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American Fascism

Reva Craine

Fifth in a Series on American Fascism

Angling for Labor – The Hitler Way

(July 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 29, 17 July 1944, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One of the services which the native fascists perform for big business is spreading distrust and conflict inside the ranks of the labor movement, with the aim of so dividing and disrupting it as to render it helpless against the onslaughts of reaction and fascism. This destructive activity is carried on not only from outside the labor movement. On the contrary, any number of native fascists have wormed their way inside the working class and under the guise of calling themselves “workers’” organizations, have been carrying out their pernicious Work.

The device used by the fascists is to set up organizations with “worker” names in order to create confusion. An additional reason, however, is to take advantage of the popularity of labor organizations. They even take the name “socialist,” which is so popular with hundreds and thousands of workers. Thus, in Germany, Hitler calls his party the “National Socialist Workers Party of Germany.” In Italy, Mussolini set up his labor corporatives, giving the impression that they were really organizations in favor of the workers, when, in reality they were the means of enslaving Italian labor for the benefit of the big business interests. The pattern, as already indicated, is the same in this country.

Unfortunately, some workers, though not many, have fallen, victim to the propaganda of these fascists – and while sincerely believing that they have been helping the labor movement, they have actually been helping labor’s most deadly enemy, fascism.

NWL Makes Headlines

Prominent among these so-called “workers” (read: fascist) organizations has been the National Workers League of Detroit. It came into the limelight in the spring of 1942, when together with other local fascist organizations, Klan elements, and aided and abetted by Congressman Tenerowicz, some government officials and the Seven-Mile Fenelon Improvement Association, its members sought to prevent by force a group of Negro families from occupying apartments in the Sojourner Truth Housing Project, built by the federal government for these families.

This attempt ended in a bloody riot, in which over a hundred Negroes were arrested, some twenty injured and only a few of the instigators of the riot were arrested. Although there had been trouble and repeated attempts to keep the Negroes out of the houses designated for them since the completion of the project early in the year, the federal government did nothing to enforce their right to move in. This naturally encouraged the local hoodlums. When the rioting took place, the police stood by without coming to the aid of the lawful and rightful occupants of the houses.

Among those arrested were Parker Sage, head of the National Workers League, and Garland Alderman, secretary of that organization. The National Workers League was founded in 1938 by Sage as an anti-union, anti-Negro, anti-Semitic and highly nationalistic group. It attracted to its ranks Bundists, Silver Shirters, Klansmen, Christian Fronters and the remnants of the Black Legion, which had flourished in Detroit and through six Mid-Western states in 1935-36. The latter’s membership had been composed of strike-breakers, convicts, rapists and murderers, and it functioned as a secret, hooded terrorist group, whose special duties consisted of bombing labor headquarters, burning the homes of prominent trade unionists and outright murder. At least fifteen murders were ascribed to this organization, but when the state of Michigan finally decided to clean out the Black Legion, only a few of its members were convicted. The real ringleaders were never brought to trial and the whole matter was mysteriously hushed up.

Terror and Division

The National Workers League became the heir of the Black Legion. It changed the tactics somewhat, began to operate more shrewdly and subtly, but its aims remained the same as those of its predecessor – namely, the terrorization, disruption and eventual destruction of the organized labor movement. It was only natural that Detroit, the heart of the automobile industry and militant unionism, should be chosen as the center of operation by this group. Its main target was there, and from Detroit it hoped to spread out to other territories.

The NWL functions inside the factories of Detroit with the aim of spreading its poisonous race-hatred and anti-CIO doctrines among the workers. It places its members in industry so as to catch the ears and minds of these workers. Allied with the NWL is the Society of Tool & Die Craftsmen, an organization devoted to besmirching and prejudicing workers against the legitimate labor movement. Roy Carlson, in his book, Under Cover, relates what he was told by one of its hired thugs as to how these organizations operate.

“You begins your woik by talkin’ against the Jews and N____rs. The Jews got us into the war. You tell ’em that. The Jew is keeping labor down by controlling the money. It’s the Jew who hires the N____rs and gives them low wages. There is angles, see; there is angles. When a guy in a shop gets up and talks against the kikes, and some other guy don’t like like it, we call on this second guy ... There is angles. You gotta loin ’em. You ties in the N____rs with the Jew, den you call the Jews Communists. That gets ’em.”

There are angles, yes indeed. The angle taken by the NWL is the one of creating and sharpening the prejudices of the workers, the race and national prejudices, for the purpose of dividing and destroying the best protection that the workers have, the fighting trade unions. Division in the ranks of the workers is just what the boss is angling for, just what he is banking on to prevent the workers from putting up effective resistance or a successful battle for increased wages and better conditions. The NWL is thus the direct agent of the boss, operating among the workers in the shops.

Typical of their methods of operation was the “strike” last summer instigated by Klan elements at the Packard Motor Co. in Detroit against the upgrading of Negroes. Working closely with the industrial relations director of the company, C.E. Weiss, who told the white workers that they did not have to work with the upgraded Negroes, the Klan and its successor in Detroit, organized a walkout against the Negroes. When the Army stepped into the situation, it suspended some twenty-seven workers, including some of the Negroes, as instigators of the stoppage. Unfortunately, the union at the plant, under Stalinist domination, satisfied itself with pointing out who the real trouble-makers were, but did not come to the defense of the suspended Negroes who had stood up for their rights and were the real victims of the Klan action.

Friends of Smith, et al.

The National Workers League has cooperated and continues to do so with any number of other known fascist organizations in this country. Many of its leading members got their first introduction to fascist thinking through the literature put but by Pelley and Coughlin. Gerald L.K. Smith is on very friendly terms with the leaders of the NWL, who, in turn advertise and help build up his meetings. His secretary is an officer of the NWL. George E. Deatherage, now on trial as a seditionist, was on the advisory council of the NWL. Robert Vietig, formerly of the America First Committee, works very closely with the NWL. Carlson mentions he receives aid and support from two top-rank industrialists, but unfortunately does not mention them by name.

Here is the heart of the problem. Behind every fascist movement, every fascist organization, stands big business, collectively or individually. Hitler was supported and financed by Ruhr industrialists. I.G. Farben, friend of the Standard Oil Company, spent millions to put the Nazis into power. Mussolini’s main support came from Italian financiers, industrialists and rich landowners. We are certain that if information is made available, it will be found that behind the numerous fascist groups in this country are representatives of the big business interests anxious to destroy the labor movement.

In spite of its record and associations, the Dies Committee never investigated the NWL, although it did spend its time and large sums of the people’s money going after labor organizations. Perhaps Parker Sage, head of the NWL, hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

“Dies does have a large nuisance value BUT we feel that the real reason he is against us probably is because he is a politician. Hell, we found that Dies is or was a Klansman. We have nothing to fear from him. The FBI have never bothered us and we never concern ourselves about them.”

The job of cleaning out the fascists from the labor movement is the job of the labor movement itself. The CIO unions are absolutely in the right when they expel from their membership and cause to be dismissed those who are found guilty of spreading racial hatred and disunity in the ranks of labor. But that is only part of the job. The rest consists in the education, by the trade unions, of the workers that the way to victory lies through working class solidarity and unity.

The organized labor movement must take upon itself the struggle against all forms of race prejudice and discrimination, whether this be preached by the fascists or practiced by any section of the labor movement, by the boss or the government. In that way a tremendous beginning can be made in the fight against fascism and its organizations in this country.

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