Minister Freeland's Grandfather,
"It takes a village to raise a Nazi" (old African proverb, slightly modified)
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This issue (#68) deals with the mass internment of Ukrainian Canadians, this community's left-right split and the mainstream racist, xenophobic anti-communism of progressive "Social Gospellers" (like the CCF's J.S. Woodsworth) who were so captivated by their false beliefs that they carried out the genocide of First Nations and turned a blind eye to government repression during the 20th-century "Red Scare."
Citigroup's entry into this discussion makes a good segue into some generalised concluding remarks about how banks, the mass media, industries, governments and military forces have worked together in vast institutionalised confidence programs to assist in the creation and sustenance of plutocracies. This discussion is also useful in moving us towards a better understanding of how ordinary people who are compartmentalised within these large institutions ‑ while staying calm and carrying on in their mundane careers ‑ can be so entranced by a cause, movement, organisation or ideology that they can become complicit in crimes, up to and including genocide. Finally, we have to understand that collaboration with the Nazi cause was not just a social psychosis that occurred in Europe, it also ravaged North America as well, and Citigroup was right in the thick of it.
The ability to pull off any confidence scam ‑ whether on an individual or social level ‑ hinges on one thing, gaining the mark's confidence. Once their trust is acquired, the next task is to get the target to hand over whatever assets are being sought. Often, especially with individual grifters, the desired asset is simply the victim's money. But with institutionalised confidence programs, where a whole social group, class or nation is being targeted, the goal is much more complex. Sometimes mass, institutionalised confidence schemes are aimed at getting people's votes. Other such con games are designed to rally the marks into supporting an organisation or movement ‑ whether religious, political, nationalistic or military. Such institutionalised confidence scams aim high. They may essentially want people to hand over not just pocket change, but a life-long commitment, or even a willingness to die or kill for the confidence institution's righteous cause.
It is ironic that in her 2012 book, Plutocrats, Freeland encouraged readers to join her in placing confidence in what she promoted as that "elite team of strategists at Citicorp."[i] That year marked exactly two centuries since this American bank's creation in 1812. That is when it began profiting from the war of 1812 in which the Americans fought with Britain over their colonies in Canada. By 1912, because it was by then America's largest bank, political pressure had forced the City Bank of New York (as it was then called) to sell off all of its domestic holdings. So, by 1929, after going global, the City Bank had branches in twenty Latin American, European and Asian countries.[ii] Like Freeland, with her Ukrainian grandfather, Citigroup's heritage is now infamous for having aided and abetted Nazism. In Citigroup's case its deep complicity with Nazism came through dealings with such corporations as General Aniline & Film, International Telephone & Telegraph, the Swedish Enskilda Bank and I.G. Farben.[iii]
Let's just look at Citibank's links to I.G. Farben and how this relates to the globalisation of institutionalised confidence schemes. On April 2, 1929, the National City Bank of New York ‑ through its investment banking affiliate, the National City Company ‑ established the American I.G. Chemical Corp.[iv] This was done on behalf of Germany's largest war profiteer, I.G. Farben. It was also Europe's largest company and the world's largest chemical maker. I.G. Farben had manufactured chemicals for the production of Germany's gunpowder and TNT throughout WWI.
Two days after the creation of American I.G., on April 26, 1929, "an advertisement appeared in the financial sections of the leading American newspapers" to promote the sale of American I.G. bonds worth $30 million. (That is the equivalent of $426 million in 2017 dollars.[v]) "Before the morning of the offering was over," says Joseph Borkin, "the entire issue was sold."[vi] Borkin, a lawyer with the US Department of Justice, was responsible for prosecuting thirteen I.G. Farben officials in the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials of 1947. The crimes for which they were found guilty included using slave labour from the Auschwitz death camp and producing the odourless Zyclon gas which Nazi extermination camps used in the mass murder of Jews.
Hermann Schmitz, the president of American I.G., received a mere six-year sentence for his crimes. It was a steep fall from the early 1930s when Schmitz travelled around the world as a special advisor to Heinrich Brüning, the Chancellor of Germany (1930-1932), for meetings with various heads of state. Schmitz was even present for a meeting at the White House with US President Herbert Hoover.[vii]
Why were US capitalists so confident in I.G. Farben that they would hand over almost half a billion dollars in one morning? "To inspire investor confidence," explained Borkin, "the board of directors of American I.G. included four impressive figures from American industry and finance": a member of the Warburg banking family, and top officials from Standard Oil, Ford and National City Bank.[viii] But American oligarchs, many of whom ardently supported fascist goals, methods and ideologies, weren't just investing in a company, they were investing in a political dream.
Many American oligarchs wanted to support Germany in a global cause that they had confidence in. They saw the rise of Nazism under Hitler as a good thing, and they had confidence that he would succeed. The Nazi Party had joined a coalition of rightwing groups in October 1928; Goebbels had taken over the Nazi's propaganda machine in November; Hitler was becoming a household name in Germany thanks to widespread mainstream newspaper coverage; His second volume of Mein Kampf had been published in December; and Himmler had begun leading and strengthening the SS in January. Meanwhile in America, President Hoover, an ultrarightwing Republican businessman had just been inaugurated on March 4, 1929.
All this built the oligarch's confidence in Germany and its growing Nazi movement. As a result, the Nazi party was making breakthroughs in soliciting support from bankers and wealthy businessmen in Germany, America and elsewhere. The Nazi's fed the dreams of their oligarchic backers with confident promises that upon taking power they would smash European communism. Hoover, like other US oligarchs, had lost lucrative corporate assets in Russia because of the 1917 revolution. He, and others in his class of wealthy bankers and businessmen, had for decades been anxious to see Soviet communism smashed. They had, for example, supported the west's military intervention against the Soviets when troops from a dozen foreign countries (including the UK, US, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Japan) had sent more than 100,000 soldiers to intervene in the Russian civil war (1917-1925). The rise of Hitler's Nazi Party inspired the confidence of oligarchs around the world that a final solution to their communist problem might soon be realised.
In the early 1930s, the National City Bank of New York (today's Citigroup) was exposed as a puppet master behind US military interventions in the Caribbean. The American patriot who outed this bank was one of the country's most remarkable whistleblowers, US Major General Smedley Butler. In 1934, after an illustrious, 33-year career with the US Marines, in which he had won two Congressional Medals of Honour, Butler testified before a US House Committee on "Nazi Propaganda Activities." In his testimony Butler named several lawyers, bankers and businessmen (linked to oligarchs J.P.Morgan and du Pont) who had approached him in 1933 with the idea of recruiting his support for a fascist coup against Hoover's successor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[ix] By 1935, Butler ‑ who was still America's most popular military leader ‑ had become an outspoken opponent of American imperialism and foreign military interventionism. He spoke with great confidence and authority about the collaboration between large corporations and the US military when saying:
"I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested....
"I had, as
the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket.... I might have
given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket
in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents...."[x]
Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich
and the Fall of Everyone Else, 2012.
[iii] This book has more 17 references to how the National City Bank of New York helped the Nazis rally money for their cause.
Trading with the Enemy: An Exposé of the Nazi-American Money Plot,
Press for Conversion! Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism
(Richard Sanders, ed.), March 2004.
For the testimony and evidence collected by Congress into the fascist coup plot exposed by Maj-Gen.S.D.Butler, see:
Investigation of Nazi propaganda activities and investigation of certain other propaganda activities, Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, November 24, 1934.