III By Pat McGrady
To understand the man, George W. Christians, commander-in-chief of the Crusader White Shirts, president of the Crusaders for Economic Liberty, etc., it is well to give some consideration to his theory by which he proposes to restore economic normalcy to the United States.
In 1930, the commander-in-chief sat with his feet cocked upon the radiator in his Chattanooga office. It was November, and he was pensive. He considered the huge losses he had suffered in the stock market crash, the collapse of his engineering business, and unpleasantness incidental to all this. Because his business was dependent largely upon general conditions he felt the necessity of reviving normalcy throughout the country, and under some happy inspiration he began writing a plan for a Human Effort Monetary System, under which precious metals would be abolished as money standards and human production substituted.
Never much of a reader, and certainly not a writer, the result of Christians’ manuscript was from the outset one of doubtful literary value. Concededly, he had paid little attention to economics until he decided to go from construction to economic engineering. It is possible that he gained the germ of his idea from that excellent work by Bellamy, “Looking Backward,” but, aside from an unimportant snatch here and there from the Bellamy theory, his plan indicates little similarity to any ever conceived by any sane mind.
SUPPORTERS DON’T UNDERSTAND
It is Christians’ complaint that few of his supporters understand his plan, and he invariably charges those who do understand it and consider it destructive to the rights and welfare of the people with being “negative personality types.” The positive types, i. e., those who agree with Christians, are so few that they may be discussed at length in this brief consideration of the Fascist situation.
Christians’ Secretary of State, a member of the Klan, which, incidentally, is understood to be behind his movement, is C. A. Hester of Chattanooga. He, admittedly, does not appreciate the tremendous worth of Christians’ plan, and during our discussion of it he appeared to agree that its implications would wreak havoc among the working classes. He told me about Christians’ development of this masterpiece. According to Hester:
“Christians was never a very sociable sort of a guy. Sometimes he would greet his friends, but whenever his moods came over him (and these were frequent) he would pass old acquaintances on the street, walk among those who worked with him, and lock himself in his office without a hello to anybody. When he began writing his manuscript this mood developed. He would spend hours gazing out his window, write a line or two, then spent another hour or two gazing out the window.”
This went on for about five months, during which time he wrote his manuscript (now a fifty-nine page volume published by himself which could be copied by an expert typist in about seven hours). It is called “The Depression.”
The manuscript finished, Christians showed it to a number of his friends, all of whom expressed agreement with him that it was a mighty fine piece of work. Some of them later (when Christians started building a political movement around his scheme) admitted that they didn’t understand the thing at all. Nevertheless, he sent it to one or two economic journals, and it was returned with the brief but courteous and impersonal note stating formally that the editors enjoyed reading it but that they could find no place for it. It was the utter formality of these notes that got Christians as it gets so many writers who sense lack of true literary appreciation among editors who return their submitted manuscripts. Then Christians knew that he had become the objective of the press’ “campaign of silence.”
He went to a leading economic journal in New York, and they told him they could not use the manuscript. He brought it to the New York Times financial editor, and at the first show of resistance on the part of that gentleman he unloosed such language as has seldom if ever been heard in the waiting rooms of The Times. He vowed before the shocked editor that the day of reprisal against capitalistic oppression would come and went back to Chattanooga to prepare for the event.
At length he got in to see Congressman Louis T. McFadden of Pennsylvania. As Christians said, “I was real nice to him. I handled him with kid gloves, because it wasn’t necessary to cut loose. He came through. First, I had to go to his sugar daddy (all congressmen, he said, have sugar daddies to pay their official expenses and make their terms in office profitable) up in New York.”
Christians named as McFadden’s “sugar daddy,” Robert G. Elbert, said to be a New York financier.
Then followed six months in which Christians crashed the offices of congressmen, announcing that “if you don’t do your part, we’ll make you burn!”
