The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 19, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "Nothing in Moderation" refers to the following editorial, perhaps a little cheesy at that, from yesterday's page by Heywood Broun, regarding the populist La Follettes of Wisconsin. Phil's father Bob was the founder, more or less, of the Progressive Party, a group of Republicans who supported TR and disliked Taft in the lead-up to the presidential election of 1912. Roosevelt became their candidate for President under the Bull Moose banner. The party supported women's suffrage, direct election by the people of United States Senators, (as opposed to the original practice of selection by the several state legislatures), and implementation nationwide of initiative, referendum, and recall, all by Constitutional amendments; they lost of course rather miserably, splitting the Republicans and giving the election to Woodrow Wilson, though two of their three issues were ratified as amendments during the teens.

The Progressive Party banner under Robert La Follette polled five million votes in 1924, shortly after which Robert died.

Son Phil was elected thrice Governor of Wisconsin as a Progressive, in 1930, 1934 and again in 1936.

Not too many people subsequently considered the party fascist, even if Phil, as did many of his day, of course, give undue lip service to early Hitlerism; perhaps this editorial by Broun was one of those of which he had commented three days earlier he might later have retracted. Perhaps not.

But as Seymour Martin Lipset, noted political sociologist, commented in Political Man in 1960, "Fascist ideology, though anti-liberal in its glorification of the state, has been similar to liberalism in its opposition to big business, trade-unions, and the socialist state." So...

Is This Party Fascist?

By Heywood Broun

It is a pity that so many of us use labels loosely and enervate the force of words. I'm thinking particularly of "fascist." It doesn't fit very readily into the American language, and it has been tossed about so much that the cover is scuffed and the seams all ripped. The sphere is out of shape and somebody may demand that it be thrown out of play. That will be a pity because we need the word or its precise equivalent. We need it desperately and we need it now.

In my opinion the most formidable fascist movement which has yet arisen in America is being nurtured in Madison, Wis., by Phil La Follette. Nor is this just phrase-mongering. In form and substance it follows the blueprints which have been established by history. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that the resemblances between the National Socialists and the National Progressives are merely coincidences and a matter of minor unconscious imitation.


Many sincere progressives and liberals leap up and down in rage when the charge is made that the Governor of Wisconsin has definitely borrowed much from the technique of Hitler. They point out that Phil has an excellent record as a man who has always been the foe of reaction in America.

But they forget that fascism begins in soil well to the left of center. It goes directly to the middle-class group and tells them that they are threatened both the greed of the conservatives and the fury of the radicals. And the leader promises to deliver them from both Marx and Mammon. He will play the part of St. George and slay the dragons of both labor and capital. It is his object to drive a wedge between the farmer and the industrial worker, and so he uses two platters as cymbals and promises to serve up as separate courses the head of Wall Street and also that of John L. Lewis.

A great deal of successful propaganda has already been planted to convince the agriculturalists that the CIO is allied with the international bankers to keep them in subjection. It is characteristic of the fascist approach to present only a shadowy sort of program, and to substitute a kind of mystical excitation built around some slogan or banner.


The movement may even be infused with a distinctly religious tinge, and it will always be animated by an intensification of nationalism. The statement will be made that the Creator has set aside certain vast domains in which his chosen people are to find proper scope for their divinely designated destiny.

Phil La Follette has done all this in his first speech. He modestly bounded the scope of American aspirations to include all lands lying between the top of Alaska and the tip of Cape Horn. After a four-hour interview with Governor La Follette, Max Lerner, of the Nation, wrote in that magazine:--

"Phil proposes to equip democracy with a symbol through which the common man... since he cannot write laws or articles or make speeches... will get a sense of participation, the mystical sense of unity."

"All this may sound dangerous to many," adds Mr. Lerner. "It sounds very dangerous to me. And Phil knows that he will be called a fascist. But he is willing to venture it."


