by Pat McGrady Author of Fascism in America
In discussing his projected revolution, the sage of Chattanooga, George W. Christians, once said, “Modern revolutions are based upon the personality of leaders.”
As Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and others led their forces to success on the strength of their respective personalities, so Christians intends drawing from his reservoir of “It” to gain power in this country, the rebel chief made clear. To understand the complex maneuvers of George W. Christians, president of the Crusaders for Economic Liberty, commander in chief of the Crusader White Shirts and leader of the American Fascists and the American Reds, it is well to know something of his background.
He is about forty years old, married, and has a son about ten years old. He comes from New York where he gained his education as an engineer at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Twelve years’ residence in his “national capital” at Chattanooga has completely southernized the gentleman. He has attained a Dixie accent that excels that of a majority of native sons of Tennessee. The “r” as in oil is now silent in Christians’ diction, and only on those few occasions when he momentarily forgets his southern adoption does he sound either the legitimate “r” of Webster or the illegitimate “r” of Green Pernt.
While Christians has adopted the mellow tone of “southern talk,” he retains the shrewdness of New York and gives a flagrant exhibition of the double-crossing tendencies which, some legends proclaim, abound in this metropolis. A complete assortment of Christians’ disloyalties to his well-meaning and evil associates will be placed on display here.
Christians is about five-feet-seven and weighs about 145 pounds. In his poorly fitting suit (which must be three or four years old, because no pants could bag at the knees in the manner of his without having been used over that period), he is not an impressive figure. Were it not that he bears a striking and, I believe, unaffected, resemblance to Hitler his facial properties would be commonplace and unattractive. He has large blue eyes with bags beneath which cause his acquaintances to wonder at the truth of his protestations of temperate habits. His hair is light brown.
Although the leader of the White Shirts, Christians on the first day of our acquaintance wore a blue shirt with a slightly frayed collar. On the second day he wore a white shirt; and on the third day it was a dirty shirt, originally white.
His “headquarters” are a suite of two office rooms on the seventh floor of the James building. He works alone with Miss Kelly, his secretary, but occasionally receives a “secretary of state,” “minister of economics,” or some other high official of the Christians cabinet. Some of his officials ride into town on freight trains, but he occasionally sees that they leave on one of the cheaper bus lines for new points of propaganda and agitation.
The headquarters are modestly furnished, one of the most useful bits of furniture being a radiator, upon which the commander-in-chief cocks his feet during at least six of the eight hours of his working day. His political files, occupying two large compartments of a filing cabinet, contain correspondence under four or five hundred listings. His name, without further title, appears on one of the two doors leading to his office. On the other is the title of his engineering concern, the American Asphalt Grouting Company.
WAS SUCCESSFUL ENGINEER
He is generally conceded to have been a successful engineer. His grouting process, which stops leaks in dams and to which he is understood to have full title, is considered successful. Christians claims, and others say, that he lost about $200,000 in stocks during the crash; and although he has had little work in the last few years he manages to live comfortably. The report among Chattanooga townspeople is that the commander-in-chief married conveniently into an honored and well-to-do old Southern family. He has been advising his mother-in-law, along with almost all his friends and relatives, to refuse to pay taxes. It is understood that the good woman is somewhat perplexed with the radicalism of her son-in-law, and thus far she has failed to string along with him in his enterprise to refuse to support the government.
IN WORDS ONLY
Christians is extravagant only with words, as his files indicate. All his active supporters, as far as I could see, were forever seeking paltry loans from their chief. Instead of giving cash, he writes consoling letters and refers them to rival Fascist leaders. How he retains their loyalty on subsistence wages of six and seven-page letters from headquarters and whatever contributions they can squeeze out of gullible persons subscribing to the Christians racket Heaven only knows.
On the first day of our acquaintance he took great pleasure in having the “International Jewish Money Bund,” which, he was sure, subsidized my visit to Chattanooga, pay for his lunch. He reciprocated on the second day, however, and at a still later date he again contributed lunch money to “our cause” due to an unhappy flip of a coin.
Although he has been under observation as a candidate for detention in a federal asylum for the insane, Christians in this reporter’s opinion is far from being the “nut” he is credited as being. He is a clever fellow with a fine appreciation of the limits of our broad liberties of speech and action which he strains in promoting his personality and an economic scheme which, if effective, is enough to surrender the rights and properties of the people into the hands of whoever may be strong enough to grasp control of a despairing nation.
Christians appears to have scared his fellow townsmen and, as far as can be learned, he receives neither great opposition nor support in Chattanooga. That the Fascist prophet is quite without honor in his home is told with avidity by newspapermen. Despite a steady stream of correspondence with which he floods the local editorial offices, he is given not a line except on those rare occasions when he pulls some ridiculous stunt that sends his name over the press wires of the country. This has happened on two or three occasions, and he gains occasional mention in magazines; hence, I can take credit neither for “finding” the Fascist chief nor for doing him any particular great service in granting unearned publicity.
VICTIM OF PERSECUTION
The commander-in-chief is convinced that he is the victim of press persecution. “A campaign of silence,” he calls it. He fails to realize that the press might have other subjects than his ego for the nation’s front pages. In this respect he is of the crank type so familiar to editors. Every small town has a Christians counterpart, and the cities multitudes, who feel their sterling qualities of personality and philosophy to be the objects of editorial intrigues and the press “campaign of silence.” Because Christians appears to be the strongest leader (although he is by no means a menacing figure in political affairs) in the rapidly developing American school of Fascist thought, he is worth special consideration here. But to the general press concerned with developments of immediate importance and consequence he is not worth a line save on those rare occasions when he crashes the political stratosphere.
For those who cannot envision the political stratosphere I will review Christians’ record ascension. On December 1, 1933, the White Shirt chief and his “Minister of Economics,” Walter M. Higgins, hired a huge, new motor car and drove in it to the President’s camp at Warm Springs, Georgia. They made a terrific clamor for an interview with President Roosevelt, Christians explaining that his followers among the unemployed steel workers in Columbia, Georgia, were ready to set the country in open revolt against the administration. Christians indicated that he was having difficulty restraining his men from a march on the capital.
The interview was granted. The President listened courteously as Christians explained his economic theory, which has been introduced into Congress as a bill by that grand old man of anti-Semitism, Louis T. McFadden, and then said he would give it his consideration and ask certain committee heads to consider it. He added, “Your plan is only one of many to restore the economics of this country. I intend to study them all.”
HAPPY OVER INTERVIEW
Christians, exhilerated over the success of his effort to see the President, went away happy as a baby. As an engineer of no particularly great consequence, he had held public figures as unapproachable. The bravado with which he recounted this and other meetings with public figures indicates the hallowed place reserved in Christians’ estimation for political figuresâ€”despite the fact that he wrote and circulated among his friends scathing attacks upon Hoover and his administration and all officials following the era of Hoover rule.
Christians today brags about his meeting with the President, which, indeed, might under ordinary circumstances be considered an honor. But considering the trickery employed to gain the interview with a tired Chief Executive in need of rest, the stunt is somewhat shorn of glory. He also brags about having met a number of congressmen through “influential intermediaries.” I believe that Christians is ignorant of the democratic accessibility of Congressmen who are usually only too glad to shake hands with and pat on the back any and all callers capable of voting or saying a good word at election time. Christians needs but to live in Washington a week to learn that legislation is a process of work by workers rather than divine inspiration by prophets.