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James Asks: "What Happened To The John Birch Society?"

he John Birch Society is a political education and action organization founded by Robert W. Welch Jr. in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1958. The society supports traditionally conservative causes such as anti-communism and the ownership of private property. It promotes U.S. independence and sovereignty and opposes globalism and international regional groups, such as the European Union, or a hypothetical North American Union.

In The 1970;s...

Key Birch Society causes of the 1970s included opposition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and to the establishment of diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China.

The organization claimed in 1973 that the regime of Mao Zedong had murdered 64 million Chinese as of that year and that it was the primary supplier of illicit heroin into the United States.

This led to bumper stickers showing a pair of scissors cutting a hypodermic needle in half accompanied by the slogan "Cut The Red China Connection." According to the Voice of America, the society also was opposed to transferring control of the Panama Canal from American to Panamanian sovereignty.

Today

By the time of Welch's death in 1985, the Birch Society's membership, and influence, had dramatically declined, but the UN's role in the Gulf War and President George H. W. Bush's call for a 'New World Order' appeared to many JBS members to validate their claims about a "One World Government" conspiracy.

Growing right-wing populism in the United States helped The John Birch Society position itself for a comeback, and by 1995, its membership had grown to more than 55,000 (est.).

John Birch?

The society was named after John Birch, a United States military intelligence officer and Baptist missionary in World War II, who was killed in 1945 by supporters of the Communist Party of China.

It's Heyday

By March 1961, the Society had 60,000 to 100,000 members and, according to Welch, "a staff of 28 people in the Home Office; about 30 Coordinators (or Major Coordinators) in the field, who are fully paid as to salary and expenses; and about 100 Coordinators (or Section Leaders as they are called in some areas), who work on a volunteer basis as to all or part of their salary, or expenses, or both." According to Political Research Associates, a "progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society" , the JBS "pioneered grassroots lobbying, combining educational meetings, petition drives and letter-writing campaigns. One early campaign against the second summit between the United States and the Soviet Union generated over 600,000 postcards and letters, according to the Society. A June 1964 Birch campaign to oppose Xerox corporate sponsorship of TV programs favorable to the UN produced 51,279 letters from 12,785 individuals."