Stolen, actually. By Progressivists, who continue their efforts to consolidate and expand their victories to this day. But lest we forget exactly who and what they were, and are:
So 20th century Fascism was in fact an American invention, or more precisely an invention of the American Left. Like many American ideas to this day, however, it proved immensely popular in Europe and it was only in Europe that it was put fully into practice. As it does today, American conservatism kept the American Left in some check in the first half of the 20th century so it was only in Europe that their ideas could come into full bloom.
And when those ideas did come into full bloom, America’s “progressive” intelligentsia warmly welcomed them of course. And that great present-day friend of Leftist extremism — Harvard University — was in the lead. Below is just one small extract from the history of the times:
“The Harvard University administration during the 1930s, led by President James Conant, ignored numerous opportunities to take a principled stand against the Hitler regime and the antisemitic outrages it perpetrated, and contributed to Nazi Germany’s efforts to improve its image in the West. The administration’s lack of concern about Nazi antisemitism was shared by many influential Harvard alumni and students. A faculty panel that supervised a mock trial of Hitler in 1934 ruled that Hitler’s anti-Jewish actions were “irrelevant” to the debate. Nazi leaders were warmly welcomed to the Harvard campus and invited to prestigious social events, as the Harvard administration strove to build friendly relations with thoroughly Nazified universities in Germany. By doing so, Harvard’s administration and many of its student leaders offered important encouragement to the Hitler regime as it intensified its persecution of the Jews and strengthened its armed forces…
Prominent Harvard alumni, student leaders, and some faculty assumed a major role in the friendly welcome accorded the Nazi warship Karlsruhe when it visited Boston in 1934, flying the swastika flag. Boston’s Jewish community protested vociferously. President Conant remained silent. Officers and crewmen from the warship were entertained at Harvard, and professors attended a gala reception in Boston where the warship’s captain enthusiastically praised Hitler.
That year, the Harvard administration welcomed a top Nazi official, Ernst Hanfstangl, who was Hitler’s foreign press chief as well as a virulent antisemite, to the campus for his 25th class reunion. The student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, editorialized that the university should award Hanfstangl an honorary degree “as a mark of honor appropriate to his high position in the government of a friendly country.” The joyous reception Hanfstangl received on campus was interrupted when a local rabbi confronted him and demanded to know what Hanfstangl had meant when he recently remarked that “everything would soon be settled for the Jews in Germany.” The rabbi cried out, “My people want to know . . . does it mean extermination?” Hanfstangl replied that he “[could] not discuss that. I am on vacation. I am with my old friends.” The Nazi official proceeded to President Conant’s house for tea.
Anti-Nazi activists opposed Hanfstangl’s visit. Some put up posters in Harvard Yard, only to have the Harvard police tear them down. Others held a rally in Harvard Square. Seven demonstrators who tried to speak at the rally were arrested, and sentenced to six months at hard labor. Conant called the demonstration “very ridiculous.”
So where did the Progressives get their ideas? Did they invent their ideas out of the blue? Of course not. Right up until World War I it was popular and even fashionable for American intellectuals to study in Germany — where the thought of Hegel was very influential. And many of the Progressives were included in that movement. Let us look at a few quotes from some of the Hegelian thinkers of 19th century Germany…
…The similarities to Hitler’s thought stand out, do they not? So who wrote the above quotes? All of them are from either Karl Marx or Friedrich Engels. So although the American Progressives developed most of the thought that we would recognize as Fascist today, their immediate predecessors were undisputably German. So while Mussolini got his basic ideas from Marx and Marx got them from Hegel, the work of developing those ideas and adapting them to the early 20th century had mostly already been done for him by the Americans.
So however you look at it, the connection of Fascism to Leftism is quite seamless. Its origins were in the intellectuals of the 19th century German Left, it was developed and made politically influential by the American Left around the beginning of the 20th century and it reached its full implementation in the hands of one section of the European Left in the 1920s and 1930’s — i.e. Hitler & Mussolini. And both Hitler and Mussolini campaigned as socialists and never ceased advocating socialism.
Because they are so embarrassing to the Left of today, there are always attempts to deny that the American Progressives of a century ago were Leftists. Attempts are made to treat them as somehow outside the normal flow of history — as a strange aberration that somehow exists all by itself. This is absurd on two grounds: 1). Far from being a marginal group the Progressives were in the mainstream of American intellectual life at the time — with only the courts and the conservative wings of the political parties standing against them. 2). Although the militarism, imperialism, racism and stress on discipline may seem abhorrent to the American Left of today, such ideas were perfectly at home even within the thought of Marx and Engels. And if Marx and Engels are not Leftists, who would be?
As noted above, this presents a real problem for the modern Left, one they’ve addressed by simply lying about their original affinity for, influence on, and relationship with fascism. They abandoned the term “Progressive” to refer to themselves and co-opted the world “liberal,” in what has to be one of the most brazen and outrageous linguistic coups of all time, and began their highly successful campaign to mislabel Hitler and Mussolini as “right-wingers,” when they were never anything of the sort. Which brings us to this long, typically brilliant piece from Angelo Codevilla, published years ago at the American Spectator. Limbaugh mentioned it yesterday, and I’m sure I posted on it at the time, but I ain’t going digging through the archives looking for it; it merits revisiting now, for all sorts of reasons–not least of which is its perfect prescience, and its clear-eyed understanding of what the source of nearly every one of our modern problems is.
Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation’s paradigm that “all men are created equal”?
The notion of human equality was always a hard sell, because experience teaches us that we are so unequal in so many ways, and because making one’s self superior is so tempting that Lincoln called it “the old serpent, you work I’ll eat.” But human equality made sense to our Founding generation because they believed that all men are made in the image and likeness of God, because they were yearning for equal treatment under British law, or because they had read John Locke.
It did not take long for their paradigm to be challenged by interest and by “science.” By the 1820s, as J. C. Calhoun was reading in the best London journals that different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results, slave owners were citing the Negroes’ deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves indefinitely. Lots of others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach’s rendition of Hegelian philosophy, according to which biblical injunctions reflect the fantasies of alienated human beings or, in the young Karl Marx’s formulation, that ethical thought is “superstructural” to material reality. By 1853, when Sen. John Pettit of Ohio called “all men are created equal” “a self-evident lie,” much of America’s educated class had already absorbed the “scientific” notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower beings or try to improve them as they please. Hence while it pleased the abolitionists to believe in freeing Negroes and improving them, it also pleased them to believe that Southerners had to be punished and reconstructed by force. As the 19th century ended, the educated class’s religious fervor turned to social reform: they were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, man could be improved, and that they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers.
Thus began the Progressive Era. When Woodrow Wilson in 1914 was asked “can’t you let anything alone?” he answered with, “I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see are going down-hill.” Wilson spoke for the thousands of well-off Americans who patronized the spas at places like Chautauqua and Lake Mohonk. By such upper-middle-class waters, progressives who imagined themselves the world’s examples and the world’s reformers dreamt big dreams of establishing order, justice, and peace at home and abroad. Neither were they shy about their desire for power. Wilson was the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society. Nor was Wilson the last to invade a foreign country (Mexico) to “teach [them] to elect good men.”
World War I and the chaos at home and abroad that followed it discredited the Progressives in the American people’s eyes. Their international schemes had brought blood and promised more. Their domestic management had not improved Americans’ lives, but given them a taste of arbitrary government, including Prohibition. The Progressives, for their part, found it fulfilling to attribute the failure of their schemes to the American people’s backwardness, to something deeply wrong with America. The American people had failed them because democracy in its American form perpetuated the worst in humanity. Thus Progressives began to look down on the masses, to look on themselves as the vanguard, and to look abroad for examples to emulate.
The cultural divide between the “educated class” and the rest of the country opened in the interwar years. Some Progressives joined the “vanguard of the proletariat,” the Communist Party. Many more were deeply sympathetic to Soviet Russia, as they were to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Not just the Nation, but also the New York Times and National Geographic found much to be imitated in these regimes because they promised energetically to transcend their peoples’ ways and to build “the new man.” Above all, our educated class was bitter about America. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union sponsored a legal challenge to a Tennessee law that required teaching the biblical account of creation. The ensuing trial, radio broadcast nationally, as well as the subsequent hit movie Inherit the Wind, were the occasion for what one might have called the Chautauqua class to drive home the point that Americans who believed in the Bible were willful ignoramuses. As World War II approached, some American Progressives supported the Soviet Union (and its ally, Nazi Germany) and others Great Britain and France. But Progressives agreed on one thing: the approaching war should be blamed on the majority of Americans, because they had refused to lead the League of Nations. Darryl Zanuck produced the critically acclaimed movie [Woodrow] Wilson featuring Cedric Hardwicke as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who allegedly brought on the war by appealing to American narrow-mindedness against Wilson’s benevolent genius.
Franklin Roosevelt brought the Chautauqua class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. America’s problems would be fixed by a “brain trust” (picked by him). His New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats and then into lobbyists. As the saying goes, they came to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well.
As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms. The most elaborate of these attempts was Theodor Adorno’s widely acclaimed The Authoritarian Personality (1948). It invented a set of criteria by which to define personality traits, ranked these traits and their intensity in any given person on what it called the “F scale” (F for fascist), interviewed hundreds of Americans, and concluded that most who were not liberal Democrats were latent fascists. This way of thinking about non-Progressives filtered down to college curricula. In 1963-64 for example, I was assigned Herbert McCloskey’s Conservatism and Personality (1958) at Rutgers’s Eagleton Institute of Politics as a paradigm of methodological correctness. The author had defined conservatism in terms of answers to certain questions, had defined a number of personality disorders in terms of other questions, and run a survey that proved “scientifically” that conservatives were maladjusted ne’er-do-well ignoramuses. (My class project, titled “Liberalism and Personality,” following the same methodology, proved just as scientifically that liberals suffered from the very same social diseases, and even more amusing ones.)
