Merchants of Death: A Study of the International Armament Industry by H.C. Engelbrecht, PhD, and F.C. Hanighan, 1934 (Excerpts)
“In 1930, as a result of the endeavors of disarmament advocates, a treaty was signed between the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. While it fell far short of disarming these powers, it did agree on a joint policy of naval limitation and so prevented for a time a costly naval building competition between these countries. President Hoover submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification. At this point an organization called the Navy League entered the picture. It raised strenuous objections to the treaty on the ground that it “jeopardized American security.” The League failed to convince the Senate, however, and the treaty was ratified.
Presumably the Navy League was a collection of individuals who distrusted international efforts to disarm and who believed that a large navy would insure the safety of the United States and its citizens. Some might assail these conservatives for clinging to reactionary ideas, but their point of view was a recognized patriotic policy upheld by many who had no connection with the League. But what was the Navy League and who were its backers?
Representative Claude H. Tavener made a speech in Congress in 1916 which revealed the results of his investigation into the nature and character of the League. He cited the League’s official journal to show that eighteen men and one corporation were listed as “founders.” The corporation was the Midvale Steel Company from which the government had bought more than $20,000,000 worth of armor plate, to say nothing of other materials. Among the individual founders were Charles M. Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which makes armor plate and other material; J.P. Morgan, of the United States Steel Corporation, which would profit heavily from large naval orders; Colonel R.M. Thompson, of the International Nickel Company, which dealt in nickel, that metal so necessary in making shells; and B.F. Tracy, former Secretary of Navy, who became attorney for the Carnegie Steel Company. More than half the founders of this energetic League were gentlemen whose business would benefit by large naval appropriations. It is evident from this that American arms makers have employed the Navy League to prevent Naval disarmament.
In Europe their colleagues are even more active. Hitler has now become the symbol of the return of German Militarism. Even before he managed to obtain supreme power there was speculation as to his financial backers. Obviously they included German industrialists fearful of socialism, communism, and the labor unions, nationalists smarting under the “insults” of the Versailles treaty, and a host of other discontented folk. But on the list of contributors supplying funds to the Hitler movement were the names of two capitalists—VonArthaber and Von Duschnitz—directors of Skoda, the great armament firm of Germany’s neighbor and enemy, Czechoslovakia.
Interlocking directorates are a familiar phenomenon in the United States. The real controller of industries is frequently found in the most unexpected places. In Europe the same system prevails. And so it appears that Messrs. Von Arthaber and Von Duschnitz represent a firm which is controlled by yet another firm. The head of this holding company is neither German nor Czech. He is a French citizen., M. Eugene Schneider, president of the Schneider-Creusot Company which for a century has dominated the French arms industry and which through its subsidiaries now controls most of the important arms factories in Central Europe. Some of Hitler’s financial support, then, was derived from a company owned by a leading French industrialist and arms maker.
Arms merchants also own newspapers and mold public opinion. M. Schneider is more than just the president of Creusot. He is the moving spirit of another great combine, the Comite des Forges. This French steel trust through one of its officers has controlling shares in the Paris newspaper Le Temps, the counterpart of The New York Times, and the Journal des Debats, which corresponds to the New York Herald Tribune. These two powerful papers constantly warn their readers of the “danger of disarmament” and of the menace of Germany. Thus M. Schneider is in a position to pull two strings, one linked to Hitler and German militarism, and the other tied to the French Press and French militarism.
Arms merchants have long carried on a profitable business arming the potential enemies of their own country. In England today in Bedford Park there is a canon captured by the British from the Germans during the World War. It bears a British trademark, for it was sold to Germany by a British firm before the war. English companies also sold mines to the Turks by which the British men-of-war were sunk in the Dardanelles during the war. The examples of this international trade in arms before the war are legion, as will be shown.
Nor are they lacking today. Recently the trial of the British engineers in Soviet Russia brought up the name of Vickers, the engineering firm which employed the accused. But Vickers has other lines than building dams for Bolsheviks. It is the largest armament trust in Great Britain. For years relations between the Soviets and Great Britain were such that the Soviets were convinced that Britain would lead the attack of the “capitalist powers” on Russia. Yet in 1930 Vickers sold 60 of its latest and most powerful tanks to the Soviets.