As a matter of fact, Phil can hardly have any choice in the matter, since it is on record that he visited Germany in 1933 and wrote a series of articles for the Hearst press in which he expressed admiration for many of Hitler's policies. He was also much impressed by the achievements of Mustapha Kemal. In 1933 he made a public statement against the Jewish boycott of German goods.

"The Jew, he feels," writes Max Lerner, "have... because of their economic success in a declining capitalism... become easy marks for vindictiveness."

Senator Norris was not invited to sit in on the conference where the party was born, nor did he attend its first meeting at which the flag with a cross within the circle was unfurled.

Phil purposes to lead. The business of his followers is to follow.

Norman Thomas has indicated at least a cordial interest. Oswald Garrison Villard welcomes the leadership of Phillip. Those gentlemen have the privilege of changing their minds. They owe it to themselves to look at the record and compare it point by point with the opening phases of Hitler's rise to power.

As to more on Oswald Garrison Villard, as well as the subject of the editorial of May 15, "The Halt in Lynching", read the excerpt below from The Mind of the South, Book III, chapter II, "Of Returning Tensions--and the Years the Cuckoo Claimed", section 17, pp. 300-301 of 1941 ed.:

For, once set going down the incline, the lynching rate would go on falling fairly steadily. It showed little drop during the five years after 1914, indeed--the national figure being 275 as against the 288 of the preceding five years--but these, of course, were the war years, years of great tensions and violent passions, ready and eager to find an outlet in any kind of violent action. And in the next decade it almost exactly halved itself over the preceding one, the number of victims in the nation coming down to 281, of which the last year of the period, 1929, accounted for only seven--the lowest number on record for any year down to the present save 1938, when the score was six, and 1939, when it was three.

What was even more striking was that one state, North Carolina, had no lynchings at all for the eight years 1922-9 inclusive; that Virginia had only four in the same period; and that even Alabama had none in the four years 1926-9. More striking still, after 1914 the number of prevented lynchings rose rapidly: after 1921 it was always larger than the number of completed lynchings, and in some years was triple and quadruple the latter. And, perhaps most striking of all, after 1914 lynchings in all Southern towns of more than 10,000 people, regardless of their location by states, became so rare as practically to be nonexistent--and, moreover, the territory immediately surrounding such towns in considerable degree reflected the same change.

From this and from other collateral evidence, some of which we shall glance at in other connections, not a few observers, both Yankees and Southerners, did hasten to draw some such conclusion as that I indicate. Articles in the chief magazines hopefully announcing that the South was beginning to generate a wholly new attitude toward the Negro, were common even before 1910; commoner in the 1920's, despite an occasional doubting voice in the professionally skeptical American Mercury. And in 1929 so astute a social critic as Oswald Garrison Villard, writing in Harper's, could actually see the whole color line in the South as in process of fairly rapid disintegration!

But such conclusions were much too facile. Not that there wasn't a measure of truth in them. I think there is no doubt that in addition to the decrease in the activity of racial hate and fear in the period between the end of Populism and the World War, there had taken place in the South a very considerable diminution of the potential of these emotions. Feeling now that the black was mastered, the best men of the upper classes had time to begin to recover perspective. And among these the convention that no white man of any self-respect would participate in a lynching or indulge in nigger-hazing of any sort was propagated with increasing energy from the opening of the century; it went on gathering impetus even in the twenties. Nor is it necessary to suppose that this was without some effect all down the line. Never afterward, neither in the 1920's nor since, would the general level of fear and hate for the Negro begin to approach the old heights which had existed in the three closing decades of the nineteenth century.

