A Night at the Garden

Good article, and good film.

I’ve said this before: the Trumpists are not an aberration from American history. They are the natural consequence of it.


Recently listened to a podcast about something that happened outside that event:

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This rally was an aberration. It took 1,700 NYC policemen to keep the protesters at bay – so a lot of protesters – and the leader/speaker, Fritz Kuhn, was German: he moved to the US in his 30s, was thrown into Sing Sing the same year as this rally, and deported back to Germany a few years later. There’s a lot wrong with the US today, but please don’t try to portray this event as somehow representative of us, it is frankly offensive.

Keep in mind that at that time the Bellamy flag salute was still being used.

It seems that the anti-Fascist protestors of the day had the same complaints about rough police handling.


There were substantial left-wing movements in 20th century Germany as well.

I understand that you disagree, and I appreciate that I have virtually no chance of persuading you of the validity of my perspective. I do not wish to offend you. Nevertheless…

Nazi Germany based its racial laws upon American examples:


Pro-fascist sentiment in the 1930’s USA was a mainstream, establishment view.

The USA has always been among the most fascist-friendly of the capitalist states. The roots of this go back to the birth of the nation. The Confederacy was arguably a proto-fascist state, and the failure of Reconstruction in the Compromise of 1877 ensured that this influence was never removed from the American political establishment.


From Paxton’s Five Stages of Fascism.


I don’t think I agree. There is plenty of evidence to suggests that plenty of fascists and fascist aligned/sympathetic groups had for more political power and sway over American institutions, even as strong opposition to that existed. Protests themselves are no real evidence of white supremacy not being a major component of the systems we still live with today.


Clive Ponting’s 1940: Myth and Reality has interesting bits on Papa Kennedy.


I don’t think I need a lecture on US anti-semitism from someone living in Australia, thank you very much. My Orthodox Jewish family was all living in NYC at the time of this rally.

I don’t disagree with this, or with the extent of antisemitism in the US at the time (or today, on both the political right and the left). All I am saying is that this particular Nuremburg-style rally was an aberration, was completely out of the mainstream at the time, and was treated as such. There is a pretty solid media record of this, even in the Hearst newspapers (which also ran op-eds by Hitler and Goring).

While there is a continuing thread of right-wing extremist thought that stretches through our recent history, there is not some kind of broad historical pipe connecting the Nazi cheerleaders from the 1930s with the rise of the alt-right today, I think that gives far too much credit/legitimacy to both groups. The German-American Bund from 1936 was genuinely eradicated, ironically with the aid of the HUAC, and while fringe Nazi organizations continued to exist from the to now they were just that, fringe.

The support of some powerful people of wealth for authoritarian politics is and was a separate (and more pernicious) thing.

I don’t know if I agree entirely here. There are certainly continuities, even if they’re not mainstream or particularly powerful ones, especially if you don’t just consider overt nazism, but the whole ball of fascist and white supremacist wax together. But I think that you get the public and visible spikes primarily whenever there is some progress made by some groups or others (reconstruction, 1920s, civil rights, now).


This is a pretty mild statement. There is no question that there has been antisemitism in the US continuously since forever, and that it occasionally flares up. I think though that WF is trying to paint a picture of the 1939 Bund rally as normative for the US, and part of an ongoing movement. It just isn’t.

As for antisemitism, while it has been on the rise everywhere in recent years, by all the usual metrics it remains lower in the US than in almost every country in the world, certainly lower than most European countries (what the hell is wrong with Spain??) and even lower than WF’s Australia.

From my perspective, antisemitism is not the core feature of American fascism; white supremacy is.

Slavery -> Confederacy -> Klan -> Jim Crow -> Southern Strategy -> etc.

There’s always been antisemitism in the mix as well, but the primary prey of the American far right is black and brown.


But it was the core feature of the particular group behind the rally which is the subject of this thread. Why not just agree with me that it was an aberration (albeit a fascinating one) with no direct connection to the big problems we face with racism and nationalism in the US today?

As for American racism, it is a problem that far transcends fringe groups like the US Nazi party, or even the KKK or the alt-right. It also transcends any authoritarian political tendencies both domestic and abroad. It is the ubiquity of racism that allows organizations like the KKK (or the League of Rights in your country) to persist over the decades, that allows the alt-right to adopt a veneer of respectability. It doesn’t originate in any specific structural aspect of our political system, it is something we inherited from our colonial parents and have not had the courage or intelligence to address properly.

(And when I say “we”, I mean both in the US and pretty much everywhere else. I’ve lived in 3 countries outside the US, and I wouldn’t call any of them less racist than the US. One thing they had in common was that people on the left living there loved to talk about the problems in the US, presumably to make them feel better about their own country’s shittiness. It is the same thing that you get in Russian media coverage of the flaws in US democracy.)

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The European fascists didn’t have a lot of domestic PoC to target (although they went at North Africa as soon as possible), so they ramped up the antisemitism and anticommunism instead. That fed into the global zeitgeist, which had an influence on the USA.

Because I don’t believe that to be true.


The USA is a white supremacist nation, and always has been. That isn’t just a fringe thing, or a Conservative thing; it’s at the core of American history and politics.

Fascism is a trans-national global movement. Condor Legion etc.

So is socialism. So is anarchism. So is liberalism.

The Australian League of Rights have mostly been an insignificant fringe group with no real power. Their failed attempt at an entryism-based takeover of the Country Party was the closest they ever got to any genuine influence.

