The Strange Case and Many Faces of James Burnham

By Cynthia Chung

[James Burnham is] the real intellectual founder of the neoconservative movement and the original proselytizer, in America, of the theory of ‘totalitarianism.’

– Christopher Hitchens, “For the Sake of Argument: Essay and Minority Reports

It is understandably the source of some confusion as to how a former high level Trotskyist became the founder of the neo-conservative movement; with the Trotskyists calling him a traitor to his kind, and the neo-conservatives describing it as an almost road to Damascus conversion in ideology.

However, the truth of the matter is that it is neither.

That is, James Burnham never changed his beliefs and convictions at any point during his journey through Trotskyism, OSS/CIA intelligence to neo-conservatism, although he may have back-stabbed many along the way, and this two-part series will go through why this is the case.

James Burnham was born in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, raised as a Roman Catholic, later rejecting Catholicism while studying at Princeton and professing atheism for the rest of his life until shortly before his death whereby he reportedly returned to the church. He would graduate from Princeton followed by the Balliol College, Oxford University and in 1929 would become a professor in philosophy at the New York University.

It was during this period that Burnham met Sidney Hook, who was also a professor in philosophy at the New York University, and who professed to have converted Burnham to Marxism in his autobiography. In 1933, along with Sidney Hook, Burnham helped to organize the socialist organization, the American Workers Party (AWP).

It would not be long before Burnham found Trotsky’s use of “dialectical materialism” to explain the interplay between the human and the historical forces in his “History of the Russian Revolution” to be brilliant. As founder of the Red Army, Trotsky had dedicated his life to the spread of a worldwide Communist revolution, to which Stalin opposed in the form of Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution” ideology. In this ideology, Trotskyists were tactically trained to be militant experts at infighting, infiltration and disruption.

Among these tactics was “entryism,” in which an organisation encourages its members to join another, often larger organization, in an attempt to take over said organization or convert a large portion of its membership with its own ideology and directive.

The most well-known example of this technique was named the French Turn, when French Trotskyists in 1934 infiltrated the Section Francaise de l’International Ouvriere (SFIO, French Socialist Party) with the intention of winning over the more militant elements to their side.

That same year, Trotskyists in the Communist League of America (CLA) did a French turn on the American Workers Party, in a move that elevated the AWP’s James Burnham into the role of a Trotsky lieutenant and chief adviser.

Burnham would continue the tactics of infiltrating and subverting other leftist parties and in 1935 attempted to do a French Turn on the much larger Socialist Party (SP), however, by 1937, the Trotskyists were expelled from the Socialist Party which led to the formation of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at the end of the year. He would resign from the SWP in April 1940, and form the Workers Party only to resign less than two months later.

Burnham remained a “Trotskyist intellectual” from 1934 until 1940, using militant Trotskyist tactics against competing Marxist movements by turning their loyalties and ransacking their best talent. Although Burnham worked six years for the Trotskyists, as the new decade began, he renounced both Trotsky and “the ‘philosophy of Marxism’ dialectical materialism” altogether.

Perhaps Burnham was aware that the walls were closing in on Trotsky, and that it would only be a matter of six months from Burnham’s first renouncement that Trotsky would be assassinated by August 1940, at his compound outside Mexico City.

In February 1940 Burnham wrote “Science and Style: A Reply to Comrade Trotsky,” in which he broke with dialectical materialism, stressing the importance of the work of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead’s approach:

Do you wish me to prepare a reading list, Comrade Trotsky? It would be long, ranging from the work of the brilliant mathematicians and logicians of the middle of the last century to one climax in the monumental Principia Mathematica of Russell and Whitehead (the historic turning point in modern logic), and then spreading out in many directions – one of the most fruitful represented by the scientists, mathematicians and logicians now cooperating in the new Encyclopedia of Unified Science.” [emphasis added]

He summed up his feelings in a letter of resignation from the Workers Party on May 21, 1940:

I reject, as you know, the “philosophy of Marxism,” dialectical materialism. …

The general Marxian theory of “universal history”, to the extent that it has any empirical content, seems to me disproved by modern historical and anthropological investigation.

