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Shirley Lawrence

U.S. Fascists Cast Nets for Veterans

(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).

Demobilized and back home after the war, war veterans are notoriously prey to deep discontent: many of them cannot adapt themselves to civilian life. Even when they get back to the old stream of things they are often weary, restless, disappointed. There are those, too, who carry back from the war a physical need for violence, a need they can no longer satisfy in the prosaic existence of peacetime.

Our twelve million war veterans will constitute one of the strongest political forces in this country. Nobody is more aware of the tremendous power they represent than the Nationalists of former Senator Robert R. Reynolds and Gerald L.K. Smith. They are making a strong bid to get hold of some of that power.

Smith has organized two veterans’ organizations, the Nationalist Veterans of World War II and the Committee of Veterans of World War II. Smith’s line for these groups is cleverly designed to appeal to the veteran’s outrage at unemployment. You “have been virtually deserted by our people,” he tells them. You “belong to the Lost Battalion.”

The big bait which Smith tosses out to veterans is a proposal to get them at least $1,000 for a year or more of service.

The type of membership sought by native fascists is indicated by the fact that George Vose, head of Smith’s veterans’ outfits, is trying to recruit among the United Sons of America, an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan.

With the war over, everybody who is anybody in the fascist world of America is trying to get into the act. Joe McWilliams, better known as Joe McNazi, is distributing a “Veterans Reconstruction Plan” in which he calls for gifts amounting to $7,800 for war veterans.

Veterans’ organizations are booming. Anti-Semitic Edward James Smythe, temporarily enjoying freedom from the sedition trials, is coming out in the open with his Protestant War Veterans – no Catholics, Negroes or Jews wanted. In Detroit and in the South, the Ku Klux Klan is contacting ex-servicemen. The American Order of Patriots in Texas wants Gentiles only. Father Coughlin has run up the list of his San Sebastian Brigade to 400,000.

The native fascists hope to organize the veterans into hoodlum gangs for use against the labor movement. One of Smith’s associates, Homer Maertz, is already recruiting bands of terrorists, according to Eugene Segal of Scripps-Howard. This unsavory character attended the first national convention of the America First Party in Detroit, August 29, 1944, where he presented a resolution calling for the sterilization of all Jews in the United States. He has definite connections with the Ku Klux Klan and United Sons of America as well.

Pattern of Nazism, Fascism

What better way of aping the pattern set down by Hitler and Mussolini? In Italy the first groups founded by Mussolini in 1915 were soldiers, Fasci, and the Fasci of 1919 were formed under the sign of “the spirit of the trenches.” “Only unknown men can save the German people,” Hitler declared, “but these unknown must come from the front ... they must come from the ranks of those who did their duty during the war.” And Rudolph Hess asserted: “The Third Reich was founded on an idea, that came from the trenches.”

Germany after the First World War offers the best example of how a “war psychology” continued to permeate certain sections of the population, namely, the unemployed veterans and opportunistic officers. This subsequently led to the suppression of the post-war revolutionary uprisings and later to the formation of Hitler’s storm troopers.

There were groups in Germany, the big industrial magnates and military cliques, which wanted to exploit these sentiments by giving the fascist gangs financial backing and using them against the militant workers. Thus the beginnings of the National Socialist Party of Germany, founded by a troop of armed soldiers, which later, as the S.A. (Sturmabteiling) became the basic party core.

Hitler’s true political line was always directed against the Jews, against “Jewish democracy,” “Jewish Marxism,” “Jewish world domination” and “international finance.” American fascists are able pupils and run true to form with their tirades against Jews and Negroes.

Veterans and Joblessness

According to a CIO pamphlet on Substandard Wages: “Millions of returning soldiers will find that work in private industry actually yields them less income than the Army did. A soldier with wife and two children now gets $128 in cash a month for them under the Soldiers’ Allotment Act – plus of course, his own board and keep.” We also read that veterans in large numbers are collecting unemployment insurance of $20 under the famous GI Bill of Rights. They could get jobs, says a representative of the War Manpower Commission, but they “have a fantastic notion of what jobs are paying.”

More than anything the soldier seeks for some meaning to his existence, some justification; he seeks to understand why wars are fought and how illusions are built up concerning the outcome: why the fruits of wars are more wars, why rivalries and conflicts flourish afterward even among the so-called victors.

A solution for him can be socialism, wherein equality will really reign for the first time and wars among mankind will be wiped out, wherein workers will have their own government, cooperatively run their own economy.

In the United States, the most advanced of all countries productively, such a society is possible. It is the only way out of the chaos of future wars and future insecurity. It will truly mean the beginnings of a better world. It will provide a solution to all the antagonisms inherent in capitalist society: worker versus boss, black versus white, Jew versus Gentile and worker versus veteran. This is the only answer to the threat of fascism.

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