Liberal Fascism

Thom Hartmann Show

Pretty hilarious. He’s an Air America guy and I just did 10 minutes with him. He started by reading an endless quote from Henry Wallace about Fascism. I wonder whether Hartmann knows what a pro-Communist stooge Wallace was. He then trolled through the lefty blog talking points a bit.

Anyway what was fun about it is that he set the criteria by which we should judge what is and isn’t fascism. In his case, he’s still carrying water for the Marxist view that fascism is merely the collusion of big business and government. As I write in my book there’s merit to this view, though it hardly does justice to the full sweep of what fascism was or is. But judged by that narrow criteria, I don’t see how Crolyite progressivism, Wilsonism or New Dealism  aren’t fascist (a point countless socialists and conservatives made in the 1930s).  Herbert Croly opposed breaking up the trusts believing instead that industry should be enlisted in the task of governing. Wilson’s dollar-a-year-men loved the corporatism of Wilson’s war socialism, celebrating it as an economic dictatorship. Many of them believed it should be continued indefinitely. FDR’s New Deal was pitched at the “forgotten man” but it ended up helping big business and the vested interests. 

Here are some relevant passages from the book. On Teddy Roosevelt, who abandoned his fondness for trust-busting by the time he ran as a Progressive in 1912: 

Teddy, the famous trustbuster, had resigned himself to “bigness” and now believed the state should use the trusts for its own purposes rather than engage in an endless and fruitless battle to break them up. “The effort at prohibiting all combination has substantially failed,” he explained. “The way out lies, not in attempting to prevent such combinations, but in completely controlling them in the interest of the public welfare.” Teddy’s New Nationalism was equal parts nationalism and socialism. “The New Nationalism,” Roosevelt proclaimed, “rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.” This sort of rhetoric conjured fears among classical liberals (again, increasingly called conservatives) that Teddy would ride roughshod over American liberties. “Where will it all end?” asked the liberal editor of the New York World about the rush to centralize government power. “Despotism? Caesarism?”

And this is from a passage on the New Deal:

The propaganda of the New Deal—“malefactors of great wealth”

and all that—to the contrary, FDR simply endeavored to re-create

the corporatism of the last war. The New Dealers invited one industry

after another to write the codes under which they would be regulated

(as they had been begging to do in many cases). The National

Recovery Administration, or NRA, was even more aggressive in

forcing industries to fix prices and in other ways collude with one

another. The NRA approved 557 basic and 189 supplementary

codes, covering roughly 95 percent of all industrial workers.

It was not only inevitable but intended for big business to get bigger

and the little guy to get screwed. For example, the owners of the

big chain movie houses wrote the codes in such a way that independents

were nearly run out of business, even though 13,571 of the

18,321 movie theaters in America were independently owned. In

business after business, the little guy was crushed or at least severely

disadvantaged in the name of “efficiency” and “progress.” The codes for

industries dealing in cotton, wool, carpet, and sugar were—

“down to the last comma”—simply the trade association agreements

from the Hoover administration. And in almost every case big business

came out the winner. In “virtually all the codes we have examined,”

reported Clarence Darrow in his final report investigating

Hugh Johnson’s NRA, “one condition has been persistent . . . In

Industry after Industry, the larger units, sometimes through the

agency of . . . [a trade association], sometimes by other means, have

for their own advantage written the codes, and then, in effect and for

their own advantage, assumed the administration of the code they

have framed.” We may believe that FDR fashioned the New Deal out

of concern for the “forgotten man.” But as one historian put it, “The

principle . . . seemed to be: to him that hath it shall be given.”16

Indeed, FDR’s pragmatism and experimentalism, so cherished by

liberals then and now, were of a deeply ideological sort: social planners

should be given a free rein to do what they like until they get it

right. Thurman Arnold, the theorist behind the new “religion of government”

and director of FDR’s antitrust division, abandoned the

standard liberal antipathy for cartels, monopolies, and trusts and instead

emphasized consumption.

   

    All this was done with the acquiescence of the liberal establishment,

a.k.a. the “new class” of managers, experts, and technocrats.

The idea was that the smartest people should be immune to the rules

of chaotic capitalism and vulgar politics. The “best practices” of

business and engineering should be applied to politics. These

schemes went by any number of labels—syndicalism, Fordism,

Taylorism, technocracy—but the underlying impulse was the same.

Businessmen were part of this new conventional wisdom. Gerard

Swope, the president of GE, provides a perfect illustration of the

business elite’s economic worldview. A year before FDR took office,

he published his modestly titled The Swope Plan. His idea was that

the government would agree to suspend antitrust laws so that industries

could collude in order to adjust “production to consumption.”

Industry would “no longer operate in independent units, but as a

whole, according to rules laid out by a trade association . . . the

whole supervised by some federal agency like the Federal Trade

Commission.”

Me: Now I think that fascism is more than the marriage of big business and big government, but if liberals wish to cling to that definition, they have some explaining to do.  

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