III. The Conspirators

America's Unknown Enemy: Beyond Conspiracy

Editorial Staff of the
American Institute for Economic Research


Despite the skepticism with which conspiracy notions often have been greeted in professional circles, interest in contemporary conspiracy theory no longer can be regarded merely as an exercise in eccentricity or obscurantism. For example, Globescan, an international news and financial report (whose parent is the investment research organization, Realinvest S.A. of Geneva, Switzerland) published a handsome pamphlet with the title Futurewatch; Your Freedom and Wealth Versus the International Establishment. In it, at the top of a list under a bold heading "Perpetual conspiracy is printed the word Illuminati. For readers of that pamphlet unfamiliar with the term Illuminati -- or Club of Rome, Group of 77, Bilderbergers, IFAD, SATO, UNITAR, WIPO, CER, RIIA, and a multitude of others a good portion of what subsequently was presented would have had little or no meaning. Attempts to link conspiracy theory and investment practice demand that the "uninitiated" gain at least some acquaintance with the origins, methods, and terminology of conspiracy literature if they are to comprehend what is being presented and assess its usefulness.

The central tenets of contemporary conspiracy theory owe much to the British author Nesta H. Webster's World Revolution; The Plot Against Civilization (1921), a book that testifies powerfully to the endemic flaws of conspiracy notions.[1] World Revolution describes minute similarities (differences receive little or no mention) found in a variety of secret societies and intellectual movements between the late 18th century and the early 20th century. These, it says, are "proof" that the source of revolutionary upheaval in the modern world "is not local but universal, it is not political but social, and its causes must be sought not in popular discontent, but in a deep-laid conspiracy" (emphasis added). Accordingly, parallels between the rituals, methods, and symbolism of various societies, and the teachings of individuals as various as Rousseau, Robespierre, Owen, Fourier, Marx, Bakunin, and Louis Blanc are interpreted as evidence of an "occult force, terrible, unchanging, relentless, and wholly destructive, which constitutes the greatest menace that has ever confronted the human race."

According to Mrs. Webster, one man started it all: Adam Weishaupt, a renegade Jesuit priest and professor of canon law who founded the Order of illuminati of Bavaria on May 1, 1776. By this account, Weishaupt was the principal architect of internationalism as it became manifest in the 20th century. World Revolution terms him the mastermind of the "terrible and formidable sect" that launched "the gigantic plan of World Revolution" and so earned him a place on the dark side of history as "the profoundest conspirator that has ever existed. " At least some mention of Adam Weishaupt or the Illuminati is found in virtually all contemporary conspiracy literature.

The accompanying "Chart of the World Revolution,"[2] from World Revolution, illustrates the extent to which this conspiracy allegedly overcame the restraints normally imposed on conspiracies by time, space, and culture. World Revolution asserts there are "connections" between Adam Weishaupt's Bavarian Illuminati, Egyptian Occultism, Manicheans, French and German Freemasons (though not British Freemasons),[3] the Knights Templars, British Syndicalists, Russian Anarchists, Irish Republicans, British Socialists, Owenites, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, the German General Staff, the Wobblies, and a handful of Utopians. The "gigantic plan" purportedly functioned continuously for at least 145 years, embraced three continents, and spanned several political and economic systems. It should be noted, however, that the chart fails to include any mention of, for example, Garibaldi, Mazzini, or the "red shirts," the Spanish anarchist movement in the first decade of the 20th century -- or any parallel developments in what has since become known as the "Third World." The Webster thesis limited the course of "World Revolution" to Northern European cultures and their North American variants.

To attempt to refute the Webster account of global conspiracy by pointing out every historical fallacy of the work would be an enormous waste of time. It would be so not because there are no factual errors but because she does not offer support, by references to verifiable "facts," for the crucial aspect of her thesis -- that the key people involved conspired to achieve a common purpose. That critical notion is an inference she makes from the evidence presented, but it is not the only plausible inference. Indeed, other inferences seem more plausible.

Thus, to attempt to refute Mrs. Webster's conspiracy thesis and those of other conspiracy theorists -- one must contend with facts not presented more than with those offered. And to prove a negative -- that is, that there is no conspiracy -- is virtually impossible. That, however, in no way suggests Mrs. Webster's thesis is accurate. Her method is fundamentally flawed; it permits neither verification nor refutation. Consequently, "believers" can accept the conspiracy theory and "nonbelievers" can reject it.

"Evident Connections"

Let us illustrate the bankruptcy of Mrs. Webster's "proof" of a conspiracy by reference to her commentary on the relationship between the "programme" of the Illuminist Adam Weishaupt and the Anarchist Michael Bakunin and hence, the "evident connection" between the two. A portion of her argument asserts:

We have only to compare the programme of the International Social Democratic Alliance with the plan of Weishaupt to recognize the evident connections between the two. Placed in parallel columns the aims of both will be seen to be identical:


The order of the Uluminati abjured Christianity.... In the lodges death was declared an eternal sleep; patriotism and loyalty were called narrow-rninded prejudices incompatible with universal benevolence; further, they accounted all princes usurpers and tyrants, and all privileged orders as their abettors. They meant to abolish the laws which protected property accumulated by long-continued and successful industry; and to prevent for the future any such accumulation. They intended to establish universal liberty and equality, the imprescriptible rights of man, and as preparation for all this they intended to root out all religion and ordinary morality, and even to break the bonds of domestic life by destroying the veneration for marriage vows, and by taking the education of children out of the hands of the parents.


The Alliance professes Atheism. It aims at the abolition of religious services, the replacement of belief by knowledge and divine by human justice, the abolition of marriage as a political, religious, and civic arrangement. Before all, it aims at the definite and complete abolition of all classes and the political, economic and social equality of the individual of either sex. The abolition of inheritance. All children to be brought up on a uniform system, so that artificial inequalities may disappear....

It aims directly at the triumph of the cause of labour over capital. It repudiates so-called patriotism and the rivalry of nations and desires the universal association of all local associations by means of freedom.

The final aim of this society was "to accelerate the universal revolution."

Now how is it possible to suppose that the extraordinary similarity between these two programmes can be due to mere coincidence? In the Alliance of Bakunin, as in the Communist Manifesto of Marx, we find again all the points of Weishaupt -- abolition of property, inheritance, marriage, and all morality, of patriotism and all religion. Is it not obvious that the plan had been handed down to the succeeding groups of Socialists and Anarchists by the secret societies which had carried on the traditions of the Illuminati, and that Bakunin, and still more his coadjutor Netchaieff, was simply an Illuminatus?

Aside from the observation that this comparison is based on secondary rather than primary sources (these are not citations of Weishaupt and Bakunin, but of others who have interpreted them), several criticisms can be made. First, there is absolutely no evidence offered supporting the assertion that "the plan had been handed down to succeeding groups of Socialists and Anarchists by the secret societies." That is Mrs. Webster's interpretation.

Second, there are many possible explanations for the similarities mentioned between the programs of numerous radical groups. Most of the writings of the activists alluded to in World Revolution were available in the libraries of Europe and the United States. It would have been extraordinary if internationalists from Weishaupt to Bakunin, to Marx, and to Engels, had not drawn on earlier similarly disposed writers for intellectual stimulation and reinforcement. What Mrs. Webster interpreted as the operation of a sinister conspiracy more likely could have been the simple process by which intellectual currents -- including wrongheaded ones -- take root and develop. That process continues today. That persons have similar (mistaken) views does not by itself constitute evidence of a conspiracy.

Nor is there much evidence of conspiracy in Mrs. Webster's list of secret societies that all seemed to have roughly similar structures and rituals. Many secret societies in the modern Western world -- benign and otherwise -- have drawn their basic forms from the Freemasons, the earliest and most widespread of the secret orders. The Dogma and Rituals of the Ancient Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, for example, which had been revised by the 33rd degree Mason Albert S. Pike, was widely available in the United States and Europe throughout the late 19th century. It served as a model of organization for a variety of college fraternities and civic organizations. By applying Mrs. Webster's use of evidence regarding similarity of structures and rituals, the Shriners, the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange), the Oddfellows, Phi Beta Kappa -- even the secret orders of the Boy Scouts of America -- must be connected to the Illuminist conspiracy.

