Tagged ‘Ford‘

Subverting Sovereignty

Skookum: *An online journal of the American psyche in transition*

by Jay Taber

November 4, 2012


As reported at Wrong Kind of Green, the expulsion of USAID from Russia and Latin America is long overdue, and given the history of USAID’s involvement in overthrowing and destabilizing governments unwilling to yield to US dictates, it’s surprising that it took so long. This doesn’t mean that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency will stop spying on governments that seek independence from the US; it simply means that US spies and provocateurs will no longer be able to work undercover as USAID operatives.

As noted in other WKOG articles and special reports, though, US spies and provocateurs will still be able to work undercover as employees of NGOs, funded by foundations established by US elites to undermine opposition to US hegemony. With help from the Rockefellers, Ford and Soros, subverting sovereignty and derailing democracy worldwide will continue, albeit in a manner that puts authentic non-profits and independent journalists at risk.

While this is a risk that US elites are more than willing to take, it is understandable that some countries will see classifying all Americans visiting their countries as possible spies as a precautionary principle. It’s merely the logical consequence of a half century of perverted US foreign policy.


A Colossal Fraud

August 22, 2012


By Jay Taber

As documented by Jerry Sanders in his book Peddlers of Crisis, Cold War hawks in Washington made their bones by producing and disseminating misperceptions about the Russian threat, that in turn justified the inordinate military buildup by the US and NATO. In essence, says Sanders, the national security military industrial complex, while perhaps warranted at some level, was nevertheless a colossal fraud concocted by Washington insiders at Langley and the Pentagon.

Deliberately falsified information and wildly exaggerated threats were, in fact, used to enable not only the looting of the US Treasury to meet these false threats, but also to promote some notorious characters into the halls of power. People like Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney and Richard Armitage.

Today, through agencies like National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, lessons in psychological warfare learned by Cold War hawks and private sector friends like George Soros are still being applied in the interest of US hegemony, albeit in more creative ways. As noted in this article about NED-funded political opposition groups in Russia, the exaggerations, while containing an element of truth, are leveraged to perpetuate popular myths that can be capitalized on by US interests.

With a perfunctory nod to prior creative operators at the National Security Agency (NSA), I have to admit that the Pussy Riot affair must rank right up there. While Cartalucci acknowledges a lack of direct connection, the witness list of the pussy defense is loaded with NED funding.

As illustrated by this article at Wrong Kind of Green, arguing against Russian gangster capitalism, while important, is best left to authentic journalists and human rights activists, not US State Department proteges, Ford or Soros funded puppets. Monitoring Russian elections for fraud is one thing, disturbing the peace and distorting reports in order to destabilize Russian society is best left to the CIA. As seen in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, innocent people get hurt.


The “Policy Wonks” Behind Covert Warfare & Humanitarian Fascism

August 8, 2012
by Keith Harmon Snow

Conscious Being Alliance

This special report includes three unpublished video clips of interviewees from the Politics of Genocide documentary film project: Ugandan dignitary Remigius Kintu, former Rwandan prime minister Fautisn Twagiramungu, and Nobel peace prize nominee Juan Carrero Saralegui.

               From the 1980s to today, an elite group of Western intelligence operatives have backed low-intensity guerrilla warfare in certain African ‘hotspots’.  Mass atrocities in the Great Lakes and Sudan can be linked to Roger Winter, a pivotal U.S. operative whose ‘team’ was recently applauded for birthing the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.  Behind the fairytale we find a long trail of blood and skeletons from Uganda to Sudan, Rwanda and Congo.  While the mass media has covered their tracks, their misplaced moralism has simultaneously helped birth a new left-liberal ‘humanitarian’ fascism.  In this falsification of consciousness, Western human rights crusaders and organizations, funded by governments, multinational corporations and private donors, cheer the killers and blame the victims—and pat themselves on the back for saving Africa from itself.  Meanwhile, the “Arab Spring” has spread to (north) Sudan.  Following the NATO-Israeli model of regime change being used in Central & North Africa, it won’t be long before the fall of Khartoum. 

SPLA tank South Sudan LR.jpg

SPLA Tank in South Sudan: An old SPLA army tank sits in the bush in Pochalla, Jonglei State, south Sudan in 2004.  Israel, the United States, Britain and Norway have been the main suppliers of the covert low-intensity war in Sudan, organized by gunrunners and policy ‘wonks’.  Photo c. keith harmon snow, 2004.

It is, oh! such a happy fairy tale!  It begins as all happy fairy tales do, in fantasy land.  The fantasy is one of human rights princes and policy ‘wonks’ in shining armor and the new kingdom of peace and tranquility, democracy and human rights, that they have created.  That is what the United States foreign policy establishment and the corporate mass media—and not a few so-called ‘human rights activists’—would have us believe about the genesis of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

“In the mid-1980s, a small band of policy wonks began convening for lunch in the back corner of a dimly lit Italian bistro in the U.S. capital,” wrote Rebecca Hamilton in the recent fairytale: “The Wonks Who Sold Washington on South Sudan.”  Hamilton is a budding think-tank activist-advocate-agent whose whitewash of the low intensity war for Sudan (and some Western architects of it), distilled from her book Fighting for Darfur, was splashed all over the Western press on 11 July 2012. [1]

The photos accompanying Hamilton’s story show a happy fraternity of ‘wonks’—what exactly is a ‘wonk’?—obviously being your usual down-jacket, beer- and coffee-slurping American citizens from white America, with a token black man thrown in to change the complexion of this Africa story.  Their cups are white and clean, their cars are shiny and new, their convivial smiles are almost convincing.  There is even a flag of the new country just sort of floating across Eric Reeves’ hip.

Because of Dr. Reeves’  ‘anti-genocide’ work in Sudan, Boston College professor Alan Wolfe has written that the Smith College English professor is “arrogant to the point of contempt.”  (I have had a similar though much more personal experience of Dr. Reeves’ petulance.)


“John Prendergast (L-R), Eric Reeves, Brian D’Silva, Ted Dagne and Roger Miller [sic]—pose for a photograph in this undated image provided to Reuters by John Prendergast,” reads the original Reuters syndicated news caption for the posed image of the Council of Wonks.  (U.S. intelligence & defense operative Roger Winter is misidentified as “Roger Miller”.)

The story and its photos project the image of casual, ordinary people who, we are led to believe, did heroic and superhuman things.  What a bunch of happy-go-lucky wonks!  Excuse me: policy wonks!  And their bellies are presumably warmed by that fresh Starbucks ‘fair trade’ genocide coffee shipped straight from the killing fields of post-genocide [sic] Rwanda… where, coincidentally, Starbucks reportedly cut a profit of more than a few million dollars in 2011.

This is a tale of dark knights, of covert operators and spies aligned with the cult of intelligence in the United States.  Operating in secrecy and denial within the U.S. intelligence and defense establishment, they have helped engineer more than two decades of low intensity warfare in Sudan (alone), replete with massive suffering and a death toll of between 1.5 and 3 million Sudanese casualties—using their own fluctuating statistics on mortality—and millions upon millions of casualties in the Great Lakes of Africa.

Behind the fantasy is a very real tale of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocides real and alleged, and mass atrocities covered up by these National Security agents with the aid of a not-so-ordinary English professor—their one-man Ministry of Disinformation—Dr. Eric Reeves.

Foundations for Empire: Corporate Philanthropy and US Foreign Policy

Ceasefire Magazine

May 20, 2012

In his latest column, Michael Barker argues that, far from eradicating poverty and aiding economic development, major US philanthropic foundations have played a key role in undermining efforts to promote a meaningful democratic alternative to capitalism, both at home and abroad.


John F. Kennedy and McGeorge Bundy outside the White House, June 13, 1962 (Source:

Professor Inderjeet Parmar, chairman of the prestigious British International Studies Association, has written an interesting book: Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power (Columbia University Press, 2012) in which he argues that philanthropic foundations have provided “a key means of building the ‘American century,’ or an American Imperium, a hegemony constructed in significant part via cultural and intellectual penetration.”

In making the case for this uncontroversial conclusion, he acknowledges that his work builds upon Edward Berman’s “excellent monograph” The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy: The Ideology of Philanthropy (State University of New York Press, 1983). Yet despite these kind words, rather than extending and deepening Berman’s seminal study, Parmar seems to have only revisited it to provide a less radical alternative (albeit Gramscian).

With his sights firmly set on documenting the role of foundations in constructing “global knowledge networks”, Parmar mistakenly concludes that the creation of such networks “appears to be their principal long-term achievement.” However, on a more accurate note, he subsequently adds that “despite their oft-stated aims of eradicating poverty, uplifting the poor, improving living standards, aiding economic development, and so on, even the U.S. foundations’ own assessments of their impact show that they largely have failed in these efforts.”

But while the Big Three foundations may well have created strong global knowledge networks, their principal long-term achievement has simply been to undermine efforts to promote a meaningful democratic alternative to capitalism, both at home and abroad. With foundation knowledge networks being just one instrument among many that have been used to consolidate capitalism.

Other significant tools to enforce American global hegemony include the military, and a commitment to shaping public opinion through propaganda (which is based on the foundations’ “belief in the pervasiveness of popular ignorance and the consequent need for elites to ‘educate’ the people in ‘right thinking’”).[1]

Providing evidence of the central role of foundations in manufacturing consent (both of the masses and of elites), Parmar investigates the work of Hadley Cantril’s Office of Public Opinion Research, a body formed at Princeton University in 1940, with a $90,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Using archival records, Parmar illustrates that Cantril worked with military intelligence agencies during the war, and undertook studies of public attitudes towards Latin America; adding that by 1943 Cantril had received a further $50,000 from the government that did not include “unspecified amounts from the coordinator of inter-American affairs.”

Parmar also points out that the U.S. Army opened a Psychological Warfare Research Bureau within Cantril’s Princeton office. However, despite undertaking archival research into such matters Parmar apparently forgot to conduct a literature review on this subject,[2] only citing one other writer (Christopher Simpson, Science of Coercion), whose valid criticisms of foundations he then chose to ignore.

The Non-Profit Industrial Complex: Undermining Indigenous Liberation

Intercontinental Cry


Jun 19, 2012

The Corbett Report interviews Global Research associate Andrew Gavin Marshall about the history of foundation philanthropy established by the American robber barons — i.e. Ford, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller — as engines of social engineering to create “consent to the hegemony of the ruling class.” As funders of think tanks and universities in order to create a managerial elite over the last century (through the design of social sciences for social control), the foundations, says Marshall, make the world safe for capitalism by channeling criticism away from fundamental change. In what he describes as recolonizing the world today through social genocide, Marshall notes that foundation funded NGOs function as capitalist missionaries, extending the imperial project worldwide, and thereby undermining Indigenous liberation.



[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, an author, a correspondent to Fourth World Eye, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as the administrative director of Public Good Project.]

Kofi Annan: black skin, white masks

by Thierry Meyssan

Although Kofi Annan’s track record at the UN is an indisputable success in terms of management and efficiency, he has been sharply criticized for his political shortcomings. As Secretary General, he aspired to bring the Organization into line with the unipolar world and the globalization of U.S. hegemony. He called into question the ideological foundations of the UN and undermined its ability to prevent conflicts. Notwithstanding, he is today in charge of resolving the Syrian crisis.

Voltaire Network

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Former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan, has been designated by Ban Ki-moon and Nabil El Arabi as joint special envoy to negotiate a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. With Annan’s extraordinary experience and shiny brand image, his appointment was welcomed by all.

What does this top international official really represent? Who propelled him to the highest-ranking positions? What were his political choices, and what are his current commitments? These questions are met with a discreet silence, as if his previous functions were in themselves a guarantee of neutrality.

Handpicked and trained by the Ford Foundation and the CIA

His former colleagues praise him for his thoughtfulness, his intelligence and subtlety. A very charismatic personality, Kofi Annan left a strong imprint behind him because he did not behave simply as the “secretary” of the UN, but more like its “general,” by taking initiatives that revivified an organization that was mired in bureaucracy. All that is known and has been repeated ad nauseam. His exceptional professional qualities earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, although this honor in theory should have been bestowed for personal political commitment, not a management career.

Kofi and his twin sister Efua Atta were born on 8 April 1938, into an aristocratic family of the British colony of the Gold Coast. His father was the tribal chief of the Fante people and the elected governor of Asante province. Although he opposed British rule, he was a faithful servant of the Crown. With other notables, he took part in the first decolonization movement, but looked upon the revolutionary fervor of Kwame Nkrumah with suspicion and anxiety.

In any event, Nkrumah’s efforts led to the independence of the country in 1957 under the name of Ghana. Kofi was then 19 years old. Though not involved in the revolution, he became vice-president of the new National Student Association. It was then that he was spotted by a headhunter from the Ford Foundation who incorporated him into a program for “young leaders.” From there, he was invited to follow a summer course at Harvard University. Having noticed his enthusiasm for the United States, the Ford Foundation offered to sponsor his complete studies, first in economics at Macalester College in Minnesota, followed by international relations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

After the Second World War, the Ford Foundation, created by famous industrialist Henry Ford, became an unofficial instrument of U.S. foreign policy, providing a respectable facade for the activities of the CIA [1].

Kofi Annan’s overseas study period (1959-1961) coincided with the most difficult years of the African-American civil rights movement (the start of Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign). He saw it as an extension of the decolonization he had witnessed in Ghana, but once again did not get involved.

Impressed with Annan’s academic achievements and political discretion, his U.S. mentors opened for him the doors of the World Health Organization, where he landed his first job. After three years at WHO headquarters in Geneva, he was appointed to the Economic Commission for Africa based in Addis Ababa. However, not sufficiently qualified to pursue a career at the UN, he returned to the United States to take up management studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1971-1972). He then attempted a comeback in his home country as director of tourism development, but found himself perpetually at odds with the military government of General Acheampong; he gave up and returned to the United Nations in 1976.

Fourth World Eye | Public Relations Puppets

Beautiful Children

Mar 20, 2012 by Jay Taber

Source: Center for World Indigenous Studies

In Poznan, Poland in 2008, the UN excluded indigenous nations delegates from participating in climate change talks, insinuating that only UN member states are legitimate governing authorities. The motivation for the United Nations exclusionary policy on indigenous peoples participation was that the UN was meeting to hatch a new scheme for transnational corporations and investment banks to control the world: it was called REDD, a Ponzi scheme for carbon-market trading that would make the Wall Street heists of today look like chicken feed. Indigenous nations sent delegates to protest this life-threatening fraud by the UN and its agencies like the IMF, World Bank, and WTO. Civil society groups spoke in support of the indigenous peoples, UN officials closed them out, and the world never knew.

In the runup to the 2009 UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen, I wrote about the news ruse perpetrated by the UN to undermine the Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change. True to their past practices, they repeated this trickery with an added twist, stating indigenous peoples could only participate through UN-recognized non-governmental organizations.

This privileged participatory posture of the UN was repeated in 2010 in Cancun, where the Indigenous Caucus spokesman Tom Goldtooth had his credentials revoked for calling the conference a trade show for promoting false solutions. Goldtooth and others were ejected by the UN for drawing media attention to the fact that a major agenda item of the international discussion in Cancun, as in Copenhagen, was to silence indigenous peoples. I later wrote about the NGO ambassadors of greed fronting for the UN scheme, noting commentary by Goldtooth that he had never witnessed the intensity of deception as unleashed by the UN in Copenhagen and Cancun.

Now, in the runup to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, the UN has preselected indigenous representation — already compromised by bribery from UN agencies and transnational corporations — as those that will be permitted to participate. As cheerleaders funded by such entities as Ford Foundation, these supplicants amount to little more than public relations puppets.

Flashback: The Eco-Establishment

Katherine Barkley and Steve Weissman, “The Eco-Establishment,” in: Ramparts (eds.), Eco-Catastrophe (Harper and Row, 1970), pp.15-24.

Ask Vietnam protesters about the April 22 National Environmental Teach-In and they’ll tell you it’s a scheme to contain their spring offensive against the ecological disaster in Southeast Asia. Ask young blacks about this new movement to save the ecosystem and they’ll tell you that it is a way of distracting attention from the old movement that was supposed to save their skins.

Then go and talk to an environmental activist, a Survival Walker. Ask him why the ecology movement has turned its back on Vietnam and civil rights and he’ll explain, with a convincing freshness the old New Left has lost, that the sky is falling. He’ll point out that we all have to breathe and that none of us – white or black, Vietnamese peasant or American marine – has much of a future on CO2. We all must eat, and a diet of pesticides is deadly. We all need water, and the dwindling supplies are unfit for human (or even industrial) consumption. We all depend on the same limited forests, mines, oceans and soil, and we are all going to choke on the same waste and pollution.

To this new ecology activist, nothing could be more obvious: we’ve all got to unite behind the overriding goal of unfouling our common nest before it’s too late, turning back the pages of the environmental doomsday book. If we succeed, then we can get back to these other questions. There is no stopping, he will add, an idea whose time has come.

He will be right, too-though a bit naive about where ideas come from and where movements go. Environment will be the issue of the ’70?s, but not simply because the air got thicker or the oceans less bubbly, or even because the war in Vietnam got too bloody to have to think about every day. It will be the issue of the ’70?s because such stewards of the nation’s wealth as the Ford Foundation, with its Resources for the Future, Inc. (RFF), and Laurance Rockefeller’s Conservation Foundation needed a grass-roots movement to help consolidate their control over national policymaking, bolster their hold over world resources, and escalate further cycles of useless economic growth.


The environment bandwagon is not as recent a phenomenon as it seems. It began to gather momentum back in the mid-’60?s under the leadership of Resources for the Future. “The relationship of people to resources, which usually has been expressed in terms of quantity, needs to be restated for modern times to emphasize what is happening to the quality of resources,” warned RFF President Joseph L. Fisher in his group’s 1964 report. “The wide variety of threats to the quality of the environment may well embrace the gravest U.S. resources problem for the next generation.” The following year, Resources for the Future established a special research and educational program in environmental quality, funded with a $ 1.1 million grant from its parent organization, the Ford Foundation.

