Regular readers of this blog have likely picked up on my growing interest in the re-emerge of international fascism throughout the second half of the twentieth century. This arcane topic, riddled with disinformation and the fever dreams of the conspiratorial right, is a subject that has consumed a good chunk of my spare time over the past year. In the process I have acquired a treasure trove of fascinating and sometimes obscure events that have unfolded across the twentieth century and beyond.
I've been chomping at the bit for months to begin presenting some of this information but one of the most daunting aspects of this project is finding a place to start. After all, the re-emerge of fascism in the later half of the twentieth century did not happen in a vacuum and was in fact directly linked to events and personalities stretching back to the dawn of fascism in the wake of the First World War, the emerge of fascism as a political power in the 1920s, and of course the Second World War.
|Mussolini circa WWI|
From roughly the end of the American Civil War until the early 1960s the American power structure was dominated (but not totally controlled) by what is commonly referred to as the Eastern Establishment, the long time bugaboo of the conspiratorial right. Initially this group was largely centered around the Northeast, especially in New England and the Tri-state area, but now has a strong presence along the West Coast as well. Thus, Eastern Establishment is a bit outdated as this faction is no longer confined to the old Blue Blood stomping grounds but for our purposes here it is a covenant designation.
While some families from this network made their fortunes in heavy industry banking and international commerce has long been their chief financial concern. But despite their interests often being global in nature this group is also deeply Euro-centric (except for possibly the French) and at times fanatically Anglophilic. Indeed, this group (largely comprised of old-moneyed American families such as the Morgans, Whitneys, Astors, Mellons, etc) has maintained close ties with their European counterparts, both through business as well as marriages, for well over a century.
|J.P. Morgan (top), Andrew Mellon (middle), and the Lord and Lady Astor (bottom), who closely linked to the American Establishment|
Beginning in the very late nineteenth century this group became deeply involved with a chain of NPOs and think tanks that were used as propaganda organs to influence intellectuals, policymakers and the general public at large towards the ends of this faction. Easily the most notorious of these think tanks was the so-called Round Table Group. Georgetown professor and Rhodes Scholar Carroll Quigley was the first individual to give the public an insider's look at the mechanisms of the Round Table Group with his 1966 classic Tragedy and Hope, a book long held up by the conspiratorial right as the smoking gun for the communist conspiracy. This notion is of course absurd and only gained currency through selective quoting of Quigley's long out-of-print tome, but it did reveal some very interesting things about the nation's (as well as the international) power structure, especially concerning the role think tanks and other NPOs play in maintaining it.
"Quigley studied the operations of the Round Table first hand for twenty years and for two years during the early 1960s was permitted access to its papers and secret records. He objects to a few of its policies... but says his chief complain about the Round Table is its secrecy, a secrecy which he comes forward to break. 'The American branch of this organization, sometimes called the "Eastern establishment," has played a very significant role in the history of the United States in the last generation,' he writes, 'and I believe it's role in history is significant enough to be known.'
"The Round Table Groups, by Quigley's detailed report, are semicovert policy and action groups formed at the turn of the first decade of this century on the initiatives of the Rhodes Trust and its dominant trustee of the 1905-1925 period, Lord Milner. Their original political aim was federation of the English-speaking world along the lines laid down by Cecil Rhodes.
"By 1915, Round Table Groups were functioning in England and in six outposts of the Empire --South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the United States...
"The organization was originally financed by the associates and followers of Cecil Rhodes, chiefly from the Rhodes rust itself, but since 1925, according to Quigley, substantial contributions come from wealthy individuals, foundations, and firms associated with the international banking fraternity, especially the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, and other organizations associated with J. P. Morgan, the Rockefeller and Whitney families, and the associates of Lazard Brothers and of Morgan, Grenfell, and Company. The chief link-up in this organization was once that of the Morgan Bank in New York to a group of international financiers in London led by Lazard Brothers, but at the end of the war of 1914, the organization was greatly extended. In England and in each dominion a group was set up to function as a cover for the existing local Round Table Group.
