Plus ça change …. Occupy Wall Street and the centenary of Francis Delaisi’s groundbreaking work “Les financiers et la démocratie” (The Financiers and Democracy)
by Paul Carline
The article is a year late in appearing, of course. It was originally written in November 2011. However, it seemed to us that its message was and is still of importance. It is a message that is increasingly recognised as an essential truth in terms of the present financial crisis. But Delaisi recognised – importantly – that the machinations of the “string pullers” extended beyond the mere increase of personal wealth and influence to the wholesale subversion of democracy and the fomenting of war for geopolitical, commercial and other ends.
Delaisi’s talent for “connecting the dots”, allowing him to understand the past and present and predict the future, is something that is of more than historical interest. It is a vital element of any strategy to bring about the changes the world urgently needs to halt the current “descent into hell” – a nightmare vision of the kind of world people like string-puller Zbigniew Brzezinski appear to want: “… a a more controlled society … dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values”. Delaisi was correct in labeling this “fascism”.
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Plus ça change ….
2011: “We the people” demonstrate in ever larger numbers, not just in the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York, but in other cities across America and beyond. Expressions of protest are occurring around the world, in Greece, in Spain, even in relatively wealthy Tel Aviv. The online campaigning organization Avaaz has just launched a global appeal for signatures to support the OWS protest. Its petition message to the New York protesters reads: “We stand with you in this struggle for real democracy. Together we can end the capture and corruption of our governments by corporate and wealthy elites, and hold our politicians accountable to serve the public interest. We are united – the time for change has come!”
The protests vary in their flavour. “We’re all angry about something”, says one New York protester. But the main focus of the anger is on the “banksters”, the stock exchange speculators and the multinationals – the ones who can, with no apparent stirring of conscience, make money out of other people’s misery and loss, and who, as the saying goes, like to “privatise profits and socialise losses”.
If French writer, journalist and economist Francis Delaisi had been alive today he would no doubt have sent his warm greetings and congratulations to the protesters. Maybe he would have joined a protest somewhere, with a wry smile on his face and carrying a placard saying: “I told you so …”. But Delaisi died in 1947 and hardly anyone today has ever heard of him – so why is he part of the story?
1911: Francis Delaisi, born on 19 November 1873 in Bazougers, a small town in the Loire region of north-west France, has a groundbreaking piece of polemical research published as a series of articles in a small weekly radical newspaper called La Guerre Sociale (The Social War). The piece is entitled: Les financiers et la démocratie (The financiers and Democracy) and it lifts the lid on the “banksters” and speculators of its day in France. Not content with a general attack, Delaisi “names and shames” the people at the heart of the financial and political corruption (a tactic which the OWS protesters might usefully copy). He refers to the “Two Hundred Families” which effectively rule France, listing 22 of them by name (Rothschild is among them), along with their “interests” – specifically in banking, mines and metal works, transport (especially railways) and “diverse” other fields, including tobacco, gas and electricity generation and distribution, ports, insurance, chemicals, telephones – several of them in French possessions in the Far East and elsewhere.
The publication makes waves, though it doesn’t immediately lead to strikes and protests. That it struck its targets is clear from the fact that the publisher was ‘prevailed upon’ to leave the second edition mouldering in his cellars. The work was virtually forgotten for 25 years – until another writer, journalist and polemicist called Jean Galtier-Boissière, described by Delaisi as a “passionate second-hand bookseller” rediscovered it and offered to republish it in his own satirical review Le Crapouillot (the name means a “trench mortar”), founded in 1915 and ceasing publication only in 1996. Thus Delaisi’s exposé of the corruption of democracy by the financiers reached another public at another turbulent time in European affairs.
In the Preface to the 1936 reprint, Delaisi gives us Galtier-Boissière’s impassioned plea:
“This little book”, he told me, “is grippingly topical. France is more than ever the prey of the financiers. There isn’t a single Frenchman alive today who doesn’t sense it, but he doesn’t know it to be true.
He doesn’t know by what slow work of sabotage a hundred men, concealed behind the screen of the “anonymous societies”, after having seized control of the savings of the middle classes, also wrested command of the levers of the political power which was supposed to keep them under control.
