Franklin Roosevelt won the Presidency in 1932. He embarked on sweeping social and economic reforms of American society to end the Depression that threatened the very survival of The United States as a thriving representative democracy.
Widespread, devastating unemployment. Vacant, idle factories. The dustbowl. Foreclosures. WWI veterans marched on DC demanding early payment of their bonus.This horrible period hit the not obscenely rich hard. Companies were meeting union organizing with armies of thugs. Ford mercenaries opened fire on strikers with machine guns during the River Rouge strike.
On the left we saw the growth in popularity of socialism and communism. It was mostly a flirtation by labor, the intelligentsia and writers. On the right we saw the rise of fascism. Groups sympathetic to Hitler and Italy sprung up. These too were mostly flirtations. Flirtations with a lot of money.
FDR was vilified by the uber wealthy elite. He was decried as a class traitor and socialist. Conservative opposition sprang up in response to the New Deal. Some of this opposition went deep into "Seven Days In May" territory.
In FDR's first hundred days he struck terror into the hearts and minds of the oligarchic Titans of Industry. They saw a threat to their privilege. A threat to their power. A tool of the Jewish Conspiracy. These men saw Roosevelt as a clear and present danger to their way of life. They were not amused.
Marine General Smedley Butler was a man very popular with his men. An one who came up through the ranks he built offensives to minimize casualties. He twice was awarded the Medal Of Honor so his heroism was well known.
He wrote a book called "War Is A Racket". He described his Marine career as being a bagman and enforcer for corporate America. He supported the bonus marchers even as Colonel Douglas MacArthur dispersed them with troops.
Butler was perhaps the most admired military man among veterans in America. There were also over a half million jobless veterans unhappy with America. So, he was approached by an American Legion leader and Wall Street guy with a curious offer.
Gerald MacGuire was a bond trader. Bill Doyle, the Commander of the Massachusetts American Legion. They offered to pay Butler to give a speech at the legion National Convention to return the US to the Gold Standard. The hope was Butler's popularity with veterans would put pressure on FDR to do so.
Butler later met with Robert Sterling Clark who had served with him during the Boxer Rebellion. Clark was an heir to the Singer fortune.
Finally Butler was implored to lead an uprising utilizing the dispossessed veterans as troops to march on Washington DC in preparation to institute a successful fascist coup. Butler had been assured money was no object and $300,000,000 was ultimately available. There was also a weapons cache ready for use. These arms were to be allegedly supplied by Remington Arms and the DuPont family.
These men wanted Butler to convince FDR to pretend he was too ill to continue as President or be forced out by Butler and the rag tag army.
Butler responded by testifying in front of the McCormick-Dickstein House Committee(forerunner of the House Un American Activities Committee). He named names. It was a who's who of the rich and powerful.
The leaders of GM, U.S.Steel, Standard Oil, Chase and Goodyear.
Irene DuPont. Yes, those DuPonts. (The American Liberty League)
Grayson Murphy. (Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel and J.P.Morgan)
Al Smith(Former Dem. NY Governor, American Liberty League)
Prescott Bush. Yes, those Bush's. Prescott was the Wall Street front man for the Nazi's. His Union Banking corporation had their assets seized under the Trading With The Enemy Act. UBC had through the use of a complicated financial maze supported Hitler and Nazi run corporations until 1942.
With the light of publicity on them the coup evaporated. It was made light of and suppressed by the major news organizations of the day. Due to his standing general Butler could not be brushed aside as a crank. The House Committee found there was a plot and did nothing.
Years later Speaker McCormick said, "General Smedley Butler was one of the outstanding Americans in our history. I cannot emphasize too strongly the very important part he played in exposing the Fascist plot in the early 1930s backed by and planned by persons possessing tremendous wealth."
If you look at the rhetoric of the right under FDR and today's laments about President Obama eerie similarities surface. Communists. Socialists. Tyrants. Anti-business. Monarchs. There has been calls for a coup during the Obama Administration. It has gone mainstream with impeachment threats. The Governor of Louisiana calling for a hostile takeover of Washington. A retired General has volunteered to lead a coup. The far right has called on the Military to oust the government. Elected officials have called for Second Amendment options to remove the President.