"In London, this front was the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which had as its secret nucleus the existing Round Table group. The New York group was the Council on foreign relations. The Morgan men who dominated the CFR went to the Paris peace conference and there became close to a similar group of English experts recruited by Milner. Thus there grew up 'a power structure' linking London and New York banks and deeply penetrating 'university life, the press, and the practice of foreign policy.'
"The founding aims of this elaborate, semisecret organization were 'to coordinate the international activities and outlooks of all the English-speaking world into one... to work to maintain peace; to help backward, colonial, and underdeveloped areas to advance toward stability, law, and order and prosperity, along lines somehow similar to those taught at Oxford and the University of London...' These aims were pursued by 'gracious and culture gentlemen of somewhat limited social experience... If their failures now loom larger than their successes, this should not be allowed to conceal the high motives in which they attempted both.'
"Quigley calls this relationship between London and New York financial circles 'one of the most powerful influences in twentieth-century America and world history. The two ends of this English-speaking axis have sometimes been called, perhaps facetiously, the English and American Establishments. There is, however, a considerable degree of truth behind the joke, a truth which reflects a very real power structure. It is this power structure which the Radical Right in the United States has been attacking for years in the belief that they are attacking the Communists.'"
(The Yankee and Cowboy War, Carl Oglesby, pgs. 23-25)
|Quigley and his highly controversial work|
"More than fifty years ago the Morgan firm decided to infiltrate the Left-wing political movements in the United States. This was relatively easy to do, since these groups were starved for funds and eager for a voice to reach the people. Wall Street supplied both. The purpose was not to destroy, dominate, or take over but was really threefold: (1) to keep informed about the thinking of Left-wing or liberal groups; (2) to provide them with a mouthpiece so they could 'blow off steam,' and (3) to have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went 'radical.' There was nothing really new about this decision, since other financiers had talked about it and even attempted it earlier. What made it decisively important this time was the combination of its adoption by the dominant Wall Street financier, at a time when tax policy was driving all financiers to seek tax-exempt refuge for their fortunes, and at a time when the ultimate in Left-wing radicalism was about to appear under the banner of the Third International."
(Tragedy and Hope, Carroll Quigley, pg. 938)
The conspiratorial right has long alleged that Wall Street bankers financed the Bolshevik revolution in Russia that led to the formation of the Soviet Union and there is indeed compelling evidence that Lenin and Trotsky had such support. But this was almost surely done for the same reason that Morgan and other Wall Street bankers backed the American progressive movement: to hedge their bets and maintain some degree of control over it. But whatever aspirations the Eastern Establishment had for the Soviet Union seems to have been thoroughly dashed by the 1930s: Lenin was dead, Trotsky was exiled, and while some intellectuals may still have carried a torch for Stalinism Wall Street was thoroughly disillusioned and more than a little weary. But I digress.
While the Eastern Establishment was the dominate power in America politics until the 1960s it was not the only one. Indeed, even before World War II another faction was beginning to emerge to challenge the Eastern Establishment. Various factors led to the state of affairs.
The rise of organized crime, especially the billion dollar international drug trade, played a significant role but such a topic is beyond the scope of this series. The role drug trafficking played in the fascist counterrevolution that unfolded in the second half the twentieth century will be examined when I address the World Anti-Communist League in a future series. For now let us briefly consider two other factors:
One was the emergence of oil as a cornerstone in modern life. This process had been well on the way before the onset of World War II but by the end of the 1940s oil had surpassed coal as the dominant energy source in the United States, and soon the rest of the world. Old moneyed families such as the Rockefellers and Mellons had long been involved in the oil industry but the colossal domestic oil boom that began with the discovery of the enormous East Texas oil fields in the 1930s and the offshore Gulf of Mexico finds in the 1960s and 70s created a junior wing of the oil cartel, based out of Texas, that is generally been more rightward leaning then its Eastern Establishment predecessors.
|H.L. Hunt, whose family has bankrolled far right causes for decades|
"...the economic impact... nowhere greater than in the Southern Rim. This is a region that was transformed, and brought into modernity, by World War II, when the defense establishment moved in to take advantage of its benign climate, vast open spaces, extensive and for the most part protected coastline, abundant and cheap labor, and nascent shipping and aircraft industries, altogether pumping in an estimated 60 percent of its $74 billion wartime expenditures into these fifteen states. And as the defense installations and contractors continued to grow with growing defense budgets even after the war --$13 billion in 1950, $50 billion in 1960 --they continued to build up the substructure of the whole economy, in practically every state from North Carolina to California. Indeed, if anyone industry can be said to be the backbone of the Southern Rim, it is defense."
