Along the highway in Merced Country, California. (December 17, 2016)

An efficient espionage system is maintained by the Associated Farmers. In 1935, I inspected the “confidential” files of the organization in San Francisco. At that time, they had a card-index file on “dangerous radicals” containing approximately one thousand names, alphabetically arranged with front- and side-view photographs of each individual including notations of arrests, strike activities, affiliations and so forth. Each reference contained a number which referred to a corresponding identification record in the archives of the State Bureau of Criminal Identification. Set of this file have been distributed to over  hundred peace officers in the State and lists have been sent to members of the association. Local offices in the State and lists have been sent to members of the association. Local offices or branches of the Associated Farmer maintain elaborate records of a similar nature, including a “check-up” system whereby workers with a reputation for independence may be readily identified and rousted out of the locality. The State Bureau of Criminal Identification had its private investigators sleuthing for the Tagus Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley and it employed, at one time or another, the various stool pigeons upon whose testimony the Sacramento criminal-syndicalism prosecution was based.

In addition to its espionage activities, the Associated Farmers maintain a carefully organized propaganda department. Regular bulletins, heavily larded with “anti-Communist” information, are sent to the member; special articles are reprinted and distributed throughout the State; and a steady flow of statements and releases are supplied to the press. In recent years, the association has begun to dabble in a more ambitious type of propaganda. One of its spokesmen, Mr. John Phillips, a State Senator, recently visited Europe. Upon his return, Mr. Phillips published a series of articles in the California Cultivator (February 1 and 15, 1936), on his travels. One article was devoted to Mr. Philips’ impressions of the Nazis (he was in Nuremberg when the party was in session). Mr. Philips particularly noticed the new type of German citizenship—the Reichsburger—under which “you simply say that anybody who agrees with you is a citizen of the first class, and anybody who does not agree with you is a non-voting citizen.” His admiration for Hitler is boundless: “I would like to tell you how the personality of Hitler impressed me and how I feel that he has a greater personal appeal, a greater personal influence on his people than many of the nations realize.” “Hitler,” he said in a speech on January 18, 1938, “has done more for democracy than any man before him.” Some years ago,  Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, Issued a statement repudiating a circular which the Associated Farmers had distributed in which they had attempted to out, by reference to a faked marriage license, that she was  Jewess. Throughout California in 1936 and 1937, the Associate Farmers sponsored and organized meetings for the Reverend Martin Luther Thomas, of Los Angeles, who heads a “Christian American Crusade,” and who is a notorious anti-Semite and Red-baiter. As a result of Mr. Thomas’ harangues, the authorities in Riverside County employed a special detective, at a salary of $1,800 a year, to spy on the public schools. Mr. Phillips, who is frequently teamed with the Rev. Mr. Thomas at anti-Communist meeting sponsored by the Associated Farmers, was, for a time, holding a county office in Riverside County, designated as “labor coordinator.” More recently the Associated Farmers have sponsored Samuel J. Hume, of the California Crusaders, who has spoken throughout the State inveighing against labor organization.

Shortly after its formation, the Associated Farmers launched a campaign, in the rural counties for the enactment of the anti-picketing and so-called “emergency-disaster” ordinances. Anti-Picketing ordinances have, as a consequence, been enacted in practically every rural county. The alleged justification for the “emergency-disaster” ordinances, which provide for a mobilization of all the community in case of a “major disaster,” was the earthquake which occurred in Southern California in March, 1933. Today practically every county in the State, and most of the cities and towns, have such ordinances in effect. There is nothing in the wording of most of these ordinances to prevent their use in case of a “strike,” which in the eyes of the farmers during harvest is certainly a “major disaster.” The ordinances provides, in elaborate detail, for the formation of a kind of “crisis,” or extra-legal governmental machinery, which is to come into existence, with broad powers, upon the declaration by the appropriate executive officer in the community that a state of emergency exists. The purpose back of the campaign for the enactment of these ordinances has been clearly indicated. For example, on December 18, 1936, the county counsel in Los Angeles was instructed to draft legislation which “would permit counties to spend funds for erecting concentration camps for us during major disasters.” Thus the governmental apparatus for a kind of constitutional Fascism actually exists in California today.


On September 20, 1935, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration ordered the liquidation of the Federal Transient Service, which had, at one time, provided relief for 38,815 transients in California: 13.5 per cent of all transients in the country. With the abrupt discontinuance of Federal assistance, the local authorities became wildly hysterical. The methods by which they have ever since attempted to cope with the problem have been, to say the least, curious. The first step in this direction was the creation of the Los Angeles Committee on Indigent Alien Transients, headed by James E. Davis, Chief of Police. In flat disregard of constitutional provisions, this power-drunk functionary of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce proceeded to establish some sixteen border patrols staffed by the Los Angeles City Police, the patrols being located in counties hundred of miles removed from Los Angeles. Throughout November and December, 1935, and January, March and April, 1936, some 125 policemen stationed at these various points of entry stopped all cars that looked as though they might contain “unemployables” and turned them back. When a court action was brought in the United States District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union, to test the constitutionality of this procedure, the Chief of Police detailed the head of his celebrated “Intelligence Squad” to “work over” the plaintiff in whose name the action had been commenced. Not only was the plaintiff himself intimidated, but his wife and child were threatened and browbeaten by police officers (one of whom has since been convicted in Los Angeles of attempted murder); and, ultimately, the plaintiff was “induced” to drop the action. The patrol unquestionably checked the influx of refugees, but the effect of the blockade was to “back up” the refugees and temporarily delay their entry into California. Repercussions of the blockade were felt as far East as El Paso.

Excerpts from: Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field (1939)

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