At best he [the average Frenchman] believes in the short-lived influence of a particular man or of a group and naïvely imagines that merely replacing a minister will suffice to rid him of that influence. Being made aware that this secret government has been functioning for 35 years, he will understand the gravity of the evil whose terrible influence he senses.
The picture of democracy which you painted in 1911 is still true. It’s that date which shows the value of its witness. It has to be republished … “
1911 was also the year which saw the publication of another memorable work by Delaisi: La guerre qui vient (literally “The Coming War”) in which he predicted that a new European war would erupt in 1914. La guerre qui vient and a later work: Contradictions du monde moderne (1927) were translated into English and published, the former, in 1915, as The Inevitable War, available online at http://openlibrary.org/books/OL6583532M/The_inevitable_war; the latter as Political Myths and Economic Realities (reprinted in 1971). But for unclear reasons, his Les financiers et la démocratie is so far virtually unknown to the English-speaking world (unless, like me, you read French and are lucky enough to have found a copy of the 1936 reprint, full of wonderful cartoons).
Like Galtier-Boissière, I feel that Delaisi’s book is “grippingly topical” despite the century of distance. So I decided to translate it so that its old but still current message can reach many more people. This is the first instalment:
(The Preface continues):
‘1911 – The conquest of democracy by the financiers was already a fact – but a recent one.
For thirty years, closely associated with representatives of deposed regimes, legitimists, Orleanists and Bonapartists, supporting the generals in their coups d’Etat, and supported in their turn by the moral forces of the bishops, the moneymen did not cease to attack the Republic: the massacre of the Communards with (Adolphe) Thiers; the armed coup by the “Moral Order” under Mac-Mahon; General Boulanger’s escapade; the attempt by Déroulède; the Dreyfus affair – on every occasion those who wanted to topple the Republic [which they called “La Gueuse” - the villain] were helped by their [the moneymen’s] newspapers and money. But at each attempt democracy strengthened itself and the voters increasingly voted “Left”.
So the financiers changed their tactics: the frontal attack having failed, they tried to work from the inside – to accept the regime but corrupt or intimidate those who worked for it.
On the advice of [Pierre] Waldeck-Rousseau – a lawyer for the Vatican and the big banks – the Catholic Church recommended that people rally round the Republic, while simultaneously the “conservatives” in the great administrative councils gave up their Orleanist or Bonapartist regalia.
In order to demonstrate this national and republican reconciliation to the eyes of the astonished members of parliament, the great games master arranged for General Marquis de Galliffet, murderer of the Communards, and socialist citizen Millerand to sit side by side, on the same ministerial bench (Millerand had regularly been given “leave of absence” by his party for sitting in that very place).
Under cover of this government, the work of sabotage began immediately. While the “Dreyfusards” betook themselves in a great procession, with red flags flying, to the Place de la Nation to celebrate the triumph of the Republic, the same Waldeck-Rousseau who was their guest of honour arranged, through his secretary Demagny, the first committee for the distribution of electoral funds for use by candidates of the “Left”.
Ten years later everything – the media, the committees, the parliamentary groups – was republican; and all of them obeyed the financiers.
The penetration was so complete and so visible that a young journalist [Delaisi himself] without connections was able to describe precisely all the different areas. His study appeared in the form of articles in Gustave Hervé’s La Guerre Sociale, a periodical which had broken with all the official parties. But the penetration by the financiers was so adroit that, upon its second edition, the volume disappeared into the periodical’s cellars.
* * *
But the people, who only saw the window-dressing, despite the repeated deceptions, continued to trust. Basically, they only wanted two things from the Republic: an increase in their material well-being, and peace.
To be sure, it has to be recognised that, despite the glaring social injustices and the scandalous wastefulness, the forty years which separated the two wars (1870 – 1914) were marked by an unprecedented increase in wealth for the middle classes – and even for the poor (the increase in deposits in the savings banks is one of the many proofs).
Moreover, the awareness of his sovereignty gave the peace-loving Frenchman the assurance that he could no longer be thrown by dynastic or other interests into another military adventure. He had given up the idea of revenge and was prepared to accept armaments only for purposes of national defence.
