By George Seldes
Time's reportage on the House of Morgan for twenty years has been neither accurate history nor straightforward journalism. It has been propaganda, whitewash for the House of Morgan, one of its owners throughout all the years of its existence.
It would not be incorrect to say that Time -- and Life, Fortune, The March of Time, and each and every Luce production -- works for the Morgan Empire every day in the year. It is in every way part of the same free enterprise system, and although not controlled by a Morgan agent sitting at a desk in its office, it has a community of interest with the rest of the "$30,210,000,000 worth of United States railroads, utilities, industries, banks" which are under the Morgan-First National influence (as Time itself reported February 26, 1940). Both are parts of a system which they watch, nurture and expand, and which they speak for.
The illustrations of open propaganda and apologetics, dictated or not dictated by Mr. Lamont, "the foreign ambassadot of the House of Morgan," are many, but they merely highlight the relationship.
As, for instance; the "Wall Street Plot to Seize the Government."
The documentary evidence, which is referred to elsewhere, was pretty well suppressed by the newspapers, but the predecessor of the Dies Committee -- the McCormack-Dickstein Committee -- eventually confirmed the most sensational charges, concluded that there had been a plot and that certain American Legion leaders and well-known men of Wall Street, one closely connected with the House of Morgan, had indeed planned the first American fascist dictatorship.
At the mention of the magic name "Morgan" the Luce publications mobilized in defense. Everything from distortion to the usual "light touch" of the famous "bright young men" of the Luce employ, the usual sneers and the usual adjectival barrage by men well trained in semantics, came into play to protect the most sacred cow worshiped in America, the Big Money for which J. P. Morgan was first high priest.
For example (Time's first and second page story, December 3, 1934):
"PLOT WITHOUT PLOTTERS"
(There follows a bright little imaginary story of General Smedley Butler mobilizing 500,000 men, capturing Washington, the United States becoming a fascist state.)
"Such was the nightmarish page of future United States history pictured last week in Manhattan by General Butler himself to the special House Committee investigating Un-American Activities.
"No military officer of the United States since the late tempestuous George Custer has succeeded in publicly floundering in so much hot water as Smedley Darlington Butler. . .
[There follows a history of episodes in Butler's life, told as if they were all planned for publicity.]
"General Butler's sensational tongue had not been heard in the nation's Press for more than a week when he cornered a reporter for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post, poured into his ears the lurid tale that he had been offered leadership of a Fascist Putsch scheduled for next year.
"Thanking their stars for having such sure-fire publicity dropped in their laps, Representatives McCormack and Dickstein began calling witnesses to expose the 'plot.' But there did not seem to be any plotters....
"Mr. Morgan, just off a boat from Europe, had nothing to say but Partner Lamont did: 'Perfect moonshine! Too utterably ridiculous to comment upon!!"
Any reader comparing the testimony and the Committee report on this event; given in the appendix of this book, must conclude that the Time report consists of distortion and propaganda.
The case of the House of Morgan and World War I and the handling of the conspiracy uncovered by General Butler, and their treatment by Time, and other Luce publications, are but two of scores of instances illustrating the community of interest which exists between the banking house and the Luce press. The amount of stock all the men of Wall Street own in the Luce publications may be only a small percentage, but it pays a dividend, which cannot be measured in dollars only.
The Luce press, like the entire big magazines press, angles
the news -- and therefore angles public opinion in America for
the community of big business interests of which it is an important
CHAPTER 16, BIG MONEY ORGANIZATIONS
America refused to listen to the few newspaper correspondents and the still fewer experts, such as Professor Robert Brady ("The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism"), who before the Second World War tried to warn the nation that reaction and Fascism were the real dangers because there was money in them, and because there was big money back of them.
During and after the war the cartel investigators, Thurman Arnold, Wendell Berge, a score of leading liberal Senators, writers of a dozen books on the subject, and finally Mr. 0. John Rogge, who really got to the roots of Naziism, united in stating the common finding: that Fascism in all countries is a form of government originated by great industrial empires and cartels, subsidized, placed in power and kept in power for the benefit of the few-and against the general welfare of the many.
This is an established truth. The logical conclusions from the facts of history, therefore, would be that the little crackpot Fascism of the American demagogues is not a danger unless the big money takes it over. Therefore, the first of the several attempts of big American money to put over Fascism in our country is worth recounting, since the episode itself was thrown down rather than played up by the newspapers.
