By Heather Gray
January 31, 2017
Justice Initiative International
I know that many in the United States are not aware that there was an attempted coup against President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. In fact, the mainstream press and the US government itself attempted to prevent the public from knowing anything about this by not reporting about the attempted actions of the treasonous bankers and by Congress not insisting on appropriate punishment. In today’s Trump mindset, it was these American bankers who should have been “banned” and/or placed in jail.
In my Part One: The Coup: FDR vs Trump I refer to the background of some of the American political and economic initiatives since Roosevelt that basically attempted to undermine both democracy and public assistance to the masses of American workers and the American people altogether, who are otherwise known, thanks to the Occupy Movement, as the 99%.
I know you are probably also thinking a coup would be about money and control of workers, investments and corporate greed generally for the purpose of the capitalist elite’s benefit. I think you are right about that as well!
I do think also, without belaboring the point, or going into significant detail in this article at least, that the attitudes of white Europeans in America also have to do with their feudal background being that of a hierarchy of lords and serfs. It was this historic European feudal system that became preeminent in the southern part of the United States as with slavery, the white working class and the plantation owners as the primary hierarchy in which the plantation owner arrogance “lorded” over everyone else – namely slaves and the white workers. We still suffer from the vestiges of this unrestrained, unwarranted and ill-begotten arrogance. Trump’s attorney general appointee, Jeff Sessions from Alabama, is a prime example of this prevailing feudal attitude.
In fact, I, of “white” European descent, am inclined to think that many of those of European descent are seemingly incredibly insecure with relatively little self-confidence in much of anything. Otherwise, why are they always so scared of ideas, cultures, religions, etc. that differ from their own?
This also has to do with the increased powerful influence of virtually unrestrained capitalism over the American culture and political system in the 20th, and now the 21rst century, that particularly accelerated during and after the Reagan administration.
And maybe this is also an elite thing altogether. It appears that anyone or any thought that challenges the elite capitalist power is alienated or destroyed whenever possible.
Additional Background on the Coup
Regarding the coup that has just occurred in the United States with the presidency of Donald Trump (and yes it is a coup), I need to go back at least to Karl Marx in the 1800s to make some sense of it all. Throughout his career, Marx began to write about and witness the oppression of capitalism and its devastating impact on the workers. But in addition to being a scholar on the topic, he involved himself in the activism of workers demanding change and seeking their rights. As a result, he ended up being kicked out of, for example, Cologne, France and Belgium and he finally took refuge in England.
The point is that the ruling elite in these European countries were threatened by his leadership in espousing rights for workers and in teaching them about the oppressive capitalist system, overall, toward workers and how the workers should be alert to it all and organize.
But it is important to note that this issue of the ruling capitalist elite feeling threatened by Marx did not apply only to the leaders of Europe. The capitalist leaders in United States took note as well.
In fact, before the “Cold War” era after WWII, it appears that among the leading bankers and wealthy Americans, virtually anyone who did anything regarding advancement of collective rights – labor rights, civil rights, human rights, etc. – were considered suspicious and/or communists.
Leading to the initiatives, such as the Roosevelt New Deal policies, was the Great Depression in the US following WWI. At this time there was huge destabilization and unemployment in the United States in which President Roosevelt played a leading role in addressing – much to the chagrin of America’s capitalist elite.
During this period the US bankers and financial elite were also observing post WWI politics in Europe. Many appreciated Adolph Hitler and supported him financially. Many were also enamored with the fascist Benito Mussolini in Italy. They wanted a government like this in the United States and attempted a coup. Here is some information about this from Global Research:
Prior to WW2, many prominent American business owners and politicians were involved in the rise of Nazism. Fascist forces around the globe, not just Germany and Italy, gravitated around and contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler. In the United States, no example of this is more notorious than that of Prescott Bush, father to US President George H.W. Bush, and grandfather of US President George W. Bush. The Guardian in an article titled, “How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power” states:
Recently declassified documents revealed that at least 300 U.S. companies continued doing business in Germany during the war, Newsweek reported. And subsidiaries of Ford and General Motors have been accused of forcing thousands of Jews, Poles and others to work as slave laborers. (Global Research)
As mentioned, many of these wealthy elite wanted a fascist government in America, the likes of a Hitler or Mussolini. They mistakenly tried to hire the retired and respected Major General Smedley Butler to lead the coup. Butler became suspicious of what they were wanting him to do and told Congress about the attempted coup, which put an end to it.
More about the coup and Smedley Butler:
Butler had been approached by Gerald P. MacGuire of Wall Street’s Grayson M-P Murphy & Co. MacGuire claimed they would assemble an army of 500,000 mostly unemployed WWI veterans and march on DC. The plutocrats wanted Butler to lead the coup, thinking that, like the Bolsheviks, taking one major city (DC as Petrograd) would lead to the fall of the government. They promised to put up $3 million as starters and dangled a future $300 million as bait. Butler went along with the plot until he could learn the identities of all the schemers. Not a one of them was ever called to testify or was charged with Treason. Virtually all of them were founding members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The League was headed by the DuPont and J.P Morgan cartels and had major support from Andrew Mellon Associates, Pew (Sun Oil), Rockefeller Associates, E.F. Hutton Associates, U.S. Steel, General Motors, Chase, Standard Oil and Goodyear Tires.
