Sinews of Empire (1969)

Published in the October 1969 issue of Ramparts magazine as “Sinews of Empire” by David Horowitz.

FOLLOWING THE STUDENT SEIZURE of Harvard’s University Hall last spring, Time Magazine reported that Harvard Dean Franklin L. Ford “emphasized that continued rifling of University files could have compromised virtually the entire faculty.” This mind-boggling admission (offered in defense of the swift unleashing of police) is but one measure of how far academia has fallen from the ideal of open, critical, independent scholarship.

The universities were once thought to constitute a vital, independent, countervailing estate, but the modern university has been converted into an Office of External Research for the State Department, the Pentagon and the international corporations. The postwar takeover of the university was accomplished with less finesse and reserve than a corporate conglomerate customarily shows a newly acquired subsidiary, and it is symbolic that the new management team that was to reorganize the university from “within” was drawn largely from the unlikely and forbidding ranks of the crack American World War II intelligence arm, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). The university is proverbially the most conservative of institutions – tradition-bound, unable to respond and adapt to changing times. But under the postwar tutelage of its powerful outside mentors, entirely new academic fields of social and political science have been created, which cut effortlessly across traditional academic lines and prerogatives that have so hampered innovations in, for example, black studies. These new international policy disciplines and “area studies” (e.g., Asian Studies) were provided with an avalanche of facilities – buildings, libraries, computer technology. Staffs and faculties were assembled, granted unprecedented autonomy and exalted in one jump to a kind of penthouse status in the academic hierarchy. They were provided freedom and leverage by abundant outside financing. With all of this backing, they quickly became the most powerful influence on the old horse-and-buggy departments, whose disciplines and concepts of scholarship began to follow the winning model set before them.

Thus the experts in international affairs, the new Adams of academe, were created. They were housed in the new language and area studies institutes and centers which multiplied from a handful before the war to 191 by 1968. Their power within the universities has grown apace. At Berkeley, for instance, a political science professor estimates that one-third of his department’s faculty depend on institutes for part of their income.

The academic Genesis of the new professionalism is significant not only for what it reveals about the university, but for what it shows about the institutional Creators. The details of this history provide a unique insight into the operations of these institutions of power and their personnel, interests and requirements. For here they were knitting the sinews of empire – the research, the civil servants, the technicians, the ideology, the whole fabric which binds together the imperial whole and reveals the structure of empire itself.

The second world war, and in its aftermath the collapse of the French, Dutch, German and Japanese empires, opened the way for a new global American imperium which required a vast new “service” and policy-oriented intellectual infrastructure — the kind for which England was famous, but which America lacked. Organizations like the foundation-financed Council on Foreign Relations, a key ruling class policy organization which had come into prominence during the war, served as the long-range planning bodies for foreign policy. What was needed now was a reservoir of information and talent at the intermediate levels: the technicians and middle management of empire.

During the war itself, intellectuals could be mobilized directly into government. Academia naturally put itself at the service of Washington, most dramatically in the Manhattan Project, but in some ways more significantly through the OSS, the seed of the fantastic postwar symbiosis which developed between the military, the state, international business and the university. After the war the same academic energies were mobilized indirectly, based in the university yet acting as a junior partner in U.S. foreign policy. The academic vehicle for all this was the new discipline of International Studies. It was a bit like moving offices.

This transition from extraordinary war mobilization to permanent academic function was engineered not by the military or the scholars, however, but by the foundations, as is made clear in a U.S. Office of Education report on Language and Area Centers (the subdivisions of International Studies). After reviewing the immense sums spent on establishing the programs by the Rockefeller, Carnegie and other foundations ($34 million between 1945 and 1948 alone), the report declares: “It must be noted that the significance of the money granted is out of all proportion to the amounts involved since most universities would have no center program had they not been subsidized. Our individual inventories indicate clearly the lack of enthusiasm as well as of cash on the part of most college administrations for such programs.” [emphasis added]

The significance of foundation grants today, 25 years after the launching of the first programs, is as great as ever. In 11 out of the 12 top universities with institutes of international studies, a single foundation, Ford, is the principal source of funds. Affiliated with the institutes at Columbia, Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA, Cornell, Harvard, Indiana, MIT, Michigan State, Stanford and Wisconsin are 95 individual centers. Ford is a sole or major source of funds for 83 of these, Carnegie for five, AID for two, the Government of Liberia for one, and assorted government contracts, foundations and endowments for four.

