Joseph Hansen

New Masses and Father Coughlin

(August 1939)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 58, 11 August 1939, p. 3.
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.

On July 30 Father Coughlin openly and brazenly declared civil war on the American labor movement when he broadcast a speech entitled The Call to Action over a nationwide hook-up of more than 50 radio stations.

Coughlin called on his storm troop organization, which he calls the “Christian Front,” to take to the streets and fight “cheek to jowl” and “shoulder to shoulder” with anyone who opposes Coughlinism. “We will fight you in Franco’s way!”

Coughlin threatened to establish a “defense mechanism” in America like Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany “such as the world has not seen.”

“It is a death struggle!” he declared. “You are either with me or against me.”


Didn’t Hear Him

How did the heroes of Stalin’s Communist Party meet this threat of civil war against the labor movement?

The New Masses, official voice of Stalin’s American section, declares in an editorial of August 8, that it didn’t hear Father Coughlin’s speech, that it couldn’t locate any radio station which had broadcasted Father Coughlin’s speech, that it couldn’t even get a printed copy of the speech (Coughlin mails them out by the hundreds of thousands, postage free) and hence had no way of knowing what Coughlin said in his Sunday speech.

Where were the editors of the New Masses? Studying how their comrade General Miaja sold out the rank and file in Spain to fascism and then scrammed while his passport was still good? Or listening to WHN, 1250 Kilocycles on the dial (announced in Sunday’s New York Times radio section) as Father Coughlin told America what he thought of the “non-religious Jews,” the “red leaders” of the American labor movement, the “cowardice” of his opponents, and how he would establish the worst fascist dictatorship the world has yet seen!

Judge for yourself. Without having heard Coughlin’s speech, without having read it, they considered it dangerous and important enough to disturb the rank and file of the Communist Party and hence to deserve an answer. They declared that Coughlin’s “inciting to violence”, “the central theme of his speech last Sunday” is not the “persecution mania of dementia praecox” but “a smooth and effective bit of fascist methodology.”

The New Masses couldn’t find out what stations Coughlin utilizes for his nation-wide broadcasts every Sunday in the year and which he publishes periodically in Social Justice! That’s a lie! They knew very well what he threatened.

The New Masses got a terrible headache when they heard Coughlin preparing his “Christian Front” to use violence in the streets. They know that the only way to defend yourself from violence is by organizing Workers Defense Guards! But these heroes are the last ones in the world to lift up their fists even in self-defense – much less defense of the labor movement. Like a little toy dog that suddenly decides his own bark is too dangerous, they pulled in tail damn quick.

A Smelly Proposal

But here’s the pay-off – last sentence in the editorial, New Masses’ method of fighting America’s fascist demagogue who announces to the world that he is taking “Franco’s way”:

“It is the first duty of progressives to learn where and from what stations Coughlin is broadcasting and to make their feelings immediately known to the owners.”

Make their feelings known to the bosses who are backing up Coughlin with hard cash!

Doesn’t that sound sweet and democratic and on your toes, grandmother!

But it smells like Stalinist General Miaja’s way of fighting Franco!


Last updated on: 12 March 2016