Today Russia is less of a problem to England than is Germany. The rise of Hitler has reawakened much of pre-war British suspicion of Germany. Germany was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles to have a military force. Yet in 1933, at a time at a time when relations between the two countries were strained, the Germans placed an order with an English aircraft manufacturer for 60 of the most efficient fighting planes on the market, and the order would have been filled had not the British Air Ministry intervened and refused to permit the British manufacturer to supply the planes.
Arms makers engineer “war scares.” They excite governments and peoples to fear their neighbors and rivals, so that they may sell more armaments. This is an old practice worked often in Europe before the World War and still in use. Bribery is frequently closely associated with war scares. Both are well illustrated in the Seletzki scandal in Rumania. Bruno Seletzki (or Zelevski) was the Skoda agent in Rumania. In March, 1933, the Rumanian authorities discovered that this Czech firm had evaded taxes to the extent of 65 million lei. In searching Seletzki’s files, secret military documents were sealed and Seletzki’s affairs were to undergo a thorough “airing.”
A few days after the seals were found broken and many documents were missing. Seletzki was now held for trial and his files were carefully examined. The findings at that time pointed to widespread corruption of important government and army officials. Sums amounting to more than a billion lei had been distributed among the “right” officials, hundreds of thousands had been given to “charity” or spent on “entertainment,” because the persons receiving these sums “will be used by us some day.” The war scare of 1930 was revealed as a device to secure Rumanian armament orders, for Russia at that time was represented as ready to invade Bessarabia, and Rumania was pictured as helpless against this threat; all the hysteria vanished over night when Skoda was given large armament orders by the Rumanian government. General Popescu who was involved shot himself in his study and other officials were exceedingly nervous about the revelations which might yet come. It was never revealed who Seletzki’s friends in the Rumanian government had been.
All these incidents took place in times of peace. Presumably arms merchants become strictly patriotic once their countries start warlike operations. Not at all! During the World War at one time there were two trials going on in France. In one, Bolo Pasha was facing charges of trying to corrupt French newspapers in the interest of the Central Powers. He was convicted and executed. In the other, a group of French industrialists were tried for selling war materials to Germany through Switzerland. Although the facts were proved, these industrialists were released because they also supplied French armies.” – Portions from pages 1 – 6
From Dye Stuff Industrialists to Chemical Weapon Makers.
“Wherever there is a chemical or dye-stuff industry, the possibilities are given for rapid production of poison gases for war.
It is not surprising, then, that the great chemical factories of the world are to be found within the borders of the great powers. The largest companies or combines are I.G. Farben Industrie in Germany, the Imperial Chemical Industries in England, Kuklmann in France, DuPont de Nemours, the Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation (Dow Chemical) in the United States.
The Germans have always been leaders in the chemical industry. In the industrial reorganization which followed the war, the great chemical trust, I.G. Farben Industrie, was formed in 1925, with headquarters at Frankfurt and factories in a dozen places. The board of directors is made up of various nationalities, all leaders of the chemical industry in their several countries. The capital of the trust, as noted, is owned, to at least 75 per cent, by the French. The German chemical trust has close connections with other chemical companies in Spain, Italy, France, England, and even in the United States. I.G. Farben has evolved more than a thousand poison gases for use in the next war.
The French Etablissements Kuklmann owes its origin to the Germans. Right after the war with the German industrialists agreed to establish a chemical industry in France. In 1923, during the Ruhr invasion, negotiations were completed and in the next year German experts came to France to train French chemists in the use of German chemical patents. Naturally they were well paid. Kuklmann maintains close industrial relations with the German chemical trust and with the Spanish dynamite companies. Financially it is tied to Dillon, Read of New York, the Credit Suisse of Zurich ,and Mendelssohn of Berlin.
In England the Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I.) monopolizes the chemical industry. It, too, owes its real importance to German patents which it secured after the war. It is very closely tied to the government and frankly acknowledges its readiness for war. …
The United States boasts of a flourishing chemical industry which also owes its present status to German patents. A number of giants with many international ramifications are dominant, above all Du Pont de Nemours and the Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation….
Fifteen years have lapsed since the “war to end all wars.” Yet the arms industry has moved forward with growing momentum as if the pacific resolutions of the various peoples and governments had never existed. All these technical improvements, all the international mergers, the cooperation between government and the industry bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the situation during the epoch preceding 1914. Is this present situation necessarily a preparation for another world struggle and what, if any, are the solutions to these problems.” – Portions from pages 255 – 256.