Nevertheless, we need to be careful not to exaggerate the extent of the drop, and not to assume that the lynching record proves that the process was always continuous and cumulative. So far as the body of the people is concerned, the evidence for the vast survival of these emotions is plain in the very existence of the Vardamans, the Cole Bleases, the Cotton Ed Smiths, as well as in the fact that the number of attempted lynchings still ran very high. But it is plain enough, too, for the other end of the scale from the masses that not even the old proper aristocrats or their descendants were as a group by any means ever entirely restored to calm in the matter. The presence of larger numbers of these people in Virginia than in the other states quite probably went far to explain that state's increasingly good lynching record. But, as Virginius Dabney has pointed out, it was John Temple Graves, an aristocrat by birth, who was largely responsible for the great Atlanta race riot in 1907--who asserted that, in order to protect Southern Womanhood, the South was justified in lynching any number of innocent Negroes to make the race find out and reveal the identity of the man guilty of a purported crime! And if John Sharp Williams, in some respects one of the most notable men the South has produced since the Civil War and an aristocrat to his fingertips, won election to the Senate partly by decrying Vardaman's nigger-baiting, yet he disgraced himself in his last days by openly defending lynching in that assembly, quite as though he were Cotton Ed Smith all over again.

As for the ruling class in general, the evidence is equally conclusive, so far as these regions where lynching was still common were concerned. I mean the evidence that, far from attempting to prevent lynchings, the police in such areas almost invariably connived at them and very often actively participated in them, sometimes serving as masters of ceremonies in the application of gasoline and torch or in adjusting the rope to the victim's neck; and (significant for the whole spirit of the South, for that matter) that customarily when a lynching took place, neither local nor state officials made any honest effort to apprehend and punish the criminals. The police either didn't investigate at all or reported, tongue in cheek, that they were unable to identify anybody, though who the guilty parties were was commonly neighborhood knowledge. Judges, attorney-generals, and governors almost never made any attempt to spur them into the active performance of their duty. When, for a wonder, they did, they got no co-operation or support from the body of "best citizens" in the local community or the state; on the contrary, the ranks closed now as always, and all investigators got was grim warnings to mind their own business under penalty of tar and feathers.

In his Lynching and the Law Chadbourn lists only eight cases, involving 54 persons, of conviction of Southern lynchers for the whole period from 1900 until the end of 1929, and he need not have stopped with that year. In one of these cases--in Alabama in 1920--the criminals got off with penalties ranging from fines of a hundred dollars to three months in jail. In another--in Texas in 1920--jail terms of two years were suspended. And in none of them was the punishment at all commensurate with the offense of murder.

But what has all this to do with the ruling class? The answer is obvious. The policeman everywhere is a simple soul primarily interested in keeping his job and studying how to do the things which he cannily observes his masters--the ruling classes, of course--really want, to that end. And since, as we have repeatedly seen, the ruling classes of the South, operating within the old paternalistic frame, had extraordinary powers over the whole social body and over government--still stood to the people almost as military captains--this was in the nature of the case particularly true of the Southern policeman. The case of judges, governors, and so on is just as plain. Arising from the ruling classes everywhere, and everywhere being politicians, they are everywhere in large part primarily the organ, as it were, of those classes and reflect in themselves the precise temper of those classes. And that also was especially true in the case of the South, where the whole hierarchy of the Democratic Party and its office-holders took its measures almost solely with regard to the ruling orders and their wishes.

The usefulness to politicians of nigger-baiting and of allowing lynching as a means of pleasing and holding the masses must be taken into account, to be sure. But I do not think it much changes the final conclusion. Contrary to widespread popular belief, which the South itself has fostered, the persistence of lynching in the region down to the present has not been due simply and wholly to the white-trash classes. Rather, the major share of the responsibility in all those areas where the practice has remained common rests squarely on the shoulders of the master classes. The common whites have usually done the actual execution, of course, though even that is not an invariable rule (I have myself known university-bred men who confessed proudly to having helped roast a Negro). But they have kept on doing it, in the last analysis, only because their betters either consented quietly or, more often, definitely approved.

Cash himself, however, had discussed in The Mind of the South, (Book II, Chapter II, "Of Quandary--and the Birth of a Dream", section 6, pp. 158-160), the Populist movement in terms of demagoguery, as it took its shape on Southern hustings at least in the two decades prior to the turn of the century, viz:

It was a capital development, of course. For here was an end for these people of the independence and self-sufficiency, the freedom from direct exploitation and servitude, which had been so primary for the preservation and growth of the old frontier individualism, for the suppression of class feeling, and the binding of the South into its extraordinary unity of purpose and outlook. The relation of master and man, patron and client, was pouring over into the taboo confines of white men. And the old essentially voluntary and emotional grouping about captains was moving now toward becoming a genuine paternalism--acquiring a basis in force for the exercise of compulsion, and the turning of traditional right and duty into true prescription.

And this, you may think, at first glance, might naturally have been expected to act to overturn and reverse the effect of all that I have been saying previously: to swing these unfortunate ones, and with them the whole body of those common whites who stood in peril of sharing the same fate, back to a clear economic and social focus and to generate in them a sharp class awareness.

Yet, in reality, it was not to be. There was some current set up in that direction, certainly. All through the eighties and the early nineties the common whites may be said, I think, to have been groping in some dim, obscure, and less than conscious fashion toward perception of their position in the Southern world and to have been gathering anger against it. That was one of the elements in the growth of the Farmers' Alliance movement, and the great Populist outbreak of the nineties in which the movement culminated: in the emergence upon the scene of the Southern demagogue as a type, with Ben Tillman of South Carolina as the first great exponent of the role.

But to take it as the decisive element--to make these phenomena testify to the emergence of this groping to the even momentary realization of class awareness in any full sense--to do this, as some of the chief historians for the period have done of late, seems to me to go far beyond the fact. This movement which ended in Populism was essentially only a part of the national agrarian movement; it represented an outburst of the farmer interest against the great cities of the East rather than a class movement within the South itself. The forces behind it here, like the forces behind it in the Middle West, were blind and diffuse rather than clear and pointed: the rage and frustration of men intolerably oppressed by conditions which they did not understand and which they could not control, the most vivid conviction that something was wrong without any comprehensive view of what it might be. Its attack was directed primarily, not against the planters, and, for all the opposition to the lien laws, not even very definitely against the supply merchants, but against the railroads and two Yankee creations called the Money Power and the Cotton Exchange, its prevailing objective was the seizing of the national government for putting down these monsters. In the beginning it had no extensive local program, and such local program as it afterward developed, though including some desirable minor reforms, like the popular election of United States senators, never really struck into the heart of the internal social problems of the South.

I am not suggesting that there was not something of reality in the notions and objectives of the agrarians. There was. Even the Old South had been pretty much in the position of a European colony set down in a nation side by side with, and forced by the tariff to buy everything it needed from, an economy with a much higher and continually mounting standard of living. For more than half its cotton was sold in the European market, and the price of all of it was fixed, not in New Orleans or Charleston or Savannah and not even in New York or Boston, but in Liverpool; and so not on the basis of the living standards of the North, but on those of Lancashire and Flanders.

But after the Civil War this position had been made greatly worse. Because of the falling price of cotton, for one thing, of course. Because, for another thing, living standards in Yankeedom were genuinely rising to a striking extent. But also, and perhaps above all, because the tariff gang had now got a completely free hand. The South in the nineties, having to sell its product for the lowest prices in history, was having to buy its wants at prices held to the very highest level that even the Yankee standard of living would bear--by far the highest level in the world. Which is in effect to say that a very great part of even such poor wealth as it could manage to create was being drained off to fatten the pockets of the masters of the North.

Moreover, as Cash and others pointed out, the similarities of causes between National Sozialism in Germany and such movements as the Klan in the South after the Civil War, were striking. (See, the note accompanying September 30, 1938, the review by Herbert Agar of Jonathan Daniels's "Democracy Is Bread", an article appearing in the Virginia Quarterly, positing that fascism got its origins in America.)

And, to bind it all together, as well to provide a prime distinction between a democracy and a fascist state, see for more on "Good Use for a Bad Law" the notes associated with the editorials of January 23, 1939 and July 15, 1939. These old laws, dusted off, would indeed be employed in the future by the Federal government by the 1960's, as it became painfully obvious that many state and local governments, especially in the South, refused to do their duty with respect to enforcing the civil rights of all citizens.

