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FLASHBACK: The “Green Revolution” | Bill Gates, Philanthropy and Social Engineering

FLASHBACK: The “Green Revolution” | Bill Gates, Philanthropy and Social Engineering

by Michael Barker

Variant, issue 35

July 2009

Like many of the world’s richest businessmen [1], Bill Gates believes in a special form of democracy, otherwise known as plutocracy; that is, socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. Following in the footsteps of John D. Rockefeller’s and Andrew Carnegie’s charitable foundations, Gates, like most capitalists, relies upon the government to protect his business interests from competition, but is less keen on the idea of a government that acts to redistribute wealth to the wider populous.

FLASHBACK: Reporters Without Democracy

Media Watchdog as Democracy Manipulator (Part 4 of 4)

December 16, 2007

[The first two parts of this article firstly investigated Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ‘democratic’ funding ties, and then went on to look at the ‘democratic’ credentials of some of their current and former staff.  The third installment of this article extended this investigation and examined the ‘democratic’ ties of some of the earlier recipients of RSF’s annual Fondation de France Prize, and this concluding part of the article will now continue in this vein and examine the ‘democratic’ ties of some of RSF’s more recent prize winners. Finally, the article will conclude by offering some suggestions for how the issues raised within this article may be acted upon by progressive activists.]

Reporting on ETA

In 2000, Carmen Gurruchaga Basurto, a political reporter for El Mundo, a Madrid-based daily newspaper won the RSF award. Her biography notes that she “writes frequently about the Basque separatist group, ETA.” However, it goes on to note that because “Gurruchaga’s stories have so threatened the terrorist group… since 1984 it has waged a campaign against her, hoping to intimidate her into stopping reporting on their activities.” In 2001, Gurruchaga received awards from two ‘democratically’ connected organizations, Human Rights Watch (from whom she obtained a Hellman/Hammett Grant), and the International Women’s Media Foundation (from whom she was awarded their annual Courage Award).

Regime Change in Iran?

In 2001, Reza Alijani, the editor of Iran-e-Farda – an Iranian newspaper that was banned in 2000 – received RSF’s press freedom award. Although I cannot demonstrate that Alijani has any ‘democratic’ ties, one of his former Iran-e-Farda colleagues, Hojjatoleslam Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari, “was arrested on August 5, 2000 in connection with his participation at an academic and cultural conference held at the Heinrich Boll Institute in Berlin on April 7-9 [2000] entitled ‘Iran after the elections,’ at which political and social reform in Iran were publicly debated”. This is significant because the German political foundations (Stiftungen) are according to Stefan Mair (2000) “without a doubt among the oldest, most experienced and biggest actors in international democracy assistance”. Indeed NED historian David Lowe writes that these Stiftungen provided an “important model for democracy assistance” which helped catalyse the creation of the US’s own democracy promoting organ, the NED.[1]

Armed with this knowledge it is perhaps not so astonishing that the Iranian government would choose to imprison many of the activists who participated in the aforementioned Heinrich Boll conference. Furthermore, it is also predicable that some of the other conference attendees would have ties to the NED and the democracy manipulators: these activists included Akbar Ganji (who in 2000 received an International Press Freedom Award from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, that is, the group that manages the ‘democratically’ linked IFEX network, and after spending six years in prison – after attending the conference – Ganji was awarded Rights and Democracy’s 2007 John Humphrey Freedom Award), Ali Afshari (who was a visiting fellow at the NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies from October 2006 to February 2007), and Mehrangiz Kar (who from 2000 to 2001 held a senior fellowship with the Toda Institute for Global Policy and Peace Research, from October 2001 to August 2002 was a NED Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, in late 2002 served as a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and between September 2005 and June 2006 was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy).

A number of other Iranian journalists – who did not attend the Berlin conference – were also arrested in April 2000, and the two who can be linked to the ‘democracy’ community are Mashallah Shamsolvaezin (who in 2000 then received the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award), [2] and Emadeddin Baqi (who in 2004 was awarded the Civil Courage Prize, and in 1999 co-wrote a series of articles with Akbar Ganji criticizing the government which “galvanized the public and, within one year of their publication, forced the closing by the government of nearly every reform newspaper in the country”).

Environmental ‘Democracy’ for Russia

The 2002 RSF Fondation de France Prize was awarded to Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, who at the time of receiving the award was serving a prison sentence for exposing the dumping of radioactive waste by the Russian fleet in the Sea of Japan, “expos[ing] corruption inside the fleet” and pass[ing] on public information about both issues to Japanese journalists”. Pasko was eventually set free in 2003, and in 2004 he became the editor-in-chief of the Environmental Rights Center’s (otherwise known as Bellona) Environment and Rights Journal – which has been published since February 2002 and is supported by the NED.

Bringing Human Rights to Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Morocco

In 2003 RSF Fondation de France Prize was given to the following individuals and groups, exiled Haitian journalist, Michèle Montas, to the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Daily News, and to the Moroccan journalist, Ali Lmrabet.

