How Alternative Dispute Resolution Promotes Injustice

The following article was published by Counterpunch on June 30. An earlier version of this article was published as “Alternative Dispute Resolution or Revolution” by State of Nature in 2009.

class struggle

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a blanket term referring to non-litigious methods of resolving legal disputes. Mainstream media and legal commentary endorse these alternatives as providing win-win, power balancing situations for all parties involved, whether corporate citizens, or natural persons. Taking into account zealous adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by corporate and political elites it would be more appropriate to promote ADR as a method to attain corporate equity, rather than human equality.

This point is made by Ugo Mattei and Laura Nader in their book, Plunder: When the Rule of Law is Illegal (Blackwell Publishing, 2008). They note that Alternative Dispute Resolution practices are in fact harmony ideologies that “may be used to suppress people’s resistance, by socializing them toward conformity by means of consensus, cooperation, passivity, and docility, and by silencing people who speak out angrily”. Arguably such manipulative techniques do not resolve disputes but redirect them into channels that prevent their resolution. Nader’s critiques have existed for decades without heed and currently Alternative Dispute Resolution is regularly championed as a cheap, fast alternative for individual citizens experiencing injustice to offset elite power and patriarchy.

The Liberal Foundations of ADR

The use of alternative means of settling legal disputes has a long history: in her review of Jerold Auerbach’s book Justice Without Law? (Oxford University Press, 1983), Laura Nader recounts how Auerbach wrote that prior to the Civil War, “alternative dispute settlement had expressed an ideology of community justice. Thereafter,” Nader continues “according to Auerbach, it became an external instrument of social control and a way of increasing judicial efficiency.” Nader observes how a “similar use of alternative dispute settlement appears during the period of labor-management conflict at the end of the nineteenth century,” with the major stimulus mobilizing elite ADR proponents being the “railroad strikes and riots during the violent summer of 1877.” The resulting industrial arbitration tribunals were considered to be the answer to class conflict, a solution that Nader notes “was at first considered suspect by both workers and employers, but which was embraced by middle-class reformers.” She continues that “Auerbach contend[ed] that ‘[i]ndustrial arbitration remained a panacea offered by anxious middle-class professionals who felt dangerously squeezed between capital and labor.’ The solution was limited, however, because ‘[p]roponents of harmony through arbitration persistently evaded the basic issues of unequal wealth and power.’”

These capitalist solutions to enduring problems arose for the same reason that liberal philanthropy was institutionalized in the late nineteenth century. With workers presenting a direct threat to the economic interests to the monopolistic ruling class, the more enlightened state-protected capitalists (e.g. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) realized “that social reform was unavoidable,” and so they “promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order but constituted a ‘private alternative to socialism’”. Not surprisingly one of the leading institutions for securing the hegemony of corporate interests, the liberal philanthropic giant known as the Ford Foundation, had a hand in catalysing the rise of the recent ADR phenomena. Calvin Morrill writes:

“Community mediation took early shape in 1968 when the Ford Foundation began funding community programs to mediate racial conflicts. The Foundation funded the National Center for Dispute Settlement in 1968 (which later became the Community Dispute Service Center) with organizational support from the American Arbitration Association, and in 1970 funded the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Both of these programs trained community “interveners” to mediate intergroup conflict. While the community interveners worked in the neighborhoods, the community mediation frame (also referred to as the “neighborhood justice model”) took shape in a series of articles by anthropologists and law professors.”

Thomas Main also points out how a Ford Foundation report published in 1977 notes that: “The Foundation plans to support investigations of new ways of settling disputes that may be more equitable, cheaper, and less divisive than the adversary process.”

Teresa Chase and Melissa Brewer, meanwhile, describe how,

“perhaps the most critical moment marking the contemporary growth of ADR can be traced to the 1976 Pound Conference. At this conference two powerful male legal authorities combined to begin the modern push for ADR in the United States of America. These two men were the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger, and Harvard Law School Professor Frank E.A. Sander. It was suggested that the American courts were weighed down by litigation caused by the decline in morality and the controlling influences of religion and the nuclear family and that there was a need to find a way to reduce this pressure, allowing the courts to administer justice more efficiently. In fact the courts were not experiencing a surge of overtaxing litigation; rather they were experiencing a rise in the successful litigation of cases that involved gender, race and civil rights. In a bid to rid the courts of these ‘garbage‘ cases ADR was posited as the answer. This alternative system of conflict resolution arose in a time where the formal institutions of ideological control were being successfully challenged and where there was concern about the demise of informal institutions of control.”

As an aside, it should be recognized that the major liberal foundations that supported the rise of ADR were also responsible for the increase in the successful litigation of public cases that motivated the corporate uptake of ADR. A strong case can be made that liberal foundation support for litigation within the environmental movement facilitated the replacement of the New Left political discourse of the 1960s with a technical environmental discourse in the 1970s. The Ford Foundation catalysed this transition by helping to create three new environmental law firms in the late 1960s, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. These legal groups received the lion’s share of the Ford Foundation’s funding for environmental movements, and although the foundation did not directly control these organizations’ activities, it was, for instance, able to use its significant funding leverage to coerce the Natural Resources Defense Council into dropping its controversial strategy of suing corporations. Furthermore, to ensure that the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council took on ”appropriate” projects, the Ford Foundation vetted their work by setting up an oversight board that was composed of five past-presidents of the American Bar Association. However, despite exercising a degree of control over the broad uptake of public litigation, liberal foundations could not prevent the ensuing corporate backlash in response to the legal empowerment of the citizenry.

Sharon Beder observes in her excellent book Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism (Scribe, 2000), how the increasing influence of the public on the government and the subsequent regulations meant that “businesses began to cooperate in a way that was unprecedented” – a process that “was facilitated by the introduction of legislation such as the Clean Air Act that affected large numbers of industries as opposed to just one industry at a time.” Joseph Peschek writes:

“While these programs were limited in many ways, they did provide the working class with benefits that attenuated the disciplinary effect of the labor market, while imposing new costs on capitalists, and thus they became the objects of intense contestation by business groups as the economic crisis deepened. Citizen rights secured through the liberal democratic state now loomed as barriers to the restoration of the conditions for capitalist accumulation. Neoconservative intellectuals began to bemoan the “excess” of democracy and the “overload” of government, calling for a reassertion of state authority and a reduction in social welfare expenditures and business regulations.”

Consequently, driven by conservative elites, this neoliberal/neoconservative backlash sought to quash the public’s democratic advances. The birth of this neoliberal assault on society has been traced by many researchers to the launch of the Business Roundtable in 1972.

Viewed in this light, the promotion of ADR at the 1976 Pound Conference should be interpreted as an enlightened “liberal” response to the less subtle power grab being promoted by the Business Roundtable and America’s leading conservative foundations. Unfortunately, the success of this co-optive liberal strategy has been so great that even progressive activists fighting corporate power unwittingly urge citizens to adopt ADR practices, promoting mediation rather than confrontation.

Alternative Dispute REVOLUTION

Laura Nader has referred to Alternative Dispute Resolution as a practice that promotes the “rhetoric of peace through consensus.” It is unlikely that such an objective will ever bring real peace to human existence. However, there is a real alternative for concerned citizens wishing to resolve oppressive social, political and economic conflicts; this under-utilized tool to resolve conflict is Alternative Dispute REVOLUTION. The key to this approach lies in recognizing that many problems cannot be resolved amicably for all parties concerned; this is especially true in cases involving an inequitable distribution of power between the disputants. In cases where the exploited wish to challenge the actions of a powerful oppressor, they would be wise to look to revolutionary tactics to address their problems. This would require the adoption of a radical mindset that seeks to search out the root cause of the dispute, so that they can effectively tackle the problem at its source. If uninhibited thinking is given free reign it is quite likely that people will recognize that to prevent the systematic exploitation of the bulk of humankind by an over-class of rapacious “capitalist” elites, they need to work towards catalysing a revolution in human affairs. One revolutionary option to minimise oppression is socialism, which could be promoted while simultaneously punishing oppressors by insisting on justice obtained through existing (and strengthened) legal structures. Institutionalized systems of domination, like hierarchy, must ultimately be dismantled.

Current legal systems must be revolutionized, because at present our legal institutions primarily protect property rights, not human liberty. As Ugo Mattei and Laura Nader write, contrary to mainstream media opinion, “Close examination of the use of law in colonial times shows that ‘empowerment’ is an unintended consequence of the formal rule of law.” As a result of this “empowerment potential of the law,” they add, “colonial rulers often entered into alliances with local patriarchal powers, limiting access to the modernized legal system and acknowledging ‘traditional’ power structures (often invented).” Thus, Mattei and Nader suggest that the rule of law is double-edged, as…

“it can favor oppression but it can also produce empowerment of the oppressed that leads to counter-hegemony. This is why powerful actors often attempt to tackle counter-hegemony by incorporating harmonious “soft” aspects aimed at disempowering potential resistance from the oppressed by limiting their use of adversary courts. Today, the worldwide alternative dispute resolution (ADR) movement functions as a strong disempowering device, that the dominant discourse makes attractive by the use of a variety of rhetorical practices, such as the need to remedy the “excesses” of litigation, or of promoting the desirability of a more “harmonious” society.”

Conflict is not the enemy, but instead is the means of promoting justice. Unresolved conflicts that are “resolved” without adequate justice (via ADR and the like) are ultimately the enemy of all humankind, as they help institutionalize inequality. Instead of promoting an unequal society that glosses over contradictions and achieves harmony through oppression, we need a society that can solve disputes in a manner that will promote a diversity of opinions not harmonious conformity. This will mean that we will need to dispel the myths surrounding dominant legal practices so we can create the true revolutionary alternatives that will work to sustain life not profits.

Biodynamic Organic-Intellectuals

This article was first published by State of Nature on April 21, 2013.

Biodynamic organic

Magical thinking has a long history of involvement among leading intellectuals within the global organic agricultural movement and with bourgeois intellectuals more generally; with one of the most influential proponents of such organic connections being the Christian spiritualist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). As the founder of a bizarre movement known as Anthroposophy, Steiner was a true believer in miracles, and the year before he died he presented a series of lectures to farmers in Europe that expounded the principles of what would come to be known as the biodynamic cultivation: a mystical form of farming that averred that astral and zodiacal forces could be harnessed by farmers to maximize agricultural productivity. Eager to spread Steiner’s ideas in Britain, in 1928 his green disciples set up the Anthroposophical Agricultural Association (which is now known as the Biodynamic Agricultural Association). This Associations explicitly New Age approach to farming, however, did not sit well with all budding organic agriculturalists. But while influential individuals in the secular farming movement, like Sir Albert Howard, were uncompromisingly skeptical about biodynamic cultivation, Steiner’s magical ideas were readily accepted by many leading members of the organic movement.

A useful, albeit largely uncritical, history of the organic movement that deals with Rudolf Steiner’s magical legacy is provided in Philip Conford’s enlightening book The Development of the Organic Network: Linking People and Themes, 1945-95 (Floris Books, 2011) – Floris Books being the leading publisher of Steinerite “non-fiction” in the UK. However, in light of Conford’s rather selective history of the influence of Anthroposophical ideas on the organic movement, this article will excavate Conford’s study for information that can throw critical light on the problematic institutionalization of mumbo jumbo within the organic movement. In this way this article aims to explore the manner by which organic activists have had the misfortune of being inspired by Steiner’s thoroughly anti-modern, eco-mystical biodynamics.

