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Review: 'The Plot Against America' by Philip Roth

A review of Philip Roth's new novel, 'The Plot Against America', which is about what might have happened if F.D. Roosevelt had been defeated in 1940 by the anti-war aviator Charles Lindbergh.
Review: 'The Plot Against America' by Philip Roth
published by Houghton Miffin, New York, 2004

I like Philip Roth's robust writing style. It reminds me of Hemingway and Miller. There is a connection between attitude and style. Honesty isn't as easy as we like to think. Roth's strength has always been honesty about sex, violence, and family life. There is a shadow of this honesty in this novel, but this shadow is overshadowed by an agenda. This leads to bad politics and plot.

'The Plot Against America' is about what might have happened if the anti-war aviator Charles Lindbergh had stood against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 and won the presidency: the US government negotiates with Nazi Germany and persecutes Jews, including Philip Roth's family. Before Pearl Harbor, there was a conservative isolationist movement in the USA consisting of Americans who didn't see why they should die in wars between European powers. Roosevelt did see why, and he won the 1940 election and pushed America into war.

This novel tries to convince us that 'War is Peace'. Roosevelt, the man who supported Britain's declaration of war on Germany by supplying her with guns, who provoked the Japanese, who used every trick in the book to drag a reluctant America into a massacre, is tarted up as a good guy, whereas Lindbergh, who wanted to keep America out of the war, is an accomplice of Nazi aggression.

It is true that Lindbergh was anti-semitic. He was also anti-black and anti-Asian. Anti-semitism is taken out of context, arbitrarily separated from other prejudices and given special importance. It never occurs to Roth to step outside of being Jewish and take a more generically human perspective. I know this is possible, as I've done it myself. I could use my own family's experience to excuse support for the Allied side during World War II - my mother was a refugee from German bombing - but I have risen above this and adopted a more balanced view. Both sides committed war crimes on an unimaginable scale. There is nothing to choose between Germany and Russia, Japan and America, Fascism and Democracy. Whining about the Nazis when you support the Allies is chutzpah. On page thirteen, Roth is outraged that Lindbergh accuses the Jews of supporting war. On page fifteen, he describes his Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey as being one hundred percent pro-Roosevelt - in other words, pro-war!

To his credit, Roth reproduces one of Lindbergh's actual speeches in an appendix. Lindbergh argued that both the British and Jewish 'races' had good reasons for wanting America to enter the war, but that Americans had equally good reasons for staying out (page 388). A bit archaic, but not quite the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Lindbergh believed in the significance of race. So did almost everyone at the time. Today, only the American left still considers race important. Roosevelt supported the Eugenics movement which led to the sterilization of perhaps 60,000 people. There's not much to choose between Lindbergh and Roosevelt in racism. But in Roth's imaginary 1940 election, there was one significant difference. Lindbergh was against war.

I regard Roosevelt as the greatest war criminal in history - greater even than Stalin or Hitler. It was Britain which started world war two, the worst conflict in history, by declaring war on Germany. Chamberlain announced 'this country is now at war with Germany' as though it were a fait accompli and he could do nothing about it. He claimed he had to attack Germany because Germany attacked Poland. Bad luck Poland, but is it my problem? In any case, Russia also attacked Poland a few days later, and Chamberlain didn't declare war on Russia. On the contrary, Britain allied herself with a country similar to Nazi Germany. Even an average person, stupified by democracy, should be able to see the absurdity of allying with Stalin against Hitler. Stalin also murdered millions of people in concentration camps, but not many of them were Jewish, so it's OK. Britain found itself batting from a sticky wicket, and called on the colonies. Faithful retainer Franklin D. Roosevelt supplied arms - an act of war - and risked American merchant seamen's lives among the U-boats. Pearl Harbor is still a hotly contested topic today. There is no room here to go into it, but it was certainly not an unprovoked attack. But Roosevelt's greatest crime was this: in 1943 he persuaded Churchill to adopt the policy of 'unconditional surrender'. This was his offer to Hitler and Tojo: "Here's the deal - you surrender, we occupy your countries, then we hang you". This insanity prolonged the war and condemned millions to death.

Roth makes some good points about the futility of compromise, about the need to stand up to violence, about the cowardly tendency we all have to blame the victim. The journalist Walter Winchell is accused by more moderate Jews of 'playing into the hands' of anti-semites by being too extreme. A common mistake. Always defend extremists on your own side. Grovelling to authority gets the Jewish leaders as little as it got Yasir `Arafat. There is a clear analogy between the Jews who collaborate with Lindbergh's regime and European Jews who thought they could ingratiate themselves with the Nazis. Chief among these were the Zionists (see Lenni Brenner -  http://www.marxists.de/middleast/brenner). For some reason, Roth misses the opportunity to discredit Zionists by imagining them collaborating with an anti-semitic American government.