To be sure, there were always scholars willing to play a role in the development of the international studies programs. And there was no compulsion – a professor is always free to undertake any project that somebody is willing to pay for. There are excellent scholars of all stripes and persuasions, capable of forming all kinds of programs. Only some get to do so. And it certainly helps if the big foundations happen to share your interests – or you theirs. In the control of scholarship by wealth, it is neither necessary nor desirable that professors hold a certain orientation because they receive a grant. The important thing is that they receive the grant because they hold the orientation. (Exceptions in the case of isolated radical individuals, of course, do nothing to counter the momentum and direction imparted by vast funding programs to a whole profession or discipline.)

Viewed in the abstract, the academic objections which were raised against the “area studies” concept (i.e. the integration of several disciplines to illuminate a particular geographical area) would seem insuperable (as least as insuperable as the objections to autonomous black studies programs, and in many ways parallel). The area program would override the academic departments. It would, it was maintained, produce not scholars, but dilettantes. Who would be qualified to run such programs, to set and maintain standards? Area research would become the refuge of the incapable and incompetent.

Beyond that were the hard political objections. Perpetual competition for students, courses, influence and money already existed within the university. A new overlapping department would be a formidable competitor and would therefore naturally be resisted by the existing departments. All these arguments and forces did come into play when the international studies programs were first being sponsored by the foundations, but all of them amounted to the merest whiffle of wind. In effect, academia’s most sacred sanctuaries were invaded, its most honored shibboleths forsworn, its most rigid bureaucratic rules and “professional” standards circumvented and contravened without a finger of opposition being lifted. All it took was money, prestige, access to strategic personnel and collusion with those in the highest reaches of the academic administrations. As for the professors, they went along like sheep.

NEWTON THOUGHT THAT THE PLANETS were originally thrown into their orbits by the arm of God, but continued in them perpetually due to inertia. Such also is the principle of foundation intercession in the affairs of men. In the development of any complex and dispersed social institution, the initiating stages, the prototypes, are the key to the future evolution of the whole. The initiators naturally become the experts in the field. They are called upon to advise in the setting up of the offspring organizations, and they are the teachers and superiors of the personnel who staff them. This logic of innovation is particularly marked in academic institutions, which, like guilds, are structured as self-perpetuating hierarchies of experience. Most academics are oriented toward their own increasingly mobile careers rather than toward the local institution, whose direction they tend to accept as a given, beyond their power or understanding.

The first major international studies center was Columbia’s School of International Affairs, set up in 1946 as an outgrowth of Columbia’s wartime Naval School of Military Government and Administration. The head of the Naval School, Professor Schuyler Wallace (later an executive of the Ford Foundation), also became the first director of the School of International Affairs and remained in that post until 1960. According to the official history of the offspring school, the Naval School “provided a broad basis of experience for the formation of the School of International Affairs.” The history also states: “Of paramount importance [in the new School] was the task of training students for technical and managerial posts in those agencies of the government which maintained a foreign service….”

In 1960, the School issued a pamphlet entitled Employment Opportunities for Students Trained in International Affairs. The first such opportunity described was the Central Intelligence Agency, the second the State Department, the third AID, the fourth the U.S. Information Agency, the fifth the National Security Agency, and then corporations such as the Bank of America, the Chase Manhattan Bank, the First National City Bank, Mobil Oil, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and so forth. Finally, the U.N. and other civic, cultural and international agencies were mentioned. It was no surprise, then, when in 1968 the director of the School, Andrew Cordier (a consultant to the State Department and Ford Foundation), revealed that 40 percent of the School’s graduates go directly into government service and 20-30 percent into “international banking and business.”

Since its inception, the real substance of the School has been in its new affiliated area institutes, the first of which was the Russian Institute. Discussions about the Institute had been initiated by Geroid T. Robinson, the head of the OSS Research and Analysis Branch, USSR Division, who was to become the Russian Institute’s first director. In 1945 the Rockefeller Foundation made a five-year starter grant of $1,250,000. Joseph Willits, the Rockefeller Foundation’s director of Social Sciences who disbursed the funds was, like Geroid Robinson and Schuyler Wallace, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), as were of course David, Nelson and John D. Rockefeller themselves.

With financing assured, the Institute’s staff was appointed. Most important was Philip E. Mosely, who succeeded Robinson as director in 1951. Also a member of the CFR (he later became its director of studies), Mosely was a former State Department officer. Of the entire five-man steering staff of the Russian Institute, only Geroid Robinson had had any prior connection with Columbia University, but four had been associated with the OSS or the State Department, three were in the CFR, and three were members of the upper-class Century club (as were Schuyler Wallace and Allen Dulles, the OSS veteran who went on to head the CIA). Such are the basic credentials of the new academic discipline.

The foundations not only provided funds for the staff salaries, libraries and physical facilities of these centers and institutes, but financed the students and trainees as well. Thus in 1947 the Rockefeller Foundation chipped in $75,000 worth of postgraduate fellowships for the Russian Institute. This was followed by $100,000 from the Carnegie Corporation for less advanced students. From 1947 through 1953, 140 Carnegie grants were made to 116 students of the Institute who were also eligible for regular Columbia grants. To financial privilege was added bureaucratic forbearance:the PhD requirement (which, thanks to the old Carnegie Foundation, acted as a vise on the creativity and freedom of every academician) was waived for Senior Fellows at the Russian Institute, and an opening made for “mature men of unusual ability,” such as former members of government agencies and political emigré figures.

Prime importance was given to the influential propagation of ideas – in short, publication. “It appeared to the staff urgently necessary,” the official history reports, “that the most valuable of the Institute’s research results be guaranteed publication in spite of soaring costs and of shrinking markets for high-priced scholarly books.” How many scholars have wished likewise! But the Institute had the angels on its side, and thanks to the Rockefeller Foundation it was able to set up a “revolving publication fund” to subsidize Institute books, ensuring their publication and widespread academic distribution.

Similarly, Institute academics had easy access to such prestigious ruling class publications as the Council on Foreign Relations’ influential magazine, Foreign Affairs. They had funds for their own scholarly journals which quickly became leaders and opinion makers in what was an open field. They had access to the leading publications of the various older disciplines, which were usually controlled by academic politicians of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) or the other foundation-financed academic “steering committees.” Thus the successive Russian Institute heads, Geroid Robinson and Philip Mosely, both served on the original World Areas Research Committee of the SSRC. Mosely was also chairman of the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies of the SSRC and the American Council of Learned Societies. Finally, they had access to the university presses, which, like the other instruments of organized influence in the university community, are controlled by the administrative foundation-oriented elite. So, for example, Schuyler Wallace was not only director of Columbia’s School of International Affairs from 1946 to 1960, as well as of several of its institutes, but was also director of the Social Science Research Council (1952-1958), an associate of the Ford Foundation (1952-1960), and director of the Columbia University Press (1955-1962).

All this served to create an intellectual juggernaut of unrivaled power in its field. In 1964, the current director of the Russian Institute boasted that its 500 alumni constituted the majority of all American experts in the Soviet field. By force of its example, by the direct influence of its personnel and by the enabling support of the CFR-foundation power elite, the Institute was able to dominate the field of Russian affairs both in the academic world and in the sphere of government policy.

The Russian Institute was the most important of the many influential institutes in Columbia’s School of International Affairs, but it was in all respects typical – both in genesis and direction. “Late in 1947,” recounts the official history, “the creation of an East Asian Institute … was placed before the Rockefeller Foundation. With the aid of a grant from that body, the Institute was formally established in 1948.” Like the Russian Institute, it was the first of its kind in America and was guided by former State Department and foreign service officers. In September 1949, a Carnegie grant produced the European Institute, which was initially headed by Grayson Kirk, Columbia professor, Carnegie Corporation trustee, CFR member and Mobil Oil director. When Kirk resigned the following year to take on the Columbia provostship, he was succeeded as Institute director by Schuyler Wallace. The present director is Philip Mosely. Like the Hapsburg Royalty, they like to keep the family small and intimate.

As the American empire and its problems expanded, so the School of International affairs broadened to include centers on the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Its funding also shifted from the Carnegie and Rockefeller pilot fish to the great Ford Whale itself. Thus by 1968, there were 15 affiliated institutes and centers, nine funded exclusively by the Ford Foundation, four by Ford and one or two other foundations, and one by Ford and the federal government. All operated beyond any regular academic authority, responsible only to the provost of the university and its president, presently the venerable Grayson Kirk.

A remarkable team spirit prevails among the administrations of the School, the foundations and the government. This was neatly illustrated in a letter liberated during the Spring 1968 Columbia student rebellion. The letter, from Columbia’s Grayson Kirk to Gerald Freund of the Rockefeller Foundation, concerned a former Indonesian official whose politics were attractive to the State Department, but whom the Department presumably did not wish to discredit with direct support. Wrote Kirk on February 22, 1966: “Dean Cordier reports to me that he has discussed with you the possible financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation for a research project to be undertaken by Mr. Biar Tie Khonw, a former high official in the Indonesian government. We have been informed by knowledgeable people in the Department of State, by Mr. Slater of the Ford Foundation, and others, that Mr. Khonw is very well qualified to contribute to the restoration of economic order and stability in Indonesia in such time as it becomes politically possible…. The grant is to include travel expenses to the Netherlands and several trips to Washington…. Mr. Khonw would be attached to the faculty of international affairs as a visiting scholar.” Yes. But can he teach?

