Alex Constantine - May 1, 2009
The new America will not be Capitalist in the old sense, nor will it be Socialist. If at the moment the trend is toward Fascism, it will be an American Fascism, embodying the experience, the traditions and the hopes of the great middle-class nation. — E.F. Brown, associate editor, Current History Magazine, July 1933
We have absorbed into our own legal system the German tyranny that we fought and inveighed against. The approach, copied from the Nazis, works this way: The press and radio first lay down a terrific barrage against the Red Menace. Headlines without a shred of evidence shriek of atom bomb spies or plots to overthrow the government, of espionage, of high treason, and of other bloodcurdling crimes. We are now ready for the second stage: the pinning of the label 'Red' indiscriminately on all opposition. — Abraham Pomerantz, U.S. Deputy Chief Counsel, Nuremberg Trials
An Ornery Bunch Lays Down a Terrific Barrage
If you lived in southern California and traveled with any liberal organization in the early 1980s, odds are your name was recorded in a secret police computer file. On May 25, 1983, L.A.'s Public Order Intelligence Division (PDID) was exposed to the world as a clearinghouse of spies gathering intelligence on the left. The PDID stored information on thousands of law-abiding liberals at a cost of $100,000 in tax revenue, utilizing a computer dossier system consigned by the late Representative Larry McDonald's Western Goals organization, the intelligence gathering branch of the John Birch Society.
McDonald was the national leader of the Birchers. Late political researcher Mae Brussell noted in an essay, "Nazi Connections to the John F. Kennedy Assassination," that the Society's chief executive officer [he perished in the Flight 007 shootdown] was "exceedingly active in Dallas preceding the Kennedy assassination. Western Goals has offices in Germany run by Eugene Wigner [a Hungarian-born scientist who worked on the atomic bomb at the University of Chicago] that fed data to the Gehlen BND [post-WW II Nazi intelligence division mustered by the CIA]. On the board of Western Goals sat Edward Teller, Admiral Thomas Moorer [reporter Bob Woodward's superior officer in the Naval wing of the Pentagon within a year of the Watergate series published by the Washington Post], and Dr. Hans Senholt, once a Luftwaffe pilot."1
The Birchers had much in common with their Nazi contacts in Germany. Fred J. Cook, in The Warfare State (MacMillan, 1962), wrote that the Birch Society was named after an obscure evangelical Christian missionary and "OSS captain who was murdered by Chinese Communist guerrillas ten days after World War II ended."2
The JBS Web site provides more background on this paragon of American virtue: "Shortly after America’s entry into the war, John Birch volunteered to join General Claire Chennault‘s 14th Air Force, known also as the Flying Tigers. Birch was of particular value in the war because of his facility with various Chinese dialects and it was thus that he was assigned primarily to intelligence work." The society named after Birch, Cook wrote, "is a completely monolithic organization, as authoritarian in its own way as any communist dictatorship.... Welch's John Birch Society is as secret as the Ku Klux Klan, as monolithic and unbalanced as the Nazi Party of Hitler, with many of whose ideas and methods it would find itself quite compatible."
What would the Cold War have been without the histrionics and self-congratulatory nationalism of the Birchers, dismissed as pompous "yahoos" by most observers and a fascist revival by those who looked into them at all closely?
The Birch Society was founded in 1959 by Robert Welch. Welch attended the U.S. Naval Academy and studied law at Harvard for two years. He was vice president of the James O. Welch Candy Co. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1948 vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party Finance Committee. Welch made an unsuccessful bid for the office of Lt. Governor at the 1950 Republican primary. He was a ranking director of the National Association of Manufacturers, the subject of many a rancorous essay by George Seldes, who found NAM, in the 1950s, to be a hive of reactionary corporate intrigue.
The Birch Society Internet site observes that in Welch's time, "self-reliance, good manners, moral uprightness, respect for hard work, and especially rigorous honesty were as pervasive among Americans then as watching television and collecting welfare are for a great many of them today." Welch's funding originated largely with Texas oil billionaire H.L. Hunt, a Texas "patriot" and sponsor of Lifeline, a fuming Ultracon radio program that aired in 42 states, sponsored by Sunoco and NAM's corporate constituents.