Gee, none of that sounds familiar at all, does it? Onwards:
By identifying science and reason with themselves, our rulers delegitimize opposition. Though they cannot prevent Americans from worshiping God, they can make it as socially disabling as smoking — to be done furtively and with a bad social conscience. Though they cannot make Americans wish they were Europeans, they continue to press upon this nation of refugees from the rest of the world the notion that Americans ought to live by “world standards.” Each day, the ruling class produces new “studies” that show that one or another of Americans’ habits is in need of reform, and that those Americans most resistant to reform are pitiably, perhaps criminally, wrong. Thus does it go about disaggregating and dispiriting the ruled.
In sum, our ruling class does not like the rest of America. Most of all does it dislike that so many Americans think America is substantially different from the rest of the world and like it that way. For our ruling class, however, America is a work in progress, just like the rest the world, and they are the engineers.
And so they have made themselves. They’ve engineered not just America but a good chunk of the rest of the world right into the toilet, and now splash about happily in the muck and stench, with no idea how to get us out of it and little inclination even to try. They have set themselves up as the arbiters of all decency and moral correctness, without anyone ever having asked them to. They’ve taken actions nobody but themselves wanted to see taken, set out to “improve” things that nobody thought much needed improving, attempted to “solve” problems they themselves created–failing miserably at it every single time, since the only “solution” to the problems caused by Progressivism they can conceive of is…more Progressivism. Any real, objective good they’ve ever accomplished has been either incidental, accidental, or otherwise unintended–or was already well on its way to coming to pass already, without any spurious “help” needed or wanted from them.
Both of the pieces I’ve excerpted above are lengthy, and well worth your time. The bottom line remains: Progressivism is a scourge, a blight, just as surely as Islam is, and for similar reasons. It was born of a near-total arrogance, an unjustified sense of superiority and its own divine mandate to rule over others. Its intention is to restrict individual freedom, not to enhance or expand it; its ambition is absolute power; its motivation is purely venal and egotistical; its method of operation is deceit and subterfuge, which alone should tell any rational person all he needs to know to categorically reject it. Any truly moral and intellectually-sophisticated person is bound to abhor it almost as a matter of natural reflex; any self-respecting free individual is duty-bound to resist it, by any means they can contrive. It is a dedicated enemy of everything this country was supposed to represent. Full stop, end of story.
Update! At first glance it may seem to be unrelated. Stick with it to the end of the excerpt and you’ll realize it ain’t.
I survived, but I doubt that that had much to do with my state of paranoia, induced by what other visitors, but also some residents, told me. My one brush with danger was on Madison Avenue near 57th Street, early on a Sunday morning. I was waiting at a bus stop with an elderly lady when a gunshot rang out, producing a ricochet and a puff of smoke in the street, about five or ten yards away. The old lady turned to me impassively, having taken no evasive action. “I’m telling you,” she said, “this city is a bad place.”
Since then, I have traveled to cities far more dangerous than New York ever was: Monrovia, Mogadishu, San Salvador. In the first, every institution had completely broken down; in the second, they were only halfway there; and in the last, death squads roamed the streets while guerrillas loosed rockets into the city, and one was asked (politely, I must say) to leave one’s guns at the door before entering a supermarket. But I was young and naive when I first came to New York, and I arrived from a city then famed for its safety and civility: London. Indeed, London was so safe that, by age ten, I was free to roam it on public transportation without anyone concluding that I was a neglected or an abandoned child. Nowadays, the police and social services doubtless would get a call—probably for good reason—if a ten-year-old were seen alone on the streets.
Just under a half-century later, the level of civility in the two cities has switched: New York now feels safer than London. I have in recent years enjoyed walking dozens of city blocks after midnight in Manhattan without apprehension; I would hesitate these days to walk such a distance in London after midnight. Some London boroughs have more robberies in a month than all of Great Britain did in a year a century ago.
Differences in policy almost surely produced this reversal of fortune in the two great cities, at least as far as crime is concerned. New York decided that the “root cause” of crime is the criminal’s decision to commit it, which, in turn, is strongly influenced by the likely consequences to him of doing so, a theory easy to understand. London adhered to the theory, propounded by criminologists, that the root causes of crime are multifactorial and so complex as to be almost incomprehensible—vast social forces the direction of which somehow must change if crime is to fall. In other words, New York treated criminals and would-be criminals as individuals with powers of reflection and decision; London treated them as inanimate objects, mere vectors of forces. Contrary to first impressions, New York’s approach was more respectful of people than London’s, which, quite apart from its practical failure, led to all manner of equivocation, special pleading, dishonesty, condescension toward perpetrator and victim alike, and confusion as to the proper role of the police. As violence rose, the police in London (and elsewhere in Britain) increasingly took on the appearance of military occupiers instead of the traditional unarmed civilian force that they had hitherto been; or, as one commentator put it, they became paramilitary social workers, more concerned to protect the feelings of certain designated groups than the lives and property of all. The police became bullying without efficacy, the worst possible combination; and the confusion of roles led to their demoralization. If London should learn from New York, then New York should learn from London, the power of bad example being as great as that of good.
Progressivism’s only real contribution to human progress has been to provide us with plenty of educational opportunities–“teachable moments,” shall we say–of that lamentable sort. And London’s decay is a perfect example of just how little the liberal “experts” really know…about anything.