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Gertrude Shaw

Gerald K. Smith, Native Fascist, Seeks Senate Nomination in Michigan

Union Men! This Man Is a Vicious Enemy of Labor!

(3 August 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 31, 3 August 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At the time when the auto, rubber and other mass production workers in the Middle West went through their most militant and constructive period, a rabble-rouser named Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith was using all his demagogic powers to throw a monkey-wrench into the workers’ efforts.

When the sit-down strikes were making labor history – giving roots to the CIO and establishing a decent standard of living fof the workers – and when the bosses were frantic with fear of labors might, Gerald Smith was ladling out to the fighting workers huge doses of “Americanism” in an effort to bulldoze them. The industrialists around Detroit made no attempt to deny that they hired Smith as a strike-breaker – and paid him plenty for it.

Many workers in Pennsylvania towns, in Akron, Flint, Toledo, Chicago and Detroit must recall participating in CIO picketing of Gerald Smith’s harangues. They must remember hissing and booing his scab-inspiring meetings.

This strike-breaker, financed by the most reactionary elements, is now making a bid for political power. He is a candidate for the Republican nomination to the United States Senate from Michigan. This labor-hater seeks the political support of the workers in Michigan in this election. But his aim goes beyond that. With headquarters in Detroit, where he speaks over the radio every Sunday night and is heard in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, he makes his demagogic appeal for wider support among workers.


If Smith wins in the primary in September, he will run for the seat in the Senate now occupied by Prentiss Brown, Democrat. Smith hopes to make political capital of the discontent that the masses feel against various of the Roosevelt measures and deeds (such as wage freezing). Workers must not be fooled by Smith’s opposition to the powers that be into aiding an American fascist and giving this enemy of labor the boost he wants up the political ladder.

Smith Has His “Thyssens”

Just as Hitler had his Thyssens, so Gerald Smith has his pillars of capitalist society. The motor multi-millionaire Horace Dodge was the first to discover Smith’s value to the reactionary ruling class and to express his appreciation financially. One reason for Smith establishing himself in Detroit is to be near this benefactor.

“King Henry” Ford is reported to have been paying for Smith’s radio time. Though Smith denies this, he admits: “I am a great admirer of Mr. Ford and he says he is a great admirer of me.”

Smith has also had the backing of a member of the Pullman family. In New York the Park Avenue crowd idolized him and gave him money. Over-dressed dowagers, empty-headed debutantes, retired stockbrokers and other parasites consider him a crusader against “those awful workers” – the savior of their ill-gotten wealth and social position. His pockets are constantly replenished by the donations of corporation officers and manufacturers’ associations. Fritz Kuhn and other unmasked emissaries of Hitlerism have added their “drop” to the Smith bucket.

Today this Galahad of American fascism boasts that he gets $1,560 a week from “good, sound, middle class Americans who send their dollars in one at a time.” Hitler also received the support of the misguided German lower middle class. This unfortunate class, crushed by the merciless onrush of top-capitalism and afraid of the movement of the workers for the liberation of all humanity, desperately and foolishly looks to a “strong leader” for salvation – with what tragic results has been dramatically illustrated in Germany.

The abysmal insincerity of Gerald Smith can be gauged by the jump he made from the pulpit into the political camp of Huey Long, the kingfish of political dictators. In this corrupt machine, at the feet of this unscrupulous political boss, is where Smith – erstwhile Servant of God – got his political education. Today he is hand-in-glove with such Southern bourbons as Senator Reynolds of North Carolina.

Gerald Smith is too clever a politician to indulge in the wild-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth type of race hatred, but his anti-Semitism is clear-cut nonetheless. He publishes a paper called The Cross and the Flag. The Ku Klux Klan is too close to this combination to allow any misinterpretation. Smith’s kinship to the anti-Semitic Christian Fronters is deeper than water. The most rabid anti-Semites flock to his fold and he rejects none of them. Smith, like the Nazi-admirer Father Coughlin – The Cross and The Flag like Social Justice – stands for that Hitler product a “Christian America.”

There is no doubt whatever that all the anti-Semitic elements in the country are for Gerald Smith. And he, on his part, is worried about Father Coughlin losing his “four freedoms.” This apologist for Hitler is, according to Gerald Smith, “being persecuted.” Smith declares: “I am his defender.”

There is also no doubt that all the Jim Crow elements are behind Smith. He is a politician from the deep South. His fraternal connections with the Jim Crow, poll-tax politicians testify to where he stands.

To disclaim his anti-Semitism Smith points to the fact that he has the support of one of the richest and most successful Jewish lawyers in Detroit. However this does not prove Smith’s love for minority races. It only demonstrates that Smith is so anti-labor that this rich Jewish lawyer, who represents boss interests in Detroit, reacts to Smith just as the bosses do. It proves that class lines are stronger than race. Hitler also had his RICH Jewish supporters (the Jewish worker was, of course, against him) – before he came to power. They, like so many of the rich, saw in him the destroyer of labor’s power.

A Strike-Breaker’s Way of Life

Smith is fond of shouting that he “loves and defends the American way of life.” Every faker, every capitalist politician, every would-be fascist dictator in this country is – quite naturally – a champion for the “American way of life.”

Obviously, their way is not that of the workers.

Gerald Smith’s way of life is the one which sides with the bosses against the workers as he did in the great sit-down strikes. His way of life is the one that invokes the wrath of all powers that be against striking workers – and takes pay from the bosses to do so. His way is apparently the way of Huey Long, of Coughlin, of Hitler, of the whole fascist-Nazi gang.

Concretely the choice for the workers is not between Prentiss Brown, representative of a discredited political party and a discredited social system, and Gerald Smith, protagonist for putting brass knuckles on that system to pound the working class into submission. The choice is not between representatives of good old capitalism without any trimmings and of capitalism with new-fangled fascist trimmings. IT IS WHETHER THE WORKERS SHOULD CONTINUE TO RELY ON ANY VARIETY OF BOSS POLITICS OR START RELYING ON INDEPENDENT WORKING CLASS POLITICS.

Away with Fake Messiahs

New times require new actions. The rank and file of labor must get itself into politics as an independent labor force – with an independent working class party. Labor, through its OWN party, ought to be putting up for candidacy fellow workers of outstanding integrity and ability to protect the workers’ interests everywhere and against anyone – but especially against false labor leaders.

Hitler exploited the post-war suffering of the German people. He promised them the Nazi millennium. He gave them the hell of a Nazi dictatorship. Gerald Smith exploits the discontent that the war and its conduct have thus far engendered in the American people. The people will grow more discontented with all the workers of the capitalist system and will yearn for a change.

But the change the people want will not come through a fascist demagogue. The choice for the workers is not between things as they are and things as a fascist dictator will make them. The choice is between things as they are and things as the workers CAN MAKE THEM if they stop relying on fake messiahs AND RELY INSTEAD ON THEIR OWN STRENGTH AND ABILITY.

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Last updated: 13 September 2014