A major debate that Americans have, and in truth most of it comes down to accusing your political opposition of being bullies, is what constitutes fascism? The United States arguably has in its time adopted policies that are fitting with fascism. They may not be the ones you think either. But one that people can agree constitutes fascism is the formation of a cartel, which under government supervision, businesses decide prices on goods and services. We had this very system for a short time in the United States under the National Industrial Recovery Act. This act established the National Recovery Administration, and membership in this organization by business included numerous codes they had to follow. Included in this was a minimum wage, the right to collectively bargain, and businesses in this organization would together decide upon pricing. These codes also served to limit newcomers to fields in the name of order. While membership in this organization was officially voluntary, support for President Roosevelt and his efforts to fix the broken economy was strong, and feelings towards those who were dissenting could be venomous. Businesses that did not participate risked being picketed and boycotted. Thus, many signed up for this program and would put on their window fronts the NRA’s Blue Eagle logo, which some critics called the “Soviet Duck”. In order to achieve this cartel, however, that anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws had to be suspended. This got a mixed reception, including dissension among people who up to that point were regarded as good progressives…people like Montana’s Burton K. Wheeler. Organized labor was disappointed that collective bargaining had not been implemented. Ironically, Wheeler would face accusations of fascist sympathy given his staunch non-interventionism. I have found a most curious vote regarding this very subject. This is an amendment to the work relief appropriations bill in 1935, with the notoriously independent Senator William E. Borah (R-Idaho) leading the way. He proposes to restore the anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws suspended, effectively dismantling the cartel system. This proposal failed on a 33-43 vote.
The vote went as follows:
Democrats: Black (AL), Ashurst (AZ), Adams (CO), Maloney (CT), Fletcher (FL), McGill (KS), Tydings (MD), Clark (MO), Wheeler (MT), McCarran (NV), Copeland (NY), Gore (OK), Thomas (OK), Smith (SC), McKellar (TN), King (UT), Byrd (VA), Glass (VA)
Republicans: Hastings (DE), Townsend (DE), Borah (ID), Dickinson (IA), Capper (KS), White (ME), Vandenberg (MI), Schall (MN), Barbour (NJ), Frazier (ND), Nye (ND), Metcalf (RI), Norbeck (SD), Gibson (VT)
Farmer-Laborers: Shipstead (MN)
Democrats: Bankhead (AL), Hayden (AZ), Lonergan (CT), George (GA), Pope (ID), Dieterich (IL), Minton (IN), Van Nuys (IN), Murphy (IA), Barkley (KY), Logan (KY), Radcliffe (MD), Walsh (MA), Bilbo (MS), Harrison (MS), Truman (MO), Murray (MT), Burke (NE), Pittman (NV), Brown (NH), Hatch (NM), Wagner (NY), Reynolds (NC), Donahey (OH), Gerry (RI), Byrnes (SC), Bulow (SD), Bachman (TN), Connally (TX), Sheppard (TX), Thomas (UT), Schwellenbach (WA), Neely (WV), Duffy (WI), O’Mahoney (WY)
Announced Against: Robinson (AR), Bulkley (OH)
Republicans: Hale (ME), Couzens (MI), Keyes (NH), McNary (OR), Steiwer (OR), Austin (VT)
Progressives: La Follette (WI)
A few notes about this vote:
Republicans Hastings and Townsend were without doubt the two most conservative senators in the 74th Congress. The two opposed practically everything about the New Deal and would vote against Social Security that year. Same goes for Metcalf. Dickinson, White, and Vandenberg were also conservatives with Barbour and Gibson being a bit less so. Capper and Nye would move to the right later on.
Republican conservatives are not wholly off the hook though: Hale, Keyes, and Austin were firm domestic conservatives, with Hale and Austin voting against Social Security. Steiwer was a moderate conservative, McNary pretty much hovering around the edge of moderate to moderate conservative, and Couzens was a moderate.
Democrat Robert Reynolds of North Carolina was widely thought of as a fascist if not a fascist sympathizer.
Democrats Hugo Black of Alabama and Sherman Minton of Indiana would both become Supreme Court justices. Guess who the better one was?
Democrat Robert F. Wagner was one of FDR’s “Brain Trusters”.
Democrat Harry S. Truman, later president, voted against restoring the antimonopoly and antitrust laws.
My point here is not necessarily to point the finger at people who cast “nay” on this vote as fascists, but to point out that embracing a fascist policy may be easier than you think, especially if you see the circumstances around you as warranting emergency measures. Indeed, probably no one scores a 0% on the F-Scale Test, designed to measure fascist beliefs. I, for full disclosure, got a 33% on it.
National Industrial Recovery Act. VCU Social Welfare History Project.
To Amend H.J. Res. 117, By Restoring the Antimonopoly and Antitrust Laws Which Were Suspended by the National Industrial Recovery Act. Govtrack.