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The 1930s: Nazis Parading on Main Street
Part 3: Fascists & Unions

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Wall Street and corporate America built Hitler's war machine. Once war was ominous and the Roosevelt administration started to build up American defense corporate America went on strike. Many of the deals arranged between corporate America and the Nazis, border on the line of treason. The majority of the deals between corporate America and the Nazis were the cartel-type agreements, not unlike the establishment of monopolies.

Prior to the U.S. entry into the war, the biggest scandal was in aviation. Contracts had been awarded for 4,000 planes in 1940 but by August 9, only 33 planes had been built. The truth was that the aviation industry was dominated in many cases by General Motors and thus under the control of the du Ponts. The press suppressed the real story of a "sit-down strike" by big business and distracted the public's attention by blaming labor. The truth was it a capitalist's strike, and until big business got special tax breaks it refused to produce planes. 36 For six months from May to October 1940 no planes were produced. Corporate America was using the aviation industry as a front to thwart President Roosevelt’s plan.

Throughout this "sit-down strike" by corporate America, the press was busily attacking labor and failed to mention the refusal of General Motors to accept contracts already awarded for planes. This sit-down "strike" by corporate America had the support of the newspaper chains as well as the support of the War and Navy departments.

During WWI, the auto industry came close to committing treason. Throughout 1917, the auto companies refused to cut production by 25% in the second half of the year, thereby denying the defense industry much needed production space and a substantial amount of iron and coal that would have been better used for defense production. In the 1941, General Motors announced it would produce no new models until 1943. General Motors promptly broke that pledge and produced new models in 1942.

On March 26, 1942, Senator Truman accused Standard Oil of treason. Standard had delivered the new tetraethyl lead gas additive to both Germany and Japan. Standard was the major supplier of oil to both the Nazis and Japan. In his appearance before the Senate committee, Farish, the president of Standard, was asked if Standard had delivered the oil to Japan that made the attack on Pearl Harbor possible. He answered that Standard Oil was an international company. Standard’s buffed its image with an advertising campaign that promoted the virtues of Standard products, and was helped along by the willingness of the major papers.37

Next to gasoline, steel is the element needed most in producing armaments. The record of big steel was one of sabotage. As some of the following quotes show pulled from Labor, a union publication by Seldes. 38

Sabotage of war program charged to Steel magnates: Labor July 7, 1942. Subtitle: More interested In keeping Monopoly than with beating Axis declares Senator O’ Mahoney."

"Truman Accuses Steel Companies of Sabotage; PM, June 6, 1942 Subtitle Senator Black charges that big corporations hamstring production."

And from Labor April 28, 1942 the following quote. " It has become clear as the noonday sun that the vicious attack which has been made on the nation’s workers in recent weeks was actually a red herring designed to divert attention from the treasonable sabotage of the nation’s war program by Big Business, which is being exposed by congressional committees and defense agencies.

Proof of that statement may reasonably be drawn from the sensational and unbelievably shocking disclosures of a cold-blooded betrayal of national welfare by men whose only flag is the dollar sign.

One of the most shameful chapters in our history.

The Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation subsidiary of U.S. Steel and the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company were charged by the War Production Board with having refused to fill government armament orders while diverting iron and steel to favorite civilian customers for non-essential purposes. The result is that shipbuilding and other war construction have been held up.

The President directed the navy to take over three plants of the Brewster Aero Company, accused of sabotaging the aviation program.

< The United States faces a shortage of critical war materials because the outstanding industrial concerns have contracts with German monopolists restricting production here."

One of the necessary war materials needed that was hamstrung by these cartel agreements was carboloy or cemented tungsten carbide. Carboloy’s abrasive properties were vital in the machining of hardened steel products. Without it, parts for tanks and other instruments of war were next to impossible to machine. General Electric held the patent along with a cartel agreement with Krupp that limited the production and restricted sales.

As soon as General Electric cemented its deal with Krupp the price of tungsten carbide jumped from $48 a pound to $453 a pound. With its cartel agreement in place with Krupp, General Electric used its position  to buy out or cripple domestic competition in the abrasive market. General Electric paid royalties to Krupp on every pound of carboloy produced. Not only did this arrangement inform the Nazis of how much carboloy was being used during America's build up for war, but also the royalties, in effect ended up in Hitler's war chest.

