Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright offers this guidebook for understanding fascism and the conditions under which authoritarians seize power, pointing to historical examples such as Hitler and Mussolini and sounding the warning bell for the contemporary rise of "anti-democratic" leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
With America’s global standing now downgraded from 'full democracy to 'flawed democracy' by the Economist Intelligence Unit, this is no time for complacency. Albright outlines the warning signs of fascism and offers concrete actions for restoring America’s values and reputation. There is priceless wisdom on every page.
In Fascism: A Warning Albright (with Bill Woodward) draws on her personal history, government experience and conversations with Georgetown students to assess current dangers and how to deal with them. Albright does this via an examination of cases in Europe and America from World War I through the present day ... Albright worries that Trump’s isolationism, protectionism and fondness for dictators are eroding America’s ability to lead and help solve international challenges, deepening divisions within the West and emboldening antidemocratic forces. Despite all this, Albright is hopeful. She ends her book referencing leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, who helped their countries move past periods of intense violence and division. Democracy’s problems can, Albright assures us, be overcome — but only if we recognize history’s lessons and never take democracy for granted.
The first chapters of her book follow the careers of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and ’30s. Her account gains additional force from her own biography: As a little girl, she had to leave her native Czechoslovakia with her family after the Nazis invaded in 1939. (Her maternal grandmother, who was Jewish, was murdered by the Nazis in World War II.) The rest of the book, in which she melds her travels as secretary of state with ruminations about despots around the world, is decidedly weaker. There’s an obligatory feel to these accounts ... Almost in passing, she mentions that the Kim family regime in North Korea — she conducted talks in 2000 with Kim Jong Il, the father of the incumbent there — probably qualifies as the only truly fascist regime in the world today. I happen to agree with her on that. Unfortunately, she never really explains what she means by it ... she doesn’t add a great deal more to our understanding of what qualifies someone as a modern fascist or how fascism might have mutated to fit current conditions. And that is a pity, because it’s just the sort of clarifying discussion we desperately need.