The use of similar terms also is far from persuasive evidence of coordinated intents or purposes. In economics, for example, advocates of the "free market" have used much the same language and arguments since Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (published in 1776, incidentally), yet their activities have not been coordinated. Furthermore, the same word or words ("internationalist" for example) can be used by different persons to create a desired effect. Nearly all power seekers will direct their appeals to the prejudices of the intended audience in similar language. Activists in the United States often enlist the quotations of such personages as Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson in support of causes that those men almost surely would have opposed vigorously. The full context in which words and arguments are presented must be considered in order to draw useful conclusions. Consider this: with the exception of the name of the countries and rulers in question, the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence issued by Ho Chi Minh in 1946 was a verbatim translation of the American Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. According to Mrs. Webster's use of evidence, Thomas Jefferson, Ho Chi Minh, and anyone who celebrates the 4th of July may be part of one huge conspiracy.

"Coincidence" vs. History

World Revolution further violates useful method by neglecting the context in which historical events occurred. For example, Mrs. Webster again employs the rhetorical question to suggest conclusions about a coincidence of dates: "Was it again a mere coincidence that in July 1889 an International Socialist Congress in Paris decided that May 1, which was the day on which Weishaupt founded the Illuminati, should be chosen for an annual International Labour demonstration, or that it was with a demonstration organized by the Anarchists on May 1, 1881, that the periode tragique began?"

Fantastic coincidence? Evidence of conspiracy? These are not the only possibilities. The month of May is derived from the Latin Maia, a goddess to whom the Romans sacrificed on the 1st of that month. This practice was transformed, after the Roman conquest of Europe, into a spring festival in celebration of the season of growth, and it was eagerly anticipated by peasant laborers as a time of revelry and relief from toil. (This holiday coincided with the reduced labor demand that followed seeding but preceded cultivation of crops.) In Tudor England, May Day became a festival dance known as Morris Dance; Celtic May Day was known as Beltane, when celebration fires were kindled on hilltops; in Europe generally, the 1st of May was by the 17th century known simply as "Labor Day." Mrs. Webster's question more appropriately might have been framed, Is it any wonder that Weishaupt chose May 1st as the founding date for his order? Or, Is it any wonder that the International Labour demonstrations orchestrated by anarchists in 1889 and 1891 took place on May 1st? Or, Is it any wonder that "May Day" would be chosen to commemorate the Bolshevik Revolution?

As in much conspiracy writing, World Revolution contains an anti-Semitic current. Although Mrs. Webster declares that the conspiracy against civilization was not solely the work of Jews, she asserts they played a large part in it: "Already England and France are, if not actually dominated by Jews, very nearly so, while the United States, by the hands of those whose grip they are ignorant of, are slowly but surely yielding to that international and insidious hegemony." Also, "Whatever the Jewish Press may say to the contrary, the preponderance of Jews amongst the Bolsheviks of both Hungary and Russia has been too evident to need further proof." World Revolution further maintains that "Jewish gold" financed the Bolshevik Revolution and that Jewish participation in the "plot against civilization" signified a larger commitment to the destruction of Christianity and the establishment of Jewish "domination in religion, property, and power."

Evidence is skimpy at best that Jews "controlled" many of the events in the alleged world conspiracy plot. Antony C. Sutton has observed: "The list of Jews involved in the Bolshevik Revolution must be weighed against lists of non-Jews involved in the revolution. When this scientific procedure is adopted, the proportion of foreign Jewish Bolsheviks involved falls to less than twenty percent of the total number of revolutionaries."[4] As we discuss later, the issue of Jewish participation in the Revolution was far more complex than any of the "Jewish conspiracy" thesis acknowledge.

More Recent Writings

World Revolution alone would not warrant this discussion of the abuses of useful method were it not that its two central themes -- (1) that secret societies provided the primary institutional support for "world revolution" and (2) that international bankers, especially Jewish ones, financed and profited therefrom -- have appeared in variant forms in subsequent writings about an "international socialist" conspiracy directed by bankers. These writings reflect the same methodological defects as does World Revolution.

A widely recognized work on the subsequent operation of the conspiracy, particularly in the United States, is Gary Allen's and LarryAbraham's None Dare Call It Conspiracy, first published in 1971. In their book, Allen and Abraham (Abraham subsequently published the Insider Reports financial newsletter) relied on the same methods of "proof" as did Mrs. Webster. Their chart on "World Supra-Government," reproduced here, bears resemblance to Mrs. Webster's "Chart of the World Revolution." Like Mrs. Webster's chart, this one uses the device of simple lines to promote alleged connections between a diverse group of institutions and thousands of individuals who lived over a period of centuries (Meyer Amschel Rothschild, who heads the chart, was born in 1743). Would a listing of these persons and institutions in a table without the arrows and lines have the same impact? We doubt it. Yet, the arrows and lines do not add an iota of supporting evidence to the writers' contention.

Allen and Abraham's book also asserts that secret societies have advanced the conspiracy. None Dare Call It Conspiracy maintains that the present conspiracy of international bankers began with the founding of Cecil Rhodes's Secret Society in the 1890's. Nevertheless, Adam Weishaupt is implicated in the general conspiracy: "It should be noted that the originator of this type of secret society was Adam Weishaupt, the monster who founded the Order of Illuminati on May 1, 1776, for the purpose of conspiracy to control the world. The role of Weishaupt's Illuminists in such horrors as the Reign of Terror is unquestioned, and the techniques of the Illuminati have long been recognized as models for Communist methodology. Weishaupt also used the structure of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) as his model, and rewrote his Code in Masonic terms."

In brief outline, Allen's and Abraham's book traces the growth of the conspiracy from the Rhodes' Secret Society, to the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), which -- with the American Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) constituted an international Roundtable Group. Through the participation of the principal English and American international bankers, this group allegedly controlled world events until World War II. After World War II until 1973, the Council on Foreign Relations, and since 1973 the Trilateral Commission, have been the alleged secret instruments of the elitists' conspiracy to rule the world.

In 1985, Larry Abraham published a sequel volume titled Call It Conspiracy. This work traces the development of events relating to "the conspiracy" through Nixon, Ford, Carter, and (to 1985) the Reagan presidencies. Despite its title, the new chapters in this book (the first part of the book is comprised of the original text of None Dare Call It Conspiracy) show somewhat greater caution in attributing specific developments to conspiratorial behavior per se than those of the parent work. For example, the Trilateral Commission (see Chapter VI) is described as being an "open Conspiracy." The conspiratorial connections" alleged in Call It Conspiracy are implied rather than explicitly asserted.

Similarly, Professor Antony C. Sutton's recent volumes on The Order (Yale's Skull and Bones) provide illuminating evidence of the globalist views and ambitions of some of its members. But that material relies on methods of "proof" that are flawed in many of the same ways as Mrs. Webster's World Revolution.

It is beyond the scope of this discussion to review in great detail all of the volumes that so far comprise the results of Professor Sutton's research on Yale's Skull and Bones society. Even so, it may be useful to place the primary evidence he has uncovered in the perspective of the larger methodological problems that seem to infect most works on the worldwide conspiracy.

Sutton asserts in The Secret Cult of The Order that "The Order, a secret society also known as Skull & Bones, is a clear and obvious threat to the Constitutional freedom in the United States. Its secrecy, power and use of influence is greater by far than the masons, or any other semi-secret mutual or fraternal organization." Unfortunately, the only "evidence" Sutton provides to document the above assertion is a tract written in 1871 that, in his words, is "the only source of documented information on the cultic aspects of The Order."[5] It scarcely needs saying that a great deal can and does happen to organizations even secret ones over the course of more than a century. By an extension of Sutton's reasoning, a careful reading of the manual of orders from virtually any fraternal or benevolent order (Skull and Bones actually seems to have been tamer than many), to say nothing of the acts of incorporation of any number of business enterprises during the 19th century, could be called a threat to constitutional freedom in the United States. Why Sutton neglects possibly more fruitful research into, say, the secret goings-on in the boardrooms of any number of hugely influential multinational corporations in preference for the view that a relatively puny (in terms of numbers and resources) secret fraternity rules a world conspiracy escapes logic.