In addition, to being a former director of Radio Haiti Inter, the first RSF winner, Michèle Montas, is also a director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights – a group that was initially known as the National Emergency Coalition for Haitian Refugees when it was created in 1982. Two of the better known (now deceased) ‘democracy promoting’ founders of the NCHR are Lane Kirkland (who is a former Rockefeller Foundation trustee, and from 1979 to 1995 served as the president of the AFL-CIO – which is a core NED grantee) and Bayard Rustin (who was a former chairman of the executive committee of Freedom House, and former president of the NED-funded A. Philip Randolph Institute). [3] Other notable former directors of NCHR include Michael H. Posner (who is the president of Human Rights First), Michele D. Pierre-Louis (who is the Executive Director of FOKAL which “is the Open Society Institute foundation in Haiti”), and Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. (who is a former director of the Rockefeller Foundation).

The current executive director of NCHR is Jocelyn McCalla, who has held this position since 1988 (except for a one year break in 2002) and presently serves on Human Right Watch’s ‘democratically’ connected Americas Advisory Board. Other current NCHR directors with ‘democratic’ ties include Mark Handelman (who is a director of the NED-funded International Campaign for Tibet), Max J. Blanchet (who is a director of the Lambi Fund of Haiti which although progressive is a chapter of USAID-funded Partners of the Americas), Muzaffar A. Chishti, (who is the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University School of Law), and Herold Dasque (who is the executive director of the progressive Haitian American United for Progress, but is also connected to Dwa Fanm – a group which has two directors who have previously worked with George Soros’ Open Society Institute).

The second recipient of the 2003 RSF Fondation de France Prize was the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Daily News. This paper was launched by Geoffrey Nyarota in 1999, and it “quickly became the largest selling and most influential newspaper” in Zimbabwe. Therefore, it is significant to note that Nyarota – who “now lives in exile in the United States from where he publishes thezimbabwetimes.com” –was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award in 2001. In addition, the following year he received the World Association of Newspapers Golden Pen of Freedom award, from 2004 to 2005 he served as a fellow at the US-based Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and he is presently a director of the World Press Freedom Committee. [4] (The Daily News closed operations in 2004 after “constant harassment by state monitors” and is now being published by the Amnesty International’s Irish Section.)

The third RSF prize for 2003 was awarded to the Moroccan journalist and editor of Demain magazine, Ali Lmrabet, while he was “serving a three-year jail sentence, in part for publishing cartoons critical of King Mohammed VI”. However, while Lmrabet was sentenced in May that year he was released from prison one month after he received the RSF award (which he obtained in December 2003). Here it is perhaps relevant to note that he is presently a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, although he does not appear to hold any leadership role. This is significant because this association is a member of a broader network known as the International Federation for Human Rights – a group whose work is supported by Rights and Democracy, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Ford Foundation, and the Heinrich Boll Foundation.

Promoting ‘Democracy’ in Algeria, China, and Mexico

Three RSF awards were distributed in 2004. The first recipient of the RSF prize was Algerian journalist Hafnaoui Ghoul, who at the time was a correspondent for the daily paper El Youm and was head of the regional office of the Algerian Human Rights League (LADDH). Ghoul’s affiliation to the latter group is noteworthy because LADDH received their first grant from the NED in 2002, and then received further NED grants in both 2004 and 2005.

The second person to receive a RSF award in 2004 was the “former Beijing University philosophy teacher Liu Xiaobo, who heads the Independent Writers’ Association”. At the time of receiving the award Xiaobo was also the chair of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), whose members include two members of the editorial board of the NED-funded magazine, Beijing Spring, Kuide Chen and Zheng Yi. It is also significant that Louisa Coan Greve (who is the senior program officer for Asia for the NED) congratulated Xiaobo on receiving his RSF prize, and noted that the award “also honors the ICPC itself, and NED is gratified and humbled to be a supporter of those efforts.” [5]

Finally, the third winner of the RSF’s 2004 award was the weekly newspaper Zeta – a Mexican paper which was cofounded by the 1998 RSF award nominiee J. Jesus Blancornelas. Blancornelas is currently Zeta’s editor in chief, and his previous nomination for the RSF prize is no accident, as throughout his career he has been showered with numerous journalism awards, the earliest of which appears to be the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award which he received in 1995. Zeta appears to have quite an affinity with the Committee to Protect Journalists, because in 2007, Zeta’s director, Navarro Bello, was also awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.

A Helping Hand for Somali, Afghanistan, and China

In 2005, Omar Faruk Osman received the RSF award on behalf of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). This is significant because in 2002 Osman was elected as the secretary-general of the Somali Journalists Network (SOJON), which under his guidance was transformed into NUSOJ. This group is linked to the NED in a number of ways. In 2005 they obtained a grant from the NED to train journalists and “nominate journalists as National Press Freedom Protectors to monitor free press abuses”, while in the same year the International Federation of Journalists received a separate grant from the NED to work with them to organize a journalism conference. More recently, in 2006, Osman “was chosen to be a member of the international jury of the RSF Press Freedom Award”.

