From its beginning in 1958 the John Birch Society was a tightly organized, dogmatically rigid, hierarchical entity with autocratic founder Robert Welch in absolute control of the Belmont, MA command structure. It was deliberately authoritarian in nature, modeled on the cadre structure of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) which was perceived as its principal ideological adversary. It was not conceived as an organization for free and open discussion or debate but as an educational/political action organization with a specific agenda and rigid dogma dictated from Belmont.
(An excellent book on the structure of the CPUSA is I Led Three Lives, which was later made into a TV series in the early 1950s. I have an autographed first edition copy of this book. This series was ironically Lee Harvey Oswald’s favorite program as a youngster. Also FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s Masters of Deceit covers much the same ground). The Communist Party had both open and covert membership (some of the latter engaged in espionage activities for the party’s clandestine apparat connected to the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) and/or the NKVD/KGB (Soviet state security, the equivalent of the CIA in the US). The JBS believed world communism was monolithic and directed from Moscow, much as the JBS was monolithic and directed from Belmont, MA.
In the Cold War climate of the time, John Birch Society members were instructed that they were to fight fire with fire.The JBS was to be a mirror image of this CPUSA covert structure. It was not intended to be a publicly open and transparent presence within the communities where it established its chapters. It was forced into the open by the concentrated media exposure/vilification campaign directed against it in the early 1960s. Within a very short time the JBS was very well known throughout the US.
As major principals of faith, JBS members believed that prominent persons such as Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, John Foster Dulles, and Allen Dulles were secret Communists or agents of influence for the Soviets. Welch described Eisenhower in early drafts of The Politician as “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.” I have never believed this or supported these unproven assertions.
Its members support for the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964 became a major issue at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco by the Rockefeller/Romney GOP establishment. Later these persons did not endorse or support Goldwater’s efforts in the general election against Democrat Lyndon Johnson.
During this early period the major political/educational campaigns engaged in by the JBS were support for the FBI and the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigations of the Communist Party and perceived Communist infiltration of all aspects of American life; against US participation in the United Nations (G. Edward Griffin wrote the principal tract, The Fearful Master: A Second Look At The United Nations, on this topic; perceived Communist involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, Alan Stang’s It’s Very Simple: True Story of Civil Rights, set the tone on this issue; the vast letter-writing /billboard campaigns calling for the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren; The Movement to Restore Decency (MOTOREDE), was launched to stem the decline of moral standards in the country and to expose the involvement of communists promoting the turn away from traditional values. MOTOREDE was especially aimed in alerting persons to the danger of drug use and the harm being done to young people through inserting sex education instruction in the schools.
On the international front, the JBS was opposed to any summit talks between leaders of the US and and USSR, opposed to any movement toward nuclear disarmament, and called for support of virtually every brutal right-wing or fascist dictator who was perceived as anticommunist. A particular favorite was the corrupt authoritarian Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist leader of the Republic of China. Chaing had long been allied with organized crime forces of the narcotics trade, and his KMT organization was sustained by this drug traffic. In the US, Chaing’s supporters were known as The China Lobby, which acted as cover for this narcotics trade. The JBS was a key element in this disinformation effort, blaming the narcotics contagion on Red China, the People’s Republic of China, and not the KMT assisted by the CIA. (Read this interview with Alfred McCoy by David Barsamian, “The CIA & The Politics of Narcotics.” )
Over the decades the JBS has undergone some substantial paradigm shifts (particularly around 1972 and the publication of Gary Allen’s None Dare Call It Conspiracy in response to Carrol Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope). As a result the JBS became more populist and anti-elitist, and not merely anti-communist and constitutionalist. Their information concerning “power elite analysis” on such organizations as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the campaign for the New World Order has been superb.
To many persons the highly structured JBS is exactly what they are looking for. But it was never for me.9:43 am on August 8, 2017