Brief Notes On The Political Importance Of Secret SocietiesJonathan Marshallhttp://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster05.pdf
Most Western political scientists, following in the traditions of Marx or Weber, scorn the study of secret and occult societies as irrelevant to understanding the politics of the age. In their view, politics can best be understood as the working out, in public arenas, of bureaucratic, interest group, or class struggles. The study of secret societies smacks instead of pursuing discredited "conspiracy" theories of history. In part, this attitude stems from a general ignorance of the existence and power of such groups. But they do exist: "modernisation" has not made them a thing of the past. Their importance derives both from the quality and influence of the members as individuals, and, equally important, from the tight bonds that unite the members into a cohesive organisation.
These bonds are formed by the rituals, initiation rites, and occult ideologies that make such societies more exclusive and committed than social clubs or political parties. For that reason, secret societies can wield an influence far beyond what their limited membership might suggest. What follows, in rebuttal to the conventional wisdom, is a brief overview of the role played by a handful of secret and semi-secret societies in four major Western countries: Spain, France, Italy and the United States.
Founded in 1928 by the lawyer-turned-priest Jose Maria de Balaguer, the Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (best known just as Opus Dei) has become one of the most powerful, and politically committed, of Catholic lay societies. Opus Dei brings together faithful Catholics - businessmen, financiers, military officers, and government officials - who seek sanctity in the exercise of their professions; in practice, it promotes the technocratic, authoritarian organisation of society reminiscent of the early Vichy period in France. In 1950, Opus Dei ideologist Rafael Calvo Serer called organised Catholicism " a potential force such as (the Vatican) has not had since the Council of Trent." As for Spain, "she must throw herself into the construction of international action that will prepare the future: the International of Elites" to challenge International Communism and the International of the Dollar.
Opus Dei was slow to gain recognition and power. In Spain it received official recognition from the Bishop of Madrid only in 1941; the Vatican accepted it as a secular order in 1950. Thereafter its influence spread rapidly, particularly during the late Franco period. By the end of the 1960s, the "three Lopez's" - Lopez Rodo, Franco's Minister of Economic Planning, Lopez Bravo, Minister of Industry and later Foreign Minister, and Lopez Letona, Minister of Commerce and later of Finance - all belonged to Opus Dei. In 1969 a total of 18 government ministers belonged to or sympathised with the order. Today, Opus Dei controls the votes of about one-fifth of Spain's parliamentary deputies, as well as the capital of numerous banks, conglomerates and construction firms. Its influence has spread to the Vatican, where Pope John Paul 2 recently recognised it as a "personal prelature"; to Latin America generally, where Archbishop Lopez Trujillo, an Opus Dei ally, is now President of the Latin American Conference of Bishops; to Chile, where the Opus Dei magazine Que Pasa conspired against the regime of Salvatore Allende (1); and to the United States, where David Kennedy, President of Continental Illinois Bank is said to be a "conspicuous friend of the new power brokers in the Order of Opus Dei."
In France, Opus Dei has had a particularly notable influence going back as far as 1938. It became strong in the army and among ex-Vichyites and right-wing Catholic integristes. It was said to have influenced Robert Schumann, Antoine Pinay and Paul Baudoin, former President of the Banque de L'Indochine and Vichy Foreign Minister. Above all, however, Opus Dei made inroads through Baudoin's protege Edmond Giscard, who shared a variety of colonial enterprises with the BIC group. Edmond, father of Valery, was President of the Banque des Interets Francais (BIF), of which minority control rested with Opus Dei's Banco Popular Espanol.
Another Opus Dei connection was forged through the treasurer of Valery Giscard d'Estaing's Independent Republican Party, the Prince Jean de Broglie. De Broglie was President of a Luxembourg firm, Sodetex S.A., an affiliate of the Spanish textile firm Matesa, which was at the centre of an enormous Opus Dei-linked financial scandal that rocked the Spanish government in the late 1960s. There is evidence that the Opus Dei-Matesa network siphoned off money for the campaign of Giscard, who shared their technocratic, anti-political prejudices. (Matesa also allegedly donated $10,000 to the campaign of Richard Nixon for U.S. President in 1968.)
These connections between Opus Dei, Giscard, and De Broglie have been raised as a possible motive for the assassination of De Broglie.
Opus Dei's tentacles also reach into Italy, where the organisation has lobbied hard in the Vatican against the Jesuit order, in particular by exposing the links between certain Jesuits and freemasonry. (3)
The Catholic Church, of course, has long been hostile to anti-clerical freemasonry, with the exception of a brief period of liberalisation in the late 1970s that was promoted quietly by such leading Jesuits as Father Giovanni Caprile, the official historian of the Vatican. But then, in March 1981, the Holy See reminded the faithful that Catholics "are forbidden under pain of ex-communication from joining Masonic or similar associations." The timing of the proclamation, which caught many by surprise, was no accident; the Church hierarchy had advance knowledge of, and was disclaiming any responsibility for, the forthcoming scandal over Italy's notorious P2 masonic lodge.(4)
The existence of the lodge had long been known by close observers of the Italian scene; its name had been raised repeatedly in connection with official investigations of neo-fascist outrages of the 1970s. But in May 1981 Italian authorities released a list of 963 members - a list that shook the nation and lead to the collapse of the government and the wholesale replacement of military, intelligence and civil service personnel.
The lodge was headed by Licio Gelli, a wealthy businessman who had fought with the Falange in Spain and then for the fascist Republic of Salo in the last days of Nazi rule in Italy. Gelli's purposes were revealed by his declaration in 1976 that "masonry hates communism because it is contrary to the idea of the dignity of personal individualism, destroyer of fundamental rights, which are the divine inheritance of all men, and enemy of the fundamental masonic principle to have faith in God." (5) Judging by the membership of the lodge, Gelli intended to organise nothing less than a counterrevolutionary cell, either to overthrow the democratic state (as several P2 members tried to do in the early 1970s), or to prevent a Communist take-over. The members included three cabinet ministers from the Arnaldo Forlani government; the heads of Italy's three main intelligence services; the chiefs of staff of the army, navy and
defence ministry; the heads of the carbinieri and the paramilitary customs police; 18 members of parliament, 21 judges, top corporate executives, influential journalists and foreign political and business figures, especially from Latin America.(6)
Ironically, the lodge also included the notorious swindler Michele Sindona, banker to the Vatican whose influential American collaborator, David Kennedy, is close to the anti-masonic Opus Dei. Gelli swore his initiates to secrecy and made them take an oath "to aid, comfort, and defend my brothers in the order, even at the risk of my own life." An official investigation summed up the significance of Gelli's 'state within a state': "Lodge P2 is a secret sect that has combined business and politics with the intention of destroying the constitutional order of the country."(7)
One of the many secret dossiers found in Gelli's possession was entitled "Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem." According to the Communist paper La Marseillaise, Gelli had direct dealings with the French branch of the Templars. One of the French Templar initiates was Jaques Massie, former leader of the Gaullist Service d'Action Civique (SAC) in the south of France, who was found murdered with all his family at Auriol on the outskirts of Marseilles. Massie had allegedly been involved in the traffic of arms from Turkey to the Italian Red Brigades and to right-wing hit teams in Spain and Italy. He was accused of diverting more than Frs.2 million in proceeds from one such deal in March 1981 to finance Giscard d'Estaing's presidential fund, against the wishes of his Gaullist superiors in SAC and the Templars - for which crime he may have paid with his life.(8))
Gelli himself was said to have met in Marseilles with the French Templars, and to have stayed at a villa frequented by extreme right Italians close to SAC and the fascist Order Nouvea. (9)
The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem is the 19th century incarnation of the original Templars who fought to secure routes to the Holy Land for pilgrims during the era of the Crusades. In 1307 Philippe Le Bel, King of France, crushed them and confiscated some of their enormous holdings, ostensibly because they had begun to propagate heretical religious views. Templar Grand Master Jaques de Molay was burned at the stake on March 19, 1314. Modern Templars, somewhat wistfully, trace their origins back to the 14th century. Members of the Knights Templars did indeed survive the first inquisition in Portugal and Scotland, where according to tradition they founded the Scottish Rite of Masonry and the Rosicrucian sect.(10)
Today the Templar order has branches in numerous Western countries. In the United States it is called the Priory of St. George and includes "many people of good social position."(11) In France, its members include key government officials, bankers and other dignitaries, including Charles de Gaulle's close associate General Zdrojewski, a Resistance hero who headed the order in France. His assistant, Colonel Moreau, has ties to SDECE, the French foreign intelligence service.