Created by Ford in the early ’50?s during the scare over soaring materials costs, RFF had just made its name in conservation by organizing the Mid-Century Conference on Resources for the Future, the first major national conservation conference since Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot staged the National Governors’ Conference in 1908. Held in 1953, the Mid-Century Conference mustered broad support from both the country’s resource users and conservers for the national conservation policy already spelled out by President Truman’s Materials Policy Commission. It was this Commission, headed by William S. Paley (board chairman of CBS and a founding director of RFF), which had openly affirmed the nation’s inalienable right to extract cheap supplies of raw materials from the underdeveloped countries, and which set the background for Eisenhower and Dulles’ oft-quoted concern over the fate of the tin and tungsten of Southeast Asia. Insuring adequate supplies of resources for the future became a conservationist byword.

By the mid-’60?s, Resources for the Future had begun to broaden its concern to include resource quality, thus setting the tone for a decade of conservationist rhetoric and behavior. The trustees of the Ford Foundation, an executive committee of such international resource users and polluters as Esso and Ford Motor, established a separate Resources and Environment Division which, since 1966, has nourished such groups as Open Space Action Committee, Save-the-Redwoods League, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, and the Environmental Defense Fund. A year later, the Rockefeller Foundation set up an Environmental Studies Division, channelling money to the National Academy of Science and RFF and to Laurance Rockefeller’s own pet project, the Conservation Foundation.

The conservationist-planners’ new concern over threats to the quality of resources, and to life itself, was actually an outgrowth of their earlier success in assuring cheap and plentiful raw materials. It had become clear that supplies of resources would be less a problem than the immense amount of waste generated as a by-product of those now being refined. The more industry consumed, the more it produced and sold, the larger and more widespread the garbage dumps. Rivers and lakes required costly treatment to make water suitable for use in homes and industry. Smoggy air corroded machines, ruined timberlands, reduced the productivity of crop lands and livestock – to say nothing of its effect on the work capacity of the average man. Pesticides were killing more than pests, and raising the spectre of cumulative disaster. Cities were getting noisier, dirtier, uglier and more tightly packed, forcing the middle class to the suburbs and the big urban landowners to the wall. “Ugliness,” Lyndon Johnson exclaimed sententiously, “is costly.”

This had long been obvious to the conservationists. Something had to be done, and the elite resource planners took as their model for action the vintage 1910 American conservation movement, especially its emphasis on big business cooperation with big government.


When the 1890 census officially validated the fact that the frontier was closed, a generation of business and government leaders realized with a start that the American Eden had its bounds. Land, timber and water were all limited, as was the potential for conflicts over their apportionment. What resources should timber-men, grazers or farmers exploit? What should be preserved as a memory of the American past? Who would decide these questions? The conservationists – Teddy Roosevelt, Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot and some of the bigger timber, grazing and agricultural interests – pushed heavily for a new policy to replace the crude and wanton pillage which had been part of the frontier spirit. While preservationists like John Muir were fighting bitterly against any and all use of wild areas by private interests, the conservationists wanted only to make sure that the environment would be exploited with taste and efficiency.

Roosevelt and his backers won out, of course. And the strategy they used is instructive: failing initially to muster congressional support for their plan, they mobilized a broadly based conservation movement, supposedly to regulate the private interests which they in fact represented. Backed by the widespread public support it had whipped up, the conservationist juggernaut then began to move the country toward a more regulated – but still private – exploitation of its riches.

Of course, the private interests which had helped draft this policy also moved – to staff the regulatory agencies, provide jobs for retiring regulators, and generally to put the right man in the right niche most of the time. Within short order, the regulatory agencies were captives of the interests they were supposed to regulate, and they were soon being used as a screen which kept the public from seeing the way that small interests were squeezed out of the competition for resources. Their monopoly position thus strengthened by regulatory agencies, these large interests found it easy to pass the actual costs of regulation on to the citizen consumer.


The old American conservation movement had reacted out of fear over resource scarcities; the new movement of the mid-’60?s feared, as well, the destruction of resource quality. And the corporation conservationists and their professional planners in organizations like Resources for the Future onceagain looked to government regulations as an answer to the difficulties they foresaw. Only this time the stakes were much higher than they had been at the early part of the century. Many of the resource planners want an all-encompassing environmental agency or Cabinet level Department of Resources, Environment and Population. Holding enormous power over a wide range of decisions, this coordinating apparatus would be far more convenient for the elite than the present array of agencies, each influenced by its own interest groups.

Who will benefit from this increased environmental consciousness and who will pay is already quite clear to business, if not to most young ecology activists. “The elite of business leadership,” reports Fortune, “strongly desire the federal government to step in, set the standards, regulate all activities pertaining to the environment, and help finance the job with tax incentives.” The congressional background paper for the 1968 hearings on National Policy on Environmental Quality, prepared with the help of Rockefeller’s Conservation Foundation, spells out the logic in greater detail: “Lack of national policy for the environment has now become as expensive to the business community as to the Nation at large. In most enterprises, a social cost can be carried without undue burden if all competitors carry it alike. For example, industrial waste disposal costs can, like other costs of production, be reflected in prices to consumers. But this becomes feasible only when public law and administration put all comparable forms of waste-producing enterprises under the same requirements.” Only the truly powerful could be so candid about their intention to pick the pocket of the consumer to pay for the additional costs they will be faced with.

The resource planners are also quite frank about the wave of subsidies they expect out of the big clean-up campaign. “There will have to be a will to provide funds,” explains Joseph Fisher, “to train the specialists, do the research and experimentation, build the laws and institutions through which more rapid progress [in pollution control] can be made, and of course, build the facilities and equipment.” The coming boondoggles – replete with tax incentives, direct government grants, and new products – will make the oil depletion allowance seem tame. And what’s more, it will be packaged as a critical social service.

The big business conservationists will doubtless be equally vocal about the need for new bond issues for local water and sewage treatment facilities; lead crusades to overcome reluctance of the average citizen to vote “yes” on bond measures; and then, as bondholders themselves, skim a nice tax-free six or seven per cent off the top.

It isn’t just the citizen and taxpayer who will bear the burden, however. Bedraggled Mother Nature, too, will pay. Like the original conservation movement it is emulating, today’s big business conservation is not interested in preserving the earth; it is rationally reorganizing for a more efficient rape of resources (e.g., the export of chemical-intensive agribusiness) and the production of an even grosser national product.

The seeming contradictions are mind-boggling: industry is combating waste so it can afford to waste more; it is planning to produce more (smog-controlled) private autos to crowd more highways, which means even more advertising to create more “needs” to be met by planned obsolescence. Socially, the result is disastrous. Ecologically, it could be the end.

Why don’t the businessmen simply stop their silly growthmanship? They can’t. If one producer slowed down in the mad race, he’d be eaten up by his competitors. If all conspired together to restrain growth permanently, the unemployment and cutbacks would make today’s recession look like full employment, and the resulting unrest would make today’s dissent look like play time at Summerhill.


They began in the mid-’60?s in low key, mobilizing the academicians, sprinkling grants and fellowships at the “better” schools, and coordinating research efforts of Resources for the Future, the Conservation Foundation, RAND, Brookings Institution, the National Academy of Science and the Smithsonian Institution. Major forums were held in 1965 and 1966 on “The Quality of the Environment” and “Future Environments of North America.” Research findings were programmed directly into industrial trade associations and business firms.

Then the resource people put their men and programs in the official spotlight: Laurance Rockefeller (founder of and major donor to the Conservation Foundation and also a director of RFF) chaired both the White House Conference on Natural Beauty and the Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty (which Nixon has rechristened his Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality). Conservation Foundation President Russell Train headed up Nixon’s Task Force on Resources and Environment, with help from Fisher and several other directors of RFF and the Conservation Foundation, and then became Undersecretary of Interior.

Then the media were plugged in, an easy task for men who have in their hands the direction of CBS, National Educational Television, Time-Life-Fortune, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times and Cowles publications, as well as many of the trade journals and conservation magazines. Independent media, seeing that environment was now news, picked up and broadcast the studies which the conservation elite had produced. Public opinion leaders told their public, in Business Week’s words, “to prepare for the approval of heavy public and private spending to fight pollution.”

Finally, the grass roots were given the word. RFF, Ford and Rockefeller had long worked with and financed the old-time conservation groups, from Massachusetts Audubon to the Sierra Club, and now the big money moved beyond an appreciation of wilderness to a greater activism. When, for example, David Brower broke with the Sierra Club, it was Robert O. Anderson of Atlantic-Richfield and RFF who gave him $200,000 to set up Friends of the Earth (prudently channeling the donation through the organization’s tax exempt affiliate, the John Muir Institute).

When Senator Gaylord Nelson and Congressman Pete McCloskey got around to pushing the National Teach-In, it was the Conservation Foundation, the Audubon Society and the American Conservation Association which doled out the money while Friends of the Earth was putting together The Environmental Handbook, meant to be the Bible of the new movement.