General Smedley D. Butler testified under oath before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, the first of the Un-American Committees, that he had been offered the leadership of a Fascist coup d'etat in America not once but forty-two times. Of these the only important one was that backed by leaders of the American Liberty League, Wall Street bankers and brokers, and the ruling clique of the American Legion.
Despite the effort of all the newspapers (except the three or four which had had a scoop) to destroy the effect of the testimony, and despite newsweekly Time's trying to tell the public it was just a joke, the Committee eventually issued its report confirming General Butler's charge that there had been a Fascist plot to seize Washington. (See Appendix 21.)
Most newspapers again suppressed or buried or belittled the official verdict. The McCormack-Dickstein Committee itself suppressed all those paragraphs of its report which named names, especially those of Morgan bankers, and that of the Liberty League, the equivalent of several of the super-patriotic but secretly corporation-directed organizations which supported Fascism in other lands.
The Committee suppressed the name of John W. Davis, attorney
for the House of Morgan. It suppressed the testimony of witnesses
that the arming of no less than 500,000 men for General Butler
to lead had been discussed, and that it was planned to obtain
rifles and bullets from Remington Arms "On credit through
the duPonts" ... "one of the duPonts is on the board
of directors of the American Liberty League and they own a controlling
interest in the Remington Arms Co.
The Committee suppressed the testimony of General Butler in which the agent plotting the Fascist coup promised him that a new organization would be announced in two or three weeks, and, stated Butler, "in about two weeks the American Liberty League appeared, which was just about what he described it to me."
The reader is urged to turn to the appendix for the most important parts of the documentary evidence, especially the parts which the Un-American Committee suppressed-because this Un-American Committee, like its successors, the Dies Cornmittee, the Wood-Rankin Committee and the Thomas-Rankin Committee, have all been un-American, inasmuch as they have refused to take any action against Fascism and have, in fact, given Fascists the use of their organization as a forum to spread their ideas.
All these un-American Committees have the support of the major portion of the press. In the case of the Liberty League-Legion-Wall Street conspiracy to overthrow the United States Government, there was one of the most reprehensible conspiracies of silence in the long (and disgraceful) history of American journalism. The sensational value of the news - the main test in our country - can be judged even by the layman from the headlines and opening paragraphs which appeared in the Stern papers (Philadelphia Record, New York Post, and two Camden papers) at the time:
$3,000,000 BID FOR FASCIST ARMY BARED
by Paul Comly French
(Copyright [Nov. 20] 1934)
Major General Smedley D. Butler revealed today he has been asked by a group of wealthy New York brokers to lead a Fascist movement to set up a dictatorship in the United States.
General Butler, ranking major general of the Marine Corps up to his retirement three years ago, told his story today at a secret session of the Congressional Committee on un-American Activities.
Before he appeared before the committee, General Butler gave the (correspondent) a detailed account of the offer made to him.
"Of course I told the leaders of this Fascist movement that I wasn't interested in Fascism or in any other Ism," Butler said with characteristic vigor, "and that I wouldn't consider any such proposition.
"The whole affair smacked of treason to me."
He said he was approached by Gerald G. MacGuire, who is connected with the firm of Grayson M.-P. Murphy & Co., 52 Broadway, and asked to organize 500,000 veterans into a Fascist army.
"Shortly after MacGuire first came to see me," General Butler continued, "he arranged for Robert Sterling Clark, a New York broker, to come to my home at Newtown Square, Pa., to see me."
Clark, who maintains offices at 11 Wall Street, is reported to be worth more than $50,000,000.
General Butler outlined the details of the plan. He said MacGuire assured him "they have $3,000,000 'on the line' to start the organization. .
"The upshot of his proposition was that I was to head a soldier organization . . . in Washington (to) take over the functions of government.... MacGuire explained to me that they had two other candidates for the position of 'man on the white horse.' He said that if I did not accept, an offer would be made to General Douglas MacArthur, chief of staff of the United States Army, whose term of office expires November 22, and that the third choice would be Hanford MacNider, former commander of the American Legion. So far as I know, neither General MacArthur nor MacNider has been approached. Their names were merely mentioned as 'alternates.'
If the Un-American Committee wanted to get the whole truth, Butler testified, it should call Banker Murphy (Morgan banker, and treasurer of the Liberty League) Alfred E. Smith (of the Liberty League), General MacArthur, Legion Commander MacNider, and Giannini banker Frank N. Belgrano, and William Doyle, former Department Commander of the Legion in Massachusetts and one of the "Royal Family" or "king makers" of that organization. Apparently the Committee did not want to get the truth."