Additional statutes, also passed in the wake of the Civil War, 42 USC 1983, et seq., provide any citizen whose Constitutional rights have been infringed by a person acting under color of law, that is in a capacity acting on behalf of a government entity, the remedy of a civil suit for damages, including punitive damages and attorney fees. It is the duty of every citizen, if each of us truly respect the rights of others and cherish our own, to sue the government entity involved, whether Federal, state or local, when those rights have been substantially infringed--such as where there are improper searches, including improper eavesdropping by the government, improper arrests without probable cause, deprivations of freedom of speech or association, and other such deprivations of fundamental liberty interests which we all value and in defense of which much blood has been shed since the Revolution giving rise to the country. If you don't, instead play the old saw "go along to get along", then don't bother to complain when the day finally arrives when we all indeed become enmeshed in one big corporatista, fascist state. Civil rights are for everyone, equally, not just those with the money and influence to purchase assurance of them. It is the only battlefield on which most of us fortunately will ever be called upon by circumstance to fight; when events transpire which invoke the necessity of acting on that duty, it is every bit as important to fulfill it in our role as citizens, every bit the ethical imperative, as that of military service in time of war.

And once again, we provide for your edification and continuing enjoyment, hopefully, the rest of the editorial page from this date as well.

Nothing in Moderation

Messer Heywood Broun has never made us quite so mad before or seemed to be so deliberately irrational as when he insinuated in his column we printed yesterday that the third party of the La Follettes is fascist. Maybe it is or is going to be, but Messer Broun's reasons for calling it that name are weak indeed. Listen:

"And the leader promises to deliver them from both Marx and Mammon... And so he uses two platters as cymbals and promises to serve up as separate courses the head of Wall Street and also that of John L. Lewis."

Is there, then (you pink walrus!), no place for moderation? Must we all be preconceived extremists, nourishing ourselves on class or mass hatred? Isn't there room in the country, at one and the same time, for honest Finance and responsible Labor? In fine, can't we all be friends--or is friendliness a bourgeoise trait?

Catching Mr. "Taylor"

"... Just last month a so-called Robert Taylor bought 31,920 pints of whiskey from a Baltimore distillery and sold it right here, but not a thing has been done about it."

Thus Solicitor John Carpenter in an address to a jury in Superior Court.

But the figures he was quoting were for March, and even as he spoke Cutler Moore, ABC chief, was making public figures which showed that in April the same Baltimore house sold 39,144 pints to a Charlotte man-- presumably the same one.

The figure in itself doesn't spell anything, of course. A Concord man bought 54,688 pints in the same period from the same house. And that doesn't mean, surely, that Concord really consumed more liquor than Charlotte, but simply that Charlotte is closer to the South Carolina border, and gets the main part of its supply from over that way. But the fact that the imports from this specified Baltimore house increased from March to April certainly seems odd.

The police say, indeed, that they have been unable to identify "Robert Taylor." But after all, (1) the house of supply is known, (2) his identity certainly may be very well guessed at, and (3) he seems to be boldly increasing the quantities he is fetching in... Somehow, we had thought our cops were smarter than that.

Good Use for a Bad Law

Somehow, we think we like better Attorney General Cummings' plan for going after Boss Hague than that of the Treasury Department. The latter proposes to look into his income tax returns. And that's the way a lot of men have been toppled. Al Capone, for example. But income tax evasion was not Al's chief crime. And, if Boss Hague is guilty of income tax evasion, it isn't his chief crime, either. And it seems to us that a man ought to be taken first of all for his first crimes, rather than his secondary ones.

That's what the Attorney General proposes. Most people supposed, as we had, that the Bill of Rights was not implemented by any statute at all. But, in fact, there is an old statute passed in 1870 which implements it with a vengeance, by providing that whoever acts or conspires to deprive any person of his rights under the Constitution will be subject to as much as ten years in jail! That law has an unsavory past, to be sure. It was originally passed by the Thad Stevens gang in Congress as a blind behind which to beat down the South's efforts to recover self-government from the carpetbaggers through the Ku Klux Klan. And because it was used only to oppress good men, it long ago fell into disrepute and disuse.

