Sunday, October 01, 2006

Are they Nazis?

It is common in the less civilized portions of the internet to refer to Republicans as fascists or Nazis ("Bushitler"). This has gone mainstream with ex-VP Al Gore referring to Republicans as brownshirts. Sen. Byrd claimed that proposed changes in the filibuster rules would make Senate Republicans equivalent to Nazis. This makes it interesting to look back in history at the relationship between Democrats and fascists:
The Nazi press enthusiastically hailed the early New Deal measures: America, like the Reich, had decisively broken with the "uninhibited frenzy of market speculation." The Nazi Party newspaper, the V├Âlkischer Beobachter, "stressed 'Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies,' praising the president's style of leadership as being compatible with Hitler's own dictatorial F├╝hrerprinzip" (p. 190).

Nor was Hitler himself lacking in praise for his American counterpart. He "told American ambassador William Dodd that he was 'in accord with the President in the view that the virtue of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline should dominate the entire people. These moral demands which the President places before every individual citizen of the United States are also the quintessence of the German state philosophy, which finds its expression in the slogan "The Public Weal Transcends the Interest of the Individual"'" (pp. 19-20). A New Order in both countries had replaced an antiquated emphasis on rights.

Mussolini, who did not allow his work as dictator to interrupt his prolific journalism, wrote a glowing review of Roosevelt's Looking Forward. He found "reminiscent of fascism … the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices"; and, in another review, this time of Henry Wallace's New Frontiers, Il Duce found the Secretary of Agriculture's program similar to his own corporativism (pp. 23-24).

Roosevelt never had much use for Hitler, but Mussolini was another matter. "'I don't mind telling you in confidence,' FDR remarked to a White House correspondent, 'that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman'" (p. 31). Rexford Tugwell, a leading adviser to the president, had difficulty containing his enthusiasm for Mussolini's program to modernize Italy: "It's the cleanest … most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious" (p. 32, quoting Tugwell).
(Hat tip to Brussels Journal.)

Even if FDR and the fascists shared some economic ideas, principally a disdain for the free market and an admiration for strong central government, that does not make FDR a Nazi. Even if FDR put Japanese in concentration camps during WWII, that still does not make him a Nazi. (Lack of gas chambers is an obvious key difference.) Of course, Geo. Bush isn't a Nazi either.

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