Marxian economics seems to me for the most part either false or obsolete or meaningless in application to contemporary economic phenomena. Those aspects of Marxian economics which retain validity do not seem to me to justify the theoretical structure of the economics.

Not only do I believe it meaningless to say that “socialism is inevitable” and false that socialism is “the only alternative to capitalism”; I consider that on the basis of the evidence now available to us a new form of exploitive society (which I call “managerial society”) is not only possible but is a more probable outcome of the present than socialism. …

On no ideological, theoretic or political ground, then, can I recognize, or do I feel, any bond or allegiance to the Workers Party (or to any other Marxist party). That is simply the case, and I can no longer pretend about it, either to myself or to others.” [emphasis added]

In 1941, Burnham would publish “The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World,” bringing him fame and fortune, listed by Henry Luce’s Life magazine as one of the top 100 outstanding books of 1924-1944.

The Managerial Revolution

We cannot understand the revolution by restricting our analysis to the war [WWII]; we must understand the war as a phase in the development of the revolution.”

– James Burnham “The Managerial Revolution”

In Burnham’s “The Managerial Revolution,” he makes the case that if socialism were possible, it would have occurred as an outcome of the Bolshevik Revolution, but what happened instead was neither a reversion back to a capitalist system nor a transition to a socialist system, but rather a formation of a new organizational structure made up of an elite managerial class, the type of society he believed was in the process of replacing capitalism on a world scale.

He goes on to make the case that as seen with the transition from a feudal to a capitalist state being inevitable, so too will the transition from a capitalist to managerial state occur. And that ownership rights of production capabilities will no longer be owned by individuals but rather the state or institutions, he writes:

Effective class domination and privilege does, it is true, require control over the instruments of production; but this need not be exercised through individual private property rights. It can be done through what might be called corporate rights, possessed not by individuals as such but by institutions: as was the case conspicuously with many societies in which a priestly class was dominant…

Burnham proceeds to write:

If, in a managerial society, no individuals are to hold comparable property rights, how can any group of individuals constitute a ruling class?

The answer is comparatively simple and, as already noted, not without historical analogues. The managers will exercise their control over the instruments of production and gain preference in the distribution of the products, not directly, through property rights vested in them as individuals, but indirectly, through their control of the state which in turn will own and control the instruments of production. The state – that is, the institutions which comprise the state – will, if we wish to put it that way, be the ‘property’ of the managers. And that will be quite enough to place them in the position of the ruling class.

Burnham concedes that the ideologies required to facilitate this transition have not yet been fully worked out but goes on to say that they can be approximated:

from several different but similar directions, by, for example: Leninism-Stalinism; fascism-nazism; and, at a more primitive level, by New Dealism and such less influential [at the time] American ideologies as ‘technocracy’. This, then, is the skeleton of the theory, expressed in the language of the struggle for power.

This is to be sure, a rather confusing paragraph but becomes clearer when we understand it from the specific viewpoint of Burnham. As Burnham sees it, all these different avenues are methods in which to achieve his vision of a managerial society because each form stresses the importance of the state as the central coordinating power, and that such a state will be governed by his “managers”. Burnham considers the different moral implications in each scenario irrelevant, as he makes clear early on in his book, he has chosen to detach himself from such questions.

Burnham goes to explain that the support of the masses is necessary for the success of any revolution, this is why the masses must be led to believe that they will benefit from such a revolution, when in fact it is only to replace one ruling class with another and nothing changes for the underdog. He explains that this is the case with the dream of a socialist state, that the universal equality promised by socialism is just a fairy tale told to the people so that they fight for the establishment of a new ruling class, then they are told that achieving a socialist state will take many decades, and that essentially, a managerial system must be put in place in the meantime.

Burnham makes the case that this is what happened in both Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia:

Nevertheless, it may still turn out that the new form of economy will be called ‘socialist.’ In those nations – Russia and Germany – which have advanced furthest toward the new [managerial] economy, ‘socialism’ or ‘national socialism’ is the term ordinarily used. The motivation for this terminology is not, naturally, the wish for scientific clarity but just the opposite. The word ‘socialism’ is used for ideological purposes in order to manipulate the favourable mass emotions attached to the historic socialist ideal of a free, classless, and international society and to hide the fact that the managerial economy is in actuality the basis for a new kind of exploiting, class society.

Burnham continues:

Those Nations – [Bolshevik] Russia, [Nazi] Germany and [Fascist] Italy – which have advanced furthest toward the managerial social structure are all of them, at present, totalitarian dictatorships…what distinguishes totalitarian dictatorship is the number of facets of life subject to the impact of the dictatorial rule. It is not merely political actions, in the narrower sense, that are involved; nearly every side of life, business and art and science and education and religion and recreation and morality are not merely influenced by but directly subjected to the totalitarian regime.

It should be noted that a totalitarian type of dictatorship would not have been possible in any age previous to our own. Totalitarianism presupposes the development of modern technology, especially of rapid communication and transportation. Without these latter, no government, no matter what its intentions, would have had at its disposal the physical means for coordinating so intimately so many of the aspects of life. Without rapid transportation and communication it was comparatively easy for men to keep many of their lives, out of reach of the government. This is no longer possible, or possible only to a much smaller degree, when governments today make deliberate use of the possibilities of modern technology.

Orwell’s Second Thoughts on Burnham

Burnham would go on to state in his “The Managerial Revolution” that the Russian Revolution, WWI and its aftermath, the Versailles Treaty gave final proof that capitalist world politics could no longer work and had come to an end. He described WWI as the last war of the capitalists and WWII as the first, but not last war, of the managerial society. Burnham made it clear that many more wars would have to be fought after WWII before a managerial society could finally fully take hold.

This ongoing war would lead to the destruction of sovereign nation states, such that only a small number of great nations would survive, culminating into the nuclei of three “super-states”, which Burnham predicted would be centered around the United States, Germany and Japan. He goes on to predict that these super-states will never be able to conquer the other and will be engaged in permanent war until some unforeseeable time. He predicts that Russia would be broken in two, with the west being incorporated into the German sphere and the east into the Japanese sphere. (Note that this book was published in 1941, such that Burnham was clearly of the view that Nazi Germany and fascist Japan would be the victors of WWII.)

Burnham states that “sovereignty will be restricted to the few super-states.”

In fact, he goes so far as to state early on in his book that the managerial revolution is not a prediction of something that will occur in the future, it is something that has already begun and is in fact, in its final stages of becoming, that it has already successfully implemented itself worldwide and that the battle is essentially over.

The National Review, founded by James Burnham and William F. Buckley (more on this in part two), would like to put the veneer that although Orwell was critical of Burnham’s views that he was ultimately creatively inspired to write about it in his “1984” novel. Yes, inspired is one way to put it, or more aptly put, that he was horrified by Burnham’s vision and wrote his novel as a stark warning as to what would ultimately be the outcome of such monstrous theorizations, which he would to this day organise the zeitgeist of thought to be suspicious of anything resembling his neologisms such as “Big Brother”, “Thought Police”, “Two Minutes Hate”, “Room 101”, “memory hole”, “Newspeak”, “doublethink”, “unperson”,”thoughtcrime”, and “groupthink”.

George Orwell, (real name Eric Arthur Blair), first published his “Second Thoughts on James Burnham” in May 1946. The novel “1984” would be published in 1949.

In his essay he dissects Burnham’s proposed ideology that he outlines in his “The Managerial Revolution” and “The Machiavellians” subtitled “Defenders of Freedom.”