As a child, Roth is acutely aware that an African American was featured on a postage stamp before a Jew, and that there was only one Jewish baseball player in 1942. He is right to say there was anti-semitism in pre-war America, but he takes it out of context. There was all sorts of racism. The biggest lynching in American history claimed the lives of eleven Italians ( http://www.niaf.org/milestones/year_1891.asp). But anyone with a brain, and a heart, can see that the overwhelming racism issue in the USA is anti-black racism. Roth ignores this completely. This is not only politically insensitive, it leads to some implausible events. He imagines anti-Jewish riots with the complicity of Lindbergh's government. Jews are attacked in their cars driving through the midwest. But hang on a minute - how do the rednecks know they are Jews? Perhaps this is one of the reasons racism tends to focus on black people - they're easy to spot. Roth views the Ku Klux Klan and other American racist organizations as being primarily anti-semitic. This is not true.

Jewish identity colors his view of the whole world. On page 157, he describes with horror Japan's 1942 offensive in the Pacific. Doesn't he know that the British and the Americans also ruled with 'all the righteous cruelty of the racially superior', from the Philipines to Tasmania? The Japanese showed that racism is not the prerogative of the white man. Roth could easily see this, but his typically Jewish obsession with the evils of Nazism leads to a similar one-sidedness in his view of Germany's ally.

It is well known that the Allies did nothing to stop the Germans killing Jewish and other civilians. They could have bombed the railroads leading to the concentration camps, but instead, bombed German cities, adding to the holocaust rather than subtracting from it. I don't know if this made German anti-semitism worse, but certainly, bombing doesn't bring out the best in people. Take my family for example. They still think Roosevelt was a good guy.

Towards the end of the novel, Roth's hypersensitivity gets the better of him, and the novel races from plausibility to paranoia and unintended comedy. Not satisfied with amalgamating anti-war conservatives with pro-Nazis, he throws in the whole history of anti-semitism. Lindbergh's government ends up not only taking orders from the Nazis, but spreading old Russian stories about child sacrifices and so on. I won't spoil the reader's enjoyment by telling how Roth explains the true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I will reveal that he tries to get his revenge on the Germans by imagining them committing crimes as fantastic as any that anyone has alleged against the Jews.

'The Plot Against America' is a fun read, and deservedly popular. I expect most of its readers agree with its pro-war politics. Yet its timing is odd. Fascism in America today hasn't come from the isolationist right, but from the war party, subordinated to Israel by the American Jewish lobby. The continuing importance of world war two is illustrated by the fact that 'appeasement' is used to insult opponents of the 'war on terror'. The answer to these taunts should be that appeasement was right then, and it's right now. It's close to the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the second world war. It's a tribute to the propaganda machine in which Roth is a small wheel that most people see Roosevelt as a hero. But we have our media too - Antiwar.com being the most prominent. One day, we'll bury the war party and burn their flag.

Jay Knott, Thanksgiving, 2004

Lindbergh Was a Nazi Sympathizer 27.Nov.2004 19:22

Bakunin

Check into your history about Lindbergh and quit perpetuating the anti-semeitc argument that it's a "Jewish lobby" that motivates US policy in Isreal. It's geo-politics moron.

looking at phillip roth... 28.Nov.2004 11:28

avid reader

if you look at phillip roth, this premise isn't very surprising. "american pastoral" follows the life of a Sweedish American through viatnam and his daughter's anti-war activities. roth, a pulitizer prize winner, isn't liked on the left for his politics so much as his story-telling abilities and his ability to create sympathy for commonly unsympathetic characters (i.e. the factory owner in "american pastoral.")

part of his angle is his focus on being jewish. i actually just reread "portnoy's complaint" which is lewd and offensive, about the need for a jewish man to "conquer" non-jewish women.

writing a reaction to a single one of his books seems out of place to me. it's his entire deal that you have an issue with. and that's fine, but i doubt roth has an agenda releasing this book now anymore than he ever has.

and also, one of my favorite all time stories is phillip k. dick's "the man in the high castle" which is based on the idea that the nazis won and took over. i think roth's new book is more a play on that book (or daniel quinn's "after dachau") than anything else.

i would, instead of being shocked that someone who has consistently written books with sympathy to the right released another one, wonder where all the good fiction propoting the left's point of view is.

FDR 28.Nov.2004 12:43

Marmot

There was an attempt by corperations to forcefully overthrow the united states government, and institute totalitarian corperate control. It was lobbied against FDR. See the movie "the corperation" for more info.

