FASCISM: A Warning.

AuthorMcMillan, Stuart
PositionBook review

Author: Madeleine Albright

Published by: HarperCollins, New York, 2018, 288pp, US$27.99.

These are rough times for liberal democracy. In the Economist's 2017 Democracy Index no region recorded an improvement in its average score compared to 2016. The United States was demoted to a flawed democracy. This deteriorating state of affairs has given rise to several 'Could it happen here?' considerations. Madeleine Albright worries that there may be a drift into fascism --a worry sharpened by her childhood experience of becoming a refugee from Czechoslovakia as Nazism took hold in Europe from Germany and later learning that some of her Jewish relatives lost their lives in concentration camps. After the Second World War her family had to leave Czechoslovakia again because of Soviet intentions to dominate.

Albright is well aware that the fascist label is often applied indiscriminately or thoughtlessly. Her working definition: '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'.

But this book is not a treatise on definitions: rather it is a distillation of historical instances of fascism and more recent occurrences of authoritarianism and dictatorships, some of which are illuminated by her personal experiences as United States secretary of state or as US permanent representative to the United Nations. The book probably does not add anything to what is already known about Adolf Hider or Benito Mussolini, but she focuses on the character of the fascist regimes they established. She has met many leaders who were or became authoritarian, including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Kim Jong II (Kim Jong Un's father), Vladimir Putin, Slobodan Milosevic and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But she is a disciplined writer and although there are anecdotes aplenty, she does not lose sight of the elements she fears might cause a drift towards fascism. Despite the number of dictatorships or authoritarian regimes she identifies, she calls only one fascist--that of North Korea. Putin gets spared because, in her view, he has not needed to become fascist.

Dissatisfaction and distress among a lot of people are among the conditions Albright sees as allowing fascism to flourish. Other conditions are a political opposition that is weak, a bully and a gradual movement towards fascism and admiration for...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT