[Marxism] Fwd from Jim Craven: Plot to Overthrow FDR

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Mar 13 17:02:00 MST 2005

>The Real Plot to Overthrow FDR's America
>by <http://www.dailykos.com/user/Steven%20D>Steven D
>Sun Feb 27th, 2005 at 08:29:36 PST
>[Preliminary Note: Some of you may wonder about the relevance of this 
>diary, but trust me, by the end you'll see how it all ties in with our 
>present day situation.]
>Time for a trip in the way-back machine to recall a bit of history of 
>which most of us have never heard.  Last year, Phillip Roth had a 
>bestseller with his 
>The Plot Against America, a fictionalized alternative history involving a 
>fascist plot to take over the government of the USA and turn it into a 
>fascist state under President Charles Lindbergh.  But how many of you know 
>of the real <http://store.aetv.com/html/product/index.jhtml?id=42344>plot 
>to overthrow FDR during the early years of his administration, a plot 
>conceived by rich industrialists and bankers concerned that Roosevelt was 
>about to conduct a massive redistribution of wealth?
>More after the fold . . .
><http://www.dailykos.com/section/Diary>Diaries :: 
><http://steven-d.dailykos.com/>Steven D's diary ::
>It's a sordid tale of fascist intrigue by some of America's most famous 
>corporate and political families (including members of FDR's own party) 
>which was deliberately covered up by both the only Congressional Committee 
>to investigate the plot, and also by the leading media outlets of the day 
>including the New York Times.  And the truly scary part is that the plot 
>might very well have succeeded if not for the bravery of a single, 
>progressive leader: Marine General, Smedley Butler.
>The life of Smedley Butler is an uniquely American story.  A decorated 
>soldier (he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice) and 
>warrior who ascended through the ranks to become one of the most admired 
>soldiers of his era, he also grew to deeply despise war, and to distrust 
>the reasons he had been sent to fight in distant places.  As he stated 
>himself in a 
><http://www.eclectica.org/v1n1/reviews/wharton_plot.html>speech he gave on 
>August 21, 1931 to an American Legion convention in New Britain, Connecticut:
>"I spent 33 years...being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for 
>Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism....
>"I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown 
>Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe 
>for American oil interests in 1916. I brought light to the Dominican 
>Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and 
>Cuba a decent place for the National City [Bank] boys to collect revenue 
>in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for 
>the benefit of Wall Street....
>"In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way 
>unmolested....I had...a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, 
>promotions....I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could 
>do was to operate a racket in three cities. The Marines operated on three 
>Fortunately for those of us living today, the people he condemned in that 
>speech must not have been aware of his beliefs, or if they were they must 
>have told themselves he didn't mean what he said, because they selected 
>him to be the leader of a military coup attempt by which they meant to 
>supplant Roosevelt as President in all but name.  These plotters 
><http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Coup.htm>represented some of America's 
>richest and most famous names of the time:
>     * Irenee Du Pont - Right-wing chemical industrialist and founder of 
> the American Liberty League, the organization assigned to execute the plot.
>     * Grayson Murphy - Director of Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel and a group 
> of J.P. Morgan banks.
>     * William Doyle - Former state commander of the American Legion and a 
> central plotter of the coup.
>     * John Davis - Former Democratic presidential candidate and a senior 
> attorney for J.P. Morgan.
>     * Al Smith - Roosevelt's bitter political foe from New York. Smith 
> was a former governor of New York and a co-director of the American 
> Liberty League.
>     * John J. Raskob - A high-ranking Du Pont officer and a former 
> chairman of the Democratic Party. In later decades, Raskob would become a 
> "Knight of Malta," a Roman Catholic Religious Order with a high 
> percentage of CIA spies, including CIA Directors William Casey, William 
> Colby and John McCone.
>     * Robert Clark - One of Wall Street's richest bankers and stockbrokers.
>     * Gerald MacGuire - Bond salesman for Clark, and a former commander 
> of the Connecticut American Legion. MacGuire was the key recruiter to 
> General Butler.
