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Anti-Fascist Business Leaders

By ignoring the existence of the pro-Fascist sector and looking only at the anti-Fascist sector of American business leaders, one can form the impression that the United States entered World War II strictly for objectives stemming from capitalist competition with Fascist elites. These objectives were articulated most clearly by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), whose role in shaping United States post-war objectives was examined closely by G. William Domhoff in The Power Elite and the State: How Policy is Made in America. Domhoff  is one of the leading scholars who advocates that privae business leaders use the government to secure their economic interests. To those who ascribe loftier goals to the American government, Domhoff is of course controversial. However, to those who advocate the competition theory of the war's origin, Domhoff makes their case as strongly, perhaps, as it can be made, based on enormous research into the various meetings and memoranda of organizations  like the CFR. From this perspective, then, let us see what Domhoff says.

The CFR is generally acknowledged to be a major influence on American Foeign policy, and is described by a Domhoff source to be: "the province of internationally oriented bankers and corporate executives in New York and surrounding areas, as well as of academic experts and journalists...[I]ts funding for projects comes from large foundations directed by business leaders who are members of the council in significant numbers." The CFR enjoys great influence on government decision-making because "Its studies are conducted by respected scholars. Its leaders are known to be highly informed about foreign affairs. Many members had close social and business relations with central [government] decision-makers when they were in private life. Government officials are often members of council discussion groups. Then too, many members have served in government positions or as government advisors." [282]

Domhoff recounts the important CFR studies, papers, and memoranda to governmengt leaders that related to defining the "national interest" and post war planning between 1940 and 1942. The earliest CFR planning was by its Economic and Financial Group, which in four papers dated March 9, 1940, concluded that there had been no serious consequences of the war on the United States up to that date. On April 6 it wrote five papers "primarily descriptive in nature, dealing with the possible impact on American trade of price-fixing and monetary exchange controls by the belligerents." Another paper May 11 warned that "a way would have to be found to increase American imports in order to bring about a necessary increase in exports." After the Nazi invasion of France in May and its subsequent attack on Great Britain, the CFR "turned the attention of both the State Department and the council to the problem of stabilizing the economies of Latin American countries that previously had depended upon their exports to continental Europe." On June 10 the State Department suggested setting up a single trading organization to market all of Latin America's agricultural surplus but the CFR had concluded on June 7 that such a trading organization would not work because [Domhoff's praphrase] "it would be weak in needing raw materials and unable to consume the agricultural surpluses of Canada and the southern half of Latin America" and that "economic isolation on the Western Hemisphere would cost the United States almost two-thirds of its foreign trade." Later the council concluded that "any Western Hemisphere cartel for selling to Germany was doomed to failure because the self-sufficiency of the German bloc was such that it could not be forced to trade with the Western Hemisphere."

At this time the council "began to define the national interest in terms of the minimum geographical area that was necessary for the productive functioning of the American economy without drastic controls and major government intervention." On June 28 one report "concluded that the Far East and Western Hemisphere probably bore the same relationship to the United States as America had to Europe in the past--a source of raw materials and a market for manufactures." Other studies concluded that "the economies of Great Britain and Japan could not function adequately in harmony with the American economy without a large part of the world as markets and suppliers of raw materials" and "United States problems could not be solved if Japan excluded the American economy from Asia."

On October 19, 1940 Secretary of jState Hull's special assistant, Leo Pasvolsky, asked the CFR to "suggest blocs that it thought might result from the war, and hen see what could be done in economic terms within each area. There would be two cores to start on; the first, Germany and the minimum territory she could be assumed to take in the war; the second the United States. Working outward from these cores, one could build up several possible blocs on a political basis, and then examine their economic potentialities." By December 14, the CFR had reached a general consensus on three points: 1) There was a need to plan "as if there would be a Germanized Western Europe for the immediate future; however, everyone agreed they preferred the defeat of Germany and the integration of Western Europe into the Western Hemisphere-Asia-British Empire bloc that was now being called the 'Grand Area.' 2) "The 'Grand Area' could not be broken into two democratic blocks [a British and an American] because of the danger that Great Britain might try to maintain its empire and exclude the United States from free trade and investment within it." 3) "[I]mportant American economic and strategic interests in Asia were being threatened by Japanese expansionism." In evaluating whether these economic/competitive concerns suffice to explain the U.S. entry into the war, note that the CFR was able to plan around a "Germanized Western Europe" and merely "preferred" the defeat of Germany. Also note that when it came to fear that a powerful nation might "try to maintain its empire and exclude the United States from free trade and investment within it," the CFR was referring to Great Britain, not Germany or Japan.

On June 22, 1941, the CFR formally defined the national interest as "(1) the full use of the world's economic resources--implying full employment and a reduction in business cycle fluctuation; and (2) the most efficienbt use of the world's resources--implying an interchange of goods among all parts of the world according to comparative advantages of each part in producing certain goods." The Political Group of the CFR added that the most important aim was "the decisive defeat of the Axis aggressors as rapidly as possible."