Orwell writes:

It is clear that Burnham is fascinated by the spectacle of power, and that his sympathies were with Germany so long as Germany appeared to be winning the war…curiously enough, when one examines the predictions which Burnham has based on his general theory, one finds that in so far as they are verifiable, they have been falsified…It will be seen that Burnham’s predictions have not merely, when they were verifiable, turned out to be wrong, but that they have sometimes contradicted one another in a sensational way…Political predictions are usually wrong, because they are usually based on wish-thinking…Often the revealing factor is the date at which they are made…It will be seen that at each point Burnham is predicting a continuation of the thing that is happening…the tendency to do this is not simply a bad habit, like inaccuracy or exaggeration…It is a major mental disease, and its roots lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship of power, which is not fully separable from cowardice…

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. If the Japanese have conquered south Asia, then they will keep south Asia for ever, if the Germans have captured Tobruk, they will infallibly capture Cairo…The rise and fall of empires, the disappearance of cultures and religions, are expected to happen with earthquake suddenness, and processes which have barely started are talked about as though they were already at an end. Burnham’s writings are full of apocalyptic visions…Within the space of five years Burnham foretold the domination of Russia by Germany and of Germany by Russia. In each case he was obeying the same instinct: the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible.

Interestingly, and happily we hear, George Orwell does not take Burnham’s predictions of a managerial revolution as set in stone, but rather, has shown itself within a short period of time to be a little too full of wishful thinking and bent on worshipping the power of the moment. However, this does not mean we must not take heed to the orchestrations of such mad men.

From Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution to Global Fascism: Burnham’s Recruitment into Allen Dulles’ OPC

“Burnham was a consultant to OPC on virtually every subject of interest to our organization. … He had extensive contacts in Europe and, by virtue of his Trotskyite background, was something of an authority on domestic and foreign Communist parties and front organizations.”

– E. Howard Hunt’s Memoirs (Watergate ‘plumber’ and famous CIA dirty trickster)

Burnham, made clear in this book, that he was not only very ready to accept the outcome of a victorious Nazi Germany, but that this was both a natural and an inevitable course that the entire world would have no choice but to follow. Burnham made no qualms that Nazi Germany was considered by himself as the most superior form of his concept of a “managerial society.”

Burnham was clearly of the view that Nazi Germany and fascist Japan would be the victors of WWII and states in his book that “sovereignty will be restricted to the few super-states,” which he predicted would be around the spheres of Germany, Japan and the United States, engaged in permanent warfare for an unforeseeable time, to which point the victorious managerial society of whichever super-state will reign supreme.

This future of “forever wars” amongst a few super-states has obvious remnant influences from Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution” militant ideology.

This was also just the kind of thing Allen Dulles was talent searching for.

During the 1920s and 1930s both Dulles brothers acted as significant players in the “Rearming of Germany by Night,” largely organised through their law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which operated as the center of an intricate international network of banks, investment firms, and industrial conglomerates that helped rebuild Germany after WWI.

The German representative of the Dulles brothers’ law firm was Dr. Gerhardt Alois Westrick, who acted simultaneously as a financial agent for Hitler and an Abwehr spymaster in the United States. In January 1940 Westrick was given the title of Wehrwirtschaftsführer for his contributions to the war effort. He was then assigned by von Ribbentrop to undertake a mission to the United States to meet American business leaders and gain their support for Germany. (1)

Allen Dulles was also a director of the J. Henry Schroder bank, whose German chairman, SS General Baron Kurt von Schroder, was one of the main assistants to Schacht in organizing the fund that financed Hitler’s 1933 rise to power. Allen Dulles remained on the board of the Schroder Bank until 1944, well after he had taken his post as chief of the OSS in Switzerland.

Allen Dulles also worked very closely with Thomas McKittrick, an old Wall Street friend who was president of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Five of its directors would later be charged with war crimes, including Hermann Schmitz, one of the many Dulles’ law clients involved with BIS. Schmitz was the CEO of IG Farben the chemical conglomerate that became notorious for its production of Zyklon B, the gas used in Hitler’s death camps, and for its extensive use of slave labour during the war. (2)

David Talbot writes in his “The Devil’s Chessboard”:

“The secretive BIS became a crucial financial partner for the Nazis. Emil Puhl – vice president of Hitler’s Reichsbank and a close associate of McKittrick – once called BIS the Reichsbank’s only ‘foreign branch.’ BIS laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in Nazi gold looted from the treasuries of occupied countries.”

Allen Dulles was first recruited into the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in October 1941, a forerunner of sorts of the CIA. During most of his work with the OSS he was stationed in Bern, Switzerland, where he was later found to be implicated in a number of incredibly suspect activities that would raise concern that his allegiance and loyalty was really with Nazi Germany.