Other winners of the RSF’s 2005 Fondation de France Press Freedom Award include the Afghanistan-based Tolo TV (which was launched in 2004 with starter funds provided by USAID, and is reported to be the “most popular station in Kabul” boasting of a “81 percent share of the market”), and New York Times contributor, Zhao Yan.

Zhao Yan is a journalist who worked for China Reform Magazine (from 2002 to March 2004), and has also written for the NED-funded Human Rights in China. Yan stopped working for the China Reform Magazine in March 2004 and “the magazine was subsequently shut down by the government in December 2004”. However, just before the magazine closed down Yan was arrested by the Chinese government for allegedly disclosing state secrets, and then kept in prison until September 2007.

Note that the China Reform Magazine is linked, albeit tenuously, to a NED-supported organization through Professor Tiejun Wen, who is based at the Renmin University of China and was formerly the editor-in-chief for China Reform Magazine. The NED link arises through Professor Wen’s employment as the chief-economist of the China Macroeconomics Network, where he is also a member of their expert group of “more than 130 renowned Chinese macroeconomists” known as The Macrochina Economists 100. It is significant that three other members of this elite group of macroeconomists currently work for the Beijing-based Unirule Institute of Economics – an organization that has received four grants from the NED (which were channelled via the Center for International Private Enterprise in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999): these three macroeconomists are the Unirule’s president and co-founder Mao Yushi, their director Sheng Hong, and the Institute’s director-general Zhang Shuguang. [6]

Democracy for Four: Burma, Cuba, Russian, the and Democratic Republic of Congo

In 2006 there were four RSF laureates, the Burmese journalist U Win Tin, the Cuban writer Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (Russia), and the group Journaliste En Danger (Democratic Republic of Congo).

U Win Tin, a former member of the central executive committee of the National League for Democracy (where he acted as their secretary), and a close friend of former RSF awardee San San Nweh, received the 2006 RSF press freedom prize. He has been in prison since 1989 because of his affiliation to Burma’s main opposition party, and while San San Nweh was released from prison in 2001, he still languishes behind bars today. As mentioned previously, in 2001 the World Association of Newspapers awarded U Win Tin its annual press freedom prize.

Another recipient of RSF’s 2006 award was the Cuban cyber-dissident Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, who heads the small Cubanacán Press news agency. As before, RSF support of Cuban dissidents is hardly surprising given the financial support they receive from the NED-funded Center for a Free Cuba, thus it is also not so astonishing that the NED-funded CubaNet media project would publish Guillermo’s work.

The Russian biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta is now most famous for formerly being home to Anna Politkovskaya (the journalist who was murdered in October 2006), a journalist whose work was recently recognized by the NED who awarded her one of their 2007 Democracy Awards. [7] In addition, in September 2007 Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, was given the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.

RSF’s “partner organization” Journaliste En Danger (JED), is a member of the IFEX network, was founded in 1997, and is headed by journalists Donat M’Baya Tshimanga and Tshivis Tshivuadi. In what might be considered a conflict of interest, Tshimanga – who is presently JED’s president – also serves on the RSF’s international jury for their Press Freedom Award (and has done so since at least 2002). Also in 2004, Tshivuadi, who is the secretary general of JED, attended an inter-regional workshop that was convened by the NED-linked Panos Institute. [8]

Ending Media Interference Now

It is very dangerous when press freedom organizations get themselves politically compromised by accepting payment from any government. It is really vital that all such organizations are truly independent.” UK National Union of Journalists

While this article had not demonstrated that RSF receives funding from any government, it has shown how RSF has received funding from the Congressionally funded NED, and it has illustrated how RSF’s work is highly integrated with that of the ‘democracy promoting’ community, much of which is linked to the activities of the NED. Whether RSF is being manipulated to serve as a useful tool of the ‘democracy promoters’, or whether it is itself guiding the media-related priorities of the global ‘democratic’ community is beside the point. What is certain is that RSF’s activities are intimately entwined with those of the NED. The revelations in this article alone therefore provide more than enough reasons for disbanding RSF immediately. However, this is unlikely to happen in the near future given the useful role that RSF currently provides for elite interests determined on promoting low-intensity neoliberal forms of democracy globally.

Undoubtedly future studies will furnish further details concerning RSF’s less than noble ‘democratic’ liaisons, but the question to ask is, will this be enough to close it down permanently, or to even delegitimize their work in the corporate media? Unfortunately, it is all too obvious that such information, without determined action (in the form of grassroots activism) to back it up, will probably not affect the conduct of RSF’s work one iota. This can explained to a large extent by the bipartisan nature (but nonetheless highly political and regressive work) of most ‘democracy promoting’ efforts, which acts to shield their work from critical enquiry. We only have to look to the work of the core NED grantee, the AFL-CIO, to see that ongoing critical reports filed over the past few decades [27] – that have comprehensively documented the AFL-CIO’s involvement in implementing the US’s antidemocratic foreign policies – have had little visible effect on their practices. Indeed, a number of unionists and other activists joined together in the Worker to Worker Solidarity Committee (www.workertoworker.net) have been continuing to campaign to get the AFL-CIO to break any ties it has with the NED. To date, they have been unsuccessful, even though getting the California AFL-CIO State Convention – one-sixth of the entire membership at the time – to unanimously repudiate the AFL-CIO foreign policy program in 2004. At the 2005 National AFL-CIO Convention in Chicago, the AFL-CIO leadership first changed the California resolution to praising their Solidarity Center’s work, and then actively refused to allow anyone to speak on the convention floor in favour of the actual California resolution condemning AFL-CIO foreign policy.