(Power Shift, Kirkpatrick Sale, pgs. 24-25)
While more than a few of the old moneyed Eastern families (i.e. the Whitneys and the Du Ponts) were deeply involved in the defense industry the rise of it profoundly affected the priorities of the American overworld. Whereas previously financial interests had chiefly dominated the American political landscape now oil and defense would become increasingly prevalent.
"The overworld was clearly centered in Wall Street in the 1940s, and CIA was primarily designed there. With the postwar shifts of U.S. demographics and economic structure southward and westward, the overworld itself has shifted, becoming less defined by geography than by the interrelated functions of the petroleum-industrial-financial complex. Cheney's global oilfield services firm Halliburton, today 'a bridge between the oil industry and the military-industrial complex,' was nowhere near the Wall Street power center in the 1940s. This shift in the overworld led by 1968 to a polarizing debate over the Vietnam War. The expanding military-industrial complex, dedicated to winning that war at any cost, found itself increasingly opposed by elements on Wall Street ... who feared the impact of the war's cost on the stability of the dollar."
(The Road to 9/11, Peter Dale Scott, pgs. 6)
For years the Eastern Establishment had promoted its policy agendas through elaborate propaganda campaigns directed at academia and policymakers as well as the general public via various think tanks, most notably the above-mentioned Council on Foreign Relations. By the 1950s the defense industry in conjunction with several oil barons and various far right military and FBI men would create something similar to the Council on Foreign Relations for their own propaganda purposes, among other things.
"Soon what Eisenhower would label the 'military-industrial complex' was asserting itself through new lobbying groups, notably the American Security Council (ASC), founded in 1955. The ASC united old-wealth oil and military corporations with new-wealth businesses in the South and the West, some of which incorporated investments from organized crime."
(ibid, pg. 18)The ASC was dreamed up by two veteran activists of the far right who had been active in the movement since before the onset of WWII.
"The Joseph McCarthy virulence and the cold war were both at their peak when the ASC began as the Mid-American Research Library. The impetus was provided by the late General Robert E. Wood, then board chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Along with the cantankerous Colonel Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune ('the world's greatest newspaper,' the colonel used to trumpet, and its radio station's call letters are still WGN), Wood had been a prime mover in the isolationist America First Committee and a prime adversary of the trade union movement. With the growing preoccupation of industry with 'security,' the establishment of a private body that would provide corporations with a blacklist service and loyalty review board was almost inevitable."
(Power of the Right, William Turner, pgs. 199-200)
|General Robert E. Wood (top) and Colonel Robert R. McCormick (bottom), who briefly served in military intelligence during WWI|
The America First Committee has been greatly romanticized in recent years, especially by the so-called "paleoconservative" movement who see it is the crowning instance of pacifism by the Old Right, but the reality is far less benign. While the bulk of the members were likely genuine anti-war activists who did not want to see another generation of Americans torn to ribbons by modern weaponry in a European war there were more than a few hardcore fascist sympathizers (as well as Nazi intelligence assets) within the Committee. This state of affairs was first exposed by the highly controversial investigator Arthur Derounian (who frequently wrote under the pen name of John Roy Carlson) in his 1943 bestseller Under Cover, a book that, to this day, still draws the ire of the far right. Derounian describes the origins and the fascist ties of the Committee as thus:
"True, it's leadership at first was as American as Plymouth Rock. But the rank-and-file following –first sincere and respectable –was later polluted by the Pelleys, Coughlins, McWilliamses; the Vierecks, Kuhns and Deatherages; by Klansman; by Japanese and Nazi agents. And it's weak-kneed leadership, cowed and bullied by stories of Nazi might, swayed by a Chamberlain sentimentality and Pollyanna smugness, took craving comfort in the delusion that they were defending America. The surrender of a mighty nation and appeasement of Hitler might easily have been the outcome if the designs of its two most publicized spokesmen have been carried through.
