23 May 2011

The essence of fascism

"Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power.

"The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living. Both lessons hit home. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, speaking in 1938.

Discussed in a Reddit thread.


  1. It's pretty clear that this is a speech given by a man trying in earnest to make (or justify) his own power grab. In two simple paragraphs he has demonized both free ownership (using the loaded term 'private power') and free enterprise. His claim that individual liberty is in danger mostly due to the consequences of individual liberty is a falsity worthy of Orwell.

    Roosevelt's position is justified by neither common sense nor history. Fascist regimes are characterized by massive expansions of government power and they generally represent a nadir for individual rights and freedoms.

    This is not to say there aren't dangers inherent in extreme forms of "private power". I believe governments exist solely to keep those private powers in check, a task involving a fair and balanced justice system and rule of law. However, this isn't really what FDR is talking about here. He's justifying the enormous government expansion he's undertaken, laying the groundwork for further expansion into the business world, and painting his detractors as Fascists.

    These words are more worthy of Stalin.

  2. Amen to Bret insofar as his criticism of FDR, but the larger issue (to me) is that Roosevelt is intentionally misrepresenting facsism to push his own agenda, in a manner strikingly similar to Lincoln's misrepresentation of the founding of the US in the Gettysburg address.

    The shift is subtle but powerful, and what follows from the redefinition is an excuse (as Bret mentioned) for massive invasion of and violation of individual rights.

    The essence of Fascism is NOT ownership of government by an individual, but rather government control of nominally private wealth. You may hold the means of production, but the state controls how you use it.

    Of course this is what we have now in most of the nations of Europe, and the US, whether we admit it or not.

  3. http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm

  4. Thank you, jaundicedi. A useful link.

  5. Let's not forget that FDR had every reason to be leery of fascism...


  6. Excellent, Stan. I need to blog that separately sometime.

    Thank you.

  7. Welcome! Actually meant to suggest just that (and forgot)- if only Smedley was alive today!


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