In September 1940, the agreement came to a halt  when two federal anti-trust indictments were returned against General Electric and Krupp subsequent to a complaint by the Firth-Sterling Steel Co. The Firth-Sterling Steel Co had run afoul of General Electric's price levels as it sought to sell shell turning blanks to the U.S. Army. The Senate Committee on Military Affairs was outraged at how the cartel agreement hindered war production. The General Electric-Krupp cartel had created a bottleneck in production. There was no domestic production since General Electric had driven them out of business. Even if sufficient quantities were available more time would be lost in  retooling plants and training workmen to use the new tooling properly.

On January 26, 1947, the trial of General Electric resumed in New York City. Under indictment were GE Vice President Zay Jeffries, President W.G. Robbins of the Carboloy Co., and Walter M. Stearns, former GE trade manager and Gustav Krupp. Krupp was not present as he was  being held in Germany for war crimes. Ironically during the trial Jeffries accused union leaders as having "un-American objectives" and denounced high wages.


Throughout the trial General Electric's lawyers fought bitterly against the introduction of captured Nazi documents. In one such document Walter Stearns was quoted as telling the Germans that while GE intended to fix prices, "this must never be expressed in the contract itself or in any correspondence which might come into the files of GE." Other documents quoted Jefferies threatening the president of a competitor: "We’ll either buy you out or break you." The jury found that General Electric, its subsidiaries, and company officials were guilty on five counts of criminal conspiracy. Ironically, no further charges---such as sedition or hindering the war effort were leveled against the conspirators. Despite pleads from the Department of Justice for heavy sentences; Judge John C. Knox handed down only minor fines. Stearns and Jeffries were fined $2,500 each and Robbins $1,000. GE and Carboloy were fined $20,000 each and International General Electric only $10,000.

The fine for General Electric was particularly lax considering the firm had made millions on carboloy. In fact, in 1935 and 1936, General Electric's subsidiary that manufactured and sold carboloy made a profit of $694,000 in just those two years. The newspapers of the time failed to cover the trial and the convictions. Nevertheless, the newspapers found plenty of space on their front pages to cover General Electric's charges that UE members employed at atomic energy facilities were potential security risks. The union's UE News was the only paper to report on the trial and convictions. Once again the rich and powerful escaped from justice with a mere slap on the wrist.

The Aluminum Corporation had an agreement with I.G. Farben, which restricted production of aluminum and magnesium, which hindered the building of fighters and bombers. The record from that era makes it clear, corporate America was doing its damnest to sabotage the war effort. A recent article in the press now states that at least 300 corporations were doing business with the Nazis during the war.39

The following reactionaries among big business men were supporters of Merwin Hart’s American Union for Nationalistic Spain, one of the many pro-fascist groups Hart formed and supported: James Rand of Remington-Rand, Lammont du Pont, A. W. Erickson, chairman of a New York advertising agency, Alfred Sloan president of General Motors and J. H Alstyne president of Otis Elevators. Hart supported the fascist line fully. He opposed the 44-hour week, fought against the Unemployment Act, fought against the Child Labor Act and, even more odiously, demanded that only those persons not on relief be allowed to vote. Hart was not much of a believer in democracy as the following quote shows.

"Democracy is the rallying cry under which the American system of government is being prepared for despotism. If you find any organization containing the word "democracy" it is probably directly or indirectly affiliated with the Communist Party." 40

Next to the du Ponts and their friends, Henry Ford was the most notorious pro-Hitler backer. In 1919, he first announced his anti-Semitic views when he stated.

"International financiers are behind all wars. They are what is called the International Jew; German-Jews, French-Jews, English-Jews, American-Jews…the Jew is the threat."10

Again, the same rhetoric is familiar today with many of the right wing groups particularly the Posse Comitatus. The quote above is almost unchanged from the rhetoric of the Posse in the 1980s. The Posse uses code words such as international bankers to mean Jews. Similarly, they and others are still promoting the Protocols of Zion, a malicious anti-Semitic book based on nothing more than outrageous lies first published in this country by Ford in his Dearborn Independent.

