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CHARGES are frequently heard that political organizations controlled and subsidized by foreign states, or by the dominant parties in those states, have gained a strong foothold in this country and have been engaged in stirring up class, racial and religious antipathies and prejudices in order to undermine the American democratic system and eventually overthrow the constituted government of the United States. The targets of these assertions are the Communist Party, the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists. Are the allegations true? Are the groups concerned likely to have an important influence in this country?
Judged by its membership figures, the Communist Party is small indeed. According to Earl Browder, its leader and General Secretary, there are now "about 50,000" enrolled members. But admittedly the turnover in the Party has always been large. The number of "comrades" who enter and leave the Party (voluntarily or by expulsion for such faults as "Trotskyism," "petty bourgeois Negro nationalism," etc.) runs very high in most estimates. Members are originally chosen, kept on the rolls, or expelled, depending on their individual zeal and obedience to the Party leadership and the Party "line." There is some truth, then, in the assertion of critics of the Communist Party that each active member is a strictly disciplined officer who in a future revolution may command many privates, and that hence the Party's official membership is not necessarily an index of its potential strength.
On the other hand, those on the periphery of the Party -- in part former members, in part those variously called "sympathizers" or "fellow travellers" -- constitute a variable political factor also. The editors of Fortune [i] have estimated that during the period 1930-34 (when, due to the depression, the Party's influence and following were undeniably on the increase) the number of "sympathizers" totalled from 300,000 to 500,000. This could not in any case be considered a numerically important portion of the 130,000,000 American people. Moreover, within the past year the Party has definitely suffered a setback. Its loss in strength is at least partially indicated by its presidential vote: in 1932, at the depth of the depression, the Party candidate, William Z. Foster, polled 102,991 votes; in 1936, Earl Browder polled only 80,181. There are several valid explanations for this decrease, running all the way from the return of prosperity to the disintegrating effect of the Moscow trials.
But the Communist Party's importance transcends numerical limits. It is a center of extra-party activities known as the tactic of "boring from within." Ostensibly unconnected with the Party but beyond doubt controlled by it, are the International Labor Defense, the International Workers' Order (a fraternal and benefit association), the Trade Union Unity League, the John Reed Clubs (for writers), etc. Communist leaders appear on the Board of the American League Against War and Fascism. Non-Communist members of the League deny that it is Communist-controlled; but Communists are reported to have brought a number of local branches under their sway. This often occurs in non-Communist organizations for the reason that the disciplined Party members attend meetings more regularly and earnestly than the others. Communists have penetrated the A. F. of L. and C. I. O. to only a negligible extent; the only Communist union worthy of the name is that among the fur workers in New York City. Communists have also led some of the Unemployed Councils, but there is no evidence that they have influenced the political opinions of the unemployed members beyond strengthening their demands for more relief.
Does Moscow subsidize these activities? Party funds have always remained a mystery. Many Communists admit privately that over a decade ago the Party received aid from Moscow to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars; however, almost all of them emphatically insist that at present it receives no such money whatsoever. Anti-Communists point to the existence of the Daily Worker, the New Masses and many lesser Communist organs as evidence that outside money must be available; for certainly these publications do not appear to be self-supporting.[ii] But the Daily Worker (circulation probably about 25,000 though the Party claims over twice that amount) pays very low salaries and possibly receives voluntary contributions from American sources. As for the New Masses, which caters to an intellectual audience, estimated at from 8,000 to 12,000 purchasers and subscribers, it runs on a very restricted budget, rarely pays for articles, and in the past year tried to raise money by floating a note-issue. The opinion of this writer is that the Party gets little or nothing from Moscow and that funds which support the Party, its subsidiary organizations and its publications come from membership fees, subscriptions, collections from drives and mass meetings, and from wealthy sympathizers.
But if Moscow does not supply the funds, it at least controls the Party "line" and leadership. In 1929 Jay Lovestone was elected Secretary over William Z. Foster by a vote of 106 to 1. A cablegram seems thereupon to have been sent from Moscow to the New York convention charging that Lovestone entertained heretical beliefs and demanding the election of Foster. The Party at once proceeded to unseat and expel Lovestone and to elect Foster. Browder, the present Secretary, is regarded as Stalin's choice.
The connection between the Communist Party of the United States and Moscow appears officially in the fact that the former is a "section" of the Third International.[iii] Though the Third International is supposed to be controlled by a majority vote of the members from sections all over the world, the Communist Party of Russia admittedly predominates. Thus the Soviet Government, which is not distinguishable from the sole Party in the Party-state, actually, if not technically, controls the "section" of the International in the United States, i.e. the Communist Party. Perhaps because of this, the Soviet Government's diplomatic and consular representatives in this country have taken pains to avoid any public contact with members of the American Communist Party. When Ambassador Troyanovsky gave his opening party in the old Tsarist Embassy in Washington he invited none of America's leading Communists. Unlike German, Italian and Spanish diplomats, the Soviet Ambassador and consuls have conspicuously avoided speaking at mass meetings in such places as Madison Square Garden.
