Soviet dictator Josef Stalin achieved one of the greatest propaganda victories of the 20th century. He convinced the West's political and intellectual class that communism and fascism are polar opposites. In fact, the very opposite is true: fascism is a variant of left-wing ideology. Marxism and Nazism are political twins, offshoots of totalitarian socialism.
Admittedly, this insight is not mine. Rather, it is that of National Review's Jonah Goldberg, whose brilliant book, "Liberal Fascism," has just been issued in paperback. Mr. Goldberg's central thesis is that, contrary to leftist myth, there is no such thing as "right-wing fascism."
During its golden age in the 1930s, fascism was widely viewed as a "progressive" ideology that championed economic modernization, active social welfare policies and the Leviathan state. Italian strongman Benito Mussolini and German dictator Adolf Hitler were self-proclaimed men of the left. Both leaders understood that fascism was a form of revolutionary socialism.
What differentiated Hitlerism from Bolshevism was its blood-and-soil ultra-nationalism and emphasis on the primacy of race.
Moreover, fascists sought to tether the private sector to statist social engineering. Fascism competed with Marxist-Leninism to be the successor to parliamentary democracy and capitalism -- widely viewed as moribund.
The only real opponent of fascism has been conservatism, which champions small government, free markets, Judeo-Christian civilization and individual rights. It's no accident Hitler's greatest foe was British Tory Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Both Hitler and Mussolini were national socialists. They were militant pagans hostile to Christianity, religious orthodoxy and tradition. They believed in the cult of personality, mass propaganda and the pseudo-spiritual transformational nature of politics: charismatic leadership as a means of fulfilling people's deepest aspirations. They glorified the state, as well as the subordination of the individual and the family to the collective. They created a corporatist economy that combined big business, big labor and big government. They emphasized the nationalization of key industries, redistribution of wealth, massive public works projects and trade protectionism. They established a so-called "social safety net" through national health care, unemployment insurance and government pensions. They erected a cradle-to-grave welfare state.
Fascist social policy was so popular that President Franklin Roosevelt incorporated much of it in the New Deal.
Embarrassed by the horrors of World War II and Auschwitz, the West's liberal elite disowned Hitler and then falsely portrayed him as a reactionary right-winger.
Yet fascism's leftist heritage cannot be denied. It explains Mr. Obama's relentless consolidation of power. He is America's most radical president. At his core, Mr. Obama is a liberal fascist, fusing statism with postmodern multiculturalism.
During his first six months in office, he has expanded government power to an extent unimaginable even a year ago. He is spending hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects. He has nationalized banks, the financial sector and the auto industry. His regulatory policies represent an unprecedented intervention in the economy. He wants to nationalize health care. He supports the House-passed climate bill, which would impose the largest tax increase in U.S. history, enforce crushing environmental mandates on business and industry, and transform America into a "green" economy.
In short, Mr. Obama is slowly erecting a corporatist state that will solidify one-party liberal rule for generations.
Mr. Obama has fostered a cult of personality -- achieving almost mystical celebrity status among his supporters. During his presidential campaign, he constantly put forth a quasi-religious conception of his candidacy and movement: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." To many of his backers, Mr. Obama was simply "The One," a political messiah who at mass rallies often induced crying and hysteria.
Fascists have celebrated racialism and ethnic chauvinism; Mr. Obama's liberal fascism is no different -- except, it has morphed into postmodern identity politics. Take his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She is an unabashed racialist, who believes in Hispanic cultural supremacy. She also embraces the pernicious doctrine of "inherent physiological and cultural differences" among groups. For her, race, ethnicity and gender trump a common American heritage.
Under Mr. Obama's fascist regime, it is not Jews, Slavs or Gypsies who are murdered, but unborn babies. He is an extreme pro-choice supporter, even opposing the ban on partial-birth abortion. He has vowed to eventually pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify legalized abortion and dismantle all restrictions.
Mr. Obama is not a Hitler or a Mussolini. He is not a crypto-dictator. Nor does he believe in an authoritarian police state or territorial expansionism. But Hitler and Mussolini were men of a different age, time and national culture; their fascism was distinctly German and Italian.
Mr. Obama's fascism is uniquely American. His revolution is not of blood and iron, but of pork and bailouts. His fascism is a potent mix of incremental socialism, messianic liberalism and puritanical environmentalism. It is not the crude militarism of the jackboot but the sugar-coated, forced spoon-feeding of the nanny state.
It may be softer, more civilized and sophisticated. But it is just as destructive to economic freedom and individual liberty.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and the President of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank.