Contrasting the Foiled American Fascist Coup Plot of 1934 With the Successful Brazilian Fascist Coup Plot of 2016

Gary G. Kohls, MD

“If ever needed, the American Legion stands ready to protect our country’s institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the destructionists who menaced Italy!... The American Legion is fighting every element that threatens our democratic government — Soviets, anarchists, IWW, revolutionary socialists and every other red.... Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States.” – American Legion Commander Alvin Owsley (1923)

“We need a fascist government in this country… to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight.” -- Gerald MacGuire, former commander of the Connecticut American Legion and coup-plotter in the “Business Plot” to overthrow FDR (1934)

“A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime. ... A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms.” – William Dodd, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, in a letter to FDR (1936)
In December 1933, retired US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, winner of two Congressional Medals of Honor, toured the country on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was urging WWI veterans to organize in order to win the benefits promised to them after the war. Butler apparently believed that the American Legion was controlled by Wall Street financiers, and he believed that veterans were better served by the VFW than the American Legion. In fact, Butler once proclaimed that he had never “known one leader of the American Legion who had never sold them out–and I mean it.”  
In November 1934, Butler testified to a congressional subcommittee that representatives of powerful industrial interests and the American Legion were trying to induce him to lead American Legion veterans and other ex-WWI soldiers in a campaign to lead a military coup d’etat against President Roosevelt.
In 1934, American industrialists, such as John D. Rockefeller, the duPont family and J P Morgan and many other ultra-wealthy conservatives (including George W. Bush’s grandfather), plotted o overthrow newly elected president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Those ultra-wealthy elites were afraid that FDR was going to implement programs of social uplift, which would eat into their fortunes and political power. FDR was indeed aiming to help out the impoverished multitudes that were suffering from the Wall Street Crash-generated Great Depression, which was caused by the financial schemes perpetrated by those elites in the roaring 20s.
As always, US financial elites from 80 years ago (as is true of the today’s financial elites from Brazil), met the definition of both sociopathic personality disorder AND neo-fascist. And America’s 1934 financial elites were admirers of Hitler and Mussolini, more concerned about their own pocketbooks than about the suffering of others.
To the coup-plotters, the quickest answer to “the FDR problem” was a military coup, which is probably what the ultra-rich think of first when it looks like their government is threatening to interfere with their preferred unregulated crony capitalist economic system.

The plotters tried to recruit Butler to lead the coup. He was a war hero who was trusted by his soldiers, but he was not a friend of Wall Street. In his short book, “War is a Racket”, Butler wrote:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico 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. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Butler cleverly pretended to go along with the plan at first, deciding to betray it to Congress when the time was right.
The “Business Plot” was to be secretly financed by members of the Morgan and Du Pont empires. A partial list included the following (from http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Coup.htm).
“Irenee Du Pont - Right-wing chemical industrialist and founder of the American Liberty League); Grayson Murphy - Director of Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel and a group of J.P. Morgan banks; William Doyle - Former state commander of the American Legion and a central plotter of the coup; John Davis - Former Democratic presidential candidate and a senior attorney for J.P. Morgan; Al Smith - Roosevelt’s bitter political foe from New York. (Smith was a former governor of New York and a co-director of the American Liberty League); John J. Raskob - A high-ranking Du Pont officer and a former chairman of the Democratic Party; Robert Clark - One of Wall Street’s richest bankers and stockbrokers; Gerald MacGuire - Bond salesman for Clark, and a former commander of the Connecticut American Legion. (MacGuire was the key recruiter of Butler.)”
Many famous American millionaires back then were not ashamed to admire Hitler and Mussolini. They included Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, John and Allen Dulles, along with many other millionaires who thrived following the Wall Street crash of 1929.  (Besides being millionaires, the two Dulles brothers would later become Eisenhower’s Secretary of State and CIA Director, respectively.)
Butler went public and the plot fell apart. Butler revealed the details of the coup before the House of Representative committee that would later become the infamous HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s). The HUAC was the committee that destroyed the careers of hundreds of innocent Americans in paranoid communist witch hunts. The Committee never called any of the coup plotters to testify under oath. The committee whitewashed the final report, actually deleting the names of powerful elites whose reputations needed to be protected. Just like today, Wall Street controlled Congress and the American Legion. None of the guilty were indicted, executed or even went to jail, despite the fact that treason was a capital crime.
Brazil’s financial elites were probably good students of the Business Plot. Here is the evidence from Brazilian liberation theologian and truth-teller Leonardo Boff.

