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Shirley Lawrence

Native Fascism: Smith and McWilliams

(2 July 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 27, 2 July 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The defeat of Germany and Italy, and the certainty of defeat for Japan, does not mean the defeat of fascism. For the conditions that bring fascism into existence remain. Fascism feeds on economic chaos, and since capitalism cannot guarantee economic security, peace or freedom, the danger of fascism is constant.

All sections of America have united in an uproar of indignation over the crimes of foreign fascism. “How can such things be in a civilized world?”

It is misleading and decidedly dangerous to think that fascism is a national characteristic of Germany or Italy; that it came to Germany because the people were nationalistic, militaristic and pronto regimentation; that it came to Italy because the country was backward. Such theories are false and disarm the people of other countries, especially the working classes, in their struggle against reactionary fascism. They do not explain, for instance, why in almost every important country of the world, fascist movements were and are in existence. FASCISM IS NOT A NEW SOCIAL SYSTEM, BUT A FORM OFPOLITICAL RULE UNDER CAPITALISM. AS SUCH IT IS CAPABLE OF COMING TOPOWER IN ANY COUNTRY.

There are evil threats, which are taken for granted, to American workers in such native, anti-labor, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic pro-fascist movements as the newly-formed Nationalist Party, headed by ex-Senator Robert Rice Reynolds, and of the America Firsters, led by Gerald L.K. Smith. Both are financed by, and serve the interests of big business; both are flourishing today, and trying to consolidate and coordinate all reactionary and pro-fascist forces in this country.

Joe McWilliams’ Activities

Sensational disclosures in the Cleveland “Press”reveal that Reynolds is employing as a key-man, none other than Joe McWilliams, the silvery-voiced Yorkville Fuehrer, to solicit wealthy Cleveland industrialists for contributions to the Nationalist Party. It is pretty generally avowed that McWilliams is an out and out fascist and admirer of Adolph Hitler and all his policies; a friend of the leader of the German-American Bund, Fritz Kuhn; and of Silver-Shirt leader, William Dudley Pelley. McWilliams gained notoriety chiefly through his vicious anti-Semite speeches at street corner rallies in Yorkville in the early days of the war. He is the author of such a profound remark as: “ADOLPH HITLER IS THEGREATEST LEADER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.”

Reynolds, leader of the Nationalist Party, former chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, husband of Evalyn Walsh MacLean, owner of the Hope diamond and a huge fortune, had the political and social prestige to give his party a deceptive aura of respectability. The big-time Nationalistic press, the New York Daily News andWashington Times-Herald have come out for a Nationalistic Party, while the Chicago Tribune has specifically praised the Nationalistic Party of Reynolds. Reynolds is himself the owner of a newspaper, the National Record, the official organ of his Party, and the proud possessor of a private, potential storm-troop outfit, the Vindicators.

Here is what A.F. Weber of the Triplex Screw Company of Cleveland tells of an interview with Nationalistic Party representative, Malone, “public relations director” for the American Nationalistic Committee, Reynolds’ Number One organizer and trouble shooter, active in the last four months in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio.

“Malone asked me for a donation to the party. He said the Nationalists expected to get into office and would help industry. He said they would do away with all business regulations, lower taxes, and make the unions incorporate, like they do in some of the Southern states. He talked a lot about Communists, and how they were taking over the country through the New Deal. He said the Nationalists would put an end to the Communists and foreigners in this country. He explained the way the Nationalist Party would get into office by uniting the anti-New Deal Democrats of the South, with the right kind of Northern Republicans. He showed me a map to see how the votes in the different states would be united under the Nationalists.”

Other industrialists or firms visited by Malone or McWilliams include: James F. Lincoln, president of Lincoln Electric Co., who has a record of violently reactionary actions against labor; Robert A. Weaver, president of Ferro Enamel Corp.; Republic Steel Corp., Standard Oil Company, Federal Reserve Bank, Mutual Finance Co., American Shipbuilding Co., etc.

Gerald L.K. Smith

The Nationalists are in communication with Gerald L.K. Smith, head of the America Firsters, who has as one of his financial backers Harry Bennett, former head of the Ford Co. service squad, now reputed to be running the Ford empire. Smith visited the San Francisco Conference to relaunch the America First movement from there and to transfer his Detroit headquarters there. He plans to coalesce the various fascist, crackpot elements on the Coast – the pension“oldsters, ” the fundamentalists, the vegetarians, the“monetary reform” groups, the “good government”people, the “ham and eggs” movement.

Fascism in Italy and Germany was subsidized by the magnates of the heavy industries, the iron, steel and mining industries, and by the financiers – the Krupps and the Thyssens. Krupp told his employees once: “We want only loyal workers who are grateful from the bottom of their hearts for the bread which we let them earn.” Thyssen said: “Democracy with us represents – nothing.” And yet it is the workers of Germany who today must suffer, and the Thyssens and Krupps will go scot-free. Fascism came to power in Germany as the instrument of the capitalist class to prevent the workers from seizing power.

The fascist movement is usually composed of declassed elements: middle classes which have been destroyed by big business, unemployed militarists, i.e., professional soldiers, unemployed workers whose morale has been destroyed by years of idleness, youth who have no hopes for the future under capitalism. These were the forces which the degenerate leaders of the Nazi Party won to their program. This program promised everything to everybody but really adhered to one aim: strengthening the power of the capitalist rulers of Germany, guaranteeing their profits and waging war to extend their interests on a world scale.

Fascism can be fought only by militant working class action. Labor must organize the fight against fascism, it must organize a strong Labor Party with a genuine labor program, for the people to guard against the inroads of the fascists. Labor must organize its own Defense Guards to be ready for the fascist violence, organize an independent Labor Party, based on the unions, to bring about the victory of its program.

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