The big business conservationists and their professionals didn’t buy off the movement; they built it.


Ecology activists out picketing a polluter or cleaning up a creek will have total freedom to make up their own minds about the threats to our environment, and they will have every right to choose their own course of constructive action. Yet they will surely never get a dime from Robert Anderson, or even a farthing from Ford or Rockefeller. And so far, the grass-roots ecology movement has done nothing but echo the eco-elite.

Ecology, unlike most of the fractured scientific field, is holistic. It talks of life and its environment as a totality: how organisms relate to each other and to the system which provides their life-support system. As a discipline applied to human affairs, then, ecology should help us get a whole view of our natural and social environment-from oxygen cycles to business cycles, from the jeopardized natural environment to the powerful institutional environment which creates that jeopardy. If it revealed these interconnections, ecology would become, as it has been called, a “subversive science,” subverting the polluters and resource-snatchers who now control the conservation of the nation’s wealth. It would point the finger not simply at profit-making polluters or greedy consumers, but at the great garbage-creation system itself – the corporate capitalist economy.

But this is a far cry from the ecology movement as we have inherited it. Ecology, the science of interconnections, becomes a matter of cleaning up beaches and trying to change individuals’ habits and attitudes, while ignoring the institutions which created them and practically all environmental damage.

The grass-roots ecology groups do have politics-the politics of consumer boycotts, shareholder democracy and interest group pluralism, all of which show a wonderfully anachronistic faith in the fairness of the market, political and economic. “If Dow pollutes,” say the boycotters, “then we just won’t buy Saran Wrap.” If Super Suds won’t make biodegradable soap, we’ll buy Ivory. If Ford and Chevy won’t make steam cars, we’ll buy Japanese imports. From the planned obsolescence in automobiles, to 20 brands of toothpaste, much of what industry produces is insulting to the intelligence while also serving no real need; it is waste, to say nothing of the enormous pollution entailed in overproduction.

Consumer sovereignty has gone the way of the dodo, its passing noted two decades back by that stalwart defender of the new corporate capitalism, John Kenneth Galbraith. Consumers just don’t control what gets produced, or how. To educate or build support for some stronger action, boycotts, like the picket line, work well. Bi to change production habits, an ecology movement will really hay to pull the big plug at the other end of the TV transmitter, or better at the production line itself.

Failing in the economic arena, the ecology groups can of course try their hand directly in the political marketplace. Oil has its lobby the auto manufacturers theirs. Why not a People’s Lobby? Californians have already created one, which is now pushing in Sacramento for a referendum “to make the polluters pay.” The Environmental Defense League, geared primarily to the court system, also defending the environment in Congress. The Sierra Club have already lost its tax-exempt status for being too political, and number of the older conservation groups are pushing new, stream-lined legislation. The strategy seems to be paying off, winning victories here and there. Most of the victories, however, mere strengthen the regulatory agencies, which, after public vigilance peters out, will become tools of the big corporations.

Where boycotts and stockholder strategies simply fail, this interest group politics may lead the ecology movement off the edge of a very well-conserved cliff. Eco-catastrophe threatens to kill it all – and Mother Nature, too. But to engage in the give-and-take of interest group politics, the ecologists must grant serious consideration to and must compromise with the oil interests, auto manufacturers and other powerful business groups. Standard Oil gets Indonesia only if they will market that country’s prized sulphur-free oil here; the auto makers can keep producing their one-man-one-car civilization in return for making additional profit (and apparent compromise) on smog control. The world is dying: write your congressman today.

From lobbying, the eco-groups will move into the nearest election, trying to put Paul Ehrlich or David Brower in office. But elections aren’t won on single issues. Allies must be wooed, coalition built. Already parochial and out of sympathy with the blacks an other out-groups, the environmentalists, anxious to infiltrate the electoral system, will become even more respectable and more careful to avoid contamination by “extreme” positions or people. The will become further compartmentalized and will be at dead center sacrificing even those of their own who refuse to compromise.

Avoiding “politics,” the ecologists have taken up the old liberal shuck. Give equal freedom to aristocrats and the people, to bosses and workers, to landlords and tenants, and let both sides win. The scheme, of course, overlooks the one-sided distribution of resources, money and media-power. Some “reformers” will have all they need, but their solution, which will become the solution, is itself a good part of the problem. Profit-seekers and growth-mongers can’t co-exist with Mother Nature and her fragile children without doing them irreparable harm.

To save any semblance of democracy, a decent relationship to the environment and perhaps the environment itself – ecology, the “in” movement, must become a movement of the outs. It must be committed to a long-term militant fight on more clearly understood grounds – its own grounds. That too might be impossible. But, as Eugene V. Debs once observed, it’s a lot better to fight for what you want and not get it, than to fight for-and get-what you don’t want.

Katherine Barkley is a staff member of the Pacific Studies Center.

A Tar Sands Partnership Agreement in the Making?

By Macdonald Stainsby
Canadian Dimension
August 1st 2011


Campaigns against tar sands production have grown rapidly over the last four years. From the relative obscurity in Alberta to an international lightning rod for people trying to address all manner of concerns from indigenous and community self-determination to peak oil and climate change – criticisms of the largest industrial project in human history have gained a major voice.

The voices are certainly not homogenous, but a large contingent of these voices call for a shut down of tar sands production and a move away from fossil fuels – if not an outright move away from market-led growth of any sort. But, in the language of the environmental elite, what are the “decision makers” preparing to do with all this anti-tar sands resistance?

While there are still small scale, community led victories against certain developments – like the defeat of the recent Prosperity Mine proposal in British Columbia – I contend that mainstream environmentalism has effectively become a means by which corporations (who used to be anathema to environmentalists) now get the social license necessary to operate. There are obvious examples such as the World Wildlife Fund running commercials with Coca-Cola. But the real social management is done out of sight, and involves some of the most important players in the circles of the North American ruling class.

Co-opting Environmentalism

In the United States, major foundations – led at the time by the Sunoco-oil founded and controlled Pew Charitable Trusts – stopped fighting against environmentalism and sought instead to co-opt it and make it a “partner.” This model expanded over the next couple of decades until it slowly began to creep north of the border into Canada. Now this same technique dominates the Canadian enviro landscape as well, in some cases with a new twist. The Canadian Boreal Initiative [CBI] – a champion of “working with industry to find common solutions” – is not even an organization, but receives their money from Ducks Unlimited Canada who receive theirs from Ducks Unlimited in the United States. All of this funding originates with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia. The Pew Foundation was started with a multi-billion dollar grant from Sunoco and today their board of directors is more than 50 percent tied to Sunoco, either through the Pew family or executive work with the oil giant. This same Pew gives funding to other well-known policy right-wing hawkish think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

The CBI spearheads something they call “the Boreal Conservation Framework,” a plan to protect at least half the Boreal Forest. Fact: far, far less than half the boreal forest has been developed or is slated for development. This “initiative” partners openly with corporations such as Suncor, Nexen and several leading forestry corporations. The CBI, funded and directed by the Pew, also signs on to their framework the International Boreal Conservation Campaign – another Pew front group in the US. Along with corporate friendly organizations like the WWF, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy and of course, Ducks Unlimited are a smattering of First Nations governments. Also among their signatories are the Tides Foundation and the Ivey Foundation.

With this behind them, the CBI then “negotiates” what the final deal of a particular industry should look like. Guaranteed at the outset is that corporations will continue operations, and that the general public is out of the loop right up until the moment the “deal” is announced.

Many other foundations – most but not all American – now play the same game of social manipulation in the environmental field. Foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Hewlett have not only entered into the fray in a major way, in the case of the tar sands campaigns, they have collaborated with the Pew to take social manipulation to a new level. The aforementioned Tides Foundation was set up as a sort of clearing house for other philanthropists and foundations, for many years receiving the overwhelming bulk of their money through the Pew. Today, other groups and foundations give them money and earmark where they want it spent. Tides exercises total control over something you are not supposed to hear about: The North American Tar Sands Coalition.

The Tides and the North American Tar Sands Coalition

The routine is fairly straightforward. After a long stretch when grassroots and community led struggles build up support using a multitude of strategies – from direct action blockades to boycott campaigns and speak outs, demonstrations and more – suddenly many of the organizers who started the campaign are shuffled aside. Professionals are either appointed within the ranks or are imported from outside and all are given foundation-led salaries. With or without public knowledge (almost always without) a “stakeholder” negotiation is undertaken between corporations, government and the new “professional” environmentalists will take place. The terms of the negotiations do not reach the public until a smiling photo-op of the “stakeholders” appears at a press conference to announce an “end” to a particular “campaign” now called a “win-win.” Details will vary, but they always include three things: A promise to stop organizing against a particular industry, market-based incentives that would lead to “change practices” and a guarantee for that industry to be allowed to develop, now unhindered. Such a process is slowly being constructed for tar sands production in Canada.