The CFR's report was preceded by an introduction which stated: "Statements of war aims have two functions: propaganda and definition of national interests." From the point of view of propaganda, framing the national interest in terms of economic interests such as the CFR's focus on raw materials and markets was useful. A war waged for such interests is easily portrayed as a war for goals that benefit all Americans, since everybody depends on a well-functioning economy. On the other hand if the goal of the war were defined as "controlling the working class" it would obviously be a propaganda disaster. Therefore, to the extent that the CFR formulated war goals with propaganda in mind, it had every incentive to stress the economic/competitive issues and no incentive to mention social contro. It is therefore telling that after studying in great detail the CFR's role in shaping U.S policy in this period, and despite the fact that he advocates the theory that the U.S. government serves the interests of big business (against the view that the government is guided by general ideological beliefs and acts independently of private business interests), Domhoff feels obligated to introduce in the concluding section of his chapter on this period (Defining the National Interest: 1940-42) a theme which he does not mention at allin the preceding part of the chapter--avoiding social upheaval. He writes: "[T]he new definition of the national interest was in good part economic in the sense that it was concerned with theful functioning of the American capitalist system with minimal changes in it. The goal was to avoid depression and social upheaval on the one hand, and greater state control of the economy on the other."

As earnest as the CFR reports sound, one has to wonder if they were the reason for or the rationalization of the U.S. entry into the war. For one thing, some of the CFR memoranda sound more like propaganda (or themes offered for use as propaganda) than private assessments of economic interests. For example, a report of the council's Economic and Financial Group dated January 15, 1941, says: "Toward the Philippines we have special obligations of a historical and moral nature." Another odd fact about the CFR in this regard is that some of its prominent members were in fact pro-Nazi. Much of the financing of the CFR came from the Rockefeller family through its foundation, and Rockefellers have been prominent on the CFR. The CFR's projext on post-war planning and defining the national interest began September 12, 1939 and on December 6 the Rockefeller Foundation [283] gave it $44,500 for that specific project. [284] Yet John D. Rockefeller II put the distinctly pro-Fascist Walter Teagle and William Farish in charge of Standard Oil of New Jersey. [285] Similarly, Allen Dulles was an international lawyer in 1936 who represented Avery Rockefeller and Baron Bruno von Schröder who, along with Kurt von Schröder of the BIS and Gestapo, were the major owners of a company called Schröder, Rockefeller and Company, Investment Bankers. Dulles was also a director of this company, which was part of a larger company that Time magazine disclosed as being "the economic booster of the Rome-Berlin Axis." [286] Dulles(future head of the OSS, later CIA) was instrumental in trying to secretly create a Japanese-Anglo-Nazi alliance against the Soviet Union--an idea originally proposed by the British Lord Cadogan and foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, in 1939. By 1942 the proposal had gained support from the Vatican, and from Walter Schellenberg, the new Nazi SS intelligence head, who was in touch with Dulles's business partner, Karl Lindemann, the chief of Standard Oil of New Jersey's German subsidiary. On April 3, 1943, Dulles met (illegally and in violation of FDR's unconditional surrender policy) with the Nazi intelligence chief's personal emissary, Prince Max von Hohenlohe of the SS. "Dulles emphasized that German industry must be preserved and a cordon sanitaire established against the Soviets." [287] Yet Dulles was a co-leader of the CFR's Security and Armaments Group, helped to develop the CFR's definition of the U.S. national interest between 1940 and 1942,[288] and later rose to become a Vice President of the CFR from 1944 to 1946. [289]

Why did the Rockefellers fund the CFR? What was Allen Dulles doing leading the CFR? Why would Dulles help the CFR plan a war against his business partners and secret allies? If the competition theory of the war's origin is true, and the U.S. entered the war simply because American capitalists feared that Fascism was encroaching on their access to raw materials and markets and therefore had to be defeated, then how does one explain not only that some of America's wealthiest and most powerful corporate leaders wanted to make peace with the Fascists and do business with them, but that pro-Fascists played such a prominent role in the CFR--the chief organization through which corporate aims influenced government decision making in matters of war and foreign policy? It is the social control theory--not the competition theory--of the war's origin that offers an explanation for this paradox: for America's business leaders the goal of defeating the Fascists was never the most important goal--some preferred it and others did not; what united them (within the CFR and as a class) was their desire for the U.S. government to do whatever was necessary to prevent a social upheaval, an upheaval that they all realized was a far greater threat than the Fascists with whom many of them were doing business. The "war against Fascism" was promoted, or at least tolerated, by the American business elite, not because of economic or moral objections to Fascism, which only some of them had, but because the war served to control the working class at a time when little else seemed capable of doing so.

Domestic Versus Foreign Causes of Wars  click here to continue to page 5

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