Borah Warns America of Fascist Peril


St. Louis Star-Times/May 6, 1937


Senate Enthralled as Idahoan Says Personal Liberty Now Is in Greatest Danger Since Jefferson’s Time

Denounces Butcheries in Spain and Ethiopia

Puts Communism in Same Class as Enemy of Freedom

Declares Subversive Groups Seek Nation’s Ruin


WASHINGTON, May 6. (U. P.) Senator William E. Borah, rising to heights of oratory which held the senate chamber enthralled, today charged that Fascism imperiled the personal liberties of American citizens as they had never been imperiled since the day of Thomas Jefferson. Denouncing both Fascism and Communism, but characterizing Fascism the greater threat, Borah delivered his warning to a surprised senate which sat in watchful silence as he thundered against the “unspeakable atrocities” of Fascism. His bitterest words were directed at “Fascist war in Spain and Ethiopia.”

Of Ethiopia, he said: “We have to go back to the days of Attila to find anything to compare with this ruthless destruction of helpless men women and children. “This is the logic of Fascism.

“This is the logic of the system which is founded on force.

“This is not courage but cowardice, not government but brutal savagery.”

Enlighten the People

Borah pledged himself to a personal campaign to keep the American people enlightened as to the facts of Fascism and Communism. He said his speech was prompted by the activities of individuals and groups in the United States, but he declined to name them.

“The centralization of wealth and the centralization of political power go hand in hand to form the basis for Fascism,” he said.

Of Spain, Borah declared:

“Here Fascism presents to the world its masterpiece. It has hung upon the wall of civilization a painting that will never come down, never fade out of the memories of men.

“So long as men and women may be interested in searching out from the pages of history outstanding acts of cruelty and instances of needless destruction of human life, they will linger longest and with the greatest horror over the savage story of the Fascist war in Spain.

Incidents of the Past

“During the French revolution the city of Lyons was marked for destruction and Bane cried from the rostrum: ‘Let the plow pass over her.’

“This has many times been cited as the mast revolting instance of mass murder in all history. But it must now give place to Guernica, the ancient Basque capital.

“It remained for the Fascist warfare to select the deadliest weapons which the ingenuity of man has contrived and to show the world how thorough and effective these weapons are when used for the destruction of women and children.

Fascism boasts of courage, of the bravery of its soldiers, boasts how it makes men of its adherents, and tells other peoples that Fascism makes heroes of the young.

“And, as evidence of the fulfillment of its creed, it points to the subjugation of the wholly weak and disarmed Ethiopia, and now doubtless will take pride in the successful slaughter of women and children throughout Spam.

“No language can describe the scare at Guernica, and Guernica. It was not a single instance, it was simply a culmination of a long line of unspeakable atrocities. It was not a military maeuver. It was Fascist strategy.

“It seems to me,” the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, “that there is evidence that democracy is worth saving and that it is worth fighting to save it.

“It is not necessarily a fight on the battlefield. It is a fight against the insidious forces of Fascism in this country.

“There is evidence that Fascist forces are more active and stronger than Communist at present, and both are avowed enemies of democracy.

Both Enemies of Liberty

“I have no choice between Communism and Fascism,” Borah said. “Both are enemies of the liberties we enjoy. Both foster discontent.

“I doubt very much if we are fully aware of the insidious, subtle effort constantly being put forth in this country by the advocates of that theory of government called Fascism.

“They work in wholly different ways and by widely different methods from Communists. Both are the avowed enemies of democracy, both would destroy individual liberty, both would establish in its place abject economic and political serfdom. There can be no compromise between democracy and either of these systems.

“We need not be in doubt as to the teachings and objectives of Fascism. The highest authority on the subject on a comparately recent occasion publicly declared: ‘Today we bury solemnly all lies of universal democratic suffrage.’

“I quote these statements to illustrate the theories which respectable Americans must have in mind when they say that Fascism might be a good thing in the United States.”