The Psychobabble Theory of Assassination

Age of Assassins: The Loners, Idealists and Fanatics Who Conspired to Change the World

Faber and Faber (2013)

Book Review

In essence this book is an encyclopedia of modern day assassinations. In addition to providing comprehensive details of more than a dozen political murders, Newton proposes a general theory of what motivates assassins. In my view, this aspect of the book is a total failure. Mainly because it largely omits compelling evidence of US intelligence/military complicity in the assassinations of Malcolm X, JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and John Lennon and the attempted assassinations of Reagan, Ford, George Wallace and John Paul II.

I also have a problem with Newton’s assertion that the era of assassinations began with the Lincoln assassination. Assassination via poisoning dates back to Roman times at least.

According to Newton, the Lincoln assassination inspired the Russian Nihilist movement and their numerous assassination attempts (which were ultimately successful) against czar Alexander II.

The Nihilists, in turn, inspired the Irish nationalists and the “propaganda of the deed” (see Why Social Studies Never Made Sense in School: The History of Anarchism ) tendency of the anarchist movement. The result would be a wave of attempted and completed assassinations across Europe and in the US.

The book contains a long section on the life of US anarchist Emma Goldman and the attempted assassination oshe plotted with her lover Alexander Berkman on Henry Clay Frick (hired by Carnegie to break the steel workers union) s. Although she would later renounce violence, her huge public following (according to Newton) would inspire Leon Czolgosz to assassinate president William McKinley.

The book devotes a long chapter to the rise of Serbian nationalism, the Black Hand and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the purported cause of World War I. It devotes numerous pages to the Armenian genocide by Ottoman rulers and several assassination attempts against Roosevelt and Truman.

I found the later chapters, beginning with the assassination of John Kennedy, a big disappointment. In my view, this section of the book is pure pop psychology and psychobabble.

Newton identifies three primary motives for assassination:

1) A desire to end the suffering engendered by capitalist greed.

2) The drive for violent retribution in reaction to other killings.

3) A desire to smash the state and other authoritarian structures.

This leaves out all the lone nut assassinations – in which misfits try to murder prominent political figures for no apparent reason at all. Except for the JFK assassination (Newton acknowledges Oswald had accomplices* ). Newton seems to be a strong supporter of the lone nut theory of assassination. He blames the rise of lone nut assassins on deep seated decay and alienation in US society, which he believes is aggravated by the motion picture industry.


*Based on an acoustical recording obtained from a Dallas police microphone, the 1978 House Committee on assassinations ascertain that Oswald had to have at least one accomplice. See  https://spartacus-educational.com/JFKassassinationsC.htm

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The US Government Assault on World War I Veterans and Their Families

The March of the Bonus Army

PBS (2013)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the brutal 1932 massacre of World War I veterans and their families by Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton.

Owing to insufficient volunteers (the army paid $1.25 a day), the US government was forced to initiate a draft when they first entered World War I in April 1917. When the war ended, veterans agitated for lost wages, leading Congress to authorize payment of a $1.25 bonus, to be paid in 1938.

With the 1929 Depression, unemployment rates for veterans were especially high, and an ex-GI from Portland organized a veterans march on Washington to demand immediate payment of their bonus.

After dozens of veterans occupied every Congressman’s office, the House passed the Bonus Bill.

As the Senate took up the bill, the veterans and their families set up an enormous tent and shack city in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington DC. They passed the time preparing communal meals, boxing, making music, preparing and visiting a library set up by the Salvation Army. One of the most remarkable features of the Anacostia tent city was the natural integration of black and white veterans in all aspects of daily life. During the war, black troops weren’t allowed to fight alongside white Americans, leading 100,000 African Americans to fight under the French flag.

The the Senate overwhelming defeated the Bonus Bill, Congress adjourned and Hoover ordered the evacuation of the 45,000 Bonus Army veterans from downtown Washington DC. After a battle broke out between city police and veterans, Hoover ordered and attack by 400 infantry, accompanied by tanks and armored vehicles to attack. General MacArthur ignored his order not to cross the Anacostia River, and he and his men burned the shacks and tents filled with the wives and children of Bonus Army members.