AS IN THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM GENERALLY, the “lead system” played a central role in the creation of the international studies centers. The centers were concentrated for maximum effectiveness at a few “leading” universities from which their influence would radiate to others. Of the 191 centers listed by the State Department, more than half cluster around 12 institutions. Clearly Harvard, the Pentagon of America’s academic legions, would have to be a keystone in the structure. And indeed the creation of the Russian Research Center there in 1947, and of the inclusive Center for International Affairs a decade later, reveals even more graphically than the prototypical case of Columbia the nexus of power in the field.

The initiative for Harvard’s Russian Research Center came from John W. Gardner, then a recent OSS graduate, later Secretary of HEW, and now head of the Urban Coalition. But Gardner himself had been set in motion by a Wall Street lawyer named Devereux Josephs. Reputed by one whimsical but perspicacious observer to be one of the four men who run America (the other three being bankers Robert A. Lovett, John J. McCloy, and Douglas Dillon), Devereux Josephs is a Groton and Harvard alumnus, a Century club member, a director of such nerve centers of finance as the New York Life Insurance Company and Rockefeller Center, Inc., and such globally oriented industrials as the American Smelting and Refining Co. – and he was president of the Carnegie Corporation. It was presumably in this last role, as educator one might say, that Josephs found he had, in the words of Fortune magazine, “a specific field in mind for Gardner. Josephs was convinced that American universities would have to widen the curriculum of international studies, then long on history and language but short on contemporary information.”

So in the spring of 1947, Gardner and the Carnegie staff became actively concerned with the development of a Russian studies program. At first they were thinking of an inter-university organization, with Clyde Kluckhohn of Harvard (formerly of the OSS) as a possible chairman. Subsequently, they decided that it would be more practical to plant the program in a single institution. They chose Harvard.

During the early autumn of 1947, informal discussions were undertaken between Gardner and select members of the Harvard faculty. Then in October, two meetings were held between Gardner, the selected faculty members, the provost of Harvard, and Charles Dollard of the Carnegie Corporation. The provost then consulted with the president, and “Harvard” agreed to accept the Carnegie invitation to organize its program. In mid-October, Kluckhohn was indeed asked to serve as director and the Center was underway, powered by a Carnegie Corporation munificence of $750,000 to be doled out at a rate of $150,000 per year – a five-year plan which was renewed in 1953. (Eventually this financing was taken over by the Ford Foundation.)

Despite all this largesse, the staff quickly learned new ways to make a living. In 1949, they began a project on the Soviet Social System, known more familiarly as the Refugee Interview Project, which involved intensive interviewing of Soviet refugees and was financed by the intriguingly named Human Resources Research Institute of the U.S. Air Force. In one stroke it quadrupled the Center’s 1950 income, while providing a grateful Defense Department with information that it would normally expect from the CIA.

The Center itself is prevented, by Harvard decorum, from accepting contracts involving classified materials, but individual staff members are not (a nice distinction – for once very academic). In addition to frequenting lectures at the National Army, Navy, Air and Industrial War Colleges, staff members also serve as consultants to classified projects within the following agencies: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the RAND Corporation, the Research and Development Board, the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency. Ivory tower indeed!

In this manner the Center studied (as the original Gardner memo defined its scope) “fields which lie peculiarly within the professional competence of social psychologists, sociologists and cultural anthropologists.” These disciplines were so rewarding that within a year a new Center for International Studies was being formed as a sister project on the MIT campus, with Harvard and MIT faculty (and others) participating.

A liberated document from Harvard titled “The Nature and Objectives of the Center for International Studies” describes the initial impetus: “In the summer of 1950, MIT which has been engaged for some years in research on behalf of the U.S. military establishment was asked by the civilian wing of the government to put together a team of the best research minds available to work intensively for three or four months on how to penetrate the Iron Curtain with ideas.” Out of this scholarly initiative developed a permanent Center at MIT which rapidly grew in prestige.

MIT’s Advisory Board on Soviet Bloc Studies, for example, was composed of these four academic luminaries: Charles Bohlen of the State Department, Allen Dulles of the CIA, Philip E. Mosely of Columbia’s Russian Institute and Leslie G. Stevens, a retired vice admiral of the U.S. Navy.

If the MIT Center seemed to carry to their logical conclusion the on-campus extension programs of the State Department and the CIA, that was perhaps because it was set up directly with CIA funds under the guiding hand of Professor W.W. Rostow, former OSS officer and later director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff under Kennedy and Johnson. The Center’s first director, Max Millikan, was appointed in 1952 after a stint as assistant director of the CIA. Carnegie and Rockefeller joined in the funding, which by now, as in so many other cases, has passed on to Ford.

It wasn’t until 1957 that Harvard got its own full-fledged Center for International Affairs. According to liberated documents, the Center was conceived as “an extension and development” of the Defense Studies Seminar whose objective was “to provide training for civilians who might later be involved in the formation of defense policy” and which was funded by the Ford Foundation, and then Carnegie.