On a more positive note, ideally, the results of this paper will help initiate further critical inquiries into the democracy manipulators colonization of journalism organizations. Yet it is surely an indictment of media scholars and journalists that similar studies have not been conducted years ago. That said, perhaps this judgement is overly harsh, as ignorance concerning antidemocratic funding seems to be a problem of progressive groups’ more generally. Indeed, progressive activists’ seem to have become so fixated on critiquing their ideological opponents that they have neglected to watch the right-ward slide of their would-be-allies. This tactical lapse appears to have left democratic media organizations open to the insidious cooptive assaults waged by those intent on promoting a polyarchal public sphere.

One way to counter the democracy manipulators cynical use of journalism against democracy is for progressive groups to thoroughly investigate the activities of each and every media group working to strengthen the public sphere. This would be a simple project if journalists and media scholars across the world critically examined the work of their local journalism organizations. In this way, a global database might be built up which would enable progressive scholars, activists, and journalists, to lift the rhetorical veil that has so far shielded many media groups’ from criticism. Completion of such studies will then enable keen media reformers to support (and where necessary create new) truly participatory journalism organizations that can effectively challenge the corporate medias’ global hegemony.

 

[Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at Griffith University, Australia. He can be reached at Michael.J.Barker [at] griffith.edu.au. All four parts of this article and some of his other recent articles can be found right here.[

 

Endnotes

[1] By the 1990s Germany’s Stiftungen or party foundations, “had resident representatives in more than 100 countries and field offices in some of them for well over 30 years. Between 1962 and 1997 they handled in total over DM4.5 billion reaching around DM290 million annually by the 1990s. Although in the period before 1990 it is debatable how much can be called democracy support rather than activities primarily intended to meet other purposes  In Pinto-Duschinsky’s words they were ‘powerful instruments not only for promoting democracy, but also for furthering German interests and contacts’.” Stefan Mair, Germany’s Stiftungen and Democracy Assistance: Comparative Advantages, New Challenges, In: Peter J. Burnell (ed.) Democracy assistance: International Co-operation for Democratization (London, Frank Cass: 2000), pp.128-149.

Heinrich Boll representative, Sascha Müller-Kraenner, was also a signatory to a recent letter (dated November 11, 2004) which was sent by the NED to Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez to urge him “to reconsider the prosecution of the leadership of Sumate, as well as the proposal to criminalize democracy assistance from abroad”. Sumate is the Venezuelan group that received assistance from the NED to facilitate the unsuccessful ouster of Chavez in 2002.

[2] Another recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award in 2000 was Steven Gan who at the time was the co-founder and editor of the online publication Malaysiakini, a publication which was launched in 1999 by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (a group that since their founding in 1999 has received annual grants from the NED to support their work in Malaysia).

[3] Also see Tom Barry, ‘The New Crusade of the Democratic Globalists’, International Relations Center, August 3, 2005; Other NCHR leaders in the early 1980s included Father Antoine Adrien, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Ira Gollobin, Vernon Jordan, Rev. Benjamin Hooks, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, and Bishop Paul Moore.

[4] In 2006 Geoffrey Nyaro published the book Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman, and in 2006 he also attended the 7th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees – a conference that was also attended by the NED’s president Carl Gershman.

[5] http://www.cicus.org/news/newsdetail.php?id=3514 Accessed December 2006.

[6] The Unirule Institute president, Mao Yushi, while based at the Unirule Institute between 1996 and 1997 was also an executive officer for the NED-linked Chinese Economists Society, and “[i]n November 2004, Mao was elected by the International Business Review as one of the ten most influential economists in China”. Other well-known ‘democratic’ funders of Unirule’s work include the major liberal philanthropist the Ford Foundation, the Institute for International Economics (whose most ‘democratic’ directors are David Rockefeller and George Soros), “many foreign embassies in Beijing”, and “international public institutions, such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank”. For further analysis of the Unirule Institute’s ‘democratic’ ties see, Michael Barker, Promoting a Low Intensity Public Sphere: American Led Efforts to Promote a ‘Democratic Media’ Environment in China. A paper to presented at the China Media Centre Conference (Brisbane, Australia: Creative Industries Precinct, 5-6 July 2007).

[7] Novaya Gazeta: “The privately-owned newspaper in which the staff holds 51% of the shares, saw two political figures take over 49% of its capital in June 2006. They were the former Soviet president and originator of glasnost (openness), Mikhail Gorbachev, and Alexander Lebedev, wealthy businessman and member of the Duma.”

[8] The Panos Institute received one grant from the NED in 1997, while more recently in September 2007, the NED’s “Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and Panos London launched the Panos Institute’s report entitled At the Heart of Change: The Role of Communication in Sustainable Development.”

How to Start a (Wall Street-backed) Revolution

Documentary Whitewashes Wall Street’s Global Blitzkrieg

by Tony Cartalucci

November 26, 2011 – Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution penned the book “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” originally designated for the destabilization and recolonization of Myanmar, still called “Burma” throughout much of the West. Sharp’s book would then be utilized by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) throughout Eastern Europe, throughout Asia, and eventually, in 2011, for the US-engineered “Arab Spring.”

According to Sharp’s own Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) 2000-2004 annual report, AEI had been sponsored by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its funded subsidiary International Republican Institute (IRI) to train activists in Serbia (page 18) Zimbabwe (page 23) and Myanmar (page 26) to help overthrow their respective sovereign governments.

Australia’s Southern Cross University’s “Activating Human Rights & Peace (AHRP)” conference had put out a revealing account of their 2008 proceedings illustrating that all of Gene Sharp’s work, beyond what was even mentioned in his own institution’s annual report, had been fully funded and in support of the US government and its global domineering agenda. Beginning on page 26, Sharp’s affiliations, in particular with the National Endowment for Democracy, which is described as carrying out “a lot of work that was formerly undertaken by the CIA,” as well as the Ford Foundation, and billionaire Wall Street patriarch George Soros’ Open Society Institute are fleshed out in immense detail.

Do Capitalists Fund Revolutions?

Readings for the Social Forum: The Counter-Insurgent Function of Non-Profits

By Michael Barker

To date capitalists have financially supported two types of revolution: they have funded the neoliberal revolution to “take the risk out of democracy”,[1] and they have supported/hijacked popular revolutions (or in some cases manufactured ‘revolutions’) in countries of geostrategic importance (i.e. in counties where regime change is beneficial to transnational capitalism).[2] The former neoliberal revolution has, of course, been funded by a hoard of right wing philanthropists intent on neutralising progressive forces within society, while the latter ‘democratic revolutions’ are funded by an assortment of ‘bipartisan’ quasi-nongovernmental organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and private institutions like George Soros’ Open Society Institute].

The underlying mechanisms by which capitalists hijack popular revolutions has been outlined in William I. Robinson’s seminal book, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (1996), which examines elite interventions in four countries – Chile, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Haiti.[3] Robinson hypothesized that as a result of the public backlash (in the 1970s) against the US government’s repressive and covert foreign policies, foreign policy making elites elected to put a greater emphasis on overt means of overthrowing ‘problematic’ governments through the strategic manipulation of civil society. In 1984, this ‘democratic’ thinking was institutionalised with the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, an organisation that acts as the coordinating body for better funded ‘democracy promoting’ organisations like US Agency for International Development and the Central Intelligence Agency. Robinson observes that:

“…the understanding on the part of US policymakers that power ultimately rests in civil society, and that state power is intimately linked to a given correlation of forces in civil society, has helped shape the contours of the new political intervention. Unlike earlier US interventionism, the new intervention focuses much more intensely on civil society itself, in contrast to formal government structures, in intervened countries. The purpose of ‘democracy promotion’ is not to suppress but to penetrate and conquer civil society in intervened countries, that is, the complex of ‘private’ organizations such as political parties, trade unions, the media, and so forth, and from therein, integrate subordinate classes and national groups into a hegemonic transnational social order… This function of civil society as an arena for exercising domination runs counter to conventional (particularly pluralist) thinking on the matter, which holds that civil society is a buffer between state domination and groups in society, and that class and group domination is diluted as civil society develops.”[4]

Thus it is not too surprising that Robinson should conclude that the primary goal of ‘democracy promoting’ groups, like the NED, is the promotion of polyarchy or low-intensity democracy over more substantive forms of democratic governance.[5] Here it is useful to turn to Barry Gills, Joen Rocamora, and Richard Wilson’s (1993) work which provides a useful description of low-intensity democracy, they observe that:

“Low Intensity Democracy is designed to promote stability. However, it is usually accompanied by neoliberal economic policies to restore economic growth. This usually accentuates economic hardship for the less privileged and deepens the short-term structural effects of economic crisis as the economy opens further to the competitive winds of the world market and global capital. The pains of economic adjustment are supposed to be temporary, preparing the society to proceed to a higher stage of development. The temporary economic suffering of the majority is further supposed to be balanced by the benefits of a freer democratic political culture. But unfortunately for them, the poor and dispossessed cannot eat votes! In such circumstances, Low Intensity Democracy may ‘work’ in the short term, primarily as a strategy to reduce political tension, but is fragile in the long term, due to its inability to redress fundamental political and economic problems.”[6]

So while capitalists appear happy to fund the neoliberal ‘revolution’, or geostrategic revolutions that promote low-intensity democracy, the one revolution that capitalists will not bankroll will be the revolution at home, that is, here in our Western (low-intensity) democracies: a point that is forcefully argued in INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence’s (2007) book The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. Of course, liberal-minded capitalists do support efforts to ‘depose’ radical neoconservatives, as demonstrated by liberal attempts to oust Bush’s regime by the Soros-backed Americans Coming Together coalition.[7] But as in NED-backed strategic ‘revolutions,’ the results of such campaigns are only ever likely to promote low-intensity democracy, thereby ensuring the replacement of one (business-led) elite with another one (in the US’s case with the Democrats).

