Fascism: A Warning is New York Times Bestseller. Best Books of 2018-The Economist
A personal urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve a U.S. secretary of state.
A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever after means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.”
The Wreckage Of 2016
This book, Fascism: A Warning, rose from the wreckage of 2016, for many of us a year of bewilderment. First the British were lured into Brexit by the false promise of a new relationship with the European Union, one they mistakenly thought would enable them to retain their rights while shedding their responsibilities.
Then in November, Donald Trump won a majority in the American electoral college despite violating every precept of conventional political wisdom (aside from remaining in the public eye) from the beginning of his campaign until the end. Few believed that could happen, but it did.
Albright writes: “Even before the 2016 balloting, I had decided to write about the toils and snares confronting democracies around the world. My idea was to make support for free governments, a foreign policy priority in Hillary Clinton’s first term.
The political upheaval following the election added urgency to the task, and partially shifted the focus to include Trump’s take no-prisoners approach to governing. Where in the past you could assume that the U.S. government would put its foot down on the side of democratic institutions and values, Trump’s foot has been fully engaged in kicking America’s allies, the independent press, federal prosecutors, immigrant families, and the notion-stressed to most children at an early age-that facts matter.
Heads Of Government-With An Autocratic Bent, Have Won Reelection
In Russia, Hungary, Egypt, Venezuela, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Cambodia Bent Countries.
In each case the field of competition was tilted heavily in favor of the incumbent. These were not fair elections. In Brazil, voters fed up with corruption, crime, and recession turned to an openly misogynistic right-wing candidate who promises quick solutions based, in part, on a full-scale retreat from environmental stewardship.
In Europe and elsewhere, extreme nationalist movements continue to scale the ramparts-shifting the terms of debate, moving into legislature slice of power.
Italy’s new leaders boast of their refusal to knuckle under to regional norms. In Syria, the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad still flaunts his ability to dominate seven years after an American president urged his removal. In the Middle East, more fissures are opening due to such shocks as the cold-blooded murder and dismemberment of a reporter in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
Worldwide, there are more refugees huddled in camps than there have been since the Nazi surrender almost three-quarters of a century ago, and the United States is less welcoming to the international homeless now than at anytime in modern memory.
Albright writes: “I was among the tens of millions of American who went to the pols, thus participating in democracy’s signature rite.”
The balloting in the midterm elections was described by many-including the president-as a referendum on the leadership of Donald Trump. As such, the results were inconclusive, but mildly encouraging. The Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives although the Republicans, as expected increased their majority in the Senate. Maneuvering for the next big election has already commenced.
Our Political Parties At War With One Another
Albright writes: “Overall, I found the national mood to be cranky; and it’s no wonder we’re on edge. Our political parties are at war with one another and fracturing internally at the same time.”
“We have a president who considers it good politics to drive our citizens apart and whose approach to world affairs prompts many among us to cringe while others stick out their chests. Common ground is hard to find; instead, we are at each other’s throats. Even now, with the volume on my television turned low, I can hear the yelling.” Albright writes
What This Book Offers
This book offers both a historical perspective and a global one. Many of the trends we now see were also evident in much earlier decades. This leads to some important questions: What horrors perpetrated long ago by the followers of Mussolini and Hitler?
Where do we draw the line between the simple abuse of authority and the gross misrule called Fascism? How can we explain the alarming rise and contagious spread of anti-democratic trends? Is the hitherto unshakable bond between Europe and the United States unraveling and, if so, can it still be mended? What must we do to ensure the preservation of freedom for our children and those who will come after?
Fascist attitudes take hold when there are no social anchors and when the perception grows that everybody lies, steals, and cares only about hi-or herself. That is when the yearning is felt for a strong hand to protest against the evil “other-whether Jew, Muslim, Black, so-called rednecks, or so-called elite.
Flawed though our institutions maybe, they are the best that four thousand years of civilization have produced and cannot be cast aside without opening the door to something far worse.
The wise response to intolerance is not more intolerance or selfrighteousness; it is a coming together across the ideological spectrum of people who want to make democracies more effective. We should remember that the heroes we charish-Lincoln, King, Gandhi, Mandela-spoke to the best within us. The crops we’ll harvest depend on the seeds we sow.
The twentieth century was definitely the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainly about the survival of human freedom and left millions dead. Given the horrors of that experience, one might expect the world to reject the spiritual successors to Hitler and Mussolini should they arise in our era.
Fascism, as she shows, not only endured through the twentieth century but now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice that at anytime since the end of World War II. The momentum toward democracy that swept the world when the Berlin Wall fell has gone into reverse.
The United States, which historically championed the free world, is led by a president who exacerbates division and heaps scorn on democratic institutions. In many countries, economic, technological, and cultural factors are weakening the political center and empowering the extremes of right and left. Contemporary leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are employing many of the tactics used by Fascists in the 1920s and 30s.
Fascism: A Warning is a book for our times that is relevant to all times. Written by someone who has not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past.
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All The Best,