Alfred Mendes discusses the power and continued influence of money-elites in post-war Europe
The Bilderberg Group was formed in 1954 out of the need of corporate America to ensure cohesion of purpose on the part of its European partners in the recently formed North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) - the twin aim being to facilitate the flow of American capital into the region, and to bring Germany into the Alliance (against, it should be noted, the wishes of many of the USA’s partners). That it is a group endowed with enormous political clout can be attested to by both an examination of the lists of committee members and conference attendees over the years - together with the gravity and importance of the subjects discussed at these conferences (NATO, understandably, being repeatedly a key subject); and the fact that these conferences take place under very strict security cover supplied by the respective host countries - even though implicit within the structure of this cabal is its unaccountable, secretive nature.
The Trilateral Commission was formed in 1973, its agenda determined by the corporate-funded Brookings Institute and the Kettering Foundation - with not a little help from David Rockefeller of the Chase-Manhattan Bank. That its projected formation should have been so enthusiastically acclaimed by the Bilderberg Conference in Knokke, Belgium in 1972 should cause no surprise. Both corporate-controlled organisations, with linked membership, they shared the same aim: increasing the globalisation of their wealth and power. Certainly, the Bilderberg with its total lack of any democratic accountability, must be in agreement with the Trilateral Commission’s declaration (published in their The crisis of Democracy) that what the West needs most ‘is a greater degree of moderation in democracy’.
An examination of the list of bankers involved in these bodies reveals that, of the banking organisations, the Banks for International Settlements (BIS) is the one of prime importance on the international scene - not only because of its prestigious membership (embracing as it does the head bankers of the leading industrial nations) - but also because of the significance of its links with other groups. This article will focus on it, at the expense of the other better-known banking institutions, for two reasons: its prime ranking in the international hierarchy; and the fact that so little knowledge of it is in the public domain.
The BIS is the world’s oldest international financial institution, having been set up in 1930 with the twin aim of coping with reparations/loans from/to a very unstable post-World War one Germany; and more importantly, to act as a forum for central bankers in the future. As such, it was the epitome of supra-nationality - able to circumvent all those orthodox ideals that had, over the years, become synonymous with the concept of the nation state - such as love of country, patriotism etc., - the danger, of course, being that, in certain circumstances (such as a state of war), such circumvention of patriotism by any of its board members could lead to their being accused of treasonable offences.
In order to appreciate what followed, it is essential to offer a brief resumé of the political-economic situation at the turn of the century: the Industrial Revolution, having fostered the rapid growth of a capitalist economy, inevitably gave birth to an ideal/dogma exposing the socio-political discord inherent within that same system, a system was based on the concept of one comparatively small group of people garnering profit from the wealth created by the labour of a much larger group. Thus was Marxism born - leading to the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. The USSR, now perceived by the industrial nations as representing the very antithesis of capitalism, was henceforth the enemy. The Cold War had begun, and its most blatant expression was the birth of fascism in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution - a birth both induced and nurtured by corporations such as I.G.Farben, SKF, Ford, ITT and Du Pont - corporations which were fast becoming multi-national in nature. Enter BIS. Set up in 1930, it consisted, initially, of a group of 6 central banks and a financial institution of the USA. Granted a constitution charter by Switzerland, it was henceforth based in that country. That America was by then a financial force to be reckoned with on the international scene is borne out by the fact that the first President appointed to the BIS was Gates W. McGarrah (ex-Chase National Bank & Federal Reserve Bank).
By the late 1930s the BIS had assumed an openly pro-Nazi bias - much of it disclosed by Charles Higham in his book Trading With the Enemy, and years later corroborated by a BBC Timewatch film Banking With Hitler, broadcast in late 1998. Two examples of such bias (there were many more) were: (1) The BIS had arranged transfers into the account of the Germany’s Reichbank of $378 million of what was, in effect, gold looted from the coffers of the invaded countries of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Holland and Belgium; and (2) in the summer of 1942, plans for the projected American invasion of Algeria were leaked to the governor of the French National Bank, who immediately contacted his German colleague in the BIS, SS Gruppenfuehrer Baron Kurt von Schroder (of the Stein Bank of Cologne), and by transferring 9 billion gold francs to Algiers - via the BIS - the Germans and their French subsidiaries made a killing of some $175 million in this dollar-exchange scam.