The Harvard Center is probably unmatched in its tight interlacing of the knots of power. Among the key individuals who were involved in the creation of the Center were: Robert R. Bowie, its first director and head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff under John Foster Dulles; Henry A. Kissinger, who became associate director; Dean Rusk of the Rockefeller Foundation, who followed J.F. Dulles first at the Foundation and then in the State Department; James A. Perkins of the Carnegie Corporation, who went on to become president of Cornell and a director of the Chase Manhattan Bank; Don K. Price, vice president of the Ford Foundation, formerly of the staff of Harvard’s School of Public Administration, who later returned to become dean after his stint at Ford.

McGeorge Bundy, who originally organized the Center, went on to become the overseer of JFK’s national security policy. Bundy later left the White House to become head of the Ford Foundation, his key White House post being filled by the MIT Center’s Rostow. When the Nixon team took over, there at the head of foreign policy planning was Henry A. Kissinger, fresh out of Harvard’s Center for International Affairs. The circle was not accidental and was more than symbolic.

IN UNIVERSITY SERVICE TO THE EMPIRE, the grimier field work is often left to unprestigious social climbers like Michigan State University. MSU’s now notorious [see Ramparts, April 1966] CIA cover operation in South Vietnam – writing Diem’s constitution, training his police, supplying him with arms – was merely part of the school’s long globe-trotting pursuit of plush, parvenue academic prominence for itself and for its guiding genius, president John A. Hannah.

Hannah began his career in what might aptly be termed obscurity – as a specialist in poultry husbandry. After rising rapidly to the position of managing agent of the Federal Hatcheries Coordinating Committee in Kansas City, he became secretary to the MSU trustees – whence, loyal and trustworthy, he was elevated to the MSU presidency. In 1949 came his formative experience: serving under Nelson Rockefeller on a Presidential Commission to map out Truman’s new Point IV Cold War foreign aid program.

Seeing the wave of the future, Hannah made Michigan State “one of the largest operators of service and educational programs overseas.” The rise of MSU was paralleled by the rise of Hannah, who became an Assistant Secretary of Defense, board chairman of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, a director of Michigan Bell Telephone and eventually chairman of the foundation-financed American Council on Education (perhaps scholardom’s most important lobby in Washington).

MSU makes it clear that a university’s external liaisons are not merely peripheral, isolated affairs. Hannah himself proclaims: “…we are trying to create a general environment and an international dimension which will permeate all relevant segments of the university over the years ahead.” A 1965 report from Education and World Affairs concurs: “MSU’s international involvement is widespread, taking in [sic] almost every college and department: it has stimulated new areas of concern for the faculty, changed the nature of the faculty over the years, and altered the education of their primary charges, the students.”

Meanwhile MSU, having learned the ropes in Vietnam, has moved on to other areas. They have, for example, set out under an AID contract to plan a comprehensive education program for Thailand. The Ford Foundation is currently pitching in on this effort, which no doubt is satisfying to David Bell, the director of AID when the MSU contract was awarded and now the Foundation’s vice president in charge of international programs. Fittingly, President Nixon has now appointed MSU chief John Hannah to replace Bell as the head of AID.

No one finds university independence a more pleasant joke than the director of the CIA himself, Admiral William Raborn: “In actual numbers we could easily staff the faculty of a university with our experts. In a way we do. Many of those who leave us join the faculties of universities and colleges. Some of our personnel take a leave of absence to teach and renew their contacts in the academic world. I suppose this is only fair; our energetic recruiting effort not only looks for the best young graduate students we can find, but also picks up a few professors from time to time.”

It should be noted in passing that the congeniality of foundation-dominated scholarship to the CIA reflects the harmony of interest between the upper-class captains of the CIA and the upper-class trustees of the great foundations. The interconnections are too extensive to be recounted here, but the Bundy brothers (William, CIA; McGeorge, Ford) and Chadbourne Gilpatric, OSS and CIA from 1943 to 1949, Rockefeller Foundation from 1949 on, can be taken as illustrative. Richard Bissell, the genius of the Bay of Pigs (and brother-in-law of Philip Mosely of Columbia’s Russian Institute), reversed the usual sequence, going from Ford to the CIA. (Characters in our story, so far, who belonged to a single upper-class club – the Cosmos – include Millikan, Rostow, Mosely, Gardner, Price, Perkins, Kissinger and Hannah.)

