‘I was a Racketeer for Capitalism’ — Maj. General Smedley Butler, USMC (1935)
‘I was a racketeer for capitalism’
Maj. General Smedley Butler, USMC (1935)
Major General Smedley Butler was a two-time winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and (once) of the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. In 1935 the following excerpt from his speeches was published in the magazine Common Sense:
…In the past two years large National Guard forces have seen active service in 20 strikes in as many different states, from the Pacific Coast to New England, from Minnesota to Georgia. They have used gas, bullets, and tanks — the most lethal weapons of modern war — against striking workers. Casualty lists have been impressive. In one instance they erected barbed wire concentration camps in Georgia to “co-ordinate” striking workers with all the efficiency of the fascist repressive technique.There isn’t a trick In the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” (to point out enemies), its “muscle men” (to destroy enemies), its “brain guys,” (to plan war preparations) and a “Big Boss,” (super-nationalistic capitalism).
I Was a “Racketeer”
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months In active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical of everyone in the military service.
Thus I, helped make Mexico and especially Tampico 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. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.
Some discussion of this piece at commongroundcommonsense.org: Insights of a Marine General, Published in a magazine called “Common Sense”
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy