By Belfast Plebian
In 1967 LIFE Magazine published an exposé on organized crime in America. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover admitted publicly for the first time that the Mafia did in fact exist and that the Gambino and Genovese families exercised ironclad control over the Waterfront Unions in New York and New Jersey. Director Hoover had for thirty years refused to publicly acknowledge that the Mafia existed, his conviction was that organised labour in America had much more to fear from Communist and Socialist control than from mobsters. President Nixon stayed true to the FBI spirit when he commuted the jail sentence of Teamster President and Mafia candidate Jimmy Hoffa.
It is now part of common folklore that workers’ unions in the United States were often controlled by Mafia figures, films such as on the Waterfront have confirmed the idea . However what is less well know is the fact that Mafia figures were often encouraged by the spooks and right wing politicians to take control of the labour unions, indeed it is in this division of social life that they came together on mutual terms. In July 1936 Luck Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in Sing Sing Correctional Facility. In 1942 the US government struck a deal with him, in return for a commutation of his sentence his union agents would monitor subversive activity on the docks on behalf of naval intelligence. Here’s a report from a more recent study of the special relationship between the Mafia bosses and the right wing political bosses:
‘Among the most unusual Federal Prosecutions during the 1980s were the weapons trafficking and murder solicitation trials of a rogue retired Officer of the U. S. Intelligence community, Ed Wilson. As detailed in Peter Maas’ book MANHUNT, Ed Wilson’s career offered a rare glimpse into the interactions between the CIA and the labour union movement. Recruited by the CIA while in college back in the dark days of the Cold War, the CIA first sent Wilson through the School for Industrial and Labour Relations at Cornell University in New York City. After graduation Wilson convinced Paul Hall, the President of the International Seafarers Union to hire him as an Organizer. Hall sent Wilson to Belgium, where Wilson infiltrated the Communists involved in the Union movement and performed various ‘dirty tricks’ against Labour leaders. Wilson then returned to the United States where he obtained work in the International Department of the A.F.L. – C.I.O. Wilson’s biographer relates that while the Seafarers were not aware that Wilson was in fact working for the CIA, the AFL-CIO was aware. This organization has long maintained close ties to the U. S. Intelligence community and to this day labour activists in the United States will jokingly refer to this organization as the ‘AFL-CIA!’ The AFL-CIO then sent Wilson to Latin America to infiltrate the various Communist-dominated labour Unions.
The only point I am making here is that the labour unions are penetrated and controlled much more comprehensively by all sorts of political gangsters than from mobsters, entire union federations have been lost to independent workers.
Next we come to violence and murder. Let’s compare G8 leader Obama with the very worst of the Mafia killers, Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter. Who the heck was he you ask? Well he was another close associate of Lucky Luciano who back in the day controlled the garment unions of New York. In the 1930’s Lepke was a pioneer labour racketeer and he wasn’t even Italian, he was in fact Jewish. What made Luciano stand out from the other mobsters was that he wasn’t a nationalist, he learnt his trade from New York’s Jewish mobsters especially Arnold the brain Rothstein and many of his long time friends Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky, who were also Jews. It was this willingness to associate with mobsters from outside of the Sicilian-Italian community that set him on a collision course with the traditional Bosses like Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Since all of the G8 leaders come to Fermanagh acting solely on the so called national interest, they walk at least one step behind the more open minded crime boss.
Lepke had another string to his bow apart from labour racketeering – hiring mobsters that he knew to kill people on contract. In the early 1930s, Buchalter joined Charles “Lucky” Luciano and other Mob bosses to form the “National crime syndicate”. Luciano’s associates Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky formed Murder Incorporated a name applied to them by the media when the first court cases came to light. Originally a band of killers, they were used to fulfil many non-Mob related contract killings. Buchalter and his partner, Albert “the Executioner” Anastasia would take control over Murder Inc. when Siegel and Lansky’s business endeavours became respectable. Buchalter was responsible for contract killings throughout the country, including the killing of the Mob hit man and bootlegger Dutch Schultz.
