Joseph Stalin championed the idea that all of his political opponents should be dubbed fascists, including many of his fellow Bolsheviks, such as Leon Trotsky (whom Stalin had assassinated), and much of the Red Army’s officer corps (whom he had executed), and countless Ukrainians (whom he had liquidated). Stalin insisted that even mentioning the man-made – i.e., Stalin-made — Ukranian famine was evidence you were an agent of the Nazis.
Under Stalin’s “theory of social fascism,” any socialist, social-democratic, or progressive group or party not loyal to him had to be called fascist. Hence, for a while Moscow insisted that FDR and even Norman Thomas (head of the Socialist Party of America) were fascists.
Ultimately, Communist propagandists and their allied intellectuals would reflexively blame fascism for everything, regardless of the facts. That’s what prompted George Orwell to remark that “the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’”
And FDR and Truman were happy to play along. In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, Roosevelt “displayed a Nazi Iron Cross and said it should be presented to a columnist of the New York Daily News who was one of the president’s most bitter critics,” as Commentary noted in a 2010 review of an FDR biography. In his 1944 State of the Union speech, Roosevelt similarly thundered:
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920′s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.
As Jonah quipped in 2012 in response to the above quote, “Ah yes, if we go back to the 1920s, an era of rampant prosperity and expanding liberty we will have surrendered to Fascism. That is grotesque.”
Equally grotesque were Truman’s tactics in a similar vein. As the New York Times’ headline screamed, “President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Fascists’ Tool,” on October 26 1948, near the conclusion of the presidential election year. CBS’s Walter Cronkite and Daniel Schorr would go on to use similar tactics to destroy the libertarian-themed presidential bid of Barry Goldwater in 1964, a particularly disgusting attack by two “objective” journalists acting as blocking backs for LBJ, considering that Goldwater was half-Jewish.
In short, it’s shameful, reactionary stuff, whose shelf-life is now three-quarters of a century old. Fortunately, there’s at least a little pushback these days on such tactics.
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