He did not see the approach of the horrific conflict which the struggle between economic empires was about to unleash. [In the same year, 1911, I published La guerre qui vient - ‘The Coming War’ - in which I announced the spread of the conflict across the whole of Europe and the invasion through Belgium, and predicted that hostilities would begin in 1914].
The first time, his financial oligarchy had procured war (1914-1918), then the depression (1921-1926). But he had not understood. He had attributed the responsibility for the disaster solely to the intrigues of foreign countries, and the financial collapse to the consequences of the war.
Now, for the second time, he had been driven into a monetary collapse after a crisis which had cost him more than a war – and which didn’t have a war as an excuse. And for a second time, here he was again under threat of a European conflict.
This time, his trust was shaken. He begins to suspect that behind the democratic decor dark forces are active. At the last elections, the citizens demanded of the candidates of all colours information on the Two Hundred Families and on the directors of the Bank of France. And it was against these forces, of which people had hitherto been unaware, that the Popular Front was formed.
Thus the eyes open. At last, the sovereign citizen wants to know about this occult power which hides behind his ministers and which controls them. It is for that reason that it thought it well to remind him of this old testimony of a usurpation already accomplished long ago.
* * *
Some adepts of the new fascist religion – partisans of authoritarian regimes and contemptuous of liberty – may wish to see this little book as an accusation against democracy and parliamentarianism.
I protest in advance – if there should be any need of it – against any selective quoting, too easy a mutilation of my thinking.
A child of the people, a scholarship student at the Lycée and the University, I owe everything to the Republic. For forty years – without belonging to any political party (a reading of this book will explain why) – I have not ceased to fight for it [the Republic]: during the Dreyfus Affair, in meetings, in the media, in the unions, in the Ligue de la jeune République, in the League for Human Rights, in the Watch Committee of Antifascist Intellectuals; and I am proud to find myself at the age of 60 on the same side of the barricades as 30 years ago.
I believe in democracy, because I think that there can be no durable economic and social equilibrium except where all members of society have equal rights and equal opportunities.
I believe in parliamentarianism because – whatever the inevitable flaws and errors of the representative system – it matters that the last word rests with the simple citizen, because the state was made for him, not him for the state.
I don’t believe it is necessary to change the Constitution (that kind of machine never gives a 100% return!), but I affirm once more that – as I have already twice predicted – democracy will lead us into war and ruination as long as its levers of power are in the hands of a secret and irresponsible oligarchy.
The aim of this book is to free parliament, not condemn it.
May it, supported by this forewarning, free itself from an oligarchy which reduces it to impotence – and which tomorrow will blame it for all the mistakes it has made.”
(To be continued ….)
* * *
[Note: Delaisi’s endorsement here (1936) of the parliamentary representative system seems odd in view of his 1911 allegation that parliamentary reality - weak, ignorant and incompetent representatives mainly concerned with trying to ensure they are re-elected, while the unelected and unaccountable civil servants are the real decision-makers - betrayed the trust of the people in the system and made a mockery of popular sovereignty. It is also simply untrue that parliamentarianism allows “the simple citizen” to have the last word. This is almost never the case, except where this is constitutionally guaranteed - as in Ireland (but invoked only in a very few instances) and Switzerland, where the admirable system of Swiss direct democracy gives more power to the voter than anywhere else in the world (though even there it is not ‘full democracy’).]
I’d never heard of Francis Delaisi until some four or five years ago. I was doing some background research for an article on democracy which was subsequently published in the Spring 2008 issue of a UK-based quarterly called New View. New View’s approach is strongly influenced, but not dominated, by the work of Rudolf Steiner – the Austrian scientist, philosopher, educator and the inspiration for numerous original initiatives in the areas of medicine, education, economics, agriculture, architecture and the arts, to mention only the main ones.
