A Mutual Admiration Society: FDR and the Left’s Romance with Fascism

A Mutual Admiration Society: FDR and the Left’s Romance with Fascism, by Dinesh D’Souza.

At a time when the left and the media routinely liken President Trump and the Republicans to fascism, it is time to report on a little secret history that has been nicely buried by progressive historiography. Normally history cannot be so easily tucked away, but in this case, the left is so dominant in academia and the media that it has been able to get away with it. …

What’s reported here — the left’s early romance with fascism and national socialism — is a major embarrassment for the future prospects of the left. How can the left claim to be the party of “progress” and all things good, true and beautiful when the record shows the left was in bed with Mussolini and, to a lesser extent, Hitler? …

From FDR’s point of view, Mussolini had gotten an earlier start in expanding state power in a way that FDR himself intended; Italy under the Duce seemed to have moved further down the progressive road than America. So FDR urged leading members of his brain trust to visit Italy and study Mussolini’s fascist policies to see which of them could be integrated into the New Deal.

Rexford Tugwell, one of FDR’s closest advisers, returned from Italy [and] … was especially impressed by how the Italian fascists were able to override political and press opposition and get things done. Tugwell quoted favorably from the 1927 charter of Italian fascism, the Carta del Lavoro, which seems to have impressed him far more than the American Constitution. Fascism, he concluded, “is the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.”

This sycophantic devotion to fascism, strange though it appears today, was at the time characteristic of the way that leading leftists felt about Mussolini, both in Europe and the United States. In England, the Fabian socialist George Bernard Shaw praised Mussolini for actually implementing socialist ideals. In 1932, the utopian leftist novelist H. G. Wells actually called for a “liberal fascism” in the West, emphasizing the need for “enlightened Nazis.” As for the novelist Gertrude Stein, she insisted as late as 1937 that the most deserving candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize was Adolf Hitler. …

And the enthusiasm was reciprocal: both Hitler and Mussolini praised FDR and saw in the progressive New Deal an at least partial realization of the ideals of both fascism and National Socialism. Let’s peek into the windows of this mutual admiration society.

Fascism is the marriage of socialism and nationalism. Mussolini, Hitler and others were soldiers in WWI, and observed that soldiers fought each other despite their common class interests … nationalism trumped socialism. So, committed socialists that they were, upon returning home after the war ended they harnessed nationalism to the socialist cause.

Hence the 1930s was dominated by two competing leftist movements: the “internationalist socialists” (communists) versus the “national socialists” (fascists).

hat-tip Charles