Saturday, February 02, 2008

Gottfried on Goldberg

Paul Gottfried is a very grumpy conservative who spends most of his time attacking other conservatives. His own stance seems to be somewhere between paleoconservatism and libertarianism but no doubt he would be grumpy about that characterization too.

So it is no surprise that his short review of Jonah Goldberg's book is grumpy too -- apparently accentuated in this case by the fact that Gottfried has himself written to similar effect but has has not got nearly as much publicity as Goldberg. So amid the gloom, one reads a few quite good comments:
"Italian Fascism, until Mussolini unwisely threw in his lot with Hitler in 1936, enjoyed immense support among socialists in the U.S. and Western Europe. For many foreign partisans of Mussolini's corporatist experiment, fascism looked very much like socialism. And since fascists talked about "national revolutions" and condemned market capitalism, they seemed to the editors of The New Republic, and many others, much like those standing on the left side of History.

Well into FDR's first term, he and his Brain Trusters looked to the Italian model as a usable blue print for "mobilizing" the American people in the face of the Depression. Massive subsidies to reactivate the work force and to carry out public works programs of all kinds were aspects of the New Deal that had already been tried out by the Italian Fascist state. And unlike the Nazi regime, which came to power in 1933 just before FDR's inauguration, Mussolini did not oppress Jews or impose anything resembling Nazi race laws until after his shift into Hitler's orbit. As late as 1935, he was the most outspoken and vigorous enemy of Hitler on the European continent."

Gottfried probably has picked up a few minor errors in Jonah's book -- such as just where Carl Schmitt fitted into the Nazi regime -- but there are also major points on which he is plain wrong. He says:
"Fascism was a movement of the anti-libertarian Right. What made it a force of the Right, to repeat my point one last time, was its emphatic rejection of the principle of equality and its search for social models in antiquity-as opposed to the Left's vision of an ideal future that might be extended to the entire human race

The claim there -- that the Left differ from Fascists in that the Fascists to a degree looked backwards for inspiration -- entirely ignores the love-affair between the Greens and the Left that we see today. The current Left generally do their best to facilitate the Greenie push to return us to a romanticized and idealized past. Think of Al Gore! Modern-day Leftists are just as reactionary as Hitler and Musso were -- maybe even more so. Hitler and Mussolini were in fact clear precursors of the Greenies. See here and here.

Secondly, Gottfried's claim about "rejection of the principle of equality" also ignores Hitler's central slogan: Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer. Hitler wanted all Germans to be one. The slogan means "One people, one government, one leader". Hitler DID want all Germans to be equal -- though of course he wanted himself and his henchmen to be the wise leaders who would guide the masses (The Fuehrerprinzip). But how is THAT different from the Leftist spokesmen of today? In Orwell's memorable phrase, both the Fascists of yesteryear and the Left of today believe that "all pigs are equal but some are more equal than others". That the modern-day Left are more circumspect about saying as much is the only difference. Both believe in their own superior wisdom and try to impose their tyrannies however they can

Gottfried also seems to be quite out of touch when he says this as evidence of the difference between Fascism and Leftism:
"Fascist government did nothing of significance to change productive forces or to redistribute wealth. It made owners, managers, and workers into contributors to an overarching Fascist order; and it required industrial leaders to consult with Fascist mediators before "releasing workers from their duties." Workers were then given unemployment compensation"

Sorry but that seems like a pretty good description of (say) the British Labour Party government of today -- with its unfair dismissal laws and its abject failure to close Britain's notorious social class gaps. And the red-tape with which British industry has been burdened does seem to me to have "made owners, managers, and workers into contributors to an overarching Fascist order". Their degree of autonomy shrinks year by year.

Gottfried thinks he is so much wiser than Jonah but he shows precious little evidence of it.

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