Joseph Hansen

Stop Fascism in America!

Will Father Coughlin Become Dictator of the United States?

(September 1939)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 66, 6 September 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.

(Ninth Installment)
Who Is This Father Coughlin?

There are hundreds of organizations in the United States which have studied the rise of Fascism and Nazism with the greatest admiration.

So far as is known Big Business has not seen fit to call any of them into active struggle against the labor movement. Big Business still depends on its labor spies, its strikebreakers, its professional thugs who combine with the police in shooting down workers.

Yet there are significant indications that these organizations, students at the feet of Hitler and Mussolini, are receiving funds vastly out of proportion to the size of their membership.

Largest of these movements is that led by Father Charles E. Coughlin, who calls himself the Radio Priest.

In line with the tree-stump American political tradition, the Radio Priest comes to the worker and the small merchant and farmer, not seeking office or pelf, god forbid! But only to give free fatherly advice as a sincere exponent of the political and economic doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.

He thinks the real cause of the ills afflicting America is – Big Business? Hardly. Father Coughlin has pondered long and deeply about certain experiences in Europe, and he has at last arrived at the real cause ... Nothing less than the “non-religious Jews,” who won’t join him in denouncing “Bolshevik” leaders in such trade unions as the C.I.O. and the A.F.L.

No one in the country – except perhaps Roosevelt whom he helped place in office – sympathizes with the poor, the oppressed, the unemployed, the young people out of school, the farmers, those facing bankruptcy, those who are hungry, with more eloquent, beautiful, poetic, and moving language than the Radio Priest.

In his fatherly interest in the trade unions, the Radio Priest asks the membership to throw out their “Bolshevik” leaders who “Make Troops Necessary” by striking, and who are “milking” the union members of their dues in cahoots, with none other than the “international bankers” and “loan capital,” which boils down to – the “non-religious Jews.”

Father Coughlin, the Radio Priest, began originally as an obscure Roman Catholic priest from Canada speaking over one radio station in Detroit. When the depression hit America he blasted rights and lefts into a shadowy bogeyman he called the “reds.” Overnight he boomed into national prominence via the reactionary capitalist press.

In the few short years since then he has tried his hand at stock speculation, organization of company unions, stump speaking for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and especially the New Deal in silver in which he made a tidy little fortune speculating on silver futures. He built himself a million dollar Shrine of the Little Flower at Royal Oak, Mich., during the worst part of the depression (using scab labor for which he was denounced at the 1934 convention of the American Federation of Labor), began publishing a sleek magazine which is filled with expensive photographs but not a line of advertising except a few announcements of Catholic Church expeditions to his Shrine. He broadcasts over more than 48 radio stations, and pays, he claims, the regular commercial rates, which makes each broadcast costly enough to set up any one of his listeners in comfort for the rest of his life.

During the last six months his organization has spread the streets with literature on a scale so wide, sudden, and prosperous that it must have received a series of high-powered financial shots in the arm from some mysterious source, most probably certain Big Business men and Bankers whom Coughlin has lauded at times in a discteet way.

Followers of the Radio Priest have spread his magazine far and wide. Lately they have begun a series of small actions, beating up a worker when they catch him alone, stabbing a school teacher, attempting to break up an American Labor Party meeting, raiding a workers’ school, stabbing a guard at a labor headquarters which they attempted to crash. And even a larger action – an attempt to break up a meeting of 18,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York.

If the Radio Priest is following the principles laid down by Il Duce and Der Fuehrer, his movement is not yet large enough to blossom in colored shirts or arm bands; nevertheless, a movement as serious as this deserves to be studied more closely. [1]

Coughlin’s Program

The Radio Priest is not an agent of either Hitler or Mussolini, despite the fact that he speaks well of them, especially Mussolini.

He does no more than admire their strategy, their propaganda, and their success.

The Radio Priest in fact says right out in public that he opposes both Fascism and Nazism.

He gives his movement a good American name, Social Justice.

In Italy it was necessary to give the Fascist propaganda a strongly anti-capitalist tinge. In Germany Der Fuehrer even came out in his program for socialism.

The Radio Priest slants his program to appeal to American ways of thinking, and here socialism has not yet become a popular idea. Indeed, there are innumerable misconceptions concerning socialism. Seizing advantage of this, the Radio Priest announces to his audience that capitalism and socialism are two varieties of the same thing, which is like saying that war and peace are two varieties of the same thing!

The well-known reluctance with which American workers approach political action provides the Radio Priest with yet another variation from the program of European fascism to fit American prejudices. Unlike Hitler and Mussolini he can come out quite frankly for Private Property.

In fact Father Coughlin, the Radio Priest, advocates the preservation of PRIVATE PROPERTY in his public program. (Point No. 4 of his Sixteen Principles of Social Justice.)

“Private ownership? Yes; the Catholic Church will stand by it and die for it if necessary.” (Discourse entitled Come, Follow Me, Father Coughlin’s Radio Discourses, 1931–1932, p. 27)

Father Coughlin, the Radio Priest, believes too, in a CORPORATE STATE.

“In plainer words, this nation must become United States, Incorporated.” (Discourse entitled Plenty for All, February 18, 1934)

“Do you boys (the ex-service men) realize that with one more battle you can make this country safe for financial democracy? You can make this country the United States of America, Incorporated.” (February 25, 1934)

(To be continued in next issue)


1. Elsewhere I have analyzed Father Charles E. Coughlin’s program in greater detail. See Father Coughlin – Fascist Demagogue, Pioneer Publishers, 116 University Place, New, York City. 5 cents.


Last updated on: 13 March 2016