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Shirley Lawrence

Winrod: America’s Jayhawk Nazi

(3 September 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 36, 3 September1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Rev. Gerald B. Winrod, otherwise known as the “Jayhawk Nazi,” is attempting to launch again his particular brand of fascist ideology. The Kansas demagogue, a Bible-thumping evangelist of the old school with modern trimmings, is now operating under the cloak of a “spiritual revival.” He was recently courageously picketed by seventy-five militant Akron anti-fascists who organized a “United Committee to Expose Winrod Fascism.” These seem to be strategic times for the general dissemination of the propaganda of the various native American fascist groups.

Winrod’s contributions to American fascist crackpot-ism are fairly typical, following the anti-labor, anti-Negro, anti-Jewish and pro-Nazi pattern also practiced by most of America’s leading fascists in league with Winrod and along with some of whom he is under indictment for treason.

Who Is Winrod?

A summary of salient points in his career will reveal the real threat and danger that is inherent in his fascist teachings. In Wichita, Kan., Winrod early plunged into a career as a tent evangelist and rabble-rouser. Along with William Jennings Bryan, he zealously campaigned against evolutionist teaching in the schools, threatening his opponents with lightning bolts and other manifestations of God’s wrath. When interest in the monkey battles ebbed, he turned to Catholic baiting, which was popular in Kansas during the Klan ascendancy. He once described the Roman Catholic Church as the “harlot woman of the Bible.”

Winrod, who was the inspiration for Sinclair Lewis’ Buzz Windrop, next unearthed his “international Jewish conspiracy”shortly after Hitler came to power. His magazine, The Defender, became loudly anti-Semitic and announced that Jewish conspirators were plotting to overthrow the government. Later he was to reveal that President Roosevelt’s name was Rosenfelt and that the New Deal therefore represented not only a political but a “biological” problem. He was also to charge that the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby was part of a Jewish-Communist plot.

Not content with these profound revelations, he decided to seek new vistas; he began by worshipping at the shrine of German fascism. In January 1935, after a visit to Germany, made at the invitation of Dr. Otto H.S. Vollbehr, a propagandist for the Reich, he informed a meeting of his followers that his experiences abroad had further convinced him that Jews were responsible for all the ills of the world.

Learned from Hitler

On his return from Germany, Winrod seriously embarked on his fascist activities, and acquired senatorial ambitions; “I am absolutely sure of going to the United States Senate. When there, I will make it my sounding board.” Three years later, in 1938, he almost made good his boast by polling 53, 000 votes but was beaten by a last-minute campaign against him.

Spending money at an estimated rate of $5, 000 a week, probably more than the combined sum of his three opponents, he peddled platitudes by means of a radio chain, a sound truck, platform addresses, a magazine, two newspapers and tons of campaign literature. Big business and Nazi financial interests were generous in their support of the would-be American “Fuehrer.”

A noteworthy aspect of the 1938 campaign was Winrod’s lamb-like disavowal of racial or religious bigotry. He represented himself as a pious, peace-loving Christian and democrat who had been greatly maligned.

Actually he has spread more genuine fascist propaganda than any other American pro-Nazi. The Defender has been an American version of the Sturmer; in addition, he has published two other magazines, now defunct, and hundreds of pamphlets, and has delivered thousands of speeches, all embodying the Goebbels doctrine.

Winrod’s activities have been closely integrated with those of other members of America’s fascist network. The list of those he has published and praised in the Defender reads like a “Who’s Who” of American fascism: Father Coughlin, Gerald L.K. Smith, Colonel Sanctuary, ex-Congressman Jacob Thorkelson, R.E. Edmundson, Lawrence Dennis. He has been praised inturn by most of them. Smith placed him on his list of outstanding Americans and Edmundson once named him on a fascist roll of honor. Winrod has also made extensive use of World Service, a German propaganda agency. He was connected, too, with the German-American Bund, the American Nationalist Confederation, which called itself the Fascist Party of America, with Pelley of the Silver Shirt movement and with a reviving Klan.

Winrod’s Backers

His chief backing comes from a group of thirty to forty influential fundamentalist preachers who accept his leadership, invite him to address their congregations and who write for The Defender. The Rev. Harry H. Hodge, a close friend of Congressman Martin Dies, is also a Winrod associate. In the summer of 1937, Hodge was instrumental in having Dies call off an investigation of Winrod.

Winrod’s fundamentalist followers provide him with an excellent political base. Winrod again ran for senator in the fall of1942 and polled around 75, 000 votes. That he is a crack-pot pure and simple does not alter the fact that his insistent propaganda has won thousands of supporters and that the subsidies of big business are a constant rejuvenating agent.

It is true that the lies and deceptions spawned by the “Jayhawk Nazi” have little to differentiate them from those of his fascist cohorts in this country. All attempt to raise obsolete problems and to bring the relations between the individual and society back to what they were two centuries ago.

But it is also true that Winrod is particularly dangerous, because he is surrounded by an aura of religious respectability. Italian and German fascism too presented themselves as a religion, which would rather arouse faith than address itself to the intelligence or to reason. Once the faithful believe, nothing is easier than to play with truth and logic, under a veil of mysticism.“Fascism is so, because the Leader says so!” Fascism rests on a fundamental scorn of the masses of people.

Is the U.S. Immune?

It would be a mistake to think our country has a “tradition”or “heritage” rendering fascism impossible. There are the same potentialities for a fascist movement in this country as there are in all capitalist countries, wherein fascism always serves the interests of big business.

The more we are led to think of fascism as something monstrous and unheard of, as one more “ism, ” peculiar to foreign nations – the harder it will be to check the growth of American fascism. By spot-lighting the secondary characteristics of European fascism, such as Jew-baiting and book-burning, without exposing its class roots, the false impression is built up that such manifestations are something unparalleled in the history of“civilized” nations. This makes it easier to divert the energy of the American working class and supporters into a crusade against overseas fascism, while our own ruling class is left in power, biding its time to introduce fascism over here when the situation demands it.

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