There was only one means by which General Butler could reach the public with the warning of what the Wall Street men, Liberty Leaguers and American Legion chiefs were planning. The General took to the air [i.e., to radio]. He said:
Do you think it could be hard to buy the American Legion for un-American activities? You know, the average veteran thinks the Legion is a patriotic organization to perpetuate the memories of the last war, an organization to promote peace, to take care of the wounded and to keep green the graves of those who gave their lives.
But is the American Legion that? No sir, not while it is controlled by the bankers. For years the bankers, by buying big club houses for various posts, by financing its beginning, and otherwise, have tried to make a strikebreaking organization of the Legion. The groups-the so-called Royal Family of the Legion-which have picked its officers for years, aren't interested in patriotism, in peace, in wounded veterans, in those who gave their lives. ... No, they are interested only in using the veterans, through their officers.
Why, even now, the commander of the American Legion is a banker-a banker who must have known what MacGuire's money was going to be used for. His name was mentioned in the testimony. Why didn't they call Belgrano and ask him why he contributed?
On another occasion General Butler concluded his exposé with the remark that: "I've never known one leader of the American Legion who has never sold them out." (New York Times, December 9, 1933.)
Smedley Butler was a great man. He was a Quaker. He had a conscience. He did his duty as a soldier in the Marines. He also wrote some years later:
"I spent 33 years (in the Marines) and during that period I spent most of my time 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 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."
And Fascist ideas, in 1934, "smacked of treason" to this grim and fighting Quaker.
A little more than a decade later the Liberty League was revived
under another patriotic name-American Action. But in the years
between, scores, perhaps hundreds of large and small organizations,
all of them devoted to special interests while pretending to function
for the general good, tried to enlist a popular following-they
already had the financial support of the old Liberty Leaguers.
A few of the most important are worth noting.
Appendix 21: The Fascist Plot Officially Confirmed
Union Calender No. 44
74th Congress House of Representatives Report
1st Session No. 153
Investigation of Nazi And Other Propaganda
February 15, 1935 - Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union and ordered to be printed Mr. McCormack, from the committee appointed to investigate Nazi and other propaganda, submitted the following:
(Pursuant to House Resolution No. 198, 73d Congress)
There have been isolated cases of activity by organizations which seemed to be guided by the fascist principle, which the committee investigated and found that they had made no progress. .
In the last few weeks of the committee's official life it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country.
No evidence was presented and this committee had none to show a connection between this effort and any fascist activity of any European country.
There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.
This committee received evidence from Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler (retired), twice decorated by the Congress of the United States. He testified before the committee as to conversations with one Gerald C. MacGuire in which the latter is alleged to have suggested the formation of a fascist army under the leadership of General Butler (p. 8-114 D.C. 6 II).
MacGuire denied these allegations under oath, but your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of MacGuire with his principal, Robert Sterling Clark, of New York City, while MacGuire was abroad studying the various forms of veterans' organizations of Fascist character (p. 111 D.C. 6 II).
The following is an excerpt from one of MacGuire's letters:
"I had a very interesting talk last evening with a man who is quite well up on affairs here and he seems to be of the opinion that the Croix de Feu will be very patriotic during this crisis and will take the cuts or be the moving spirit in the veterans to accept the cuts. Therefore they will, in all probability, be in opposition to the Socialists and functionaries. The general spirit among the functionaries seems to be that the correct way to regain recovery is to spend more money and increase wages, rather than to put more people out of work and cut salaries.
The Croix de Feu is getting a great number of new recruits, and I recently attended a meeting of this organization and was quite impressed with the type of men belonging. These fellows are interested only in the salvation of France, and I feel sure that the country could not be in better hands because they are not politicians, they are a cross-section of the best people of the country from all walks of life, people who gave their "all" between 1914 and 1918 that France might be saved, and I feel sure that if a crucial test ever comes to the Republic that these men will be the bulwark upon which France will be served.
There may be more uprisings, there may be more difficulties, but as is evidenced right now when the emergency arises and party difficulties are forgotten as far as France is concerned, and all become united in the one desire and purpose to keep this country as it is, the most democratic, and the country of the greatest freedom on the European Continent." (p.III D.C. 6 II).
This committee asserts that any efforts based on lies as suggested in the foregoing and leading off to the extreme right, are just as bad as efforts which would lead to the extreme left.
Armed forces for the purpose of establishing a dictatorship by means of Fascism or a dictatorship through the instrumentality of the proletariat, or a dictatorship predicated in part on racial and religious hatreds, have no place in this country.
Source: George Seldes, 1000 Americans, 1947.