"Its national Chairman, General Robert E. Wood, told Kenneth Crawford a reporter for PM, a New York newspaper, that in the event of an invasion of South America by a Nazi armada, he would defend our Latin Allies 'only the part as far south as the bulge of Brazil.' Without firing a shot in self-defense, the general indicated his willingness to let Hitler seize more than half of South America, plant his legions firmly on the Western Hemisphere and place the Panama Canal at the mercy of the Luftwaffe...
"... Faith in Hitler but an unreasoning lack of faith in the Administration – these were the cornerstones of the Committee's policy of appeasement and defeatism which corroded our democratic fiber. It delighted Nazi commentators, who crooned from Berlin: 'The American First Committee is known as true Americanism and true patriotism, as opposed to the synthetic brand.'
"'Patriotic' meetings of the Mobilizers and the Bund fell down in attendance, while most of the other fascistic groups were suspended altogether as members flocked to America First rallies. Whenever I wanted information for my 'friends' I had to go either to America First meetings or the A. F. C. Headquarters to find them.
"The Committee's backers for the most part were sincere and well-meaning prototypes of those who had backed Hitler in Germany – a small clique of industrialist, businessmen and army officers. Ernest T. Weir of National Steel Corporation contributed heavily. Thomas N. McCarter, a former chairman of the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey, was another heavy donor. H. L. Stuart, president of a leading investment house in the Midwest, was a financial supporter, and so was Sterling Morton, President of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.
"The wealthy meat-packer, Jay C. Hormel, gave liberally, as did Mrs. Janet Ayer Fairbanks; Max Wellington Babb, president of Allis- Chalmers; General Wood and General Thomas Hammond. Colonel Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune and Joseph M. Patterson, publisher of the New York Daily News supported the America First Committee, and there were reports that Henry Ford contributed $300,000 to initiate the work.
"The idea for the Committee was conceived in the spring of 1940 – in the mind of a blond, while the twenty-four-year-old Yale student, R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., son of the first vice-president of the Quaker Oats Co. Stuart got twenty of his classmates to join. The romantic story released by the Committee went on to say that young Douglas attracted the attention of Chester Bowles, of Benton and Bowles, Inc., well-known New York advertising agents.
"From nowhere staid William R. Castle joined the blond youth. Then to Stuart's growing circle of influential friends came Philip Lafollette, former Progressive Party governor of Wisconsin, and was quickly followed by Senator Burton K. Wheeler, General Wood (who was board chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co.), Henry Ford and Robert Bliss of J. Walter Thompson, advertising agents. Experts in promotion, organization and public relations gathered around young Stuart.
"With Douglas and his Yale friends serving as front, Charles Lindbergh addressed a meeting at Woolsey Hall. This made the headlines even though Limburg, like Neville Chamberlain, propagated Hitler's ideas by saying: 'In order to dominate the Far Eastern situation we must make our peace with the new powers in Europe.' After the Lindbergh speech, General Wood took charge and set to organizing the Committee on a broad, nation-wide basis."
(Under Cover, Arthur Derounian, pgs. 242-245)
To some extent the American First Committee was the American Security Council of its day in that it presented the respectable, overworld elements of the far-right – i.e. people like General Wood, Colonel McCormick, Charles Lindbergh, etc., as opposed to the uncouth factions such the German-American Bund and Silver Shirts (though it maintained relations with such groups). But there were many genuine pacifists who were attracted to the A.F.C. while the fascist isolationists of the 1930s were only pacifistic as far as the Axis powers were concerned. At this point they by and large already believed that some type of holy war against communism was inevitable. And be assured, their ties to Nazi Germany were more than circumstantial.
"J. Edgar Hoover discovered a range of Nazi associations in America First. In December 1940, Manfred Zapp was known to be in touch with America First. On January 16, 1941, the FBI reported that the car belonging to Dr. George Gyssling, a Nazi council in Los Angeles, was seen parked outside the local office of the Committee.