Brazil’s “Saddest Day”: The Parliamentary Coup of President Dilma Rousseff

Leonardo Boff - 26 September 2016 - (TRANSCEND Media Service)

“The moneyed elites are before anything the financial elites, that direct the great banks and investment funds and lead other moneyed sectors such as agribusiness, industry and commerce, supported by the means of the mass media that systematically twists and falsifies the social reality as if it were a ‘devastated land and bankrupt country’ (this is an exaggeration), hiding the corporate interests behind the fraudulent coup.” – Jesse Souza

“The purpose of the coup: to minimize the State, reduce salaries, liquidate the policy of revalorization of salaries, slash monies for social programs, privatize state enterprises, especially Pre-Sal, exclude obligatory expenses of health and education, reduce to a minimum everything that relates to culture, human rights, women and minorities…and to put beyond the reach of Justice the 49 senators (out of 81) indicted or implicated in corruption.“ – Leonardo Boff

And it happened that in those days, hired assassins disguised themselves as Senators, a significant number, but not all, and decided to attack an honorable and incorruptible woman who blocked their path to State power. Once in power, they would do what they had always done: take the public goods for their personal enrichment, escaping the reach of Justice and carrying on with their privileged situation, as always, at the expense of the people they want to exclude, and marginalize, as a useful reserve army for their services, as chattel.
They took sadistic pleasure in hurting an incorruptible and honorable woman, on the pretext that some of her fiscal practices had been criminal, something that the great majority of legal and economics specialists denied. They staged a farce and betrayed the Constitution. Removing a President without having proven a crime is a coup. The correct term for it is: a “parliamentary coup.” They were petulant, hypocritically claiming that it made them feel bad, even as they spoke of ushering in an “era, a new spring, the beginning of a new Brazil, prosperous and just.” A lie!

Keeping the Poor Illiterate and Unhealthy by Privatizing Education and Healthcare

The (coup-plotter’s) plan, “A Bridge to the Future”, is in fact a bridge backwards, because it would eliminate the gains that the workers, women, Blacks, indigenous peoples, the LGBT communities, the poor and the invisible, had won for the first time in our history in terms of social inclusion, better salaries, health, education, labor law, retirement and access to technical and higher education. And what is worse: they want to keep the people illiterate, so that they will be silent and unable to demand their rights and dignity.
Now it is the Market that matters. Someone who wants medical treatment must go to the Market; and pay. Whoever wants to go to a University must first go to the Market and pay.
Everything will be turned into merchandise to be bought and sold. Can dignity be bought? Can solidarity be bought? Must love be purchased? It doesn’t matter. Those things do not count for them. But can someone live and be happy without them?
At the beginning of the conquest and domination of Mexico, there was “the saddest night”, in 1520, when much of the Spanish army was destroyed. Now we have “the saddest day”, in 2016, when a woman President was unjustly divested of the power she gained through the ballot.
In the Senate chambers and in the hallways there is spilled blood. A “political sad night” has fallen on Brazil, stealing hope from those who had climbed out of misery, and who now risk falling back into it.
And those who struggled to consolidate democracy of a social kind and to respect the will of the people, as expressed at the ballot boxes, were betrayed again. This is “the night of the long knives” that were raised against an honorable woman and that gravely wounded the sovereignty of the people.
Today, August 31, 2016, is a day of sadness. Those who mounted that spectacle and the assassin-Senators will carry the stigma of golpistas for the rest of their lives. (Ed note: Golpistas is Spanish for fraudster, scammer, swindler, or one who takes part in a coup d’état.) Their consciences will haunt them, and their legacies will be destroyed. The will to condemn cannot replace reason; that leads towards truth. They smothered truth under the mantel of injustice.
They will be in sinister company, the company of those who, years ago, assaulted the State, oppressed the people, tortured many, as they have done now with President Dilma Rousseff, and murdered those who sought to restore democracy.
And, at the end of their lives, they will face a greater Judge, who will expose all the injustice they have consciously committed.

