We hear a lot today from progressives about how neo-Nazis support President Trump. In reality this is questionable; no one has actually surveyed or queried neo-Nazis to find out if this is actually true. Moreover, several leading neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin, co-editor of the Daily Stormer, have leftist backgrounds.Even so, gullible people go along with the progressive allegation, because they have been taught that fascism and Nazism are “on the right.”
But are they? We can throw light on this question by examining the mutual admiration society between the FDR administration and Mussolini’s Italian fascists, and also the praise that the Nazis heaped upon FDR’s New Deal in the early 1930s. Hitler, Mussolini and FDR seem to have regarded each other as ideological kindred spirits. This is a subject hardly mentioned in progressive textbooks or progressive historiography.
In 1933, FDR responded to a journalist who asked him his view of Mussolini. “I don’t mind telling you that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman.” That same year FDR again gave his view of Mussolini to Breckinridge Long, US ambassador to Rome. “There seems to be no question that he is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy.”
FDR’s enthusiasm for Mussolini and Italian fascism was echoed by other progressives of his time. “An amazing experiment is being made here,” wrote progressive historian Charles Beard. “It would be a mistake to allow feelings aroused by contemplating the harsh deeds and extravagant assertions that have accompanied the Fascist process to obscure the potentialities and lessons of the adventure.”
Herbert Croly, editor of the New Republic, insisted that fascism offered the potential for the “spiritual reconstruction” of society. Progressives in popular culture picked up the fascist tune. “You’re the top, you’re Mussolini,” crooned Cole Porter in an early-thirties hit song whose Mussolini reference was tactfully removed a few years later when the Italian fascists invaded Ethiopia.
FDR dispatched members of his so-called brain trust to fascist Rome to study fascist policies, with a view to importing some of them to America. FDR viewed fascism as even more progressive than the New Deal, and he wanted his New Dealers to learn from it. Rexford Tugwell, FDR’s close adviser, upon returning from Rome wrote of fascism, “It’s the cleanest neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.”