In contradistinction to its previous policy, the American Communist Party does not now call for the overthrow of the United States Government. Testifying before the "Dickstein Committee," Earl Browder, Executive Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United States, admitted that the Central Committee, meeting in New York in January 1934, approved and adopted the resolutions (passed a month before) of the Thirteenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.[iv] These resolutions stated:
There is no way out of the general crisis of capitalism other than the one shown by the October Revolution, via the overthrow of the exploiting classes by the proletariat, the confiscation of the banks, of the factories, the mines, transport, houses, the stocks of goods of the capitalists, the lands of the landlords, the church and the crown.[v]
But in the summer of 1935 the Congress of the Third International in Moscow adopted the "new line" of united front collaboration with other radical and "bourgeois" parties against Fascism.[vi] Soviet leaders clearly had become impressed by the advent of Hitler in Germany and the successes of ruthless Japanese, Italian and German foreign policy. They seem to have realized that the former policy of aiding in the overthrow of democratic governments threatened to make the world safe, not for Communism but for Fascism. The sense of the resolutions of this 1935 meeting of the International, reflecting this shift in Soviet tactics, was clearly to employ the united front as (in Dimitroff's phrase) a "transitional form" of revolution -- that is to say, to postpone the revolution pending the defeat of Fascism.[vii]
Earl Browder and William Z. Foster attended the 1935 Congress of the Third International, and the Communist Party of the United States has since then followed the new "line." Thus Earl Browder ran for President on a rather ambiguous platform which by indirection encouraged many members to vote for Roosevelt (much as Communists in Britain have voted Labor in opposition to the Tories), on the theory that a party run by J. D. M. Hamilton and supported by "reactionary" elements which had succeeded in identifying its interests with theirs actually represented Fascist tendencies. This course undoubtedly contributed to the drop in the Party's presidential vote between 1932 and 1936. As one dissident Communist wittily remarked, "Browder, from hair-splitter to President."
At present, due partly to this unpositive policy and perhaps more to the disillusioning effects on radical opinion of the Moscow trials and the attacks of the Trotskyite opposition against Stalin's "abandonment of Communism," the Party's membership has become restive and many sympathizers have been alienated. Party militancy has certainly diminished. It has no "workers' militias" or armed organizations (these are taboo as "Trotskyite measures"), and one may concur with the Congressional Committee when it says in its Report [viii] that it "does not believe that the Communist movement in this country is sufficiently strong numerically nor in influence to constitute a danger to American institutions at the present time."
The Nazis arrived in this country much later than the Communists, although their advent antedated the Third Reich. In 1924, Kurt Georg Wilhelm Lüdecke, who claimed to be a member of the German National Socialist Party, came to the United States and utilized his position as a travelling salesman to cover his activities in spreading Nazi propaganda. He enlisted members in, and obtained financial support for, the National Socialist Party in Germany. In the ensuing years the Nazi movement in the United States was split among a number of groups; but after Hitler's advent to power they came together in an organization called the "Friends of New Germany." Heinz Spanknöbel, a German citizen and member of the Nazi Party, who had entered the United States under the guise of a clergyman, became leader of the Friends. He also gained temporary control of the United German Societies of New York. However, in the fall of 1933 he was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in New York City for failing to register as an agent of a foreign nation, and has since then been a fugitive from justice. His successors in the leadership of the Friends were, in chronological order, Fritz Gissibl, Reinhold Walter and Hubert Schnuch.
In 1934 rumors of the Nazi activities of the Friends and other German organizations resulted in the creation of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, headed by Representative McCormack of Massachusetts, but often called the "Dickstein Committee" because one of its members, Representative Samuel Dickstein of New York, introduced the resolution for the investigation. The hearings of the Committee produced many contradictory and unsupported allegations. But they also revealed much specific evidence regarding the Nazi movement in this country. The high points in its findings are contained in the following paragraphs from its Report:
One of his [Heinz Spanknöbel's] first activities was to take over, by intimidation and without compensation, a small newspaper in New York published by the German Legion, which paper he largely financed by subsidies under the guise of advertisements granted him by the German steamship lines as well as the German railways. . . .
This committee found indisputable evidence to show that certain German consuls in this country, with all the appurtenances of diplomatic immunity, violated the pledge and proprieties of diplomatic status and engaged in vicious and un-American propaganda activities, paying for it in cash, in the hope that it could not be traced.
Several American firms and American citizens as individuals sold their services for express propaganda purposes, making their contracts with and accepting compensation from foreign business firms. The firms in question were Carl Byoir & Associates and Ivy Lee-T. J. Ross. The owner of the Ivy Lee-T. J. Ross firm admitted to the committee that the reports he furnished to the I. G. Farben Industrie, his ostensible employer, dealt with public and political questions rather than trade promotion, and that they were intended to be relayed to the German Government. For this service he received $25,000, all payments of which were in cash, and an effort was made to secrete the connections. Mr. Lee also admitted that he had never made such a contract before. Carl Dickey, junior partner of Carl Byoir & Associates, testified that his firm handled the contract with the German Tourist Bureau with the fee for services set at $6,000 per month. He testified that the contract was secured with the help of George Sylvester Viereck who received $1,750 per month with free office space and secretary as his share of the $6,000. The committee finds that the services rendered by Carl Byoir & Associates were largely of a propaganda nature. . . . Viereck admitted that he discussed the Byoir contract with a German Cabinet officer before it was entered into.
