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Explainer | “Liberal Fascism”

The leader of the ruling party, Irakli Kobakhidze, accused those speaking against the Russian law of “Liberal Fascism.” Where did this expression come from, and what does it mean?

Coining the Term

The term “liberal fascism” has been present in radical right-wing circles for some time. However, it gained widespread popularity when American writer Jonah Goldberg used it in his 2008 book, “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change.” Goldberg argues that modern liberalism is similar to old fascist ideology in that it relies on the state to solve all problems, disregards personal freedoms, and frequently employs force or coercion to achieve political goals.

The term has sparked a significant difference of opinion, with scholars and analysts from various political backgrounds convincingly arguing that Goldberg’s comparison is flawed. They contend that it overlooks the fundamental theoretical and practical distinctions between liberalism and fascism.

Historians note that the regimes of fascist ideology, namely Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, actively opposed liberalism and democracy. According to experts in the field, these regimes had nothing in common with modern liberalism.

In Reality

The term “liberal fascism” is an oxymoron – a unity of opposites – and does not reflect any real political ideology or movement. “Liberalism” and “fascism” are two fundamentally different political philosophies.

Fascism is an ultra-right, authoritarian ideology that is characterized by extremist nationalism, totalitarianism, and severe restriction of personal rights and freedoms. In contrast, liberalism is a centrist or center-left ideology that upholds the values of individual rights and freedoms, democracy, and market capitalism.

The term has nothing to do with reality – it does not reflect any legitimate political philosophy or movement. The term “liberal fascism” is usually used to demonize opponents.

Who uses this term?

In the West, the term “liberal fascism” is often used by the so-called Alt-right radicals, for example, the ultra-conservative Glenn Beck or Breitbart news.

Those who use the “liberal fascism” label often do so to criticize what they see as excessive government regulation and state control in modern liberal democracies. Their primary concern is with restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, particularly about the public use of language that may be considered racist, sexist, or discriminatory.

Russian Traces

Goldberg’s book is especially popular in Russia, where the concept of “liberal fascism” has penetrated state propaganda. The Kremlin has identified “liberal fascism” as the primary opponent of the Russian people.

Accusing Ukraine of “fascism” and the demand for its “denazification”, which became the ideological justification for the start of the war, derives from this same logic. All this is well seen in this video.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian)

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