Joseph Hansen

Father Coughlin: Fascist Demagogue

Who Is the Man, What Is His Program,
How Did He Rise?

Aided by Big Business, America’s Number One Fascist
Rose from Obscurity to Lead a Movement

(June 1936)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 42, 16 June 1939, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: 2016 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2016; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Installment II

Capitalism is Bankrupt

One of the surest signs that a social system is mortally sick is the existence of a large body of permanently unemployed workers. Greek civilization toppled amidst the frenzied despair of her unemployed. The broken pillars of the Coliseum in Rome still stand as a monument to the tyrants of the mighty Roman Empire who vainly attempted to trick the hordes of unemployed out of their hunger. During the death agony of feudalism, all Europe was wracked by wandering bands of desperate and starving unemployed. American capitalism is mortally sick. For ten years, since 1929, capitalism has cast off an increasing number of people whom it can never employ, whom it cannot even feed – despite the fact that the land is bursting with food and crops are rotting on the ground. Each year an estimated 500,000 youth reach employable age and are thrown into the ever-swelling ranks of the unemployed. These hungry, ill-clothed Americans number now’almost 17,000,000 – a colossal figure!

At first they listened to the promises of Roosevelt’s New Deal and these promises sounded good. He was going to feed them, clothe them, give them jobs and security.

Now they know that he lied. Now they know that he cheated them, that he had nothing to give them but increased misery.

The unemployed stand for the moment, uncertain what road to take next. They are starving in the richest country in the world. Warehouses are crammed to the roof with goods. Billions in gold lie idle in the banks. Factory gates are shut. Machines are silent. Crops are plowed under.

Using the LIE that private industry will provide jobs, Roosevelt’s slash relief program hurls fresh million after million of Americans into the streets. There they may eat garbage – if they can find any left in the garbage pails – while they hunt for a job in private industry.

All about them they see incalculable wealth monopolized and enjoyed by a miserable handful of parasitic stockholders.

The unemployed go hungry.

They are bewildered, but one basic truth they do understand: This situation is intolerable.

They are ready for action. No more postcards to Congress! Already they feel in their minds the thing that is coming ... revolution ... three square meals a day ... clothing ... a decent home ... plenty for all ...

Democratic capitalism is doomed. Coughlin knows it. Big Business knows it. Roosevelt knows it.

Everybody knows it but that wooden skull minority composed of John L. Lewis, William Green, Earl Browder, an idiot or two, and a handful of old maids of both sexes who were left over from the last century. This minority still believes that democratic capitalism will continue indefinitely to punch its meal ticket!

In America apt students have watched the rise to power of Mussolini and Hitler. They understand that only one road is left open to capitalism that has become sour and rotten with old age. In Italy Mussolini called it fascism. In Germany Hitler called it Nazism. We do not yet know what name a similar movement in America might bear. Perhaps in America it will be called – Social Justice.

What Is Fascism?

Fascism is a combination of two things.

First, it is a wide mass movement of farmers and small business men who face bankruptcy, of youth denied a future under capitalism, of sections of the unemployed. All these layers of the oppressed who are seeking desperately to put their hands on the surrounding plenty become hypnotized by the silver-plated promises of a demagogue who regiments them into blindly obedient shock troops.

Secondly, it is financed and controlled by the very capitalists who above all are anxious to keep the revolutionary violence of the masses from turning against them. In America – the DuPonts, the Morgans, the Rockefellers – the Sixty Families.

To the rank and file followers of fascism, at first it seems a genuine revolutionary way out of their misery. They discover the truth too late.

The capitalists provide the money. The dictator provides the powerful slogans, the stirring names, the demagogic program, the organization, the lieutenants, and the oratory.

Father Coughlin’s Real Program

A few years ago it was very difficult to prove that Father Coughlin was consciously plotting to build a fascist movement in the United States. But now he has come out more in the open. He has had time to make slips in his public and private utterances. It is only necessary to read his speeches and his magazine Social Justice with a little care to discover Father Coughlin’s REAL program.

Only one month before he launched the National Union for Social Justice he said to Paul Weber of Hearst’s International News Service (Detroit Times, October 10, 1934): “I am devoted to capitalism.”

Among his sixteen points for Social Justice he calls for the preservation of private property.

Devotion to capitalism and preservation of private property – this is the holy Bible of fascism.

On March 13, 1938, in a broadcast over his network, Coughlin urged the establishment in the United States of a “corporate state,” which is the gilded way of describing Mussolini’s fascist state.

“A corporate state in which parties would be abolished and the President would be chosen by a House of Representatives elected by occupational classes was proposed Sunday by Father Charles E. Coughlin.” (United Press dispatch in the New York World Telegram, March 14, 1938.)

But he has been more frank even than this. In a signed article in the February 13, 1939, issue of Social Justice (page 7) he declared:

“I am beginning to understand why I have been dubbed a ‘Nazi’ or a ‘fascist’ by the Jewish publications in America; for practically all the sixteen principles of social justice are being put into practice in Italy and Germany.”

Like all true fascists he is bitterly opposed to the great majority taking power and favors the rule of a small minority – the capitalists. In an editorial in Social Justice (February 20, 1939) he stated:

“The principle of mere ‘majority-ism’ – sometimes called democracy and sometimes Bolshevism – is not enough. The popular fallacy is that ‘50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.’ As a matter of experience and historic fact, 50 men are much more likely to be right than 50 million.”

In this case Coughlin can add TEN to his fifty men and make it the SIXTY FAMILIES.

During the 1936 election campaign, Coughlin clarified his position still further in an unguarded moment. In an interview at which Dale Kramer, former national secretary of the National Farm Holiday Association, was present, Coughlin stated that “Democracy is doomed” and “I take the road to fascism.” (Coughlin, Lemke and the Union Party, by Dale Kramer.)

(To be continued in next issue)


Last updated on: 12 March 2016