The National Socialist German Labor Party, through its various agencies, furnished tons of propaganda literature, which in most cases was smuggled into this country. Some of it, however, came through our Customs, because there is no law against it.[ix]
The Friends of New Germany were not openly associated with all of these transactions; but in general they seem to have been the most active center of Nazi activities in the United States. The Congressional Committee found "that it was for all practical purposes, if not in fact, the American section of the Nazi movement of Germany, designed to influence, if necessary and possible, our governmental policies."[x] It held mass meetings at which anti-Semitic speeches were made, the Nazi salute given, the swastika flag displayed, homage to Hitler proclaimed and Nazi propaganda distributed. Orders from Germany were received by the Friends and were obeyed. The conditions of membership in the Friends were the same as for the National Socialist Party in Germany. By means of "boring from within" they had obtained control of the important United German Societies of New York. And, to quote the Congressional report, "the evidence conclusively shows that this movement in the United States is inconsistent with our principles of government."
At their highest point the Friends of New Germany had perhaps not more than 15,000 members. The publicity attendant on the hearings of the Congressional Committee, along with internal quarrels and splits, led to a sharp decline.[xi] In view of mounting American resentment, the authorities in Germany had gradually come to adopt an attitude of reserve towards the Friends; they apparently preferred to remain on good terms with conservative German organizations like the United German Societies, which had repudiated the Friends' control. Finally, on April 1, 1936, the Foreign Division of the German National Socialist Party gave orders for the dissolution of the Friends.[xii]
On the same day, however, an organization called the "German-American Bund" (Amerikadeutscher Volksbund) appeared and took the place vacated by the Friends as the principal Nazi organization in this country. The Bund claims that it admits only American citizens as members. Representative Dickstein charges that this is not so.[xiii] The Bundesführer is Fritz Kuhn, a native of Bavaria who came to the United States after service with the German Army during the war and was employed as a chemist by the Ford Motor Company. He was naturalized in 1933.[xiv]
While the Bund announces its adherence to the American system of government and displays the American flag, there can be no doubt that it is a lineal successor to the Friends. It has all the customary Nazi trimmings. Thus at one of its first meetings in the Schwabenhalle in Brooklyn on April 1, 1936, the hall was decorated with both swastikas and an American flag, and was patrolled by uniformed men of the Ordnungsdienst ("Service of Order"), a body not unlike the Storm Troopers. After speeches were made, the meeting closed with a verse of the Horst Wessel song.[xv] At a meeting in the Hippodrome in New York on February 12, 1937, the Ordnungsdienst marched into the hall and upon the command "Present Arms!" stood at attention while the American national anthem was played and the crowd gave the Nazi salute.[xvi] The Bund also operates some twenty summer camps in various places -- particularly in the Middle West, in New Jersey and on Long Island. For some reason, the Bund seems to find that New Jersey offers a peculiarly congenial climate for its activities. These camps have in recent months attracted considerable newspaper attention and public criticism. In fact, Attorney-General Cummings was led to announce on August 18, 1937, that he had instructed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether or not the Bund's camps are violating Federal laws by shipping unregistered fire arms across state lines. Bundesführer Kuhn stated that the Bund welcomed such an investigation. He said: "We are strictly an American organization, with no connections with Germany. . . . We are the only movement which fights Communism successfully, and for that reason alone we are being attacked by Mr. Dickstein and his henchmen . . . . The aim of the German-American Bund is to unite all Germans and Americans in our country to a united front against Communism. We do show the Nazi emblem alongside of the American flag, with the biggest respect for Hitler and his movement in Germany, fighting the world's madness, Communism."[xvii]
Mr. Kuhn asserts that his Bund has a membership of 200,000. Anti-Nazis call this a gross exaggeration. The best estimate is that at the present time there are about 20,000 members. Nor is it probable that the party organ of the Bund, the Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter, has the circulation claimed for it -- 250,000.[xviii] A generous estimate would probably be 25,000. The Weckruf at one time carried a number of advertisements from German firms, the only indication of subsidies from Germany.
The circulation of the Weckruf, however, does not give the measure of Nazi influence through the press. The majority of the German-language newspapers in this country approve of the National Socialist régime for Germany, though many point out that it would not be suitable for the United States. There are, however, at least ten newspapers which do not draw this distinction even though they stop short of openly advocating National Socialism here. These ten papers are enthusiastic supporters of Nazism in general, very anti-Semitic, vociferously anti-Communist, and give much space to speeches by Hitler and to Nazi propaganda releases. That German language papers in the United States are not free from intimidation by Nazi agents may be seen from the testimony of Victor Ridder, the well-known publisher of the New York Staats-Zeitung and other papers, who said that Heinz Spanknöbel, leader of the Friends of New Germany, paid a visit to his office in 1933 and notified him that "the pro-Jewish articles which we had been running would not be permitted any longer."[xix]
In general, it may fairly be said that the Nazi organizations in this country give the impression of forming a definitely alien influence which owes allegiance to a foreign Power and supports a system of government at variance with American democracy.
While it is true that they do not directly attack the American system of government, the constant praise of Hitler's totalitarian system of government is at least an indirect attack on the contrary American system. Like the Communists, they take orders from abroad. Their International may be said to be the "Organization for Germans Abroad" (Auslandsorganisation), the head of which, Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, has said: "We look on Germans abroad not as Germans by accident but as Germans through the will of God. Like our comrades in the Reich, they are chosen and obliged to coöperate in the work that Adolf Hitler began with his movement."[xx] According to a dispatch from Berlin in the New York Times, August 22, 1937, Herr Bohle (who meanwhile has been appointed head of a section in the German Foreign Office) announced that he had issued instructions to German diplomatic representatives abroad not to accept invitations to official affairs unless the chief of the local section of the National Socialist Party is also invited -- saying that "through the absorption of the National Socialist Party's foreign section into the Foreign Office the unity of party and state is made clear abroad" and declaring that foreign governments would have no choice but to accept party officials on the same basis as German diplomatic representatives. Later dispatches[xxi] said that the determination to demand diplomatic status for Nazi Party officials abroad had been modified; instead, "Cultural Attachés" would be sent to German embassies, legations and consulates.
According to another hardly less remarkable report from Germany, "National Socialist leaders seem to have hopes of making pan-Germanism a political weapon to be employed in internal American politics."[xxii] The dispatch in question quotes as follows from an editorial in the Kurier of Stuttgart -- the city which is the headquarters of the Institute for Germanism Abroad:
We desire to bring back Germans in the United States to the racial unity and common fate of all Germans. To this end the intellectual and spiritual reform of Americans of German extraction is necessary in accord with the model furnished by the old homeland.
When we have attained this goal we will then organize German-Americans for spiritual regeneration, economic support and political schooling.
German-American influence thus economically strengthened and politically reactivated shall then be thrown in the balance under our leadership for the coming struggle with communism and Jews and for the Americans' regeneration.
Unlike the Communists, the Nazis in the United States engage frequently in semi-military activities. However, even if armed, such a force would prove of small importance, for the most generous estimates give the American Nazis 4,700 Storm Troopers.[xxiii] Clearly the Nazis constitute no direct threat to the stability of the American Government.
Nevertheless, the movement may exert considerable influence on American habits of thought through certain features of its propaganda. Two of the principal objects of Nazi invective are the Communists and the Jews. The Communists, as we have seen, are numerically weak. But the Jews are numerically strong, especially in the urban centers where the Nazis usually operate. The chief result of the campaign, then, is to stimulate anti-Semitism. Nor must it escape notice that Nazi agitation has strengthened German nationalistic feeling among German-born American citizens and possibly among those of German extraction -- a fact which might have political consequences in the event that Germany become engaged in a war of major importance.
The Italian Fascists entered the American field energetically at about the same time that Karl Lüdecke was sowing his first seeds of Nazism. In the early years following the March on Rome there were some sporadic activities here by a few Italian Fascists, but it was not until the Fascist League of America was organized in 1925 that the movement really got under way.
At the head of the Fascist League of America Mussolini set his friend, Count Ignazio Thaon di Revel, nephew of Admiral Paul di Revel, formerly a member of the Fascist Cabinet. The secretaries of this organization were under the direct orders of the "Bureau of Fascism Abroad" (Direzione Generale degli Italiani all' Estero) the headquarters of which is in Rome.[xxiv] Mussolini's command -- "My order is that an Italian citizen must remain an Italian citizen, no matter in what land he lives, even to the seventh generation" -- was one of the Bureau's fundamental tenets. Article I of the Bureau's Statute described its affiliated organizations as "unions of Italians residing abroad who have adopted for their private and civic life obedience to Il Duce and to the laws of Fascism and who intend to collect around the Lictoral Emblem colonies of Italians who are living in strange countries."
The Fascists soon obtained a strong foothold in the "Sons of Italy," an old Italian-American organization whose membership at one time numbered 300,000. Mass meetings were held at which Blackshirts paraded in military fashion, the Fascist salute was given, homage was rendered to Mussolini and pilgrimages were organized to Rome. Members were apparently threatened with expulsion if they took out American naturalization papers. And it was impressed upon Italian-Americans with business connections in the mother country that such expulsion might lead to grave difficulties for them. The ostensible objects of all this activity were: (1) to keep Italians, and Americans of Italian birth or extraction, loyal to Italy, and thus ready to answer the call to military service in case of war; and (2) to influence American opinion in favor of granting loans to Italy.[xxv]
By 1927-28, however, the Fascist League had acquired more fame than it had bargained for. Articles in magazines and newspapers exposed its character and aims. Senator Borah attacked it. Prominent liberals like Professor Taussig of Harvard, Rabbi Wise and Oswald Garrison Villard sponsored an anti-Fascist "Friends of Italian Freedom." A Congressional investigation was proposed. This reaction apparently frightened the representatives of Fascism in this country and the League was voluntarily dissolved on December 22, 1929. At the time of its dissolution, it claimed a membership of 12,000.[xxvi]
There seems little doubt that the League has carried on its work in other guise, though exact data are difficult to obtain. This is partly because the anti-Fascist Italians in the United States are badly organized and financed; Italian business men, desirous of remaining on good terms with the home country, are afraid to support anti-Fascist organizations and are chary of giving information about Fascist activities in the way that Jewish business men have sought to publicize Nazi activities. Nor can we turn for data to the Dickstein Committee. For various reasons the Committee did not extend its investigation to the Italian Fascists. Jewish organizations, the mainspring of the anti-Nazi agitation, had been inclined to tolerate Italian Fascism because its program did not at the start include anti-Semitism.[xxvii] Furthermore, this writer has grounds for believing, the Committee did not attempt to investigate Italian Fascist activities because of solicitude for the Italian vote, which in some centers exerts considerable power over certain Representatives in Congress. Out of a mass of allegations and charges, however, the main fact emerges that Fascist activity undoubtedly continued in the United States after the dissolution of the Fascist League in 1929.
On January 24, 1935, Girolamo Valenti, editor of the anti-Fascist New York daily, La Stampa Libera, presented documents to the State and Labor Departments at Washington purporting to show that paid agents of Mussolini were at work in this country spreading subversive propaganda among Americans of Italian extraction. Valenti claimed, for example, that an agent of the Fascist Government, Ettore Frasina, had been trying to stir up trouble among Italian unions in the dress-goods industry in New York.[xxviii] The 1934 budget of the Italian Government listed an appropriation of 154,000,000 lire for Fascist propaganda abroad. Valenti suggested to the Labor Department that it might ascertain what proportion of this money was being spent in the United States. At the State Department he left documents accusing the Italian vice-consuls in Pittsburgh and Detroit of intimidating non-Fascist Italian immigrants and naturalized Americans. Among these documents were affidavits, one of them signed by a Catholic priest, charging attempts at terrorization by these two Italian officials. Valenti also submitted documents and photographs which he said proved that Piero Parini, head of the Bureau of Fascism Abroad, had laid the groundwork for a propaganda organization during a visit to this country ostensibly for "cultural purposes." One of Parini's accomplishments, according to Valenti, was a pilgrimage by American children in 1934 to Rome, where they were steeped in Fascism and sent back to America in black shirt uniforms to further the Fascist propaganda campaign. No action, so far as can be learned, was taken on these charges, although it may be significant that one of the vice-consuls was moved from his post.[xxix]
The ramifications of Fascist activities in this country have become more diverse and complicated than in the days of the Fascist League. The Italian Historical Society (the chairman of which is Giuseppe Previtali, formerly associated with the defunct Fascist League)[xxx] exists for "educational activities;" these included the dissemination of pro-Italian propaganda during the Italo-Abyssinian war.[xxxi] The aim of the Lictor Association is to keep Italians loyal to Italy; it recently held its eighth annual convention just eight years after the dissolution of the Fascist League. More important seem to be the numerous Circoli, or clubs, usually bearing the name of some famous Italian (e. g. the "Circolo Mazzini") which engage in military drills and spread Fascist propaganda. It is impossible to ascertain whether Italy sends funds to these organizations, although an Italian Fascist told the writer that this was the case. The truth is probably that they depend largely on contributions from Italian-Americans.
The principal Italian Fascist organ is Il Grido della Stirpe ("The Cry of the Race"), edited by Domenico Trombetta with the subtitle "Organ of Fascist Propaganda." It is reputed to have a circulation of 10,000. Fascist influences, however, find a wider scope through the daily and weekly Italo-American press. It cannot be said that these papers attack American democratic institutions directly; nevertheless, the anti-democratic Fascist system and the Fascist Government of Italy are always described in a laudatory manner.[xxxii]
The radio is often alleged to have been made a medium of Fascist propaganda. New York stations WBNX, WOV, WHOM and WFAB have Italian broadcasts, some of which are marked by the playing of the Fascist hymn "Giovinezza" and the army song "Faccetta Nera" and by talks praising Mussolini's policies. Programs like these are usually sponsored by firms doing business in Italy. It is natural to assume that such firms will allow nothing in the way of an attack on Fascism to be broadcast on their programs. Italian films of a definitely propaganda nature are frequently shown at Italian moving-picture theaters.
