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Was FDR A Fascist?

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I remember one time an Objectivist said that FDR was a fascist. Is this something most Objectivists mean, and if so, why is that?

FDR's New Deal was consciously modeled on Mussolini's "Corporate State." See The Roosevelt Myth by John T. Flynn. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0930073274/

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The whole "rounding up thousands of innocent American citizens and putting them into concentration camps on the basis of their race" thing probably wasnt the most anti-fascist act that a president could perform. His attempts to overrule the supreme court through the threat of court stacking dont seem particularly condusive to the constitutional republic thing either; indeed you could probably make a strong argument that FDR's presidency was the specific point at which the US constitution became almost irrelevant.


"Land of the free" indeed.

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Here are a couple

FDR and the end of economic liberty

Phony of the Century

also, I think it is important to have a precise definition of fascism. The term has come to be quite the package deal conceptually.

Fascism: a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism)

Using this (proper) definition, there is really very little doubt.

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Fascism economically is the form of Socialism described by Ludwig Von Mises as German Socialism. This is where the state controls everything but does not nationalize the means of production formally.

This was recommended by the Socialists of the Chair movement half a century before Hitler came to power. They also recommended making Germany as import-phobic as possible and pursuing a foreign policy based on military conquest.

Also, do not forget that, in his own way, Otto Von Bismarck was Marxist and FDR copied his welfare state.

Omnipotent Government by Von Mises is the best book on the subject.

There are short articles in compendiums by Von Mises which deal with this as well.

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FDR was perhaps a fascist in his economics, but I don't think he was a fascist in his politics. He did not mean to abolish elections, or to gather totalitarian powers.

But the truth is, there is no telling what he would have done, if instead of ruling the freedom loving American people, he would have ruled a European country that allowed him to have more freedom of action.

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FDR was an fascist in his economics, but I don't think he was a fascist in his politics. He did not mean to abolish elections, or to gather totalitarian powers.

Well perhaps not, but he certainly widened the federal government's powers more than any other president with the possible exception of Lincoln. It really depends what we mean by fascist - if we are referring to the creation of an authoritarian state on the scale of Mussolini's Italy then no, obviously his reign could not be described as fascist. If we are talking about simply taking steps in that direction by way of enlarging the government's juristriction, doing everything in his power to overrule the Supreme Court in order to remove the checks and balances on his actions, and making the Constitution almost irrelevant in a way it hasn't really recovered from, then yes, he was a fascist in his politics.

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I don't think the term fascist should be taken lightly.

Fascism is an extreme form of collectivism, that declares the individual subordinate to the state. Nazism is a form of fascism. The New Deal is socialism, which is bad enough.

No doubt it is a dangerous and unhappy step to the direction of collectivism, when regarding the history of America, but there is a long way from here to calling FDR a fascist. It will be like calling Ronald Raegan a Theocrat.

First, you don't do the man justice, as much as you may disagree with him. Second, you destroy the legitimate usage of the word fascist, and try to turn it into something closer to a general derogatory term.

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I don't think the term fascist should be taken lightly.

Fascism is an extreme form of collectivism, that declares the individual subordinate to the state. Nazism is a form of fascism. The New Deal is socialism, which is bad enough.

Given that FDR copied his policies from Otto Von Bismarck and many of his new dealers were admirers of Mussolini and his corporativist economic policy, it is quite fair to call him a Fascist.

And don't forget his dealings with Stalin as well.


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FDR could not be a fascist in the sense that a fascist could never accomlpish anything within the context of the American government. However, his tendencies all pointed towards fascism, which was during the 1930's a very acclaimed and transfixing system that seemed to be "working." You often hear some of the cliches of that time thrown around today, like "he got the trains running on time." In the context of Italy and Germany, the fascists positioned themselves as alternatives to communists for people who wanted socialism without the surrender of soveriegnty, but they all agreed that socialism was the preferred and correct system of economic organization.

FDR admired Mussolini and the Social Security Act was modeled very closely on the Italian Pension system which Mussolini created. FDR single handedly, by executive order had American citizens, both born citizens and naturalized citizens imprisoned without cause and essentially violated the 13th and 14th amendments by interning those people descended from Japanese ancestry in the mainland USA on the pretext of protecting them and preventing sabotage. But the Japanese population on Hawaii, which was much larger, made up of many more non-citizens, and contained actual spies, was left entirely alone.

FDR outlawed private property rights in gold (setting the precedent to outlaw them in anything) and actively stole the gold being "withheld" from the government. FDR presided over the wholesale expansion of the governmental power through the front of alleviating the depression even though the depression was almost just as severe in 1938 as in 1932. When the Supreme Court made efforts, very minimal efforts, to put the breaks on the New Deal he attempted to pass legislation to pack the court with his lackeys. In the end he served so long as President the whole court became filled with his lackeys anyway.

World War II was just as much a war againt property rights in the United States as against the Axis powers. He instituted irrational rationing policies which deprived people of goods unneccessarily and this power encouraged wasteful practises by the government and the generals, because even if you idioticly got tons of material destroyed through poor generalship, or being political and letting an inferior general of an ally take command over the best commander, therefore costing needless lives and equipment, you could always just increase the rationing to milk and steal more materials from the public. Rationing was entirely inefficient not to mention entirely immoral. Perhaps the worst thing about Roosevelt's fighting of the war was his willingness to ally with Joseph Stalin and provide him with food, capitali stock, weapons, and other support which not only allowed Stalin to fight back against Hitler, but allowed the Soviet Union to replace much of their outdated and antiquated machines and this was directly responsible for the onset of the Cold War. Stalin made a pact with Hitler to divide up Poland, the Soviets got the Eastern half of the country. Stalin and his abhorrent regime, at least as abhorrent as Hitler's, should have been allowed to fall apart and squashed. Conquering Russia would have given Hitler no advantage, the Soviet Union had already been looted of most of its value by the communists and Hitler's invasion was the irrational act of a power monger as opposed to a great move of military strategy. Few conclusions can be drawn from our avid support of the Soviet Union, either Roosevelt irrationally concluded, as Churchill did, that Stalin would do most of the fighting and was needed to win, or Roosevelt didn't want the great communist experiment to be wiped away and was willing to spend vast sums of money and pledge troops in alliance to prevent the fall of the Soviet Union.