Ford's involvement went much further than merely publishing anti-Semitic trash. He was one of the early financiers of Hitler. Obtaining hard evidence of funding for Hitler is a rarity but in the case of Ford, it is irrefutable. The most credible evidence comes from the Hitler's treason trial after the failed Beer Hall Putsch  from the testimony of Herr Auer, vice president of the Bavarian Diet on February 7, 1923.11, 12

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Ford like Hart supported the Nazi agenda, harboring a rabid hatred of Jews and unions. One of the myths that Ford successfully created was that he paid his workers more than other firms did. In fact he paid less; the United Autoworkers printed tables showing the wages for every category of worker was lower than the wages paid by Chrysler and Briggs (General Motors). The reality was that the maximum wage paid by Ford was below the minimum wage of the union. 13

Ford was not known to be generous or supportive of charities, he never contributed any large sum to anyone with one exception. The exception was the Moral Re-Armament Movement lead by Dr. Frank Buchman, a notorious fascist and a Lutheran minister.14

Buchman preached a philosophy of pacification of labor through the use of force. Followers of Buchman read like a whose who in the anti-union movement such as Harry Chandler, the reactionary publisher of the Los Angles Times and Louis B. Mayer. Along with his program for the pacification of labor, Buchman was rabidly opposed to communism and praised Hitler’s opposition to communism as the following quote reveals.

"I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism."97

While many of Buchman’s apologists claim Buchman later said he was deceived by Hitler, Buchman never renounced fascism or changed his fascist views towards labor. The primary reasons the Moral Re-Armament group has persisted to the present day, despite its controversial views, are the pro-business and anti-labor stance and the support it receives from such business leaders as Ford. Buchman was also the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Ford employed Harry Bennett to deal with labor. Bennett had one of the largest spy and thug services in America at that time, which battered, killed and otherwise intimidated workers. Where ever a Ford plant was located there was a long record of murders and beatings of workers at the hands of Bennett’s thugs. Ford even went so far as to fire workers who took part in the 1932 Ford hunger march. Bennett employed Father Coughlin, the rabid fascist radio priest to undermine the efforts to unionize Ford. In essence, Coughlin bribed Homer Martin into betraying the union in an effort to form a company union rather than to join the AFL or CIO.15

The plight of the American worker during the 30s is hardly imaginable today. In fact, the conditions under which labor worked were so intolerable that numerous congressional committees and hearings were held. Employers routinely used spies, and hired stool pigeons, thugs, gangsters and murders. They were well equipped with arms including Thompson machine guns and "poisonous gas," the term at the time for tear gas. This visceral hatred of labor and unions by employers is documented in the many volumes of the La Follette reports on corporate America. George Seldes lists the following seven facts from the La Follette reports:

"1. that American business employs a vast espionage system whose purpose is to fight labor.

2. that 200 agencies employ 40,000 to 50,000 spies in industry;

3. that $80,000,000 a year is spent by big corporations in fighting labor, employing spies, buying gas and guns, hiring gangs;

4. that almost all the great corporations are in the spy racket, including Ford, General Motors, U.S. Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Consolidated Edison, Weir, Frick Coke, etc

5. that 2,500 companies comprising what Senator La Follette called the "Blue Book of American Industry" are part of the American Gestapo.

6. that the National Association of Manufactures, US Chamber of Commerce, Merchants and Manufactures Association, National Metal Trades Association are the chief organizations engaged in native fascism

7. that the American press, which still gives its front pages and its approving editorials to smears, exaggerations and falsehoods of the Dies Committee. And similar committees, and which employ reporters to attack labor, and especially those labor unions which are progressive and militant and put up a strong fight for the rights of labor, suppressed almost all the hearings and findings of the La Follette Committee, which constituted an exposure of Fascism in American industry." 16


Here is the heart of fascist ideology of the 1930s and of the far right today, corporate rule. It is the basis for the visceral level of hate for unions, fueled by the corporate elite and their propaganda organizations. There is no better example to illustrate the power of the pro-fascists in the United States, than to compare the plight of the American worker with his counterpart in the rest of the industrial nations. In every category, the American worker comes up short when compared to the workers in other industrial nations. As an example the American worker earns 44% less than his German counterpart and 15% (1994 figures) less than his Japanese counterpart. 18