Given the membership of the BIS at that time, this was hardly surprising. On the board were the following high-profile representatives of the Axis powers (there were 4 others): Walther Funk (Pres. of the Reichbank); Kurt von Schroder (above); Dr. Hermann Schmitz (Jt.Chm. of I.G.Farben); Emil Puhl (V/Pres. of the Reichbank); Yoneji Yamamoto; and Dr. V. Azzolini (Gov. Bank of Italy). It should be added that, of the non-Axis members on the board, many - such as Montagu Norman (Gov. of the Bank of England) were Nazi sympathisers, and that the President of the BIS from 1939 to 1946 was Thomas McKittrick, an American corporate lawyer who had been both Director of Lee, Higginson & Co. (a company which had made substantial loans to the Third Reich) and Chairman of the British-American Chamber of Commerce in London. His continued presidency of the BIS after America’s entry into the war in December 1941 was approved by Germany and Italy with this significant addendum to their note of authorisation: McKittrick’s opinions are safely known to us.
With the above noted disclosures in mind, the policy of appeasement pursued by Britain and France towards Germany in the pre-war period can now be more readily understood. By concluding a pact with Hitler, Britain and France - in effect - gave him the green light to advance eastwards (ref. Mein Kampf). Furthermore, the fact that they shared his anti-communism blinded them to the risk that they were running by negotiating from a position of comparative military weakness - of which Hitler was perfectly aware - and for which they paid a heavy price. It should also be added that the architect of this act of appeasement, Prime Minister Chamberlain, was a shareholder in ICI, which had ties with I.G.Farben.
In the late ‘30s, and more particularly during World War 2, given America’s great wealth - as opposed to Europe’s straitened circumstances - it was inevitable that the trade between the two would be of a one-way nature. And not surprisingly, in view of the close relationship between American and German corporations, a substantial portion of supplies went to Germany - often via fascist Spain - by ship and tanker under flags of neutrality. Many of the financial arrangements covering such trade were handled by BIS in neutral Basle. As an example of how substantial this trade was: by mid-1944 America was supplying Germany with 48 thousand tons of oil, and 11 hundred tons of much-needed wolfram (tungsten) per month! The fact that this trade was illegal in the USA for much of this period - and particularly after Americas entry into the war in December 1941 - did little to stop it. The large corporations, such as Standard Oil and ITT, saw to that. After all, then - as now - the US Administration was effectively under corporate control. Even the Secretary of Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, and his Assistant, Harry Dexter White, aware as they well were of the part played by BIS in this, could do little about it.
In July 1944, 730 delegates from 44 countries met at Bretton Woods to plan a framework for post-war international trade, payments and investments - a conference which subsequently resulted in the setting up in 1947 of both the International Bank for Reconstruction & Development (IBRD, or World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The apparent inviolability of the BIS was perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Resolution 5, calling for its dissolution, was subsequently ignored and proven ineffective. The corporate establishment had seen to that - as indeed it had seen to all such previous attempts.
With war’s end now calling for a clearing of conscience, BIS’s method of achieving this was by stressing its somewhat euphemistic neutrality, while playing down its less palatable, but quintessential supra-nationality. Their annual report of 1946 - as quoted in the Times - stated: ‘It is noted that the Bank has continued to supply the principles of strict neutrality, but that circumstances have caused a further decline in the volume of its business’. Further: ‘Wars are the worst cause of monetary convulsions, and the first condition for enjoying the benefits of an ordinary monetary system is to establish and maintain a reign of peace’. In view of their recent previous history, the term ‘irony’ hardly does justice to the above statements!. This report was, incidentally, the last to be signed by its President, Thomas McKittrick: in June 1946 he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Chase National Bank by its owners, the Rockefellers - presumably as a mark of gratitude for the assistance rendered to them by the BIS during his presidency.
In view of the somewhat puzzling fact that this now meant that there were in this post-war period three international financial/banking institutions - all with the self-evidently similar aim of resolving the world’s serious economic problems - a brief, close look is called for in order to clarify the situation. The first (and intriguing) fact to be noted here is that, whereas the IMF and the World Bank have been frequently and conspicuously in the public eye from birth, the BIS has adopted a low profile and remained uncommunicative. This was an expedient tactic for the latter to adopt - for two reasons: firstly, it thus eluded any investigation into its previous financial dealings with the Third Reich; and secondly and more importantly, by so disassociating itself from the IMF and World Bank, it would enable the latter to henceforth be widely (though erroneously) regarded as the sole guardians of the worldwide economy, thus allowing the BIS more latitude to follow the agenda set by the corporate establishment - to whom, it must be recalled, it owed its survival.
