by Pat McGrady Author of Fascism in America
Whether George W. Christians is really a Fascist (despite the fact that he has designated himself the leader of the American Fascists as well as president of the Crusaders for Economic Liberty, commander-in-chief of the Crusader White Shirts, and leader of the American Reds) is a moot question. Christians, himself, does not think so.
He explains that his prime motive in politics is the enactment of a bill, HR4747, which has been introduced to Congress by Representative Louis T. McFadden and discussed in the preceding article.
Christians plan is Fascist insofar as he would concentrate wealth further (despite his protestations to the contrary) and thereby surrender the individual liberties of the American people into the hands of those who would control the operation of his plan. The corporate state, which is regarded as the political essence of Fascism, Christians says he would not support.
Frankly, Christians is to be suspected of an appalling ignorance of the Fascist theory and the plan of the corporate state. His discourse on Fascism indicated a sad lack of information as to the various and varied policies of the governments of Mussolini, Hitler and Dollfuss, and his questions revealed a rather appreciation of the foreign situation, which in all likelihood he has gleaned from the limited space of Chattanooga dailies.
“ME, HITLER AND IL DUCE”
Christians said that “Hitler is in power because he is the smartest man in Germany; and the same goes for Mussolini.” By a somewhat stronger implication than was necessary he indicated that he would become powerful here for the same reason. While the man lacks many qualities that Hitler and Mussolini exhibit in their administration of affairs he is quite equal to both in one respectâ€”ego.
He believes that modern revolutions depend upon the personalities of their leaders and their powers to attract to these personalities strong, well-regimented political armies.
He believes it to be in keeping with the ethics of revolution, such as the ethics may be, to pit classes of people against each other, privately supporting all factions and openly sponsoring any cause that might gain followers without inspiring too great opposition. In this manner, Christians has been playing both with Jews and Nazis, with capitalists and Communists, with Catholics and the Ku Klux Klan, with reformers and revolutionists, with big business and the unemployed. Not all of these, mind you, have played with him; but Christians has been more than eager to engage them in his little ball game, adroitly drawing the attention of his followers to the casual passerby as one who is running bases.
A HEAVY LETTER WRITER
In this vein, he writes twenty letters to every one he receives. He is forever warning the President of the United States of an impending danger to develop from his (Christians’) inability to hold in check longer his tremendous forces. Sometimes the uninitiated become alarmed, as in the case of Marvin McIntyre, secretary to the President, who, when Christians appeared demanding an interview with the Chief Executive at Warm Springs, called the Attorney General’s office in Washington. Christians had threatened, in effect, to unleash his powers in a demonstration by his followers.
Then again there is Christians’ “capture” of minor political meetings. He crashes into the affairs with one or two of his spokesmen, gains the floor, and holds it until all have fled to avoid the boredom of a monotonous and ill-informed harangue on economics. He boasts that no political meeting in Chattanooga is immune from his interference.
HAS “TAKEN” BONUS ARMY
He claims to have “captured” the bonus army (as do many other Fascist leaders including Royal Scott Gulden of the Order of 76 and the now imprisoned Art Smith of the Khaki Shirts) for his organization. Christians described how he marched with the veterans and “raised holy hell” for their bonus paymentâ€”all to enhance his organization. He has not been connected with the American military forces, and he does not disclose where he was during the World War. While Christians persists in egging his followers on to violent revolution, there is little reason to believe that in the event of disorder he would not be well behind the lines.
Christians has also broadcast the success of his capture of “The First United States Monetary Conference,” which was called by the Crusaders for Economic Liberty late last November in San Francisco. It was attended by a number of minor intellectuals who passed many resolutions and forwarded them to Congress. Among the societies represented were those promoting certain political and religious hatreds. With the conference under the control of Walter M. Higgins, Christians’ Minister of Economics, and Chairman Lester O. Wisler, there was little trouble until some members objected to the adoption of the Crusader economic plan. They left the conference, and at their departure the Crusaders had everything their own way. From the Crusader point of view, the conference was a complete success, having adopted all their policies.