>They chose MacGuire as the point man to approach Butler with their 
>proposal.  The plot would be funded by Dupont and Morgan money funneled 
>through an organization they had recently created to oppose Roosevelt, 
>the  American Liberty 
><http://www.answers.com/topic/american-liberty-league>League.  (The League 
>was funded by donations from US Steel, General Motors, Chase Manhattan 
>Bank, Standard Oil, Goodyear and the Dupont family, among others.  Not 
>surprisingly, the League would later actively oppose almost every major 
>piece of New Deal legislation, including, but not limited too Social 
>Butler was supposed to be the "famous name" who would recruit an army of 
>out of work war  veterans to march on Washington.  It was thought that his 
>popularity with the troops would make it easy for him to rally them to the 
>cause of supplanting Roosevelt as the effective head of government.  As 
>[T]hey wanted General Butler to deliver an ultimatum to Roosevelt. 
>Roosevelt would pretend to become sick and incapacitated from his polio, 
>and allow a newly created cabinet officer, a "Secretary of General 
>Affairs," to run things in his stead. The secretary, of course, would be 
>carrying out the orders of Wall Street. If Roosevelt refused, then General 
>Butler would force him out with an army of 500,000 war veterans from the 
>American Legion. But MacGuire assured Butler the cover story would work:
>       "You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the 
> newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is 
> failing. Everyone can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American 
> people will fall for it in a second..."
>The businessmen also promised that money was no object: Clark told Butler 
>that he would spend half his $60 million fortune to save the other half.
>And what type of government would replace Roosevelt's New Deal? MacGuire 
>was perfectly candid to Paul French, a reporter friend of General Butler's:
>       "We need a fascist government in this country... to save the nation 
> from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have 
> built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the 
> soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a 
> million men overnight."
>Indeed, it turns out that MacGuire travelled to Italy to study Mussolini's 
>fascist state, and came away mightily impressed. He wrote glowing reports 
>back to his boss, Robert Clark, suggesting that they implement the same thing.
>The plot collapsed when Butler went public in late 1934 and exposed the 
>conspiracy.  The General revealed the details of the coup attempt in sworn 
>testimony before the  "McCormack-Dickstein" 
><http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/committee.html>Committee (the 
>predecessor of the soon to be infamous "House Un-American Affairs Committee":
>This House committee was named after its chairman and vice chairman, John 
>W. McCormack and Samuel Dickstein. It was called the Special Committee on 
>Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and 
>Certain Other Propaganda Activities. In 1934, it held public and private 
>hearings in six cities, questioned hundreds of witnesses and collected 
>testimony filling 4,300 pages. Its mandate was to get "information on how 
>foreign subversive propaganda entered the U.S. and the organizations that 
>were spreading it."
>The committee did investigate Butler's claims, and subpoenaed witnesses, 
>including MacGuire, Butler's main contact with the plotters.  Initially,
>MacGuire, not surprisingly, denied that such a plot existed. Instead, he 
>claimed his activities had been political lobbying to preserve the gold 
>standard, but he quickly destroyed his credibility as a witness by giving 
>contradictory testimony. While the final report agreed with Butler that 
>there was evidence of a coup d'état plot against Roosevelt, no further 
>action was taken on it. The Committee's authority to subpoena witnesses 
>expired at the end of 1934, and the Justice Department started no criminal 
>So why, after concluding that the plot did indeed exist was no one 
>prosecuted?  Why were principals of the plot never even required to 
>testify?  It's hard to say at this far remove.  Certainly it wasn't 
>because the individuals behind the coup attempt abandoned all hope of 
>future success, as this letter, dated 1936, from William Dodd, the U.S. 
>Ambassador to Germany, to President Roosevelt makes 
>"A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to 
>supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist 
>regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post 
>in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to 
>the Nazi regime.... A prominent executive of one of the largest 
>corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite 
>action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his 
>progressive policies.  Certain American industrialists had a great deal to 
>do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. 
>They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are 
>helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss 
>the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms. When industrialists 
>ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek 
>recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel 
>them to comply with the provisions."