Conford begins by, what I hope will be demonstrated in this article, wrongly downplaying the influence of biodynamic farming on the organic movement. He writes that while biodynamic farming certainly influenced the agricultural movement, it was Sir Albert Howard, not Steiner, who should be considered to be “the key figure in the development of the British organic movement.” He continues: “The organic movement’s opponents, however, prefer to place the emphasis on Steiner, since the esoteric nature of his agricultural theories provides better ammunition for mockery of the movement’s supposedly irrational philosophy.”[1] Of course there is plenty of basis for such attacks and Conford himself acknowledges that it “seems clear that the biodynamic movement has played a significant role in the development of the British organic movement”: “not because its ideas are essential to the organic philosophy,” but because of the industrious activities of many of the biodynamic proponents within their midst.[2] Conford surmises:

During its first twenty years its [the Soil Associations] Council and Advisory Panel of Experts included as members committed exponents of biodynamics such as Maye Bruce, Lady Cynthia Chance (at one time the BAA’s Honorary Secretary), Lance Coates, Deryck Duffy and Laurence Easterbrook, along with others who experimented with biodynamic techniques or studied Anthroposophy: Rolf Gardiner and Aubrey Westlake, for instance. Steiner’s disciple Ehrenfried Pfeiffer was another important link with the early Soil Association: he had spoken at a conference held on Lord Northbourne’s estate in the summer of 1939 and been guest of honour at a two-week Kinship in Husbandry conference in 1950. When Faber published his books Soil Fertility and The Earth’s Face in 1947 they featured introductions by Eve Balfour and Sir George Stapledon respectively. Pfeiffer had settled in the USA long before the war, and Balfour visited him there on her tour of America in 1951. Lawrence Hills was another pioneer who made early contact with the biodynamic movement, reading about Steiner in 1942 and visiting Maurice Wood’s farm the same year. (However, Hills did not accept the movement’s assumptions and for many years challenged the biodynamic farmer John Soper in particular to consider that he might be wrong.) (p.79)

Biodynamic tensions within the organic movement are longstanding, as rationally-minded critics have always argued that Rudolf Steiner’s magical agricultural beliefs have no place in a movement aiming to make the world a better, fairer, and less toxic place. Such criticisms however hold little water with the Soil Association; and one should ask why they chose to employ a biodynamic farmer to help direct their comparative study of organic farming and conventional chemical-based farming (otherwise known as the Haughley Experiment). The individual in question being Deryck Duffy, who was a member of the Soil Association’s “original Panel of Experts and became, with Friend Sykes, a co-director of the Organic section of the Haughley Experiment.”[3] The answer to this question no doubt lies in the aristocratic roots of the Soil Association, whose elitist pedigree correlates nicely with the determinedly anti-materialistic and anti-socialist thinking of their leading activists and organic-intellectuals.

Take the case of David Clement, a farmer who had been “committed to Anthroposophy since 1930,” and whose farm served as the headquarters of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association during the 1950s and ’60s.[4] In 1982 Clement, who eventually resigned as Chairman of the BAA in 1986, was selected to serve on the founding steering committee of British Organic Farmers alongside Soil Association members Patrick Holden (who would later spend 15 years as the Director of the Association and then become a BAA patron), Lawrence Woodward (who would become the Chairman of the Association’s standards committee), and Richard Mayall (whose father was a former Vice President of the Soil Association). The bourgeois (and some would argue irrational) line taken by such green capitalists is exemplified by a booklet their organization published in 1990, Organic Farming: An Option for the Nineties, which was sponsored by none other than Barclays Bank.[5] Such a pro-capitalist approach to social change was unfortunately nothing new for the organic movements leading lights. Take by way of another example the case of Charlotte Mitchell, who in the mid-1980s had produced The Organic Wine Guide (with Iain Wright), and contributed to the Green Consumer Guide. “High-level positions in the Soil Association followed: Treasurer in 1991 and Chair for seven years from 1992, during which period Craig Sams [see later] was Treasurer.” Mitchell proudly takes credit for establishing organic foods in leading British supermarket chain, Waitrose.[6]

This mention of Waitrose then brings us to another undemocratic member of the ruling class, the Prince of Wales. Long enamored by the work of the Soil Association, in 1986 he converted his Duchy Home Farm to a completely organic system. Then in 1990 the Prince launched his very own organic food brand, Duchy Originals. Since its inception, Waitrose has prided itself on being Duchy Originals largest customer, and in 2009, the supermarket signed an agreement that it could manufacture and sell food under the Duchy Originals brand name. Although Duchy Home Farm is not run along bio-dynamic principles, it does run regular courses on bio-dynamic farming. Moreover it is noteworthy that Duchy’s Head Farmer, David Wilson (and former Soil Association council member), resides on the management committee of the Elm Farm Organic Research Centre – a body which was established in 1980 with the aid of another organic-obsessed member of the ruling class, David Astor.


Elm Farm can take some credit for putting Prince Charles firmly on the organic bandwagon, because as a part of the Centre’s 30th birthday celebrations the Prince paid them high tribute indeed, acknowledging that: “Had it not been for the help and advice of Elm Farm Organic Research Centre (and the uniquely special Lawrence Woodward), we would not have been able to convert the farm at Highgrove to the organic system some twenty-five years ago.” Here we might add, the man the Prince spoke so fondly of, Lawrence Woodward, was actually first exposed to organic thinking of a New Age variety during his adolescence when he spent a year studying at Dartington Hall. And it was here during his temporary residence at this special school that he met David Astor’s daughter Alice, whom he subsequently married in 1972.[7]

Evidently around this time David Astor’s friend E.F. Schumacher had aroused his concerns with all things environmental, and so in “In 1975, Astor and Woodward met Schumacher to discuss ‘the need to develop “preliminary examples” … of technologies and approaches that could bring about a society where production and consumption were more appropriate to a world of finite and diminishing resources.’ The first subject they considered was organic farming.” As a result of this intervention, Woodward picked up the organic mantle and the following year began “farming organically on part of the Springhead estate at Fontmell Magna in Dorset, which had once belonged to Rolf Gardiner. This was arranged through Schumacher, who was Chairman of the Springhead Trust.”[8]

David Astor’s brother Jacob, who was chairman of the Agricultural Research Council, made it clear that no official body was likely to undertake scientific research into organic farming — such was the intellectual curiosity of officialdom – so Woodward, with his father-in-law’s support, established the Progressive Farming Trust and bought Elm Farm (previously a conventionally run dairy farm of 232 acres), registering it as a charity in 1980 and holding meetings that year with various research establishments, thanks to the Astor connection. (p.319)

Having already met Dr Hartmut Vogtmann in Switzerland, Woodward invited him to join the Elm Farm Research Centre’s council. In 1992 Vogtmann subsequently became their Research Director, a position he maintained until 2011. (Prior to this Vogtmann had founded the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (in 1978), and in 1981 was “appointed the world’s first professor in organic agriculture”.) In 2010 Woodward stepped down from the head of Elm Farm, and in his place stepped Prof. Nic Lampkin: a man whose mother had been a disciple of Rudolf Steiner, and had been sent to a Steiner school, though as Conford clarifies, “he did not, as an adult, adopt his mother’s spiritual philosophy.”[9]

Stepping back slightly one should note that E.F. Schumacher had been a member of the Soil Association since 1951, only becoming their President in 1971.[10] However, throughout the 1960s and ’70s he wrote regular articles for his friend and patron, David Astor, which were published in The Observer. Yet although Schumacher is often presented as a straight-talking rationalist who had worked for twenty years as the Chief Economic Adviser to the National Coal Board, Steiner-esque mysticism had left its traces on his mind too. Such influences are evident in his contribution to the journal Resurgence, which Schumacher helped found in 1966.[11] As Conford reflects:

It seems to me that Schumacher’s place in the history of the organic movement is not only as an influence on the younger, environmentally minded generation who joined it in the 1970s, but also in the stream of organicist thought represented by [Philip] Mairet’s generation. As a thinker, Schumacher came to have a good deal in common with Mairet. Both were influenced by Eastern philosophy and both had read the writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy. Both were familiar with the esoteric system of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky: this influence is evident in Schumacher’s book A Guide for the Perplexed (1977). Both came to forms of Catholic Christianity: Anglican in Mairet’s case, Roman in Schumacher’s. Schumacher’s posthumously published book Good Work (1979) addressed the same sorts of concern as Torn Heron, decades earlier, had done, and from a similar standpoint owing a good deal to medieval social thought. And there exists a strong family resemblance between Schumacher’s Intermediate Technology and the small-scale machinery which L.T.C. Rolt – another organicist writer with sympathy for the medieval order – advocated in Massingham’s 1947 symposium The Small Farmer. Schumacher was also familiar with the work of Rene Guenon, whom he described as ‘one of the few significant metaphysicians of our time’ and whose book The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times Lord Northbourne had translated. It is not too difficult, in fact, to imagine Schumacher in the company of the Chandos Group and the New English Weekly’s editorial board. (pp.361-62)

Another man proud to stand in Astor’s stable of reporters at The Observer was the biodynamic man of mystery John Davy, “who, under the pseudonym Charles Waterman, had written a book on Rudolf Steiner’s ideas, The Three Spheres of Society (1946).” In 1954 Astor had successfully snapped him up, enticing him to join his paper as their first full-time science correspondent.[12] When Davy left The Observer in 1970 he became the Acting Principal at Emerson College, a facility which provided adult education based on his guru’s work, Steiner not Astor. Between 1969 and 1971 Davy then acted as a member of the Soil Association’s Editorial Board, but more importantly, with regard his biodynamic commitments, he went on to become the General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society.[13]

Moving on to another Astorite, in 1954 Lawrence D. Hills made his own important contribution to the organic movement by forming the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA, now known as Garden Organic). “1958 was a turning-point for Hills in another respect: David Astor appointed him gardening correspondent of The Observer, and the money he earned as a journalist helped fund the HDRA’s work.” In December 1986, Hills stepped down as HDRA’s Director and became its President, Alan Gear was appointed Chief Executive, and his wife Jackie became General Manager. “With increasing public concern about ‘the potential long-term risks to health from consuming food containing pesticide residues’, growing one’s own fruit and vegetables organically became an appealing alternative, the idea being boosted by the mid-1980s television series All Muck and Magic?, which featured Alan and Jackie Gear and attracted more than three million viewers.” This television series should not however be taken as proof that the HDRA was clean of magic, as one of their council members, had been the both the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer to the Biodynamic Agricultural Association.[14]

Founding member of the Soil Association, Lord Kitchener, acted as the President of the Henry Doubleday Research Association from 1973 until 2008, and in 1960, he provided financial backing for the creation of Wholefood of Baker Street. Other than Kitchener, the main mover behind this retailing project was Donald Wilson, who in 1959 had taken a year’s sabbatical from the Soil Association to set up the Organic Food Society before opening premises in Baker Street the following year. Another key individual who supported the Wholefood shop was the American violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin, who amongst his prior spiritual achievements is recognized as having introduced the yoga teachings of B. K. S. Iyengar to many in the West.[15]

Around the time that the Wholefood Baker Street shop was taking off, American macrobiotic diet enthusiasts Craig and Gregory Sams waltzed into town, and determined to serve only organic produce they “established Seed Restaurant in West London in 1967.” Gregory Sams in particular quickly made good connections within the organic network, serving for a short time on the Soil Association’s Standards Committee during the early 1970s, and forming “a good relationship” with Lilian Schofield, Mary Langman and David Stickland. In 1971, Gregory and Sam, with their father’s support, founded Seed, a monthly magazine of the alternative and complementary health movement. Seed “contained many elements of what would come to be known as ‘New Age’ thinking, and was often distinctively pagan in tone.”[16]

Readers irritated by Seed’s tendency towards mysticism were rebuked in an editorial which praised those ‘romantics’ who wanted to resist the seemingly inevitable drift to an Orwellian society. A bit of romantic mysticism harmed nobody, and made those who adopted it much happier. ‘If a group of mystics like the Findhorn Trust … consult elves to grow organic crops, and are successful in doing so, is that bad?’ The magazine in fact instituted a regular feature on mysticism, ‘Messages from a Star’, urging its readers to reject the complexities of technology and exploitation of the natural world, relying instead on the inner resources of a refreshed spirit and the outer resources of God’s generosity as revealed in nature. (p.233)

In 1972 Seed’s secretary was Sue Coppard, which is significant because the year before, while working as the secretary at Resurgence magazine, she had founded Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms with help provided courtesy of John Davy’s biodynamic farm (at Emerson College).[17] Moving to the present, Greg Sams still maintains his family’s commitment to mysticism and recently published the book Sun Of God: Discover the Self-Organizing Consciousness That Underlies Everything (Weiser Books, 2009). His brother Craig, on the other hand, adopted a more secular approach to life, founding Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate in 1991 (which is now owned by Cadbury’s), and now serves on the Soil Association’s certification board, having previously served as both Honorary Treasurer and Chair of the Association.

One Soil Association activist who blazed the trail for the educational path eventually trod by Lawrence Woodward in the 1960s, is Victor Bonham-Carter, author of Dartington Hall: The Formative Years, 1925-1957 (Exmoor Press, 1958). During the early 1970s Bonham-Carter served as a chairman of the Soil Association’s Editorial Board and as a Council member, and his book, The Survival of the English Countryside (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971), is credited as catalyzing Peter Segger’s move towards the organic movement. Formerly in the frozen fish trade, in 1974 Segger had sold his business, and in 1975 he established the Soil Association’s West Wales Group; later being elected to the Association’s Council in 1977 as the regional representative for the West. Around this time, Segger’s West Wales Group was considered to be one of the two Regional Groups whose activities “were particularly important” to the promotion of organic agriculture (the other being the Epsom Group).[18]

None too surprisingly “Segger was attracted to Steiner’s ideas,” but another important member of this thriving West Wales Group was self-sufficiency guru John Seymour, whose Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency (Dorling Kindersky, 1976) “was so successful that it had an unpredictable commercial result: the emergence of its publishers Dorling Kindersky as a force to be reckoned with, enabling Peter Kindersley to become one of the twenty-first century’s growing band of ‘organic millionaires’.” The Epsom Group likewise turned out to be something of a success story, and one of the key movers in this group was Dr Anthony Deavin, a “scientist with an interest in biodynamic techniques and experiments.”[19]

Deavin’s scientific background was impeccable: first-class honours in Chemistry at Queen Mary College, leading to a doctorate at King’s College, London; research at Heidelberg and a lectureship in biochemistry at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School. In tandem with this career, Deavin developed more esoteric interests. He had been taught Economics at the [deceptively named] School of Economic Science by a land reform enthusiast, and through him was introduced to the ideas of Henry George and the Natural Law tradition. When he first came across Mother Earth he recognized the same tradition in it: the need to work in harmony with nature. Although the natural law philosophy is an attitude to life, not a scientific theory, Deavin was struck by the idea that the Haughley farms could be used as a resource, and that he might be able to provide a bridge between the natural law tradition and Reginald Milton’s measurements. His holistic philosophy was already in place before he joined the Soil Association, which he did in 1969, the same year that he was appointed to the staff of the North-East Surrey College of Technology at Ewell, as Research Director in the Department of Biological Sciences. (p.323)

The courses Deavin ran at Ewell College in turn “attracted a younger generation” to the Soil Association’s work, providing their new recruits with a unique educative blend of science and mysticism.[20] Later in his career Deavin departed from any pretense of science and devoted himself more completely to the esoteric doctrines he had picked up from Steiner: from the 1980s onwards he studied at the School of Herbal Medicine and eventually took up the practice of spiritual healing.[21]

After his departure from Ewell, Mary Langman wrote to Bryn Lewis, the Soil Association’s General Secretary, recording her view that the Association owed Deavin a great debt for the courses which he had organized at Ewell during the 1970s and the lectures he had given. He was an Association Council member, an architect of organic standards with Hugh Coates, scientific advisor to the HDRA from 1973 to 1979, and also a member of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association. (p.325)

Following very much in Deavin’s footsteps, Jack Temple, who was the author of Here’s Health Guide to Gardening Without Chemicals (HarperCollins, 1986), had also lectured at Ewell during the 1970s. But while Conford reserved judgment about Deavin’s mental state, in the case of Temple he says that he eventually went “down the route of a particularly bizarre form of alternative healing”; adding that his friends Alan and Jackie Gear (from the HDRA) commented that he “went nutty.” In this example, Conford seems momentarily unaware of how normal such occult interests were for those involved in organic and biodynamic circles. This is despite the fact that Conford mentions that in 1984 Temple had helped sponsor the Festival of Mind, Body, Spirit – a New Age festival that counted influential anthroposophist Sir George Trevelyan among it cofounders. Conford thus considers it “a tragic anti-climax” that Temple’s life ended with him becoming a homeopathic dowser healer for Cherie Blair. In reality this is not so much a tragic anti-climax but rather an understandable career choice given his involvement with the Soil Association.[22]

That such anti-modernist thinking as that exemplified by Rudolf Steiner and his occult successors has become institutionalized within the organic movement clearly demonstrates the pressing need for a Marxist alternative to managing our world for the benefit of all. The task that now lies at hand is difficult and involves building a mass movement of the working class to rid our world of bourgeois predators who, on the one hand, consume the planet to enrich themselves, and then offer us irrational solutions to distract us, to enable them to continue to sustainably rape the planet. One step towards building such a democratic movement will involve disentangling nonsensical ruling-class environmental theories from those that will strengthen eco-socialist concerns for the future. In this way, we can learn from previous mistakes, and continue to build movements capable of generating the type of popular momentum for social change that will eventually be capable of eradicating, and not just domesticating, capitalism.


[1] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.77.

[2] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.93. “This occurred through the quiet influence of Steinerians such as Katherine Castelliz, David Clement and Siegfried Rudel on certain younger members of the organic movement who became prominent in it; and through the part which the biodynamic movement played in helping to establish organic standards.” (p.93)

[3] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.84.

[4] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.84, p.85. Clement’s grandson, Sebastian Parsons, is presently the chair of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association.

[5] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.113, p.115. “In the mid-1990s, BOF and OGA [the Organic Growers Association], who had long been sharing the offices at Colston Street, Bristol with the Soil Association, merged with the larger organization to become its Producer Wing.” (p.115)

The British Organic Farmers’ booklet included an introduction by Holden and was endorsed by Sir Simon Gourlay, President of the National Farmers’ Union; and for the record “both Holden and Gourlay belonged to something called the Gay Hussars Dining Club, a clique which was changing its name to the Agricultural Reform Group and whose other members included environmentalist Jonathon Porritt; the Cambridgeshire ‘barley baron’ Oliver Walston; Hugh Raven of the SAFE (Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment) Alliance, and Fiona Reynolds, Director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. The mind boggles at trying to imagine what agricultural reforms might have been unanimously accepted around that particular dining-table.” (p.115)

[6] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.252. Waitrose is part of the John Lewis partnership. In 2001 Unilever acquired a 90 per cent share of Go Organic from its founders Charlotte Mitchell, former chair of the Soil Association, and Sheila Ross, a nutritionist.

[7] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.318. Alice Astor is a former trustee of Sharpham Trust, an educational charity which runs the former family home of Maurice and Ruth Ash. Maurice is the former chairman of the Dartington Trust (1972-84) and was the chairman of the all-party environmental lobby group the Green Alliance from 1978 to 1983. A 100-acre farm on the estate, known as Upper Sharpham Barton Farm, is run according to bio-dynamic principles and is presently leased to Judy Smith and her family. In addition, Sharpham Trust board member, William Lana, is the Chairman of the Soil Association’s Organic Textile Standards Committee and sits on the board of the Transition Network; while another notable trustee, Romy Fraser, set up Neal’s Yard Remedies in 1981, and is a patron (along with Jonathan Porritt) of Rolf Gardiner’s former estate, Springhead. One might note that in 2006 Peter Kindersley, the co-founder of the internationally successful Dorling Kindersley (DK) organic publishing empire purchased Neal’s Yard Remedies. He is also a patron of Elm Farm; and interestingly he served as the art director for Alex Comfort’s famous sex advice book The Joy of Sex (Simon and Schuster, 1972).
With regard William Lana’s aforementioned connections to the Transition Towns movement one should note that Conford writes that: “Although it falls outside the period which this book covers, it seems to me important to refer to the work of Rob Hopkins, Permaculturist and leading spirit in the Transition Towns movement. Here we have a clear instance of Permaculture influencing the organic movement, given the enthusiastic way in which Patrick Holden in particular has responded to Hopkins’ ideas.” (p.123) For another connected group see the Pesticide Action Network UK which was founded in 1984 and counts the former head of research at Elm Farm as one of their current trustees.

[8] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.319. Gardiner and Schumacher’s friendship having previously developed after the founding of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now known as Practical Action) in 1966. The stimulus for the creation of this group was an article that Schumacher had published in The Observer.
Rolf Gardiner was a “founder member in 1946. Gardiner quickly gained a seat on the [Soil] Association’s governing Council and retained the position until the end of his life… Michael Allaby, who worked in the Association’s editorial department from 1964 to 1972, confirms that Gardiner was more than just a ‘name on the letterhead’: that is to say, he participated fully in the SA’s activities and used its publications, such as the journal Mother Earth, as a platform for his ideas. Gardiner gave keynote addresses to the SA in 1955, 1967, 1969 and 1970, and hosted a visit by eighty members to Springhead in 1961. He was also the Association’s representative at the first meeting of the Committee for Environmental Conservation in 1969.” Dan Stone, ‘Epilogue: Rolf Gardiner: eminence vert?’, in Matthew Jefferies and Mike Tyldesley, eds., Rolf Gardiner: Folk, Nature and Culture in Interwar Britain (Ashgate, 2011), p.171.

[9] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.319, p.89, p.90.

[10] “It appears that the Association was unaware of the fact that this prominent environmentalist was one of its members (he had joined in 1951) until Michael Allaby and Robert Waller came across his name among the files at Haughley and decided that he must become more directly involved in the Soil Association’s work: a decision that resulted in Schumacher becoming President in 1971.” E.F. Schumacher replaced Lord Bradford who had served as the President of the Soil Association for twenty years. Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.107.
In August 1977 the Soil Association entered into a five-year agreement with the National Coal Board (NCB), through Schumacher’s contacts, to carry out a research project on a 314-acre farm near Llanelli in South Wales. 250 acres had been restored after open-cast mining; the other 64 were still derelict. The Experiment’s purposes were to devise techniques of accelerating the rehabilitation process and to monitor the effects of organic farming on the soil. In Eve Balfour’s view, speaking as President to the Soil Association AGM in October 1978, this was “just about the most important project the Soil Association ha[d] ever undertaken and, if successful, [would] do more to advance the cause of organic farming…” Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.311.

[11] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.269. Resurgence magazine is a mainstay of the New Age movement and until recently Philip Conford was counted among their regular contributors.

[12] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.87, p.88. “No doubt his father’s position as Assistant Editor on the paper played a part in this, but it is equally true that John Davy repaid Astor’s faith in him.” (p.88)

[13] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.88.

[14] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.141, p.136. The person in question was John Soper who had worked as an agriculturalist for the Colonial Service, working in Tanganyika from 1949 to 1958, as Deputy Director, then Director, of Agriculture. Once he returned to Britain, he soon became Honorary Secretary and Treasurer to the Biodynamic Agricultural Association, “wrote about its work in the Soil Association journal and was a member of the HDRA Council.” Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.83.

[15] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.227. In the mid-1970s a man called Nick Jones was “promoting an orchestral concert with Yehudi Menuhin, who was one of the directors of the Soil Association’s Wholefood shop in London” and the latter thus “encouraged him to go into the business of bread-making.” Free loans from their rich friends were an obvious aid, and after making a commitment to the Soil Association and by the 1990s Nick and his wife Ana came to know Alan Brockman, who subsequently encouraged them down the biodynamic pathway. Brockman had made an early commitment to the biodynamic movement in the late 1940s, and in the 1960s he supplied produce to the Soil Association’s Wholefood Shop in London. Soon Cdr Noel Findlay invited him to stand for the Soil Association Council, a position he supplemented by serving on their Standards Committee as well. He helped form the Association’s policy standards, which he based partly on those of the Biodynamic movement, and he was “actively involved in the Soil Association until around 1976…” Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.91, p.92, p.86, p.87.

[16] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.230, p.231, p.232. In 1991 Craig Sams founded Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate with his wife Josephine Fairley, whose Maya Gold chocolate was the first product to carry the Fairtrade mark. “Seed’s ‘alternative’ stance was thoroughly pragmatic, placing faith in the established channels of media power as a means of spreading its message.” (p.235)

[17] Sue Coppard recalled that while working at Resurgence: “A friend suggested that Michael Allaby, editor of the Soil Association journal, might know of a suitable farm, and he put me in touch with [John Davy at] Emerson College in deepest leafy Sussex, the training college for the application of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical philosophy – including bio-dynamic agriculture on their 200-acre farm.” In Autumn that year Coppard then founded WWOFF with her initial volunteers working at Emerson College, and to aid with the promotion of her new venture she spent the next year working as the secretary of Seed. (Notably, issue No.2 of Seed, published in 1972, led off with the eco-mystical story titled “Diet and ESP” (pdf) which argued that it is possible that an organic diet might help you develop a sixth sense.)

[18] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.153, p.110. Victor Bonham-Carter’s book The Survival of the English Countryside (1971) was dedicated to Robert Waller, “a long-time friend with whom he had worked for BBC Radio in Bristol in the 1950s.” (p.153) Segger currently serves alongside Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser on the board of directors of Patrick Holden’s Sustainable Food Trust, which Holden set-up when he left his position as the Director of the Soil Association in 2010. Although Conford does not highlight Holden’s interest in Steiner, he does write that Holden was attracted to Krishnamurti’s theosophical ideas and adds that “Holden has also been involved in Gurdjieff groups.” (p.371)

[19] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.371, p.153, p.270, p.89. During the mid-1980s John Seymour traveled across “‘many tens of thousands of miles’ across four continents in the company of Herbert Girardet for the BBC television series Far From Paradise: The Story of Human Impact on the Environment.” (p.272) Between 1996 and 2008 Girardet served as the chairman of the Schumacher Society, a group founded by Resurgence magazine editor, Satish Kumar. The founding chairman of the Schumacher Society had been Dartington Hall’s very own Maurice Ash.

[20] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.100. In 1973 Deavin organized courses on animal husbandry at Ewell “as part of his work with the Soil Association’s Epsom Group where he spoke alongside biodynamic farmer, George Corrin.” (p.83)

[21] “According to Mary Heron, who worked at Haughley in the early 1960s, Eve Balfour maintained that there were no materialists in the Soil Association: a proposition which might sound paradoxical but which Deavin had no difficulty in understanding. For him, the early Soil Association in particular was a forerunner of contemporary spiritual movements, working to provide not just physical, but spiritual nourishment.” Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.324.
“Eve Balfour, in her Postscript to The Living Soil, looked to the dethronement of ‘[tlhe false idols of comfort and money’ and their replacement by ‘the Christian God of service’. Mary Langman told Allan Pepper that Eve Balfour had been ‘brought up in the Church and in faith in a benign Deity whose purposes were working out’, and that this faith would have played a part in her acceptance of ecological thinking. (It appears that later in her life, Balfour’s beliefs grew somewhat less orthodox, showing signs of what might be termed ‘New Age’ thought; but her belief in a benign power at work in the world remained. Dr Anthony Deavin has recalled how she responded philosophically to criticism and problems by saying, ‘It’s all taken care of’.)” Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.354.
Helen Murray worked at the Steinerian inspired Camphill Community Schools organization in Botton Village at Danby in North Yorkshire, living there for a year from October 1955. She then returned to Haughley were she acted as Lady Balfour’s personal assistant, “commut[ing] almost every weekend to Botton and started building a house there which by late 1960 was habitable.” Eventually Helen moved to the United States to continue her work with Camphill Schools. “Helen Murray was succeeded as Eve Balfour’s assistant by Mary Barran (later Heron), who, by coincidence, bought a farm with her husband Giles Heron in the 1970s close to Botton Village. The Herons, although not Steinerians themselves, had a good deal to do with Botton, and have praised the community there in Giles’ book Farming with Mary.” Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.81, p.82.

[22] Conford, The Development of the Organic Network, p.149. Clearly not everyone involved with the Soil Association succumbs to mysticism, and many actively resisted such trends. Take for the case of Michael Allaby who worked as the editor for the Soil Association’s journal between 1964 and 1972, and who in later years distanced himself from their eco-mysticism in his book Facing the Future: The Case for Science (Bloomsbury, 1995). Here Conford concludes that: “Allaby aimed much of his book against environmentalism in general and its associated ‘New Age’ attitudes, but the chapter on reductionism and holism is particularly relevant to,and critical of, the organic movement’s philosophy of science.” (p.325)

Why the CIA Care About Marxism: May 1968 and the Cultural Cold War in France

The following article was published by Counterpunch on June 15.


In a widely read essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books entitled “The CIA reads French theory: on the intellectual labor of dismantling the cultural left” (February 27, 2017), Gabriel Rockhill spins an intriguing yarn about the CIA and their interest in keeping abreast of French political theory throughout the Cold War. “According to the spy agency itself,” Rockhill observed, “post-Marxist French theory directly contributed to the CIA’s cultural program of coaxing the left toward the right, while discrediting anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism…” Here the professor was making particular reference to a recently declassified CIA report, authored in 1985, that focuses on the intellectual milieu around Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan.

Abundant evidence of course exists of the CIA’s complex cultural interventions into French intellectual affairs — but it is critical to recognise that it was the political shortcomings of communist organizations themselves (i.e., Stalinists) that had the determinant impact on the obscurantist trajectory of left-wing academic ideas. The CIA’s own determined cold warriors were well aware of these problems on the Left, and hence these are exactly the arguments they put forth in 1985 within their then internal document “France: Defection of the Leftist Intellectuals.” This “research report” — referred to within Gabriel Rockhill’s essay — is clear, the CIA sought to examine the changing attitudes of French intellectuals so as to “gauge the probable political impact on the political environment in which policy is made.” So considering the intriguing theoretical focus of this report it is worth dwelling upon some of the arguments presented therein, if only as a starting point for exploring the failures of the most influential parts of the French Left in the aftermath of World War II.

France 1968

Certainly bearing in mind the ferocity with which the CIA waged the intellectual war against the Left — with the aid of assorted liberal elites (Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power) — it is notable that the imperialist logistics of this battle remain largely overlooked within the CIA’s own report. Leaving aside this significant oversight, the anonymous CIA author does at least emphasize that it was the repeated disillusionment of the working-class with the French Communist Party (PCF) that undermined the popularity of Communist and socialist ideologies. Indeed, time and time again the French working-class sought out political ideas on the Left to help them in the critical task of democratizing society, but all too often they were betrayed by Communist intellectuals who ultimately had no faith in the working-class to change society for themselves.

The CIA report thus touches briefly upon the betrayal of the socialist Mitterrand government in the 1980s, and Mitterrand’s backtracking from his party’s progressive economic policies and “adopt[ion of] austerity measures that drew embarrassing criticism from both the left and the right…” The intelligence author writes: “the dose of austerity that these policies eventually forced rang the death knell of leftist ideology for many informed observers.” This fatal reversal served to compound the destructive and more “traumatic events of May 1968” which were characterised by the PCF’s betrayal of a genuinely revolution movement of working-class solidarity (yet again). Thus the CIA report accurately surmised:

“In May-June 1968, after months of intensifying protests, students threw up barricades in the university section of Paris and initiated a period of guerrilla warfare in the streets of the Latin Quarter. The protest spread to other university cities; students were joined by 7 million striking workers (who occupied the factories); transportation and public services ground to a halt; and the 10-year-old government of General de Gaulle tottered. Marxist students looked to the Communist Party for leadership and declaration of a provisional government, but PCF leaders were already trying to restrain worker revolt and denounced the student radicals as woolly-minded anarchists. Many students concluded that the PCF had made a deal with de Gaulle, who eventually put down the riots.”

In the wake of the PCF’s abandonment of the revolutionary uprising of May 1968, and the failure to overthrow capitalism, it is rather unsurprising that conservative forces of reaction would seize this opportunity to intensify their challenge to Marxism. On this score, the CIA report refers to the success of the “New Philosophers,” whose anti-Stalinist and anti-Marxist ideas were widely championed in the mainstream media (throughout the 1970s) with the aid of Bernard-Henri Levy’s highly influential Grasset publishing house.[1] The CIA author then describes how these New Philosophers had become disillusioned with the Left, observing how “the traditional leftist parties’ pusillanimity during the student revolt of 1968 tore the scales from their eyes, causing them to reject their allegiance to the Communist Party, French socialism, and even the essential tenets of Marxism.”

The report’s author goes on to explain how “Raymond Aron, the revered dean of contemporary conservative thought in France,” had worked long years in his efforts to discredit “the intellectual edifice of French Marxism.” But importantly the report acknowledges: “Even more effective in undermining Marxism, however, were those intellectuals who set out as true believers to apply Marxist theory in the social sciences but ended up rethinking and rejecting the entire tradition.”[2] On this score, the CIA analyst suggests:

“Among postwar French historians, the influential school of thought associated with Marc Bloch, Lucien Febvre, and Fernand Braudel has overwhelmed the traditional Marxist historians. The Annales school, as it is known from its principal journal, turned French historical scholarship on its head in the 1950s and 1960s, primarily by challenging and later rejecting the hitherto dominant Marxist theories of historical progress. Although many of its exponents maintain that they are ‘in the Marxist tradition,’ they mean only that they use Marxism as a critical point of departure for trying to discover the actual patterns of social history. For the most part, they have concluded that Marxist notions of the structure of the past – of social relationships, of patterns of events, and of their influence in the long term – are simplistic and invalid.

“In the field of anthropology, the influential structuralist school associated with Claude Levi-Strauss, Foucault, and others performed virtually the same mission. Although both structuralism and Annales methodology have fallen on hard times (critics accuse them of being too difficult for the uninitiated to follow), we believe their critical demolition of Marxist influence in the social sciences is likely to endure as a profound contribution to modern scholarship both in France and elsewhere in Western Europe.”

What the CIA author leaves unmentioned in this concise historical statement is the role that US elites played in nurturing the theorists of the Annales school as a central facet of the cultural Cold War Thankfully this important moment in history is reviewed in Kristin Ross’s book Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (1996).

“The French social sciences we are familiar with now were thus a postwar invention, and in all aspects of French modernization after the war their ascendency bore some relation to U.S. economic intervention. To a certain extent the turn to this kind of study was funded and facilitated by the United States in a kind of Marshall Plan for intellectuals. A review of the literature makes a convincing case that the foremost American export of the period was not Coca-Cola or movies but the supremacy of the social sciences. In October 1946, the director of the social science division of the Rockefeller Foundation proclaimed, ‘A New France, a new society is rising up from the ruins of the Occupation; the best of its efforts is magnificent, but the problems are staggering. In France, the issue of the conflict or the adaptation between communism and western democracy appears in its most acute form. France is its battlefield or laboratory.’ By expanding the social sciences in Europe, American sought to contain the progress of Marxism in the world.” (p.186)

Ross writes that the “main tactic” employed the Western-backed intellectuals at the Annales school “was that of cannibalism: encompass and absorb the enemies as a means of controlling them.” She refers to this approach as a “Science of empirical and quantitative sociology – the study of repetition – was erected against the science of history, the study of event.”