The Coups of 1964 and 2016: Coups by the Same Class

The coups of 1964 and 2016 share a common structural nature.  Both were class coups, by the holders of money and power: the first used the military, the second used the parliament.  The means were different, but the results were the same: a coup that destroys democracy and violates popular sovereignty.
Let’s examine the 1964 coup that toppled Joao Goulart.  In his monumental thesis at the University of Glasgow: “1964: The Conquest of the State, Political Action, Power and Class Coup” -- Vozes 1981) – an 814 page book (326 of which are original documents) – René Armand Dreifuss clearly said: “what happened in Brazil was not a military coup, but a class coup with the use of military force” (p. 397).
The assault on the power of the State was plotted by General Golbery de Couto y Silva using four institutions that propagated the idea of the coup: 1) the Institute of Research and Social Studies, (IPES), 2) the Brazilian Institute of Democratic Action, (IBAD), 3) the Group of Analysis of the Situation, (GLC) and 4) the Superior School of War, (ESG). The manifest objective was: “to re-adapt and re-formulate the State” to conform it to the interests of national and transnational capital. Here is the class character of the coup.
The assault on the State happened in 1964 and hardened in 1968, with repression, torture and murder. The National Security Regime became the Capitalist Security Regime.
For the 2016 coup we have a thorough investigation by Jesse Souza, sociologist, and former President of the IPEA, “Radiography of the Coup” -- Leya 2016). Like the 1964 coup, Jesse Souza unveils the mechanisms that allowed the moneyed elites to organize the coup, which was carried out in their name by Parliament.
Consequently, it is about a class and parliamentary coup.

The Top 0.05% of Brazil are Undermining the Well-being of the Bottom 99.5%

Besides this, Souza emphasizes “that all the coups, including the present one, are a fraud well perpetrated by the owners of money, who in fact are the true ‘owners of power’”.
Who makes up that elite? “The moneyed elites are before anything the financial elites, that direct the great banks and investment funds and lead other moneyed sectors such as agribusiness, industry and commerce, supported by the means of the mass media that systematically twists and falsifies the social reality as if it were a ‘devastated land and bankrupt country’ (this is an exaggeration), hiding the corporate interests behind the fraudulent coup.”
The engine of the whole process, Jesse Souza states again, is the greed of the moneyed elite, who easily appropriate the collective wealth, with other partners such as the ultraconservative means of communication, the juridical-police complex of the State, and a portion of the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), (think of Gilmar Mendes).
The process of impeachment went to the Senate. The Senate moved to impeach the President for the crime of fiscal responsibility. Principal jurists and economists, besides notable testimonies during the hearings and in the official reports of several institutions, roundly denied the existence of responsibility. The majority of Senators did not even bother to attend the meetings with the highly qualified specialists, because they had already made the decision to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.
The audio of the conversation between Romero Juca, minister of planning and the former director of Transpetro, Sergio Machado, reveals the plot: “to put Michel in a great national agreement with the Supreme and with all, everything stops there... and it ends the bleeding of the Lava Jato”. One of the motives behind the coup was also to put beyond the reach of Justice the 49 senators (out of 81) indicted or implicated in corruption.  In this way, with the exception of the courageous defenders of President Dilma Rousseff, that type of politician without morals, decided to remove an honest and innocent woman.
To condemn someone where there is no crime is a coup.  A class and parliamentary coup.  To stage a coup means to violate the Constitution and betray popular sovereignty, the strength of which elected President Dilma Rousseff with 54 million votes.
Back in 1964, and now in 2016, be it through the military or through Parliament, the same logic functions: the economic-financial elites and the conservative political caste undertook the theft of a great part of the national treasure (Jesse Souza counts 71,440 people, only 0.05% of the population), undermining the lives and well-being of the large majority of the people, reduced to poverty. A large part of Congress is complicit in this coup.  In this Congress the same structural intent of guaranteeing the status quo that favors their privileges and earnings prevails.
The PMDB’s project, “A Bridge to the Future”, a liberalism so shameless as to make you blush, reveals the purpose of the coup: to minimize the State, reduce salaries, liquidate the policy of revalorization of salaries, slash monies for social programs, privatize state enterprises, especially Pre-Sal, exclude obligatory expenses of health and education, reduce to a minimum everything that relates to culture, human rights, women and minorities. The ministry is made up of Whites, and a great part of its members are accused of corruption.  There are no women, Blacks, or representatives of the minorities.
We are in the midst of a terrifying retrogressive political-social movement, that worsens inequality, our perverse social wound, and erases the social conquests of the 13 years of the Lula-Dilma governments.
There is massive resistance and opposition in the streets, by strong social groups and intellectuals who do not accept a conspiring president without credibility. The solution would be general elections, and through popular sovereignty, a new President would be chosen who truly would represent the country.  

Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian, ecologist, writer and university professor exponent of the Liberation Theology. He is a former friar, member of the Franciscan Order, respected for his advocacy of social causes and environmental issues. Boff is a founding member of the Earthcharter Commission.