Of course turning professors into CIA agents is not the most common way in which scholarship is made to serve the international status quo. It is not a matter of giving professors secret instructions to falsify research results in the dead of night, but simply of determining what questions they will study. That is where the Ford Foundation comes in. So, for example, with part of the $2 million Ford grant that launched the Institute of International Studies at Berkeley as a major center, a Comparative Political Elites Archive Program was established there in 1965. In practice, the political elites studied turned out to be the ruling elites in communist countries and the potential revolutionary elites in countries within the U.S.’s imperial orbit; the power structure of the American overseas system itself was naturally not a subject of interest. Not surprisingly, the Defense Department and the RAND Corporation were also participants in the Archive Program, which until recently was developing a kind of computerized international mug file.

Occasionally there is an impotent attempt to impart integrity to these institutes, such as the “guidelines” established in response to student protests at Berkeley. “No project,” the key point warned, “can be regarded as acceptable either for Institute or extramural funds if an outside agency designs the basic character of the research without the full participation and agreement of a faculty member.” This important code would defend a faculty member from being forced by an outside agency (his wife and children being held hostage, perhaps in a Pentagon dungeon) into research without his agreement. Other than that, little is ruled out; it was really a plea for decorous subtlety. (And if a professor undertook a research project financed by the National Liberation Front, one wonders if the only question raised would concern the procedure of its design.)

The inescapable reality is that so long as discretion over the vast majority of research funds and all innovative financing remains outside the university community, it is fatuous to speak of disinterested scholarship or anything remotely resembling what is commonly understood as an academic enterprise. This implication is seldom realized, because the monopoly is so complete that the very possibility of any alternative orientation is not permitted to arise for serious consideration. To appreciate the limits placed on institutionalized efforts to establish an alternative perspective in international studies in the academic world, one must turn to the one independent, critical center that managed to sustain itself in the postwar period, only to be crushed by a power so potent and ubiquitous in the structure of higher learning as to be virtually invisible to academic eyes.

ONE OF THE OLDEST PROGRAMS of inter-American studies in the U.S. was the Institute of Hispanic American and Luso-Brazilian Studies, established at Stanford University in 1944 by Professor Ronald Hilton, a tough-minded liberal scholar. In 1948 the Institute began publishing a monthly, the Hispanic American Report, which until its demise was the sole journal providing scholarly reports and analyses of developments in Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries. Over the years it established an international reputation and was, in the words of Gregory Rabassa, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Columbia, “without a doubt the finest compendium of news from the whole Hispanic world.” Yet because Hilton was neither a servant of power nor one of its sycophants, in all their years, neither the Report nor the Institute received a penny of foundation support, although small contributions were forthcoming from personal friends of Hilton. For its own part, Stanford was benefited not only by the distinguished specialists and earnest young scholars who gravitated to the Institute, but by the prestige of the journal. Yet Hilton received no payment beyond his professorial salary, for which he taught a full load in addition to hours put in on the Institute. His researchers and colleagues also went uncompensated for their Institute work.

In 1960, the Report dramatically demonstrated its value – and independence – by revealing that the CIA was training Cuban exiles in Guatemala for an invasion of Cuba. Needless to say, Hilton’s continuing dissent from U.S. policy on Cuba did not endear him to officials in Washington or to the representatives of international corporations among the Stanford trustees.

The following year, the Ford Foundation offered $25 million to Stanford, if they could match it with $75 million in other gifts. The chairman of the “major gifts” committee was David Packard, who had made a personal fortune of $300 million as a military-industrialist and has since gone on to become Deputy Secretary of Defense in the current Administration. Packard announced at the end of the fund-raising campaign that more than two-thirds of the $75 million which had been raised to match the Ford grant was in gifts of $100,000 or more from 150 individuals, corporations and foundations. And among these major benefactors, more than one expressed misgivings about the Hilton Institute. According to Hilton, who had been attacked by the Standard Oil Company of California and the Stanford provost among others, “It was suggested [by university officials] that I avoid offending powerful fund raisers; a key member of the administration demanded that, even in editorials bearing my signature, I cease expressing controversial opinions … and that, while no attention was paid to the Institute’s two advisory boards who gave me every support, the administration proposed to appoint two secret committees to keep an eye on the Report.”

At precisely the time when the financial patrons of learning were expressing their misgivings about Hilton, the question of obtaining funds for an international studies program at Stanford, including Latin American studies, came up. Beginning in 1959, the Ford Foundation had embarked on a $42 million program to support international studies at select universities. At Stanford the task of drawing up a prospectus was given to a committee headed by Dean Carl Spaeth. Academically speaking, Spaeth, a law professor, was not spectacularly qualified for the job. But to preside over yet another extension of the foundation-State Department hegemony, his credentials were impeccable. He had been Nelson Rockefeller’s assistant in the State Department and the Ford Foundation’s director of the Division of Overseas Activities. Who could be better equipped to induce the God at Ford to breathe life into Stanford’s international studies efforts?