The Fascist boycott -- which anti-Fascists allege is one of the strongest weapons used by the Fascists to intimidate firms, newspapers and individuals -- was not long ago invoked against three New York newspapers, the Daily News, the Post and the World-Telegram. In April 1937 an organization called the Young Italian-American Federation of Greater New York City asked Italian groups to boycott these papers on account of their "anti-Italianism," "anti-Americanism" and "Communism." The letterhead of the organization carried as members of its Advisory Board the names of 17 local Democratic politicians, Italian-Americans, some of them Assemblymen and Aldermen. These gentlemen later repudiated the listing of their names in this connection.[xxxiii]
The Fascists seem to have pushed their way here and there into the American educational system. In 1934 and 1935 The Nation devoted much space to a controversy concerning the Fascist nature of the Casa Italiana at Columbia University.[xxxiv] The Casa is the largest of all Italian organizations in American universities. It possesses ample quarters, where it acts as host to visiting Italians and holds lectures and meetings. Among The Nation's charges made against the Casa were the following:
That the Casa Italiana has refused to permit in its publications any opinion at variance with fascist doctrine.
That Professor Prezzolini, director of the Casa and former liberal journalist, in 1933 announced outspoken support of Mussolini and fascism.
That an intimate association and regular correspondence exist between the Italian Embassy at Washington, the Italian Consul-General's office in New York, the office of the Fasci all' Estero of Rome, and the Casa Italiana.
That student gatherings for the purpose of discussing fascist rule are forbidden at the Casa.
That the real purpose of the Casa educational bureau is to carry on fascist propaganda among the Italian American population of New York.
That the Consul-General's office last year gave $3,000 to the Casa, and that the Italian government originally donated most of the furnishings.
To The Nation's charges President Butler of Columbia entered a blanket denial: "The Casa Italiana, which is the generous gift of men and women of Italian origin living in New York, is wholly without political purpose or significance."
Regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of the specific charges to which this controversy gave rise, the fact remains that, according to The Nation, the director of the Casa, Professor Giuseppe Prezzolini, is still an Italian subject, and therefore presumably comes within the provisions of an official circular issued by the Ministry of Education, as follows:
When, moreover, professors intend to go abroad to lecture or to take part in events or conventions of a cultural character, the Ministry must be informed, if possible, at least two months before the date fixed for departure, so that measures may be taken, in concert with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the guidance of our authorized diplomatic representatives concerning the proper propaganda to be carried on in the interest of our culture.[xxxv]
The Popolo d'Italia on January 17, 1935, stated: "The Duce has received Giuseppe Prezzolini who reported to him on the activities of the Casa Italiana of Columbia University."
In educational circles one frequently hears that Italian teachers in the public schools and universities, particularly in New York City, are largely influenced by the Italian authorities and that many of them are active propagandists for Fascism. A writer in La Stampa Libera of February 21, 1937, described a development in California. He stated that "under the supervision of two educational agents sent here by the Fascist Government and with the coöperation of the Italian Fascist consulate, over thirty so-called Italian schools have been recently established, five or six of them in San Francisco and almost thirty in other parts of the state [California]." This same writer asserted that the Bureau of Italians Abroad has supervisory jurisdiction over the agents who have established these schools, that the textbooks used in the schools are edited by that Bureau, and that these books contain an "appalling" proportion of matter devoted to Fascist propaganda. Anyone examining these books can hardly fail to concur with this last assertion.
To sum up, the Italian Fascist organization would not seem at the present time to represent any immediate threat to the stability of the American system of government. However, it is the impression of this writer, based on a wide and prolonged investigation, that the Italian Fascists exercise a much stronger influence over their racial groups in the United States than do the German Nazis. The solidarity of the Italian groups in large American cities and their resistance to the melting-pot process undoubtedly provide a favorable field for Fascist propaganda.
If the close coöperation between Germany and Italy now evident in Europe -- the "Rome-Berlin axis" -- should be extended to the United States, the Nazi and Fascist groups here might have to be taken more seriously. On February 12, 1937, a meeting held at the New York Hippodrome under the auspices of the German-American Bund attracted an audience of 4,000. Speeches denouncing Communism, the Loyalist Government of Spain and the anti-Nazi boycott were delivered in German, Russian, Italian and English. The flags of Nazi Germany, Italy, the former Spanish Monarchy and Imperial Russia were displayed together with the Stars and Stripes. Among the speakers were Fritz Kuhn, Luigi Ciancaglini and Nicolai Melnikoff. The latter claimed to represent the Russian National Union in the United States. (White Russians, it might be mentioned, have in this country an organization of which A. A. Vonsiatsky is a leader. Although diminutive, it is armed and engages in military manœuvres.[xxxvi]) Another of the speakers was Russell J. Dunn.[xxxvii]
The presence of Mr. Dunn, a native-born American associated with anti-Semitic activities, indicates that these Fascist organizations are sympathetic with bodies of similar aims in the United States. During his investigation of Fascist tendencies two years ago, the Reverend L. M. Birkhead, Unitarian minister in Kansas City, had occasion to interview an official at Julius Streicher's anti-Semitic headquarters in Nuremberg. This official told him that he was in constant touch with William Pelley, head of the Silver Shirts, the only important Fascist organization in the United States.[xxxviii] Observers have long noted that the literature of American anti-Semitic organizations is often obviously copied from similar German publications.