As for the question of a peaceful response to facists, I don't think it works. Non-violent tactics rely on your opponant having a degree of sympathy, or human empathy for you. Facism as a distinct moral ideology is about delibrately striping oneself of this set of emotional responses.
I believe that facism is a ideology in and of itself, and disagree with any analasis that purports that facism is a isolated "nazi" phenomina. I am sickened at how people that analize the allied campaign against germany attempt to isolate facism in this way. This "We were reacting, so anything goes" is symptomatic of US "Geo-political" analasis in general. Some people call this attitude "white burden." I think this denys the responsability of all americans to confront facist control in america.

As for a "jewish conspiracy," racist white seperatists believe in a plot by jewish people to dominate the world. Yet there are jews forcefully confronting facist control in the state of isreal. Does this pale in comparison to the resistance of the palastinian people? Yes, but it is an important and meaningful part of this conflict. Many jews have demanded withdrawl, and continue to do so. The facists in power in america's government want a "geo-political" foothold in the region. As far as the jewish people go they could give a fuck less. If they did care about the jewish, and palastinian people they'd stop giving isreal more arms aid than any other country in the world, and demand settlement withdrawl. No, facists in american power are using jews in isreal. Just as white seperatist groups are clouding this conflict, they openly enjoy, in conspiracy. None of these shell games, or the reaction to them confront the real problem of the ingraned culture of facism in american, and isreali politics.

Blanket denials don't work. Both governments are dominated by massivly funded, facist elements, to the detriment of all our peoples.

1934 plot to overthrow Roosevelt. 28.Nov.2004 13:06

Clayton Cramer

 http://www.claytoncramer.com/amcoup.html

This appears pretty much the way it did in the November, 1995 History Today.

An American Coup d'État?

Some Americans regard our country as superior to other nations because we don't change governments by coup d'état - and we never have. Perhaps because of our long tradition of power changing hands by election, we regard our nation as immune to the use of force for political purposes. True, assassins have killed four of our Presidents, but these deaths did not lead to turmoil and chaos; the government followed well-established procedures for transferring control to the men previously elected Vice President. Unlike other nations where assassination often leads to civil war, the United States has avoided this.

How different is America from nations where political power comes quite directly "from the barrel of a gun"? A curious footnote to American history suggests that, except for the personal integrity of a remarkable American general, a coup d'état intended to remove President Franklin D. Roosevelt from office in 1934 might have plunged America into civil war.

The General

This remarkable man was Smedley Darlington Butler, retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General. Butler is the sort of person for whom the word "colorful" is woefully inadequate. Butler won America's highest military award for bravery (the Congressional Medal of Honor) twice. His style of warfare was unusual not only for his personal courage, but for the energy he put into avoiding bloodshed when it was possible to achieve his aims in other ways. Not surprisingly, this engendered a remarkable loyalty among the men who served under him - and that loyalty was why certain men asked Butler to lead a military attack on Washington, D.C., with the goal of capturing President Roosevelt.

Butler was more than a remarkable soldier. He served as police commissioner of Philadelphia during 1924-25 (on loan from the Marines), in an attempt to enforce Prohibition. While the effort was a failure, his insistence on enforcing the law against wealthy partygoers as well as poor immigrants established his reputation as a man of high integrity. He was not universally loved, but he was widely respected.

Butler is best remembered today for his oft-quoted statement in the socialist newspaper Common Sense in 1935:

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 1909-12. 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.... Looking back on it, I felt I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.

In War Is A Racket, Butler argued for a powerful navy, but one prohibited from traveling more than 200 miles from the U.S. coastline. Military aircraft could travel no more than 500 miles from the U.S. coast, and the army would be prohibited from leaving the United States. Butler also proposed that all workers in defense industries, from the lowest laborer to the highest executive, be limited to "$30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get." He also proposed that a declaration of war should be passed by a plebiscite in which only those subject to conscription would be eligible to vote.

From 1935 through 1937, Butler was a spokesman for the League Against War and Fascism, a Communist-dominated organization of the time. He also participated in the Third U.S. Congress Against War and Fascism, sharing the platform with well-known leftists of the era, including Langston Hughes, Heywood Broun, and Roger Baldwin. When the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) threatened the collapse of the Soviet-supported Spanish government, the League's pacifism evaporated, and they supported intervention. Butler, however, remained true to his belief in non-interventionism: "What the hell is it our business what's going on in Spain?" But before Butler became involved in these causes, he had already exposed a fascist plot against his own government.

The Plot

Butler had friends in the press and Congress, so he could not be ignored when he came forward in late 1934 with a tale of conspiracy against President Roosevelt, in which he had been asked to take a leading role. At first glance, Butler seems an unlikely candidate for such a position. While Butler was a Republican, in 1932 he campaigned for Roosevelt, calling himself a "Republican-for-Ex-President Hoover." (Butler had a poor relationship with Hoover going back to their time together during the Boxer Rebellion.)

But there were good reasons why someone seeking to overthrow the U.S. government would have wanted Butler involved. Butler was a powerful symbol to many American soldiers and veterans - an enlisted man's general, one that spoke out for their interests while on active duty, and after retirement. Butler would have attracted men to his cause that would not otherwise have participated in a march on Washington.

Butler would have been a good choice also because of his military skills. His personal courage and tactical skill would have made him a powerful commander of an irregular army. Finally, his ties of friendship to many officers still on active duty might have undermined military opposition to his force, as friends and colleagues sought to avoid a direct confrontation with him.

Another reason that the plotters might have approached such an unlikely candidate was that Butler was not regarded as a great intellect. After World War I, the Marine Corps had began to emphasize a new college-educated professionalism. Butler, one of the less educated "bushwhacker" generals, might have seemed easy to manipulate.

Butler testified that bond trader Gerald MacGuire had approached him in the summer of 1933. MacGuire claimed to represent wealthy Wall Street broker Grayson Murphy, Singer sewing machine heir Robert Sterling Clark, and other unnamed men of wealth. They asked Butler to speak publicly on behalf of the gold standard, recently abandoned by President Roosevelt. MacGuire's rationale for why Butler should ally himself with the gold standard cause was that the veterans of World War I were due a bonus in 1945. As MacGuire told Butler, "We want to see the soldiers' bonus paid in gold. We do not want the soldier to have rubber money or paper money."

It appears that the plotters underestimated Butler's intelligence and character. When this explanation failed to persuade Butler, MacGuire and Clark offered him money, abandoning any pretense of civic-mindness. Butler's sense of honor prevented him from speaking in favor of any policy for mercenary reasons.

MacGuire eventually told Butler their real goal. MacGuire asked Butler to lead an army of 500,000 veterans in a march on Washington, D.C. The stated mission was to protect Roosevelt from other plotters, and install a "secretary of general welfare" to "take all the worries and details off of his shoulders... " But Butler saw through their supposed concern for Roosevelt. He testified before Congress that he told MacGuire:

[M]y interest is, my one hobby is, maintaining a democracy. If you get these 500,000 soldiers advocating anything smelling of Fascism, I am going to get 500,000 more and lick the hell out of you, and we will have a real war right at home....

Yes; and then you will put somebody in there you can run; is that the idea? The President will go around and christen babies and dedicate bridges, and kiss children. Mr. Roosevelt will never agree to that himself.

Butler eventually deduced that the real goal was a coup d'état to take Roosevelt captive, and force reinstatement of the gold standard, the loss of which many wealthy Americans feared would lead to rapid inflation. The plotters would keep Roosevelt as a figurehead until he could be "encouraged" to retire.

That MacGuire had significant financial backing behind him seems clear, considering the substantial bank savings books he showed to Butler. What remains unclear is whether the names MacGuire dropped (other than Robert Sterling Clark) were really involved, or whether MacGuire was a con man.

MacGuire's claims and financial resources alone did not convince Butler that such a conspiracy actually existed. The fulfillment of a series of startling predictions by MacGuire did finally persuade Butler that there was more than just hot air involved. MacGuire knew in advance of significant personnel changes in the White House. He correctly predicted the formation of the American Liberty League (the major conservative opposition to Roosevelt), and the principal players in it. Especially disturbing was that many of the supposed backers of the plot were also members of the League. MacGuire's claim that the League ("villagers in the opera" of the scheme, in MacGuire's words) was part of the plot could not be easily dismissed.

The American Liberty League was a successor to the highly successful Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, the lobbying organization responsible for the repeal of the "Noble Experiment." From its formation in 1918 until 1926, the AAPA made little progress, at least partly because it had little money. But in 1926, money poured into the AAPA from some of America's wealthiest men, including Pierre, Irenee, and Lammot du Pont, John J. Raskob, and Charles H. Sabin. The AAPA spent its new found wealth on distribution of literature, and on the formation of a bewildering number of associated organizations. These associated organizations gave the impression of a grassroots movement, rather than a collection of millionaires feeding press releases to friendly newspapers. The AAPA also rapidly took control of the Democratic Party, with one of their supporters, Al Smith, receiving the 1928 Democratic Presidential nomination. While AAPA had powerful friends within the Republican Party, they never achieved control of it.

The AAPA's motivations were a mixture of idealism and pragmatism. The stated concern was that Prohibition had done serious damage to the principle of federalism - that the federal government's authority did not include the police powers used to enforce Prohibition. But it appears that this was not the only motivation, or even the reason most important to the men who funded the AAPA. Like many other Americans, these business leaders "found themselves unable to gratify what seemed a natural, more or less innocent, desire without breaking a law" (i.e., the consumption of alcoholic beverages). To suddenly find themselves among the criminal classes was not pleasant to a group who had always thought of themselves as law-abiding and respectable members of American society. There is also strong evidence that the backers of the AAPA saw Repeal as a method of reducing income and corporate taxes, by taxing alcoholic beverages instead.

