory to make sure that everything done there was politically correct. America has not got quite that far yet but I am sure the Democrats would love to get there, given half a chance.

The lead author in the attack on Jonah was David Neiwert, also known as Orcinus. I have crossed rhetorical swords with him before and my demolition of his arguments was sufficiently savage for Instapundit to remark at the time: "Remind me never to get this guy mad at me". So I am going to be a bit self indulgent and reproduce below what I wrote back then in late November 2004:

I am indebted to the mini-Chomsky himself, the great Brian Leiter, for a recommendation of a long article by Orcinus about the probability of America "going Fascist". Seeing Hitler was a socialist and Mussolini was a Marxist, you might think Orcinus is worried about arrogant trends in the Democratic party but, no, it is the GOP that he thinks is likely to "go Fascist". The Leftist origins of Fascism don't get a mention, in fact, so one knows immediately that the article will be low on scholarship. And its chief scholarly source for the nature of Fascism is in fact R.O. Paxton, the "historian" (much lauded in the N.Y. Times, of course) who said Hitler was an "antisocialist" -- when the very name of Hitler's political party was (translated) "The National Socialist German Worker's Party"! I think I have already at this early stage said enough about the article concerned to dismiss it for the claptrap it is but I cannot resist having a bit more fun with it.

The body of the article is in fact made up of what is actually a rather good proof of the idiocy of its conclusions. Orcinus quotes a long line of sources from the 1930s which offer all sorts of evidence for the claim that America was on the brink of going Fascist then. But it didn't happen! America did get the Mussolini-admiring FDR but thanks to the U.S. constitution and the U.S. Congress there were lots of limits placed on what he was allowed to do. So if America did not go Fascist during the Fascist era despite the many pressures towards it that Orcinus ably documents, how likely is it to go Fascist now, when Fascism is thoroughly discredited? The question answers itself, I think.

But let's have a look at a bit more weirdness. Take this Orwellian statement: "This tendency has finally metastacized into a genuinely dangerous situation, one in which the GOP has become host to a Stalinist movement that exhibits so many of the traits of fascism that the resemblance is now unmistakable." Quite aside from the fact that this great intellectual cannot even spell "metastasized", he is asking us to believe that the people who opposed Communism for decades and finally destroyed it utterly are themselves communists! I guess it's not impossible but seeing that the GOP and their Christian allies have always advocated the exact opposite of communism, the writer is clearly in cloud-cuckoo land. If you can say that free-enterprise=Stalinism, you might as well say black=white. I guess that a Leftist "postmodernist" would have no problem in doing exactly that, however.

More fun: Orcinus also looks for the day when "the attack style of politics -- in which the smearing an opponent substitutes for the lack of any substance or accomplishment -- has been relegated to the ashheap of history". Well. He got his wish. I think John Kerry has now been so relegated. Whoops! In true Leftist "projective" style, Orcinus was actually referring to the GOP rather than John Kerry, it seems!

Orcinus also deplores the way that "families, longtime friends, and communities are being torn apart by the divisive politics of resentment and accusation". He must be talking about all those guys documented at length on Leftists as Elitists! You could not conceivably get more resentment and accusation than is documented there.

Orcinus is a real humanitarian by Leftist standards, however. He ends up conceding: "Conservative-movement adherents are still human beings, and seeing them in terms of participating in a kind of fascism should not render them into mere discardable objects". He must have written that for the benefit of those of his colleagues who still admire Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.


The arrogant and insulting Obama

In his SOTU speech, he talked like a petulant child that is not allowed to get its own way

One strong piece of evidence to support our surmise about President Obama's character is his apparently unprecedented upbraiding of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whose members were seated immediately in front of him (Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were absent). The occasion of this highly unpresidential outburst was last week's First Amendment victory in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests--including foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

How can you tell when President Obama is lying? Justice Samuel Alito's lips move. The Associated Press reports that "Alito made a dismissive face and began shaking his head," and this YouTube clip shows Alito saying what looks to us to be "simply not true."

