United States fascism, from William Pelley to Donald Trump

This 15 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

America NEARLY Had A Nazi-Era Trump

TYT’s Mark Thompson spoke with Bradley Hart, author of Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States.

By Pauline Murphy:

William Pelley: Rousing the US’s fascist rabble

Wednesday 19th October 2016

Donald Trump is not the first US presidential candidate to inspire fascistic militia-like supporters, writes PAULINE MURPHY

EARLIER this year Donald Trump sent out a tweet to his legion of followers in which he used a quote from Benito Mussolini: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”

A month later a new account was created on Twitter called @lionsoftrump and its first tweet simply stated: “The Lion Guard is born.”

The Lion Guard describes itself as a “civilian group dedicated to the safety and security of Trump supporters.” These unofficial guardians of Trump supporters got their name from the Mussolini quote the Republican candidate had tweeted that cold morning in February.

As the race for the White House now gathers pace, the rallies of Donald Trump have become more intense. These gatherings have taken on a violent streak as clashes erupt between Trump supporters and those who do not support him.

The Lion Guard depend heavily on social media to smoke out potential troublemakers at Trump rallies. Many have dubbed this unofficial militia the “red caps” due to the $25 “Make America Great Again” baseball hats both they and their straw haired idol wear.

Trump isn’t the first presidential candidate to bear witness to violence at his rallies and neither is he the first to see some supporters turn into a menacing militia group.

During the 1936 US presidential election, the son of a Methodist minister from Massachusetts entered the race as a candidate for the Christian Party.

William Dudley Pelley was a foreign correspondent across Europe and Russia in the years after World War I and a Hollywood screen writer in the 1920s before becoming leader of the Silver Legion of America and the Christian Party in the 1930s.

Pelley embraced the wave of fascism that washed over society in the ’30s and openly declared: “The time has come for an American Hitler.” He printed his own mouth organ newspaper called Pelley’s Weekly which focused its written attacks on Roosevelt, left-wing politics, blacks, Jews and immigrant minorities.

On January 30 1933 Pelley founded the Silver Legion of America in Asheville, North Carolina. Membership was open only to white Christian males while the uniform consisted of a silver shirt, blue trousers and a red letter “L” emblazoned on the breast of the shirt.

The silver shirts, as they became known, turned out across many towns and cities across the United States putting on mass rallies where Pelley spoke about restoring America through extreme patriotism. The right-wing rabble rousing Pelley targeted African Americans, Jews and Irish immigrants through his speeches. To the delight of his followers, Pelley promised to disenfranchise such minorities if he ever rose to power in the land of the free.

Membership of the silver shirts numbered somewhere around 15,000 but this small group and its charismatic leader spewed a terrifying influence over ordinary Americans. Both working-class and middle-class whites saw Pelley and his silver shirts as the answer to America’s problems; this was a time in the country’s history when the great depression was sweeping the land.

At silver shirt rallies, Pelley’s speeches hung heavy with words of great threat. Pelley favoured building a mental wall of isolation around America. He favoured a ban on immigrants, most notably Jewish and Irish, from entering the United States. He favoured a more militaristic approach to creating a moral America.

Pelley received funds through connections in nazi Germany and set about building a world headquarters for the Silver Legion in a remote part of the Hollywood hills.

At Murphy Ranch outside Los Angeles the flag of the silver shirts — silver with a red L on the upper left — flew over an urban sprawl. From Murphy Ranch, Pelley established the Galahad College where Christian economics were the main staple of education for the future makers and breakers of America.

A year after forming the Christian Party of America (CPA), Pelley then used it as an engine to propel him to the White House, or so he thought.

The 1936 presidential election campaign in the United States was a particularly dirty one, with Roosevelt receiving most of the personal slander. During the campaign Pelley was largely ignored by the mainstream media who viewed him as a deluded outsider.

It was a chaotic election for Pelley who carried out an extensive country-wide campaign called The Silver Cavalcade, which saw mass rallies often marked by violence.

His running mate was the firebrand silver shirt leader from San Diego Willard Kemp, and even though Pelley had achieved in whipping up enough hysteria through his mass rallies, he did not achieve in winning over the political system.

Washington state was the only place where his name appeared on the ballot paper.

On election day, Pelley won just under 2,000 votes. He finished far behind both the socialist and communist candidates.

The violent tendencies of Pelley’s supporters continued after the 1936 presidential campaign. In 1938 three Chicago silver shirt meetings ended in riots. One of them saw Pelley’s right-hand man Roy Zachery fined 15 dollars for disorderly behaviour and a stint in hospital when he received severe head injuries.

In 1939, five silver shirt members from Chicago smashed the windows of the Goldblatt brothers’ department store. The streets became mini war zones for those attending silver shirt rallys but Pelley’s supporters were all too often met by counter demonstrators which usually resulted in the silver shirts turning on their heels.

After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 Pelley dissolved his silver shirts and Galahad College disintegrated. That same year, state police in California took over Murphy Ranch and Pelley’s dream of a morally upright, fascist and isolated America faded away.

Pelley would spend the rest of his years battling the federal government through court cases. Pelley was later sentenced to 15 years for sedition and after serving just under eight years, he was released. Pelley died at the age of 75 in 1965.

The … politics of the ’30s which propelled Pelley and his like were summed up by the writer Mary McCarthy. In 1936 she wrote about the atmosphere around Pelley’s presidential campaign in The Nation magazine as being “wild, comic, theatrical, dishonest, disorganised, hopeful and not revolutionary.” Eighty years later those words might hold some meaning again as we enter the end stages of what has been a wildly comical non-revolutionary presidential campaign.

Pelley propagated the paranormal, and was an influence on the I Am religious organisation, an influence on later ‘New Age’ movements like the ‘Church Universal and Triumphant‘.

The Republican Party and the Christian right: sowing the seeds of an American fascist movement: here.


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