“In the 1950s and 1960s Braudel, Le Roy Laduirie, and others, ensconced after 1962 in the Maison des sciences de l’homme, produced what Braudel called ‘a history whose passage is almost imperceptible … a history in which all change is slow, a history of constant repetition, ever recurring cycles.’ Their most formidable enemies within the field of history lived across the street: the long lineage of Marxist historians of the French revolution – Georges Lefebvre, Albert Soboul, and the like – housed at the Sorbonne. For what is at stake in the erasure of the study of social movement in favour of that of structures is the possibility of abrupt change or mutation in history: the idea of Revolution itself. The old-fashioned historians of the event par excellence of French history, each in turn occupying the chaired professorship for the study of the French Revolution institute by the Sorbonne after 1891, looked askance at their thoroughly modernized, well-funded, and well-equipped (with photocopiers and computers) colleagues across the way.” (p.189)[3]

With specific relevance to the CIA’s comments on the rise and rise of French structuralism, it is useful to reflect upon Ross’s analysis of this field of study. As she states:

“[T]he rise of structuralism in the 1950s and 1960s was above all a frontal attack on historical thought in general and Marxist dialectical analysis in particular; its appeal to many leftist French intellectuals after 1956 was overdetermined by the crisis within the French Communist Party and Marxism following the revelations of Stalin’s crimes and the Soviet invasion of Hungary at the end of that year. After such messy historical events, the clean, scientific precision of structuralism offered a kind of respite.” (p.180)[4]

Other than Febvre and Braudel, at this stage it is worth briefly reflecting upon the career of another famous proponent of French structuralism, Claude Lévi-Strauss. This is because in 1941, while living in exile in America, Lévi-Strauss had been offered a job at the New School for Social Research in New York City, where with the aid of the Rockefeller Foundation he helped found the École Libre des Hautes Études with an official charter from de Gaulle’s government in exile.[5] After the war Lévi-Strauss then went on to work as cultural attaché to the French embassy in Washington, before returning to France in 1948 whereupon he became the director of studies in anthropology (1950-74) at the École Pratique des Hautes Études’ newly established VI section. As Kristen Ross writes:

“A grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1947 helped finance the founding of the VI section of the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes under the directorship of historian Lucien Febvre, who had seized the initiative from a rival group of sociologists headed by Georges Gurvitch. Home to Fransois Furet in the early 1960s, this institution would be central to the future of the social sciences in France: in 1962, when Febve’s successor Fernand Braudel gathered all the various research laboratories scattered around the Latin Quarter and housed them in a single building on the Boulevard Raspaid, the Maison des sciences de l‘homme, the Ford Foundation helped finance the operation. In 1975 the VI section would in turn emancipate itself from the Ecole pratique and become the Ecole de hautes etudes en sciences sociales, with university status and the authorization to grant degrees.” (p.187)

The Ford Foundation’s decision, in 1959, to finance of the Maison des sciences de l‘homme proved to be a critical moment for the evolution of French social sciences as Ford’s $1 million grant certainly brought them great influence. Moreover shortly after this grant was dispensed, Ford also helped Raymond Aron to launch his Institute of European Sociology in Paris. Certainly it is not coincidental that Aron was already playing a prominent role in the undertakings of the CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom – a famous anti-communist enterprise that had been set up in Paris in 1950 with the full support of America’s most influential liberal foundations.[6]

Such assorted philanthropic interventions into French affairs “were complemented by support for the building of transnational institutions at the level of the European Community and for the fostering of transatlantic ties.” A key intellectual broker in this regard was French economist Jean Monnet, who, while working hand-in-hand with American philanthropists, had been one of the founding fathers of both NATO and the European Union. Monnet enjoyed his own liaisons with economic and political elites at the Bilderberg Club, and in the 1950s formed his own Action Committee for a United States of Europe. Furthermore, on top of such transatlantic efforts to consolidate capitalist interests, the “Ford Foundation invested in American-style management education all over Western Europe, and by 1960 the European Association of Management Training, with Pierre Tabatoni as its president, acted as a roof organization for these schools…”

Philanthropic projects seeking to guide European academic enquiries away from Marxism were of course not limited to the social sciences — a matter of influence that is expanded upon in John Krige’s book American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe (2008). In reference to the development of French science most particularly, Krige points out how Warren Weaver, who was the director the Division of the Natural Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation (1932–55)…

“and the foundation were not simply interested in supporting good science and new directions in France. They wanted to use their financial leverage to steer French scientists along quite definite lines. Weaver in particular believed that the French were parochial and inward-looking. He wanted to transform them into outward-looking, “international” researchers, using techniques and tackling questions that were current above all in the United States. It was a vision inspired by the conviction that, without a radical remodeling of the French scientific community on American lines and the determined marginalization of Communist scientists in the field of biology, the country could never hope to play again a major role in the advancement of science.” (p.81)

Another integral part of the ongoing post World War II battle for French minds was more fundamentally concerned with defanging the mass organisations of the working-class themselves — trade unions. This battle was eagerly taken up by the AFL’s Free Trade Union Committee, with many American trade union officials proving themselves more than ready to take up the war against Communism (and union democracy) by covertly intervening in the day-to-day affairs of foreign trade unions. In their developing connections with the Free Trade Union Committee the CIA was in luck and “found a dedicated and experienced ally, with extensive networks and years of experience in the covert manipulation of international labor movements.”[7] The underhand nature of this long and undemocratic relationship is well summed up by “a government memo, unsigned but attached to a November 1948 letter from David Bruce, the Chief of the Special Mission to France addressed to Paul Hoffman, the Administrator of the Economic Cooperation Administration”:

“[…] it will not be enough to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into food, machinery, coal, and raw materials. We must find a means of not only aiding industry, of directly aiding the direct representatives of the workers. This is very difficult. The unions will not accept any aid from a foreign government. (If such aid does become available, it must be disguised and under no circumstances can the people here know anything about it. The whole matter therefore requires the utmost of discretion.) They will accept only trade union aid.”[8]

After administering the Marshall Plan for imperial interests, Paul Hoffman then moved on from his role as head of the Economic Cooperation Administration to become the president of the Ford Foundation (1950-3) in America. The interrelated and sophisticated nature of such sophisticated interventions into France’s political affairs are usefully laid bare in Giles Scott-Smith’s incisive study Networks of Empire: The US State Department’s Foreign Leader Program in the Netherlands, France, and Britain, 1950-70 (2011). Scott-Smith surmises:

“The ability of the US to interfere in French affairs was unparalleled during that first decade [after the end of World War II], yet the governments in Paris were still able maintain an independent outlook and steer their own course, benefitting from their special place within US strategy towards Western Europe. The European Cooperation Administration, with its headquarters in Paris, exerted a tremendous influence on the French socioeconomic scene, yet it implemented it via its own version, the Monnet Plan. US financial and military aid was recycled to enable long-running colonial wars to be fought in Indochina and North Africa. French reluctance to support an economic revival of Germany soon became sublimated into structural plans for European integration, with Paris leading the way. While the CIA supported the Force Ouvrière trade union and a host of other anti-communist outlets like the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Paris, French political elites willingly adopted their own strategies to undermine communist influence. US influence was therefore constrained by French political and social imperatives.” (p.327)

Returning to the analysis presented in the CIA’s now declassified report, it is noteworthy that the report’s authors downplay the fascist/traditionalist orientation of the New Right forces that rose to prominence in the wake of 1968. In fact, the CIA initially simply refer to these forces in their report as the “new liberals.” Later on the CIA analyst states:

“Encouraged by writers and publishers who are associated in some way with right-wing press baron Robert Hersant, the New Right in France has taken up the ideas of reviving classic European liberalism as the elixir that France needs to recover from Socialist ‘mismanagement’.”

In a more revealing appendix to their report, entitled “Cultural aspects of New Right thought,” the CIA however go on to point out how:

“Conservative writers, many of them associated with the group for Research and Study of European Civilization (GRECE) and the Clock Club (Club de l’Horloge)… have found an outlet for their arguments in Hersant publications, notably Figaro Magazine, which is edited by GRECE kindred spirit Louis Pauwels.”[9]

Here the CIA also draw attention to “the anti-egalitarian and even anti-Christian elements of GRECE/Horloge thinking”, but only to observe, how in recent years, this element of their thinking had apparently been toned down to better spread their toxic ideas. That said, the CIA report at least admits that GRECE were not really “new liberals,” as they point out that even: “Raymond Aron, the revered dean of contemporary conservative thought in France, detested the New Right intellectuals, often equating their elitist anti-egalitarianism with the worse antidemocratic strains in French conservativism.”

Nevertheless in the wake of 1968 it is clear that the capitalist establishment in both America and France sought to do everything in their power to undermine the national and international unity of working-class struggle. Expressed in a blunt form this led a renewed focus on excluding certain left-wing voices from the mainstream media. Here a good example of such practices is provided by the activism of right-wing financier Sir James Goldsmith who in 1977 purchased the left-wing L’Express, a popular newspaper which the new owner had previously identified as “the source of intellectual sickness of France”. Sir James’ first move upon acquiring this newspaper was to impose Raymond Aron upon the papers staff.[10] On a more mundane academic level, elite funding agencies also continued to support scholarly efforts to learn more about the threat posed by an increasingly militant trade union movement across Western Europe.[11]

Ultimately, however, despite many notable gains and inspiring victories, left-wing forces were tragically beaten back by a resurgent and coordinated neoliberal assault upon democracy worldwide. As in France, this process of neoliberal transformation was made easier by the willing collaboration of the Communist Party with members of the ruling-class, and by the stark betrayals of the working-class by left reformists like Mitterrand. It was in these unfavourable conditions that the intellectually debilitating but well-funded postmodern theories of French post-structuralists subsequently gained an unwelcome foothold within both academia and to some extent the mainstream media. As the Marxist literary theorist Terry Eagleton argues:

“Post-structuralism was a product of that blend of euphoria and disillusionment, liberation and dissipation, carnival and catastrophe, which was 1968. Unable to break the structures of state power, post-structuralism found it possible instead to subvert the structures of language. Nobody, at least, was likely to beat you over the head for doing so. The student movement was flushed off the streets and driven underground into discourse. Its enemies… became coherent belief-systems of any kind – in particular all forms of political theory and organization which sought to analyse, and act upon, the structures of society as a whole.”[12]

Of course these dead-end and intellectually incoherent currents of ‘leftist’ retreat did not remain confined to France — as exemplified by the Ford Foundation’s support of a two-year program of seminars in the mid-1960s which gave a boost to French structuralism on American shores.[13] Yet in spite of such academic set-backs for those on the Left, the possibility of emancipatory working-class struggles developing are once again visible on capitalism’s inhumane horizon. Early signs of this revival can be seen by the resurgent popularity garnered for socialist political candidates like Bernie Sanders (in America), Jean-Luc Mélenchon (in France), and Jeremy Corbyn (in Britain).

No doubt, the ruling-class and their intelligence agencies will, at this very moment, be frantically drafting up new “research reports” so that they may orientate their political activities in a vain attempt to neutralise this growing mood of resistance. So this time around we have to ensure that we have learned the appropriate lessons from history. First and foremost we must refuse to allow any new socialist leaders to mislead us in our bid for freedom. And so we must be clear that if our leaders are not up to the task of helping us build a democratic and socialist alternative to the bankrupt status quo then we must be ready to replace them, and ultimately be willing to seize power for ourselves.



[1] For an enlightening exposition on how anti-Marxist scholars (in the tradition of both liberalism and postmodernism) successfully capitalised on the major betrayals of the PCF, see Michael Scott Christofferson, French Intellectuals Against the Left: The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970s (2004). “Originating less in profound reflection on supposedly totalitarian regimes than in domestic political disputes, the critique of totalitarianism proceeded along lines that were largely determined by domestic politics and for that reason did little or nothing to advance understanding of regimes or politics consider to be ‘totalitarian.’ Further, it did much to confuse the issues by identifying French revolutionary political culture with totalitarianism and by failing to consider that ‘totalitarianism’ might have roots outside of revolutionary ideology and the revolutionary project. The price of this confusion would become evident by the late 1980s when, for example, [Francois] Furet, confronted with reactionary appropriations of his work, would be forced to admit that his formulations of the 1970s were too strong and [Paul] Thibaud would find himself criticizing the ‘antitotalitarian vulgate’ of the 1970s.” (p.274)

[2] In Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968 (1970), Daniel Singer accurately characterises Professor Raymond Aron as “France’s most subtle and sophisticated defender of the western establishment” (p.19). Later Singer observes how “the student demonstrations in Paris occurred just at the time when the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx was being celebrated. In the elegant, modern building of UNESCO, nearly next-door to the provisional headquarters where the North Vietnamese delegates were giving their press conferences, distinguished academicians from all over the world had gathered for the occasion.” (p.30) Famed Communist Party historian Eric Hobsbawn was one of the many attendees at this moribund conference. Also of interest, see Gerd-Rainer Horn, Spirit of ’68: Rebellion in Western Europe and North America, 1956-1976 (2007).