HAS MIXED CABINET
An example of Christians’ strategy lies in his appointment of a Catholic and a Ku Kluxer to his “cabinet.” The Catholic, Walter M. Higgins, formerly sold merchandise for a stocking manufacturer, and by virtue of his business training in his occupation was considered the most eligible person for the task of administering the government’s economies. He is Christians’ “Minister of Economics” and “Chairman of the Strategy and Action Committee,” two titles over which both Christians and Higgins smile. They were created to “impress the customers,” i. e., to lend to the organization an air of business-like regimentation. Higgins told me he has no memory of ever joining the Crusaders. The Kluxer is C. A. Hester, Christians’ “Secretary of State,” and his revelations of the connection between the intolerant Klan and the Crusaders will be told promptly.
Hester it was who told me about Christians writing the manuscript which was later to be the basis for the White Shirt political movement.
Says Hester: “Christians finished his manuscript and turned it over to me for reading. I read it and thought it was a danged fine thing, but I didn’t understand what it was all about. It was too deep for me, I guess.
“Well, I heard Christians say we ought to have a government with policies such as those he put into the manuscript, so I figured he ought to be able to get some support from the Klan. I used to be an officer pretty close to the Imperial Wizard, you know. I figured that the Klan could help the plan, and by the same token the plan could help the Klan. The Klan is as strong numerically today as ever, but it just hasn’t been active. This ought to put life into the old Klan, I reckoned.
“I got in touch with a number of the regional leaders of the Klan, one of whom placed Christians’ plan before the Imperial Wizard in Atlanta. My idea that the Klan should adopt the plan was turned down by them, because they figured that it was wrong to become active on it, because of the outlay of money it required and for other reasons. Nevertheless a number of the leaders took up the idea and are supporting it individually with the help of part of their following.”
Thus ended Hester’s account. He was unable to furnish me more details concerning the activities of the Klan, because it is still a secret organization. That the Klan is behind a number of new movements springing up in all parts of the country, is an established fact, however. Dr. Hiram Wesley Evans, Imperial Wizard, recently announced from the Atlanta headquarters that the Klan had reorganized and was preparing to launch a new campaign “against propaganda undermining our institutions.” While he denied that the Klan is connected in any way with “shirtism,” he admitted that the principles of the old Klan form the foundation of the new, and in his utterances there rests considerable sentiment identical with the patriotic utterances of groups that aspire to gain control of the government. Klan “sheetism” persists in the approved fashion.
So far as the Catholic Higgins is concerned, he knows not what he does. He is an ordinary individual whose vanity has been deeply touched by such considerations as Christians has shown him.
TRAVEL LURES HIGGINS
Higgins was first lured into Christians’ ranks when the leader met him on the street one afternoon and ordered him to prepare to go to Washington to fight for the McFadden-Christians bill for Economic Liberty. The vanity of Higgins responded. “Go to Washington!” After years of struggling with his own personal problems, after years of being a nobody in local politics, here he was ordered to go to Washington. This is enough to turn the head of almost any common man. He went to Washington, and when he learned how easily the Congressmen could be reached, Higgins began to feel important. He had leaped overnight from the chasm of obscurity to a position of public importance.
According to Christians, while Higgins is “economically positive,” he is “psychologically negative.” That is to say he supports Christians’ radical economic theory but recoils at some of the stunts Christians stages for purposes of publicity. Thus when an exasperated secretary to President Roosevelt eventually agreed to arrange for Christians’ interview with the President, he did so only on the understanding that the meeting would entail no publicity. Higgins, at Christians’ elbow, expressed great gratitude at this and was later outraged when Christians demanded that the interview be given “the fullest publicity.”
I asked Higgins why he was in the movement.
“I get such a kick out of holding audiences spell-bound,” the cabinet officer said. “Just think, I get out in front of them and I can make them clap or keep quiet at will. It’s just like I’m saying to the audience, ‘Now clap,’ and again, ‘Now shut up.’ All I have to do is give them what they like and they tear down the house.”
In these simple terms Higgins explained his reason for participation in the Crusader movement. There is good reason to suspect almost all others, Christians included, of similar motivation. Demagogues, these people are called.
There is another class, which will be discussed later. They are called racketeers.
To be continued tomorrow