The Three New Deals: Kinship?

“Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939” by Wolfgang Schivelbusch gives a new take on the ideals and foundations of totalitarianism and collectivism by juxtaposing the politics and economics that dominated the US, Germany and Italy during the 1930s. In this text, Schivelbusch investigates the fundamental similarities between the “three new deals.” Putting all three of this regimes next to each other gives a different perspective on the totalitarian regimes that rose after the Great Depression, as well as on Roosevelt’s democratically praised New Deal programs. Schivelbusch begins the book with a quote by Scottish philosopher David Hume. He states, “as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and the most military governments as well as to the most free and popular.” Schivelbusch sets the tone using this quote by Hume from “Of the First Principles of Government” in an effort to portray and demonstrate some of the similarities and characteristics of the three governments that resulted from the First World War and the Great Depression in an effort to reestablish economic, political, and social order. Schivelbusch compares and contrasts all three new deals in order to offer a new explanation as to why Europe’s totalitarian systems became so popular. In his introduction, he explains that “the New Deal, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany all profited from the illusion of the nation as an egalitarian community whose members looked out for one another’s welfare under the watchful eyes of a strong leader” (15). This shows that these “three new deals” grew popular because it resulted in the improvement of its respective nations after suffering a Great Depression.

Although the United States fought against Italy and Germany in the Second World War, initially, there were many similarities between the three governments and economic systems. In the first chapter, Schivelbusch describes how similar Roosevelt’s New Deal economic policies were so similar to the policies enacted by Hitler and Mussolini especially. The chapter is titled, Kinship? From the very beginning, Schivelbusch challenges his readers to consider these close similarities despite the clear divide between the US, Italy, and Germany during WWII. It is described that the New Deal was often compared to Fascism because of its transition from a liberal free-market system to a system with corporatist characteristics. Schivelbusch cites a German paper that stated that “if not in the same words, [Roosevelt], too, demands that collective good be put before individual self-interest. Many passages in his book Looking Forward could have been written by a National Socialist. In any case, one can assume that he feels considerable affinity with the National Socialist philosophy” (19). In addition to policy, Schivelbusch also demonstrates the respect and sympathy that all politicians shared for each other. Mussolini and FDR in particular admired one another’s policy implementations as well as each other’s character up until the Italian led invasion on Ethiopiain 1935. Schivelbusch quotes Roosevelt stating, “there seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy” (31). This is an interesting take considering that fascism is often linked to one of the many evils that the United States and its allies tried to rid the world of. Meanwhile, FDR himself praised the very beginnings and economic foundations that Mussolini preached and incorporated into Fascist Italy. Although Schivelbusch uses an ample amount of evidence that the “three new deals” may have shared similar origins, he also stresses the fundamental difference that the New Deal, unlike Fascism, had preserved individual civil liberties (30). Can we argue to opposite in terms of internment camps in the US that were formed later on in the war? Can we argue the Roosevelt indeed incorporated Fascist ideals? Lastly, can we consider collectivism as another characteristic of the rising modern world?

3 thoughts on “The Three New Deals: Kinship?

  1. This reading forces the reader to think as we did about what modernity can be defined as. I believe that collectivism can definitely be considered a characteristic of modern societies. Defined as the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it, collectivism was certainly prevalent in all three New Deals. Think about the quote you referenced saying, “the New Deal, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany all profited from the illusion of the nation as an egalitarian community whose members looked out for one another’s welfare under the watchful eyes of a strong leader.” When we did our Hoffman reading on Modernity, one common factor in each society was the implementation of a welfare state in some capacity. By having “…members [who] looked out for one another’s welfare” couldn’t welfare systems be considered a form of collectivism? After all, the theory behind welfare is that all citizens contribute to the well being of the state, specifically in this case, by making it the state’s responsibility, (not that of the individual) to provide necessary aid. If all modern states implemented a form of welfare, then subsequently, collectivism can be seen as a aspect of modern systems.

    • I agree that collectivism is rapidly becoming a part of modern systems; however, we are starting to see that it strains societies as it did in the mid 20th century. Unfortunately collectivism seems to be a harder concept to live by in countries with diverse populations where the majority does not want to be collective with minorities. With the recent rise in violence against Jewish, Muslim, and other immigrant populations throughout Europe (and the US) are we once again perhaps edging towards the dangerous collectivism associated with the Three New Deals?

  2. I think one can argue that FDR incorporated Fascist ideologies. I think that in a time of great economic turmoil, FDR looked to other places to help him formulate a plan to get the United States back on track. I believe one would have to study the infrastructure of Italian Fascism as well as its policies and carefully compare it to FDR’S plans. Would FDR’s decision to look at other countries like Italy, if made public, be a popular decision? Maybe not. But he did what he thought was best to get the country back on track.

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