Back in the early thirties, before “fascism” became a pure epithet, leading politicians and economists recognized that it might work, and many believed it was urgently required. When Roosevelt was elected in 1932, in fact, Mussolini personally reviewed his book, Looking Forward, and the Duce‘s bottom line was, “this guy is one of us.”
As an economic fix, the Corporate State was not a great success, either in America or in Italy. Roosevelt’s New Deal didn’t cure America’s economic ills any more than Mussolini’s Third Way did. In both countries, however, its most durable consequence was the expansion of the ability of the state to give orders to more and more citizens, in more and more corners of their lives. In the first half of the twentieth century, that was hardly unique to the “fascist” states; tyranny was the order of the day in the “socialist” or “communist” countries as well (not for nothing were so many learned books written about “totalitarianism,” which embraced both “systems”). Paul Johnson writes of a “new species” of “despotic utopias,” and Richard Pipes went so far as to call both Soviet Bolshevism and Italian fascism “heresies of socialism.”
So I suppose to that extent, Newsweek has a certain point, although probably not what the authors of the cover story had in mind. For those of us more concerned with the future of freedom than with the pedantic subtleties, the key point is the political one: the great “rescue” to which our governors are subjecting us will challenge our commitment to freedom in many dramatic ways. It’s going to be a hell of a fight.