So the question remains: can progressive activists work towards creating a more equitable (and participatory) world using funding derived from those very groups within society that stand to lose most from such revolutionary changes? The obvious answer to this question is no. Yet, if this is the case, why are so many progressive (sometimes even radical) groups accepting funding from major liberal foundations (which, after all, were created by some of Americas most successful capitalists)?

Several reasons may help explain this contradictory situation. Firstly, it is well known that progressive groups are often underfunded, and their staff overworked, thus there is every likelihood that many groups and activists that receive support from liberal foundations have never even considered the problems associated with such funding.[8] If this is the case then hopefully their exposure to the arguments presented in this article will help more activists begin to rethink their unhealthy relations with their funders’.

On the other hand, it seems likely that many progressive groups understand that the broader goals and aspirations of liberal foundations are incompatible with their own more radical visions for the future; yet, despite recognizing this dissonance between their ambitions, it would seem that many progressive organizations believe that they can beat the foundations at their own game and trick them into funding projects that will promote a truly progressive social change. Here it is interesting to note that paradoxically some radical groups do in fact receive funding from liberal foundations. And like those progressive groups that attempt to trick the foundations, many of these groups argue that will take money from anyone willing to give it so long as it comes with no strings attached. These final two positions are held by numerous activist organizations, and are also highly problematic. This is case because if we can agree that it is unlikely that liberal foundations will fund the much needed societal changes that will bring about their own demise, why do they continue funding such progressive activists?

Despite the monumental importance of this question to progressive activists worldwide, judging by the number of articles dealing with it in the alternative media very little importance appears to have been attached to discussing this question and investigating means of cultivating funding sources that are geared towards the promotion of radical social change. Fortunately though, in addition to INCITE!’s aforementioned book, which has helped break the unstated taboo surrounding the discussion of activist funding, another critical exception was provided in the June 2007 edition of the academic journal Critical Sociology. The editors of this path breaking issue of Critical Sociology don’t beat around that bush and point out that:

“The critical study of foundations is not a subfield in any academic discipline; it is not even an organized interdisciplinary grouping. This, along with concerns about personal defunding, limits its output, especially as compared to that of the many well-endowed centers for the uncritical study of foundations.”[9]

Despite the dearth of critical inquiry into the historical influence of liberal foundations on the evolution of democracy, in the past few years a handful of books have endeavoured to provide a critical overview of the insidious anti-radicalising activities of liberal philanthropists. Thus the rest of this article will provide a brief review of some of this important work, however, before doing this I will briefly outline what I mean by progressive social change (that is, the type of social change that liberal foundations are loathe to fund).

Why do capitalists fund progressive activism?

Why Progressive Social Change?

With the growth of popular progressive social movements during the 1960s in the US (and elsewhere), the global populace became increasingly aware of the criminal nature of many of their government’s activities (both at home and abroad) which fueled increasing popular resistance to US imperialism. This in turn led influential scholars, working under the remit of the Trilateral Commission (a group founded by liberal philanthropists, see note [50]), to controversially conclude (in 1975) that the increasing radicalism of the world’s citizens stemmed from an “excess of democracy” which could only be quelled “by a greater degree of moderation in democracy”.[10] This elitist diagnosis makes sense when one considers Carole Pateman’s (1989) observation that the dominant political and economic elites in the US posited that true democracy rested “not on the participation of the people, but on their nonparticipation.”[11] However, contrary to the Trilateral Commission’s desire to promote low-intensity democracy on a global scale, Gills, Rocamora, and Wilson (1993) suggest that:

“Democracy requires more than mere maintenance of formal ‘liberties’. [In
fact, they argue that t]he only way to advance democracy in the Third World, or anywhere else, is to increase the democratic content of formal democratic institutions through profound social reform. Without substantial social reform and redistribution of economic assets, representative institutions – no matter how ‘democratic’ in form – will simply mirror the undemocratic power relations of society. Democracy requires a change in the balance of forces in society. Concentration of economic power in the hands of a small elite is a structural obstacle to democracy. It must be displaced if democracy is to emerge.”[12]

In essence, one of the most important steps activists can take to help bring about truly progressive social change is to encourage the development of a politically active citizenry – that is, a public that participates in democratic processes, but not necessarily those promoted by the government. Furthermore, it is also vitally important that groups promoting more participatory forms of democracy do so in a manner consistent with the participatory principles they believe in. (For a major critique of ‘progressive’ activism in the US see Dana Fisher’s (2006) Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America. Similarly, also see my recent article Hijacking Human Rights: A Critical Examination of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Branch and their Links to the ‘Democracy’ Establishment.

