Synarchist Conspiracy in America: The Business Plot

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: The Real History of Secret Societies

By Richard Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho

Was there an American chapter of the Synarchist movement? An episode in American history that you probably won’t read about in any textbook is the Business Plot of 1934.

Wall street sign and American flags shown with New York Stock Exchange as the background.
The Business Plot of 1934 was an attempt to establish a fascist organization in the United States. (Image: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock)

Harvard historian William Langer firmly believed in the Synarchist conspiracy. During World War II, Langer was an analyst with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA. Langer vouched for the existence of an ‘international brotherhood of financiers and industrialists’. In Langer’s estimation, the conspirators centered around the Banque Worms and had schemed to bring about France’s defeat in 1940.

Learn more about the Bolsheviks, Masons, and the Russian revolution.

Business Plot of 1934

An episode in American history that you probably won’t read about in any textbook—nor much anywhere else—is the Business Plot of 1934.

A picture of U.S. General Smedley Darlington Butler
U.S. General Smedley Butler revealed the existence of a conspiracy, which later became known as the Business Plot. (Image: US Marine Corps/Public domain)

Three years earlier, U.S. General Smedley Darlington Butler had retired after 30 years in the Marine Corps, having earned two Congressional Medals of Honor.

After leaving the Marines, Butler’s politics drifted to the left. He condemned his past service in places like Central America as a ‘gangster for capitalism’. Butler also published a scathing denunciation of Wall Street-driven interventionism titled War Is a Racket. How odd, then, that some of those very same Wall Street guys would try to enlist Butler in a plot against the newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt.

In the summer of 1933, Butler said that a New York stockbroker named Gerald MacGuire paid him a visit. MacGuire asked for help in raising an army of veterans. That armed militia would march on Washington and install a corporatist regime similar to the one in Italy and Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

The next step was to install a dictator—Retired Army General Hugh S. Johnson, an open admirer of Fascism and intimately connected to Wall Street. He was also President Franklin Roosevelt’s first head of the controversial National Recovery Administration.

The man who approached Gen. Butler—Gerald MacGuire—was a small fry. But behind him were men like his boss, Wall Street big-shot Grayson M. P. Murphy. And behind Murphy loomed financial titan J. P. Morgan. According to Butler, the Du Ponts, the Guggenheims, and many others supposedly also backed the plan and were willing to pony up to $300 million to make it work. The Du Ponts, by the way, are named as Synarchist backers in the Chavin Report, a report by the French Sûreté chief, along with some other unnamed ‘American interests’.

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

The Revelations of U.S. General Butler

Former Marine General Butler decided to play along with the conspirators to see how much they would reveal. In late 1934, he went public, sparking brief national controversy and a congressional investigation. Congress tip-toed around the scandal, declining to call any Wall Street big-shots to testify. But its final report concluded that there had been ‘an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country’, and that ‘there is no question that these attempts were discussed and planned’ and had ‘financial backers’.

Franklin D. Roosevelt signing an act with other politicians in the background.
The congressional investigations on the Business Plot took place during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Image: Social Security Online/Public domain)

They just weren’t going to name them. The mainstream press almost universally attacked Butler. The New York Times dismissed the whole thing as a ‘gigantic hoax’. Others hinted that the general was showing his age. He was only 53. But there was little to go on besides Butler’s accusations. The Roosevelt White House stayed mum, and the Justice Department didn’t lift a finger. Somehow a plot to overthrow the government was out of their jurisdiction.

However, communist journalist John Spivak took Butler’s charges seriously. Spivak conjured up an even larger ‘Wall Street Fascist Conspiracy’ that roped in the Kuhn Loeb and Warburg banks, among others. Spivak’s scenario was mostly dismissed as ‘commie lunacy’ and ‘classically paranoid conspiracy theory’. The real extent of the plot remains a mystery. But, it seems Butler inconveniently lifted the veil off something that was never supposed to be discussed in public.

Things like that simply don’t happen in America. Some even suspected that FDR secretly instigated the affair to make himself look like a victim of Wall Street, as opposed to its accomplice.

Was the Business Plot the American wing of Synarchy? Well, in 1934, the same stockbroker, Gerald MacGuire, and his boss, Grayson Murphy, visited France. One of those they purportedly met there was Eugène Schueller, the L’Oreal boss and the bankroller of the right-wing Cagoule terror outfit. One can only wonder what they discussed.

Learn more about Masonic revolutions in America and France.

Did Synarchists Fail?

Nevertheless, the Synarchist International—assuming it existed—failed, right? It bungled the job in France, and never got off the ground in the United States. Or did it just mutate like a virus, adapting to suit new realities and new hosts?

Did it spawn new fronts and new secret societies? Look around the world today. What do you think? Who holds power? Or rather, who holds authority? Maybe it’s a good time to remember the old saying: “Nothing is what it seems, except when it’s exactly what it seems.”

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Common Questions about Synarchist Conspiracy in America: The Business Plot

Q: Who said war is a racket?

Major General Smedley D. Butler, a retired United States Marine, said that in a speech and in a 1935 short book.

Q: What did Smedley Butler do?

General Smedley Butler won two medals of honor for bravery. He also uncloaked the Business Plot conspiracy.

Q: Why does Smedley Butler think that war is a racket?

Smedley Butler thought so because wars are waged for the profiteering of the rich. He asked for the means for war to be ‘conscripted’ before those who would fight the war.

Q: How did Smedley Butler die?

Smedley Butler died of cancer on 21 June 1940 at the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia.

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