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George Stern

The “Christian Front” Arrests

(20 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 3, 20 January 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Without relaxing for a single instant their main task of ferreting out and framing up militant unionists and unemployed workers, the “G-men” have turned up in New York City a conspiratorial band of Fascists of the “Christian Front,” which had actually begun to collect an arsenal and to train men for the avowed purpose of an armed campaign against radical workers, Jews, and the government.

Simultaneously the same Federal body indicted 44 labor leaders in New Orleans and a score of others in Chicago, making a total of 400 indictments, mostly of unionists in the “anti-trust” union-busting campaign of the Department of Justice.

If the G-men have gone after this Fascist gang it is because the American capitalists do not feel as yet any need for help of this kind in crushing working-class protest in this country. They have sufficient confidence so far in the ability of their Army and Navy, police and G-men, their courts and prisons, to keep working class protest in check.

Purpose of the Arrests

For our rulers the exposure and arrest of this Fascist gang serves a double purpose. First of all, at the present time they have no need of such gangs and “suppress” them just as Daladier “suppressed” them in France. Like the French bosses, they expect to be able to chain the workers to the war machine with the state power already at their disposal and with the aid of their lieutenants within the working class itself, the reactionary labor leaders.

Secondly, the small-scale G-man drive against Fascists helps take some of the curse off the large-scale drive being conducted against militant workers throughout the country, right now especially in the ranks of the unemployed. The Minneapolis WPA trials have focussed attention of workers on the real meaning of the “anti-radical” drive which the Department of Justice has launched. The arrest of a handful of un-needed fascists helps give this drive a false appearance of “impartiality.”

But whatever the motives or the calculations of the Federal agents and their bosses, the uncovering of this Fascist band in New York is a grave warning to the workers of the whole country.

That such a band should have come into existence, that it acquired arms and conducted military training is a fact that should stand out before the workers like a blazing red danger signal.

It is not an isolated phenomenon. This New York gang is blood brother to the Bund, the Black Legion, the Klan, the scores and hundreds of vigilante gangs which have come into action in as many strikes, the Silver Shirts, and their like. It was directly linked to Father Coughlin and his “Christian Front” – although the Detroit Fuehrer quickly disavowed the gang, while admitting that he received contributions from it.

Government Make-Believe

It would be a mortal error for any trade unionist to believe that the government proceeds against these gangs in any serious manner. Its pressure against them is nothing compared to its pressure against militant workers and working class revolutionists. And its pressure against the Fascists decreases as its pressure increases against the workers. Let us make no mistake about that.

Think of any single strike and the way the police and vigilantes work TOGETHER in perfect harmony against the strikers, and you get a real idea of what it will be like when things really get tough on a national scale.

The Example of Germany

This is not plain guesswork. We have before us the experience of workers in Germany, Austria, Spain, France, and other countries. The Fascist movements rose in those countries for the same reasons that it is beginning to raise its head here. Out of an insoluble economic crisis, growing mass privation and starvation, out of the inadequacy of all existing forms of capitalist rule, the Fascist movement rises, like an ugly reptile rising out of the slime.

Where, as in Germany, the bosses realize they have no other way out and no other way of effectively countering the rising storm of working class protest against such conditions, they seize upon the Fascist slime and use it to suffocate the working class movement – and indeed all freedom of thought and action in every sphere – in order to perpetuate their rule.

In Germany for years the official police proceeded “against” the Fascists just like Roosevelt’s G-men are doing now. They arrested them, imprisoned them, suppressed their organizations, and newspapers – but in the end they joined hands with the Hitler hordes to crush the workers, to enslave them, and hurl them into the horrors of war.

In France the same combination of elements worked out a little differently – but the end result was the same. The Fascist gangs grew like a festering sore in the sick body of the nation. The workers, organized in mighty millions and ready and willing to fight for and establish their own power, were bamboozled by the “left” and “pro-labor” People’s Front government of Leon Blum, Daladier and Stalin’s French lackeys, into leaving to the government the task of “suppressing the Fascists.” Drastic decrees were adopted, voted for with both hands by Blum and his Socialist Party and Thorez and his Stalino-Communist Party.

So what happened? The Fascist gangs were put conveniently in the background because the easy compliance of the working class leaders made it unnecessary for the French bosses to use them. The great strikes of 1936 were crushed by the government and with the approach of the war in 1938 and 1939 all the decrees supposedly passed against the Fascists were turned against the workers organizations! The Communist Party itself was one of the first to feel the whip it had helped to make.

And when war came Daladier swept aside the last vestiges of democratic rule, established a complete dictatorship, declared all strikes treasonable, suppressed newspapers, dissolved working class organizations, unseated properly elected working class representatives, and led the chained masses into the war holocaust for the greater glory of the French and British boss empires!

This is what really happens if we put any reliance in the government’s apparent moves against the Fascist gangs. It happened over there. It can happen here.

That is, it can happen here unless the workers of America learn the lessons paid for so dearly with the lives and liberties of their brother workers in Europe.

And the first of these lessons must be: We rely on our own strength, our own organizations, our own forces, to deal with the Fascist menace wherever it raises its head!

That is the meaning of the plank in the platform of the Socialist Workers Party that calls for the creation of Workers’ Defense Guards by every union, by every workers’ organization.

The New York Fascist gang shows that our mortal enemies are not sleeping. Woe unto us if we are asleep when the showdown comes! If we awake, if we prepare now to defend ourselves, the end of the story here will be a different one from that in Europe.

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