I advise everyone to read some FDR speeches, particularly towards his first reelection and afterwards. The anti-business, anti-achievement, anti-producer, anti-American vehemence of them is sickening. He sets out to defeat selfishness, to defeat "profiteering," to defeat industrialists, bankers, businessmen all in the midst of a depression. FDR was a terrible person and a terrible president. Was he a fascist? No, but he did lay much of the ground work for dictatorship, fascist or otherwise. Aside from Flynn and Fleming don't expect to find much in the way of critical scholarship on Roosevelt from Historians, the latest biography I saw was titled Champion of Freedom. What a cruel joke.

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Fascism is an extreme form of collectivism, that declares the individual subordinate to the state. Nazism is a form of fascism. The New Deal is socialism, which is bad enough.

Ayn Rand explicitly defined "fascism" this way:

"Observe that both "socialism" and "fascism" involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories: socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates "the vesting of ownership and control" in the community as a whole, i.e., in the state; fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government."

["The New Fascism: Rule By Consensus," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal].

That was also how Ayn Rand used the term in her Ford Hall Forum speech, "The Fascist New Frontier." (The "New Frontier" was what President Kennedy called his economic plan.)

She also called George McGovern's proposals in the 1972 Presidential election "Fascism":

"It might be said, perhaps, that communism is more practical and less cruel, at least in theory: a communist government takes over an entire economy and forbids men to act, but assumes the responsibility of providing for their livelihood. Mr. McGovern's proposal is closer to the theory of fascism: it leaves to individual men the responsibility of production and of struggling for existence, but lets the government assume the power to dispose of anything they produce. [...]

"It is true that the welfare-statists are not socialists, that they never advocated or intended the socialization of private property, that they want to "preserve" private property—with government control of its use and disposal. But that is the fundamental characteristic of fascism."

[The Ayn Rand Letter, July 3, 1972]

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I don't think that these quotes represent AR's official definition of Fascism. After all, there is a lot more to Fascism than its economic theory.

She simply identified an important difference in economic theory between Socialism and Fascism.

As I said in the begining - I think it's ok to call FDR "an economic fascist" or saying he advocated "fascist economic principles" - but the total ideology of Fascism is much more vicious than its economics.

If you can show me that FDR admired not only the economics of Mussolini, but also other aspects of his ideology, then I'd agree that he was indeed a fascist at heart.

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The discussion of FDR as a "fascist" distorts the very fact that he was, for once and always, in staunch defense of the American way of life.

He stated, "We must ensure that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us," in the context of declaring war not only on Japan back in 1941, but on ALL the axis powers.

I do not condone in any way the socialist "stopgap" measures he used to quell the Depression, such as Social Security, the Federal Reserve, or the Public Works programs.

To me, FDR was the father of the mixed economy.

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Betsy,I don't think that these quotes represent AR's official definition of Fascism.

They do. She defined fascism as the form of socialism in which title to property was nominally held by individuals.

After all, there is a lot more to Fascism than its economic theory.

There's a lot more to socialism than its economic theory.

Here's what Ayn Rand said about what is, and is not, an essential characteristic of fascism:

Now let me mention, and answer, some of the standard objections by which today's "liberals" attempt to camouflage (to differentiate from fascism) the nature of the system they are supporting.

"Fascism requires one-party rule." What will the notion of "Government by Consensus" amount to in practice?

"Fascism's goal is the conquest of the world." What is the goal of those global-minded, bipartisan champions of the United Nations? And, if they reach it, what positions do they expect to acquire in the power-structure of "One World"?

"Fascism preaches racism." Not necessarily. Hitler's Germany did; Mussolini's Italy did not

"Fascism is opposed to the welfare state." Check your premises and your history books. The father and originator of the welfare state, the man who put into practice the notion of buying the loyalty of some groups with money extorted from others, was Bismarck -- the political ancestor of Hitler. Let me remind you that the full title of the Nazi Party was: the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany.


There is, however, one difference between the type of fascism toward which we are drifting, and the type that ravaged European countries: ours is not a militant kind of fascism, not an organized movement of shrill demagogues, bloody thugs, hysterical third-rate intellectuals, and juvenile delinquents -- ours is a tired, worn, cynical fascism, fascism by default, not like a flaming disaster, but more like the quiet collapse of a lethargic body slowly eaten by internal corruption.

["The New Fascism: Rule By Consensus," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal]

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I agree that FDR's policies and Mussolini's are aimed at the same kind of rule. Fascist rule.

I guess what bothered me with calling FDR a fascist was that he was obviously not as corrupt in his ideas as Mussolini...

But I think Ayn Rand defines it pretty well. Mussolini believed in the ideals of Fascism whole-heartedly. FDR was embracing them by default. He would probably have some issues with them, not accept them completely, but basically working toward the same fascist ideal.

This is an important distinction to make. One that may be lost if someone simply called FDR a fascist without elaborating.

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