Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The recollections, and the wise & spirited words of Harry Hopkins - part 4: A Reply to Hoover

(Harry Hopkins, top right, watches as President Roosevelt prepares to cut into his birthday cake, January 1943. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Herbert Hoover once claimed that the New Deal was leading the country towards fascism. WPA administrator Harry Hopkins responded by asking, "Is it dictatorship to try to operate a government for all the people and not just a few? Is it dictatorship to guarantee the deposits of small depositors, and keep phony stocks and bonds off the market? Is it dictatorship to save millions of homes from foreclosure? Is it dictatorship to give a measure of protection to millions who are economically insecure and jobs to other millions who can't find work? Is it dictatorship to try to put a floor under wages and a ceiling over working hours?" ("Hopkins denies relief waste in reply to Hoover on fascism," Washington Post, May 9, 1938.)

Like all political & social movements (e.g., conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism) fascism is complex, shares characteristics with other political movements, evolves over time, and is often contradictory. By the 1930s, fascism--which perhaps started as a less malevolent philosophy--had developed into a militaristic and racial movement, that viewed difference or weakness as rationale for subjugation or extermination. But, as Hopkins correctly pointed out, the New Deal was quite the opposite. It sought, among other things, to lift the downtrodden up and provide more economic opportunities for more people. Did it overreach sometimes? Perhaps. Was it fascism? Please.

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