Most of us feel anger, fear, and some disgust when we look at current Republican efforts to cut so many of us out of the electoral process.
These efforts include their mysteriously well-organized and well-funded programs to remove real voters from the rolls; programs to block access to the polls when this political ethnic cleansing doesn’t produce the desired results; and programs to churn out ads and speeches that range from outright lies to those that fold simple facts into Escher-esque caricatures of reality.
And when all these fail, to buy some tame election officials.
These efforts all seem heavy-handed, and they are.
But these ham-handed stunts are almost subtle, compared to 1934, when the 1%ers made a simple brute-force move to turn the United States into a fascist puppet state, removing President Franklin Roosevelt from office by staging a military coup d’état.
Calling itself the American Liberty League, a group of wealthy bankers, corporate executives, and industrialists approached retired Marine Corps Major General (that’s two stars) Smedley Butler to organize and carry out a putsch-style takeover of the U.S. Government and replace President Roosevelt with a fascist dictatorship, complete with concentration camps for “Jews and other undesirables.”
Butler was a logical choice for the plotters. He was a double Medal of Honor winner and national hero, popular with both military enlisted men and the public.
Such an overt takeover move sounds shocking today, but remember this was a time when America’s business leaders openly expressed admiration for Hitler’s Germany; Chevrolet president William S. Knudsen even referred to Hitler’s Germany as “the miracle of the twentieth century.”
Liberty League’s aim was to mobilize 500,000 unemployed and disaffected WWI veterans to be the foot soldiers, and to this end they chose the widely-popular Gen. Butler to lead the troops and the takeover. The League promised Gen. Butler $3 million (about $50 million in today’s money) with promises of up to $300 million more when the coup succeeded.
The League was headed by the DuPont brothers, Irenee, Lammot, and Pierre; the J.P Morgan banking cartel; and had major support from Andrew Mellon Associates, Howard Pew (Sun Oil), John D. Rockefeller, E.F. Hutton Associates, John and Allen Dulles, U.S. Steel, General Motors, and Goodyear Tires.
Money was funneled through Sen. Prescott Bush’s Union Banking Corporation. Bush told the League that his contacts in Germany had brought promises of materiel and money assistance from the Germans. Some of the plotters, notably James D. Mooney (GM’s vice-president for foreign operations), Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company); and Thomas Watson (President and CEO of IBM) received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler for their considerable efforts on behalf of the Third Reich.
Fortunately for us (and unfortunately for the plotters) Gen. Butler was more of a patriot than a plutocrat. After hearing the proposal and learning all he could, Gen. Butler gave secret testimony before the McCormack-Dickstein committee – a precursor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The committee verified the information, but took no action against the plotters.
In the end, the League fell apart largely from its own ineptness; its leaders, denounced by President Roosevelt as “economic royalists” were never punished (indeed, some were handsomely rewarded later), and Gen. Butler was ridiculed by the press.
Some of the League leaders who survived to prosper included W. Averell Harriman (served as Governor of New York and held cabinet positions in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations); George Herbert Walker (whose daughter, Dorothy, married Prescott Bush, making him a grandfather of former President George Herbert Walker Bush, and a great-grandfather of former President George Walker Bush); J. Howard Pew (President of Sun Oil-now SUNOCO) and founder of the Pew Charitable Trust; Allen Dulles (headed the OSS, later the CIA); John Foster Dulles (Allen’s older brother; Secretary of State in the Eisenhower administration); and Prescott Sheldon Bush (wall street banker, US Senator from Connecticut, father of George H.W. Bush, grandfather to George W. Bush).
Fittingly, some of the publications that ridiculed Gen. Butler, like TIME Magazine, later admitted that he was right. At the time, only the Scripps-Howard papers backed FDR and presented the truth.
After his retirement, Gen. Butler described his 33-year Marine Corps career as being a racketeer for capitalism. “I might have given Al Capone a few hints,” Butler noted in his autobiography. “The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
And that’s our problem now. We still have gangsters like Sheldon Adelson, Bob Perry, and the Koch brothers working to steal our country.
What we need is another Smedley Butler to stop them.
Pubslied: Friday, 2 November 2012