Even Linda Greenhouse, the ultraliberal former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, admits that Alito was right:
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries--as opposed to their political action committees--on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well--although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.

And if Obama has lost Linda Greenhouse, he's lost Middle America.

But the president's error--or lie--is worse than Greenhouse acknowledges. The laws whose provisions the court struck down, known as Taft-Hartley and McCain-Feingold, date back to 1947 and 2002, respectively. Greenhouse seems to understand him as claiming that the court had struck down a century-old law. But what he said was that the court had reversed a century of law. In the parlance of constitutional law--a subject Obama once taught--this means that the court undid its own precedent. And indeed the justices did reverse two earlier decisions, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC, These cases, however, were less than 20 years old, having been decided in 1990 and 2003.

If the president of the United States is going to display his contempt for a coequal branch of government and the First Amendment, you'd think he could at least be troubled to get his facts straight.



"Time" magazine on Obama's SOTU speech

They are grinding their teeth about GOP confidence and Democrat demoralization

President Obama spoke the first 676 words of his State of the Union address on Wednesday night before the first hand clap. His tone was so somber, and the room's mood so grave, that no one moved when Obama said, "We must answer history's call." There were no ovations when he called for "Democrats and Republicans to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our problems." He got no love for saying, "The worst of the storm has passed."

By the time he announced that "we cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college," Obama was forced to go off script. "I thought I'd get some applause on that one," he said, looking over to the Republicans, who were sitting on their hands. There was some giggling, and some of them relented, offering the congressional version of a golf clap.

So it went all night for the President, who a year ago came before the same body to announce, "Now is the time to act boldly and wisely." That bold wisdom has, in the course of a year, been transformed into a much more qualified vision of something short of significant legislative failure. "To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills," he said.

While the Democrats at times seemed to be considering the exits, the Republicans in the crowd handled the event with a renewed sense of confidence. A few minutes before Obama arrived, Republican Representative Mike Pence, standing in Statuary Hall, explained that he had turned down a chance to run for the Senate so he could help lead Republicans back to power in the House. "This is a genuine, authentic, American movement," he said of the political winds that had won Republicans statewide races in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Inside the chamber, the GOP did away with the pranks and gimmicks they displayed the last time Obama addressed a joint session. Eschewing paper signs or rude interruptions, they seemed content to pass the time with the sort of cool confidence that accompanies a sense of ascendancy. House minority leader John Boehner, bronzed and cocky, kept making faces and spreading his hands in disbelief at Obama's applause lines.

When Obama spoke about creating jobs for small business, Boehner spread his hands and cocked his head as if to say, "So now you're getting it." When Obama congratulated himself for not raising income taxes by "a single dime," Boehner looked incredulous — as if to say, "Really, he wants credit for that?" When Obama asked "if anyone from either party has a better approach" to health care reform, Boehner shot out of his seat and raised his hand. He was not called on....

More here



Obama’s campaign finance rhetoric is misleading: "Actions will always speak louder than words. For instance, President Barack Obama preaching a minimal role for corporations in funding campaigns isn’t ethical when in fact he himself was a major recipient of corporate funds leading up to his presidential election in 2008. In fact, according to The Washington Examiner, ‘Obama’s $995,000 from employees and executives at investment bank giant Goldman Sachs is the most a politician has raised from a single company since the 2001 campaign finance reform law.’”

Obama to end NASA Constellation program: "When President Obama releases his budget on Monday, there will be a big hole where funding for NASA’s Constellation program used to be. Constellation is the umbrella program that includes the Ares rocket — the replacement for the aging space shuttles. A White House official confirmed Thursday that when next week’s budget is proposed, NASA will get an additional $5.9 billion over five years. Some of that money will be used to extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020. The official said it also will be used to entice companies to build private spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station after the space shuttle retires.”

