The Rockefeller World: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
The following is a sneak peak from a chapter in Marshall’s upcoming book funded through The People’s Book Project.
It is quite apparent in the history of America from the late 19th century and into the 20th century, that the Rockefeller family has wielded massive influence in shaping the socio-political economic landscape of society. However, up until the first half of the 20th century came to a close, there were several other large dominant families with whom the Rockefellers shared power and purpose, notably among them, the Morgans. As the century progressed, their interests aligned further still, and following World War II, the Rockefellers became the dominant group in America, and arguably, the world. Of course, there was the well-established business links between the major families emerging out of the American Industrial Revolution going into the 20th century, followed with the establishment of the major foundations designed to engage in social engineering. It was with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) that the changing dynamics of the Morgan-Rockefeller clan became most apparent.
As discussed earlier in this book, the Council on Foreign Relations is the ultimate networking and socializing institution among the American elite. The influence of the CFR is unparalleled among other think tanks. One study revealed that between 1945 and 1972, roughly 45% of the top foreign policy officials who served in the United States government were also members of the Council, leading one prominent member to once state that membership in the Council is essentially a “rite of passage” for being a member of the foreign policy establishment. One Council member, Theodore White, explained that the Council’s “roster of members has for a generation, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, been the chief recruiting ground for Cabinet-level officials in Washington.”
The CIA, as previously examined, is also no stranger to this network, since more often than not in the first several decades of the existence of the Agency, its leaders were drawn from Council membership, such as Allen Dulles, John A. McCone, Richard Helms, William Colby, and George H.W. Bush. As some researchers have examined:
The influential but private Council, composed of several hundred of the country’s top political, military, business, and academic leaders has long been the CIA’s principal “constituency” in the American public. When the agency has needed prominent citizens to front for its proprietary (cover) companies or for other special assistance, it has often turned to Council members.
Roughly 42% of the top foreign policy positions in the Truman administration were filled by Council members, with 40% in the Eisenhower administration, 51% of the Kennedy administration, and 57% of the Johnson administration, many of whom were holdovers from the Kennedy administration. The Council has had and continues to have enormous influence in the mainstream media, through which it is able to propagate its ideology, advance its agendas, and conceal its influence. In 1972, three out of ten directors and five out of nine executives of the New York Times were Council members. In the same year, one out of four editorial executives and four of nine directors of the Washington Post were also Council members, including its President, Katharine Graham, as well as the Vice-President Osborn Elliott, who was also editor-in-chief of Newsweek. Of both Time Magazine and Newsweek, almost half of their directors in 1972 were also Council members.
The Council also has extensive ties to the other major American think tanks, most especially the Brookings Institution, as well as the RAND Corporation, the Hudson Institute, the Foreign Policy Association, and of course, the special-purpose foundations such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, of which fifteen of its twenty-one trustees (as of 1971) were also Council members, and its president from 1950 to 1971, Joseph E. Johnson, was also a director of the Council during the same time period.
The Council and the major philanthropic foundations have had extensive ties not only to each other, but in working together in constructing research and programs of study in foreign affairs. The State Department undertook a study of 191 university-connected centers for foreign affairs research, which revealed that the largest sources of funding came from the Ford Foundation (which funded 107 of the 191 centers), the federal government (which funded 67 centers), the Rockefeller Foundation (18 centers), and the Carnegie Corporation (17 centers), and that, “for eleven of the top twelve universities with institutes of international studies, Ford is the principal source of funding.” These foundations, aside from being major sources of funding for the Council throughout the years from its origins, also share extensive leadership ties with the Council. At the top of the list is the Rockefeller Foundation, which in 1971 had fourteen out of nineteen of its directors also being members of the Council; the Carnegie Corporation followed with ten out of seventeen; then came the Ford Foundation with seven out of sixteen; and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund with six out of eleven board members also being members of the Council. It should also be noted that the Carnegie network extended beyond the Carnegie Corporation, and also included the Carnegie Endowment, the Carnegie Institute of Washington, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. From its founding until 1972, one-fourth of all the Council’s directors had served as trustees or directors of at least one of the several Carnegie foundations. John J. McCloy had served as chairman of both the Council and the Ford Foundation at the same time, from the 1950s until the late 60s.
Of all the networks associated with the Council, the most highly represented is the New York financial oligarchy. This broadly refers to the capitalist class, and more specifically the elite financial and banking groups. In a 1969 survey it was found that seven percent of the total membership of the Council are drawn from the propertied rich, with 33% more being top executives and directors of major corporations. Roughly 11% of Council members had relatives who were also members, and the most common occupation for members of the Council, at 40%, was in business. When adding in media corporations, the number reaches nearly 50%, with less than 1% representing labour or working class organizations.
When it comes to Council leadership, the officers are almost exclusively drawn from membership of the ruling capitalist class, with 22% of Council directors having relatives who were also Council members. Financing for the Council has also been largely drawn from this group, primarily from foundations and corporations, as well as various investments and subscriptions to Foreign Affairs. When the Council got its own building in 1929, a Council director, Paul Warburg, contributed a significant portion, and John D. Rockefeller II contributed even more. When the Council moved into a larger building in 1945, the house was donated by Mrs. Harold Pratt, whose husband had made his fortune from the Rockefeller’s Standard Oil enterprise, and John D. Rockefeller II contributed $150,000 for upkeep of the house. Between 1936 and 1946, funding from the major foundations averaged roughly $90,000 per year, mostly from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, who continued their funding into the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In 1953, the Ford Foundation made its first major contribution to the Council at $100,000 for a study of US-Soviet relations which was chaired by John J. McCloy. In that same year, McCloy became Chairman of the Council, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller-owned Chase Bank.
Among the top corporations and banks represented in the Council (as of 1969/70) were: U.S. Steel (founded by J.P. Morgan in 1901 after acquiring Andrew Carnegie’s steel companies for a hefty sum), Mobil Oil (now merged with Exxon), Standard Oil of New Jersey (later to be Exxon Mobil), IBM, ITT, General Electric, Du Pont, Chase Manhattan Bank, J.P. Morgan and Co. (now merged with Chase into J.P. Morgan Chase), First National City Bank, Chemical Bank, Brown Brothers Harriman, Bank of New York, Morgan Stanley, Kuhn Loeb, Lehman Brothers, and several others.
The New York financial oligarchy could previously be divided into separate groups, notably among them, the Rockefeller group, Morgan group, Harriman group, the Lehman-Goldman, Sachs group, and a few select others. The Rockefeller group included: Chase Manhattan Bank, Chemical Bank, Bank of New York, Equitable Life, Metropolitan Life, Mobil Oil, Kuhn, Loeb, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy (law firm), and Standard Oil. The Morgan group included: J.P. Morgan and Co., Morgan Stanley, New York Life, Mutual of New York, Davis, Polk (law firm), U.S. Steel, General Electric, and IBM. As Laurence Shoup and William Minter examined in their book on the Council:
At the Council’s origin and until the early 1950s, the most prominent place within the Council was held by men tied to Morgan interests. Since the 1950s the Rockefeller interests have taken the major role in directing Council affairs.
The Council, while always representative of Rockefeller interests, had seemed to officially pass from Morgan hands into those of the Rockefeller family in 1953. Three of John D. Rockefeller II’s sons, John D. III, Nelson, and David joined the Council in the late 30s and early 40s, and David became a director in 1949. From 1953 until 1971, George S. Franklin became executive director of the Council. Franklin was a college roommate of David Rockefeller’s, and they were related by marriage, and he had worked at the law firm of Davis, Polk (within the Morgan group), before becoming an assistant to Nelson Rockefeller. In 1950, David Rockefeller became a vice-president, and John J. McCloy, a long-time representative of the Rockefeller group, became chairman of the Council in 1953, as well as chairman of the Rockefeller’s Chase Bank. It could also be said that the Rockefeller group overtook the Ford group around this time, as indicative of McCloy taking position as chairman of the Ford Foundation in the same year (while also being a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation). In the following years, several leadership positions in the Council were drawn from organizations within the Rockefeller group. John W. Davis, Robert Roosa, and Bill Moyers were all Council leaders who were connected with the Rockefeller Foundation.
As the years and decades passed, the Rockefeller group became even more powerful and dominant within the American establishment and indeed around the world, firmly establishing itself alongside the Rothschild family as the principle dynastic rulers of the globalized world. Of course, there were and still are several connections between these dynastic ruling families, perhaps so much so that it may be difficult to entirely differentiate between them. Both were involved in the founding and remain involved in the leadership of the Bilderberg Group. In the 1970s, however, it became apparent that the Rockefellers had certainly become the most influential dynasty in America, if not the world (as America was and remains the imperial hegemon of the world). More specifically, David Rockefeller arose as perhaps the most influential man in America, if not the world.
David Rockefeller graduated from Harvard in 1936, and then went to school at the London School of Economics, where he first met John F. Kennedy, and had even dated JKF’s sister, Kathleen. During World War II, David Rockefeller served in North Africa and France, working for military intelligence. In 1947, he became a member of the board of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a major international think tank, a job that was offered to him by the Carnegie’s President, Alger Hiss. Other members of the board included John Foster Dulles, who in 1953 would become Secretary of State; Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in 1953 would become President; and Thomas J. Watson, the CEO of IBM. Thomas J. Watson had previously overseen IBM’s deep business relationship with Hitler in providing the technological machinery for organizing the Holocaust. In 1949, David joined the board of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1946, he had joined Chase Bank, and through the years rose up to becoming President in 1960, and became Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan in 1969.
David Rockefeller had long family ties to the Dulles brothers, whom he knew personally since his college years. Allen Dulles had been the CIA Director and John Foster Dulles was Eisenhower’s Secretary of State. David was also associated with Richard Helms, former top CIA official, as well as Archibald Roosevelt, Jr., a former CIA agent who worked with Chase Manhattan, and whose brother, Kermit Roosevelt was another CIA agent who had been responsible for organizing the 1953 coup in Iran. David Rockefeller also developed close ties with a former CIA agent, William Bundy, who was close to CIA Director Allen Dulles, and who later served in both the Defense Department and the State Department in the JFK and Lyndon Johnson administrations, where he was a pivotal adviser on matters related to the Vietnam War. In 1971, one year following David Rockefeller becoming Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, Bundy was invited by David to become the editor of Foreign Affairs, the influential journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, which he then ran for 11 years. David had also been extensively briefed on covert intelligence operations by various CIA division chiefs at the direction of Director Allen Dulles, David’s “friend and confidante.”
Thus, in the early 1970s, David Rockefeller has risen to a position of great influence as Chairman of the Council and Chase Manhattan, placing him at the centre of the network which defines, designs, and profits from America’s imperial interests. Thus, the international situation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, of a general feeling of American imperial decline, competition increasing and cooperation decreasing between the major industrialized nations, and the general independence and liberations struggles throughout the ‘Third World’ and at home had created a general sense of oligarchic uncertainty. Of particular interest, and much more so to a banker, was the international functions of the debt market, specifically for the ‘Third World’ nations. As examined in Holly Sklar’s book, Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management:
West European and Japanese firms invaded the U.S. market and competed for the growing Third World market. Moreover, European nations began to give aid and loans to Third World nations, becoming an alternative source of aid and strengthening economic ties to their former colonies. Third World nations began to use U.S. aid to repay debts to Western Europe or relied on U.S. aid to offset chronic balance-of-payments shortages incurred, in part, through buying European products. In effect, the U.S. saw itself as paying for Third World importation of European and Japanese goods… In short, the problem from the perspective of the U.S. was that the situation then unfolding gave Third World borrowing nations too much freedom to manipulate the system, to the partial advantage of Western Europe and the Third World and to the definite disadvantage of the U.S. … In particular, the U.S. was concerned with extending its economic (and political) hegemony over the emerging Third World politically-independent nations without creating undue tensions with Western Europe and Japan.
Naturally, these concerns raised the importance and the increasing potential behind institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, themselves products of the Council on Foreign Relations. Various proposals began to emerge in ‘reforming’ these institutions to meet the changing international circumstances. One proposal was to increase the practice of what was referred to as ‘tied’ aid: “aid to a country under the conditions that it be used by the country to buy U.S. goods and services.” Another proposal favoured cooperation among the major industrial nations, a “consortium approach to aid, which involved increased coordination among donor nations about scheduling payments due them by recipient nations.” Further, “each donor nation would refuse to grant aid except on terms identical to those of other donor nations in the consortium.” A third proposal, gaining in popularity, was referred to as “program aid,” which was “aid given with definite stipulations, often within the context of an overall program of economic planning, to which a recipient nation had to agree in order to obtain the aid or loans.” George Ball, a long-time Council member and Bilderberg participant, was Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, said in 1967 that, “the political boundaries of nation-states are too narrow and constricted to define the scope and activities of modern business.”
This was the context in which Zbigniew Brzezinski, then a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg group, had written his book, Between Two Ages, in which he called for the creation of a ‘Community of Developed Nations.’ David Rockefeller had taken note of Brzezinski’s writings, and was “getting worried about the deteriorating relations between the U.S., Europe, and Japan,” as a result of Nixon’s economic shocks. In 1972, David Rockefeller and Brzezinski “presented the idea of a trilateral grouping at the annual Bilderberg meeting,” which was rejected on the idea of not wanting to admit the Japanese into the Bilderberg group. Many Europeans did not want to include the Japanese at the high table. In July of 1972, seventeen powerful people met at David Rockefeller’s estate in New York to plan for the creation of the Commission. At the meeting were Brzezinski, McGeorge Bundy, the President of the Ford Foundation, (brother of William Bundy, editor of Foreign Affairs) and Bayless Manning, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. So, in 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed to address these issues. Initial funding to set up the Commission came from David Rockefeller and the Ford Foundation. For the first several years, most of the Commission’s funding came from foundations, with increasing support from major corporations, which contributed roughly 12% of its funding in 1973-76, to roughly 50% in 1984. Thus, in the 1970s David Rockefeller rose to an even more prominent international position, simultaneously holding a leadership position within the Bilderberg Group, and being Chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was the Executive Director of the Trilateral Commission, and at the same time served as a director of the Council on Foreign Relations. The Trilateral Commission acted as an organization through which ‘hegemony of consent’ could be organized, particularly that of socializing elites from the ‘trilateral’ nations to one another, integrating their views, ideologies, objectives, and methods just as think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations have done within the United States. As the CFR acts domestically, the Trilateral Commission acts internationally (at least with the leading industrial nations of the North). The first European Chairman of the Commission, Max Kohnstamm, emphasized the role of ‘intellectuals’ in the construction of hegemony within the Commission:
This, which must be done by absolutely first-rate intellectuals will tend to become irrelevant unless it is done in constant checking with those who are in power or who have a considerable influence on those in power. It seems to me that the linkage between the kind of people we must get for our Trilateral Commission and the intellectuals doing the indispensable work of thinking about the elements for a new system is of the greatest importance. A Trilateral Commission without the intellectuals will become very soon a second-class negotiating forum. The intellectuals not being forced to test their ideas constantly with the establishment of our world will tend to become abstract and therefore useless… [It must be] the joint effort of our very best minds and a group of really influential citizens in our respective countries.
In a 1972 speech at the Bilderberg meeting at which David Rockefeller proposed (alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski) the establishment of the Trilateral Commission, he stated that the Commission would be “bringing the best brains in the world to bear on the problems of the future… to collect and synthesize the knowledge that would enable a new generation to rebuild the conceptual framework of foreign and domestic policies.”
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.
 Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy (Authors Choice Press, New York: 2004), pages 58-59.
 Ibid, pages 60-62.
 Ibid, pages 62-64.
 Ibid, pages 66-67.
 Ibid, pages 66-70.
 Ibid, pages 77-78.
 Ibid, pages 78-79.
 Ibid, pages 86-88.
 Ibid, pages 92-95.
 Ibid, pages 97-98.
 Ibid, pages 102-104.
 Ibid, pages 106-107.
 David Rockefeller, Memoirs. (New York: Random House, 2002), page 85.
 Ibid, page 113.
 Ibid, pages 149-151.
 Richard Bernstein, ‘I.B.M. and the Holocaust’: Assessing the Culpability. The New York Times: March 7, 2001: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/07/arts/07BERN.html?pagewanted=all
 David Rockefeller, Memoirs. (New York: Random House, 2002), page 149.
 Ibid, page 363.
 Obituaries, William Bundy. The Telegraph: October 9, 2000: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1369483/William-Bundy.html
 Cary Reich, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer 1908-1958. (New York: Doubleday, 1996), page 559.
 Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (South End Press, Boston: 1980), page 472.
 Ibid, pages 472-473.
 Ibid, pages 474-475.
 Ibid, pages 76-78.
 Stephen Gill, American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission (Cambridge University Press: New York, 1990), page 141.
 Ibid, page 165.
 Ibid, page 52.
 Ibid, page 117.