Friday, April 29, 2011

How Much Daylight Is There Between Teabaggers And Classic Fascist Dupes?


Yesterday we got the morning off to a strange start with a look into the resurgence of American fascism. The arrest and brutalization of my friend Nicole Sandler at an Allen West town hall meeting in Florida this week got me thinking in that direction. Looking back at the first 4 months in office of extremist right wing governors Scott Walker (WI), Rick Snyder (MI), John Kasich (OH), Paul LePage (ME) and Rick Scott (FL) made me realize we had only just scratched the surface.

Although he eventually enlisted in the Army and served in France and Germany, my father started World War II as an FBI agent. His job was tracking down American Nazis who sympathized with Germany in the Midwest. There's a lot known about the Japanese-Americans who were rounded up and interred in concentration camps in the West but much less known about the German-Americans who were not rounded up for their ethnicity but who were arrested for their treasonous activities on behalf of the Fatherland and on behalf of fascist ideology, an ideology that was very well represented at all levels in the U.S. government, before the War and after the War.

How could Americans be fascists or be pro-Nazi? Hard to fathom for most people in retrospect but there were fascist senators and congressmen... lots of them and they weren't hiding in the closet. And there were fascists marching in the streets on big American cities and holding pro-Nazi rallies. Hitler's movement had a "populist" veneer and there is a long tradition of right-wing populism in the U.S. as well, long before the Tea Party reared it's head. Let me quote from Glen Yeardon's and John Hawkin's book The Nazi Hydra In America about how fascism is a top-down revolution (just the way our teabagger commotion has been):
Fascism is a rebellion or revolt by the elite to preserve their social economic status. This is the primary reason fascism begins during periods of economic turmoil. While the large number of followers of fascism such as Hitler's Brown Shirts came from the middle and lower classes, the elite of German society controlled the party. It was only after Hitler assured the prominent business leaders of his opposition to socialism and unions that he gained power.

In 1945, after the war was already won, the U.S. War Department was still so concerned about fascism in the ranks that it began an educational program-- Program 64-- that warned soldiers how to spot domestic fascists and immediately pointed out that "pitting religion, racial and economic groups against one another in order to break down the national unity is a devise of the divide and conquer technique used by Hitler to gain power in Germany... In the United States native fascists have often been anti-Catholic, anti-Jew, anti-Negro, anti-Labor and anti-foreign born."

Fascist politicians in Congress-- mostly, though not exclusively, Republicans-- and their corporatist backers went bonkers and were eventually able to force the War Department to terminate the program. Fascists in Congress? Sure. Just the way we have fascists like Paul Broun (R-GA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) today, Roosevelt certainly had his share to deal with-- not to mention an attempted coup d'etat from the duPont family.
Perhaps the two greatest enemies that Roosevelt faced in Congress were Republican Senator Gerald Nye from North Dakota and Democratic Congressmen Martin Dies from Texas. Both headed congressional committees vital to preparation for the war that was coming. Burton Wheeler of Montana would be a close third. Both had two traits in common with each other and the other pro-fascists members. All of these members of Congress would abuse their franking privileges, mailing propaganda opposing the war or even propaganda from pro-fascists groups to thousands of constituents. The second thing in common was their willful association with pro-fascists groups.

Nye’s opposed all major defense measures in the Senate. He led the fight against Lend Lease and he openly collaborated with many groups seeking appeasement regardless of their political leanings. On the floor of the Senate he charged that the British and not German submarines had sunk the Robin Moor, only later did he withdraw the baseless charge. He initiated a probe of Hollywood, but the investigation failed after he admitted that he had not seen the movies that he had labeled as "war propaganda." He arranged for a Bund member to air his defeatist views before the Senate and later used his congressional frank to mail copies of the speech to thousands. As a member of Congress, he was perhaps the biggest booster for the American First Committee.

Nye also praised the virulent anti-Semitic Gerald Smith for publishing  The Cross and the Flag,

Dies was the first chairman for the new committee, that of Un-American Activities and he set about immediately to sabotage the intended use of the committee, to investigate the subversion activities of pro-fascist groups.