Zogby Interactive: 53% Would Not Eliminate Senate's 60-Vote Cloture Rule: "A majority (53%) of U.S. adults does not support eliminating the U.S. Senate rule that requires 60 votes to close debate and bring a bill to the floor for a vote. Also, when asked which statement on cloture they most agree with, 50% felt the 60-vote rule insures broader support for legislation while 28% believed the rule was undemocratic. These results were part of a Zogby Interactive survey of 2,003 adults conducted from Jan. 15-18, 2010. The Senate cloture rule requiring 60 votes has been a key issue in the Democrats' efforts to pass healthcare reform. This poll was concluded one day before Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Edward Kennedy's seat, lowering the Democratic majority from 60 to 59. Since the Senate and House of Representatives have passed differing healthcare reform bills, losing that seat becomes critical to the Democrats' ability to follow the usual procedure and pass a final bill produced by a House-Senate Conference Committee."

Crisis management: "One of the more confusing aspects of the great economic meltdown of 2008-09—even more confusing than collateralized debt obligations—has been the tortured logic of the blame game: the frantic effort, on the part of politicians and pundits, to demonize Wall Street, exonerate reckless government policies and restore the big-government ideals of John Maynard Keynes and the New Deal. George Melloan is having none of it—and, to judge by the Massachusetts poll result on Tuesday, neither are many voters.”

Honduras: Zelaya flies into exile: "Toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya emerged from months holed up in a Brazilian embassy compound and flew into exile on Wednesday, ending a months-long political crisis as a new elected president took office. Zelaya, ousted... last June, boarded a plane that took off for the Dominican Republic shortly after opposition leader Porfirio Lobo, elected in November, was sworn in as president.”

Publishing predictions: "One of the media transformations I expect to take place over the next 10 years, if not sooner, is that book publishing will become more blog-like — that is, micropublishing, the interest of the New York houses in putting out blockbusters, and the decline of the industry (and its retail counterpart) generally will lead to a proliferation of vanity presses that will, over time, lose their stigma. Publishing is still treated as if it ought to be a mass-market industry, but it has speedily been transforming into a niche-market industry. The idea that a book has to sell thousands of copies from a major house in order to be taken seriously is going to change. ”

Libertarianism and the British Conservative Party: "Mark Wallace on ConservativeHome argues that based upon British Social Attitudes Survey the people of this country are becoming increasingly libertarian. This would certainly be a welcome development, which if it were to continue would leave the Conservative Party in need of another rebranding.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)



Robert said...

I see that Reuters leads off its story on Zelaya going into exile with the major whopper of a lie in saying that he was ousted in a coup, when the truth, of course, is that he was lawfully removed from power for high crimes against the Constitution, and the Supreme Court's order enforced by the military. And naturally Reuters repeats the lie several more times in the story by calling his removal a coup several more times.

JR said...

Yes. That is why I deleted that bit

uffda said...

My best friend was one of the rare cheerful leftists. We spent many enjoyable nights for thirty years debating positions and sharing a taste for good beer. Alas, his wife and my other old college chums could not let their affection for me overcome their hatred for George W. Bush. In saving his marriage, my friend has now made my banishment total. What a sterile life that brooks no argument.

Snorri Godhi said...

The Ray/Goldberg view of the political spectrum is so much more sensible than the American "liberal" view, there is no comparison. However, there are two other views which I find preferable: the George Watson view (from The Lost Literature of Socialism) and the Nassim Taleb view (from The Black Swan). But I don't want "to get this guy mad at me", I just want to make a couple of remarks.

First, I was aware of the relationship between fascism/nazism and Marxism since time immemorial, but our host was the first to teach me about the relationship between fascism/nazism and American "liberalism". Thank you for that.

Second, one of the reasons why the HNN got it completely wrong is that Goldberg's book is not about fascism: it is primarily about American "liberalism". This can be seen from a quick look at the table of contents. The HNN reviews do not include a single expert in the history of American "liberalism", and therefore were doomed to failure from the start.