Congress ultimately passed the Bonus Bill in 1933. I was very surprised to learn that Roosevelt vetoed it and that the House and Senate overrode his veto.

 

Hidden History: The US Wars Against Japan, Korea and Vietnam

The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

By James Bradley

Back Bay Books (2015)

Book Review

This book details numerous myths about the origin of the US wars against Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Bradley begins by revealing how the Roosevelt administration was hoodwinked by the overt fascist Chiang Kai-Shek and Christian missionaries into believing China was ripe for wholesale conversion to Christianity and US-style capitalism. Deceived by Chiang’s promises to wage war against Japan,  Roosevelt poured billions into the civil war Chiang was waging with Mao Se Tung. FDR also created an illegal covert mercenary Air Force for Chiang, a major motivator in the Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbor.

Had FDR listened to advisors who understood the strong support Mao enjoyed from China’s rural peasants, he never would have supported Chiang – or been forced to open a second front (against Japan) the US was totally unprepared for.

In addition to his greater popularity and military strength, Mao was also genuinely interested in establishing a trade relationship with the US.

According to Bradley, the civil war Mao won in 1949 was actually a war of liberation from European colonial powers, just like Kim Sung Il’s war of liberation in Korea and Ho Chi Minh’s war of liberation in Vietnam. Owing to the total ignorance of Asian society and culture, advisors in the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administration mistakenly viewed these wars of independence as part of a global communist conspiracy and military aggression the only possible response.

The China Mirage traces the  history of each of these conflicts (Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam) in a clear and compelling way, starting with the massive fortune Roosevelt’s grandfather amassed via the opium smuggling the US and UK forced on China via two opium wars.

For me the most interesting part of the book concerns the US oil/steel embargo that supposedly triggered the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. According to Bradley, Roosevelt opposed the embargo. It was surreptitiously enacted by members of his administration while he was at a secret meeting in Canada with Winston Churchill.

Hidden History: How the New Deal Ripped Off Farmworkers and Blacks

The Great Depression – Part 5 Mean Things Happening

PBS (1993)

Film Review

While the National Recovery Administration, created in 1933, theoretically guaranteed workers the right to unionize, company bosses continued to fire (and shoot) employees who went on strike for the right to form unions.

In 1933 John L Lewis formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Unlike the American Federation of Labor (AFL), membership in the CIO was open to blacks, immigrants and communists (women continued to be shut out of the union movement until World War II).

For political reasons, the New Deal right to unionize didn’t extend to agricultural workers. The primary New Deal farm program was the Agriculture Adjustment Act, which gave plantation owners direct payments for destroying surplus cotton crops. Despite federal requirements that owners share their payments with tenant farmers* and sharecroppers,** they rarely did so.

Both approached socialist leader Norman Thomas, who helped them organize the Southern Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), which had 1,000 members by the end of 1935. Arkansas lawmakers responded by evicting tenant farmers and share croppers suspected of organizing, murdering black members and passing ordinances banning public gatherings.

Despite white terrorism, the STFA organized a successful cotton pickers strike (for higher wages) in 1935.

By 1935, the STFA had 25,000 members in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee and ongoing terrorist activities by whites began to receive national attention. The same year, FDR declined to meet with union leaders during a trip to Little Rock.***

In 1938, Congress finally passed legislation granting direct federal relief to tenant farmers and sharecroppers – plantation owners responded by evicting 251 families in order to keep the relief payments for themselves.


*A tenant farmer used his own seed and animals to cultivate an owner’s land and paid him 1/4 of his crop for this privilege.

**A sharecropper used the landowner’s seed and animals and paid him 1/2 of his crop for this privilege.

*** Aside from FDR’s inherent racism, southern tenant farmers and sharecoppers didn’t vote because they couldn’t afford the $1 poll tax. More importantly the President relied on the votes of southern Democrats to pass New Deal legislation.