Money was funneled thru the Sen. Prescott Bush-led Union Banking Corporation (yes, those Bushes) and the Prescott Bush-led Brown Brothers Harriman (yes, that Harriman) to the League (and to Hitler, but that’s another story). The plotters bragged about Bush’s Hitler connections and even claimed that Germany had promised Bush that it would provide materiel for the coup. This claim was entirely believable: a year earlier, Chevrolet president William S. Knudsen (who himself had donated $10,000 to the League) went to Germany and met with Nazi leaders and declared upon his return that Hitler’s Germany was “the miracle of the twentieth century.” At the time, GM’s wholly-owned Adam-Opal Co. had already begun producing the Nazi’s tanks, trucks and bomber engines. James D. Mooney, GM’s vice-president for foreign operations was joined by Henry Ford and IBM chief Tom Watson in receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler for their considerable efforts on behalf of the Third Reich. (Counterpunch – Michael Donnely)
Suffice it to say, these bankers did not appreciate Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that attempted to benefit many of the people suffering from the depression. And it is important to note that these programs primarily assisted the white working class and on the whole not America’s Black or diverse population. Yet, even in spite of the selective assistance to whites in the New Deal programs, still the white corporate elite wanted none of this model of collective public assistance. Along this line, it is certainly important for the white workers in America to know that the “white” capitalist elite historically has never had, as a priority, the interests of the white working class. Rather their intent is to control them and selfishly reap money and benefit themselves financially through this process.
As Marx wisely noted ‘people are treated differently for profit.’ And this is what the elite have always wanted, to treat the workers differently, as in to keep the workers ill-informed, and ill-organized so they can be more easily controlled.
Congress, unsurprisingly however, did not castigate or condemn these capitalists for treason who, in my opinion, they should have jailed as Iceland did recently after the 2008 economic meltdown of its leading bankers – they jailed the bankers for 46 years. That was a major mistake on the part of both the press and Congress, in particular! Had they jailed these bankers in the 1930s we probably would not be in the mess we are now with the Trump presidency. Instead, they conveniently shoved the scandal under the rug and life went on, but these oppressive sentiments have remained in the American capitalist elite’s mindset to this day.
Perhaps the best brief description of the coup against Roosevelt is from the 2012 NPR interview with Sally Denton about her book “The Plots Against the President: FDR, a Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right” as stated below:
February 12, 2012
Heard on All Things Considered
It was a dangerous time in America: The economy was staggering, unemployment was rampant and a banking crisis threatened the entire monetary system.
The newly elected president pursued an ambitious legislative program aimed at easing some of the troubles. But he faced vitriolic opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.
“This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty,” one senator wrote to a colleague. “The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The president has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom.”
Those words could be ripped from today’s headlines. In fact, author Sally Denton tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, they come from a letter written in 1933 by Republican Sen. Henry D. Hatfield of West Virginia, bemoaning the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Denton is the author of a new book, The Plots Against the President: FDR, a Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right.
She says that during the tense months between FDR’s election in November and his inauguration in March 1933, democracy hung in the balance.
“There was a lot at play. It could have gone very different directions,” Denton says.
Though it’s hard for us to imagine today, she says fascism, communism, even Naziism seemed like possible solutions to the country’s ills.
“There were suggestions that capitalism was not working, that democracy was not working,” she says.
Some people even called for a dictator to pull America out of the Great Depression.
When Roosevelt finally took office, he embarked on the now-legendary First Hundred Days, an ambitious legislative program aimed at reopening and stabilizing the country’s banks and getting the economy moving again.
“There was just this sense that he was upsetting the status quo,” Denton says.
Critics on the right worried that Roosevelt was a Communist, a socialist or the tool of a Jewish conspiracy. Critics on the left complained his policies didn’t go far enough. Some of Roosevelt’s opponents didn’t stop at talk. Though it’s barely remembered today, there was a genuine conspiracy to overthrow the president.
The Wall Street Putsch, as it’s known today, was a plot by a group of right-wing financiers.
“They thought that they could convince Roosevelt, because he was of their, the patrician class, they thought that they could convince Roosevelt to relinquish power to basically a fascist, military-type government,” Denton says.
“It was a cockamamie concept,” she adds, “and the fact that it even got as far as it did is pretty shocking.”
The conspirators had several million dollars, a stockpile of weapons and had even reached out to a retired Marine general, Smedley Darlington Butler, to lead their forces.
“Had he been a different kind of person, it might have gone a lot further,” Denton says. “But he saw it as treason and he reported it to Congress.”
Denton says that as she was writing the book, she was struck by the parallels between the treatment of Roosevelt and that of Barack Obama. For example, a cottage industry much like the birther movement grew up around proving that the Dutch-descended Roosevelt was actually a secret Jew.
“It seems to me that going through history here, there are times that we need to have a demon, somebody that’s not of us, in order to solidify our fears and our anxieties,” Denton says.
“And I don’t know what that is in the impulse of the American body politic, but… this is 75 years later, and some of these same impulses continue.”
HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She is also a writer, researcher and journalist. In 1985-86 she directed the nonviolent program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. She subsequently has also been engaged in support for and helping black farmers in the Southern US hold on to their land and this has included work in cooperative economic development. She has lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines and the United States. She now lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org