[3]  For more on Braudel’s close work with American philanthropic elites, see Giuliana Gemelli, Fernand Braudel (Paris, 1995); Brigette Mazon, Aux origines de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales. Le rôle du mécénat américain (1920-1960) (Paris, 1988); and Ioana Popa, “International construction of area studies in France during the Cold War: Insights from the École Pratique des Hautes Études 6th Section,” History of the Human Sciences, 29(4-5), 2016. American sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, who was a consultant for the Ford Foundation, cooperated with Braudel in developing the research programs of the VI Section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. Also see Giuliana Gemelli and Roy Macleod (eds.) American Foundations in Europe: Grant-Giving Policies, Cultural Diplomacy and Trans-Atlantic Relations, 1920-1980 (2003). “In retrospect, it seems clear that the [Rockefeller] Foundation’s grants to France, whilst small, were the most important made to the social sciences anywhere in the world in the late 1940s and early 1950s.” Darwin Stapleton, “Joseph Willits and the Rockefeller’s European Programme in the Socialist Sciences,” Minerva, 41, 2003, p.109.

[4] In addition to the Soviet Union’s crushing of the Hungarian Revolution, the failure of the PCF to resist either the Algerian War or the coming of the Fifth Republic also served to undermine popular support for communist ideas. For more on this history, see Irwin Wall, French Communism in the Era of Stalin: The Quest for Unity and Integration, 1945-1962 (1983); and Martin Evans, The Memory of Resistance: French Opposition to the Algerian War, 1954-1962 (1997).

[5] Another notable refugee scholar temporarily based in New York at the École Libre des Hautes Études was the political thinker Henri Bonnet, the father of the European Economic Community.

[6] Another French sociologist who with the support of the Ford Foundation worked closely with Raymond Aron during the 1960s was Michel Crozier. In the 1970s Crozier would go on to co-author the European section of a controversial report published by the Trilateral Commission called The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies (1975); for a useful discussion of Crozier’s contribution to this report see, Alan Wolfe, “Capitalism shows its face: giving up on democracy,” In: Holly Skar (ed.), Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (1980).

[7] Quenby Olmsted Hughes, ‘In the Interest of Democracy: The Rise and Fall of the Early Cold War Alliance Between the American Federation of Labor and the Central Intelligence Agency (2011), p.64. CIA funding of students organizations was also considered to be a key part of the war against communism, a story recounted in Karen Paget’s Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade against Communism (2016).

[8] Hughes, ‘In the Interest of Democracy‘, p.65.

[9] GRECE leading light, Louis Pauwels, had, in earlier years, been the coauthor of the 1960 irrationalist, Romantic treatise, Les matin des magiciens. This book was subsequently published in the United States as Morning of the Magicians in 1964, and had the dubious distinction of helping launch a revival of interest in the occult and Traditionalist ideas more generally. In 1977 Pauwels was selected to become the founding director of Figaro Magazine, a project formed as a side-project of the conservative daily newspaper Le Figaro (a newspaper that had been purchased by Robert Hersant two years earlier). At this newly launched magazine Pauwels used his authority to bring leading GRECE members like Alain de Benoist onto the magazines payroll — a popular magazine that was soon reaching half a million readers.

[10] Ivan Fallon, Billionaire: The life and times of Sir James Goldsmith (1992), p.312.

[11] A good example is provided by the Ford Foundation funded study that resulted in the publication of Colin Crouch and Alessandro Pizzorno’s (eds.) two volume series, The Resurgence of Class Conflict in Western Europe since 1968, ii. Comparative Analyses (Macmillan, 1978).

[12] Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), p.142.

[13] Among the many intellectuals flown across the Atlantic as part of this process were Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, Lucien Goldman, Jean Hyppolite, Jacques Lacan, and Jacques Derrida; and the main event in this groundbreaking Ford-backed initiative was a conference titled “The Language of Criticism and the Sciences of Man” held at Johns Hopkins University in October 1966. For an uncritical discussion of the germination of this transatlantic relationship, see Francois Cusset’s text French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States (2008). Cusset highlights the impact of post-structuralist and postmodern French authors on the arguably problematic resurgence of interest in identity politics and cultural studies in America during the 1990s.

Why Civil Resistance Works and Why the Billionaire-Class Cares

To live for 101 glorious years like the recently departed David Rockefeller (1915–2017) is a pleasantry that most of us will never enjoy. Every year untold millions of lives are unnecessarily cut short because of poverty and war; all because a ruling, billionaire class, feels obliged to inflict violence upon the rest of us to enhance their own profit margins. Mr Rockefeller was fairly typical in this regard, and his callous disregard for humanity was best expressed in his devoted support of murderous dictators and despots whenever democratic imperatives threatened to impinge upon his class’s wealth.

The troubling legacy of the billionaire class’ murderous and uncivil politics recently gave the American electorate a nasty choice between two Wall Street politicians (Trump and Clinton), both of whom had dedicated their lives to serving the needs of the super-rich. The result of such a monumental failure of the democratic process was never going to be good for the 99%.

Just one of the late David Rockefeller’s continuing billionaire-club projects is something known as the Council on Foreign Relations – an organization which Laurence Shoup correctly referred to Wall Street’s Think Tank in his recent book on the Council. In a review of this important study, Noam Chomsky concludes how the elites running the Council on Foreign Relations “have set the contours for much of recent history, not least the neoliberal assault that has had a generally destructive impact on populations while serving as an effective instrument of class war.”

cia civil resistance

In the ongoing and intensifying class war that is being waged upon us, there is nothing that elites fear more than genuine democracy and the potential it has to unite the working-class against the violent edifice of capitalism. This is why elites based at think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations continue to worry about where the next potential threat to their oppressive system may come from.

One such member of this poisonous sect, who has gained notoriety for his unwelcome historical tales of how mass organizations succeed in overthrowing governments, is Peter Ackerman, a former financier, who until recently served as a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the coauthor of A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict (St. Martin’s Press, 2001), and is the founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Ackerman and his Centre’s work are misleading to say the least, that is, if you are concerned with truly understanding the relationship between mass movements and the government’s they have overthrown.

Another member of the Council on Foreign Relations elite creed who, so to say, has picked up on Ackerman’s profound interest in civilian resistance is Professor Erica Chenoweth; an individual who in addition to serving as the co-chair of the ICNC’s advisory board, is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011). Chenoweth prefers not to concern herself with the finer details of U.S. foreign policy, which have seen her pals in high government install and sustain dictatorial regimes across the world, while simultaneously acting to overthrow democratically elected government deemed too democratic for billionaires. (Chenoweth’s detailed, albeit problematic, engagement with the dynamics of the people-power movement in the Philippine’s — that ousted their dictator in 1986 — capably illustrates her own class orientation and the limitations of her analyses of popular struggles.)

This article is continued here…

Civil resistance works

Of Union Dreams and Nightmares: Cesar Chavez and Why Funding Matters

Once upon a time, in the most hostile of organizing environments, Cesar Chavez and his farm workers movement successfully mobilized workers and their communities against a powerful array of unaccountable corporate forces in a historic fight for social justice. Chavez initially succeeded where others failed and forced the most powerful industry in California to negotiate with the state’s poorest workers. His life’s work in building the United Farm Workers union is now memorialized in American history. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan was inspired by Chavez’s rallying cries in the fields, while as President, Obama went on to proclaim March 31 as the national Cesar Chavez Day. Nevertheless, fame and dedication to a good cause are not enough to invoke immunity from criticism, so it is important to scrutinize Chavez’s serious shortcomings, as part of a broader attempt to understand why his decades of organising in the fields ultimately floundered.

Frank Bardacke’s book, Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers (2011), provides an insightful reckoning of the conflicting pressures that eventually undermined Chavez’s union. One of the many external forces that simultaneously facilitated both union successes (in the short-term) and failures (in the long-term) was the ever-present pressures generated by the need for funding. Many financial lessons for how activists can sustain powerful movements for social change can be gleaned from the example of the United Farm Workers, but the significant interventions of elite philanthropists into Chavez’s organizing — alongside the cynical manipulations of conservative trade union bureaucrats — must be factored in to any such observations. This is why Erica Kohl-Arenas’ important contribution to this field of research, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty (2015) should be considered a must-read for all trade unionists and social justice activists. Drawing primarily upon these two books, along with the biographical interrogations carried out by Miriam Pawel, this essay seeks to draw attention to the enduring problems of financing democratic movements for progressive change.

Drilling to the root of the divisions caused by elite financing of working-class activism, it is important to reflect upon the organizations and people which provided guidance to Chavez’s initial community organizing work. The key individual to be considered in this regard is Fred Ross, a founder of the Community Service Organization (CSO) – a project which had been set-up by Saul Alinksy’s Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in 1947. Ross was the first person to recognise Chávez’s potential as a fellow-organizer when their paths crossed in 1952, and Ross quickly recruited him to paid employment with his CSO — a position that Chávez maintained for the next decade. These formative years are integral to understanding Chavez’s later developments: Not everything that Alinksy and Ross taught Chavez in the years between his twenty-fifth and thirty-fifth birthday stuck, but understanding Alinskyism is one way of making sense of Cesar Chavez and the foundational architecture of the United Farm Workers.” (Trampling Out the Vintage, p.69) For a little informative background on the funding of this early activism, Kohl-Arenas’ writes:

“By the 1950s, Alinsky had become one of the premier thinkers and practitioners of neighborhood-based community organizing. Despite Alinsky’s popularity in the 1950s, he was refused funding by both the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations based on the “political nature” of his approach to building power among local residents to confront unequal opportunity structures. However, through Alinsky’s connections at the University of Chicago, the Emil Schwarzhaupt Foundation generously funded him and the CSO.”

During this period the Schwarzhaupt Foundation also provided much-needed funding to the Highlander Folk School, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Migrant Ministry, but the “main recipient [of their largesse] was Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation.”

“Starting in April 1953, the IAF received a direct grant of $150,000, which in the next ten years expanded to $608,486. More money went to other organizations and groups that had ties to Alinsky but were not directly funded by the IAF. Add it all up, and over a twelve-year period of intense giving nearly $3 million of Schwarzhaupt’s fortune went to fund Alinskyism.” (Trampling Out the Vintage, p.69)

Social movement philanthropy was certainly not commonplace in the early fifties (as it would become increasingly so following in the wake of sixties radicalism), as “liberal, corporate foundation money primarily went to institutional intellectuals or charity operations.” There was however a good reason why foundation money flowed to Alinsky and his numerous community-based projects, and this was because his work was seen as an alternative means of organizing for social justice in ways that bypassed the explicitly political class-based approaches to social change. The usefulness of such activism as a counter to socialist organizing is provided in Alinksy’s famous book Reveille for Radicals (1946) where his counsel for activists seeking to tackle the increasingly right-wing turn of trade unions leaders was simply to organise outside of them: “Another obvious alternative – for workers to fight within their unions for democratic unionism – is not even mentioned.” Thus, “Despite Alinksky’s rhetorical accent on democracy, this approach left Cesar Chavez ill-equipped to think about the actual dynamics of union democracy.” (Trampling Out the Vintage, p.72, p.73)[1]


Gabriel Thompson’s historical overview of Alinsky-styled activism, America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century (2016), actually puts concerns over both outside funding and the related middle-class orientation of the CSO as one of the key factors that led to Chavez’s resignation from Ross’s CSO in 1962. “It didn’t matter that, earlier in the day, the CSO had approved a plan to form a ‘Farm Labor Committee’ or that a wealthy private citizen, sympathetic to farmworkers, had agreed to donate fifty thousand dollars for the cause. Chavez wanted freedom. Money would come, if it came, later.” (p.144) Thompson then concludes that “the need to not be constrained by funders” as demonstrated by this split provides the clearest example of Alinsky’s influence upon Chavez. But this analysis is not really accurate, as Alinsky and Ross’s own activism was always constrained, despite their best efforts, by their funders. In fact in 1962, Ross’s own CSO work was hanging in the balance on the basis of continued funding from the Schwarzhaupt Foundation.