The AAPA went out of business at the end of 1933, with the end of Prohibition. But within a year, from the same offices, with most of the same backers, many of the same employees, and much of the same style, it reappeared as the American Liberty League. Throughout the next six years, it led the fight against the New Deal, arguing that much of Roosevelt's program was contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. In an age when Hitler and Mussolini had commandeered extraordinary economic powers, the fears that the American Liberty League expressed about Roosevelt's vaguely similar gathering of economic power could not be summarily dismissed.

The League, in spite of its impressive resources, was rapidly made to appear "ridiculous or dangerous" or both by the Roosevelt Administration. Most importantly, the leadership of the League was largely rich men. The Depression-era gap between rich and poor had become too wide, too obvious, and too painful for the League to be credible to the majority of Americans. Butler's testimony before Congress claimed that some of the people associated with the League were the very ones that had approached him - including Grayson Murphy, the League's treasurer.

In the depths of the Great Depression, in that nadir of despair before Roosevelt gave his stirring first inaugural address in 1933, America was awash in political groups identifying in greater or lesser degrees with communism or fascism. Rep. Samuel Dickstein (D-NY), concerned about the threat of such groups, persuaded the House of Representatives to create the Special Committee to Investigate Nazi Propaganda Activities in the United States. This committee investigated Butler's charges in late 1934.

MacGuire, not surprisingly, denied that such a plot existed. Instead, he claimed his activities had been political lobbying to preserve the gold standard, but he quickly destroyed his credibility as a witness by giving contradictory testimony. While the final report agreed with Butler that there was evidence of a coup d'état plot against Roosevelt, no further action was taken on it. The Committee's authority to subpoena witnesses expired at the end of 1934, and the Justice Department started no criminal investigation.

Part of the reason for the lack of prosecution of the alleged plotters may have been the untimely death of the only man who could have testified against the rest: Gerald MacGuire. He died at age 37 from complications of pneumonia, less than a month after the Committee released its report. MacGuire's physician claimed that his death was partly the result of the stress of the charges made by Butler, but there is no reason to assume that MacGuire's death was in any way suspicious.

The Committee's report excluded many of the most embarrassing names given by MacGuire, and repeated by Butler. MacGuire had claimed that 1928 Democratic President candidate Al Smith, General Hugh Johnson (head of Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration), General Douglas MacArthur, and a number of other generals and admirals were privy to the plot. Since Butler had no evidence of their involvement, other than MacGuire's claims, it was certainly reasonable for the Committee to exclude these details from the final report as "certain immaterial and incompetent evidence." But in conjunction with MacGuire's apparent advance knowledge of the details of internal White House staff activities, it certainly suggests that if a coup was planned, it had significant support within the Roosevelt Administration.

The News Media Downplays The Plot

The news media gave an inappropriately small amount of attention to the report. Time magazine ridiculed Butler's claims. The week following Butler's testimony, Time described it as a "Plot Without Plotters," simply because the alleged plotters claimed innocence. But Time admitted that Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James Van Zandt confirmed that he, too, had been approached to lead such a march on Washington.

The leftist magazine New Masses carried an article by John Spivak that included wild claims of "Jewish financiers working with fascist groups." Spivak's article spun an elaborate web involving the American Jewish Congress, the Warburg family, "which originally financed Hitler," the Hearst newspaper chain, the Morgan banking firm, the du Ponts, a truly impressive list of prominent American Jewish businessmen, and Nazi spies! Spivak's article raised some disturbing and legitimate questions about why much of Butler's testimony was left out of the final committee report. But these important concerns were seriously undermined by Spivak's paranoid ravings. The left-of-center magazines Nation and New Republic were unconcerned about it, since in their view "fascism originated in pseudoradical mass movements," and therefore could not come from a wealthy cabal.

Newspaper descriptions of the final report are also astonishing for how lightly most treated it. A New York Times article about subversion and foreign agitators started on the front page, but gave only two paragraphs to the coup plot inside the paper. "It also alleged that definite proof has been found that the much publicized Fascist march on Washington... was actually contemplated." It was not a major story.

The San Francisco Chronicle took the story more seriously. The only headline with a larger type size that day concerned the recent fatal crash of the airship Macon. The Chronicle carried an Associated Press story headlined, "Justice Aids Probe Butler Fascist Story." The first five paragraphs were devoted to Butler's allegations. The Chronicle quoted the Committee report that it "was able to verify all the pertinent statements by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting creation of the organization."