In 1935, law enforcement estimated that Buchalter and Shapiro had 250 assassins working for them, and Buchalter was grossing over $1 million per year in profit. They controlled rackets in the trucking, baking, and garment industries throughout New York. It is believed the corporate Jewish killers may have killed nearly a thousand people on contract before they were stopped. The killers were put on a retainer fee and paid an extra $5,000 when the job was done; the most prolific of them Harry Pittsburg Phil Strauss notched up over a hundred burns. If the killers were caught the best Jewish lawyers, money could buy would represent them, and their families were looked after.
Their most famous hit was on one of their own; Dutch Schultz was planning to bump off special prosecutor and later to become a Presidential candidate Thomas E Dewey. The crime syndicate decided that Dutch needed to be taken care of as he was just so reckless. Lepke the best organiser of Murder Incorporated was eventually caught and executed in Sing Sing prison in March 1944.
Now this is all very serious stuff but in terms of well-organised killing it is still small-scale stuff.
Obama is openly referred to, even in a few of the mainstream media outlets, as the drone killer, the assassination President, and the police surveillance President. One person who’s been working hard to expose what he has been sanctioning is investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, a long-time war correspondent for the Nation and the writer, producer of the startling new film “Dirty Wars,” which hits the cinemas in America just this week. “Dirty Wars” documents Scahill’s exploration of the campaign of drone strikes outside the recognized battle zone, in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. He also found, after digging, the existence of the secret military strike force called the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, which literally became famous overnight after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
He says ‘because Obama is who he is, an incredibly brilliant man who has the trust of the overwhelming majority of liberals — and probably a significant number of traditional conservatives, at least on these issues — he is going to go down in history as creating a systematized embrace of assassination as a central component of U.S. security policy. It’s not that the U.S. hasn’t been engaged in assassination basically from the beginning, but we now have this Nobel Peace Prize-winning transformational president, who is a constitutional lawyer, making it a permanent part of the national security infrastructure. While saying, ‘We don’t want a perpetual state of war,’ he’s building the machinery for a perpetual state of war.”
Here’s an exasperated review of a segment of the new film by journalist Andrew O Hehir ‘Scahill’s film also spends quite a bit of time exploring the story of Anwar al-Awlaki the radical imam who was born in Las Cruces, N.M., and killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. (His teenage son Abdulrahman, also a U.S. citizen, was later killed, apparently by accident or as collateral damage.) While the moral and legal quandaries posed by killing an American citizen without any pretence of due process have been much discussed – and we may never know exactly why the Obama administration deemed Awlaki such an imminent threat as to merit summary execution – “Dirty Wars” reminded me of the larger and more disturbing narrative that led up to that drone attack in the desert. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Awlaki, who was then the imam of a Washington-area mosque, frequently appeared in the media as a voice of moderate Islam. He spoke out against terrorism, decried the 9/11 hijackers as Muslim renegades and was invited to speak at the Pentagon on the role of Islam in the contemporary world. The lunch menu that day, Scahill says, included bacon sandwiches. “Which gives you a sense of how awesome the Pentagon’s intelligence was? You invite an imam to come and speak about Islam, and you offer him a bacon sandwich.”
I am not going to pursue the Obama and murder theme any further, if you still need to be convinced, try watching the film ‘Dirty Wars.’
I think I have done enough to show there is a correspondence between the wicked ways of the Mafia Bosses and the self serving ways of the current crop of Political Bosses currently meeting as the G8 in Fermanagh. I never claimed that they were identical and I would have to admit that the Political Bosses often have to face more complex dilemmas. There is a serious case for the justification of Machiavellian politics which states that it is much easier for an ordinary person to refrain from doing bad things than it is for a Political Boss to do so. This implies that a Mafia Boss can simply decide to abide by the law without prejudice to themselves while a Political Boss has no such luxury, if he did he might well bring a heap of trouble onto the citizens of his country.
