Narrating American Antifascism
Haunted by Hitler: Liberals, the Left, and the Fight against Fascism in the United States
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/01/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21347
Book review of Christopher Vials' Haunted by Hitler: Liberals, the Left, and the Fight against Fascism in the United States.
Because a constellation of meanings has accrued to fascism as a vocabulary item, Vials expresses pointedly that for his purposes, historically, fascism was the far-right political movement most fully expressed in Italy and Germany from the 1920s to the 1940s. Its defining characteristics included rigid social hierarchies, rampant militarism, anti-Marxism, racism, homophobia, narrow nationalism and the destruction of democratic spaces.
Fascists certainly overlapped with business elites in their interests; an authoritarian, anti-left state is good for corporate profits. But differing from a significant strand of fascism historiography, Vials explains that fascism was never merely a direct expression of the business elite. Rather, its agents were mostly dispossessed yet politically ambitious members of the middle class.
Its this same segment of the United States population, to the extent it is anti-intellectual, anti-cosmopolitan and xenophobic, that worries Vials. To be sure, he envisions no American Reich on the horizon, no Blackshirts and Brownshirts goose-stepping in the streets. On the other hand, following historian and political scientist Robert Paxton, he feels that we should always be on guard against fascism's "functional equivalents.