A third newspaper sampled showed an even more astonishing lack of interest than the New York Times: the Sacramento Bee used a substantially different Associated Press wire story that emphasized propaganda efforts by foreign agents. Another AP wire story, at the bottom of page five, described Butler's allegations, taking the Committee's report at face value. This wire story includes the comforting knowledge that the committee found "no evidence to show a connection between this effort" and any foreign government.

An apparently serious effort to overthrow the government, perhaps with the support of some of America's wealthiest men, largely substantiated by a Congressional committee, was mostly ignored. Why? Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, wrote a book in 1939 about the concentration of American journalism. He claimed that, "In 1934, 82 per cent of all dailies had a complete monopoly in their communities." Newspaper chains, in Ickes' view, "control a dangerously large share of the national daily circulation and in many cities have no competition."

Ickes' book was largely devoted to proving that the major newspapers of the United States were intentionally distorting the news, and in some cases, directly lying. Ickes argued that newspaper editors did so in the interests of both their advertisers and in defense of the capitalist class. Ickes mentioned the Liberty League as one of the "propaganda outfits" who were allied with the major newspapers. Indeed,the New York Times, one of the papers that had downplayed the Committee's report, had editorialized in favor of the Liberty League's formation.

Did newspapers and magazines onsciously play down the plot, because it represented an embarrassment to people of influence? Or did editors simply give it low visibility because they regarded it as an absurd story?

We must consider another disturbing possibility. Butler was associated with the loose alliance of progressive and populist forces that were dragging Roosevelt towards the left. It is easy to forget that for much of Roosevelt's first term as President from 1932-36, he was the rope in a tug of war between conservative and progressive forces in America. The popularity of men such as Senator Huey Long (D-Louisiana) and the nationally known radio priest Father Coughlin-and the need to short-circuit their rising political power-appears to have caused Roosevelt's increasingly leftward movement in 1935-36.

Is it possible that Butler concocted this story as a way of creating animosity towards conservatives by Roosevelt? If Butler had lied to the Committee, and no such conspiracy was ever planned, why did MacGuire apparently perjure himself before the Committee? Or, alternatively, could leftward leaning members of the Roosevelt Administration have manipulated Butler into believing that such a plot actually existed as a way of creating animosity towards conservatives, thus dragging Roosevelt to the left? Either theory could explain why MacGuire, Murphy, Clark, or the other supposed plotters were never prosecuted.

Yet another possibility (though less likely) is that there was no prosecution because Roosevelt's own advisors had taken part in the plot, as MacGuire claimed. A criminal prosecution would have washed the Roosevelt Administration's dirty laundry in public.

Why Is The Plot So Poorly Known?

Butler's account of the MacGuire plot was a very serious accusation. If MacGuire had told Butler the truth, a large number of wealthy men had made serious plans to overthrow representative government in the United States - though their concern that Roosevelt was creating a government in the style of Mussolini or Hitler, might provide some legitimate reason for their actions. Why doesn't this plot appear in history books? That conservatives might discount the plot is not unexpected; that liberals have tended to ignore the plot is a little more surprising.

It is hard to imagine how different American politics was in the 1930s. The collapse of the world economy had shaken the faith of many Americans in individualism and free market capitalism. Many traditionalists, here and in Europe, toyed with the ideas of Fascism and National Socialism; many liberals dallied with Socialism and Communism. Prominent populists such as Huey Long and Father Coughlin sided with progressives in support of isolationism, redistribution of wealth, and a federal government that would play a more active role in the American economy.

In hindsight, the moral and economic deficiencies of these various collectivized systems are now clear. In 1934, however, people of good will persuaded themselves that Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were doing good, and ignored the great evils that were already underway. To turn over the rock exposing MacGuire's plot raises unpleasant questions about the political sensibilities of both right and left in 1930s America.

How Secure Are The Institutions of Legal Government In America?

How secure, indeed? It would be tempting to write off this entire matter as a group of con men separating wealthy conservatives from their money by pretending to hatch a plot against the Roosevelt Administration. But there are too many disturbing pieces of evidence in this tale that suggest that the Zeitgeist of the 1930s was not limited to Europe.

If MacGuire's claims to Butler were true, some U.S. military commanders were prepared to stand aside while 500,000 veterans marched on Washington and took Roosevelt captive. (Between the World Wars, the United States Army was so small that 500,000 veterans might have given them a serious fight - even if every officer remained loyal to Roosevelt.)

But unlike many European countries, American government was highly decentralized in 1934, and this would have worked against any serious military action against the legitimate government. Every state governor had control of state militia units, armed with out of date, but still serviceable military weapons.

In addition to the regularly organized state militias, the population of the United States, then as now, was heavily armed with the sort of weapons well suited to military operations. Whatever the advantages of the plotters' army of 500,000 veterans, they would have been far outnumbered by the unorganized militia of the United States - then as now, consisting of every U.S. citizen between 18 and 45, and legally obligated by state laws to fight at the order of the governor in the event of insurrection, invasion, or war.

