Joseph Hansen

Father Coughlin: Fascist Demagogue

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

(June 1939)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 46, 30 June 1939, p. 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 VI

Who Is Behind Father Coughlin?

What Father Coughlin’s secret files at the Shrine of the Little Flower would reveal as to his financial backers can only be imagined.

Hitler’s movement, when it was in the same stage as Father Coughlin’s, was secretly backed by powerful financial interests – the steel magnate Thyssen and other powerful German capitalists.

Occasionally Coughlin will mention certain capitalists favorably in his radio broadcasts – Henry Ford, Walter P. Chrysler, James Rand. Father Coughlin stayed at the San Simeon ranch of William Randolph Hearst while on a visit to California. Mr. G.A. Richards, president of WJR is a generous financial backer mentioned by Coughlin. He mentions too in one of his broadcasts (Father Charles E. Coughlin, an official biography, p. 107) the visit of Harris and LeBlanc to his shrine for intimate conversations, Robert M. Harris of the New York Cotton Exchange – a southern bourbon well-known as a cotton and silver speculator, and George LeBlanc described by Coughlin as “perhaps the world’s foremost gold trader” (an international banker!).

The forces in Coughlin’s financial background are, as sinister as the forces that directed the breaking of the Little Steel Strike.

Coughlin’s Program and the Fascist Program

Coughlin’s program as it now stands bears a remarkable resemblance to the programs of fascism and Nazism when they were at a similar stage.

Coughlin appeals to the dissatisfied and restless unemployed workers and youth, and the farmers and small merchants who are facing bankruptcy.

Hitler directed his appeals to the same sections of the population.

Mussolini built his movement from similar ranks.

Coughlin, like his predecessors proposes a “just and living annual wage,” “cost of production plus affair profit, to the farmer,” etc. He attacks democratic capitalism just as Mussolini and Hitler did, and attacks it contemptuously.

He proposes “revolution” as they did, the use of force. He attacks the failure of the New Deal to solve unemployment. He attacks its war program.

Coughlin is attempting to divert these revolutionary layers of the oppressed masses, just as Mussolini and Hitler before him did, from striking at the very heart and core of the system that produces unemployment. He turns their rage against the “international bankers,” the “Jews,” the “money system.” He proposes economic reforms chiefly in the realms of banking and currency. In this way, like Mussolini and Hitler, he attempts to dissipate the revolutionary energy of the masses against bundles of painted straw.

To the capitalists he makes clear exactly where he stands by expressing his devotion to capitalism and the private ownership of property. For certain public necessities and natural resources he advocates nationalisation; but he emphasises that he doesn’t want nationalization of industry.

Some of Hitler’s most prominent demands make interesting reading beside Coughlin’s. The Nazi platform for instance called for “abolition of the domination of interest,” “the complete confiscation of all war profits,” and “participation in the profits of large concerns.”

These demands, of course, were NEVER carried out.

“Practically all the sixteen principles of social justice are being put into practice in Italy and Germany.” (Social Justice, February 13, 1939, p. 7)

Let that statement of Coughlin’s burn like fire on your memory!

And we might remind the lieutenants of Father Coughlin, that the secondary leaders in Hitler’s organization who insisted on carrying out the Nazi program were “purged” in a ghastly blood bath.

When fascism marches into power it smashes the trade unions, arrests the regularly-elected leaders and appoints fascist chiefs in their place who dictate the new rules and regulations. They confiscate the union treasury.

They confiscate the savings accounts and the insurance of the workers, if they have any.

They build barbed wire concentration camps and herd the unemployed inside at bayonet point.

They spread the industrial spy system throughout every city, town, and hamlet of the entire nation and intensify its grip a thousandfold.

Libraries are burned. Schools are shut down. Hours are lengthened. Wages are slashed. The speed-up is whipped up to new heights. Terror and torture are turned loose. The streets flow with blood. Strikes are punished with death. Racial minorities such as the Jews and the Negroes are nailed to the cross.

Fascism is hell for the workers and the unemployed. But it saves the profits of the small handful of capitalists who control the nation’s wealth. And some obscure figure becomes the all-powerful dictator of the nation’s fate.

To many good-hearted people it seems impossible that fascism could come to the United States.

But it is impossible to wish away 17,000,000 unemployed.

It is impossible to wish away the dizzy downward plunge of the rate of capitalist profit since 1929.

And it is impossible to wish away the storm-troopers being trained by fascist organizations right now in America.

In city after city, the fascist movement is spreading. Trained squads of Coughlinites, protected by the police, sell Social Justice in the busiest streets of every city, in workers’ sections, in predominantly Jewish and Negro sections.

Fights between workers and fascists break out almost every day.

(To be continued in next issue)


Last updated on: 12 March 2016