New Right Meets New Left

Jonah Goldberg received a letter from a reader (link here, ht Daily Goose) wherein the reader argues that Goldberg´s book Liberal Fascism correctly points out that the real divide in politics is not left/right or liberal/conservative but fascist/libertarian (aka classical liberalism).

Now if you are thinking, hey what about socialists, communism, Marxism the answer is in this outlook fascism is a socialist movement, i.e. Fascism is the left.  So Fascism really stands for anything other than libertarianism.

Now there could be a lot of things to say to this.  One it´s a little outlandish to put it mildly to call anybody who isn´t a libertarian a fascist.  Particularly if you like me (and weirdly enough Michael Ledeen) you think fascism is the actual historical entity like the Nazis, Franco´s Spain, Italy under Mussolini, etc.  Although Ledeen has now broken his own rule, suggesting The Chinese regime may be considered the new Fascists.   

Another would be that since the current Bush administration is in its foreign policy run by former Trotskyite Jacobins (i.e. neocons) you could write a book I suppose defining conservatives–at least those kind–as Conservative Communists.  The cover would have an American flag with a hammer and sickle or something to evoke some controversy I suppose.   

A third would be, following the integral model of Ken Wilber, to say that the real criticism is of any collectivist political movements, represented by the lower qudrants in the model.  This would fit with Goldberg´s criticisms of more communitarian type movements within the right (e.g. Mike Huckabee and Crew).  In this analysis, the divide is not really between fascism and libertarianism but all forms of social-communalism (under the code word of Fascism) and individualism (aka classical liberalism/libertarianism).

But a fourth way and one that I´d like to explore a little (and has been I believe pointed out by others) is the strange convergence between Goldberg´s New Right (really 2nd generation version of movement conservativism) and the 60s New Left. 

In One-Dimensional Man, the classic text by ur New Left godfather Herbert Marcuse, Marcusse argued that the Cold War world was dominated by various forms of authoritarianism/totalitarianism.  One had been the Nazi repression of his Germany.  Then the Soviet gulags and Stalinist dictatorship which Marcusse savaged as a Western Humanistic Marxist.  And then following in the line of the Frankfurt School generally the argument that the New Deal Roosevelt capitalist America was a subterfuge version of authoritarianism, even perhap totalitarianism.  Sounds interestingly similar to Goldberg here yes (in one sense, one sense no of course).

The Frankfurt argument was that capitalist and bourgeoisie American MayTag-ism created what they called mass society.  Suburbia, over-medication, obesity, mindless TV culture, degradation of local culture, and de-politicization of the populace via excessive entertainment focus (American Idolization as it were).  All as a means of control. 

The Reaganite New Right following from the work of individuals like Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek similarly argued for against the Welfare Liberal (Fascist?) consensus of the 50s-70s.  Recall that Eisenhower and Nixon were both upholders of the New Deal synthesis. 

Sidenote:  I think the most charitable interpretation of Liberal Fascism is that it is an attempt to interpret The Road to Serfdom for the coming new progressive post-Bush era.  Though I did like the book more the first time. 

Of course the New Right did so in order to align itself with the new moneyed and rising info tech sector, attacking the industrial labor base of previous US industry.  And then later the alliance of the Wall Street conservatives with the Moral Majority Social Conservative Cultural War right.  Whereas the New Left attempted more individual personal forms of liberation, in many cases nothing more than the expression of previously repressed yet narcissistic psychic elements.  Rather than a true transcendence. 

So while the New Left (now Old? it is about 50 years young at this point) is the constant brunt of movement conservatism criticism, lately I see it more and more as almost long lost separated siblings. 

For something like this argument in a much fuller form, Brink Lindsey´s The Age of Abundance.  A summary form in this article, The Aquarians (New Left) and Evangelicals (New Right). 

Another interesting line of comparison (for a different day) would be between paleoconservatism and the New Left, say on mass production agriculture and the loss of localized culture to homogenous capitalist consumer mentality. 


Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 3:04 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. I have not heard most Libertarians name their opposite as Fascist but instead Statist. Yes, sometimes they are used as generally interchangeable, but mostly Fascism is reserved for that special category of Statism that has racial and/or national elements to it. But I also see that those who traditionally use the term Fascist use it to apply to a system made of an almost otherworldly body of creatures rife with evil instead of the publicly steered, privately owned method of controlling resources and means of production. By the latter definition we most certainly do have elements of Fascism in both of the major parties.

    Fascism was merely another of the many Statist outcomes from the ramping up of transcendentalist mentalities of mid 1800’s. It was going to finally set order from chaos. It was going perfectly align production and resources to meet the needs of the people, who needed to subsume themselves to the National Good. I have a hard time NOT seeing such elements around me every day.

    Most broadly, of course, every Statist ultimately is trying to bend people to their mode of thinking and Force must be used (for their own good of course). Whether the impulse is born from a religion proper, meeting the needs of the proletariat, protecting mother earth (the most near true fascist of the bunch), forcing us onward and upward to some glorious future, or forcing us backward to some idealistic past, whatever, the Statist uses Force to implement his or her ideals over every one else. They deem to know best at every juncture how people should live and labor and share the fruits of same. The axiomatic principles may differ, and sometimes only slightly in practicality between the bitterest rivals, but one universal truth transcends all of them – the use of Force, offensively instead of defensively, to get people to act differently than they otherwise would. All Statist modes use carefully constructed (yet ultimately circular), inductive rationales for unleashing Force. All modes are hatched from existential fears, a face or a creed or a color or a behavior then is seen as the root of all the problems and it must be stamped out. We need to fill prisons with people who smoke leaves, we need to tax rapaciously to pay for Wars on …….., we need to get the sheep closer to God, we need to the insurer of last resort, whatever. Simply people are afraid, and the source of that fear is oblique and undefined, so as our definitions of what the source is is fuzzy so oblique and broadcast Force needs to be unleashed, inexactly and crudely, to hopefully hit the mark. If it takes some innocent people out colleterally, so be it. Any negatives perceived are quickly tossed aside and the Greater Good (however axiomatically defined) is maintained.

    And meanwhile the United States has become decidedly more Socialist as we’ve gone on. The most worrisome aspect of it all, in conjunction with those who now see China as not so much Communist as Fascist, is that the US is growing closer as well. All the States of the last century seem to be creeping toward a similar mode, step by step. Of course the other type of State emerging are Theocratic States. Should make for a lovely future.

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