The word “fascist” was recently found scratched next to former La. Gov. Huey P. Long’s name on a plaque outside Allen Hall
Long was governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and labeled himself as “Kingfish.” Long is known for ignoring established processes for political gain. People view Long differently, but scholars disagree the term “fascist” applies to Long.
Assistant History Professor Brendan Karch teaches a course on fascism in Europe. He said fascist is not the correct labeling for Long. Karch said there are three major ways to classify a fascist.
“Historians and scholars generally agree that the number one thing that defines fascism is extreme nationalism,” Karch said. “The goal of a fascist regime is to elevate and strengthen the nation. Fascism was also historically anti-socialist and anti-communist. Fighting socialism and communism was the reason for the existence of fascism. Lastly, fascism sees violence as a political tool and a completely legitimate way to do politics.”
Karch said the term populist suits Long.
“Fascism became a stand-in word for any kind of non-democratic or authoritarian style of politics,” Karch said. “Huey Long did have perhaps an authoritarian streak. He could be below the belt in his politics but I think the better word to describe Long, which doesn’t have the same charge, is populist.”
Long’s ideology of helping the poor while standing against the elites and media, lead many to classify him as a populist.
“Populism allegedly stands outside the system for the everyday person and not the Washington elites,” Karch said. “I would absolutely not call Long a fascist in a thousand years, but I can see why people might be confused enough to group them together.”
LSU graduate assistant Tim Landry holds a bachelor’s degree in American history, and said while Long did try to crush opposition against him, he cannot be labeled a fascist.
“I would have figured that someone would have written socialist instead,” Landry said.
ANationalism is a major component of fascism, Landry said. He does not believe that Long was a nationalist.
“Huey was not a firebrand racist or segregationist,” Landry said. “I am not saying he was a saint on race matters, but he was putting together a coalition of the poor and disadvantaged. Who during the depression was more disadvantaged than the African Americans? So, on the first characteristic of fascism, it does not really fit Huey.”
Landry said not only does the nationalistic aspect of fascism fail to relate to Long, but Long also fought big businesses, which contradicts fascist principles.
“Fascism is pretty much a marriage with the big businesses, corporations and the government,” Landry said. “That was totally opposite of Huey Long’s mode of operation. He was constantly at war with standard oil and trying to tax them.”
Landry said Long’s only potentially fascist characteristic was his attempts to control the media.
Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of History Alicia Long wrote in an article that Huey P. Long attempted to suppress negative media coverage. When newspapers were publishing articles directed against Huey P. Long, he proposed a bill levying a tax on all revenue newspapers received from advertising sales.
“In his clashes with the press, the Kingfish used legislation, slander, and even physical force to control the message,” Alicia Long wrote.
According to Alicia Long’s article, not only did Huey P. Long purpose a newspaper tax, but he also made a proposal to allow the state to stop newspaper publications.
“Since the state would have determined which newspapers met these descriptions, and because Long had significant control over state operations by this time, the bill would have given him the ability to decide which newspapers were targeted under the law,” Alicia Long wrote
Some view Huey P. Long as a populist, some view him as a socialist and others view him as a fascist. Most Louisiana historians would agree that Long was not a fascist, but may have possessed a few authoritarian characteristics and a strong desire for media control.