Modern Empire Business

Westbrook Pegler

Tampa Tribune/February 2, 1949

Matthew Fox, 37 years old, a Hollywood movie executive, has become chairman of the board of a Delaware company which aspires to the position of business partner, business agent, political agent and, in a manner of speaking, foreign relations department of a new, independent nation in Indonesia. His company and the government-to-be of this proposed nation would get 5 per cent on imports and exports. Fox’s company is called the American-Indonesian Corporation.

The recent uproar in the American press against the action of the Dutch government in descending on centers of Sumatra and Java with troops who took “police action” has been of incidental great comfort and may eventually prove to have been of great financial benefit to Fox and his company.

Fox’s venture cannot succeed unless the revolutionaries win their fight against the Dutch. However, he seems to have no sympathy with the Communists and he claims that they have little or no influence in the military situation. The Fox interests just happen to coincide with those of the Communists in the present phase. The great emotional outcry of editorials, cosmic opinionarians and radio pundits in sympathy with the natives of Indonesia was fine for the Fox corporation, which has a contract with the provisional native government.

An eminent Eastern lawyer, an early New Dealer, since become an opponent of much of the Roosevelt-Truman course, after careful study of the text of this contract, gave his professional opinion that it was a fantastic arrangement “strongly reminiscent of the 16th century when private companies were authorized under government charter to enjoy monopolistic privileges in colonial exploitation.”

This is the most interesting because Fox professes to be and apparently believes himself to be a generous and humane agent of liberation and reform in the Dutch East Indies. His contract was drawn by Eugene Garey, a New York lawyer, an old Al Smith Democrat who also broke with the New Deal. I do him no injustice in saying that he maintains a classical hatred of almost everything that F. D. Roosevelt was and stood for, whereas Fox appears to be one of those who still respect, if they do not absolutely revere, Roosevelt’s very name.

Garey, whom I have known for a long time, arranged a visit. Fox discussed himself, his company, his war career and his successful career in the moving picture business as chairman of the board of Universal. When we had finished, Garey said, “Now don’t you be trying to interpret that contract yourself and getting mistaken notions. Anything you want explained, call me up and I will straighten you out.”

I reminded him that his would not be an objective opinion. I had already discussed the contract in a general way with a Washington lawyer. This man had said: “This is the most predatory contract I ever saw in my life. It grants a monopoly on everything imported from the United States including the American merchandise under the ECA. It throws all our resources as a nation behind the exploiter.”

He said Max Truitt, the son-in-law of Vice President Barkley, whom he described as the Tommy-The-Cork of the Truman-Barkley administration, represented the Fox company at the sensitive political points in Washington. In plainer words, if I may draw an inference, he believed that Truitt was to be a fixer for Fox.

Truitt not only denied that he represented Fox or his company in any way but said that whoever said he did was a damned liar. Truitt may be sensitive because Barkley’s son, David, was shown to have been employed at $10,000 a year by the Garsson brothers, promoters of the Batavia Metal Products Company of Batavia, Ill., a company which was involved in crooked business in munitions. Senator Barkley testified that his son resigned the day before open hearings began in the Garsson inquiry which resulted in the eventual conviction of the Garssons and Andrew J. May, of Kentucky. Senator Barkley said his son told him he never had anything to do with war contracts and that he, the Senator, never had been asked to do anything for the Garsson company. There was no testimony accusing David Barkley of any violation of law.

Because the lawyer who called Truitt the Tommy-The -Cork of the Truman government is a crusader, I told Garey I would submit his client’s contract to another attorney. This man’s opinion compares to the British company which founded the Indian empire.

Little Matty Fox, of Racine, Wis., went to work at the age of 8 and hustled and scuffled and took chances in Hollywood when he had to. It all came out of a phone call in which a fellow told him some Indonesians were stranded in New York without room rent or meal money although they had just delivered $80,000 worth of vanilla beans and kapok. The bank wouldn’t pay them because it wasn’t sure they had clear title to the vanilla beans and kapok. Fox thus was drawn into the business of empire.



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