The title is Fascism: A Warning but the focus is, as implied, on Trump. The book is basically a history of fascism from the days of WWII to our own which includes a tour through various fascist regimes of the 20th century and an introduction to (or a reminder of) their leaders throughout that time. It includes background on the the countries and their leaders from Italy’s Mussolini (the first) to North Korea’s Kimi Jong-un). The scope of the subtitle, A Warning, is the entire world, but I think the focus is the US under Trump his actions/ inactions and the effect that has on the whole world.
Fascism: A Warning
by Madeleine Albright
2018 / 289 pages (Kindle)
read by Madeleine Albright
rating 9 / history/politics –
This was simply the next scheduled read at the All-Nonfiction Reading Group and I was looking forward to it because it fits in with the political reading I’ve been doing the last few months.
Albright has written several books since her retirement in 2003, but I’ve only read one – Madam Secretary (2003), a memoir.
She has a doctorate with something in political science and is on the academic staff at Georgetown in Eastern European Studies – she was ambassador to the UN from 1993 -1997 and Secretary of State under Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001 as well as active with other administrations (Carter and GW Bush). The history in the book is just what she lived through – with maybe of the end of WWI to establish a context for Hitler.
The epigraph is telling:
“Every age has its own Fascism” Primo Levi
With that Epigraph standing, in its own way, as an Introduction – and considering the bulk of the book, it works quite well. Albright does however, use Chapter 1 to more or less outline the scope of the book from a general level.
The first short chapter “A Doctrine of Anger and Fear,” provides a wee bit of Albright’s personal background and a longer section dealing with Donald Trump and how he came to office. Then she relates the genesis of the book.
A couple of quotes:
“What is real Fascism, and how does one recognize a practitioner?”
And it’s “fear and anger” again –
“To my mind, a Fascist is someone who identifies strongly with and claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use whatever means are necessary—including violence—to achieve his or her goals. In that conception, a Fascist will likely be a tyrant, but a tyrant need not be a Fascist. Often the difference can be seen in who is trusted with the guns. (KIndle page 11)
And Albright continues from the promise of post-WWI Europe to disillusionment and the spread of of factions springing up in across Europe to witness the fledgling democracies crack under the pressure of social tensions. Italy was first –
And the next ten short chapters are basically 20th century history of fascist Europe from the very end of WWI to the end of the Cold War and Bosnia followed by the more recent events in Central and South America – Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The whole point is the similarities – that’s what keeps the narrative together.
I was absorbed until maybe Chapter 4 but then, after WWII throughout the Cold War and beyond, my interest waned as the histories and fascist leaders of Czechoslovakia and Bosnia and Nicaragua and Venezuela during this time were presented. In each case Albright points out the fascist nature of their governments and leaders -focusing, probably on their methods. . The thing is that most of them have a kind of resonance with our experience with Trump. The history of Turkey was more interesting, but …
** In Chapter 12, “Man From the KGB,” my interest picked up again – way up. Putin, I have very strange opinion of Putin – the better part of me completely condemns him – the more aloof part admires him but even with that I have to admit he’s a throwback to the era of the Tzars.
Chapter 13 goes back to Eastern Europe, a bit more of its history but some interesting material on the expansion of NATO and the EU as well as immigration and nationalism.
Chapter 14 is an overview of North Korea, a subject unto itself.
** And it’s in Chapter 15, ‘President of the United States,” where Albright really gets on Trump and his resemblance to the leaders of the past is apparent. (It’s apparent long before this.) On the other hand, not to totally give up hope, she says that she has hope that some of his methods will have positive results.
Chapter 16 goes into three different scenarios which actually “could” happen but aren’t – it’s point is how they came to be. She hits on the reality of “left wing fascists” here.
Chapter 17 is about getting some awareness of where we actually are – how to figure it out – who a candidate is – how to figure that out.
This book does show me a huge reason Trump voters voted the way they did – fear was as much a part of it – maybe even more than anger. It wasn’t, possibly, all about what had already happened (anger) so much as what’s going to happen next (fear); – “If you don’t like the way the immigrants situation is now … And “If you think the current entitlement state is bad and costly just wait until … ” etc.
The Russian interference in our elections is not really mentioned here – I think it would be information overload and it’s not really within the actual scope of the book.
Churchill I believe said it – “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – That applies here because the temptation, on BOTH sides, is to “clamp down.”
Well, one has to take someone like Albright seriously, but I’d be more inclined to read a book on this subject that’s written by an historian rather than a politician.
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She has a doctorate with something in political science and is on the academic staff at Georgetown in Eastern European Studies – she was ambassador to the UN from 1993 -1997 (Bill Clinton). The history in the book is just what she lived through – with maybe of the end of WWI to establish a context for Hitler.
Tim Snyder is a historian – he’s written a couple books about Russia and our ugly Trump era – both excellent.
I added those qualifications to my post – thanks –
Yes, she’s had a distinguished career, and she’s an impressive woman:)
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Sounds like it should be mandatory reading given how things have turned out in our country. Still, I disagree in part about her definition of Fascism; I think that a fascist regime is one in which certain groups are targeted and blamed for the country’s problems, and one in which certain groups are highlighted as saviors or superior in any way. I don’t believe that most tyrants are included in that definition even if they rule with fear. The cases of Venezuela and Nicaragua are quite unique because those are leftist regimes inspired and spearheaded by the virulent Castro brothers. They took advantage of Venezuela and its resources, exchanging professional aid (doctors, teachers, health aid technicians) for oil subsidy. The result is a very impoverished economy that cannot provide the staples of the most basic diet. The Castros have provided aid in other ways too, instructing them in propaganda and police state techniques. Result, a regime that suppresses freedom of opinion and counteracts opposition with violence. They have done changes to the constitution to guarantee the same form of government for years to come. Its population has been left with no choice but searching for a better way of life by escaping Venezuela.
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