Fascism and Betrayal
On friendly terms with Senator Huey Long, meeting one-onone with Benito Mussolini, an acerbic commentator on radio and in the press of the United States, praised in elite circles in Berlin, Lawrence Dennis had come a long way since his beginnings as a Negro child preacher. But a larger audience knew him best from his abundant writings, particularly his books, especially The Coming American Fascism published in 1936. With these books he established himself firmly as the authentic domestic voice of fascism, though what he was saying in these pages was not exactly the popular impression of this burgeoning ideology, making one wonder if these books were actually read by those who were buying these tomes—or were they simply bought to adorn bookshelves and coffee tables by those who wanted to appear to be cognizant of a trend that was sweeping Europe?
Though Jim Crow Louisiana and the Klan and like-minded paramilitary groupings were seen by many as nuclei for a genuine U.S. fascism, Dennis was trapped in an inconsistency that made him an utterly contradictory spokesman for this movement. For he spent considerable energy in this book and elsewhere in seeking to reconcile fascism—which if it were to grow had to be grounded in a wrenching racism—with racial equality. Now Dennis was an agile verbal and intellectual acrobat but even this feat was beyond his strenuous and dexterous efforts. Still, as the United States itself gradually came to recognize that white supremacy was imperiling national security—notably as the Pacific War was unfolding— Dennis's admonitions certainly presaged the proposition that became heartfelt subsequently, that is, that conservative and center-right politics in the United States should at least acknowledge racial equality as acceptable. Ultimately, this welcome transformation may be his lasting legacy.