This ambivalent relationship between the IMF/World Bank vis-a-vis the BIS/commercial banks is epitomised by Anthony Sampson in his book The Money Lenders: ‘The commercial banks in the meantime had created a very different perspective, for the IMF now controlled much less of the world’s money. In 1966, the quotas which made up its capital amounted to 10% of the total world imports; but by Ô76 they made up only 4%’. By 1976 world annual deficits had reached $75 billion : of this, 7% was financed by the IMF, 18% by other official international bodies (governments and World Bank), and the remaining three-quarters by commercial banks.. (Today, some two-and-a-half decades later, the board members of BIS, between them, control 95% of the money in circulation).
The reason for this apparent taking over of such responsibility by the BIS from the IMF/World Bank is twofold: firstly, the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of exchange convertibility in the early seventies exposed the irrelevance of the latter as agents for European reconstruction; and secondly, the latter being statutorily-appointed agents of the UN, were therefore - ostensibly - accountable to a much wider constituency than the BIS, and therefore politically less manageable by the corporate establishment, whose primary aim in the aftermath of World War 2 was to ensure the unrestricted flow of American capital into Europe. This flow was considerably eased by subsequent European integration, in which both NATO and the Bilderberg played a crucial role. It was further aided by means of the US Congressionally-authorised European Cooperation Act (ECA) of 1948, and implemented by its subsidiary, the European Payments Union (EPU) of 1950 - both under the aegis of the Marshall Plan of 1947. Predictably, the BIS was the institution chosen by the EPU to oversee this movement of capital (a point worthy of note here is that the head of the EPU at that time was one Richard Bissell, an economist who, years later, was to be the CIA Deputy Director of Planning overseeing the Bay of Pigs fiasco in April ‘61).
The BIS was now firmly ensconced in the heart of European integration, and was subsequently to play a critical role in the events leading to its (Europe’s) eventual evolution into the European Union, a bureaucratic politico-economic body occupying a position of crucial importance within the wider global hierarchy envisaged by the corporate establishment.
The significance of the Americans’ key central role in this sequence of events is underscored by the fact that, in the aftermath of World War 2, they set up the Bundesbank in Frankfurt (in their zone of control), ensuring that the bank would be independent of government and follow a strict monetary policy - in effect, another Federal Reserve System. In 1948 they replaced the existing Reichmarks with approximately 11 billion Deutschmarks, and Germany’s subsequent conduct vis-a-vis European integration must be viewed with this in mind. In any case, the fact remains that Germany’s subsequent frequent delaying tactics enabled the dollar to consolidate its dominance.
In its published précis entitled Profile of an International Organisation, the BIS states that its predominant task is summed up most succinctly in part of Article 3 of its original Statutes. This is ‘to promote the co-operation of central banks and to provide additional facilities for international financial operations’. To achieve this aim it has 3 administrative bodies: a Board of Directors, comprising the Governors of the central banks of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the USA, each of whom appoints another member of the same nationality - plus the central bank Governors of Canada, Japan, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland: a total of 17; a Management Board; and an Annual General Meeting in June of each year.
That this is an organisation carrying enormous power is readily confirmed by a closer look at the above-mentioned synopsis, pertinent quotes from which follow (italics are BIS’s):
(A) ‘Since September 1994, the eleven countries from which the members of the BankÕs Board of Directors are drawn have been identical with the countries which comprise the Group of Ten (G-10), with which the BIS has had a long and close association.’
(B) ‘As well as making resources available to the IMF under the GAB (General Arrangements to Borrow) the G-10 has, since 1963, been a principal forum for discussion of international monetary questions. From the outset, the BIS has been a participant in G-10 Meetings, above all because the Governors of the G-10 central banks meet regularly on the occasion of the Basle monthly meetings. The G-10 meetings have, over time, become the pivotal forum in which much wider activities have been set in motion by the G-10 central banks in the pursuit of financial stability’. (Meetings, it should be noted, hosted by the BIS in their high-rise office block in Basle).
(C) ‘As early as 1971 concern among central banks about the evolution of the Eurocurrency markets led to the establishment of a Standing Committee of the Group of Ten central banks which has met periodically in Basle ever since’
(D) In December 1994 the G-10 Governors set up The Basle Committee on Banking Supervision, the secretariat for which is provided by the BIS.
(E) ‘The BIS hosts meeting of, and provides the secretariat for, the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems and its various working parties’.
(F) ‘..the BIS in a joint initiative with the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision is establishing an Institute for Financial Stability which is expected to commence its activities sometime in the second half of this year’ (1998).
(G) ‘From 1964 until the end of 1993 the BIS hosted the Secretariat of the Committee of Governors of the Central Banks of the Member States of the European Economic Community (theCommittee of Governors). From 1st of June 1973 until the end of 1993 the Secretariat of the Committee of Governors also served the Board of Governors of the European Monetary Co-operation Fund (EMCF) and the Bank (BIS) acted as EMCF agent. Until they were replaced by the European Monetary Institute on 1st January 1994, the Committee of Governors and the EMCF were the Community bodies which provided the institutional framework for monetary co-operation in the European Community’.
(It should be added that the above quotes are by no means a comprehensive listing in the synopsis of the BIS’s activities on the global scene).
Three news items concerning the role played by the BIS are worthy of note:
(1) In 1994 the Belgian banker, Baron Alexandre Lamfalussy resigned from his post as General Manager of the BIS in order to become Head of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) - forerunner of the European Central Bank (ECB). As reported in the Times of 10/11/93: ‘Andrew Crockett (Executive Director of the Bank of England), who was replacing Lamfalussy as General Manager of the BIS, said that he did not foresee the ENI.. impinging on the work of the Basle-based BIS which is widely regarded as the central banker’s central bank’.. and adding that.. ‘The EMI would enable the BIS to re-focus on global issues, and develop its role as a forum for collaboration between central banks in the monetary and regulatory fields’.
(2) C.Fred Bergsten, Head of the Institute for International Economics, told the Washington Post on the 3rd of January 1999, ‘The adoption of a common currency is by far the boldest chapter of European integration. Money traditionally has been an integral element of national sovereignty ..and the decision by Germany and France to give up their mark and franc ..represents the most dramatic voluntary surrender of sovereignty in recorded history. The European Central Bank that will manage the euro is a truly supranational institution’.
(3) In the Independent On Sunday of the 21st February 1999 it was reported that Andrew Crockett (see above) has been appointed Chairman of a newly-established Stability Forum, whose aim is to monitor global markets (this was the idea of Hans Tietmeyer, President of the Bundesbank).
Certain conclusions can be drawn from a recapitulation of the facts noted above:
(1) The BIS occupies a central role within the global/European financial scene - to the extent that such institutions as the G-10 and ECB (among others) play a surrogate role.
(2) The goal of the corporations is precisely the same today as it was at the end of the Great War. This is inevitable, inasmuch as inherent within the capitalist system is its obligation to the aggrandisement of profit.
(3) As a consequence, sovereignty - in the sense of a country’s or organisation’s political independence - can be ignored and overridden. This is happening today. The signs are there for all to see: Is America really in the Gulf Region for the benefit of its inhabitants (‘ragheads’ in American parlance)? Ask any oilman.
Are the two terms ‘NATO’ and the ‘International Community’ really synonymous? Ask any country not in the Alliance.
Is the ‘Cold War’ really dead? Ask NATO why it is still in existence.
Is it not clear that NATO,s primary role in Europe is to act as corporate America’s anti-Marxist enforcer (even though the Marxism in question may be of a purely nominal nature)? Ask the head formulator of NATO, George Kennan (actually you can’t, because he’s dead, but his disclosure of the real reason for NATO’s birth is on record in the BBC’s Lord Reith Lecture of 1957).
Has not the UN’s sovereignty been by-passed time-and-time again over the years? Ask its main debtor - America.
And finally, why is so little of the BIS in the public domain? Ask the owners/controllers of the means of communication - the media.
DAVIES, Glyn A History of Money (University of Wales 1994)
DEDMAN, Martin The Origins & Development of the European Union –‘45 to ‘95 (Routledge 1996)
HIGHAM, Charles Trading With The Enemy (Robert Hale 1983)
MARSHALL, Matt The Bank (Random House 1999)
SAMPSON, Anthony The Money Lenders (Hodder & Stoughton 1981)
Alfred Mendes was born in Trinidad in 1920 and is of Portuguese extraction. His varied career included wartime service both at sea and in the British Army and work as a coal miner and oil driller in several parts of the world. He has been retired for twenty years.