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James Burnham

Their Government

(18 August 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 60, 18 August 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A man, they used to say, is known by the company he keeps. It becomes an easy matter to know Franklin D. Roosevelt by this test if we apply it in connection with the six buddies whom he has just appointed to his new War Resources Board.

Who are these six? First comes the chairman Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. Stettinius is chairman of the board of that well known charitable organization, the United States Steel Corporation. And a little note further: His father, Edward, Sr., was one of the three leading partner’s of Morgan & Co. during the period which included the last world war. When Morgan & Co. became fiscal and purchasing agents for the allied powers (two years prior to the entry of this country into the war), Stettinius, Sr., had charge of purchases, and dispensed more than three billion dollars to the corporations favored by Morgan. The part which these operations played in getting the United States into the war belongs to well-established history.

Second comes John Lee Pratt, a leading director of General Motors corporation, which has just reported a $100,000,000 profit for the first six months of 1939, at the same time that its ample resources have been doing their best to smash the UAW. Pratt himself is a member of the mighty clan, high in the list of the Sixty Families, whose interests are closely interlocked with the Rockefellers.

Just a Bunch of the Boys

Then we have Walter S. Clifford, head of the American Telephone & Telegraph, which managed to scrape by during the past six months on a profit of $80,000,000, a paltry enough trifle in the light of its more than five billion dollars worth of listed assets.

Amusingly enough, there was issued a few months ago a government report, prepared by two years of research, proving fully that A.T.&T. was gouging the public by every form of hijacking known to high finance. For this happy record, Roosevelt now gives Gifford his fitting reward.

Next comes General Robert E. Wood, chairman of the board of Sears, Roebuck & Co., which has been rolling in profits this year to the tune of around a million dollars a week. General Wood has been a Roosevelt favorite for some while, having functioned until recently as a special adviser to the Department of Commerce.

A few weeks ago, in Boston, General Wood made a little speech. He surprised some of his audience at the time by praising several aspects of the German and Italian regimes, confessing that he was particularly partial to the forced labor allotted to young men and women.

Each of these four is a millionaire many times over.

The remaining two are the “intellectual” frosting for this very juicy cake: Karl T. Compton, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harold G. Moulton, president of the Brookings Institute.

Compton, before his appointment to M.I.T. (a school run by the Sixty Families – financed chiefly by the DuPonts – to supply their corporations with technical help), was a distinguished physicist. Since his appointment, he has used his scientific prestige to deliver a series of the most bitterly reactionary speeches on social and economic affairs.

The Brookings Institute, founded to give expert analysis and advice on how to make capitalism work, had vague liberal leanings in its early years, but during the past five years has become a pillar of orthodox reaction.

Both Compton and Moulton have, by the way, singled out nearly every even mildly progressive phase of Roosevelt New Dealism for special attack.

The Vulture Smell Carrion

When we say that the war is going to be fought for the benefit of the Sixty Families, we mean this literally. It is not a question of their “moral’’ or “spiritual” benefit, but quite plainly and bluntly for the benefit of their pocketbooks.

War, for the Sixty Families, is a chance to make super-profits. That’s what it amounts to, and that’s all. There’s not much sentiment in the Sixty Families.

In the last war, their corporations coined billion after billion out of the blood of 45,000,000 casualties.

To make sure of the maximum profit and graft, they had to put their agents at the heart of the government in Washington, at that heart where contracts were allotted, purchases made, and financing handled. In those days, Bernard Baruch (also one of Roosevelt’s closest friends and advisers, incidentally) was their key man as head of the War Industries Board.

This time they are taking no chances. They are getting in there well before the war starts, monopolizing the War Resources Board which will be made the chief social and economic agency of the government during war-time. Contracts, purchases, money and profits will be under the control of this board.

With the exception of Pratt, these six are not actually members of the Sixty Families (though they are extremely wealthy in their own right). The actual members, most of them, are happy to sit back in Long Island, their yachts, the divorce courts and Honolulu, while drawing down their dividends. But these members of the War Resources Board are among the ablest and shrewdest agents of the Sixty Families: “front men” who, for a stiff price, manage their corporations for them and handle “public relations”.

In this new Board you’ve got the whole setup for the coming war concentrated in a nutshell.

And, my friends, it wasn’t John Garner who selected the names. It’s the President, in these United States, who has charge of appointments.

There’s no doubt about it: Roosevelt is going to give us a rip-roaring democracy, with no holds barred, in that war of his.

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