As the 1930’s began the governments of Italy and Germany descended into Fascism. Many saw this as the answer to the world’s economic crisis however despite this the U.S. did not go into a fascist state. It did although initiate several programs that many of the population and the media compared to the fascist governments of Europe.
Wolfgang Schivelbusch explores these comparisons in the book Three New Deals. In the early 1930’s when the Roosevelt administration had just taken office they looked toward the Italian government to model their economic reforms. Many did not appreciate the similarities of FDR and the Fascist dictators of Europe. However most of his polices were a mixture of Democratic and Fascist ideals. After FDR had initiated the NRA or National Recovery Administration Mussolini wrote in a book review of Roosevelt’s Looking Forward “The appeal to the decisiveness and masculine sobriety of the nations youth, with which Roosevelt here calls his readers to battle, is reminiscent of the ways and means by which Fascism awakened the Italian People.” Here we have one of the most infamous Dictators of the world comparing the process that FDR had began to that of Fascist uprising in Italy. When this review was published the Press department was ordered not to compare the new deal as fascist because it would have given Roosevelt’s political enemies welcomed ammunition. Even that fact that there was potential to label the new deal and the president himself to fascism grants one to imagine that there may have been fascist ideals in Roosevelt’s policies. Within Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address there is fascist qualities. However it is more of wartime propaganda comparing the economic crisis as an enemy that the country must rise up in arms to fight against the foe. French and English commentators also compared Roosevelt to a strong leader and in most cases they depicted him as commander in chief similar to the roman Dictator called into service in times of Crisis, another way that they usually depicted him, as was a plebiscitary autocrat a la Mussolini. The comparisons of FDR to the fascist regimes of Europe were not confined to the political enemies and the fascist regimes themselves; many out side of the expected drew comparisons. Personally I would like to know how despite the recovery that was clearly happening after FDR’s polices were put into effect, that some people still feared that his programs where to fascist and would in the long term destroy the liberties of the American people.
From the reading it seems that regardless of the success of the recovery, there was no doubt that the scope of the New Deal and the powers that its implementation required had fascist elements- a strong, central government and a federally regulated economy. Had the New Deal not eventually succeeded (which some historians might argue against), would those fears have been founded? Might FDR taken steps even closer towards true fascism in pursuit of recovery?
The point that you make about how despite signs of recovery people were still critical of FDR’s policies was something that I also though about while reading. I believe that these doubts were in part a result of fear and mistrust among citizens as a result of the economic and social conditions of the time. Additionally there will always be political opponents looking for a way to criticize and find faults in policies- it’s inherent to politics. There are many examples in recent history and as well as today of such political friction.