Fighting the fascist option in the Great Depression : Raymond Swing, Dale Carnegie and the cultural history of fascism in the 1930s' United States / by John Christian Krueckeberg.
American fascism is an underdeveloped topic in American history and it often rests in the pale of narratives focused upon, respectively, American extremism, protest movements, and assimilation processes. This informal dismissal is due, in part, to an historiographical misunderstanding of the work of Raymond Swing. Swing, an intellectual to whom all historians of "native" American fascism have turned, pioneered studies of the fascist tendencies extant in specific organizations and politicians of the 1930s; yet, no study of Swing’s antifascist life exists. Unrecognized by the scholars who have appropriated small amounts of Swing’s writings is that he changed his definition of fascism over the decade, placing the locus of fascism in three different discursive formations: economic, political, and then cultural. Perceiving American fascism in the early thirties to be more than simply the nationalistic politics of demagogues and their followers, Swing first defined the phenomenon as economic: a calculus of expenditure that tolerated the death of Americans deemed superfluous or dangerous by those who expunged them. In the middle thirties Swing perceived fascism to be the political phenomenon of a dictatorship that operated within the calculus. Swing moved towards a cultural definition of fascism as the United States experienced a "red scare" and Germany and Italy both expanded their territory and supported dictatorships emerging elsewhere. By the end of the decade, Swing committed himself to a definition of fascism as a "culture of barbarism" and he presented it to his radio audience of millions as the antithesis of American culture. He had moved far from his 1933 conception of American culture being inherently fascist. Swing’s thought is understandable when considered in its contexts. To understand Swing’s biographical context this dissertation places him in the history of his family of reformers and elicits the "progressive" theme to his life story. To understand the context of the Great Depression that informed Swing’s changing definitions, this dissertation studies Swing’s work in conjunction with the decade’s popular culture. Special emphasis is placed upon Dale Carnegie, political films of 1933, and the Federal Theatre Project’s, It Can’t Happen Here.
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