No better example of this act of sabotage of the Dies Committee can be found than in the appointment of its first chief investigator, Edward Sullivan. Sullivan was exchanging confidential messages with the German High Command in 1938, the year of his appointment. In fact, Sullivan was high in the ranks of the Ukrainian-American fascist groups. He greeted members of the Bund with a "Heil Hitler" and had denounced FDR’s administration as a Jewish Communist plot. Sullivan had one other trait endearing him to the right wing extremists; he had been a former labor spy for the Railroad Audit and Inspection Company.

He was soon replaced with another right wing extremist, J. B. Matthews. Upon leaving the Dies committee, Sullivan immediately rejoined a fascist Ukrainian group.

Instead of investigating pro-Nazis, the committee set about investigating and compiling an extensive blacklist of liberals and anti-fascists. Throughout the war the committee carried on a vicious attack on the Roosevelt administration, charging that various agencies were packed with Reds and denouncing America’s fighting allies.

No better example of the opposition Roosevelt faced can be found than in the fight over the establishment of the draft. Nye led the battle, and succeeded in greatly reducing what FDR had envisioned. Originally Roosevelt had planned on two years of universal service for all Americas, both men and women. Service would not have been necessary in the armed forces alone, but through a combination of all government agencies. To be fair, the support for the draft was bipartisan as was the opposition to it. The most opposition came from congressional members from the midwest and high plain states. The bill passed on September 16, 1940 authorizing the draft for one year only. The following year the bill to extend the draft passed the House by a one-vote margin. There were 182 Democrats and 21 Republicans voting in favor of extending the draft and 65 Democrats and 133 Republicans voting against the draft.

There is no better way to establish the fascist nature of many of these congressmen than quoting them. One such Congressman and Steuben Society member was Republican House member John Schafer from Wisconsin. His congressional record was one of complete opposition to any defense measure. In speaking with Carlson, investigative reporter posing as a pro-fascist, Schafer was quoted as follows talking about a revolution against democracy:

"The Bloody kind. There will be purges and Roosevelt will be cleaned right off the earth along with the Jews. We’ll have a military dictatorship to save the country."

Schafer leaves little doubt as to his feelings about democracy in the quote. Another Senator, Republican Rufus Holman from Oregon, openly praised Hitler on the floor of the Senate. The small excerpt below from the speech leaves no real doubt as to his pro-Nazi views.

"I doubt if the right is all on one side among the present belligerents. At Least Hitler has broken the control of the international bankers and traders over the rewards for the labor of the common people of Germany.

In my opinion it would be advantageous if the control of the international bankers and traders over the wages and savings and the manner of living of the people of England could be broken by the English people, and if the control of the international bankers and traders over the wages and savings and the manner of living of the people of the United States could be broken by the people of the United States."

...Another of the pro fascist was Senator Robert Reynolds a Democrat from North Carolina, who also openly praised Hitler on the floor of the Senate. Reynolds was a resident of Asheville, the home of Pelly’s Silver Shirts. Reynolds spoke glowingly about fascism as the following quote shows.

"The dictators are doing what is best for their people. I say it is high time we found out how they are doing it, and why they are progressing so rapidly.

Hitler has solved the unemployment problem. There is no unemployment in Italy. Hitler and Mussolini have a date with destiny. It is foolish to oppose them so why not play ball with them."

Reynolds was friends with the American Nazi George Deatherage and Gerald Winrod. Reynolds with the backing of Burton Wheeler rose to become chairman of the Senate Committee of Military Affairs. In April 1940, Reynolds provided the Nazi agent, Simon Koedel with detailed confidential information about France’s ports. The transfer of such information to Nazi agents was nothing short of treason.

Besides using the Senate floor as a sounding board for Falangist propaganda, he is perhaps better known for his anti-alien views. Reynolds believed that aliens was at the heart of all of America’s problems and organized a posse of youths from age ten to eighteen called the Border patrol to catch alien crooks.

Reynolds maintained his position in the Senate until 1944. By then the Democratic Party by then had enough of the fascist infiltrator and chose another figure popular in North Carolina to seek Reynold’s seat in the primary. Rather than face certain defeat Reynolds retired.

Another of the fascist supporters in congress was the Democrat Senator, Rush Holt from West Virginia. Holt was the youngest person ever elected to the senate. He had won election in 1934 as a backer of the common man and the New Deal. Shortly after being elected, Holt began criticizing the New Deal eventually becoming one of the harshest critics of FDR. By the end of his term, he was an outright advocate of fascism. In the 1940 primary, Holt faced two other challengers for his seat after losing support from the Democrat National Committee. He finished third in the primary.