It is significant that at a meeting on July 18, 1937, at Nordland, the German-American Bund's camp near Andover, New Jersey, about 500 uniformed members of that organization marched with a delegation of Italian War Veterans, who were clad in black shirts and who gave the Fascist salute. Their leader, Dr. Salvatore Caridi, opened his speech by addressing the assembly as "My Nazi Friends." In the speech he referred to critics of the Nazis and Fascists by saying "if they insult Mussolini or Hitler we can punch them in the nose." [xxxix]The News of the World (published by the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League) in its number of June 12, 1937, reported the establishment of "The National Protective Order of Gentiles." At the first meeting of this organization held in June at the Deutsches Haus in Los Angeles, it was announced that in addition to native American groups, German, White Russian, Italian and South American groups would be represented. The News described this as a consolidation of anti-Semitic and Fascist groups on the Pacific Coast.
The most serious manifestation of collaboration between alien and American Fascists appeared recently during the Michigan labor disturbances. On June 29, 1937 the New York Times printed a dispatch from its correspondent, F. Raymond Daniell, in which he reported that among the Ford employees the Germans possessed the largest separate group after the veterans' organizations, and that they had been holding joint meetings with the Veterans of Foreign Wars as well as distributing literature for the Silver Shirts.[xl] He adds:
It is a strange liaison, this reputed combination of patriots and followers of an alien philosophy with whom are allied a horde of heterogeneous organizations.
There are the Young Nationalists of Toledo, who hold mass meetings wherever they can and broadcast periodically over a radio station which covers two or three states. There is Gerald Smith, organizer of the Committee of 1,000,000, founded to combat communism, who has been invited to address vigilante sympathizers in several of the industrial centers of Michigan this summer.
It might be pointed out that the Reverend Mr. Smith, a Protestant minister, is reputed to have had connections with Pelley and is often described as Huey Long's successor in the leadership of indigenous American Fascism.[xli]
These reports, even when treated with due circumspection, reveal that the activities of foreign political organizations might become a matter of real concern in this country. Mussolini and Hitler came to power in circumstances of industrial unrest or unemployment. What the branches of their political organizations might do to assist an indigenous American movement to overthrow the democratic system of government cannot be dismissed as negligible. Although too small to lend great numerical aid to American Fascists, they can nevertheless contribute much in experience, technique and leadership. They have done as much -- and more -- in other countries. Thus it is not disputed that the Nazi Party of Germany has actively supported foreign Fascist bodies both in Europe and in Latin America. Berlin participated openly in the organization of the Nazi putsch of 1934 in Austria, resulting in the murder of Chancellor Dollfuss. There have been repeated instances of Nazi and Fascist help for such organizations as the Rumanian "Iron Guards," the Sudeten German movement in Czechoslovakia, the local Nazi organizations of Hungary, Switzerland, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, etc.[xlii] "Nazi penetration" has stirred repeated protests in various parts of Latin America, most recently in Chile and Costa Rica.[xliii] In Mexico City, La Prensa charged on August 23, 1937, that the German Legation there had financed and directed the anti-Semitic campaign of the outlawed revolutionary association known as the "Golden Shirts."[xliv] In the case of Spain, there exists ample documentary evidence to prove that German Nazis assisted Fascist and other organizations hostile to the Government to prepare for the revolt now being led by General Franco.
But American conditions obviously are quite dissimilar to those in most foreign countries. An instinctive American repugnance to Fascist ideology has been embedded in the American character by over a hundred and fifty years of history. Nor will sober persons incline to dispute the Congressional Committee's finding that the Communist movement is not today a menace to American institutions as such.
We open a field of more plausible speculation when we discuss the possible influence of Communist, Nazi and Fascist organizations on American neutrality. A war involving Russia, Germany and Italy, one or all, would tend, as we saw during the World War, to arouse feelings and produce agitation among the corresponding racial groups and sympathizers in this country. Communists and Communist sympathizers, whether Russian or not, would undoubtedly rally to the Soviet side; the German and Italian Fascist organizations would support the "mother countries." We had a foretaste of what would happen during the course of the Italo-Abyssinian war. There were disturbances between Negroes and Italians in New York City,[xlv] and, more important, the Department of State was in receipt of many thousands of identically worded protests against the enforcement of neutrality measures considered detrimental to the Italian Government. Many of America's most prominent Italian-Americans sponsored a committee which lobbied in Congress against any measures which, by ensuring that the United States would refrain from attempts to break through a system of League sanctions, might operate to the disadvantage of Italy.
For many years it has been assumed that because the groups of foreign-born American citizens and those of recent foreign extraction were diminishing in numbers, as a result of the enforcement of drastic United States immigration quotas, they would not again present so serious a problem as was the case just before our entrance into the World War. A certain weakening of ties of language and sympathies has undoubtedly taken place -- the decline of the immigrant press is an instance. But the rise of foreign political organizations in the United States may offset this tendency. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy have militant and fairly efficient organizations in this country. The Communists, while much smaller in numbers, are better organized than the Socialists were at the time of the World War and in particular have considerable influence among the intelligentsia. In cases where American neutrality is at issue will not these organizations make themselves felt politically?