>Perhaps the naming of prominent Democrats, such as Al Smith and former 
>Democratic Party Chairman Raskob, as members of the plot convinced the 
>Roosevelt administration, not anxious to reveal dissent within its own 
>ranks, to suppress the Committee report.  Perhaps MacGuire's untimely 
>death from pneumonia shortly after he testified led the Department of 
>Justice to back away from any investigation.  Or perhaps the wealth and 
>influence of the plotters themselves was simply too great.  What is 
>abundantly clear, however, is that the Committee report was 
>Suppression by the [Committee] took the form of deleting extensive 
>excerpts relating to Wall Street financiers including Guaranty Trust 
>director Grayson Murphy, J.P. Morgan, the Du Pont interests, Remington 
>Arms, and others allegedly involved in the plot attempt. Even today, in 
>1975, a full transcript of the hearings cannot be traced.
>* * *
>John L. Spivak, the reporter who unearthed the suppression in the 
>Congressional transcripts, challenged Committee Co-chairman Samuel 
>Dickstein of New York with his evidence. Dickstein admitted that:
>     the Committee had deleted certain parts of the testimony because they 
> were hearsay."
>     "But your published reports are full of hearsay testimony."
>     "They are?" he said.
>     "Why wasn't Grayson Murphy called? Your Committee knew that Murphy's 
> men are in the anti-Semitic espionage organization Order of '76?"
>     "We didn't have the time. We'd have taken care of the Wall Street 
> groups if we had the time. I would have no hesitation in going after the 
> Morgans."
>     "You had Belgrano, Commander of the American Legion, listed to 
> testify. Why wasn't he examined?"
>     "I don't know. Maybe you can get Mr. McCormack to explain that. I had 
> nothing to do with it."
>The fact remains that the committee did not call Grayson Murphy, Jackson 
>Martindell, or John W. Davis, all directly accused in sworn testimony. 
>Further, the committee deleted all portions of the testimony involving 
>other prominent persons: J.P. Morgan, the Du Ponts, the Rockefeller 
>interests, Hugh Johnson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Congressman 
>Dickstein pleaded his innocence to John Spivak, it was inconsistent with 
>his own letter to President Roosevelt, in which he claims to have placed 
>restrictions even upon public distribution of the committee hearings, as 
>printed, "in order that they might not get into other than responsible hands."
>The final report issued by the committee in February 15, 1935 buried the 
>story even further. John L. Spivak sums up the burial succinctly: "I... 
>studied the Committee's report. It gave six pages to the threat by Nazi 
>agents operating in this country and eleven pages to the threat by 
>communists. It gave one page to the plot to seize the Government and 
>destroy our democratic system."
>What was even more distressing (and eerily familiar to the our present 
>situation) was not just  the failure of the press of that era to cover the 
>story, but the <http://www.reformation.org/wall-st-fdr-ch10.html>active 
>role they played in covering it up, even to the extent of scrubbing 
>internal archives:
>The role of leading newspapers and journals of opinion in reporting the 
>Butler affair is equally suspect. In fact, their handling of the event has 
>the appearance of outright distortion and censorship. The veracity of some 
>major newspapers has been widely questioned in the last 50 years, and in 
>some quarters the media have even been accused of a conspiracy to suppress 
>"everything in opposition to the wishes of the interest served."
>Does such suppression extend to major news journals? We can take two prime 
>examples; The New York Times and Time magazine. If such a combination as 
>Callaway charges did exist, then these two journals would certainly be 
>among "25 of the greatest papers involved in the 1930s." The New York 
>Times reporting of the "plot" opens up with a front-page headline article 
>on November 21, 1934: "Gen. Butler Bares 'Fascist Plot' to Seize 
>Government by Force," with the lead paragraph quoted above (p. 143). This 
>Times article is a reasonably good job of reporting and includes a 
>forthright statement by Congressman Dickstein: "From present indications 
>Butler has the evidence. He's not going to make any serious charges unless 
>he has something to back them up. We'll have men here with bigger names 
>than his." Then the Times article records that "Mr. Dickstein said that 
>about sixteen persons mentioned by General Butler to the Committee would 
>be subpoenaed, and that a public hearing might be held next Monday." The 
>Times also includes outright and sometimes enraged denials from Hugh 
>Johnson, Thomas W. Lamont, and Grayson M-P. Murphy of Guaranty Trust.