This is not to say that Sutton has not uncovered useful sources. Although they provide no evidence of a cultist conspiracy today (by virtue of the fact that they were written more than a century ago, they cannot provide such), they are a useful account of the sociology of the senior society system at Yale a century ago, and furnish at least some clues respecting the behavior of those excluded from participation in the societies' secrets. They are most revealing as a window into distance campus status relationships. A careful reading of Lyman Bagg's 1871 volume Four Years at Yale, which is one of Sutton's primary sources, strongly suggests that many of the charges made against Skull and Bones in the 1870's stemmed from the lingering resentments of the privileges accorded to members of that society (as they generally still are to the "big men on campus" at most colleges.) What seems to have heightened feelings against that organization per se was the fact that it was the first and most successful of such societies. (Except for Scroll and Key, for many years prior to the 1870's it was the only such society on the Yale campus -- having itself been founded by disgruntled students responding to the exclusivity of Phi Beta Kappa elections decades earlier.) But, again, these documents are worthless as "proofs" of any present-day conspiracy.

Sutton's account of the operation of The Order in American educational circles, How The Order Controls Education, contrasts sharply with the foregoing volume. In this brief volume, he traces in broad strokes some of the main currents in late 19th- and early 20th-century higher education, particularly as they may relate to Hegelian notions of relations between the individual and the State -- and many of his comments and criticisms respecting the failures of American education are thought-provoking. But they do not constitute evidence of a conspiracy. His insistence that the corruption of American education is attributable primarily to The Order again depends on the most tenuous "connections." (John Dewey, whom Sutton goes to considerable lengths to identify with The Order's alleged educational objectives, was not a member of The Order.)

Of the several volumes in Sutton's series on Skull and Bones, the most extensively documented is that entitled How The Order Creates War and Revolution. In this work, Sutton draws heavily on his earlier studies of financial relationships between the Wall Streeters, the Russian Revolution, the Nazi movement, and present-day Angola and China. This volume contains irrefutable evidence of the involvement of Wall Street bankers and financiers in the major anti-democratic movements of the 20th century, as we discuss below. And there can be no question that some of those involved were members of Skull and Bones. There were also a great many others who played central parts in the various intrigues who had no demonstrable connection to that organization. Even in Sutton's scenario, Wall Street involvement in the financing of war and revolution appears to extend far beyond the confines of a narrowly laid conspiracy. His attempt to focus exclusively on The Order simply detracts from the larger -- and much more foreboding -- story that is contained in the pages of his compact book.

Suffering from the same methodological flaws as Mrs. Webster's work, the more recent conspiratorial works centering on the Federal Reserve, international bankers, the CFR, the Trilateral Commission, and Yale's Skull and Bones defy refutation. Conspiracy theorists can point to enough verifiable evidence to make their cases plausible, but the essential conspiratorial element can be neither corroborated nor refuted. But opponents of the would-be "world managers" who rely on allegations of conspiracy seem an unlikely source for the type of critical analysis that must precede the development of informal judgment respecting the desirability of the globalists' ideas, policies, and programs.


  1. Webster subsequently became a leader of the British fascist movement.
  2. The chart included in the original pamphlet is not reproduced here. The reader is encouraged to contact the American Institute of Economic Research for a printed version.
  3. Mrs. Webster wrote in an author's note: "at the moment of this book going to press, it has been brought to my notice that I am represented as having attacked British Freemasonry. This can only have been said in malice, as I have always clearly differentiated between British and Continental masonry, showing the former to be an honourable association not only hostile to subversive doctrines but a strong supporter of law, order, and religion."
  4. Anthony C. Sutton, Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution (Arlington House, 1974), p.189. Anthony C. Sutton, Wall 5tn'et and the Bolshevik Revolution (Axlington House, 1974), p.189.
  5. Antony C. Sutton. The Secret Cult of The Order (Bullsbrook, Western Australia: Veritas Publishing Company Pty. Ltd., 1983), p.2.