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Ben Hall

Big Business Press Would Give

Free Speech for American Hitlers

(15 October 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 42, 15 October 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT – If you own a newspaper and want to learn how to help fascism, take your tip from the Detroit newspapers.

The press here rose in indignation after the anti-fascist picket line thrown around the public meeting called by Gerald L.K. Smith. But their ire is directed not against Smith and not against the police who brutally clubbed several CIO pickets, but against the pickets themselves!

Briggs Local 212 carried the slogan, “Drive the Fascist Rev. L.K. Smith out of Detroit.” The Detroit News editorializes against this slogan as follows:

“Those who deny freedom to others run a grave risk of losing freedom for themselves and for all of us.”

Smith’s right of free speech must be upheld, the News declares, and adds:

“The police were not merely justified but duty bound in their use of force to oppose the forcible efforts of pickets to prevent the Smith meeting from being held.”

Remember ... the News and other papers like it have been denouncing the German people for “permitting” Hitler to come to power! If we follow the advice of the News we will permit fascists to come to power in this country. Hitler’s rise to power in Germany was facilitated by capitalist newspapers just like the Detroit News here. Like the News, these papers misled the German people, taught the people to remain defenseless against the Brown Shirts and denounced attacks on the Nazis.

For Workers’ Defense Guards

Why did the union workers picket Smith? Because he stands for fascism, for anti-Semitism, for Jim Crow and for smashing the labor, movement. The antifascist workers want to protect their own democratic rights and they want to do so NOW. They don’t want to wait until the fascists get so powerful and impudent that THEY are prepared to initiate their anti-working class violence and to break up workers’ meetings. In 1943, the fascists succeeded in organizing anti-Negro riots which caused many deaths. That is enough. We don’t want any more of that. If we follow the advice of the News we will wait until the fascists reorganize and are ready to renew their violent attacks.

The pickets must not use force, says the News. But the police MUST use force, it continues. Why? Why are the police justified in cracking the heads of the pickets in order to defend the fascists while the anti-fascists are not justified in defending themselves against the fascists?

Will the police defend the workers against fascist violence? At his mass meeting Smith said to the police in his hall: “When you see that scum outside and these citizens here in this hall, you know where your interests lie.”

Smith believes that the police have more in common with the fascists than with the working people. He probably reached this conclusion during the 1943 riots when not a single fascist was shot by the police, while many Negroes were killed by them.

The News helps the fascists. It would give them time to organise and prepare. It would mislead us into abandoning our own self-defense.

The workers must not follow this advice. Instead the union movement must organise the self-defense of the working class through Workers’ Defense Guards.

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Last updated: 28 January 2018