Joseph Hansen

Stop Fascism in America!

Will Father Coughlin Become Dictator of the United States?

(August 1939)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 58, 11 August 1939, p. 1.
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.

(First Installment)

“Bolshevism is knocking at our gates. We can’t afford to let it in. We have got to organize ourselves against it, and put our shoulders together and hold fast. We must keep America whole and safe and unspoiled. We must keep the worker away from red literature and red ruses; we must see that his mind remains healthy.” – Al Capone. (Quoted in Fascism and Social Revolution, by R. Palme Dutte, p. 204)

The Black Shirts March on Rome

On the night of October 29, 1922, a man who later called himself Il Duce boarded a Pullman sleeping car at Milan and sped to Rome where he had been summoned by King Victor Emmanuel to act as Premier of Italy. On the following morning King Victor charged him with forming a new government.

A few days later 50,000 Black Shirts, followers of Il Duce, climbed off trains at Rome and paraded through the streets shouting “Il Duce! Il Duce!” This was called the “March on Rome.” Before the “March on Rome,” Il Duce’s Black Shirts had ranged like wolves over Italy. They had raided trade union headquarters, smashed the furniture to kindling wood, dumped typewriters out of windows. They had broken into halls where workers met, drenched the floors with gasoline and turned the buildings into crackling furnaces that lit up the sky at night with a red glow.

In every city and village of Italy unions had conducted funeral services for members whose bodies had been found in dark alleys, victims of Il Duce’s Black Shirts.

But if Terror, Violence, and Torture had ridden as banner bearers during the period before the “March on Rome,” now they swept behind Il Duce’s new government like a great desolating scourge that spared not a home of the workers and small farmers of Italy.

Il Duce’s Black Shirts strong-armed every trade union and co-operative enterprise, confiscated the insurance and pitiful savings of the poor, herded every one who breathed “union wages union hours” behind barbed wire, drowned free speech in castor oil, black-jacked learning and culture, assassinated all opposition, and marched through every factory and farm with the dripping blade of the bayonet.

Il Duce wiped out every progressive organization in Italy. The workers bowed down their backs in misery, hunger, and degradation such as Italy had not known for generations.

Mussolini, the once obscure man, who called himself Il Duce, labeled this campaign of murder a “revolution.”

He called it FASCISM.

He called it a CORPORATE STATE.

He said it would preserve PRIVATE PROPERTY.

The Powerful Italian Trade Unions

Those who have studied the labor movement in Italy know that toward the end of the year 1920 the trade unions boasted more than 5,000,000 loyal militant members. Besides this, there were almost 20,000 co-operative societies and a powerful working class political movement.

The workers had succeeded in gaining the eight-hour day throughout most of Italy. They had succeeded in gaining wages high enough to live like human beings. Even in the agricultural districts union contracts prevailed, and the workers had won a few nation-wide concessions such as unemployment insurance and old-age pensions.

In September 1920 when the big industrialists locked out 600,000 men from the factories, the workers retaliated with a giant sit-down strike. The bosses fought viciously. But the strikers were determined to win. If the stockholding bosses couldn’t pay union wages, let them step out of the way. The strikers began running the factories under the supervision of expert shop committees elected from their own ranks.

They even opened the safes of the bosses and uncovered the secret bookkeeping which had hitherto hidden staggering rake-offs through closely guarded manipulation of cost prices and profits.

With a trade union movement as militant and determined as this, how was it possible for a renegade from the Socialist movement like Mussolini, starting with a contemptible handful of porch-climbers and foot-pads, to wipe these powerful labor organizations off the face of the land as if they had never existed?

Depression Sweeps Italy

When the great imperialist bandits called off their World War and proceeded to split up the booty, recording the details of this transaction in the Versailles Treaty, the Italian overlords of industry came out at the short end of the stick.

Instead of vast colonies teeming with slaves and wealth which they had expected to chain to their profit machine, they got little more than what was already under their domination when they first ordered the Italian workers and farmers into the trenches.

As a result, the war debt rested unusually heavy on the shoulders of the workers and farmers and they were filled with discontent.

On top of this, the tremendous factories and mills which had been constructed with feverish haste by the big industrialists during the World War in order to rake down as much as possible of the highly profitable war orders, now faced a greatly narrowed market. Factories and mills began shutting down.

Unemployment swept Italy.

Hundreds of thousands of hungry workers drifted from city to city searching for jobs. Young people found themselves facing a blank and desperate future, without hope of work. And with the pillars of the buying power of the workers thus torn out, thousands of small merchants came crashing down in bankruptcy.

Everybody cast about desperately for some way out of his misery.

Nor were the big industrialists or the big land owners any too happy. Their profits continued to decline. Excepting only their own living standards, they slashed every possible cost to the bone. Nevertheless, profits declined still lower. Goods piled up to the roofs in the warehouses, and still no one came to buy. The capitalists cast greedy eyes on the concessions which the powerful trade unions had managed to wring from them. With all the hunger of a safe-cracker sizing up a small-town bank, they even studied the insurance reserves and the savings of the poor. After all, they decided, the Italian workers and poor farmers were used to starving!

Many of the most clear-sighted workers, small farmers and merchants felt that there was only one, way out and that way was socialism. That is, shifting the wheels of industry into high gear under the ownership of all the working people as a whole and producing for the use of everybody instead of the private profit of a small handful of stockholders.

When the strikers began operating the mills and factories in September 1920, all the workers who had been suffering from the depression felt jubilant. It was only necessary to continue and to extend this action. Open up all the idle factories and set the machines to work! Then there would be jobs for everybody, short hours, plenty of food, clothing, and the good things of life.

But the small handful of stockholding families, who had until then owned and controlled the national industries for their own private benefit and who, like similar families in other countries, consider themselves the axis around which the earth revolves, felt a cold sweat break out on their brows. It was necessary to do something and to do it quick. They put their heads together. There was only one way out so far as they were concerned and that was to increase profits by drastically cutting wages. But how break through the trade unions?

At first they tried ordinary strikebreakers – $10-a-day men who will swing a club on the head of any worker who dares to stand up for his rights, or for a slight extra commission shoot him in the back.

But the entire working class was too strongly united and militant to be overcome by these raw time-worn tactics.

They repulsed this offensive of the bosses.

The capitalists saw that there was no way to bring back their profits except by streamlining the attack with cunning and deception. If the throat of the labor movement could not be cut by a frontal swipe, then it was necessary to stick the knife in from behind.

No one was better fitted for this job than Benito Mussolini.

(Continued in next issue)


Last updated on: 12 March 2016