For historically significant Australian fascists, you want Francis de Groot and the New Guard. For currently significant, look to Patriot Blue and similar bastards.

Although there’s no reliable evidence, it’s generally believed within the Australian left that groups such as the League of Rights recieved substantial financial backing from America during the Cold War. CIA front groups such as the CCF were active in Australia throughout the period.

I agree with the second half, I’m unsure about the first.

My ideas here are not based in my critique of the US electoral system. That’s likely more of a symptom than a cause, although it’s a symptom that helped create the current mess.

Racism is certainly not unique to the USA; America inherited the white supremacist tradition from the European imperialists. But while the Caribbean slave revolts eventually forced the Europeans to abandon slavery, the more successful suppression of resistance on the US mainland allowed it to persist.

Then, of course, the Slaver’s Revolt. That was a chance to really fix the problem, but it was thrown away in 1877. The power of the slavers rebuilds, transforms into a more modern proto-fascism via the KKK, and then gets locked into place in 1919:

That gets us to the suppression of US socialism and the establishment of the nationwide security state. The US almost went full fascist in the 1930’s, but Pearl Harbour and Roosevelt’s scheming put a stop to that.

After the war, Cold War competition forced a few decades of Bismarckian social concessions. The end of the Cold War dropped that limitation, and it’s been brewing towards the current catastrophe ever since.

White Australia is most certainly an intensely racist state. We began as a concentration camp, turned into a slave plantation and then expanded via genocide. The condition of Indigenous Australia is a national disgrace, and our treatment of refugees is a crime against humanity.

The partial survival of Oz socialism prevented the suppression of the working class that was seen in the US, but it didn’t stop them from being racist.

We were making significant progress on racism from 1970-95, but most of that was reversed in the mess around the beginning of the 21st century. And it had a major stumbling block early on thanks to the Whitlam coup.

Modern political manipulation in Australia is primarily based in media distortion rather than gerrymandering or voter suppression. Murdoch controls almost all of our media.

I post rather more about Australian politics in other places than I do here. There isn’t much point in ranting about local issues when speaking to Americans.


Careful. Don’t do that kind of name dropping, please.
In this context, this reference to the Legion Condor seems borderline ahistorical. It is certainly no proof of a global fascist movement. The Nazis used it as a test in times when they could not legally have something like this unit, to circumvent international regulations.

I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest a global fascist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Organizations in difference places around the world certainly cited each other as influential and even shared each others works across national borders. A global movement doesn’t have to mean a top-down organized movement, but it can be mutually influential and reinforcing.

Isn’t this itself evidence of the kind of transnationalization of fascism that @Wanderfound alludes to?


Care to expand?

The point that I was trying to make with that is that the fascist states saw each other as natural allies, and that the mid-20th century fascist surge was a widespread international phenomenon.

The New Guard in Australia, Lindbergh et al in the USA, Mosley in the UK. It wasn’t just a European thing, and it wasn’t restricted to the Axis countries.


cc @Wanderfound

I might have overstated, but I’ll try to explain my reasoning.

To elaborate, I took offence in using the Legion Condor as an example of a transnational fascist movement since AFAIK it was mainly and foremost a German way of circumventing the restrictions from the Versailles treaty explicitly forbidding Germany to have an airforce.

The Nazis officially came out with the information to have a Luftwaffe in 1935, and used the Legion Condor to test their equipment and strategy for the planned wars to come. They kept it secret, and this secret was kept a very long time, AFAIR.

The cooperation with the Spanish fascists was a natural choice, since a war was at hand and the Luftwaffe never had been tested before. However, again AFAIR, the German Nazis enabled the Spanish fascists in practice, but still despised them.

To be clear, I agree that the 1920s and 1930s saw transnational cooperation between ultranationalist and fascist groups, but this specific example is not a political, but a foremost military operation. The Germans did “their thing”, i.e. had their own equipment, supplies, and staff, AFAIR. They used Guernica as a test site.

Which makes it even more horrible.

I don’t think anyone should use this as an example for a transnational movement of fascists.
It was murder, as a test.

In know the next point is a bit weak, but to illustrate my thinking, I’ll include it.
The Luftwaffe including the Legion Condor was, from a military POV (again, AFAIR!) only possible because the Soviet Union’s support, especially in training, earlier. I wouldn’t use this as an example of transnational cooperation, either: the ideological differences were quite pronounced.

OTH, Italian fascists started exchanging with Japan’s fascists early in the 1930s, but I think Mussolini’s idea of a transnational fascism imploded fast.
I don’t remember the exact timing of the Nazis opening a propaganda office on Spain, but I assume this to be around 1936, too - that was political. In general, I think the relationship between Francist and Nazis was opportunistic, and asymmetric, as so many of the cooperations between fascist regimes.

To be clear: I don’t want to downplay the cooperation. It did cost lives, all over the world, and lead to WW2.

But from where I stand, this specific example of mass murder as a test shouldn’t be used as an example of transnationalisation of fascism as a political movement.

That said, I agree with you both that fascisms influenced each other, and that fascists saw each other as natural allies against others.

Pew, that was a long sidestep from the subject of this thread.
Sorry, @Wanderfound: I just got triggered by the name Legion Condor in this context, I think.


Cool, thanks for that. Sorry for any offence.

To clarify, I never meant to suggest that the Condor Legion was anything other than a purely German unit. I only mentioned it as a shorthand way of referencing the early and close cooperation between the various European national fascist movements.


Just because it fits thematically to our discussion:
this just went online.