The natural circumstance of politics is so extreme that the breaking of every moral convention and constitutional law is a sort of fait accompli for every potential the Political Boss. If you can’t stand the heat don’t even get into the kitchen.
Machiavelli is the political philosopher most often associated with training the political bosses to think and act in away that is incompatible with ordinary decency. Leo Strauss once said he was inclined to the view that Machiavelli was a teacher of evil. This is what he said :
“What other description would fit a man who teaches lessons like these: princes ought to exterminate the families of rulers whose territory they wish to possess securely; princes ought to murder their opponents rather than to confiscate their property since those who have been robbed, but not those who are dead, can think of revenge, men forget the murder of their fathers sooner than the loss of their patrimony; true liberality consists in being stingy with one’s own property and in being generous with what belongs to others; not virtue but the prudent use of virtue and vice leads to happiness; injuries ought all to be done together so that, being tasted less, they will hurt less, while benefits ought to be conferred little by little, so that they will be felt more strongly; a victorious general who fears that his prince might not reward him properly, may punish him for his anticipated ingratitude by raising the flag of rebellion; if one has to choose between inflicting severe injuries and inflicting light injuries one ought to inflict severe injuries; one ought not to say to someone whom one wants to kill ‘give me your gun, I want to kill you with it’ but merely, ‘give me your gun’ for once you have the gun in your hand, you can satisfy your desire. If it is true that only an evil man will stoop to teach maxims of public and private gangsterism, we are forced to say that Machiavelli was an evil man.”
We will take it as evident that the political designation ‘Prince’ has wider application than just to a traditional Monarchy – it can refer to States, Heads of States, political parties, heads of political parties and so forth. The Italian Marxist Gramsci sometimes abbreviated the revolutionary workers party with the designation Prince in his prison writing. In the same study above Professor Strauss referred to the modern alternative to the Politics of the Prince. He quotes Thomas Paine : ‘The Independence of America was accompanied by a revolution in the principles and practice of Governments…Government founded on a moral theory, on a system of universal peace, on the hereditary Rights of Man, is now revolving from west to east by a stronger impulse than the Government of the sword revolved from east to west.’( Thomas Paine Rights of Man second introduction)
Professor Strauss seems to be indicating that the new Democracy of America was founded on the basis of a moral and political law that had no room for Machiavellian style dirty politics. The politics of the new democracies were intended to be different from the Roman politics Machiavelli had studied. The G8 seems to point to a higher standard by excluding China, the second economy of the world from their deliberations presumably on the basis that it is not a democratic State.
Professor Strauss is famous for refuting what he called historicist accounts of political and social thought. What he meant by that was the thesis that the political philosophy of a certain historical period was necessarily bound to that period, so much so that it was an expression of it. So the harshness of Machiavelli political philosophy was merely a reflex of the division of Italy into warring city States and foreign kingdoms. The political thought of Thomas Paine was a reflex of a middle class capitalist development and the political thought of Karl Marx was just a reflex of the early exploitative industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century.
He thought of political philosophy in terms of permanent alternatives rather than passing ideologies always to be superseded by historical change, and he thought of Machiavelli politics as one permanent alternative that could rise up in any era. He thought of Marxism in terms of historicism and argued it was self- refuting because it predicted its own passing away due to necessary historical change. How he asked could Marxist thought still claim to be relevant when the nineteenth century conditions that produced the ideas of Karl Marx no longer existed nearly 150 later
We will not seek to rule on Marxism and historicism here but suffice to say that we don’t think Machiavellian or its alternative Marxist politics has been superseded by necessary historical developments. Machiavelli belongs to the long history of capitalism that includes the Italy of the city state and the merchant capitalism that originated in these very City States. The politics of imperialism are linked by the capitalist economy so private and public gangster politics are as relevant now as they were in Michiavelli’s time.