Steiner was passionate about social and economic justice and made many comments about democracy. In lectures given in 1917, for example, he said the following (words which are chillingly apposite to our own time, when large areas of the world, and large numbers of human beings, have been “smashed to pieces” in the name of “freedom and democracy”):
“Certain people are over and over again proclaiming to the world that democracy must spread to the whole civilized world. Salvation lies in making the whole of humanity democratic; everything will have to be smashed to pieces so that democracy may spread in the world. Well, if people go on to accept ideas presented to them as they are, with wholesale acceptance of the term democracy, for instance, their idea of democracy will be like the definition of the human being which I gave you: ‘A human being is a creature with two legs and without feathers: a plucked cockerel’. Concepts are taken for reality, and as a result illusion may take the place of reality where human life is concerned by lulling people to sleep with concepts.”
Steiner then refers to a man who had “woken up” to the reality behind the appearances:
“It is interesting to note that in 1910 someone wrote that large-scale capitalism had succeeded in making democracy into the most marvellous, flexible and effective tool for exploiting the whole population. Financiers were usually imagined to be the enemies of democracy, the individual concerned wrote, but this was a fundamental error. On the contrary, they run democracy and encourage it, for it provides a screen behind which they can hide their method of exploitation, and they find it their best defence against any objections which the populace may raise.
For once, therefore, a man woke up and saw that what mattered was not to proclaim democracy but to see the full reality, not to follow slogans, but to see things as they really are. This would be particularly important today, for people would then realize that the events which reign with such blood and terror over the whole of humanity are guided and directed from just a few centres.”
“Blood and terror directed from just a few centres”. That’s our reality, especially since 9/11, the state crime that remains unpunished and which spawned the spurious “war on terror” which is really a “war of terror” against democracy, truth and justice.
Another writer of whom I was until recently unaware is Carroll Quigley, who in Tragedy and Hope wrote of the “networks” whose aim was “nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands, able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences”. In The Anglo-American Establishment (written in 1949, but not published until 1981, four years after Quigley’s death), Quigley named some of those in these “networks”, such as the group founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1891, of which Quigley wrote:
“This organization has been able to conceal its existence quite successfully, and many of its most influential members, satisfied to possess the reality rather than the appearance of power, are unknown even to close students of British history. This is the more surprising when we learn that one of the chief methods by which this Group works has been through propaganda. It plotted the Jameson Raid of 1895; it caused the Boer War of 1899-1902; it set up and controls the Rhodes Trust; it created the Union of South Africa in 1906-1910; it established the South African periodical The State in 1908; it founded the British Empire periodical The Round Table in 1910, and this remains the mouthpiece of the Group; it has been the most powerful single influence in All Souls, Balliol, and New College at Oxford for more than a generation; it has controlled The Times for more than fifty years, with the exception of the three years 1919-1922; it publicized the idea of and the name “British Commonwealth of Nations” in the period 1908-1918; it was the chief influence in Lloyd George’s war administration in 1917-1919 and dominated the British delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919; it had a great deal to do with the formation and management of the League of Nations and of the system of mandates; it founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1919 and still controls it; it was one of the chief influences on British policy toward Ireland, Palestine, and India in the period 1917-1945; it was a very important influence on the policy of appeasement of Germany during the years 1920-1940; and it controlled and still controls, to a very considerable extent, the sources and the writing of the history of British Imperial and foreign policy since the Boer War.”
Rudolf Steiner referred to groups like this as “the brothers of the shadows”. Fast forward to 2012, and in the latest “Bond” movie, “Skyfall”, [reviewed on this site] we have the actress Judi Dench, in her role as ‘M’ – the head of British MI6 – saying:
“Our enemies are no longer known to us. They don’t exist on a map. Our world is not more transparent, now. It’s more opaque. That’s where we have to fight. In the shadows.”
By “our enemies” we are, of course, meant to think of the fabricated ‘ennemi du jour’ of “international (especially Islamic) terrorism” - intended to be an “ennemi du siècle” in the ‘never-ending’ phoney “war on terror”. In reality, as analyst Webster Tarpley observed, all large-scale terrorism is state-sponsored.
The primary need – in the struggle for real democracy, economic justice, social solidarity, the end of exploitation and unnecessary suffering worldwide – is to identify and expose our own “home grown” enemies (and their international networks): the “string pullers” behind governments, and their willing accomplices – those who put personal gain and personal pleasure before the welfare of society as a whole.