Welch learned, according to the JBS Internet site, that "The Conspiracy" was more "deeply rooted than he had previously thought, and supported this thesis by tracing its origins back over a century to an occult group known as the Illuminati, founded on May 1, 1776 by a Bavarian named Adam Weishaupt." Tenaciously tracking back through the pages of obscure political tracts and dusty old documents, Welch supposedly found that this "Satanic" conspiratorial cabal had participated in the French Revolution of 1789, "which infamous uprising, as we know, struck out with intense savagery against God and civilization and resulted in the murder of roughly a million human beings. Clearly, the upheavals and atrocities of 1789 served as a model for revolutions to come, especially the Bolshevik Revolution."
Robert Welch introduced his vision of the Society at a meeting of twelve "patriotic and public-spirited men" in Indianapolis on December 9, 1958.
The first chapter formed in two months later. "The core thesis of the society," reports Political Research Associates in Somerville, Massachusetts, "was contained in Welch's initial Indianapolis presentation, transcribed almost verbatim in The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, and subsequently given to each new member. According to Welch, both the US and Soviet governments were controlled by the same furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers and corrupt politicians. If left unexposed, the traitors inside the U.S. government would betray the country's sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist new world order managed by a 'one-world socialist government.'"
This was the game – substituting "fascist" with "socialist," reversing the polarity of corporate globalism and its objectives to scapegoat the left. The Birch Society "incorporated many themes from pre-WWII rightist groups opposed to the New Deal, and had its base in the business nationalist sector."
But some feared that the American Dream was devouring its own tail. Before the war, B. Palme Dutt, in Fascism and Social Revolution (International Publishers, 1935), found that capitalism "can no longer maintain its power by the old means. The crisis is driving the whole political situation at an escalating pace." The rise of the labor unions and social movements threatened to usurp the power, wealth and privilege of the ruling caste, and every segment of society was affected by the clash. The Lords of Industry, with one eye askance at developments in the East, was "driven to ever more desperate expedients to prolong for a little while its lease on life."
Rabidly nationalistic fronts like the John Birch Society were also a "desperate expedient" of social control, undermining any attempt to trespass on the self-serving authority of the country's military-industrial plutocrats. In the wings of the Birch Society, with its insistent rejection of "collectivism," lurked corporate sponsors. In an address to the Cooperative League of the United States, T.K. Quinn, a former vice president of General Electric, shared a dissident view of the corporations that supported the Birch Society: "In forms of organization and control, these giants are essentially collectivistic [sic], fascist states, with self-elected and self-perpetuating officers and directors, quite like the Russian politiboro in this respect. Their control extends directly over production, over tens of thousands of small supplying manufacturers and subcontractors, and over thousands of distributors and dealers. Indirectly, the control of these giant corporations influences legislation through paid lobbies in state capitals and Washington, and it is seen and felt in the magazines, newspapers, radio and television stations, all dependent upon these giants and their associates for their existence."3
By comparison, liberal lobbyists were frozen out by a Congressional cold shoulder. The American Federation of Labor may have won three lobbying campaigns, but lost seven. The League of Women Voters succeeded in one attempt to see legislation passed, but lost out in four. The Farmers' Union scored 1-in-8. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, 1-in-5.4
Seldes discovered that NAM, "the richest and most powerful lobby in the nation, got all the laws it sponsored passed by Congress." The Committee for Constitutional Government, called "America's No. 1 fascist organization" by Congressman Wright Patman, won 7 in 8 that it sponsored."5
Unquestionably, favoritism at the legislative level fell to ultra-conservative corporate fronts, not the Left.
