Tuesday, December 25, 2007
For entertainment they watch his body twist:
Jonah's chapter on Mussolini situates Mussolini on the left because Mussolini himself was a one-time leftist before denouncing leftism. Really. We get a lot of quotations from Mussolini before the March on Rome testifying to his socialism ("I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change!") because, back then, he was a socialist.

Naturally, Goldberg denies that Mussolini in fact changed. He places a lot of emphasis on Mussolini's reliance on the syndicalist George Sorel, which is appropriate, since Sorel's influence on Mussolini was overwhelming. What Goldberg doesn't credit is how Sorel's thinking merged with that of a French rightist, Charles Maurras. From Stephen J. Lee's European Dictatorships, 1918-1945:
He, too, believed that France should return to an earlier condition, again with a complete absence of political parties. The values of the republic were all wrong and therefore an aberration. The alternative was decentralization, stronger local government and dynastic monarchy. The two strands of Sorel and Maurras came together as their supporters wrote for the same journal Les Cahiers du Circle Proudhon.
That's what animated Mussolini. Socialism without internationalism, which is about an atavistic totalization of the state -- something that actual socialism can't tolerate, even if particular socialists were insufficiently socialist and supported the First World War. (Goldberg makes much of this historical fact, in order to envelop Mussolini within the left.)

It shouldn't be surprising, as well, that Mussolini's rhetoric about unions resonates within a socialist framework. Mussolini, like Hitler and other fascists of the early 20th century, were competing with the left for the same pools of proletarian support. Co-opting the left was an imperative. The rhetoric reflects the imperative. Jonah needs to think about this a little more deeply.

Also, liberals aren't socialists. So even if Jonah can bamboozle his readers about Mussolini's ideology, he still hasn't turned Mussolini into a liberal. My God, would Mussolini have rejected the conflation.

Finally, Goldberg himself is rather squishy on Mussolini, making it difficult to follow his attempts at portraying Il Duce as a wide-jawed Hubert Humphrey.
By the time Italy reluctantly passed its shameful race laws -- which it never enforced with even a fraction of the barbarity shown by the Nazis -- over 75 percent of Italian Fascism's reign had already transpired. A full sixteen years elapsed between the March on Rome and the passage of Italy's race laws. To start with the Jews when talking about Mussolini is like starting with FDR's internment of the Japanese: it leaves a lot of the story on the cutting room floor.
And Jonah wonders why some liberals might think he's soft on fascism.
--Spencer Ackerman
It's because of Jonah Goldberg's daily appearance on the TNR home page that I let my subscription lapse, and why I subscribed to TAP and Washington Monthly.

I've been reading TNR since 1987 and that's what did it. Being wrong on the war wasn't enough. Goldberg was.
Blogger Chris | 6:30 PM

It is true that real fascism has historically been preoccupied with labor/capital relations. But it is fiercely opposed to the left-wing ideal of class struggle, preferring vertical trade unions and other corporatist strategies which are meant to pacify the discontented working class while preserving "organic," "natural" social hierarchies and, for the most part, defending private ownership.
Blogger The Special | 2:05 PM