>The following morning, November 22, the Times made a major switch in 
>reporting the plot. The disclosures were removed to an inside page, 
>although the testimony now concerned Gerald MacGuire, one of the accused 
>plotters. Further, a decided change in the attitude of the committee can 
>be discerned. Congressman McCormack is now reported as saying that "the 
>committee has not decided whether to call any additional witnesses. He 
>said that the most important witness, aside from Mr. MacGuire, was Robert 
>Sterling Clark, a wealthy New Yorker with offices in the Stock Exchange 
>While the Times reporting was consigned to an inside single column, the 
>editorial page, its most influential section, carried a lead editorial 
>that set the tone for subsequent reporting. Under the head "Credulity 
>Unlimited," it contended that the Butler charge was a "bald and 
>unconvincing narrative. ... The whole story sounds like a gigantic hoax 
>... it does not merit serious discussion," and so on. In brief, before the 
>16 important witnesses were called, before the evidence was on the record, 
>before the charge was investigated, the New York Times decided that it 
>wanted to hear nothing about this story because it was a hoax, not fit to 
>The next day, November 23, the Times changed its reporting still further. 
>The headlines were now about Reds and Red Union Strife and concerned 
>alleged activities by communists in American trade unions, while the 
>Butler testimony and the developing evidence were secreted deep within the 
>reporting of Red activities. The resulting story was, of course, vague and 
>confused, but it effectively buried the Butler evidence.
>On November 26, the hearings continued, but the committee itself now had 
>cold feet and issued a statement: "This Committee has had no evidence 
>before it that would in the slightest degree warrant calling before it 
>such men as John W. Davis, General Hugh Johnson, General James G. Harbord, 
>Thomas W. Lamont, Admiral William S. Sims, or Hanford MacNider."
>It should be noted that these names had come up in sworn testimony, later 
>to be deleted from the official record.  The Times pursued its reporting 
>of this development in abbreviated form on an inside page under the head, 
>"Committee Calm over Butler 'Plot', Has No Evidence to Warrant Calling 
>Johnson and Others." On November 27 the Times reporting declined to five 
>column inches on an inside page under the ominous head "Butler Plot 
>Inquiry Not To Be Dropped." The December hearings were reported by the 
>Times on a front page (December 28 1934), but the plot was now twisted to 
>"Reds Plot to Kidnap the President, Witness Charges at House Inquiry."
>Reviewing the story of the Butler Affair in the Times 40 years after the 
>event and comparing its story to the printed official testimony, itself 
>heavily censored, it is obvious that the newspaper, either under its own 
>initiative or under outside pressure, decided that the story was not to be 
>made public. Consistent with this interpretation, we find that The New 
>York Times, the "newspaper of record," omits the Butler testimony from 
>entries in its annual index, depended upon by researchers and scholars. 
>The Times Index for 1934 has an entry "BUTLER (Maj Gen), Smedley D," but 
>lists only a few of his speeches and a biographic portrait. The Butler 
>testimony is not listed. There is an entry, "See also: Fascism-U.S.," but 
>under that cross-reference there is listed only: "Maj Gen S.D. Butler 
>charges plot to overthrow present govt; Wall Street interests and G.P. 
>MacGuire implicated at Cong com hearing." The only significant Wall Street 
>name mentioned in the index is that of R.S. Clark, who is reported as 
>"puzzled" by the charges. None of the key Morgan and Du Pont associates 
>cited by General Butler is listed in the Index. In other words, there 
>appears to have been a deliberate attempt by this newspaper to mislead 
>Now it's true that this story hasn't been completely forgotten.  There are 
>websites that discuss the conspiracy (some to which I've already linked, 
>and others which I'll list at the conclusion of this diary), and a few 
>people wrote books which at least mention the subject.  However, the only 
>book that focuses exclusively on the fascist plot to oust President F.D. 
>Roosevelt is now out of print: The Plot to Seize The White House (New 
>York: Hawthorne Books, 1973) by Julius Archer.  Soon after publishing 
>this, Hawthorne Books went out of business. Second-hand copies are now 
>available for as much as $250.
>What's to be learned from all this?  The simple truth that those of us who 
>see a corporatist conspiracy to manipulate and even "steal" our state and 
>national elections, to influence at the highest levels the policies of our 
>government, and to suppress or distort the news that the media reports are 
>not as crazy as our opponents make us out to be.  Because IT HAS ALL 
>Eternal vigilance, my friends.
>So endeth the lesson.

Louis Proyect
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