Who really said “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”?

Don't Tread on Me

You’ve probably heard some variation on this quote: “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross,” possibly attributed to Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long. The only problem: there’s no evidence that either men said it.

But Sally Parry of the Sinclair Lewis Society provides us with two similar passages written by Lewis:

From It Can’t Happen Here (1935): “But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.”

From Gideon Planish (1943): “I just wish people wouldn’t quote Lincoln or the Bible, or hang out the flag or the cross, to cover up something that belongs more to the bank-book and the three golden balls.”

Also, the author behind the site What Shii Knows has done some research and found two other possible sources:

“It is a peculiarity of the development of American fascism that at the present stage it comes forward principally in the guise of an opposition to fascism, which it accuses of being an “un-American” trend imported from abroad.” – Georgi Dimitrov, in his report delivered at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International in 1935.

“When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism'” – An uncredited New York Times reporter covering Halford E. Luccock in an article published September 12, 1938.


See Also

Is it too late to stop fascism in the US?

The Duggars and Quiverfull – The Cult Behind The Family

There’s also been some debate about whether James Madison ever said “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” My research on the subject is here.


  1. The wikipedia entry on distributism is relevant to this question.

  2. Actually, Madison never said this. It may be an inaccurate and out of context paraphrase of: “Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad.”

    Letter to Thomas Jefferson (1798-05-13); published in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (1865), Vol. II, p. 141

  3. It has happened here. That is why we are fighting against it, and, for our pains, get called nasty names by well-meaning people who do not have the facts. I go to a community college in LA, and it is nothing but a socialist cesspit. The corruption and contempt are sick-making. I had always considered myself something of a socialist, until I had my eyes opened about the lies I’d believed all my life. I understand why people still believe those lies. Please remember, next time you are feeling sorry for illegals, that illegals don’t want you in this country. I know that now. I hope you never get to find out.

  4. @ Kate Powell:

    What the heck are you saying? I’m not on put-down mode; I just can’t figure out what you mean by, “…next time you are feeling sorry for illegals, that illegals don’t want you in this country.”

    What does that MEAN?

  5. Hello !

    Schools teach that the United States of America is a democracy. The government was established as “of, by, and for the people” and later on, a President Abraham Lincoln called the nation’s people to join and die in a civil war that such a thing might never perish from the earth. Aside from the extent the lesson was ever in accord with the truth, it has today become an outright absurdity. The Supreme Court has declared once and for all that the corporations will rule. The United States of America is now better described as a corporatocracy. The government is owned and dictated to by these capitalist creations whose God is Mammon.

    Corporations are, of course, different from people. They are devoid of human emotion. They are constitutionally unable to generate empathy. They feel nothing if people suffer exploitation, if people live in misery, or if people die horribly. Union Carbide was unaffected by the thousands dead and dying in Bhopal. It registered only on the balance sheet, a $470-million loss taken for the sake of future corporate viability under a new name, Dow Chemical. The corporation will not be reasoned with, pleaded with, or shamed into changing course even when life on the planet hangs in the balance. McDonald’s is in the process of teaching Starbucks that even the pretense of a social conscience is a losing marketing ploy.

    The corporation recognizes and reacts only to threats to its air supply-profits. So in one sense corporations do share something with human beings. They have an instinct for self-preservation and if they are deprived of a life giving element they die. While human beings must have oxygen and water, the corporation’s lifeblood is those quarterly profits. The corporation must make a profit and then ever greater profits into the future. Corporate profits must grow, forever! Irrational, impossible, unsustainable but that is in the nature of the beast-much as lemmings rush to the sea.

    The parameters are the same in every corner of the globalized economy. The greatest possible profit is a product of the highest possible productivity and the lowest possible wage. US corporations have moved everything that isn’t nailed down to lower wage countries. Nothing is made in today’s de-industrialized United States. American consumer’s service calls are answered in Ireland, India, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. Major League baseballs are made in Haiti and the recent deadly earthquake won’t change that. AirJordans come out of Nike’s sweatshops in Indonesia. Microsoft conducts 85% of its research in the US so Bill Gates fights to lift H-1B visa restrictions to bring the low wage high-tech workers here from India and Taiwan. Halliburton is now headquartered in Dubai and preparing to receive its old boss, Dick Cheney, in his retirement years.

    To survive under their profit imperative corporations must undertake a never ending process of consolidation. There is consolidation by horizontal integration. For instance, numerous US corporations once dotted the auto making landscape. In the recent past it was down to the Big Three. Today Chrysler is doomed, Ford is on life support, and General Motors is on its knees. In the corporate world of the near future cars will be made in Japan, or China, or India. Ultimately, the industry will settle in one corporate entity.