The two examples of Holt and Reynolds provide a stark difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. The Democratic Party would attempt to purge the fascist from their ranks in the primary, unlike the Republican Party, which made no such attempts, to purge fascist from their ranks, and even encouraged the Nazis with anti-Semitic campaigns.

I know I mentioned the fascist attempted coup against Roosevelt above, something they certainly don't teach in high school American history classes-- nor even in college classes. I included a link that tells the story but I just want to point out how working and middle class people are used by the ruling elite to do their bidding-- how it was done then and how it's still done now. Connecticut bond salesman Gerald MacGuire, a Wall Street fascist, says "newspapers," below, just imagine him saying "Fox News." Here's MacGuire talking to General Smedley Butler, who the fascists thought they had recruited to lead the coup, about how they would force Roosevelt to claim he was too sick to go on being president:
"You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everyone can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second…" The businessmen also promised that money was no object: Clark told Butler that he would spend half his $60 million fortune to save the other half.

And what type of government would replace Roosevelt's New Deal? MacGuire was perfectly candid to Paul French, a reporter friend of General Butler's: "We need a fascist government in this country… to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America.  The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight."

...If this sounds too fantastic to believe, we should remember that by 1933, the crimes of fascism were still mostly in the future, and its dangers were largely unknown, even to its supporters.  But in the early days, many businessmen openly admired Mussolini because he had used a strong hand to deal with labor unions, put out social unrest, and get the economy working again, if only at the point of a gun. Americans today would be appalled to learn of the many famous millionaires back then who initially admired Hitler and Mussolini: Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, John and Allen Dulles (who, besides being millionaires, would later become Eisenhower's Secretary of State and CIA Director, respectively)... They disavowed Hitler and Mussolini only after their atrocities grew to indefensible levels.

The plot fell apart when Butler went public. The general revealed the details of the coup before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, which would later become the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee. The Committee heard the testimony of Butler and French, but failed to call in any of the coup plotters for questioning, other than MacGuire. In fact, the Committee whitewashed the public version of its final report, deleting the names of powerful businessmen whose reputations they sought to protect. The most likely reason for this response is that Wall Street had undue influence in Congress also. Even more alarming, the elite-controlled media failed to pick up on the story, and even today the incident remains little known.

I'd watch Glenn Beck very carefully-- it's either a fascist political movement or religion for him next. Meanwhile, this is what incipient American fascism looks like... in Michigan; Henry Ford would be so, so proud.

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At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would contend we've been an American-style fascist country for quite some time. Unlike Germany, Japan, or Italy, America's ethnicity is too divided and its population is too spread out to ever follow those models or reach the intensity.

On the other hand, we have:

-secret prisons

-bloated and useless intelligence service primarily designed to enrich select individuals and scare Americans

-multiple wars on other sides of the world/hell, the Germans had more justification for knocking out France in preparation for dealing with a potential threat in Russia/USSR

-fear of the other

-anti-union policies at all levels of government

-torture as an instrument of policy

-political parties which have effectively devolved to factional strife. Look at Massachusetts Democrats moving to strip collective bargaining rights or any of the Obots arguments for defending the President. Either the Obots loved George W., or they just like their tribe and hate the Republican tribe because they are the other.

-rule of law? Right...

-anti-Muslim sentiment. Doctor Dean's statements about the mosque.

This is 21st century American fascism. Large scale mass suffrage and participation in government among different ethnic/religious groups will prevent a direct repeat of the past experiences.

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This editorial has such substance and valuable research to back it up, I re-posted it on Facebook. While it got "Thumbs Up" from my choir of liberal friends, those conservatives who might have gained from it couldn't get past its title and the photo-shopped image of Glenn Beck. I love and respect your work, DWT!, but it's not me that needs conversion. It's those that might be just curious enough to read it to the end and find information where before there was none. How can we argue against the vernacular and tactics of the extreme right if we resort to them ourselves? If first impressions are the strongest, it may well behoove us to consider how those who are at the root of our problems interpret our commentary. Perhaps we can be a little more user friendly and if the goal is to effect change, consider how a larger audience can feel invited in rather than alienated from the word "Go".


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