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Shirley Lawrence

Native Fascism: How It Can Happen Here

(April 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 15, 9 April 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Despite the popular belief that fascism is a collective madness peculiar to certain evil nations abroad, it should be recognized by every anti-fascist that the seeds of fascism are inherent in every capitalist country. Although there are differences in form, the content of American fascism is the same as that of Europe, in that fascism in reality serves big-business interests, although masquerading as anti-capitalist. That this has been amply borne out is evident when we consider some of the native and ill-assorted, anti-labor and anti-democratic movements which have flourished here, variously headed by such saviors of democracy as:

Some “Rabblerousers”

  1. W. Lee O’Daniel, former president of the Hillbilly Flour Company and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, recently elected senator of Texas and now head of the Christian American Association which has succeeded in adding several anti-labor laws to various state constitutions.
  2. Father Coughlin, whose crusade against Wall St. was in part subsidized by certain Wall St. silver speculators.
  3. Gene Talmadge, who led the Atlanta “Grass Roots” conferences, a gathering of Southern farmers and smalltown folks, financed by such rustics are Pierre duPont, Ogden Mills, and several executives of General Motors, National Steel, etc.
  4. Huey Long, who had intimate connections With Standard Oil of Louisiana and was on the way to spreading the crackpot “share-the-wealth” gospel.
  5. Gerald L.K. Smith, head of the America Firsters, who can boast as one of his financial backers Harry Bennett, former head of the Ford Co. service squad, now a vice-president and reputed to be running the Ford empire.

Reynolds’ Party

The most recent fascist threat to American labor and the people as a whole is the formation of the Nationalist Party, by the rabble-rousing ex-Senator Robert Rice Reynolds (famed for his isolationist policies), who broke with Gerald L.K. Smith’s America First Party. His ostensible aim is the creation of a mass party of Jim Crowers, anti-Semitic, anti-foreign-born people, and anti-labor elements, which abound in the country, with the goal of establishing a totalitarian fascist state in America.

Designed as a catch-all to combine numbers of the fascist “lunatic fringe” with the money and prestige of big business, the Nationalist Party is busily organizing secret cells in New York City. Operating thus far on a small and underground scale, about fifty secret cells or “units” have been set up in the five boroughs, especially in Queens and Brooklyn, where membership in a unit is limited to ten persons.

It has been reported, however, that an expansion of Nationalist Party organizational activity appears likely, for Reynolds who has been vacationing at his Florida estate, is due back at his Washington headquarters shortly, and “big things” are predicted upon his return. At least five important pro-fascist outfits in New York City have joined the motley crew.

The Nationalist Party is the result of the fusion of two other Reynolds’ fronts, the American Nationalist Committee, and the Nationalist Confederation.

Reynolds also boasts a private, potential storm-troop outfit, the Vindicators, and a newspaper, the National Record. He has indicated that the Nationalist Party will come out in the open with public meetings, distribution of literature, etc., on July 4 of this year. By then he hopes to have at least one unit in every Congressional District in the country. With the end of the war in sight, the Nationalists believe that now is the time to build a party which can exploit the resentments produced by casualty lists and the wounds of thousands of demobilized soldiers.

A Big Business Weapon

That fascism is synonymous with all that is reactionary, retrogressive and corrupt in society is quite clear and leads to but one conclusion: fascism can be fought only by militant, working-class action. If the workers depend upon the reformist labor leaders, they will suffer defeat, because the reformists represent the interests not of the workers, but of so-called “liberal” capitalism, and when it comes to a showdown, “liberal” capitalism simply drops the adjective. It protests, but is powerless since it does not know how to fight fascism.

We have as yet no strong labor party to counterpose a genuine labor program for the people against the inroads of the fascists, but we do have the lessons of the past decade to guide us. We have learned that big business, in order to survive, maintains the fascist gangs merely as anti-labor militia at first, whose job is simply to terrorize and demoralize the workers’ organizations. They help break strikes, beat up and murder the workers’ leaders, wreck union offices and left wing newspaper plants. As capitalist crisis intensifies, big business finds that this is not enough and launches its fascist troops toward the conquest of state power.

Thus labor must organize the fight against fascism. It must organize its own Defense Guards to be ready fop the fascist violence. It must organize an independent Labor Party based on the unions, to bring about the victory of a genuine working class program.

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