Hidden History: How FDR Blocked Upton Sinclair’s Election as California Governor

The Great Depression – Part 4 We have a Plan

PBS (1993)

Film Review

Part 4 is largely about famous author Upton Sinclair’s campaign for California governor. This is something they definitely don’t teach in school. Because he nearly won.

The parallels with Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign are uncanny. Sinclair, also a socialist, registered as a Democrat for the 1934 campaign. He received the same massive popular response from Californian workers that Sanders and UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have received. Thousands of young people flocked to join the California Democratic Party, which hadn’t won a gubernatorial race in  35 years.

Sinclair easily won the Democratic primary and polled ahead of his Republican opponent until he was betrayed by the Roosevelt administration. After trying to pressure him to quit the race in favor of the third party candidate, they made a deal for California Democrats to support Sinclair’s Republican opponent – in return for the latter’s support of Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation.

In the last weeks of the campaign, Sinclair was also hurt by the massive media smear campaign launched by MGM studio boss Louis B Meyer.

Although Sinclair lost the election, 27 members of Sinclair’s EPIC (End Poverty in California) organization team won seats in the California legislature.

This episode also covers San Francisco’s 1934 general strike and FDR’s unsuccessful attempt to create a national health service as New Zealand did in 1938.

What They Don’t Teach in School About the US Labor Movement

 

Plutocracy IV: Gangsters for Capitalism

Directed by Scott Noble

Film Review

The fourth film in a series, Plutocracy IV essentially rewrites “mainstream” history about the birth of the US labor movement. In director Scott Noble’s depiction, what we see is virtual all out war between working people and corporate bosses and their government stooges.

Noble begins by tracing the downfall of the global anarchist movement, beginning with the violent crushing of the anarchist-driven 1871 Paris Commune.

Founded in 1901, the Socialist Party, would briefly replace anarchism as the main engine of worker organizing. Eugene Debs, a founding member of both International Workers of the World (see Plutocracy III: Class War ) and the Socialist Party, would run five times as a socialist candidate for president. In 1912 he won 6% of the vote, with  nearly a million votes.

In 1919, two-thirds of Socialist Party members voted to support the Bolshevik Revolution and were expelled by the party leadership, who favored democratic socialism. From that point on, the Communist Party (and fascism in Germany and Italy) drove most radical worker organizing.

Supreme Court Overturns Child Labor Laws

Noble describes 1921-1928 as extremely bleak for the labor movement – with most strikes being defeated during this period. Noble highlights the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, where striking West Virginia coal miners were attacked by federal troops and the 1923 St Pedro longshoremen strike (California), which was crushed by police and vigilante Ku Klux Klan members.*

It was also during this period that the Supreme Court overturned federal child labor and minimum wage laws.

Things got even worse for US workers during the Great Depression, with corporate bosses using the fear of unemployment to reduce wages by 20%. In 1932, Hoover ordered federal troops to mow down the Bonus Army, World War I veterans and their families, when they camped out in front of the Capitol demanding payment of the Bonus they had been promised  (see The Wall Street Elites Who Financed Hitler)

General Strikes Force Roosevelt to Create National Labor Relations Board

In 1933, Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which theoretically gave workers the right to unionize (and strike). Although union membership increased substantially over the next several years, strikes continued to be brutally suppressed by armed corporate thugs, police and state National Guards. One example was the 1933 Ford Hunger Strike (aka the Ford Massacre) – in which 15,000 autoworkers when on strike when Henry Ford began to close factories. Despite being brutally attacked by armed guards and police (with four strikers killed and many injured), strikers persisted and won right to organize Ford Motor Company.

I was very surprised to learn there were four general strikes during 1934 in San Francisco, Minneapolis and Toledo. The San Francisco general strike was defeated by the union leadership (AFL) when Roosevelt condemned it. Workers were victorious in Toledo and Minneapolis, even though the Minnesota governor called out the National Guard in an effort to crush the city’s strike.