Accordingly, in 1962 Ford made a major grant to support international studies at Stanford. The grant stipulated that all of the funds would be allocated to Spaeth’s committee. It also excluded Latin American studies, pending further studies of how best to strengthen the field. Shortly thereafter, Spaeth called a conference of Latin Americanists at the modern ranch house quarters which the Ford Foundation had built in the Palo Alto hills for its Center for the Study of Behavioral Sciences. Professor Hilton was not invited.

A year of “studies” ensued, during which the problem was allowed to simmer. Then, at the direction of the dean of Graduate Students, all PhD candidates were removed from the Hispanic Institute, and Professor Hilton was informed that the Institute would henceforth concentrate on practical instruction at the MA level. There had been no discussion with Hilton, a senior faculty member, and no explanations were offered. When he asked how the administration could do such a thing without consulting the responsible faculty member, he was told: “The administration can do anything it pleases.” Hilton resigned from the Institute and from his post as editor of the Report, hoping it would compel the administration to take a stand. But the administration accepted his resignation without discussion and suspended publication of the Report. Within two weeks the Ford Foundation granted Stanford $550,000 for Latin American studies.

One of the more revealing ironies of the destruction of the Hilton program was the general agreement that Latin American studies was the least developed of any area in the field. Just months before Hilton’s resignation, a conference on Social Science Research on Latin America had been held at Stanford. The results were summed up:” Little capital (funds, talent, or organizational experience) has been invested in political studies of Latin America…. Personnel with adequate training and appropriate technical competence have been in scarce supply … and the level of productivity has been low.” A survey revealed that there was not one senior professor of Latin American politics at any one of the major departments across the country.

The loss of the Institute and the Report, representing a life-time effort, was a personal tragedy for Hilton, but for the profession it was an acid test. In fact, the destruction of one of the only independent and therefore intellectually respectable institutes of substance in the academic world produced only a ripple of protest. Hilton was unable to obtain financing to revive the Institute and the Report. The organized profession took no interest. Nor is this so mysterious when it is considered that Ford’s $550,000 had gone to those Stanford Latinists who didn’t make an issue of the Institute, and that this largesse was repeated on every campus where significant efforts on Latin America were taking place. In May 1966, the Latinists formed a guild, the Latin American Studies Association, which also ignored the Hilton affair. That is not surprising either. It was set up with Ford funds and its first president was Professor Kalman Silvert, who is now program advisor on Latin America for the Ford Foundation.

In its “objective” account of the Hilton affair, the Ford-funded organization, Education and World Affairs, acknowledges as a major source of conflicts the Report’s treatment of “Castro’s takeover,” which “made the Stanford administration uneasy.” The issue, they explained, was that Hilton “was responsible to no one for [the Report’s] contents or comments; it was not beholden to Stanford – and yet it carried the Stanford reputation behind it.”

THE CONCERN FOR “STANFORD” IS TOUCHING. As we have seen (and the cases we have taken are wholly representative; there are no exceptions), the international institutes and centers are responsible to no universities, if “university” means a community of students and scholars. At most they are responsible to the president, provost, or chancellor of the university, and occasionally to a select committee; but even then, if a conflict arises, the institute is free to take its manpower, prestige and munificence wherever its money sources will follow (or lead) it. Early in the history of the institutes, the Yale Center of International Studies, as a result of a policy difference between its director, Frederick S. Dunn, and the Yale administration, moved lock, stock and barrel to Princeton. Significantly, only the director, Dunn – a member, naturally, of the Council on Foreign Relations – and the associate director Klaus Knorr received appointments to the Princeton faculty. Yet although clearly “unbeholden” to Princeton “standards,” the Center enjoys the prestige of association with Princeton, teaches courses in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School where it is housed, and uses Princeton facilities and faculty members. Financial support came from the Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation, as well as the Rockefeller-associated Milbank Memorial Fund. Thus a director who had the confidence of the foundations was able to find a new university shell for his operation.

Stanford itself houses a rather extreme (but only because so blatant) example of institute independence in the form of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. Originally an archive, the Institution’s character was changed in 1960 by fiat of its benefactor, Herbert Hoover, who eased out its liberal director and replaced him with a conservative economist, Wesley Glenn Campbell (formerly of the Defense Department, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the right-wing American Enterprise Institute). Hoover also laid down the scholarly lines that his institute would be required to follow: “The purpose of this Institution must be, by its research and publications, to demonstrate the evils of the doctrines of Karl Marx — whether Communism, Socialism, economic materialism, or atheism — thus to protect the American way of life from such ideologies, their conspiracies, and to reaffirm the validity of the American system.” Stanford, which pays at least $334,000 a year to support the Hoover Institution, was perfectly satisfied with these academic strictures.

