Old Right, New Right

The decline of the Old Right opposition to the welfare/warfare state created by Roosevelt and Truman began in the 1950s with the infiltration of its ranks by two ideological elements created and fostered by the intelligence community: the synthetic “Conservative Movement” and the Neoconservatives.

Human Events was a premier publication of the anti-interventionist Old Right opposition to FDR’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and their collectivist programs both domestically and abroad. It was founded in 1944 by Old Right stalwarts Felix Morley, who was from 1933 to 1940 the editor of The Washington Post; Frank Hanighen, who was co-author of The Merchants of Death (the famous 1930s expose of the arms industry throughout the world); and former New Dealer and publisher of key Old Right authors and WWII revisionist history Henry Regnery. In 1951, Frank Chodorov, former director of the Henry George School of Social Science in New York, replaced Morley as editor, merging his newsletter, analysis, into Human Events.

I’m sure there was some continuity of financing sources from the anti-New Deal, Fair Deal Old Right of the American Liberty League, the American First Committee, and the Committee for Constitutional Government, and its offshoot, America’s Future, Inc. I am not familiar with this specific detailed history as it relates to individual donors and “angels.” Some of these same individuals may have been involved in funding the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Volker Fund, Spiritual Mobilization, Human Events, the American Mercury, the Bricker Amendment forces etc.

The tricky thing is when Bill Buckley and the CIA-enabled synthetic New Right “Conservative movement” arose to displace the non-interventionist Old Right.

Some of these guys got carried away with Senator Joe McCarthy’s (and Buckley’s) anti-Communist fervor and were swept away from their Old Right moorings in the tidal wave (McCarthyite Murray Rothbard stood fast). Such persons coalesced behind Buckley’s National Review, Alfred Kohlberg’s China Lobby – the Committee of One Million (linked with the Asian heroin narcotics triad syndicates and Chaing Kai-Chek’s KMT), and other such fronts created by Buckley tool Marvin Leibman such as Aid Refugee Chinese Intellectuals, the American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, the American-Asian Educational Exchange, the American African Affairs Association, the American Committee for Aid to Katanga Freedom Fighters, and the World Anti-Communist League. In addition, Liebman was an early supporter and co-founder of Buckley’s Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union. Among his later notable clients were: the Friends of Free China, the Friends of Jim Buckley, the Committee of Single Taxpayers, the American-Chilean Council, the Ad Hoc Citizens Legal Defense Fund for the FBI, Firing Line, and Covenant House.

With Buckley’s declared war on the Old Right, the marginalizing of Nockian acolyte Frank Chodorov, John T. Flynn, Rose Wilder Lane, and the deaths of Robert Taft, Garet Garrett, and Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the Old Right died. Some people undoubtedly went over to Robert Welch’s John Birch Society, and Willis Stone’s Liberty Amendment Committee, while Rothbard and his little band of followers moved temporarily into elements of the anti-war, anti-conservative left in hope of creating an anti-war, anti-draft, anti-militarism Old Right/New Left coalition against the welfare-warfare state.  

The concept of “bureaucratic collectivism” was broached by the Trotskyist Bruno Rizzi in 1939, in his book The Bureaucratization of the World as a critique of economic and political centralization in the corporatist New Deal and European National Socialism, as well as Stalinism in the Soviet Union.

It also put forth the theory of “the third camp,” of independent revolutionaries opposed to both capitalism and Stalinism. This idea of a Non-Communist Left (NCL) later became a key ideological element in the CIA’s early Cold War strategy. Key organizers of the CIA’s Non-Communist Left operation, titled QKOPERA, included Frank Wisner, Lawrence de Neufville, Thomas Braden, James Burnham, Max Shachtman, C.D. Jackson, and Michael Josselson. (Other supporters within the intelligence community included George F. Kennan, Averell Harriman, and General Lucius D. Clay.) Operation Mockingbird was a central part of this agitprop strategic thrust.

In the 1930s, after the Moscow Show Trials and the demonization of Leon Trotsky in the USSR, there was a furious international debate among Trotskyists at the time concerning the true nature of the Soviet Union – was it indeed “socialist” or had it degenerated into a vulgar hybrid of state capitalism?

In America, Trotskyists Max Shachtman and James Burnham were very influenced by this concept and broke from the orthodox Trotskyist Fourth International in not defending the Soviet Union. Burnham would later become one of the founding fathers of Neoconservatism, which some observers have deemed Trotskyism in new garb.

The fierce anti-Stalinist Shachtman remained on “the left.” He later formed an independent socialist group, worked closely with the top staff of AFL-CIO president George Meany, and came into closer contact with other left-wing intellectuals including Dwight Macdonald and the Trotskyist group around Partisan Review. Shachtman became a focal point for many in the milieu of the New York Intellectuals who later become the founders of Neoconservatism.

The Ur-Neocon Burnham shifted to “the Right” from the Trotskyist group around Partisan Review.

In 1940, soon after Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico by a Soviet NKVD agent, he wrote his most important book, The Managerial Revolution, which further developed this central theme of “bureaucratic collectivism.” Burnham was in the process of breaking from the Trotskyist communist associations he had long traveled in when he wrote it. Soon he became a consultant for the OSS, and later its successor, the CIA.  He became the key public theoretician for “roll back” of the Soviets from dominating Eastern Europe, and the key opponent of the reigning “containment” policy of the State Department, originated by George Kennan.

(Ironically it has only been recently revealed that it was actually Kennan who was the true father of both “roll back” and “containment” at the State Department, in formulating a detailed covert action strategy for underground resistance efforts in the Eastern Bloc utilizing elements of the Gehlen Org. Reinhard Gehlen was a top German general on Hitler’s Eastern Front who was recruited by American intelligence at the end of WWII.  His disastrous efforts using former Nazi agents led to intelligence failures within the CIA and helped coin the term “blowback.”)

Burnham later met in his apartment a young Yale graduate, one William F. Buckley Jr., who had been recruited for CIA, by his Yale professor Willmoore Kendall (another former Trotskyist and OSS/CIA consultant), “the boy wonder” from Oklahoma). Kendall had graduated from high school at 13, from OU at 18.

Agent Buckley quickly went off to Mexico for the CIA, where he served under station chief E. Howard Hunt (later of Watergate scandal fame).  When he returned Buckley founded National Review magazine, with Burnham and Kendall as senior editors, along with his sister Priscilla, who also had worked for the CIA.  Former OSS agent (and later CIA director) William Casey handled the incorporation of the publication, serving as counsel for decades.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Burnham would work closely with the CIA front the Congress of Cultural Freedom, and became the most important intellectual influence upon CIA agent William F. Buckley, Jr. and the development of National Review magazine and the modern conservative movement. See the September 11, 1987 issue of National Review with tributes and obituaries to Burnham. (Unfortunately this issue is still under copyright and cannot appear online.)

I still have my printed copy.

As Murray N. Rothbard noted in his seminal book, The Betrayal of the American Right:

In the light of hindsight, we should now ask whether or not a major objective of National Review from its inception was to transform the right wing from an isolationist to global warmongering anti-Communist movement; and, particularly, whether or not the entire effort was in essence a CIA operation. We now know that Bill Buckley, for the two years prior to establishing National Review, was admittedly a CIA agent in Mexico City, and that the sinister E. Howard Hunt was his control. His sister Priscilla, who became managing editor of National Review, was also in the CIA; and other editors James Burnham and Willmoore Kendall had at least been recipients of CIA largesse in the anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. In addition, Burnham has been identified by two reliable sources as a consultant for the CIA in the years after World War II. Moreover, Garry Wills relates in his memoirs of the conservative movement that Frank Meyer, to whom he was close at the time, was convinced that the magazine was a CIA operation. With his Leninist-trained nose for intrigue, Meyer must be considered an important witness.

Furthermore, it was a standard practice in the CIA, at least in those early years, that no one ever resigned from the CIA. A friend of mine who joined the agency in the early 1950s told me that if, before the age of retirement, he was mentioned as having left the CIA for another job, that I was to disregard it, since it would only be a cover for continuing agency work. On that testimony, the case for NR being a CIA operation becomes even stronger. Also suggestive is the fact that a character even more sinister than E. Howard Hunt, William J. Casey, appears at key moments of the establishment of the New over the Old Right. It was Casey who, as attorney, presided over the incorporation of National Review and had arranged the details of the ouster of Felix Morley from Human Events.

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12:01 am on August 19, 2019