"On April 22, 1941, the Philadelphia Ledger announced that a local American Firster, Mrs. Edith Scott, was inviting women associated with a Nazi organization into the membership. Newspaper distribution tycoon John B. Snow also distributed America First pamphlets. The American Legion exposed America First as being involved in subversive propaganda distributing leaflets via bookstores.
"The Swedish tycoon Axel Wenner-Gran... gave financial backing to America First. He was pro-Nazi and a supporter of a negotiated peace.
"The Nazi publication Free American encouraged readers to enroll with America First. The German-American National Alliance, of Chicago, circulated Nazi propaganda appealing for contributions to America First. The FBI obtained copies of checks drawn by former or present Bund members for America First.
"On June 16, 1941, Senator Wheeler and Congressman Hamilton Fish were reported by the FBI to be using the same mailing-list stencils used by the Bund.
"On July 30, the FBI discovered that America First had formed a special unit for the investigation of Communists under the direction of the White Russian Nazi collaborator George Wrangell. Former Bund members also worked voluntarily with Wrangell to urge the parents of draftees and enlistees to fight the national defense program.
"In September, FBI men questioned the arrested Nazi agent Friedrich Auhagen in his prison cell. Auhagen said that America First was an agency of the German Government, designed to distribute its political material. Hoover concurred with this conclusion.
(American Swastika, Charles Higham, pgs. 14-15)
Amusingly, one of the first major America First Committee rallies was a speaking engagement before the Chicago branch of the Council on Foreign Relations. Naturally General Wood gave the keynote address.
"The keynote speech of America First was delivered by acting chairman General Robert E. Wood on October 4, 1940, before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. General Wood contended that authoritarian states cannot be destroyed by war and that a German-dominated Europe would not destroy our foreign trade. Intervention in the war must be avoided at all costs. General Wood was chairman of Sears Roebuck, whose president, Donald Nelson, was head of the War Production Board. The next in line at the War Production Board was William L. Batt, partner in Philadelphia with Hugo von Rosen, cousin of Field Marshal Goring in the SKF ball bearing company, which supplied Nazi-related companies in South America throughout World War II."
(ibid, pg. 13)The Council was a far more natural alley for the far right in America than the conspiratorial right would have you believe. You see, the British counterparts of the CFR –the Round Table/Rhodes-Milner group – had also been staunchly isolationist concerning Germany for much of the 1930s as well. Much like General Wood, they believed a strong Germany that dominated mainland Europe was in their best interest.
"Any analysis of the motivations of Britain in 1938-1939 is bound to be difficult because different people had different motives, motives changed in the course of time, the motives of the government were clearly not the same as the motives of people, and in no country has secrecy and anonymity been carried so far or been so well preserved as in Britain. In general, motives become vaguer and less secret as we move our attention from the innermost circles of the government outward. As if we were looking at the layers of an onion, we may discern four points of view: (1) the anti-Bolsheviks at the center, (2) the 'three-bloc-world' supporters close to the center, (3) the supporters of 'appeasement,' and (4) the 'peace at any price' group in a peripheral position. The 'anti-Bolsheviks,' who are also anti-French, were extremely important from 1919 to 1926, but then decreased to little more than a lunatic fringe, rising again in numbers and influence after 1934 to dominate the real policy of the government in 1939. In the earlier period the chief figures in this group were Lord Curzon, Lord D'Abernon and General Smuts. They did what they could to destroy reparations, permanent German rearmament, and tear down what they called 'French militarism.'
"This point of view was supported by the second group, which was known in those days as the Round Table Group, and came later to be called, somewhat inaccurately, the Cliveden Set, after the country estate of Lord and Lady Astor. It included Lord Milner, Leopold Amery, and Edward Grigg ( Lord Altrincham), as well as Lord Lothian, Smuts, Lord Astor, Lord Brand (brother-in-law of Lady Astor and managing director of Lazard Brothers, the international bankers), Lionel Curtis, Geoffrey Dawson... and their associates... The Round Table Group formed the core of the three-bloc-world supporters, and differed from the anti-Bolsheviks like D'Abernon in that they sought to contain the Soviet Union between a German-dominated Europe and an English-speaking bloc rather than to destroy it as the anti-Bolsheviks wanted. Relations between the two groups were very close and friendly, and some people, like Smuts, were in both...
"The more moderate Round Table Group... sought to weaken the League of Nations and destroy all possibility of collective security in order to strengthen Germany in respect to both France and the Soviet Union, and above all to free Britain from Europe in order to build up an 'Atlantic bloc' of Great Britain, the British Dominions, and the United States. They prepared the way for this 'Union' through the Rhodes Scholarship organization..., through the Round Table groups..., through the Chatham House organization, which set up Royal Institute of International Affairs in all the dominions and a Council on Foreign Relations in New York, as well as through 'Unofficial Commonwealth Relations Conferences' held irregularly, and the Institute of Pacific Relations set up in various countries as autonomous branches of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. This influential group sought to change the League of Nations from an instrument of collective security to an international conference center for 'nonpolitical' matters like drug control or international postal services, to rebuild Germany as a buffer against the Soviet Union and a counterpoise to France, and to build up an Atlantic bloc of Britain, the Dominions, the United States, and, if possible, the Scandinavian countries."
(Tragedy and Hope, Carroll Quigley, pgs. 580-582)
|Cliveden, the estate that inspired the name of the far right branch of the Rhodes-Milner group|
Another point that bears being made from the above citation is the group's attitude toward the League of Nations, the predecessor organization to the United Nations. As Quigley makes clear, the Cliveden set was chiefly responsible for declawing the League and ensuring it could not be an effective security apparatus. The same has seemingly been done to the United Nations. This strongly indicates that the Cliveden set's interest in these global bodies is primarily centered around "nonpolitical" issues (i.e. economic matters such as international trade, loans, settlements, etc). The UN was merely a stepping stone to the real endgame: International bureaucracies such as the IMF and World Bank that could implement the policies of multinational corporations without being beholden to the general public. World government was probably never even given serious consideration.
|the real "New World Order," which we are already living in|
While the bulk of the Eastern Establishment had supported Nazi Germany before hostilities with Britain broke out they largely felt duty bound to support the mother country once the war began. But there were clearly those within the Establishment, especially Henry Ford, who were weary of throwing in with the British and especially their allies, the Soviet Union. They would continue to openly support Germany all the way up to the time of Pearl Harbor and never totally gave up hopes of reaching a peace with the Nazi regime. This factor combined with the deep-seeded loathing many in the Eastern Establishment felt toward the New Deal would lead to a collapse of the unified consensus that dominated the American power structure prior to FDR and WWII. The rise of the military-industrial complex and the new rich from the Southern Rim would further exasperate this split.
But nothing crystallized this new faction quite like the military men who would come to dominate it. Of course, military officers have always been looked fondly upon by the American public and several of the nation's most revered presidents (including Washington and Jackson) had been generals before becoming assuming the nation's highest office. But as American business became increasingly international in the post-Civil War era the importance of the military grew in proportion and a firm relationship between the service and industry emerged.
The rise of the military-industrial complex at the end of WWII would make military men especially valuable to corporate America because of their contacts within the military establishment. Thus, the pipeline between the DoD and corporate America would become one of the fastest tracks to success in the modern era. And while the military-industrial complex found these officers of great use they also were some what weary of them.
Many of the military men who served between the period before the First World War and the end of Korea (and to some extent, even up till Kennedy) tended to be fanatically right wing, a state of affairs the military itself contributed to. As a whole, there was a Prussian-ization of military officers in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, especially during the 1930s. But beyond the indoctrination more than a few of these officers would became enamored with fascist military dictatorships such as Franco's Spain and Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan (of which some would forge close ties with).
Much of the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a subtle war being played out between the Eastern Establishment and the Prussians (with some support from oil barons and the military-industrial complex) for control of the American political machine. The front groups for this struggle were the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Security Council, respectively. In the next installment we shall examine the composition of the ASC (especially several of the noteworthy military men) and the tactics it used in this conflict. Stay tuned.