Friday, July 6, 2012

From the AntiFa Trenches, c.1938 (contd)

Unidad de accion en todos los frentes para aplastar al fascismo.
ca. 1938
I find I  really like "The Peril of Fascism" by Magil and Stevens. It's obviously a rush job in the face of what looked to them like the triumphant march of fascism and Nazi-ism over Europe and much of Asia and Latin America in the prelude to World War II, but their primary mission is to try to wake Americans up to the perils of fascism in their midst, and to suggest, not too subtly, that the United States was well down the fascist path itself.

This contrasts starkly with the conventional wisdom then and now that FDR was some kind of socialist, and that the New Deal was some sort of Left Wing Plot to overthrow American democracy and institute an American Soviet. Far from it.

Here's Magil and Stevens to explain:

First Stage of the New Deal

The Roosevelt program even at this stage had certain progressive features, providing partial relief to the unemployed -- which Hoover had refused through three and a half years of unemployment and hunger -- and holding out the promise of collective bargaining. But these progressive features  were heavily overshadowed during the first phase of the New Deal by the big business program. In fact, from a historical viewpoint, they helped to make the program palatable to a people driven by misery and hunger to a point where it was ready, as General Johnson put it, to hang the bankers. An openly reactionary regime such as Hoover's might conceivably have thrust the big business program down the throats of the people with bayonets. The progressive features of Roosevelt's program persuaded the people to swallow the program in its entirety.

Insofar as the first phase of the New Deal carried out the program of the economic royalists, it contained certain definite fascist elements. It was for this reason that the Communists sharply attacked the Roosevelt administration at a time when practically every other political group, including the Socialists. accorded it warm support.

Although the leading plutocratic groups camped for only a brief period within the Roosevelt administration and quickly moved into bitter opposition to it, it is important to examine briefly this aspect of the first stage of the New Deal before passing on to later developments.

The fascist elements in the New Deal program of this period were clearly the handiwork of the financial tycoons who played so important a role in the Roosevelt administration during its first few months. The duPonts, the Aldriches, the Swopes, and others who later rallied under the banner of the Liberty League, occupied key posts in the early New Deal set up and formulated many of the laws which they later denounced as subversive and unconstitutional.

Compare the program of big business as formulated by H. I. Harriman in May, 1932, with the first acts of the New Deal during the "coalition" period. Harriman in May, 1932, demanded government economy; Roosevelt, in March, 1933, pushed a bill through Congress slashing war veterans' pensions and cutting salaries of government employees 15 per cent. Harriman demanded the relaxation of anti-trust laws and the enlargement of the powers of trade associations; the N.R.A. [National Recovery Administration] set aside the anti-trust laws and gave trade associations vast powers to draft codes of "fair competition." Harriman asked for the establishment of an "economic council" to consider the fundamental problems affecting "all business"; Roosevelt set up the Industrial Advisory Board. Harriman demanded the enlargement of the powers and funds of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; Roosevelt, in the first few months of his administration, increased the capital of the RFC from $3,800,000,000 to $4,450,000,000 and in addition authorized the RFC to issue an unlimited amount of debentures for the purpose of bank stock. Harriman demanded the strengthening of the powers of the President; Roosevelt assumed more powers than any President had exercised in peacetime.

The promotion of monopoly through governmental sanctions was the most conspicuous fascist element in the first stage of the New Deal. The N.R.A. -- fathered, as Professor Moley later admitted, by the Chamber of Commerce -- frankly listed among its major aims "the organization of industry for the purpose of co-operative action among trade groups." Actions taken under the industrial codes were exempt from prosecution under the anti-trust laws. The provisions of the N.R.A. industrial codes -- which for the most part encouraged price fixing and monopolistic practices -- were legally binding and violators were liable to heavy penalties.

Thus, in effect, the N.R.A. placed the full weight of the law and governmental authority behind the big business offensive against small competitors. With the government threatening to "crack down" on small price-cutters, the monopolies and trusts were able to raise prices and force out of business thousands of petty establishments. In March, 1934, the Federal Trade Commission informed the Senate that the iron and steel code strengthened monopolistic practices and price-fixing. Two months later the official National Recovery Review Board, headed by Clarence Darrow, published a report charging that the N.R.A. was encouraging monopoly to the disadvantage of all consumers and was crushing small business.

The implications of this policy of promoting monopoly with the aid of government sanctions were clearly stated by William O. Thompson, a member of the Darrow board, in his letter of resignation to President Roosevelt:

The trend of the National Recovery Administration -- he wrote -- has been and continues to be toward the encouragement as development of monopoly capitalism in the United States ... Its development day by day reveals more clearly a marked trend toward fascism in the United States.

The N.R.A. was later deemed unconstitutional and was shut down, but there was a very heavy propaganda campaign while it lasted promoting the concept of "paying more" for goods and services as a means to support economic activity and recovery. Workers, however, were not to receive higher wages in order to pay these higher prices, and of course unemployment was still at nearly 25%. The devastation to small businesses brought on by the Crash and its aftermath was deliberately and consciously compounded by the advent of the N.R.A. and its monopolistic, corporatist and fascist characteristics.


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