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American Fascism

Reva Craine

Fourth of a Series – Father Coughlin

Apostle of American Fascism

(June 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 25, 19 June 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Another plank in Coughlin’s platform, though not officially listed, but nevertheless one which is constantly emphasized and stressed, is anti-Semitism. Coughlin has denied from time to time that he is “against the Jews,” yet on every possible occasion during his silver price campaign he has spoken about “Gentile silver” as opposed to “Jewish gold.” He constantly denounces the “international bankers” without specifying by name the leading bankers of the United States, most of whom are not Jewish. While he was busy condemning the bankers, he counted among his friends Winthrop W. Aldrich, president of the Rockefeller Chase National Bank; was on intimate terms with Robert M. Harris of the New York Cotton Exchange and George Le Blanc, described by Coughlin as “perhaps the world’s foremost gold trader.”

The purpose behind his attack on the “international bankers” is not to point out the fundamental antagonism between the working class and the capitalist class, but to deflect the dissatisfaction of the former with the real culprits into the channels of anti-Semitism and racial hatred.

The National Union for Social Justice adopted a sixteen-point program which was an elaboration of what we have described above. In1939, Coughlin wrote in Social Justice:

“Practically all the sixteen principles of social justice are being put into practice in Italy and Germany.”

While this is not exactly true, especially with that plank which called for conscription of wealth in time of war, a living annual wage, etc., Coughlin here revealed what the PURPOSE of his sixteen principles is – to institute a fascist regime in this country. He has spoken in favor of a corporate state on the Italian model and against democratic government, which he labeled as “majorityism.”

Founder of Christian Front

In 1938, Coughlin embarked on a new venture. Through Social Justice, which weekly spewed forth its anti-Semitic, anti-labor venom, he sponsored the organization of the Christian Front. This organization was to be the training school for the coming fascist gangs in the United States. In the main, it was composed of discontented middle class elements who were attracted by Coughlin’s demagogy and promises. Its purpose was to “combat communism,” which actually meant to combat the organized labor movement. For a period of time, the Christian Front goon squads spent their time breaking up union meetings, working class gatherings, attacking individuals connected with the labor movement, terrorizing Jewish children, acting as strike-breakers, etc.

These hoodlums were brave only so long as they were unopposed. As soon as the labor movement began to take steps to resist their assaults, these hoodlums were not difficult to deal with. During the two years during which the Christian Front operated in this manner, many workers came to learn that they could not rely upon government agencies to protect them from the fascist gangsters. In New York City, for example, it was a common occurrence for the police to stand by and merely look on while these gangs proceeded to break up workers’, meetings. A good number of the policemen themselves were members of the Christian Front; others cooperated with the Fronters.

In 1939, the workers of New York City showed how it was possible to deal effectively with fascist hoodlums. The Christian Front decided to organize a parade for Father Coughlin. This was shortly after the famous anti-Nazi demonstration called and organized by members of the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party to which 100,000 workers turned out.

In response to the proposed “Manifestation of Christianity,” as the Coughlinite parade was to be called, the leaders of the anti-Nazi demonstration issued a call to the workers of the city to prevent such a march. The call itself was enough to make Coughlin and his Christian Fronters change their minds and call off their “manifestation.” For, confronted with the organized force of labor, consciously combatting fascism, the fascist gangs cannot stand up and fight.

In 1940, when members of the Christian Front were under arrest, charged with conspiracy to overthrow the United States government, Coughlin repudiated the organization. No one seriously believed this repudiation, but it saved his own neck and kept him out of the courts. He acted in the same way later when Social Justice was banned from the mails and when he gave up publication of his paper to avoid facing trial for sedition. In this way, he has been able to continue his activity underground until recently, when he began “preaching” again in his church.

Although Coughlin has been repudiated by individuals connected with the Catholic church, he has never been officially denounced or thrown out. The church has refused to take responsibility for him, but it has never seen fit to expel him, thus indicating to thousands and thousands of Catholics that Coughlinism is quite in keeping with at least some of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Coughlin’s New York henchman is the Rev. Edward Curran, president of the International Catholic Truth Society, and in New England, Francis Moran headed the Christian Front.

Among some of the notables who have supported Coughlin, or with whom he worked closely, are James H. Rand, Jr., of Remington-Rand, notorious for its anti-labor policies; Vincent Bendix of Bendix Aviation; the former Borough President of Queens, George Harvey, defender of the Christian Fronters; Henry Ford, Walter P. Chrysler and William Randolph Hearst. He has had dealings with Merwin K. Hart, agent of Franco in the United States. Joe McWilliams and Silver Shirter Pelley have also sung his praises.

Coughlin’s Catholicism may stand in the way of his becoming THE leader of a unified fascist movement, if and when such is organized in this country. But now that he is back in circulation, we can be sure that he will contribute all he can to the spreading of fascist doctrines, and sponsoring fascist organizations, utilizing his priesthood for this purpose. In this way, he is an important factor in the general fascist network and bears watching.

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Last updated: 17 October 2015