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wow … just wow

In his most recent column, the American conservative commentator Michael Ledeen responds to a Newsweek feature entitled ‘We are all socialists now’. Ledeen calls the piece ‘embarrassingly ignorant’.

Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock:  the abolition of private property.  I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business.

Fair enough, you might say.  No sensible person thinks Obama’s tepid reforms are really marching America down to the Finland Station. Ah, but then, when you least expect it, Ledeen delivers his knock-out punch:

Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism.  Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons:  first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content;  it’s been a pure epithet for many decades.  Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

According to his bionote, Ledeen is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a former consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department and the Defense Department and a special adviser to the Secretary of State. In other words, he’s a reasonably serious intellectual of the Right.

Obama has been in power a few weeks and has proved almost Clintonianly centrist. Yet already conservatives are convincing themselves they’re living under the jackboot. Whether Lebeen believes the stuff he bangs out is an open question but assuredly some of his readers do. And what’s the response if you think fascists are taking power? Why, you fight back by whatever means necessary. Given the American Right’s fondness for guns (remember the militias during the Clinton years?), we’re shaping up for some ugly times ahead.

Jeff Sparrow is the editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

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