As if on cue, once the multitude of forces against tar sands development began to crack into both national and international media the large foundations appeared in the background. In this particular case, they had set up a spider’s web of control from the getgo. All the usual foundations – Pew Charitable Trusts, Hewlett, Rockefeller Brothers, Ford Foundation – now use the Tides Foundation as a singular source to centralize control over the would be recipients of funding.

By funnelling all money through the Tides Foundation all organizations and movements that approach any of these sources can be directed to only one source – the Tides Foundation and their “North American Tar Sands Coalition.” The NATSC is headed by one Michael Marx. While they also have “Canadian” and “American” campaign leaders, Marx has near total authority to forge the funding decisions, policy directions, media strategy and over-all focus of how the “coalition” will operate. Who then, is Michael Marx?

Marx is known as a “corporate responsibility” campaigner. Previously working with Forest Ethics and now, along side his control over the tar sands campaign, he is a head of Corporate Ethics International. His own personal bio celebrates that he has previously helped “green” Wal-Mart, one of the largest and most labour exploitative corporations in the world. He does not believe that the tar sands can or should be shut down, and is shaping political messaging to that end. The list of ENGO’s that are funded by Michael Marx’s NATSC is long, but to list merely the largest of the Canadian ones that have been with them from the beginning of the “invisible to the outside” coalition: The Pembina Institute, Environmental Defense Canada, ForestEthics, World Wildlife Fund (Canada), The Sierra Club of Canada (and associated regional chapters), Eco Justice and the Canadian Boreal Intiative. Perhaps most important to note is that the coalition also involves Greenpeace Canada – important because historically GPC did not take foundation funding but has now been listed for several grants from Tides Canada for this work.

There are also many regional only organizations – working on regional only campaigns, such as to ostensibly stop the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline across arts of unceded first nations territory in northern British Columbia. These groups involve Living Oceans society, The David Suzuki Foundation, west Coast Environmental Law and the Dogwood Initiative with a host of community led groups. These regional grants are controlled by Canadian understudy to Michael Marx, Jennifer Lash.

Since the highly criticized deal called the “Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” was signed in 2010 between what was called nine environmental NGOs and 21 forestry companies, Tides has started muttering in public as their own voice – calling for the “bridging of the two camps” of environmentalists and energy companies over the tar sands. No first nations have been mentioned in their pronouncements. Nonetheless, in Europe they have moved in to steer the direction of anti-tar sands campaigning. Marx himself showed up recently in the UK, speaking out on campaigns to “stop tar sands expansion” in ads paid for by Corporate Ethics International. These same ads have appeared in Alberta; Marx himself lives in San Francisco.

Astro-turfing is a term often applied to various Republican or Tea Party ventures in the United States, ones where money and slick marketing are used to build an appearance of a grassroots network where, in fact, none truly exists. While there most certainly is such a grassroots network against the tar sands – and it is expanding globally – the astro-turfing of “demands” to go into the backroom negotiations is tailored to appear genuine. The manner it is done is to put forward a vague and almost completely uncontroversial call and ask people to sign on to some declaration.

As of late that has appeared to be towards the blight of the toxic tailings ponds littering the landscape by the vast open-pit mines. In recent months as well, Suncor (the original tar sands corporation, former property of Sunoco oil and largest energy company in Canada) announced they had developed “dry tailings technology” and that they planned over time to roll out and implement it. Considering that Suncor is openly partnered with the Canadian Boreal Initiative, it seems strangely convenient that the astroturfing campaign is now targeting tailings ponds – shortly after many of the more corporate environmental organizations and the largest players among tar sands operators were caught – trying to have a private, unreported meeting together.

The first attempt at such a meeting, last April, was spearheaded by the Pembina Institute. The Pembina is employed as consultants for Nexen, Suncor, TD Financial and many other industrial corporations and has partnered with the original tar sands giant Suncor Energy since 1982. That meeting was to be a “fireside chat” but it was cancelled when people got wind of it and it appeared first on the and later on in the Globe and Mail. Today, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Tides Foundation and others are calling for “dialogue.”

What Would a Tar Sands Partnership Agreement Look Like?

Based on the market trajectory of the Marx-led team, it will involve beyond promises on water and tailings – including carbon offsets, promised investments in “green” energy technology alongside perhaps some announcement on further research into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Based on all previous deals in Canada and the United States, such a framework could only be announced as the “end to the war over tar sands” – to effectively give social license to tar sands operations permanently. This would then eliminate Tides based on all previous deals in Canada and the United States, such a framework could only be announced as the “end to the war over tar sands” – to effectively give social license to tar sands operations permanently. This would then eliminate Tides based anti-tar sands funding for all organizations in the NATSC. Certain groups such as Greenpeace, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network as well as several community initiatives have official positions to end tar sands development. The Pembina Institute, CBI, Tides, David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, and near the totality of ENGO’s who receive NATSC funding in the United States do not call for the cessation of tar sands development, but mitigation of the “worst” impacts.

The breathtaking pace and size of tar sands development in Canada has not gone unnoticed to other would-be producers; many countries around the planet have deposits of bitumen that would require much the same technology. Those investors have been visiting Canada, learning, and heading elsewhere where bitumen beckons. A partial list of locations that are now threatened with tar sands extraction includes Trinidad and Tobago, The Republic of Congo, Madagascar, the US state of Utah, China, Russia and Jordan. There is also the country that may have even larger deposits than Canada – the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

With the exception of Venezuela, whose production is still but a fraction of Canada’s, none of these countries have gone into commercial production at this point. It will be nearly impossible to stop tar sands developments in Africa, Latin America Asia and elsewhere if all of our collective work in opposition to the development of tar sands is sacrificed to a “partnership deal” that allows for continued tar sands extraction. Corporations like France’s Total in Madagascar could then argue: “If this development is clean and responsible enough for Canada, why not so for Madagascar?” Such a dynamic must be avoided at all costs on many levels, not least of which is the remaining sliver of hope that the worst effects of climate change can be avoided, rather than simply managed or mitigated.

Climate justice organizing is, in part, an attempt to go beyond the counting of C02 emissions and to get to the heart of solutions to the climate crisis – solutions that involve the end of oppression of the communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis, and do so in ways that respects their self-determination. Addressing the needs of these communities as they speak for the solutions they want cannot be a part of a backroom, anti-democratic model of development pushed forward with money from the very industries trying to eliminate them from history. It will take a global effort to hear and then amplify the voices – from Africa to Asia, and north to south in the Americas. None of these voices can be heard if someone closes a door to hold secret meetings with the financial powers whose assets already scream so loudly – as we edge ever closer to a point of no return.

MacDonald Stainsby is a social justice activist and journalist currently living in Edmonton and is the coordinator of

Foundations and the Environmental Movement – An Interview With Daniel Faber

September, 2010



Daniel Faber is Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative at Northeastern University. He completed his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1989, and his first published book was Environment Under Fire: Imperialism and the Ecological Crisis in Central America (Monthly Review Press, 1993). Since then Faber has published Capitalizing on Environmental Injustice: The Polluter-Industrial Complex in the Age of Globalization (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), and is the editor of The Struggle for Ecological Democracy: Environmental Justice Movements in the United States (Guilford Press, 1998), and coeditor with Deborah McCarthy of Foundations for Social Change: Critical Perspectives on Philanthropy and Popular Movements (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005). Faber is also an editorial board member of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Journal of Socialist Ecology (1988-present). This interview was undertaken by email in September 2010.

Michael Barker (MB):  When do you first remember reading or hearing about critiques of liberal philanthropists and their foundations? What was your initial reactions to such criticisms? Here I am predominantly thinking about the former “big three” foundations, the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations.