But in a nation that was suffering from the ravages of the Great Depression, another model exists for what might have happened: the Spanish Civil War. The divisions over religion in America were not as dramatic as those that ripped apart Spanish society. But many Americans were beginning to lose their faith in American institutions - as evidenced by the growth of American Nazi and Communist movements during the 1930s. It is frightening to think of what might have happened if a general as capable as Butler had become the man on a white horse.

In the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, delivered at New York University in 1960 concerning the protections of the U.S. Bill of Rights:

I cannot agree with those who think of the Bill of Rights as an 18th century straitjacket, unsuited for this age... . The evils it guards against are not only old, they are with us now, they exist today... .

Experience all over the world has demonstrated, I fear, that the distance between stable, orderly government and one that has been taken over by force is not so great as we have assumed.

Indeed, the plot that Butler exposed - if what MacGuire claimed was true - is a sobering reminder to Americans. We were not immune to the sentiments that gave rise to totalitarian governments throughout the world in the 1930s. We make a serious mistake when we assume, "It can't happen here!"

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer with a Northern California manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. His first book, By The Dim And Flaring Lamps: The Civil War Diary of Samuel McIlvaine, was published by Library Research Associates (Monroe, NY) in 1990. Mr. Cramer's second book, For The Defense of Themselves And The State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right To Keep And Bear Arms was published by Praeger Publishers (Westport, Conn.) in 1994. Mr. Cramer recently completed his B.A. in History at Sonoma State University.

Bibliography

Archer, Jules, The Plot To Seize The White House, (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973).

Brinkley, Alan, Voices of Protest, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1982).

Butler, Smedley D., War Is A Racket, (New York: Round Table Press, 1935).

Cahn, Edmond, The Great Rights, (New York: Macmillan Co., 1963).

Ickes, Harold L., America's House of Lords: An Inquiry into the Freedom of the Press, (Rahway, N.J.: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1939).

New York Times, February 16, 1935; March 26, 1935.

Schmidt, Hans, Maverick Marine, (Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1987).

Sevareid, Eric, Not So Wild A Dream, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946).

Spivak, John L., "Wall Street's Fascist Conspiracy", New Masses, January 29, 1935, 9-15; February 5, 1935, (page numbers missing on the microfilm)..

Sacramento Bee, February 15, 1935.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 16, 1935.

Time, 24:23 [December 3, 1934].

U.S. House of Representatives, Special Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings 73-D.C.-6, Part 1, 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1935).

U.S. House of Representatives, Special Committee on Un-American Activities, Public Statement, 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1934).

Wolfskill, George, The Revolt of the Conservatives: A History of the American Liberty League, 1934-1940, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962).


beware simple left vs. right, it's lazy history 29.Nov.2004 09:23

me

It was not, repeat was, not a right-wing coup 'against' Roosevelt. Particularly when all the people involved were Morgan bank associated corporate left financiers in the Democratic Party.

beware simple left vs. right, particuarly when both sides are played simultaneously by the same interests. Roosevelt was just another Wall Street financier by the way of course. His whole family was highly involved in various secret societies like Knights of the Golden Dawn. Others--who have escaped the Illuminati--discuss the idea that his whole family was Illuminati, since they were instructed that he was.


read this:

Title: THEY DID IT BEFORE in '34... EXCERPTS: Butler exposes 1933-'34s real WALL STREET FASCIST PLOT
Author: excerpts_from_book
Date: 2004.10.03 07:42
Description: THEY DID IT BEFORE in '34... excerpts of Jules Archer's book, The Plot to Seize the White House; Major General Smedley D. Butler exposes '33-'34's real Wall Street fascist plot This is an extensive through succinct excerpt of THE VERY RARE Jules Archer book, The Plot to Seize the White House. Hawthorn Books, Inc. New York: New York. 1973. It has a comparison of this Congressional Committee verified, very real 1933-34 fascist plot strategy, with a post-9-11 America...
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/298735.shtml

quote from the above link I posted 29.Nov.2004 09:33

me

Frankly, keeping an open mind, it is still questionable whether Roosevelt was INDEED on their side as they told Butler or was expected to be on their side as they tell Butler, due to the revealed dynamics shown in this uncensored testimony whenever Roosevelt was involved. After all, the fascist plot did lead back to 1920-30s Democratic party groups. Was American to have a fascism from the left as an added part of the New Deal, or was this really a breakdown in the elite pact of people against Roosevelt? Either way, it is interesting that a nebulous group of financiers here are seen as 'above political ideology' swinging and manipulating both left and right when the strategy suits them. Do note the connections to Morgan and others. Though do take the Roosevelt quotes in as well...