Such activities included sabotaging the success of operations by American intelligence and engaging in secret negotiations on behalf of individuals directly or indirectly affiliated with the Nazi Party, one of the most well-known incidents of this is Dulles’ curious conduct during Operation Sunrise, aka the Bern incident, in favour of SS Gen. Kurt Wolff.

[In a previous three-part series paper I go through further details of the fascist roots of the CIA, and how Allen Dulles, and his brother Foster Dulles, play instrumental roles in all of this.]

The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was created as a department of the CIA in 1948, but operated as a rogue operation until Oct. 1950. Many of the agency’s recruits were “ex” Nazis. (3)

OPC was preceded by the Special Procedures Group (SPG), whose creation in March 1948 had been authorized in December 1947 with President Harry Truman’s approval of the top-secret policy paper NSC 4-A.

NSC 4-A was a new directive to cover “clandestine paramilitary operations, as well as political and economic warfare,” this provided the authorization for the intervention of the CIA in the Italian elections of April 1948 (in favour of Italy’s Christian Democrats, which hid thousands of fascists in its ranks, over what would have been the election of the Communist Party of Italy, who were admired for leading the fight against Mussolini). This success in tampering with the Italian elections demonstrated that psychological/political warfare could be the key to “winning” the Cold War.

When OPC was created, it inherited all of SPG’s resources.

On June 18, 1948, NSC 4-A was replaced by NSC 10/2, creating the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). NSC 10/2 was the first presidential document which specified a mechanism to approve and manage covert operations, and also the first in which the term “covert operations” was defined.

George F. Kennan, the director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, was the key figure behind the OPC’s creation. (4) Frank Wisner, who worked as a Wall Street lawyer for the law firm Carter, Ledyard & Milburn, was former OSS and very close to Allen Dulles. He would be called in from the State Department as OPC’s first director.

From 1948-1950 the OPC, though technically a department within the CIA was not under the CIA’s control, it was a renegade operation run by Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner. OPC was brought under CIA control in October 1950, when Walter Bedell Smith became Director of Central Intelligence, and it was renamed the Directorate of Plans (for more on this refer to my paper).

During the period of 1948-1950, Dulles and Wisner were essentially operating their own private spy agency, likely with the special blessing of George F. Kennan, as the OPC was actually more beholden to the State Department then the CIA during this period. (5)

During WWII, Burnham would leave his teaching post at NYU to work for the OSS and carried on to work for the CIA when the OSS was disbanded in Sept. 1945. He would later be recommended by George F. Kennan to lead the semi-autonomous “Psychological Strategy Board” (PSB) division of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). (6)

This is hardly a coincidence, as Jewish-American author Naomi Wiener Cohen states in her book “Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership” concerning the disastrous effects to Russia of the British-inspired Russo-Japanese war (Feb 1904-Sept 1905), which provoked the 1905 Russian ‘revolution’ that lasted until 1907. That revolution paved the way for the overthrow of the Tsar and the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in the October revolution of 1917:

“The Russo-Japanese war allied Schiff with George Kennan in a venture to spread revolutionary propaganda among Russian prisoners of war held by Japan (Kennan had access to these). The operation was a carefully guarded secret and not until the revolution of March 1917 was it publicly disclosed by Kennan. He then told how he had secured Japanese permission to visit the camps and how the prisoners had asked him for something to read. Arranging for the ‘Friends of Russian Freedom’ to ship over a ton of revolutionary material, he secured Schiff’s financial backing. As Kennan told it, fifty thousand officers and men returned to Russia [as] ardent revolutionists. There they became fifty thousand “seeds of liberty” in one hundred regiments that contributed to the overthrow of the Tsar.”

Thus one can make a good case that George Kennan brought Burnham in, specifically due to his history as an experienced high-level Trotskyist with “the right stuff,” for his, as Orwell puts it, readiness to worship the power of the moment and his agreement that ultimate power could only be achieved through a “permanent revolution.”