Of course this fundamental problem is not entirely sidestepped by Thompson who later drew attention to the perennial “problem of money. The CSO, like nearly every organizing group save labor unions,” Thompson wrote, “could never find a way to pay for itself.” Moreover, besides the CSO’s “money woes” Thompson highlights “a bigger issue, which is that by the early 1960s the CSO lacked an overarching mission – and it was this vacuum that the middle-class moderates filled.” (p.149) These problems, linked to outside funding, are precisely the reasons why socialists (like myself) maintain that it is critical that social change should be funded by concerned activists (be they trade unionists or otherwise) not philanthropic elites. Either way although Ross remained in the employ of Alinsky’s broad network for the next few years he attempted to get some cash diverted in Chavez’s direction, but Alinsky “didn’t believe farmworkers could be organized, and he rejected the request”. (p.145) Despite this opposition Ross would still attend the founding convention of Chavez’s Farm Worker Association (on September 30, 1962), and later in the sixties would become a key aide within Chavez’s movement.

Money was clearly always at the centre of debates with the farm workers movement, but contrary to Chavez’s ongoing claims about financial independence, during its early years vital support for his Farm Worker Association (FWA) was derived from the Californian Migrant Ministry (CMM), which itself was supported by the Schwarzhaupt Foundation.

“The support started slowly. In the early 1960s, the CMM had a budget of about $100,000 a year. It bought the FWA its first mimeograph machine and Cesar some meals and gas. When Migrant Minister were assigned to be trained by Chavez, they worked as his assistants. Although Chavez pointedly never took money from the CMM for his own salary, the Migrant Ministry would sometimes pay the salary of other FWA organizers. This began in late 1964…  At one time in the mid-sixties there were twenty-six of these worker priests, most of them with little religious background at all, working under the UFW’s directions.” (Trampling Out the Vintage, p.123)

To reiterate the developing contradictions within the farm workers movement: the early stated ethos of Chavez’s organizing ventures was clear:

“Having studied the failures of past attempts to organize migrant farm labor, Chavez believed that organizing workers in a traditional union would never work. Instead, in keeping with his CSO training and his Catholic upbringing, and inspired by his contemporaries Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, Chavez sought to organize farmworkers as a cultural and religious people, situated in their geographic communities, into a social movement. Central to the early philosophy of the movement was the spirit of volunteerism, community service, and collective ownership. According to Dolores Huerta, the main organizing principle emphasized the importance of an all-volunteer, dues-paying membership: ‘There was a strong belief in not taking money from the outside and in insisting that farmworkers pay and volunteer for the movement…’ ” (The SelfHelp Myth)

Through sheer hard work and persistence during their first two years Chavez, Huerta, and a small group of volunteer organizers travelled door to door, organizing endless house meetings, and in doing so were able to recruit membership-paying field workers. Early Farm Worker Association advocate Don Villarejo, recalled that the movement “would not take a dime of money from outside their own pockets—if there was any money or meaning in the movement it had to be based in workers.” (The SelfHelp Myth) Yet even at this early stage Chavez recognized the “benefits” that could be accrued to his organizing efforts if they accepted external funding. Thus, in late 1964:

“Chavez, the pragmatist, was willing to jettison one of his cardinal rules: don’t take outside money. The application submitted to OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity] asked for more than $200,000 to create seventy jobs, sixty-three for farmworkers who would work in the credit union, start a cooperative, and run a gas station. Chavez, as director, would receive a salary of $15,000.” — Miriam Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography (2014), p.97.[2]

During its initial years the Farm Worker Association attempted to build from the tradition of mutualistas, a community self-help model popular in the 1920s and 1930s in Mexico. This desire for self-help meshed well with Chavez’s desire to work outside of traditional methods of union organizing; but soon his Association had to evolve to keep up with other developments in the fields. In this manner the union model of organizing was “quickly thrust” on the Association in 1965…

“…when the mostly Filipino-American members of the AFL-CIO– supported Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), led by Larry Itliong, walked out on strike against grape growers in the Delano area. Under pressure from AWOC and their own members, Chavez’s mostly Latino NFWA decided to join AWOC and was unexpectedly thrown into a five-year grape strike. In the course of only a few months, the dogged door-to-door community organizing and mutual aid approach quickly transformed into the largest union movement of its time.” (The SelfHelp Myth)

External union cash soon came flowing in from Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which then progressed to direct support from the AFL-CIO: that is, after Chavez’s Association’s merger with AWOC led to the formation of the newly named United Farm Workers of America (which later changed name to become the United Farm Workers, UFW, in 1972). The money that now became available for grassroots organizing was growing by the day and far outstripped union dues. So considering the founding ideals of this still developing farmworkers movement, it is not surprising that some of their “key leaders” were wary of the political implications of external funding, especially that from outside the trade union movement. Illustrating the paradoxical nature of the centrality of financial issues, it is significant that this problem was also raised by groups that were wholly reliant on philanthropic benefactors themselves.

“Despite its own funding from the National Council of Churches and the Max L. Rosenberg Foundation, Migrant Ministry argued that publicly and privately funded self-help housing and infrastructure programs risked co-opting the advocacy and organizing potential of the movement. Regardless of the moral and political stance against outside funds, movement leaders changed their minds when they found out that multiple farmworker-serving organizations were receiving large grants from the OEO’s War on Poverty. According to lead organizer Gilbert Padilla in an interview with Marshall Ganz, Chavez feared that if ‘the NFWA did not get the OEO funds, others would who might not share the NFWA’s organizing agenda… and by reversing itself on rejection of outside money, the NFWA tried to preempt claims of others who might use funds in less productive ways.’ ”

“In 1965, only a year after claiming that public funds would corrupt a volunteer led farmworker movement, the NFWA applied for an OEO grant of $500,000. The NFWA was forced to return these funds amid protest among growers and mainstream stakeholders who were upset that the OEO was supporting strikes and unionization. However, by 1966, the movement was seeking support from private funders, resulting in a heated debate on the limits to farmworker self-help and the incorporation of the private, nonprofit movement institutions to which Chavez eventually retreated.” (The SelfHelp Myth)

The Ford Foundation-backed initiatives in California, of which the most visible was their “War on Poverty” Community Action Projects (CAPs), were at the time dominated by affiliates of the American Friends Service Committee.[3] Millions of dollars flooded into these CAPs from the government, while simultaneously the government’s ODO funders “began to reign in CAP staff eager to join the strikes and vetoed poverty funding that had anything to do with organizing farmworkers.” (The SelfHelp Myth) These efforts to control their activist staff did not always play out as planned, and the ODO-initiated California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) – whose employees included Jerry Cohen, who went on to become the farmworkers primary lawyer — maintained close working relationships with Chavez’s movement despite the best-efforts of their government paymasters. (This intimate link is not unsurprising as Chavez himself was included upon California Rural Legal Assistance’s board of directors when they had been set-up in 1966.)

With the increasing pressures of so many conflicting forces bearing down upon union organizing efforts, “Chavez and a small group of preacher activists from Migrant Ministry redirected decision-making away from workers toward a centralized leadership after the strike went public.” With the flow of money drying up for the more radical CAPs, new streams of funding would soon bolster farm worker activism from groups like the Citizens’ Crusade Against Poverty (CCAP). This CCAP had been initiated in late 1964 by soon-to-be allies of the farm workers which included Walter Reuther, Senator Robert Kennedy, and the former OEO director Richard Boone. The Ford Foundation had provided the grant to launch CCAP and movement leaders including Huerta, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bayard Rustin were quickly drawn in to reside on the organizations board of directors. With a $4 million four-year commitment from Ford, money now began to cascade more freely:

“A CCAP grant to the UFW in 1967 introduced the farmworker movement to program staff at both the Ford Foundation and the Field Foundation, both major funders from 1967 through the early 1970s. Headed up by Reuther, CCAP granted the UFW $200,000 to train emerging farmworker leaders in the Central Valley through the UFW’s then unincorporated National Farm Worker Service Center (NFWSC). The UFW hired Fred Ross (CSO founder and longtime ally) to develop and implement a training program in which farmworker leaders would learn how to organize and represent farmworkers to local agencies. Ross was also charged with establishing the NFWSC as a viable institution to serve the needs of local farmworkers. After only one year of the UFW/NFWSC/Fred Ross training program, the CCAP informed the UFW that the Ford Foundation was ending funding to CCAP. With additional funds from the Ford Foundation, a new organization called the Center for Community Change (CCC) was founded to absorb OEO- and CCAP-related projects.” (The SelfHelp Myth)

As part of ongoing efforts to channel external funds into the movement, in 1966 Chavez’s union set-up the National Farm Worker Service Center which received its “first large grant… through the Ford Foundation for the CCAP organizer-training program.” In 1969, the Centre was subsequently able to be directly funded by philanthropic foundations (like Ford) when it was formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization, but this change led to unforeseen problems that “limit[ed] the kind of farmworker self-help that was possible.” Hence, “Strict lines were quickly drawn between the social service work and economic justice organizing.” Here it should be noted, that the unions increasingly problematic “relationship with private funders, particularly the Field Foundation, paved the way for the retreat from organizing to a nonprofit institutional model—a space that became all too comfortable when crisis intensified within movement leadership and in the fields.” (The SelfHelp Myth)[4]

“After the 1969 incorporation as a 501(c)(3) organization, several private foundations, including the Ford Foundation, granted support to the service center for more farmworker service programming (for example, the creation of a community school and a clinic) and general administrative support. All of these programs fell within the acceptable logic of philanthropic self-help. Unlike the early mutual aid and cooperative associations, which were owned and led by farmworkers and poor migrant families, these programs depended on resources from outside stakeholders. They also focused primarily on how farmworkers could help themselves improve their own behaviors and conditions, without challenging individual growers or the structure of the agricultural industry. The revolutionary interpretation of mutual aid to foster self-determination and ownership, and the subsequent union approach, were both replaced by a more traditional charitable model.” (The SelfHelp Myth)

That the need to attract funding affected the political priorities of the union is obvious, which is why, over the years, members continually opposed Chavez and his Executive on such matters. In regular, democratic unions the majority, if not all, of the organizations funding is reliant upon membership dues, but prior to 1969, “dues were no more than 16 percent” of union income. (Trampling Out the Vintage, p.550) In particular, this delinking of the union leadership from its membership base meant that it was foundation money not the workers themselves who would play an important role in building farmworker leadership and institutions. But while Chavez had “initially assumed that private funding could also be used to support strikes, boycott, and union organizing,” it soon became clear that this was not the case. “Through highly charged debates documented in print mail correspondence, foundation program officers convinced Chavez that foundation grants to the movement could not include union organizing or confrontation with the agricultural industry.”[5] As a result of these barriers to action, Chavez channelled such external funds to less confrontational service work; changes which wrought a large effect on the political priorities of the union.

Foundation grants kept flowing during the 1970s for the National Farm Worker Service Center along with the seven additional nonprofit organizations that were eventually founded by the union leadership; and it is true that managing this money presented different challenges in the form of “bureaucratic inundation” for Chavez and his largely uncritical cadre of union activists. “Consumed with developing his new organizations, Chavez ultimately accepted a foundation-approved translation of farmworker self-help that featured poor field hands in need of philanthropic charity—but not a movement in struggle for self-determination, labor rights, and collective ownership among workers.”[6] Arguably it was exactly these additional unforeseen problems that “eventually distracted movement leadership from union organizing when the movement faced its most severe challenges.”

What makes these problems all the more vexing is that during his lifetime Chavez was never held accountable for his many mistakes. This was in large part because the entire farm workers’ movement rested upon Chavez’s own mythmaking. We should of course be realistic about the weighty political pressures that were brought to bear upon Chavez as his organization gradually became more dependent on external benefactors with ulterior motives. The remedy for such perennial problems, which face all organizations (big or small), would have been the promotion of internal democracy within his union. But we should recognize that from the start Chavez never really had much time for internal democracy.

