Document Type

Article

Comments

Of Corporatism, Fascism and the First New Deal, 39 Am. J. Comp. L. 750 (1991)

Abstract

Early in the Autumn of 1934, after several weeks of bureaucratic intrigue within the Roosevelt White House, General Hugh Johnson was forced to resign as chief of the National Recovery Administration. For some months, the President had resisted pressure to dismiss Johnson, who had presided over the NRA in erratic and impolitic fashion. But in late September, after several instances of egregious misbehavior on Johnson's part, the President pushed him out. A few weeks later, General Johnson gave his farewell speech, invoking the "shining name" of Benito Mussolini It was not the first time that the Director of the NRA, who was widely rumored to have fascist inclinations, had spoken glowingly of Italian practices. Nor was General Johnson alone in the early New Deal years. A startling number of New Dealers had kind words for Mussolini. Rexford Tugwell spoke of the virtues of the Italian Fascist order. So did internal NRA studies. And the President himself expressed interest in bringing the programs of "that admirable Italian gentleman" to America. Moreover, the early New Dealers seemed, to many contemporaries, willing to pass beyond praise into active imitation. To supporters and critics alike, General Johnson's NRA, a vast scheme for delegating governmental authority to private cartels, seemed akin to the "corporativism" of Italian Fascism. Only with the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 did the New Dealers abruptly drop their public praise for Italian Fascism (at the same moment that Cole Porter abruptly dropped, from his popular hit, the line "You're the top! You're Mussolini!"); only in 1935 and 1936, after the Supreme Court struck down the NRA and its companion program, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, did New Deal policies cease reminding contemporaries of those of the Fascist stato corporativo.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1991