Well, Glenn Beck's special "documentary" -- at least, that's what he calls it -- "The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free Or Die" aired Friday, and it was pretty much exactly what we predicted: A long promotion for Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent Liberal Fascism and its underlying thesis, to wit, that fascism is "properly understood" as "a phenomenon of the left."
In Beck's hands, of course, this mishmash of a theory gets mashed even more, so that fascism is indistinguishable from communism and socialism, and that all are essentially identified in the bundle of the progressive movement, which is Beck's ultimate target.
On Friday, Beck worried that "the academic bloc" of the progressive movement would be arraying its forces to attack him for this piece of work (and it is a real piece of work). Probably, most of them will dismiss it as just another piece of lunacy from the nation's fearmonger in chief.
But it's obvious that, despite the cold reality that Goldberg's thesis is profoundly dishonest and the most odious kind of historical fraud, right-wingers like Beck not only believe it but have embarked on avidly promoting it -- especially among the Tea Party set, where the signs calling Obama a fascist are almost as common as those decrying his tax increases.
As I mentioned Friday, I began some months ago organizing some of the more authoritative historical experts -- historians and political scientists -- in an effort to finally produce a serious response from academics to Goldberg's traduced version of history.
Today, at History News Network, you can read the initial essays.
In addition to my introduction, there are four essays:
-- Matthew Feldman, professor of history at University of Northampton, and a co-editor of several academic texts on fascism, offers his assessment on why refuting Goldberg still matters: "Poor Scholarship, Wrong Conclusions".
-- Chip Berlet, senior researcher at Political Research Associates and the co-author (with Matthew Lyons) of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, has penned a history of Goldberg's arguments, "The Roots of Liberal Fascism: The Book."
For those who watched Beck's "special," the following excerpt from Paxton's piece alone may suffice:
Goldberg simply omits those parts of fascist history that fit badly with his demonstration. His method is to examine fascist rhetoric, but to ignore how fascist movements functioned in practice. Since the Nazis recruited their first mass following among the economic and social losers of Weimar Germany, they could sound anti-capitalist at the beginning. Goldberg makes a big thing of the early programs of the Nazi and Italian Fascist Parties, and publishes the Nazi Twenty-five Points as an appendix. A closer look would show that the Nazis’ anti-capitalism was a selective affair, opposed to international capital and finance capital, department stores and Jewish businesses, but nowhere opposed to private property per se or favorable to a transfer of all the means of production to public ownership.
A still closer look at how the fascist parties obtained power and then exercised power would show how little these early programs corresponded to fascist practice. Mussolini acquired powerful backing by hiring his black-shirted squadristi out to property owners for the destruction of socialist and Communist unions and parties. They destroyed the farm workers’ organizations in the Po Valley in 1921-1922 by violent nightly raids that made them the de facto government of northeastern Italy. Hitler’s brownshirts fought Communists for control of the streets of Berlin, and claimed to be Germany’s best bulwark against the revolutionary threat that still appeared to be growing in 1932. Goldberg prefers the abstractions of rhetoric to all this history, noting only that fascism and Communism were “rivals.” So his readers will not learn anything about how the Nazis and Italian Fascists got into power or exercised it.
The two fascist chiefs obtained power not by election nor by coup but by invitation from German President Hindenberg and his advisors, and Italian King Victor Emanuel III and his advisors (not a leftist among them). The two heads of state wanted to harness the fascists’ numbers and energy to their own project of blocking the Marxists, if possible with broad popular support. This does not mean that fascism and conservatism are identical (they are not), but they have historically found essential interests in common.
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 autarcic 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).
Be sure to go read them all. And for more background, you can go read my reviews, exchanges and responses with Goldberg.
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