But it is nevertheless still a part of the law of the land. And if it can be resurrected and put to the use of salting away Boss Hague and his gang for their crimes against the Bill of Rights, that'll be a perfectly swell end to its sordid story.

Toward His Goal

French troops move to vague destinations in Tunisia and Italian troops to vague destinations in Libya. Because Franco-Italian negotiations have broken down. And they have broken down, not only because Mussolini has suddenly demanded that France recognize Franco as sole master of all Spain, but also because he has at last moved openly against French territorial integrity by demanding "equal governing rights in Tunisia." It is precisely as though France had demanded equal governing rights in Libya or Ethiopia. She has held Tunisia by right of conquest ever since 1861, and the Italians have had no rights there since the collapse of the old Roman Empire in North Africa.

But this is significant of more than the dictator's gall. If you'll look at your map, you'll see that Tunisia is the Eastern tip of the great hump on the back of North Africa, which belongs to France, that it lies directly across from the southeastern tip of Sicily, which is heavily fortified with 16-inch guns, and that the Island of Pantelarraria [sic, Pantelleria], also heavily fortified with 16-inch guns, lies about midway between the two. Now imagine Mussolini ensconced in Tunisia, too; then go on to look at the positions of Mallorca and Sardinia; and recall that Franco has lately installed great batteries of German and Italian 16-inch guns behind Algericas [sic, Algeciras]--guns which are not only capable of sweeping the Strait of Gibraltar but which also command the Rock of Gibraltar itself--and you'll have an excellent portrait of that absolute mastery of the Mediterranean which Mussolini has always confessed openly he meant to have.

A Good Trick

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers have just performed a feat that most people would think impossible, i.e. they have ridden two horses in different directions at the same time. They had a convention--in Atlantic City, which, by the way, is a swell place for a clothing worker's holiday--and on the last day of the convention they adopted resolutions--

1. To stand back of President Roosevelt against his enemies;

2. To stand hitched with John L. Lewis and his CIO.

Ah, but Lewis himself is an enemy of President Roosevelt. Anyhow, he talks like it. Some of the harshest appraisals of this administration in its second depression phase have been made by John L. Lewis. And in Pennsylvania, Lewis and the CIO lined up against the New Deal's candidate for Senator, Governor Earle, in favor of a man who had only been converted within the filing time to Democracy of any kind.

Romany Romance

Many American "Gypsies" are not really Gypsies at all, but mere groups of itinerant craftsmen, like the "tinkers" so common in Ireland, bound together by some more or less distinct racial and language bond. But those celebrating the curious wedding out on Wilkinson Boulevard Tuesday seemed genuinely to belong to the bond of Romany. They have the stature and swarthiness of the real breed, and characteristically, too, the men tend to be handsome and the women strikingly good-looking.

The real Gypsies are one of the ethnological mysteries of the world. They first appeared historically in Eastern Europe about the middle of the fifteenth century, and acquired the name Gypsies because they were alleged, and sometimes believed themselves, to have come from some "Little Egypt." But from Egypt they certainly did not come, and the best guess is that they probably originated in India, lived there for centuries as a caste of tinkers, and ultimately came into the Western world because of some persecution or other. However, that theory itself rests on nothing much but their language and some of their customs.

Their principal home since they came into Europe has always been Rumania and the adjoining countries, and one of the families which participated in the wedding here came originally from Serbia. But they wandered over all the Western world, and have been particularly numerous in Spain and Portugal. The second family in the wedding here, described as coming from Brazil, probably came to South America from Portugal. In religion they are usually Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox, but George Borrow, the chief authority on their customs, found a good many in Spain and Portugal who were really and secretly Moslems--apparently as the result of some sojourn in North Africa.

In any case, they have everywhere clung to their itinerant mode of life and to customs which are plainly far older than Christianity or Islam either. Particularly their marriage customs, which are such as to have often brought them into conflict with the authorities of the countries in which they have dwelt, including our own.

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