The Birch Society was an arm of NAM and its corporate constituents – General Motors, DuPont, Sunoco, U.S. Steel, etc., etc. "Another organization," Seldes wrote, "apparently founded with the intention of the Birch Society to unite reaction in a vast and powerful political weapon, calls itself Americans for Constitutional Action and unites NAM leaders, the owners of the Reader's Digest, and Birchers; it is reaction's answer to Americans for Democratic Action."6
Reader's Digest? The ubiquitous "funny little magazine" brings to mind another sponsor of such groups — the CIA. In the Eisenhower period, propagandists on the Agency payroll were featured regularly in the Digest, including Allen Dulles, Carl Rowan, James Burnham, Brian Crozier, Stewart Alsop and other Agency stalwarts. The magazine remains a glib tool of CIA opinion formation.
Another was the National Review, in the early days indistinguishable from frothy Birch Society publications. The magazine was edited by the CIA's William F. Buckley, a close friend of Welch's. In the first issue, which appeared on the stands in November 1955, Buckley ran a "Publisher's Statement" in which he declared war on "the Liberals who run the country," echoing Birch rhetoric.
The Review, Buckley boasted, "stands athwart history, yelling Stop!"
In March, 1956, John Fischer, editor of Harper's, wrote: "Last November, newsstands throughout the country offered the first issue of a new magazine, National Review, which described itself as 'frankly, conservative.'"
But the magazine's first half-dozen issues made it clear that the Review "was an organ, not of conservatism, but of radicalism ... [and] like most of the extremist little magazines, it seems to be aimed at an audience of True Believers." The magazine's early readership were "emotional people who throw themselves frantically into a cause — often to make up for some kind of frustration in their private lives. They form the hard core of many religious, nationalist and revolutionary movements: they have great capacity, in Hoffer's words, for 'enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance ... blind faith and single-hearted allegiance.' They are the opposite of conservatives."7
Dwight MacDonald, a staff writer for the New Yorker, opined, "NR seems worth examining as a cultural phenomenon: the MaCarthy nationalists they call themselves conservative, but that is surely a misnomer – they have never before made so heroic an effort to be intellectually articulate. Here are the ideas, here is the style of the lumpen-bourgeoisie, the half-educated ... who responded to Huey Long, Father Coughlin and Senator McCarthy.... These are men from underground, the intellectually underprivileged who feel themselves excluded from a world they believe is ruled by liberals (or eggheads — the terms are, significantly, interchangeable in NR)."
CIA propagandist William F. Buckley passed himself off as an independent thinker, journalist and publisher. But documents declassified by the Assassination Records Review Board have debunked his profiling. In Watergate "Plumber" Howard Hunt’s Office of Security file, Dan Hardway of the House Select Committee found a number of documents concerning Buckley. He was not merely a spook. Buckley was a ranking officer, stationed for a spell in Mexico City to direct covert ops. Thereafter, Buckley attempted to conceal his CIA rank with Hunt's assistance. Documents subpoenaed by Congress note that some articles published by the National Review were in fact written by E. Howard Hunt (a review of The Invisible Government, by David Wise, for instance). When Buckley left the CIA to publish National Review, he maintained a subdued relationship with Hunt.8
Buckley also distanced himself publicly from Birch Society founder Robert Welch in the April 21, 1961 issue of the Review. There was growing interest in the organization, Buckley claimed, because "Liberals, and to the extent their programs coincide, the communists, feel threatened by the revived opposition. Accordingly they have taken hold of a vulnerable organization and labored to transform it into a national menace." It could be argued that the Society itself had something to do with its reputation, that the Left did not have to "labor" too strenuously, after all. Buckley himself admitted in his next breath that the Birch Society was "an organization of men and women devoted to militant political activity."
"I myself have known Robert Welch since 1952," Buckley admitted. "I have read all his books, and most of his articles and editorials. He bought stock and debentures in National Review in its early years (less than one percent of our original capital). We have exchanged over a dozen letters, and spoken from the same platform on two occasions. I have always admired his personal courage and devotion to the cause."
But, Buckley let on, he had to part with Welch's conclusion that Dwight D. Eisenhower was a "willing agent of the Soviet Union," though he believed "most definitely" that the "communist conspiracy" was a "deadly serious matter." In the future, he hoped that the Birch Society "thrives," so long as "it resists such false assumptions as that a man's subjective motives can automatically be deduced from the objective consequences of his acts."
End of Part One