To prevent his man from becoming a mere figurehead and his statement of purpose mere paper, Hoover also offered a resolution, which the Stanford trustees genially accepted, establishing the Institution’s independence within the University. Under Hoover’s plan the director has complete autonomy over his staff and budget and reports only to the president of the University. Some faculty members at Stanford had the temerity to complain that Campbell was using his power to build a staff in his own conservative image (his executive assistant is a former chief aide of J. Edgar Hoover, while Campbell’s wife, whose publications include attacks on social security, medicare and welfare, is one of the few senior staff members). When asked about these faculty complaints, Campbell told Washington Monthly reporter Berkeley Rice:” I wish the faculty would keep their noses out of my business.”

Not surprisingly, Campbell is an impressive figure to people like Ronald Reagan, who made him a regent of the University of California, perhaps on the basis of his expertise in handling faculty-administrative relations. Moreover, the Hoover Institution budget has grown from $400,000 to $2 million as a result of fund drives during Campbell’s tenure. The co-chairman of the long-range fund drive until his appointment to the Pentagon was that benefactor of Stanford scholarship, David Packard. Financial support has been forthcoming from foundations, alumni, and top executives from Standard Oil (New Jersey), Gulf Oil, Mobil Oil, Union Carbide and Lockheed. Like the more politic (and no less political) liberal institutes, the Hoover Institution does lucrative contract work for the government and subsidizes its “scholarly” products (through the CIA-involved Praeger publishing house). Not surprisingly, its experts have found a home in the Nixon Administration, particularly in the Defense Department’s office of International Security Affairs which coordinates U.S. military and foreign policy and where Hoover men occupy several top posts.

THE HILTON AND HOOVER EPISODES are merely exceptionally graphic illustrations of a system in which the prostitution of intellect has become so pervasive and profound that all but a small minority mistake it for academic virtue. The foundations, with their practical monopoly on substantial discretionary funds, have purchased control over the fundamental direction of research and academic energies on a national scale. Even if individual researchers and ideologues are not corrupted – though plenty of them are – the system of academic research and ideology formation is. Most academics no more perceive the ideological basis of their work than we smell air or taste water. The politically inoffensive (not neutral) is seen as unbiased, objective, value-free science; a radical orientation stands out as prejudiced, inappropriate and, gravest of all, unprofessional.

Perhaps the most critical point of leverage in academic control is in the formation of perspectives, analytic models, agendas for research. Not all social phenomena are visible to all analytic models and methodologies, and the social scientist who shapes his tools to collect government and foundation finances will not be equipped to research or even ask questions which, though crucial to an understanding of the contemporary world, would not be looked on favorably by those agencies.

For example, the American overseas system consists of some 3000 military bases, mutual security treaties with more than 30 nations, and more than $60 billion in direct capital investments around the world. To begin to understand the workings and the impact of this system, one would need to research (1) U.S. corporate and financial interests overseas, their interest group structure, their significance in the U.S. economy, their political influence on U.S. foreign policy, on local regimes, etc.; (2) U.S. military bases, installations and alliances, their interlockings with corporate and political interests, their economic impact, etc.; (3) U.S. and U.S.-dominated international agencies, foundations, universities, their overseas operations and interlockings with the above interests and so on. Yet on the basis of the State Department’s directory of foreign affairs research in American universities, it can be said with reasonable certainty that there is not one institutional attempt being made anywhere to research a single one of these questions.

In the spring of 1966, the role of the CIA at Michigan State was revealed by a courageous intellectual (now without a university base) who had been the coordinator of the MSU Vietnam project, Stanley K. Sheinbaum [Ramparts, April 1966]. In his retrospective analysis of the operation, Sheinbaum wrote: “Looking back, I am appalled at how supposed intellectuals … could have been so uncritical about what they were doing.” His explanation of this default was that “we lack historical perspective. We have been conditioned by our social science training not to ask the normative question; we possess neither the inclination nor the means with which to question and judge our foreign policy. We have only the capacity to be experts and technicians to serve that policy.”

What may have seemed like an isolated scandal in 1966 can now be recognized as a universal condition of organized intellect in America. The saddest part is that the academics have become such eager victims. They have internalized the limits placed upon them. They fiercely uphold a strict academic professionalism. But it is no more than expert servitude to oppressive power, to a system whose wages are poverty and blood. They do not see that what they have really embraced is the perverted professionalism of the mercenary and the hired gun.

The author wishes to acknowledge the research assistance of Rob Cunningham, as well as of the activists who liberated the documents and produced the booklets “How Harvard Rules” (ARG and Old Mole) and “Who Rules Columbia” (NACLA).

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