    There is consolidation by vertical integration and its champion is Wal-Mart, the world’s largest corporation. Wal-Mart has made a partner of the Chinese government. Working together, the partners have turned China into a vast subsistence-wage labor camp. China supplies Wal-Mart so it has no need of domestic vendors like the now destroyed Rubbermaid. Armed with the lowest production costs, Wal-Mart’s rise up on every other street corner selling every commodity imaginable and every service the corporation can get its hooks into. Wal-Mart lays waste to local economies and then picks up the pieces to become the only butcher, baker and candlestick maker in town. The corporation recently moved to provide banking services in its stores.

    The US government has been hollowed out during the rise to absolute power of the corporations. Elections have become an elaborate “reality show” that plays out on corporate television for viewers entertainment. If you watch FOX, your reality is filtered through Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, NBC is General Electric news, CNN is Time/Warner news, ABC brings you into Disney’s world, and Viacom regularly checks the iconic CBS news department to make sure Edward R. Murrow is still dead. That is when Viacom is not preparing America’s youth for slavery and death through MTV and B.E.T.

    The actual counting of the American people’s votes is done by the corporations. Little wonder giant defense contractor United Technologies recently moved to take the job off Diebold’s hands. Corporate sentinels, the lobbyists, roam the halls of government enforcing discipline among their hired hands, allowing the most servile to feed longest at the public trough. So the Congress has not passed legislation and the Supreme Court has not decided a case, in which significant wealth was involved, in favor of the people in thirty years. Each and every decision of US government now transfers wealth from the people to the corporate masters.

    The corporations now have in their sights the last remaining institutional pillars of American democracy. The Business Roundtable, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation have been working mightily to crash the public schools. Wall Street is funding the effort to gain control of the Social Security trust fund for its investment bankers. And the whole corporate gang is intent on “starving the beast” or killing state and local governments. Their success in this effort is probably best expressed in Hawaii where the number of days children spend in school has been paired from 180 to 163, and in Detroit where teachers will give $500 a pay period back to the state, and in New Orleans where there are only a handful of public schools left, and in the states from California to New York to Florida where public school budgets have been slashed to the bone.

    Then finally, there is the most ominous development of all. The corporations have begun forming their own Praetorian Guard. The massacre of Iraqi civilians and the patrolling of the hurricane ravaged streets of New Orleans have made Xe, formerly Blackwater Worldwide, formerly Blackwater USA, the most famous of the rising corporate armies. Contrary to any notion of cost effectiveness, mercenaries protect US State Department personnel in Iraq instead of the regular military. It seems not to make sense, unless the corporatocracy is looking ahead to a day when they can no longer trust the US military to carry out attacks on an American people’s resistance.


  6. Tim brilliant synopsis of America today. Not sure if you saw where George W. Bush said his only regret as President was that Social Security was not privatized. Gee, that would mean people on SS would be getting 40% less based on what Wall Street has done. Too bad people have been rope-a-doped into believing bs over truth, style over substance, and empty flag waving rhetoric over facts. The new Congressional majority wants to make sure the fat cats continue to get lower taxes while cutting unemployment benefits. Wave the flag, hold the cross. If this ain’t fascism then what is it?


  8. Kate Powell is really wallowing in socialist mayhem there at that Los Angeles? Louisiana? community college. You’re not a mislead young mind whatsoever. Tell your parents I say hi and to take the tin foil out of the windows meant to keep the mind control waves from penetrating the house.

  9. I must agree with Tim, as much as I wish I couldn’t. I believe the only course of action is to stop feeding the beast, at least as much as possible. The only thing we have to use is our money, what’s left of it anyway. How many people on this feed still shop at WalMart? Hmmm. . . how many of you are twittering on your shiny new iPhones? The only thing we have to combat the corporate/fascist take over is breaking the spell of spending and redirect what little money (= power) away from the corporations and toward local, grass-roots organizations that benefit real communities, real people. Cause no matter what SCOTUS says, corporations are NOT people.

  10. What Tim Norris said was the most intelligent thing I have read on the net in a long time. All of it makes sense if you are willing to use your brain, which most people have either forgotten to do or are afraid to. I’m glad I stumbled upon this site while looking for political t-shirts. Thank you Tim once again for that post from someone who has been thinking the same thing but could never explain it so eloquently.

  11. The Sinclair Lewis Society has been wrestling with this for years. This quote sounds like something Sinclair Lewis might have said or written, but the Sinclair Lewis Society has never been able to find this exact quote although we’ve been asked a number of times.

    Here are passages from two books Lewis wrote that at least hint at the quote attributed to him.

    From It Can’t Happen Here: “But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.”

    From Gideon Planish: “I just wish people wouldn’t quote Lincoln or the Bible, or hang out the flag or the cross, to cover up something that belongs more to the bank-book and the three golden balls.”

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