Daniel Faber (DF):  I come at the politics of philanthropy as a long time scholar-activist in a family of activists, where the need to raise money to support our various organizing efforts has always been a central issue and topic of discussion. So, I’ve been thinking about this for over 25 years, and writing about it over the last ten years. In my view, there are three fundamental sets of issues that must be confronted. First of all, most liberal foundations engage in the philanthropic exclusion and/or marginalization of popular social movements on the Left. For example, the  environmental justice movement receives only 4 percent of all foundation grants dedicated to the environment. That is remarkable! And most of this support remains concentrated among a very small group of [mostly progressive] foundations. In fact, on average, only two-tenths of one percent of all foundation grant dollars are dedicated to the environmental justice movement. Given the hundreds of organizations and the large size of the constituencies being served, my calculations suggest that the environmental justice movement is currently one of the most underfunded major social movements in the country. Secondly, many liberal foundations engage in the philanthropic exclusion and/or marginalization of select Left organizations within normally funded popular movements. In other words, when liberal foundations do fund social movements, they often encourage and support the more politically “centrist” organizations and campaigns within movements. In this context, larger foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie have a greater capacity to “disembody” and “conventionalize” a movement, although networks of smaller liberal foundations acting in a coordinated fashion can have the same type of impact. In their research, sociologists Robert Brulle and Craig Jenkins find that over 85 percent of the funding to the environmental movement goes to politically moderate organizations. Most of these organizations lack a participatory membership and rely on top-down “institutional tactics” over public protests. Because liberal   foundation support has been concentrated on a relatively small number of large organizations involved in advocacy work, the more grassroots and innovative sectors of the environmental movement are being bypassed. By “channeling” resources to mainstream environmental  organizations like Environmental Defense, liberal funders are supporting groups which share a perspective that emphasizes: the primacy of “professional-led” advocacy, lobbying, and litigation over direct-action and grassroots organizing; a single-issue approach to problem-solving over a multi-issue perspective; the art of political compromise and concession over more principled approaches; and the “neutralization” of environmental politics in comparison to linking environmental problems to larger issues of social justice and corporate power. The accelerating interest by mainline funders in the types of the scientific expertise, lobbying and professional advocacy, and technical-rational solutions and compromises offered by the mainstream organizations are largely a liberal strategy to win limited concessions from increasingly conservative and hostile federal officials. The impact of this funding pattern is to “channel” the environmental movement into more moderate discourses and conventional forms of action. This approach also serves to systematically limit the range of progressive viewpoints represented in the public arena, and restrict the participation of citizens in their own governance. It is this ideological and class-based affinity on behalf of mainline foundations for single-issue forms of environmental regulatory reform that remains the greatest obstacle to building a Left ecology movement. Finally, some liberal foundations engage in the philanthropic colonization of previously radical organizations and/or movements for social change. In other words, when liberal grantmakers do fund the grassroots organizations within movements, the money comes with so many stipulations and restrictions that the autonomous “movement-building capacities” of the grantee are severely limited. Doug McAdam documented this in his study of black protest in the U.S. between 1930-1970. Liberal funders like the Ford Foundation funded the civil rights movement but also exerted a moderating influence by directing support away from the more radical to the more conciliatory organizations over which they exercised more direct influence. The tendency for the foundation to exert control over the strategies of its grantees in the 1960-70s led many activists in the Civil Rights, Chicano, and women’s movement to ask each other, “have you been driven by Ford lately?” In certain cases, liberal foundations will even demand a direct role in setting the agenda and strategic vision of the grantee. One funder, the Pew Charitable Trusts, which distributes the single largest block of money earmarked for environmental causes in the country, is taking an increasingly interventionist role in altering the operations of many environmental organizations (including auditing their books, suggesting personnel changes, and specifying how money should be spent). In some cases, Pew has created new organizations to implement its vision, including a Boston-based task force on air pollution and energy which supports de-regulation of electricity. In the past, Pew’s actions have drawn criticisms from the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., which monitors foundation behavior. This process by which funders serve as “gatekeepers” and select out those initiatives offering the most politically “acceptable” opportunities for short-term success — were part of a mix of factors that led to a growing split between the professional, inside-the-beltway environmental organizations and more direct-action, community-based organizations (including environmental justice groups) working at the grassroots. As the environmental justice movement grew it gained increasing media attention. Many liberal environmental funders, in their bewilderment over the multi-issue approaches of grassroots activists and their alarm and consternation at the confrontational tactics of the movement, refuse to offer support to any grassroots work at all. This funding dilemma was exacerbated by the mismatch between a multi-issue movement and a funding world that tends to prioritize environmental grants by specific program areas. There are several common tools of philanthropic colonization used by liberal foundations with the bipartisan, corporatist, or “beyond ideology” approaches to social change. These devices include: providing short-term rather than multi-year grants that allow for planning and program development; demanding “immediate” returns on foundations “investments” in social movement organizations rather than employing evaluative criteria which reward longer-term base-building and community organizing activities; and  issuing project specific funding as opposed to general support grants. According to a recent National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) study of 26 grassroots organizations and 21 foundations, two-thirds of grassroots organizations believe they receive an inadequate level of core or general operating support from foundations. In fact, general support constituted only 13-14 percent of all foundation grant dollars in 1999, whereas program or project specific support was at 43 percent. So, in my view, the reluctance of many liberal foundations to provide general support is a key mechanism by which funders indirectly determine and control the policies and priorities of environmental organizations, a responsibility properly belonging to the latter’s boards, staff, and membership. The transfer of money in this manner also transfers the power of the foundation. In contrast, most general support grants afford grantees greater autonomy and flexibility to meet both organizational and community needs, and to pursue a larger strategic vision which is self-determined.

MB:  Could you could briefly explain what you think about the academic/activist literature that is critical of liberal philanthropy? Like for example, the work of Robert Arnove, Edward Berman, and Joan Roelofs.

DF:  The pioneering investigations of Arnove, Roelofs, Berman, and others has been critically important to bringing a socialist critique of philanthropy into the discussion. I have a deep appreciation for the insights afforded by their work, and . The Left has got to take their warnings seriously. Roelofs, for example, cautions that even while liberal foundations often appear willing to fund grassroots organizations and movements for social change, their true intent is to push for the types of limited reforms that address various social problems in a manner that does not challenge the prevailing power structure of American capitalism. As a result, liberal grantmaking tends to dilute, rather than support, radical protest. This finding is consistent with Mary Anna Culleton Colwell’s study of 77 grantmaking institutions, which concluded that foundations make grants to influence public policy from a perspective of democratic elitism and a commitment to the free enterprise system. Hence, liberal foundations prefer to co-opt  Left activists and intellectuals, and fund the more moderate organizations within any social movement (as opposed to the often more militant “indigenous’ or grassroots organizations). In effect, Roelofs argues that liberal foundations are more effective [than Right-wing foundations] conservers of corporate power. These theorists assume that foundations, as embodiments of wealth, either avoid funding organizations that might threaten the status quo or actively fund moderate organizations as a way of mollifying public dissent. While I agree with this general line of reasoning, I would like to offer some important qualifiers. First, I tend to see much of the world of liberal philanthropy as lacking the strategic institutional structure and ideological coherence that it is sometimes attributed. For example, in the Ford Foundation and many other liberal foundations, there are important pockets of progressive grantmaking and staff that are serving to advance popular social movements. Furthermore, various funder affinity groups led by progressive funders can play an important role in bringing liberal foundation program officers (and their portfolios) into the fold. Second, it is not uncommon to see different programs within the same foundation working at cross-purposes, or supporting politically opposed projects. This stands in direct contrast to the strategic philanthropy of more conservative foundations. Sally Covington has examined conservative foundations and finds that their success is due to a funding strategy which leverages grants in the direction of ideological organizations that worked to directly promote neo-liberal economic policies and neo-conservative social policies; supports organizations with a strong national presence (as opposed to dispersing funds too widely among local organizations); and engages in advanced media outreach. More specifically, conservative foundations engage in highly coordinated forms of strategic philanthropy, whereby grant dollars are utilized to support a sophisticated national public policy infrastructure made up of conservative think tanks, lobbying groups, academic institutions, media watchdogs, and public relations firms. In fact, the top 20 conservative think tanks funded by conservative foundations spent $1 billion on generating “ideas” over the course of the 1990s.  Furthermore, the National Committee For Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) finds that the ten best-funded conservative advocacy organizations receive 90 percent of their foundation funding in the form of general operating support. By contrast, their counterparts on the Left receive just 16 percent of their foundation funding in the form of general operating support. In my view, many, if not most, liberal foundations lack this cohesion and dedication to un-abashed movement-building driven by ideology, and are proving to be increasingly ineffective in their experiments at social engineering. Thus, I am coming to see neo-liberal foundations as exerting a greater power over American politics than most traditional liberal foundations. Third, some commentators argue that, with the proper safeguards, the resources offered by liberal foundations can also be appropriated in various instances by more radical  organizations committed to profound social change with resorting to political compromise. These opportunities are determined by a host of factors, and vary according to how movement philanthropy is socially organized. For instance, there is evidence that many organizations leverage their funds from a variety of sources (including members and progressive funders), and can therefore minimize the “moderating” influences of liberal foundations. But where can those lines be drawn? At one point does X amount of liberal grant money translate into too much influence?  How can the Left navigate these waters without suffering political compromise and concession? I think the answers to the questions are poorly understood, and that tends to result in a blanket condemnation of organizations that receive money from liberal foundations. I am not so quick to go there. I think individuals and organizations are capable of being quite savvy in leveraging money to advance a Left agenda. A key questions is “under what conditions can this occur?” And this is a critically important question. For the dirty little secret of American politics is that foundation dollars provide 70 to 90 percent of the funding support for most of the country’s social movements. And the majority of this money comes from just a few large foundations. Ford and Robert Wood Johnson alone provide 25 percent of foundation grants for social justice work.

MB:  As a result of publishing your own work, what sort of opposition or support have you obtained from the academic, environmental, and philanthropic communities?