Leading Gaullists, most notably Pierre Lemarchand, saw the potential of controlling the Templars to gain occult political influence and intelligence. He ordered a former ranking member of SAC, Charles Lascorz, to infiltrate and take over the Templars. Through fraud and strong-arm tactics - methods that came naturally to Lascorz, who was as proficient at blackmail as he was at gold and arms smuggling - Lascorz did take control and staff key offices of the Templars with trusted associates from SAC. Its influence should not be underestimated; as one Lascorz associate observed, "On trouve des templiers a tous les post clef de la police, de l'armee, de la radio, de la television, et des differents ministeres. Jamais de SAC N'est parvenu a un tel degre d'organisation et de puissance."(12)
As one authority has noted, "Templars are a veritable industry in France." This holds true both in terms of the endless outpouring of books and articles on the history of the Templars and the Cathars in the Languedoc region (including speculation on the fate of the legendary Templar fortune and the Holy Grail), but also in terms of the proliferation of secret societies. Several societies in France besides the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem harken back to Templar origins. One of these, the monarchist Prieure de Sion, has recently attracted much attention (13)
Another even more mysterious 'Templar' group was briefly exposed in 1960. It was said to be a wealthy secret society with a core group of about 30 members. Like Opus Dei, it was close to Catholic integristes and franquiste circles, with connections in Spain and Germany. Its members, supported by OAS cells in Algeria, were said to be extreme monarchists, anti-masonic and anti-communists. (14)
One of the leaders of this Templar group was Constantin Melnik, a technical counsellor to Prime Minister Michel Debre. His job was to co-ordinate the various police and intelligence services (SDECE, DST, Surete, RG.) (15) It was rumoured that he was associated with Radio Free Europe (a CIA project) and the U.S. Air Force's think-tank, Rand Corporation. Melnik had joined the Rassemblement des Gauches Republicaines whose secretary general, Jean-Louis David, was founder of the CIA backed Paix et Liberte.
But Melnik's family background is in some ways even more interesting. He was born in France of White Russian parents. His grandfather on his mother's side was Eugene Botkin, personal physician to Czar Nicholas 2 and the imperial family. Botkin was killed by the Bolsheviks, allegedly along with Nicholas and the rest of the Czar's family. Botkin married Constantin Melnik Snr in 1918, and fled to France via the Balkans. Her son, also Constantin, was born in 1927. Mrs Melnik, along with her brother Gleb Botkin, became a staunch defender of the claims of Anna Anderson to be Anastasia, one of the Czar's daughters whom history recorded as having died with the rest of her family.(16) Her claim rests upon a substantial body of documentary evidence. (17)
Thus we can see that Melnik's background would have conditioned him to the sort of conspiratorial, right-wing politics characteristic of emigre White Russian communities.
1. Death In Washington, Freed and Landis, p104
2. Times 12th January 1981; New Times (USSR) No 13 1982; High Times (US)
August 1980; Un Crime Sous Giscard Jesus Ynfante (Paris 1981)
3. Il Mondo 26th June 1981
4. Sunday Times 29th May 1981
5. Il Mondo op. cit.
6. Attenzione December 1981
7. Time 8th June 1981
8. New York Times 17th November 1981; Searchlight October 1981
9. Panorama (Milan) 10th August 1981
10.French masons, part of a so-called 'propaganda' cell, conspired against Louis
XVI in the name of the memory of Jacques De Molay. (Michael Baigent et al,
Holy Blood, Holy Grail. (1983) pp52/53
Here it should be mentioned that masonry in France is still of political
significance. It is split into several organisations. The French Grand Orient is
politically liberal, and has sharply attacked the Nouvelle Ecole school in its
journal Humanisme (March 1981). The more conservative, pro-British Grande
Loge Nationale Francais is based in Neilly-sur-Seine, and enjoys the support of
fellow mason General Lyman Lemnitzer, who inaugurated its new temple in
1964 when he was NATO commander-in-chief. The newer, anti-British faction
of the Grand Lodge, called Opera, includes the occultist and Nouvelle Ecole
doyen Louis Pauwels.
Les Francs-masons Alain Guichard (Paris 1969) p278; Le Crapouillot
11.Lt. Col. Gayre The Knightly Twilight (Malta, no publication date) pp76-79
12.Aux Ordres du SAC Ferrand and Lecavelier (Albin Michel 1982)
13.Holy Blood, Holy Grail note 10.
14.Les Documents politiques diplomatiques et financiers April 1960.
15.Melnik wrote the introduction to the French edition of the CIA prepared
16.Hunt for the Czar Guy Richards, (London 1969) pp142/3; Les Documents etc
(note 14) August 1960
17.Anthony Summers, Tom Mangold, The File On The Czar (London 1978)
PART 2 Goleniewski, the Knights of Malta, the assassination of Kennedy et al, will
be in Lobster 6.
Jonathan Marshall is a journalist living and working in America. He has written
extensively on parapolitics and related areas and was the editor/publisher of the
journal Parapolitics . He now lives and works in California.
This essay originally appeared in Parapolitics and is reprinted here with the author's