George Kennan was also not an ideological socialist, best known as the author of the Cold War strategy of “containment,” he adamantly opposed FDR’s recognition of the Soviet Union, refused to support the United States working with the Soviets in defeating Hitler, accusing Stalin of being just as bad…or perhaps he preferred Hitler’s succession to power?

Kennan writes in his Memoirs:

We should have no relationship at all with them [the Soviets]…Never- neither then nor at any later date- did I consider the Soviet Union a fit ally or associate, actual or potential, for this country.

Kennan made it clear he was no fan of Stalin’s Soviet Union, but he certainly thought differently about the uses of “former” militant Trotskyists, possibly it was this branch of the Bolsheviks he truly wished to see succeed? Perhaps they were to play a similar role for subversion from within in the United States as they did in Russia?

[In a future installment I will discuss how “former” Trotskyists infiltrated the RAND Corporation, the Pentagon, and the CIA (as part of the second purge of American intelligence). For part of the story you can refer here.]

As Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould put it in their excellent article “How the CIA Created a Fake Western Reality for Unconventional Warfare”:

Burnham functioned as a critical connection between Wisner’s office and the intelligentsia moving from the extreme left to the extreme right with ease. Burnham found the congress to be a place to inveigh not just against Communism but against the non-communist left as well and left many wondering whether his views weren’t as dangerous to liberal democracy as Communism.

 According to Frances Stoner Saunders [author of the acclaimed book ‘The Cultural Cold War’], members of the British delegation found the rhetoric coming out of the congress to be a deeply troubling sign of things to come… ‘I felt, well, these are the same people who seven years ago were probably baying in the same way to similar German denunciations of Communism coming from Dr. Goebbels in the Sports Palast. And I felt, well, what sort of people are we identifying with? That was the greatest shock to me. There was a moment during the Congress when I felt that we were being invited to summon up Beelzebub in order to defeat Stalin.’

The Congress for Cultural Freedom didn’t need Beelzebub. It already had him in the form of Burnham, [Sidney] Hook and Wisner, and by 1952, the party was just getting started… In 1953 Burnham was called upon again by Wisner to reach beyond Communism to help overthrow the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in Tehran, Iran…His book, “The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom,” would become the CIA’s manual for displacing Western culture with an alternative doctrine for endless conflict in a world of oligarchs.” [emphasis added]

The Machiavellians: Burnham’s “Managerial” Defenders of Freedom

The modern state … is an engine of propaganda, alternately manufacturing crises and claiming to be the only instrument that can effectively deal with them. This propaganda, in order to be successful, demands the cooperation of writers, teachers, and artists not as paid propagandists or state-censored time-servers but as ‘free’ intellectuals capable of policing their own jurisdictions and of enforcing acceptable standards of responsibility within the various intellectual professions.

– Christopher Lasch “The Agony of the American Left”, author of “Britain’s Secret Propaganda War”

In Burnham’s “The Managerial Revolution,” he writes:

Most of these intellectuals are not in the least aware that the net social effect of the ideologies which they elaborate contributes to the power and privilege of the managers and to the building of a new structure of class rule in society. As in the past, the intellectuals believe that they are speaking in the name of truth and for the interests of all humanity…Indeed, the intellectual, without usually being aware of it, elaborate the new ideologies from the point of view of the position of the managers.

What this means is that the intellectuals themselves do not understand who in fact will benefit in the end by the philosophies and theories they support and defend, they are mere instruments for the propagation of a new ruling class and hold no true power.

As already stated, Burnham had been recommended by George F. Kennan to lead the semi-autonomous “Psychological Strategy Board” (PSB) division of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). The PSB D-33/2, created on May 5, 1953, laid out the strategy for how “free intellectuals” could be manipulated against their own interests to facilitate a CIA dictated transformation of Western culture. In fact, as Frances Stoner Saunder’s makes the point in “The Cultural Cold War,” it is likely Burnham himself was the one to draft PSB D-33/2.