DF:  Despite an award winning book, many journal publications, and some of the highest ranked teaching evaluations in the University, I barely survived the tenure process in the 1990s. In fact, I was initially denied tenure. But I had strong support from my colleagues, and only after rallying my allies was I granted tenure (but denied promotion) on appeal. Ironically, my university is now emphasizing its strengths in the social sciences, particularly with respect to public policy and social movements. So, I am now held in high regard by the new administration because of my engagement with the environmental justice and environmental health movements (and the publicity it garners for the University) — even though I’m an eco-Marxist. Today I work closely with many organizations in the environmental justice and environmental movements, as well as  progressive foundations. And, as an “independent” scholar, I am able to say things about the world of philanthropy that many in the foundation and social movement worlds cannot say themselves (but wish they could). I did secure a research grant from the Nonprofit Sector Research Fund of the Aspen Institute to produce a report on how relations between the environmental justice movement and grantmakers could be improved. This report represents the findings of a year-and-a-half long investigation and assessment of the state of relations between the foundation  community and the environmental justice movement. Among the many findings of the report: environmental justice organizations representing communities of color are grossly underfunded compared to other segments of the environmental movement; a primary challenge confronting people of color-led groups is the serious lack of racial diversity in the philanthropic community; and that foundations should adopt a set of exemplary grantmaking practices to reduce their influence over the strategic vision of their grantees, etc. The report made a huge splash in the Environmental Grantmakers Association and the environmental justice movement, especially since I came at the liberal environmental  foundations pretty hard. I think the leadership of the environmental justice movement was deeply appreciative.  The publicity and attention generated by the report led to numerous requests for speaking engagements, including a major presentation at the Grantmakers in Health Annual Meeting in New York.  I was also invited to serve on a major plenary with the President and/or Vice-Presidents of the Ford, Nathan Cummings, Liberty Hill, Jessie Smith Noyes, Turner, Public Welfare, Fund for Southern Communities, and Veatch Foundations at the Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC to discuss the report (500 copies were distributed at the summit). In short, the report gave voice to the many Leftists and progressives scattered throughout the foundation world, and helped to generate some important reforms among some foundations.

MB:  Why do you think that so few Marxist writers are critical of liberal philanthropy?

DF:  It is clear that any hope for a democratic-socialist renewal lies in the strong voices of thousands of social movement organizations that serve as an expression of the collective desire for social, economic, and environmental justice. Given the important role that financial resources play in movement-building work, it is at first glance shocking to see so few Marxists engaged around the philanthropic question. I do think most Marxists are properly critical on this question, but are not fully engaged with its theoretical or political importance. However, upon closer inspection, my experience tells me that there are a number of factors that explain this discrepancy. First of all, most liberal foundation cultures are very insulated (if not closed), cautious, secretive and unresponsive to study by outsiders (especially Marxist critics). They are not democratic institutions that are legally obligated to draw attention to their shortcomings. Furthermore, a liberal foundation culture that is homogeneous in terms of the  composition of its staff and board members typically establishes parameters that limit the expression of socialist or other alternative value systems, perspectives, and viewpoints. Such viewpoints are not accepted. Therefore, it is very difficult for Marxist scholars to gain the necessary access to foundation officials. Record keeping is poor. To get inside closed doors, one must be networked or “proven,” and work long and hard to gain insight into the workings of the foundation world. Otherwise, it is difficult to get past the various gate keeping functions that exist in the foundation world — even if you don’t want their money. Secondly, it is very difficult to have activists, scholars, and other social movement grantees openly discuss their relationships with foundations. No one wants to openly criticize their funders and “bite the hand that feeds them,” even if what they are receiving amounts to crumbs. Furthermore, many grantees do not want to draw attention to scarce funding opportunities for which there is a lot of competition. Any scholar or social critic (Marxist or non-Marxist) risks enduring the wrath of their social movement allies and foundation supporters by uncovering the various problems that exists in the world of philanthropy. As a result, there is a deafening silence within the Left around the role of money in movement building. And last, but not least, there is a weak history of political engagement between foundations and the socialist movement in the United States. So Marxists don’t study philanthropy, for the most part. This may be due to the theoretical influence of European Marxism with respect to the state (and political economy), where philanthropy has played a much less significant role. In contrast to much of Europe, where policy research and advocacy functions are undertaken by organized political parties, the power structure in the United States is almost completely dependent upon the expertise provided by private policy institutions and networks. Funded by a sophisticated network of conservative, centrist, and liberal foundations, these policy institutes and think tanks serve as a “revolving door” for the capitalist class — providing the personnel for the rush of political appointments that come with each new administration, and also providing a refuge for discarded government officials. Policy institutes are a frequent meeting point for the power elite — a place where past, present, and future policy analysts, high-ranking government officials, business leaders and CEOs, intellectuals, journalists, and conservative activists come together to develop a political vision and strategy. American Marxists have been very good at studying the “class” content of these policies, and placing them into a larger political-economic context, but need to do a better job of explaining the role of philanthropy in creating institutions that forge these policies. That is the strength of Roelofs, Arnove, and a few others.

MB:  The reformists parts of the environmental movement have always been highly concerned with human population growth. Other researchers (myself included) have argued that this fixation on neo-Malthusian ideas owes in large part to the strategic support that the environmental  movement received from liberal foundations (especially in its early days). What are you views on this matter?

DF:  The neo-Malthusian perspective (overpopulation = poverty and environmental destruction) long predates the rise of liberal foundations, but it has been reinforced in the U.S. environmental movement since by a host of grantmakers. In the early 1950s, for instance, the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller money helped to establish the Population Council, providing over $94 million in funds in a little over two decades. Many writers (Bonnie Mass, Steve Weissman, Robert Arnove, Vandana Shiva, etc) have outlined the role of the Malthusian establishment in justifying the various manifestations of U.S. imperialism (the green revolution and capitalist land reforms in the developing world, sterilization campaigns, counterinsurgency). Rather than developing strategies to address the systemic sources of poverty and rapid population growth, the U.S. government-sponsored coercive population control programs and policies supported by liberal foundations and much of the traditional environmental movement. These programs served to facilitate control over the local populations in order to serve the needs of U.S. capital and the national security state; and to perpetuate the myth that poverty and environmental destruction is created and reproduced by the oppressed themselves via overpopulation. The argument disguises the fact that rapid population growth is a function of the unequal distribution of resources, wealth, and political power that characterizes dependent development. So, I completely support your assertion. We ran into this issue head first at the Environmental Project on Central America (EPOCA) in the 1980-90s. At that time, many in the U.S. environmental movement saw the primary causes of poverty, civil war, and ecological crises in the Central American region stemming from “overpopulation.” We found this to be a major obstacle in trying to build bridges between the solidarity movement, U.S. environmentalists and popular movements in Nicaragua and throughout the region. But even when we could not convince other environmentalists to agree on the root causes of these problems, we could forge alliances around progressive solutions in the form of land reform, economic equality, and the empowerment of women. The Malthusian perspective continues to be strongly ingrained in the psyche of the U.S. environmental movement, and is well-funded by liberal foundations. As such, it remains deeply divisive, witness the recent attempts by neo-Malthusians to “take back” the leadership of the Sierra Club. But there are also number of insiders engaged in philanthropic activism in the funding world today that are trying to move liberal neo-Malthusian grantmakers to shift their money away from repressive functions toward more progressive “solutions” and popular organizations in the Global South, particularly those oriented towards women’s reproductive rights and social justice (see Laurie Mazur’s new edited collection, A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & the Environmental Challenge). And I think these struggles will continue for many years to come.

MB:  Could you describe the general impact that liberal foundations have had on the evolution of research within universities in the United States? Following on from this, how would you describe the relationship between elite philanthropy and capitalism?

