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Plutarchy and other tales
Plutarchy and other tales
In 1925 I was 14 years old and lived in Toulon. One day, while I was out for a walk, I saw an ad of a talk on «The role of bankers in society». The conference hall was full of gentlemen with long beards. The lecturer was Horace Finaly, the chairman of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas. During the discussion which followed I asked to speak. To the surprise of everybody, Finaly said he would meet me personally at the end of the meeting.
As a result of this chance we established a special friendship. During 14 years we regularly met in his Paris home. He was a highly cultivated person and influential. He was of Jewish descent and had been born in Budapest in 1871. He had succeeded his father, Hugo, at the head of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, one of the most important banks of the time.
In one of the meetings something of primary importance took place, which occured in my restless and daring 18 years of age. The meeting was in his office at half past eight in the evening. On arrival a kindly manservant told me that Mr. Finaly could not see me immediately because he had an important meeting, but he asked me to wait for him in his library.
At first I kept busy going through some books. Then I sat at his table and casually found that some drawers were open. The remorse which I felt at the bottom of my soul did not stop me from going through the drawers. It was all very orderly, in well-marked folders, all of them extremely interesting. Being a cunning teenager, I cautiously kept the order of the folders. At the bottom of the very last drawer I found a folder with the word «Confidential» on it. Drawn by my curiosity, I read its contents without really understanding much of it. It was the report of an important meeting held in Paris in 1919. I remember that the exclusive participants at the meeting had been J.P. Morgan (junior) (Morgan Bank), Sir Henry Deterding (Royal Dutch/Shell), and Finaly as the host. They had been alone in the meeting, but they had repeatedly sent for different experts to have their explanations. What I found most interesting was the final abstract.
It contained two points and one conclusion:
- First point. According to the experts, but also according to the general opinion of the great economists of before and during the 1914 war, the gold reserves were only allowed to cover the war expenses during three months. To overcome this difficulty, international bankers —such as they were— had suggested to the governments at war to forsake the convertibility to gold of their respective paper money, at least inside each State.
- Second point. If paper money, cut off from gold, which had been proclaimed and carried out during the war, was «rationalized» at the end of it, it would allow international bankers and the heads of the leading classes —according to the experts— to earn more money than with the «uninformative» and «anonymous» currency which had been the dominant one up until then (and up until today).
- Conclusion. The decision was that they were not interested in «rationalizing» the more common irrational paper money because they already had enough money, and the irrational paper money allowed the (foul) play of the «world plutarchy».
While I was thinking, engrossed in the document I had just read in my hands, I received a terrible blow which sent me to the floor. For a moment I did not know what had happened, then Finaly, changing his attitude, kindly helped me to get up and begged my pardon. He showed me I had been tactless by knowing that he trusted me by leaving me alone in his library while his drawers were open. He told me that not even one of his servants would have dared do what I had done (I doubt it, but surely he had more spies in other peoples' houses than the other way round).
After this accident we had dinner. Nobody knew of Finaly's sharp reaction. During dinner he asked me what I had understood of the report. I told him that almost nothing.
- — The word which most attracted my attention is «plutarchy».
- — Little by little I shall explain it to you, —he said.
That day he did not explain anything. Afterwards he yielded to the temptation to open his mind to me on these intoxicating matters. He took pleasure in opening up his most hidden mind to a thirsty teenager who, with a dark intuition, had guessed the importance of a knowledge which was being kept secret by this «superior caste» of great bankers.
Together with the bank secrets, he transmitted to me elements of Plato's unwritten tradition. One of them concerned Plato's attempts at Siracusa to re-establish a personalized-documented currency, and how he had failed because of the shortage of enough slaves-scribes to take note of all the operations. According to Finaly, in his travels through the Mediterranean Plato had discovered the existence of a Golden Age, where the currency was not gold or silver and where there was peace and a responsible market.
All these revelations perplexed me. Was it possible and feasible to have a rationalized currency, to be the accounting mirror of every sale-purchase? Before gold and silver appeared on the stage, had there been some other sort of non-anonymous and informative currency? Could the type of currency help or avoid wars to happen? Was it true that a few influential men —international bankers and business men— decided the fate of millions of peoples beyond what politicias could do?.
With these questions in my mind, only partially expressed, years went by. One day, in 1939, I was late at our meeting and Finaly could not see me. I never saw him again. The war took him to the U.S.A. Some years later I learned that he died in New York in 1945.
Some of these questions became dramatically important with those years' events. In September 1936, in Barcelona, just one month after the military revolt, Abad de Santillán, a CNT leader, told me: «We have already lost the war and revolution because we were unable, from the very beginning, to control currency and bank as instruments at the service of the people: we thought that weapons and violence were everything!» These words confirmed those of another important CNT leader, Mariano Vazquez, who admitted: «During twenty years we have been preparing to get the moon, and now that we have it we do not know what to do. We have studied and practiced all the paths of revolution, but not the paths to know what to do with the unfettered control revolution has given us.» Strangely enough, these conversations led me to the same conclusions which had sprung from the long conversations with banker Finaly.
With these keys to interpretation and with these doubts, research became both thrilling and arduous. Forty years went until new data helped me to guess that the bold affirmations made by Finaly on a different sort of currency, personalized and informative, were not only technically feasible, but that a monetary system of this sort had already existed before the use of anonymous gold and silver currencies.
In June 1978 in the magazine «Scientific American» there appeared an article on «The earliest precursor of writing» showing a new outlook on the working of the towns of Western Asia in the period going from the ninth to the second millennium before the Christian era. It discussed the discovery of a complex system of tokens and clay records which allowed markets to work in an area which went from the Caspian Sea to Khartum and from the Indus to the Mediterranean. This surprising study apparently confirmed Plato's hypotheses on a Golden Age without wars and with a type of liable exchange instruments without an intrinsic value.
Strangely enough, this discovery allowed to work out a bold hypothesis on the origin of «history» and of imperialisms. History started officially with the introduction of writing, that is just when the Sumerian tablets were introduced. According to the researcher, the tablets were an evolution of the previous system of records and tokens. Evolution ended with this system. All the above happened approximately when Sargon I, king of Akkad, became in a few years the head of the first historic imperialism, conquering —we do not know how— many of the small walled towns which, along 7,000 years, had been independent. And exactly at that moment started to appear the use of precious metals as an accepted currencie thanks to the invention of precision scales, the toughstone and aqua regia, which allowed to measure quantities and qualities.
Couldn't all this information suggest that there was a direct relationship between peace-empire-responsible currency (which lasted 7,000 years) and between war-imperialism-anonymous currency (for the last 4,500 years)?.
The other fact, with views to the future, was the quick expansion of electronic and telematic systems in the field of money. In 1920 it was not technically feasible to substitute banknotes and coins for rational currency (cheque-invoices). But through the introduction of electronic payment systems, not only did feasibility became total, but monetics (electronic money) meant a progressive reduction in the use of paper money and in the conception of currency as a «third commodity».
Historic research and technical research started to back up the intuitions which had been held for many years.
The Spanish political transition confirmed the importance of having available very precise and powerful tools, able to supply the ideals of social transformation with something more than free manifestations or elections. The disillusionment produced by politics is the price we are paying for not having learnt from most revolutions and social changes that those who really have power allow «everything to change so that everything carries on as always».