National Commentary

When America Almost Went Fascist, Part 2

The attempted fascist coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt following his inauguration in 1933, as documented in Sally Denton’s new book, “The Plots Against the President: FDR, a Nation in Crisis and the Rise of the American Right,” had its roots in Wall Street, and was known in its day as the “Banker’s Plot.”

The clandestine plan fell apart when the man that Wall Street types had identified as their man for the job, the populist and charismatic Marine Gen. Smedley Butler, blew the whistle on it, giving the story to the newspapers and addressing a series of Congressional hearings.

FDR had more on his plate than he could handle at the time, trying to stem the amazingly destructive consequences of the Great Depression, and decided there would be no retaliation or recriminations.

But it’s true, there is nothing in the history books about this, unless you delve into the arcane catalogs of specialists. Don’t you think the average American should know how the nation’s financial elites were so willing to usurp the constitutional rights of its citizens in favor of a military police state?

It is not surprising that what we do learn about, instead, was the threat from the Soviet Union, of the Bolsheviks and communists infiltrating the labor unions and inciting civil unrest. That’s right, during the Great Depression it was the threat that hungry, unemployed working people represented which we were all taught was the biggest danger to our nation!

The “Banker’s Plot” to organize a half-million U.S. war veterans to march under Gen. Butler’s leadership onto Washington, D.C. in the Fall of 1933 was modeled on what the Italian Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, did in October 1922. He led a military contingent on a march into Rome to overthrow the prime minister, and without a shot being fired, he took over.

Mussolini, it must be noted, was a tool of the British secret service, the MI-5. He was financed for the start of his post-World War I political career with regular funds authorized by the British Conservative Party leader Sir Samuel Hoare.

That’s why his repression of dissent and elimination of free elections were looked on so favorably by political and business leaders not only in London, but in New York and Washington, D.C. too.

It is not known how much these same forces helped to fuel a climate of fear in the U.S. through the deployment of violent anarchists – espousing the same nihilistic, might-makes-right philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as Mussolini did, himself – to justify repressive measures against trade unions and other attempts of working people to act collectively in their self-interest. But there was a lot.

In his three-plus terms in the White House, FDR was not only able to hold fascists at bay in the U.S., but to drive a wedge between legitimate organized labor and subversive elements from the also-totalitarian U.S.S.R. as well as the many anarchist agents provocateurs financed by the ruling class.

Following his death in 1945 and the formation of the United Nations, FDR’s formidable wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, went on to help found the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a progressive, pro-labor but anti-communist organization. Then she organized the U.N. to adopt the visionary “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man” in 1948, which passed unanimously with all Soviet bloc nations abstaining.

In all this, she clashed fiercely with the post-World War II incarnation of the “Banker’s Plotters,” the Liberty League types that included Sen. Joe McCarthy and his repressive anti-communist witch hunts.

But the “Bankers Plotters” have never relented in their opposition to everything FDR and Eleanor achieved, working tirelessly to undo all their enduring achievements.

So nowadays, it doesn’t necessarily take a military coup to achieve their goals. Maybe they can be accomplished by five justices on a U.S. Supreme Court willing to install a war-profiteer puppet in the White House, to enfranchise the rich to pour unlimited funds to elect their preferred candidates, and to overturn the so-called “individual mandate” component of health care reform in a manner that will achieve the necessary precedent to dismantle FDR’s Social Security system and its follow-on Medicare.