Michael Albert is an influential theorist of progressive politics, and he has written at (inspiring) length about transitionary strategies for promoting participatory democracy in both his classic book Parecon: Life After Capitalism (2003), and more recently in Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism (2006). Simply put, Albert (2006) observes that:

“A truly democratic community insures that the general public has the opportunity for meaningful and constructive participation in the formation of social policy.” However, there is no single answer to determining the best way of creating a participatory society, and so he rightly notes that Parecon (which is short for participatory economics) “doesn’t itself answer visionary questions bearing on race, gender, polity, and other social concerns, [but] it is at least compatible with and even, in some cases, perhaps necessary for, doing so.”[13]

Finally, I would argue that in order to move towards a new participatory world order it is vitally important that progressive activists engage in radical critiques of society. Undertaking such radical actions may be problematic for some activists, because unfortunately the word radical is often used by the corporate media as a derogatory term for all manner of activists (whether they are radical or not). Yet this hijacking of the term perhaps makes it an even more crucial take that progressives work to reclaim this word as their own, so they can inject it back into their own work and analyses. Indeed, Robert Jensen’s (2004) excellent book Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream reminds us that:

“…the origins of the word – radical, [comes] from the Latin radicalis, meaning ‘root.’ Radical analysis goes to the root of an issue or problem. Typically that means that while challenging the specific manifestations of a problem, radicals also analyse the ideological and institutional components as well as challenge the unstated assumptions and conventional wisdom that obscure the deeper roots. Often it means realizing that what is taken as an aberration or deviation from a system is actually the predictable and/or intended result of a system.”[14]

The Liberal Foundations of Social Change

Now that I have briefly outlined why progressive social change is so important, it is useful to examine why liberal philanthropy – which has been institutionalised within liberal foundations – arose in the first place. Here it is useful to quote Nicolas Guilhot (2007) who neatly outlines the ideological reasons lying behind liberal philanthropy. He observes that in the face of the violent labor wars of the late 19th century that “directly threatened the economic interests of the philanthropists”, liberal philanthropists realized:

“… that social reform was unavoidable, [and instead] chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time: urbanization, education, housing, public hygiene, the “Negro problem,” etc. Far from being resistant to social change, the philanthropists promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order but constituted a ‘private alternative to socialism’”[15]

Andrea Smith (2007) notes that:

“From their inception, [liberal] foundations focused on research and dissemination of information designed ostensibly to ameliorate social issues-in a manner, how¬ever, that did not challenge capitalism. For instance, in 1913, Colorado miners went on strike against Colorado Fuel and Iron, an enterprise of which 40 percent was owned by Rockefeller. Eventually, this strike erupted into open warfare, with the Colorado militia murdering several strikers during the Ludlow Massacre of April 20, 1914. During that same time, Jerome Greene, the Rockefeller Foundation secretary, identified research and information to quiet social and political unrest as a founda¬tion priority. The rationale behind this strategy was that while individual workers deserved social relief, organized workers in the form of unions were a threat to soci¬ety. So the Rockefeller Foundation heavily advertised its relief work for individual workers while at the same time promoting a pro-Rockefeller spin to the massacre.”[16]

Writing in 1966, Carroll Quigley – who happened to be one of Bill Clinton’s mentors – [17] elaborates on the motivations driving the philanthropic colonisation of progressive social change:

“More than fifty years ago [circa 1914] the Morgan firm decided to infiltrate the Left-wing political movements in the United States. This was relatively easy to do, since these groups were starved for funds and eager for a voice to reach the people. Wall Street supplied both. The purpose was not to destroy, dominate, or take over but was really threefold: (1) to keep informed about the thinking of Left-wing or liberal groups; (2) to provide them with a mouthpiece so that they could ‘blow off steam,’ and (3) to have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went ‘radical.’ There was nothing really new about this decision, since other financiers had talked about it and even attempted it earlier. What made it decisively important this time was the combination of its adoption by the dominant Wall Street financier, at a time when tax policy was driving all financiers to seek tax-exempt refuges for their fortunes, and at a time when the ultimate in Left-wing radicalism was about to appear under the banner of the Third International.”[18]

One of the most important books exploring the detrimental influence of liberal foundations on social change was Robert Arnove’s Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism (1980). In the introduction to this edited collection Arnove notes that:

“A central thesis [of this book] is that foundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society’s attention. They serve as ‘cooling-out’ agencies, delaying and preventing more radical, structural change. They help maintain an economic and political order, international in scope, which benefits the ruling-class interests of philanthropists and philanthropoids – a system which, as the various chapters document, has worked against the interests of minorities, the working class, and Third World peoples.”[19]

With the aid of Nadine Pinede, Arnove (2007) recently updated this critique noting that, while the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations’ “are considered to be among the most progressive in the sense of being forward looking and reform-minded”, they are also “among the most controversial and influential of all the foundations”.[20] Indeed, as Edward H. Berman demonstrated in his book The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy: The Ideology of Philanthropy (1983), the activities of all three of these foundations are closely entwined with those of US foreign policy elites. This subject has also been covered in some depth in Frances Stonor Saunders (1999) book Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War. She notes that:

“During the height of the Cold War, the US government committed vast resources to a secret programme of cultural propaganda in western Europe. A central feature of this pro¬gramme was to advance the claim that it did not exist. It was managed, in great secrecy, by America’s espionage arm, the Central Intelligence Agency. The centrepiece of this covert cam¬paign was the Congress for Cultural Freedom [which received massive support from the Ford Foundation and was] run by CIA agent Michael Josselson from 1950 till 1967. Its achieve¬ments – not least its duration – were considerable. At its peak, the Congress for Cultural Freedom had offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and features service, organized high-profile international con¬ferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances. Its mission was to nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism and Communism towards a view more accommo¬dating of ‘the American way’.”[21]

So given the elitist history of liberal foundations it is not surprising that Arnove and Pinede (2007) note that although the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations’ “claim to attack the root causes of the ills of humanity, they essentially engage in ameliorative practices to maintain social and economic systems that generate the very inequalities and injustices they wish to correct.”[22] Indeed they conclude that although the past few decades these foundations have adopted a “more progressive, if not radical, rhetoric and approaches to community building” that gives a “voice to those who have been disadvantaged by the workings of an increasingly global capitalist economy, they remain ultimately elitist and technocratic institutions.”[23]

Based on the knowledge of these critiques, it is then supremely ironic that progressive activists tend to underestimate the influence of liberal philanthropists, while simultaneously acknowledging the fundamental role played by conservative philanthropists in promoting neoliberal policies. Indeed, contrary to popular beliefs amongst progressives, much evidence supports the contention that liberal philanthropists and their foundations have been very influential in shaping the contours of American (and global) civil society, actively influencing social change through a process alternatively referred to as either channelling [24] or co-option.[25]

“Co-optation [being] a process through which the policy orientations of leaders are influenced and their organizational activities channeled. It blends the leader’s interests with those of an external organization. In the process, ethnic leaders and their organizations become active in the state-run interorganizational system; they become participants in the decision-making process as advisors or committee members. By becoming somewhat of an insider the co-opted leader is likely to identify with the organization and its objectives. The leader’s point of view is shaped through the personal ties formed with authorities and functionaries of the external organization.”[26]

The critical issue of the cooption of progressive groups by liberal foundations has also been examined in Joan Roelofs seminal book Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism. In summary, Roelofs (2007) argues that:

“…the pluralist model of civil society obscures the extensive collaboration among the resource-providing elites and the dependent state of most grassroots organizations. While the latter may negotiate with foundations over details, and even win some concessions, capitalist hegemony (including its imperial perquisites) cannot be questioned without severe organizational penalties. By and large, it is the funders who are calling the tune. This would be more obvious if there were sufficient publicized investigations of this vast and important domain. That the subject is ‘off-limits’ for both academics and journalists is compelling evidence of enormous power.”[27]

SNCC training Freedom School leaders for Mississippi Freedom Summer

Defanging the Threat of Civil Rights

The 1960s civil rights movement was the first documented social movement that received substantial financial backing from philanthropic foundations.[28] As might be expected, liberal foundation support went almost entirely to moderate professional movement organizations like, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and their Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Urban League, and foundations also helped launch President Kennedy’s Voter Education Project.[29] In the last case, foundation support for the Voter Education Project was arranged by the Kennedy administration, who wanted to dissipate black support of sit-in protests while simultaneously obtaining the votes of more African-Americans, a constituency that helped Kennedy win the 1960 election.[30]

One example of the type of indirect pressure facing social movements reliant on foundation support can be seen by examining Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activities as his campaigning became more controversial in the years just prior to his assassination. On 18 February 1967, King held a strategy meeting where he said he wanted to take a more active stance in opposing the Vietnam War: noting that he was willing to break with the Johnson administration even if the Southern Christian Leadership Conference lost some financial support (despite it already being in a weak financial position, with contributions some 40 percent less than the previous year). In this case, it seems, King was referring to the potential loss of foundation support as, after his first speech against the war a week later (on 25 February), he again voiced his concerns that his new position would jeopardize an important Ford Foundation grant.[31]

Thus, by providing selective support of activist groups during the 1960s, liberal foundations promoted such groups’ independence from their unpaid constituents working in the grassroots, facilitating movement professionalization and institutionalization. This allowed foundations “to direct dissent into legitimate channels and limit goals to ameliorative rather than radical change”[32] , in the process promoting a “narrowing and taming of the potential for broad dissent”.[33] Herbert Haines (1988) supports this point and argues that the increasing militancy of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Congress for Racial Equality meant most foundation funding was directed to groups who expressed themselves through more moderate actions.[34] He referred to this as the “radical flank effect” – a process which described the way in which funding increased for nonmilitant or moderate groups (reliant on institutional tactics) as confrontational direct action protests increased.[35] As Jack Walker (1983) concludes, in his study of the influence of foundations on interest groups, the reasoning behind such an interventionist strategy is simple. He argues that “[f]oundation officials believed that the long run stability of the representative policy making system could be assured only if legitimate organizational channels could be provided for the frustration and anger being expressed in protests and outbreaks of political violence.”[36]

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