In conclusion, the writer ventures the opinion that if the foreign political organizations here described hold any danger for the established American way of life it derives, (1) from whatever assistance the German Nazis and Italian Fascists can give to the nascent Fascist movement in this country; and (2) from whatever strength all three -- Communists, Nazis and Fascists -- might lend to assaults on American neutrality during a war in Europe.
[i] September 1934, p. 154.
[ii] A press memorandum of the Communist Party dated August 20, 1937, announced plans for two new daily papers, one to be published in San Francisco, the other in Chicago, also a drive for a Party "educational fund" of half a million dollars, apparently to finance the publication of these papers, plus a special fund of $250,000 for use in New York State.
[iii] See Report of the so-called "Dickstein Committee": 74th Congress, 1st Session, H. R. No. 153, "Investigation of Nazi and other propaganda," p. 14 ff. Henceforth this document will be referred to merely as the "Report."
[iv] Report, p. 14-18.
[v] "Theses, Reports, Speeches of the Thirteenth Plenum." New York: Workers Library, 1934, p. 19. The "Dickstein Committee" Report interprets this resolution as advocating "the overthrow or the preparation for the overthrow of, or the bringing about by force of a change in the social or political order of the whole or any part of the United States, its territories or possessions" (p. 20).
[vi]New York Times, July 26, 1935.
[vii]New York Times, August 7, 1935.
[viii] p. 20.
[ix] Report, p. 4-6.
[x] Report, p. 7.
[xi] Other factors as well were involved in this decline. Anton Haegele led a revolt in New York in 1934 and founded the American National Socialist League, taking with him some members of the Friends. German-Americans gradually received the impression that forming Nazi parties had become a sort of racket. The anti-Nazi boycott, and the counter boycott called the DAWA (Deutsch Amerikanische Wirtschafts Ausschuss), also produced disturbance and dissatisfaction.
[xii]New York Times, April 1, 1936.
[xiii]New York Times, August 5, 1937.
[xiv]New York World-Telegram, March 31, 1937.
[xv]New York Times, April 2, 1936.
[xvi]New York Times, February 13, 1937.
[xvii]New York Times, August 19, 1937.
[xviii] This paper describes itself as "The Central Organ of National Germandom [völkisches Deutschtum] in America," and as in favor of "a united Germandom [Deutschtum] in America and in our own homeland."
[xix] 73rd Congress, Second Session. Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities. Hearings No. 73-Ny-7, p. 112.
[xx]Westdeutscher Beobachter, September 12, 1936.
[xxi]New York Times, August 27, 1937.
[xxii]New York Times, August 17, 1937.
[xxiii]Cf. "The Fascist Threat to America," by Guy Emery Shipler, Jr., in The Churchman, February 1, 1937, p. 16.
[xxiv]Cf. "Mussolini's American Empire," by Marcus Duffield, Harpers Magazine, November 1929, p. 662.
[xxv]Ibid., 661 ff.
[xxvi]New York Times, December 23, 1929.
[xxvii] Possibly this attitude may have changed as a result of signs that Mussolini is preparing to adopt a more definitely anti-Jewish policy. The anti-Semitic pronouncements of General Franco may also tend to convince Jews that they cannot pick and choose friends and enemies in the Fascist bloc.
[xxviii] Luigi Antonini, prominent anti-Fascist leader of these unions, later told the writer that this was true and that the object was to oust him because he was an anti-Fascist.
[xxix]New York Post, January 24, 1935.
[xxx] Duffield, op. cit.
[xxxi]New York Times, August 30, 1935.
[xxxii] Notable exceptions are the anti-Fascist daily La Stampa Libera and Carlo Tresca's anarchist weekly Il Martello.
[xxxiii]New York World-Telegram, April 23, 1937.
[xxxiv]The Nation, November 7, 14, 21, 1934; January 30, April 3, November 27, 1935.
[xxxv]The Nation, January 30, 1935, p. 118.
[xxxvi]New York World-Telegram, May 19, 1937.
[xxxvii]New York Times, February 13, 1937.
[xxxviii]Cf. The Churchman, February 1, 1937, op. cit.
[xxxix]New York Times, July 19, 1937.
[xl] See the July 26, 1937, issue of Life for photographs of some of these neo-Fascist activities.
[xli] At a meeting in the Pennsylvania Hotel (New York) in April 1937, attended by the writer of this article, the Reverend Mr. Smith made a speech in which he attacked the Communist Party and made flattering references to the Catholic Church. It was evident that Mr. Smith was attempting to appeal for Catholic support in his campaign against Communism. When he alluded to certain prominent Jews, notably Mr. Bernard Baruch, individuals in the audience responded with cries of "Down with the Jews."
[xlii] See F. E. Jones, "Hitler's Drive to the East" (New York: Dutton, 1937); also J. Joesten, "The Nazis in Scandinavia," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1937.
[xliii]New York Times, August 12 and 26, 1937.
[xliv]New York Herald Tribune, August 24, 1937.
[xlv]New York Times, October 4, 1935.