Bilderberg and the West

by Peter Thompson

excerpted from the book


edited Holly Sklar

South End Press, 1980



Western Europe, the United States and Canada have experienced a considerable degree of coherence in policy and outlook since World War II. Foreign policies, particularly, have been coordinated vis-a-vis both socialist countries and the colonies and the neo-colonies of the Third World. Such cooperation, whatever its limitations, had never before been achieved although these same countries had long been the dominant world powers.

The U. S.-led Western empire of the last four decades has worked through a number of international economic, political, and strategic institutions, some of which claim to be universal: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But it is the secret gatherings of powerful West Europeans and North Americans known as the Bilderberg meetings which have filled, to some degree, the need to coordinate the transnational system of the West.

Bilderberg's name comes from the group's first meeting place, the Hotel de Bilderberg of Oosterbeek, Holland, in May 1954. Participants in the meetings over the last twenty-five years have included most of the top ruling class actors in the postwar history of Western Europe and North America (unlike the Trilateral Commission, Japanese participants are excluded...

There is certainly room for disagreement about the role of the Bilderberg meetings in the flow of events since its founding in 1954. In my view, Bilderberg is neither a world super-government; nor is it merely a club where incidental shoptalk takes place, as some portray it. Top executives from the world's leading multinational corporations meet with top national political figures at Bilderberg meetings to consider jointly the immediate and long-term problems facing the West. Bilderberg itself is not an executive agency. However, when Bilderberg participants reach a form of consensus about what is to be done, they have at their disposal powerful transnational and national instruments for bringing about what it is they want to come to pass. That their consensus design is not always achieved is a reflection of the strength of competing resisting forces-outside the ruling capitalist class and within it.

Bilderberg is not the only means of Western collective management of the world order; it is part of an increasingly dense system of transnational coordination. The foreign policies of nation-states, particularly economic and monetary policies, have always been a highly elitist matter. Policy options are proposed, reviewed, and executed within the context of a broad bipartisan consensus that is painstakingly managed by very small circles of public and private elites.

Democratic interference in foreign policy is avoided, in so far as possible, throughout the Western capitalist democracies. Where necessary, a consensus is engineered on issues which must get congressional/parliamentary approval, but wherever possible executive agreements between governments are used to avoid the democratic process altogether. Nonetheless, in the long run, orchestration of affirmative public opinion on foreign policy matters is often necessary for the effective pursuit of foreign policy objectives. Failure to cultivate public support can lead to trouble for the policy makers when-as in the case of the Vietnam War-broad sectors of the public democratically challenge ruling class policy. More commonly, though, policies are pursued with impunity.

Bodies like the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); the British Royal Institute for International Affairs, commonly known as "Chatham House"; and transnational counterparts like Bilderberg and the Trilateral Commission play a crucial role in formulating policy directions, molding establishment consensus, and even testing for likely opposition. These institutions propagate the resulting policy positions throughout their network of authoritative channels (university publications, public officials, forums, etc.) setting the limits of respectable foreign policy debate. How well or poorly this elite apparatus works can be evaluated by considering postwar U.S. policy toward Europe and by assessing the role of Bilderberg in pushing Western Europe toward closer regional unification and toward deeper alliance with the United States and Canada...


The 1960s: Atlantic Economic and Political Problems on the Rise

... Throughout the late sixties and seventies, Bilderbergers discussed internal as well as external security and stability. In 1968, Bilderberg was scheduled to take up the issue of "internationalization of business," but other issues were bearing more heavily on the participants. President Johnson had announced his retirement to coincide with the initiation of Peace Talks on Vietnam (with Harriman as chief U.S. negotiator). The student revolt in France was o bring that country to a halt within a fortnight with worker support...

Having missed the boat in its programming for 1968, Bilderberg attempted to catch up in 1969 by addressing "elements of instability in Western society." At that meeting participants also worked through disagreements in the West over the handling of the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. In 1970, just before the Nixon/Kissinger invasion of Cambodia which toppled neutralist Prince Sihanouk and produced a storm of antiwar protest on and off university campuses, Bilderbergers set themselves to strategically considering the "future function of the university in our society." Numerous Bilderbergers were (and are) involved in education. From the U.S., participants included Paul Samuelson, MIT professor, noted author and government consultant in economics and resource planning; Graham T. Allison, now dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard University; and Andrew Cordier, dean of the School of International Affairs at Columbia University 1962-68, and acting president during the student occupation of 1968 among others.

In April 1971 Bilderbergers extended their preoccupation with "current problems of social instability" into the more creative realm of "the contribution of business in dealing with" these problems. "The possibility of a change of the American role in the world and its consequences" was another issue of importance. In August 1971 Nixon formally broke with central agreements of the postwar economic system so carefully architected by the Bilderbergers and other elite planners...


Authors and Books

Foreign Policy watch

New World Order