I have a list of other books at the base of this excerpt I would recommend if you want to look into related parapolitical issues of the 1930s and WWII.

thanks! 29.Nov.2004 11:27

me

quote from above adds more to the link I posted:

"The American Liberty League was a successor to the highly successful Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, the lobbying organization responsible for the repeal of the "Noble Experiment." From its formation in 1918 until 1926, the AAPA made little progress, at least partly because it had little money. But in 1926, money poured into the AAPA from some of America's wealthiest men, including Pierre, Irenee, and Lammot du Pont, John J. Raskob, and Charles H. Sabin. The AAPA spent its new found wealth on distribution of literature, and on the formation of a bewildering number of associated organizations. These associated organizations gave the impression of a grassroots movement, rather than a collection of millionaires feeding press releases to friendly newspapers. The AAPA also rapidly took control of the Democratic Party, with one of their supporters, Al Smith, receiving the 1928 Democratic Presidential nomination. While AAPA had powerful friends within the Republican Party, they never achieved control of it.

"The AAPA's motivations were a mixture of idealism and pragmatism. The stated concern was that Prohibition had done serious damage to the principle of federalism - that the federal government's authority did not include the police powers used to enforce Prohibition. But it appears that this was not the only motivation, or even the reason most important to the men who funded the AAPA. Like many other Americans, these business leaders "found themselves unable to gratify what seemed a natural, more or less innocent, desire without breaking a law" (i.e., the consumption of alcoholic beverages). To suddenly find themselves among the criminal classes was not pleasant to a group who had always thought of themselves as law-abiding and respectable members of American society. There is also strong evidence that the backers of the AAPA saw Repeal as a method of reducing income and corporate taxes, by taxing alcoholic beverages instead.

"The AAPA went out of business at the end of 1933, with the end of Prohibition. But within a year, from the same offices, with most of the same backers, many of the same employees, and much of the same style, it reappeared as the American Liberty League."


2.

"The leftist magazine New Masses carried an article by John Spivak that included wild (sic) claims of "Jewish financiers working with fascist groups." Spivak's article spun an elaborate web involving the American Jewish Congress, the Warburg family, "which originally financed Hitler," the Hearst newspaper chain, the Morgan banking firm, the du Ponts, a truly impressive list of prominent American Jewish businessmen, and Nazi spies! "


2a. Hardly a 'wild' claim if you know anything about the Warburgs (German financier family that was involved both in high finance in Hitlerian Germany (though eventually pushed out), as well as involved in setting up the privatized U.S. Federal Reserve.

2b. Hardly a 'wild' claim since Zionists were pro-Hitler either!

The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine
by Edwin Black
 link to www.amazon.com

Facism 29.Nov.2004 17:00

marmot

"I believe that facism is a ideology in and of itself, and disagree with any analasis that purports that facism is a isolated "nazi" phenomina. I am sickened at how people that analize the allied campaign against germany attempt to isolate facism in this way."

FACISM is alive and well in both the democractic, and republican parties. Lenin described imperialism as the final stage of capitalism. Facism and imperialism share more ideological tenants, than democracy and capitalism do.

this site has an an ok definition, and entemology.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facism#Definition

remote comments of crituque 22.Oct.2005 00:01

jimmy boy henriz@sympatico.ca

intresting critique. Some points though... 1. the japenese and nazi regimes contested an "unconditional surrender" type of war against the West, you do not include the Battle of the Atlantic, designed to starve Britian to death and surrender. There would have then been a period of torture, and systmatic reduction of the then British state, as detailed by Shirer, in the Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich. 2. The Japenese were even more barbarian than the nazis, as indicated by the treatment of our prioners of war by the Japenese. 3. While the West had no great like for Russia, it preferred Communisn to Nazism, mainly because of the horror stories comming out of Nazi Germany during the initial period of occupation, much of it relating to treatment of the jews. 4. As with the Battle of Trafalger, the war against the Nazi regime was a "damn close fight". The west parlayed for peace for too long and nearly lost as a result. At the commencement of the war, the Nazi's were well ahead in Nuclear weapons technology, nearly all of their airplanes, rockets and jets. We fought a desperate clutching battle, and we nearly lost it. We caught up toward the end, and only because we had a solid alliance of western powers. 5. The west did not instigate any of the brutality of the 2nd WW nor did we start the first WW. What we did to the enemy was certainly quite terrible, but losing would have been much worse. 6. these are military facts, and they suggest a rather careless review of Roth's work. Jimmy-boy

Summary of Philip Roth's Plot Against America 07.Feb.2006 06:05

Eric Blair

As I have found a lot of reviews on Roth's novel but no detailed summaries, I would like to draw your attention to http://www.roth-summary.info.ms/ .