DF:  Since the early twentieth century, foundations have played a central role in supporting numerous charities and social institutions, including hospitals and medical research, human services, the arts and cultural events, and places of higher learning. But foundations have also increasingly assumed a lead role in advancing various social causes, policy initiatives, social programs, and political movements dear to the hearts (and sometimes the wallets) of their founders and boards of directors. In so doing, foundations have served as a major catalyst for reforming society in line with the larger vision of the political-economic elite comprising the “funding class.” This power can be seen in: the Rockefeller Foundation’s fostering and shaping of scientific research and policy expertise; the Twentieth Century Fund’s direct role in the creation of credit unions and evolution of consumer capitalism; the Ford Foundation’s enormous influence on public policy beginning in the 1950-60s, including a focus on poverty and political marginalization among people of color, the elderly (Gray Areas Program), and women; and the instrumental role of the Russell Sage Foundation in pushing for national standards relating to housing, sanitation, public health, workers’ compensations and pension plans, city planning, and the professionalization of social work. What makes circumstances unique today in comparison to the past is that the sheer economic wealth controlled by these institutions has increased exponentially in recent years — both in terms of the number and the size of today’s foundations. Over the last two decades foundation assets have increased 1,000 percent. Moreover, foundation support for the non-profit sector has more than tripled since 1991. In fact, America’s grantmaking foundations gave out $205.9 billion over a ten-year period between 1992-2002. The growing inter-generational transfers and concentration of wealth accompanying the economic boom of the 1990s also resulted in the formation of new foundations at unprecedented rates: doubling from more than 30,300 in 1988 to more than 61,800 active grantmakers. And America’s largest foundations are truly economic giants. Ford Foundation assets hover around $10.8 billion. Likewise, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have held assets of $5.53 billion and $4.14 billion respectively. The control over vast sums of wealth has always conferred enormous political clout. We know that that the bulk of foundation money goes to institutions and causes that  promote the specific class interests of the givers and their family members, including education. A recent study that analyzed the grantmaking patterns of the country’s biggest foundations found that the largest beneficiaries were the wealthiest non-profits in the nation, and included already well-endowed colleges and prestigious universities, and other elite institutions. In fact, more than one of every four dollars donated in 2001 by these foundations went to educational institutions, particularly those serving the most privileged families in society. For instance, Stanford University received more than $873.1 million in foundation grants, while Harvard University received over $754.8 million (Harvard’s endowment in 2004 was $19.3 billion).  Numerous Marxists have written on the role played by these elite institutions in reproducing ruling class power society. In contrast, the process by which America’s largest and most powerful foundations channel the bulk of their resources toward elite class-based institutions leaves little money for those educational institutions or organizations serving the neediest members of society. In fact, nonprofits providing human services receive only about one in ten of all foundation dollars. Given the lack of foundation resources serving the disadvantaged, it is clear that private philanthropy will not fill the void created by state budget cuts. Furthermore, their grantmaking strategies are proving unable to solve America’s most pressing social and environmental problems. This failure signals a “crisis of philanthropy,” a fact which can no longer be denied. The question is “why?” Pablo Eisenberg atf Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute has stated, “although we know that our socioeconomic, ecological, and political problems are interrelated, a growing portion of our nonprofit world nevertheless continues to operate in a way that fails to reflect this complexity and connectedness.” As a result, the linkages between environmental abuses, poverty and economic inequality, racism, human health problems, crime, the lack of democracy, and the consolidation of corporate power are typically  ignored. Instead, the traditional foundation community has responded to this crisis with more charity, or has encouraged research in University settings that privileges the role of non-profit organizations and/or marketplace incentives as the means for providing needed services, enhancing “community assets,” rebuilding social capital, and solving pressing social problems. This unwillingness to confront broader issues of political and civic disempowerment is at the heart of the crisis of philanthropy. Kim Fellner, Director of the National Organizers Alliance, captured this brilliantly, when she stated that “Civil society without power analysis is the opiate of the funding class.” So, the ability of foundations to catalyze the types of fundamental political, educational,  and economic changes required to solve the social and ecological ills of the nation is now greatly diminished. In this respect, the current crisis of capitalism and philanthropy go hand in hand.

MB:  In your opinion what possibility do you see in the likelihood that anti-capitalist activists can strategically utilize liberal foundation funding for developing an anti-hegemonic movement for social change?

DF:  That is a tough question. I think it will be extremely difficult for the Left to capture liberal foundation money for explicitly socialist (or anti-capitalist) political activities. And if mainline foundations continue to conceive of today’s social and environmental crises as a collection of unrelated problems, then it is highly unlikely that significant improvement will be made. That is the reform strategy of most liberal foundations. I think that part of the equation is self-evident. However, if you consider mass-based social movements to be cornerstone for bringing about the transformation of American capitalism, then liberal foundations are likely to play a role in this process. And progressive foundations are likely to play a major role. There is a long legacy of progressive philanthropy in the United States. Over the last four decades, a new generation of youth radicalized by the events of the 1960s has assumed control over their family foundations, and/or utilized their inherited wealth to create a number of new Left-oriented foundations. Largely abandoning the long-standing practice among the traditional philanthocracy of giving their family name to these new foundations, more symbolic titles oriented to the promotion of social and economic justice have instead been adopted. Thus,  foundations such as Resist, Needmor, Public Welfare, Solidago, Vanguard, Haymarket Peoples Fund, Liberty Hill, Changemakers, Third World, Bread and Roses, Hunt Alternatives Fund,  North Star, New World, and Third Wave, among others, have come into existence to build upon the legacy of the Rosenwald and Stern Funds. In a number of important instances, progressive foundations and grassroots organizations have encouraged several liberal funding world giants (including Ford, which already has some pockets of progressive grantmaking) to do more of it. In addition, new alternative funding institutions are developing all the time. These include alternative funds seeking workplace contributions,  women’s funds, alternative community foundations, new religious funders, racial/ethnic philanthropic efforts, and more. The monies they raise for progressive social change are substantial and constitute a quarter of all foundation money committed to social change. So, social movement philanthropy aimed at base-building counter-hegemonic social movements is growing and evolving. Base-building implies creating accountable, democratic organizational structures and institutional procedures which facilitate the inclusion of ordinary citizens, and especially dispossessed people of color and working-class families, in the public and private decision-making practices affecting their lives. “Top-down” advocacy, service, and litigation strategies are subordinated in favor of “bottom-up” grassroots organizing and democratic base-building efforts that facilitate community empowerment. In short, social change philanthropy aims to create an infrastructure for political activism by catalyzing foundation resources in support of labor and community organizing efforts which mobilize a broad-base of citizens to be directly involved in the identification of social and environmental problems and the implementation of potential solutions. This approach facilitates advocacy, service, and litigation strategies that are directly informed from the “bottom up” by active citizen participation in community decision-making. Furthermore, because social change philanthropy prioritizes base-building strategies that take a multi-issue approach, they function as community capacity builders to organize campaigns which address the common links between various social and environmental problems (in contrast to isolated single-issue oriented groups, which treat problems as distinct). In so doing, social change philanthropy aims to assist in the spanning of community boundaries by crossing those difficult racial, class, gender-based, and ideological divides which weaken and fragment communities. In short, social change philanthropy promotes movement-building strategies which aim to eradicate the causes of social and environmental injustice as grounded in larger political-economic power relations of American capitalism, rather than merely providing stop-gap solutions which treat the symptoms but not the cause. Although no panacea, the financial support offered by foundations has played a fundamental role in strengthening many popular social movements in the United States. Despite the political setbacks suffered overall by the Left in the face of the neo-liberal offensive, grassroots coalitions of labor, community-based organizations working for economic and environmental justice, family farmers, religious groups, and human rights activists are successfully organizing for progressive reforms, especially at the state and local levels. In some instances, these movements are achieving gains with regard to immigrant rights, living wages for workers, toxic wastes and environmental cleanup, tax policy, sprawl and regional planning, agricultural policy, and civil rights and protections for gays, people of color, women, and the disabled. So, if the interdependency of issues is emphasized, so that environmental devastation, racism, poverty, crime, the war economy, civil and human rights violations, and social despair are all seen as aspects of a multi-dimensional web rooted in a larger structural crisis of American capitalism, then a transformative philanthropy can be invented. This is the ultimate aim of popular social movements, and more foundations need to assist in achieving this goal. This goal has motivated my work. And many progressive foundations, like Jessie Smith Noyes, are already do this. Of course the problem here is that they don’t have as much money as the liberal foundations.

MB:  Finally, can you think of any examples whereby liberal philanthropists may had adversely impacted on the activism of environmental justice groups?

DF:  I think the main issue here is the neglect of the environmental justice movement by liberal funders. In the early 1990s, the environmental justice movement appealed neither to liberal foundations (which were focused on mainstream environmental advocacy) nor to most progressive foundations (which were focused on community organizing). Liberal environmental funders starved the environmental justice movement for failing to be “green enough;” perceiving the movement’s “radical” multi-issue focus as inconsistent with mainstream environmental politics. On the other hand, Left/progressive funders denied the environmental justice movement for being “too green;” perceiving the environmental focus to be inconsistent with community organizing and economic justice. The environmental justice movement remained caught “between a rock-and-a-hard-place,” so to speak, with respect to the foundation world. Mainline foundations could not comprehend what social justice had to do with environmental protection, while many progressive foundations could not see what environmental protection had to do with social justice. Frustration with the lack of support from the mainstream environmental movement and the foundation community boiled over in 1990. That year the Gulf Coast Tenants Organization and the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), among others, initiated a series of open letters to the “Group of Ten” calling for a more equitable distribution of resources and for representation of people of color on the boards and staff of the major environmental players. In response, a number of liberal foundations promoted the idea of grantmaking initiatives aimed at creating environmental justice related programs in the Group of Ten as the solution to the tension. However, progressive funders managed to hold a debate and halt the liberal funders from just dumping money into the mainstream environmental movement. Instead, progressive grantmakers began channeling more money to the movement, and dragged a small number of liberal funders with them. As a result, funding for the environmental justice movement increased from $27.5 million in 1996 $43.6 million in 1998. Total funding for the environmental justice movement eventually surpassed $50 million in 2000-2001 with the creation of a $4.2 million dollar environmental justice portfolio at the Ford Foundation under the initiative of Vice-President Melvin Oliver and environmental “equity” portfolios at other mainline environmental grantmakers. And Ford deserves some credit for this, as they initially brought in a prominent environmental justice activist Vernice Miller-Travis to serve as program officer, and granted her a great deal of autonomy. Nevertheless, the primary issue for the environmental justice movement with respect to liberal funders is still philanthropic exclusion. Given the hundreds of organizations and the large size of the constituencies being served, the environmental justice movement is currently one of the most underfunded major social movements in the country.

Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. His other articles can be accessed at: