Prior to the Great Depression, the world’s financial institutions and industrialists had most everything going their way. Still living in the gilded age, they had been able to stave off labor unions by exercising all of the power their money could muster. But when the stock market crashed and Herbert Hoover failed to right the ship of state, things changed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace, led a new movement intended to help the common men and women who were out of work and out of money. This didn’t sit well with the wealthy financiers on Wall Street who had visions of turning America into a fascist government based on those of Germany and Italy.
Even before FDR’s inauguration, they struck.
Though ties to the nation’s elite were never proven, it seems clear that they had hired a lone assassin to shoot the president-elect at a public speech. But, thanks to a woman in the crowd who spoiled the shooter’s aim, FDR escaped unharmed as the bullets struck five members of his party, eventually leading to the death of the mayor of Chicago.
Then, when FDR abandoned the gold standard at the behest of manufacturers whose foreign customers could no longer afford their products, Wall Street went nuts. They believed their wealth and investments would be devalued. Almost immediately, they began seeking new ways to remove FDR from office, eventually settling on the so-called “Business Plot” involving an army of 500,000 veterans under their employ. The army was recruited from the right-wing American Legion that had already been used to beat back (quite literally) the labor union movement. The plan was for Wall Street’s army to march to the White House where it would capture FDR and replace the democratically-elected government with a business-friendly government that would mirror Mussolini’s fascist government of Italy.
The fact that Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were Nazi sympathizers has been long established. But they represented just the tip of the iceberg. Other fascist supporters included the leader of the American Legion and many of J.P. Morgan’s allies, including Prescott Bush (father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush), George Herbert Walker (Prescott Bush’s father-in-law), Irenee du Pont, and many others. And, though Bush and Walker escaped the embarrassment of an investigation and trial, it seems clear that they helped finance the Axis war machine even after the US declared war following Pearl Harbor.
As outrageous as it may seem, the Business Plot likely would have succeeded had the plotters not sought the help of Major General Smedley Butler. A lifelong Republican and loyal patriot, Butler played along with the plotters only long enough to take names before exposing the plot. Of course, many later dismissed the plot as a hoax, but the fact remains that the final report from a congressional committee stated: “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.” Further, the report stated that “the 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.” However, that statement was later corroborated in written correspondence from one of the plot’s leaders, Gerald C. MacGuire.
Yet, even though the plot was acknowledged to be a real threat, congressional hearings on the matter refused to release the names of the conspirators revealed by Butler, and Congress dragged out the proceedings long enough to allow Wall Street’s propaganda machine to gloss over the coup attempt.
Although details and the names of those behind the coup attempt were eventually exposed, and FDR was re-elected two times, it appears that the idea of a hostile takeover of our government never faded from the minds of some of America’s wealthiest families. But, instead of relying on an army of veterans to help them pursue their goals, it seems that the fascists have chosen, instead, to rely on something more familiar and trustworthy…money.
I’m referring, of course, to the global industrialists who profited from the Nixon administration, the large manufacturers who were able to beat back labor unions with help from the Reagan administration, and the interests of Big Oil, military contractors and private equity firms that profited handsomely during the Bush/Cheney administration. Of course, these big money interests had a setback in 2008 and 2012 when President Obama defeated their preferred candidates. But they most certainly haven’t given up.
They not only have a sympathetic majority of the Supreme Court, which ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations have the rights of individuals and that there should be no limits on political donations. They have control of the American propaganda machine, otherwise known as mass media. And thanks to the billions in dark money laundered through a complex network of non-profit “education” organizations, they have retaken control of Congress where Teapublicans are gleefully working to pay back their masters by attempting to deregulate Wall Street, defund the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, gut the Environmental Protection Agency and nullify the Dept. of Labor. They even want to eliminate the Dept. of Education (likely on the premise that an educated and informed citizenry is a threat to their rule).
There’s an old adage that tells us the best way to uncover corruption is to follow the money. That’s especially true when it comes to politics.
For more information about the Business Plot, check out the link to a segment on National Public Radio.