Despite this, the UAW has been one of the most successful unions in gaining workers benefits; non-union workers and members of other unions in America earn far less. While the average American worker is lucky to receive a two-week vacation his European counterpart enjoys a five-week vacation-- -or more--- and a list of benefits that the American worker can only dream about

Nor is the plight of the worker seeking to unionize much different today than it was in the 1930-40s. There are a myriad of companies today in the United States that provide security for corporate America. In reality, these companies are nothing more than hired thugs and union busters. While the muggings and factory death squads are not as great a threat today, the American worker is still being spied on. However, corporate America has no qualms about murdering union organizers in other countries. A recent report revealed that Coke Cola had hired right wing death squads to murder union organizers in Columbia.81 The United Steel workers union has filed suit in Miami alleging that Coca-Cola and Panamerican Beverages, its principal bottler in Latin America, waged what union leaders describe as a campaign of terror, using paramilitaries to kill, torture and kidnap union leaders in Columbia.

In fact, the level of spying today is greater than it was in the 1930 and 1940s. Workers and job applicants are routinely forced to take a drug tests. Their financial and medical records are open books to their employers. In a recent case that has surfaced, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway was found to have ordered genetic testing of an employee as a follow up to his surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. There is no gene for carpal tunnel syndrome. The employee was not informed of the genetic testing nor had he given permission for such testing. Such information could be used to deny promotions or to trigger the firing of the employee because he had a predisposition to cancer or other inheritable disease.77

However, even more onerous are the private blacklists. The American Security Council 17 is a group that formed in the late 1950s, with the expressed purpose of providing to any member company a check on their employees or applicants for persons deemed to foster anti-free enterprise views. The American Security Council is directly linked with the pro-fascists of the 1930. Nor is the American Security Council unique. The Church League founded in the 1930s is another such group. Indeed almost every right wing group maintains some sort of blacklist. The express purpose of such blacklists is to deny employment to anyone holding non-acceptable views, such as union activism or leftist political views

In some regards labor has advanced but for the larger part labor has lost ground from the high ground of the 1950s coinciding with a peak in union membership. Today it is commonplace to hear of sweatshops being raided, places in which the workers were held virtually at gunpoint. Other workers are forced to work off the clock by managers, and child labor is now a larger problem than it was in 1900. In fact, the nations' largest retailer, Wal Mart is notorious for requiring employees to work off the clock. Wal Mart has also been found guilty of locking their evening employees in the store after the end of the their shifts if no supervisor was around to unlock the front door so the employees could leave.

Such wide differences in worker pay and benefits between the US worker and his European counterpart not only reflect the greater unionization in European countries but also a political system that is more union-friendly. Many of the anti-union laws passed since the close of WWII were the products of fascist groups. A direct result of such anti-labor sentiment is the wide disparity in wealth in the U.S. There is no other major nation in the world with such a wide disparity than the current disparity in the United States.

The standard tactic of fascists like the du Ponts was to finance a legitimate group that would be widely accepted then use it to further their aims by focusing media attention on the group. A good example (from the previous chapter) was the American Legion. Another example is the American Security Council, which had a tremendous influence in the Reagan administration.

Corporations that reached agreement with Baron Manfred von Killinger were calling for a total commitment towards the Nazi cause. The portion of the agreement written by a General Motors executive went on:

"We must just as well recognize that business leaders of this country must get together in the present emergency. By now they must have realized that they cannot expect much from Washington. We will have to resort to concrete planning. We can agree that it is desirable to convince our business leaders that it is a good investment to embark on subsidizing our patriotic citizens’ organization and secure their fusion for the common purpose. Unified leadership with one conspicuous leader will be a sound policy. We will be grateful for any service our German friends may give us in this respect.82

The du Pont family controlled General Motors at the time.

The words within this agreement calling for the subversion of democracy and the total commitment towards the Nazis are essentially a blueprint for the destruction of democracy. Note that the "patriotic organizations" the writer was referring to such as the Silver Shirts and Black Legion. As already noted, many of the pro-fascist groups received financial support from the backers of the plot against FDR. By 1942, the plan of corporate America was in full force.