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould write in “The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elite’s Takeover of America”:

PSB D-33/2 foretells of a ‘long-term intellectual movement, to: break down world-wide doctrinaire thought patterns’ while ‘creating confusion, doubt and loss of confidence’ in order to ‘weaken objectively the intellectual appeal of neutralism and to predispose its adherents towards the spirit of the West.’ The goal was to ‘predispose local elites to the philosophy held by the planners,’ while employing local elites ‘would help to disguise the American origin of the effort so that it appears to be a native development.’

While declaring itself as an antidote to Communist totalitarianism, one internal critic of the program, PSB officer Charles Burton Marshall, viewed PSB D-33/2 itself as frighteningly totalitarian, interposing ‘a wide doctrinal system’ that ‘accepts uniformity as a substitute for diversity,’ embracing ‘all fields of human thought — all fields of intellectual interests, from anthropology and artistic creations to sociology and scientific methodology.’ He concluded: ‘That is just about as totalitarian as one can get.’

With ‘The Machiavellians’ Burnham had composed the manual that forged the old Trotskyist left together with a right-wing Anglo/American eliteThe political offspring of that volatile union would be called neoconservatism, whose overt mission would be to roll back Russian/Soviet influence everywhereIts covert mission would be to reassert a British cultural dominance over the emerging Anglo/American Empire and maintain it through propaganda.” [emphasis added]

As already discussed in part one, Burnham describes how it is necessary that the masses believe the revolution to be beneficial to them, when in reality it is just to transition from one ruling class to the other. The promise of some form of socialism free from the oppression of capitalism is offered, but the masses are told that true socialism will need time and can only be achieved further in the future, in the meantime, a managerial class is put in place.

Burnham writes:

The ideology must ostensibly speak in the name of ‘humanity,’ ‘the people,’ ‘the race,’ ‘the future,’ ‘God,’ ‘destiny,’ and so on. Furthermore, in spite of the opinion of many present-day cynics, not just any ideology is capable of appealing to the sentiments of the masses. It is more than a problem of skilful propaganda technique. A successful ideology has got to seem to the masses, in however confused a way, actually to express some of their own interests.

…At the present time, the ideologies that can have a powerful impact, that can make a real headway, are, naturally, the managerial ideologies, since it is these that alone correspond with the actual direction of events…In place of the ‘individual,’ the stress turns to the ‘state,’ the people, the folk, the race…In place of private enterprise, ‘socialism’ [only by name] or ‘collectivism.’ In place of ‘freedom’ and ‘free initiative,’ planning. Less talk about ‘rights’ and ‘natural rights’; more about ‘duties’ and ‘order’ and ‘discipline.’ Less about ‘opportunity’ and more about ‘jobs’.

He goes on to discuss the need to change the meaning of words such “destiny,” “the future,” “sacrifice,” “power,” from the old ideologies of capitalism to suit the new ideologies of managerialism.

George Orwell would address this in his “1984,” where Burnham’s “The Managerial Revolution” appears pseudonymously as “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.”

Burnham continues:

There will be no the managerial ideology any more than there was a the capitalist ideology. The several managerial ideologies will, however, revolve around a common axis, as the capitalist ideologies revolved around a common and different axis…In this country, Technocracy and the much more important New Dealism are embryonic and less-developed types of primitive, native-American managerial ideologies.

Burnham’s reference to New Dealism as a managerial policy may be troubling to some, however, Burnham only looks at the mechanics of a social situation and its potential uses in a managerial society, it does not mean that the thing he is talking about as it is currently functioning is a form of oppression on the people. As Burnham states in his book, Roosevelt’s New Dealism is not what was intended on paper so to speak.

Burnham writes:

The firmest representatives of the New Deal are not Roosevelt or the other conspicuous ‘New Deal politicians,’ but the younger group of administrators, experts, technicians, bureaucrats who have been finding places throughout the state apparatus…in short, managers.

Keynes’ vision for New Dealism opposed that of Roosevelt. Burnham expresses frustration that a man that had nothing to do with the creation of an idea was now pulling the strings, for more on this refer here. One example of the sort of New Dealism Burnham is referencing, fit for his vision of a managerial society, can be found in the Green New Deal, or the anti-BRI Build Back Better for the World (aka: B3W).