The fear that more general strikes would provoke generalized revolt (and/or revolution) led Roosevelt to create the National Labor Relations Board in 1935. His aim was to allow for a “peaceful” process of resolving strikes.


*In one vignette, Native American Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz describes how Woodrow Wilson and state and local officials supported the rise of the KKK in the north to crush strikes. Many members of the Portland police were KKK members during this period, and Colorado judges, police and elected officials belonged to the Klan in Colorado.

 

 

Dupont: A Textbook Case in Corporate Criminality

DuPont Dynasty: Behind the Iron Curtain

Gerald Colby

Prentice Hall (1984)

Book Review

If you want a precise understanding of how a major corporation sets out (and succeeds) in corrupting all aspects of democratic government, Behind the Nylon Curtain is for you. If it doesn’t convince you that democracy is impossible in a capitalist economy, I don’t know what will. This 800+ page book traces every bribery and corruption scandal; every flagrant violation of labor, environmental and trading with the enemy laws; every frivolous lawsuit (eg challenging the EPA’s ability to regulate air and water pollution); every instance of war profiteering and gouging the US taxpayer; and every case of electoral fraud the DuPont company has engaged in their 215-year history.

DuPont’s Role in Potting 1934 Coup Against Roosevelt

In addition, Colby details the prominent role DuPont played in the formation of the American Liberty League and the 1934 fascist coup the group plotted to remove Roosevelt from the residency; in re-arming the Third Reich prior to World War II; in arming private vigilante groups to attack union organizers and strikers; and in secretly building the nuclear facilities supplying uranium and plutonium to the Manhattan Project. In the mid-seventies (when DuPont workers and Delaware residents began dying of cancer in unprecedented numbers), they successfully blocked a bill to require safety testing on all new chemicals before they could be marketed.

Colby also enumerates numerous efforts by Congress, unions and consumer advocates like Ralph Nader to challenge DuPont’s overtly criminal behavior. Owing to the company’s long time control over local and national media, the Delaware State government and the executive, legislative and judicial branch of the federal government, it has been virtually impossible to sanction DuPont for their illegal activities.

How DuPont Came to Own Delaware

Historically the DuPonts have totally controlled Delaware (government, newspapers, radio, TV, colleges and newspapers).  Thanks to DuPont, Delaware has the lowest business tax in the country and the lowest cost of incorporation. It’s also the only state allowing Delaware corporations to hold out-of-state stockholder and board meetings. The majority of Americans largest corporations are incorporated in Delaware.  In 1980 governor Pierre DuPont successful introduced a law enabling Delaware banks to circumvent other states’ usury laws by setting credit card interest rates that are binding on out-of-sate residents. (see How Banks Use Credit Cards to Rip Us Off )

Roosevelt: More Pro-Corporate than Pro-Labor

I found Colby’s revelations about Franklin D Roosevelt – a significant departure from the pro-labor image promoted by the Democratic Party – the most illuminating. Prior to reading this book I had no idea that Roosevelt

  • imposed wage freezes during a period that prices increased by 45%
  • tried to pressure sit-down strikers at General Motors (then owned by DuPont) to settle with GM on management’s  terms
  • vetoed a law authorizing World War I veterans to be paid the Bonus Bond they were promised (the military assault Hoover ordered on Bonus Army protestors was instrumental to his defeat in 1932).
  • triggered a new economic depression in 1937 by implementing across the board austerity cuts.

*DuPont also blocked distribution of this book for 40 years. Although initially published by Prentice Hall in 1974, DuPont fought Colby in the courts for 30 years to block its distribution (Colby describes his legal ordeal in the introduction). In 2014, he finally released the 1984 edition as an ebook. Although Prentice Hall still owns the print rights, the author retains electronic rights. Used print editions are available from Amazon. The Kindle edition is $9.99.