Book Review

Former diplomat warns about dying democracy


From the first American woman Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright comes the 304 paged book Fascism: A Warning, published this year. The 81-year-old, born in Prague, named Marie Jana, is a distinguished scholar in her own right and a New York Times best-selling author.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Fascism as a political philosophy, or regime that exalts nation and often race. It also defines it as a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control. You could say that for a younger and more contemporary generation, fascism belongs in the history books and is associated with men such as Adolf Hitler and Bennito Mussolini.

Albright warns fascism could be the very uncomfortable death to democracy. Fascism is vague and swings to either side of the political divide. For example, its 1920s Italy, fascists argued for dictatorial regimes while in Germany, National Socialists of Nazis merged their promises for better life with anti-Semitic propaganda. She gives examples of regimes she reckons are on the brink of fascism but I will not explore that in detail here. There is also the “America First” slogan, pulled from historical archives by US President Donald Trump.

Although its 2018, and there are very modern leaders in the world today, the seasoned diplomat reckons some could use democracy to achieve dictatorships. Fascism, Albright quips, is normal looking back at human history, such as was the case after World War I.

Madeleine dedicates the book to “all who fight fascism in others and in themselves” as well as victims of fascism. Written with contemporary examples that even the millennials understand, the book is not only a history buff’s dream, but ideal for scholars, those who love democracy and should help for civil society and media to raise questions that help keep tabs on governments and elected leaders. Madeleine refers to Donald Trump as “America’s first modern anti-democratic president”.

The Georgetown University professor is simple in her writing, lacking in the complexities and jargon that learned fellows like to sprinkle in their works.

Options to democracy are fast gaining ground in the world today as seen in the Economist’s Democracy Index. As of 2017, respect for due process and religious liberties had declined compared to previous years. Economic inequalities, lack of trust bred on propaganda, automation/artificial intelligence has led to an increase in joblessness, can pose as a petri dish, fertile for reproducing fascism, according to Fascism: A Warning. Madeleine believes this is what propeled to the rise of Donald Trump into the Oval Office.

The idea that America is a bastion of democracy is shattering at an astonishing rate the world over post Donald Trump swearing in. It is a historic ideal that is ingrained in the world’s psych. However, now that there’s uncertainty around this very ideal as far as America is concerned, Madeleine Albright thinks POTUS’ praising authoritarian governments, damages democracy as we know it world over. But what effect is Mr. Trump having on home soil? Albright cautions that fascism creeps up, and Americans must stand firm in the ideals of good governance and democracy.