These are the sorts of ideologies we are told will be universally beneficial, when in reality they are meant to benefit a select ruling class, in this case a managerial class, with the intention to maximize global control to the detriment of the majority.

As Orwell put it in his essay “Second Thoughts on Burnham”:

It will be seen that Burnham’s theory is not, strictly speaking, a new one. Many earlier writers have foreseen the emergence of a new kind of society, neither capitalist nor Socialist, and probably based upon slavery…

The Great Reset: Oligarchical Collectivism

What you radicals, and we who hold opposing views differ about, is not so much the end as the means, not so much what should be brought about, as how it should, and can, be brought about.”

– Otto H. Kahn (speaking to the League of Industrial Democracy in New York Dec 30th 1924), partner of Jacob Schiff and Felix Warburg’s Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and director of American International Corp.

Burnham concludes in his “The Managerial Revolution”:

The new world political system based on a small number of super-states will still leave problems-more, perhaps, than a unified single world-state; but it will be enough of a ‘solution’ for society to keep going. Nor is there any sufficient reason to believe that these problems of the managerial world system, including the managerial wars, will ‘destroy civilization.’ It is almost inconceivable even what it could mean for civilization – to be literally destroyed. Once again: what is being destroyed is our civilization, not civilization.

For the destruction of our civilization, this is precisely the intent.

There are perhaps even those who know this and believe in such a cause nonetheless, after all, if they agree that “the real enemy is humanity itself” as concluded by the Club of Rome on solving the problems of mankind, then the destruction of our civilization is not only justified, it is also our duty to bring it about.

But if such an ideology proves to be a sham meant to benefit a select ruling class, its believers will be complicit in bringing about the most atrocious crimes ever committed upon humanity in our entire history of existence.

We are now standing on that precipice…

Orwell concludes in his “Second Thoughts on Burnham”:

It is curious that in all his talk about the struggle for power, Burnham never stops to ask why people want power. He seems to assume that power hunger, although only dominant in comparatively few people, is a natural instinct that does not have to be explained, like the desire for food. He also assumes that the division of society into classes serves the same purpose in all ages. This is practically to ignore the history of hundreds of years…The question that he ought to ask, and never does ask, is: Why does the lust for naked power become a major human motive exactly now, when the dominion of man over man is ceasing to be necessary? As for the claim that ‘human nature’, or ‘inexorable laws’ of this and that, make Socialism impossible, is simply a projection of the past into the future. In effect, Burnham argues that because a society of free and equal human beings has never existed, it never can exist. By the same argument one could have demonstrated the impossibility of aeroplanes in 1900, or of motor cars in 1850.

…so long as they [the Nazis] were winning, Burnham seems to have seen nothing wrong with the methods of the Nazis…This implies that literally anything can become right or wrong if the dominant class of the moment so wills it…That a man of Burnham’s gifts should have been able for a while to think of Nazism as something rather admirable, something that could and probably would build up a workable and durable social order shows, what damage is done to the sense of reality by the cultivation of what is now called ‘realism’.

Cynthia Chung is the President of the Rising Tide Foundation and a writer at Strategic Culture Foundation, consider supporting her work by making a donation and subscribing to her substack page.

This article was originally published on Strategic Culture.

Feature Image from left to right James Burnham, Priscilla Buckley and William F. Buckley Jr. The relevance of Burnham and the Buckleys’ role with the CIA, and the creation of the publication National Review will be discussed in a future instalment.

Footnotes:

(1) Bloomenkranz, Sol (2012-07-06). Charles Bedaux – Deciphering an Enigma. iUniverse. ISBN 978-1-4759-2637-8.
(2) David Talbot “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government
(3) Ibid., pg 128
(4) Corke, Sarah-Jane (1 May 2006). “George Kennan and the Inauguration of Political Warfare”. Journal of Conflict Studies. 26 (1). ISSN 1715-5673
(5) Miscamble, Wilson D. (1992). George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947-1950. Princeton University Press. p. 199. ISBN 0691024839.
(6) Kimball, Roger (September 2002). “The power of James Burnham”. The New Criterion. Archived from the original on 2019-10-14. Retrieved 2020-06-03

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