MCFADDEN INTRODUCED BILL
In introducing the bill known as H. R. 4747 to the 72nd Congress, McFadden insisted upon inserting the clause “by request” to the introduction. This, Christians says, he permitted.
The bill, according to its terms, provides that: “There shall be coined, printed and issued by the Government of the United States of America a new form of money to be based upon human effort as stabilized in this act. The money to be coined, printed, and issued as required in this Act shall be of the same denomination as metallic coin as now in use. No gold or other precious metal shall be coined. The standard to be used as a basis of value of the money required to be coined, printed and issued in this act shall be the average wage of male, unskilled, common labor in the states of the union only at the 1928 level, which is assumed to be 42.62 cents per hour.
“The standard of value of the money to be coined, printed, and issued as required under the provisions of this Act shall be maintained by adjusting the interest rate at which this money shall be loaned so as to stabilize the labor wage set out in section 3 hereof. The interest rate shall be negative, if necessary, to restore the said labor wage to the standard as fixed in Section 3 of this Act. The interest rate shall be approved or changed at intervals of not more than one month nor less than one week and shall not be changed more than one per centum upon any occasion, except in case the President shall declare that an economic emergency exists, in which case the rate may be changed by geometric progression.”
ONLY CITIZENS ELIGIBLE
Those eligible for loans are, according to the bill, “only American citizens or combinations of American citizens, only on first mortgages on real estate situated in the United States and its possessions only or United States Government bonds. The ratio of the value of collateral to money applied for shall be, in case of real estate mortgages, not less than two-and-one-half to one, based on the market value of the real estate pledged, and in the case of bonds not less than one and one-fourth to one.”
Section 9 of the bill provides that, “The paper money to be printed and issued as required by this Act shall bear the following notation: The Government of the United States of America pledges its honor and its entire resources to control the value of this money by means of the interest rate at which it is loaned so as to stabilize, as nearly as possible, the average wage of male, unskilled, common labor in the United States at 42.62 cents per hour.”
The bill further provides for the buying of the Federal Reserve Banking System by the government with funds gained from governmental bond issues and for the creation of governmental labor markets, which may be interpreted as being governmental employment agencies hiring men out at the 1928 wage level . . . providing there are employers.
Christians’ bill requires little discussion. He hopes to stimulate industry, and hence employment, by printing money hand over fist and loaning it to all who have accredited collateral. This is his admission. The negative interest rates will make loaning money from the government very attractive, for, at ten per cent negative interest, as an example, anyone with sufficient collateral could borrow from the government $110 and be required to repay only $100. Everyone likes a bargain. Everyone eligible will borrow.
ADMITS PRICE RISES
Christians concedes that under his system, whereby money will be printed in wholesale quantities to meet the needs of capitalists eager to take advantage of negative interest, prices will rise. Despite this, he is determined to keep the average wage of unskilled, male, common labor at forty-two cents an hour, with other wages ranging accordingly. He admits that the wage will not buy as much as it does now or as it did in 1928. Still he persists in maintaining it constant.
When asked whether or not he did not think the capitalists would quickly take advantage of his government’s generous offer of gratuities for borrowing free money, Christians declared:
“These here rich fellows are too dumb to know what it’s all about. Before they realize the bargain, the little fellows will be in there ahead of them borrowing all they can get hold of.”
Christians did admit, however, that while “these here rich fellows” might be awfully dumb personally, they were smart enough to hire alert assistants strategically placed to take advantage of every opportunity to make more money for their masters.
When asked whether or not he believed it true that all but a few would be ineligible for his generous negative interest, Christians admitted that he did.
“But,” he said, “the little fellows will get work.”
As far as my questions and his answers would disclose he bases this assumption purely on faith. Eventually he conceded that once he is in power he may change his economic plan which now justifies “his sale of indulgences to the Aryans,” the patriots, the bigots, and others thinking to incorporate their personal eccentricities with his “national policies.”
To be continued tomorrow