Ongoing state surveillance from the FBI no doubt increased Chavez’s paranoia in the context of his long internal fight against union members of his union harbouring democratic inclinations; and on this score it is notable that the FBI never unearthed any evidence of Communist infiltration into the union. The lack of such a so-called Communist threat however did not quiet Chavez’s own desire to revive the worst elements of McCarthyism. “For Chavez, red-baiting became a convenient excuse to get rid of people who asked too many questions, grumbled about the drudgery of picket work, objected to the AFL-CIO alliance, broke up marriages, exhibited too much independence, or drew too much attention to themselves.” “As Fred Hirsch had pointed out as early as 1968, Chavez viewed almost everyone as expendable.” (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, p.150, p.341) When Fred reluctantly parted company with the union in the wake of raising his democratic concerns, he left his teenage daughter, Liza, living with Chavez and his family. Liza then stuck it out with Chavez (her mentor) until 1978 when she was unceremoniously ejected from the union after attempting to stick up for a fellow activist whom Chavez had arranged to be arrested by the local police: “Chavez denounced Liza as a Communist and ordered her thrown out.” (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, p.346)[7] This was just the latest in a long string of expulsions and resignations, and Chavez’s unaccountability continued to have a toxic effect as far as far as the future of the union was concerned.

In addition to his daily obsession with communist troublemakers, Chavez’s destabilizing paranoia asserted itself it other ways too, like when he accused the flood of undocumented workers from Mexico into the Californian fields as being part of a devious “CIA operation.” At this historical juncture of CIA ranting, in 1974, Chavez evidently had faith in Liza Hirsch’s obedience to his rule, and he set her the task of coordinating the unions controversial “Illegals Campaign,” which sought to report illegal immigrants to the authorities. Here it is interesting that in that same year, Fred Hirsch had published a short book entitled “The Foreign Policy of the AFL-CIO in Latin America: or Under the Covers with the C.IA. The release of this ground-breaking text is relevant here because it illustrated how, from 1962 onwards, the right-wing leadership of the AFL-CIO had colluded with the U.S. government and the CIA to create the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD): the goal of this Institute was to promote business unionism in opposition to radical democratic alternatives across the world. Fred’s volume focused particularly on “the part AIFLD took in the bloody termination of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende in Chile.”

In 2011, Fred wrote a thoughtful essay reflecting upon this real-life conspiracy titled “Did Ties to CIA-Labor Penetration Abroad Blowback at Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union?” As he points out:

“One strong factor for the decline of the United Farm Workers Union may have derived from its celebrity among good liberals, the awesome allegiance of genuinely humane church people and its early-on dependence on the financial support and “guidance” of George Meany’s AFL-CIO. Chavez came to be dependent upon outside financing for the work of the Union. Without the generosity of progressive and religious groups, and regular checks from the AFL-CIO, the growth and power of the UFW would have had to depend upon the farm workers themselves in a democratic, self-sustaining, dues paying union.”

Although he didn’t realize its significance at the time, Fred recalled how during his time in the fields with the United Farm Workers a delegation of foreign trade unionists from the Vietnamese Confederation of Labor paid them a fleeting visit: “It was the official labor organization that operated at the pleasure of the CIA and in service to Presidents Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Cao Ky.” Although Fred is unclear of the exact date, in either 1974 or 1976, he subsequently met with Chavez to warn him of the vile practices that taken place in Chile, and were still being undertaken elsewhere, by the CIA and AFL-CIO leadership (without the knowledge of the AFLO-CIO’s membership).

“Cesar did not say whether or not he cooperated with such AIFLD visits. He was, however, uncharacteristically fidgety and stone-faced. He made no commitment to act on the information.  We would not expect so intelligent a leader, a man so publicly committed to non-violence, to allow his organization to be tied to the corporate friendly schemes of the Nixon administration through AIFLD. More than three thousand men and women many selected from an AIFLD list of “subversives.” Many or most of those who were killed following the overthrow of democracy in Chile by Pinochet were progressive trade unionists like many of us. They were made martyrs for their names being put on a list.”

Chavez took no heed of Fred’s warnings, and worse still, in 1977, Chavez visited the Philippines to endorse the right-wing dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his associated CIA-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.[8] This disastrous trip was undertaken not without substantial opposition from other leaders and members of his union, all of whose warning were vehemently denied by Chavez. (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, pp.367-9) The serious nature of the problems raised by Chavez’s dalliance with a bloody dictator are also briefly touched upon in Trampling Out the Vintage, where particular attention is focused on some of the many reasons why the AFL-CIO benefited from diverting so much funding and energy towards Chavez’s ever-popular union of dreams.

“Chavez provided [George] Meany with progressive cover for his steadfast opposition to most rank-and-file organizing and his long-term betrayal of American liberals. Chavez came relatively cheap when compared with all that had to be ignored or forgotten: Meany’s failure to support an organizing drive in the South following the civil rights movement; his opposition to affirmative action in his federated unions; his support for the war in Vietnam; and his tacit support of Nixon against McGovern. Chavez’s need was more direct. Having lost about 80 percent of his membership to the Teamsters, he needed political and financial support to rebuild, and he had to win that help from a man who disagreed with the way Chavez did business. They negotiated intermittently. Chavez’s need was more profound, so Meany could extract favors: La Paz would be on the itinerary of various Latin American labor leaders who were being wooed by the AFL-CIO’s CIA-aided operation, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD); Chavez would refrain from criticizing Meany to West Coast reporters; the UFW would contribute to the AFL-CIO fund for Israel and issue a statement of support for Israel in the aftermath of the 1973 war.” (Trampling Out the Vintage, pp.460-1)[9]

Such untoward manoeuvrings on the part of conservative misleaders of the American trade union movement were also played out in the longstanding relationship between the United Farm Workers and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) (which “still had pretences as the standard bearer of ‘social unionism,’ as opposed to Meany’s ‘business unionism’”) – first under the influence of Walter Reuther and then by his successor Leonard Woodcock. Yet at the end of the day:

“The UAW’s reasons for supporting the UFW were not too different from those of its old rival, Meany. In a series of Detroit wildcat strikes in 1973, UAW officials had led the opposition to the strikers, hoping to secure their own position as junior partners of the Big Three auto manufacturers. In the last wildcat strike at Chrysler, endorsed by leaders of the UAW local at the struck plant, more than 1,000 UAW officials, many wielding baseball bats, attacked the picket line and broke up the strike. That finished off the rebellion within the UAW, and brought a symbolic end to the short era of U.S. rank-and-file militancy. At a UAW conventions nine months later, however, in an attempt to assure others (and themselves) that they were still progressive unionists, many of these same bat-swinging officials endorsed Woodcock’s decision to fund the UFW and gave their guest speaker, Chavez, a series of standing ovations.” (Trampling Out the Vintage, pp.461-2)

The democratic trade union myth that is Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers persists to this day, and that is all well and good if it can persuade more people to fight for a better world with the aid of the trade union movement. But what is clear is that the membership of Chavez’s union lies in tatters in no small part because of his failure to allow democracy to flourish,[10] and by his inability to resist being used as a tool by elite forces external to his union, whether they be the right-wing bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO or that of the liberal philanthropic community.

Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).


[1] For further criticism of Saul Alinksy, see Robert Fisher, Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America (1984); Fisher, ‘‘Community Organizing in the Conservative ’80s and Beyond,’’ Social Policy, September 22, 1994; John McKnight and John Kretzmann, ‘‘Community Organizing in the 80’s: Toward a Post-Alinsky Agenda,’’ Social Policy, 1984; and for a detailed critique of Alinksy’s most famous organization, see John Hall Fish, Black Power/White Control: The Struggle of the Woodlawn Association in Chicago (1973).

[2] In 1966: “Almost all of the inner circle [of the union] were paid basic wages from the Migrant Ministry, the non-profit Service Center, or foundations. Supporters seeking to make tax-exempt donations were directed to foundations that funnelled the money to help the strike. [Chris] Hartmire chaired a non-profit called the Center for Change and Community Development (CCCD), one of several ways government and foundation grants were quietly directed to the union cause. A grant from the federal Office of Economic Opportunity supported a program run by the CCCD called the Self-Help Service Corps Project, chaired by Richard Chavez. The project trained volunteers to organize and essentially provided staff for the strike, until Governor Ronald Reagan vetoed the funding. At one point, Fred Ross was on the payroll at $1,250 a month and Manuel Chavez at $500 a month.” (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, p.148)

[3] Erica Kohl-Arenas points out how numerous poverty scholars “have argued that the War on Poverty, like the Ford Foundation projects, sidetracked movements for justice by curtailing and defunding activities of CAPs when their definition of self-help was deemed too confrontational.” Here she lists three examples: such as Alyosha Goldstein, Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century (Duke University Press, 2012); Michael Katz, The Undeserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation with Poverty (Oxford University Press, 2013); and Alice O’Connor, “Swimming Against the Tide: A Brief History of Federal Policy in Poor Communities,” In: Ronald Ferguson and William Dickens (eds.), Urban Problems and Community Development (Brookings Institution, 1999). Kohl-Arenas, “The Self-Help Myth: Towards a Theory of Philanthropy as Consensus Broker,” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, September 2015, 74(4), p.805.

[4] “Between 1967 and 1969 the Field Foundation granted the [union service center] $85,000, and between 1972 and 1976, over $200,000—a great deal for a movement organization at this time.” (The SelfHelp Myth)

[5] Erica Kohl-Arenas, “The Presentation of Self in Philanthropic Life: The Political Negotiations of the Foundation Program Officer: The Presentation of Self in Philanthropic Life,” Antipode, 2017, pp.6-7.

[6] Kohl-Arenas, “The Self-Help Myth,” p.808. Later in the 70s, “As Chavez retreated further, suggesting that the future of the movement might be found in creating a model community at La Paz funded by grants, the sale of candles, and an organic garden, the farmworkers’ plight was promoted as a charitable cause but not as a movement based on the collective power of workers.” (The SelfHelp Myth)

[7] Before Fred and his wife Virginia left the farmworkers movement in 1968, Fred “wrote a ‘for your eyes only’ memo that he sent to every member of the Executive Board and to LeRoy Chatfield. The long rambling complaint made four main points, mincing no words: (1) [Chavez’s] fast had been a hypocritical misuse of religious symbolism; (2) white outsiders had been brought into the union and placed at key positions of power where they stood in the way of farm worker advancement inside UFWOC; (3) the organization was autocratic, as Chavez and his white advisers made all the important decisions; (4) inside UFWOC there was contempt for people’s labor, as volunteers were given make-work and moved from job to job willy-nilly.” (Trampling Out the Vintage)

Drawing upon official tape recording of a union meeting in mid-1977 Pawel provides a good illustration of how Chavez used his power illegitimately: “’If I stay [in the union],’ Chavez continued, ‘I have to stay on my own terms and I have to fuck the organization to the extent that I become a real dictator, if I’m not one right now. That’s just natural.’ He would only stay, he repeated, on one condition: ‘I got to be the fucking king, or I leave.’” (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, p.378)

[8] For more details of the role of U.S. support for anti-democratic trade unions in the Philippines see Kim Scipes, KMU: Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994 (1996), and my own article “A Warning for Egyptian Revolutionaries: Courtesy of People-Power in the Philippines” (February 15, 2011).

[9] For more details on the misleadership of the AFL-CIO, Trampling Out the Vintage cites Paul Buhle,’s excellent book Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor (1999).

[10] “By the early 2000s, UFW membership had shrunk to under 5,000, yet movement organizations were collectively receiving more than $1 million a year for service and educational programs, from funders including the California Endowment, the Packard Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Unfortunately, from the late 1970s to the present day, scandals of fraud, nepotism, and mismanagement have plagued the movement institutions.” (The SelfHelp Myth)


An Analysis of Our AFL-CIO Role in Latin America; or, Under the Covers With the CIA

The following important report was published in San Jose, California, by Fred Hirsch on January 25, 1974. The title of the following 46-page report was “An Analysis of our AFL-CIO role in Latin America; or, Under the covers with the CIA.”

On December 1, 1973, the Emergency Committee to Defend Democracy in Chile held a conference on Chile/Latin America/U.S. Foreign Policy. Out of that conference of 300 diverse people came a continuing workshop on U.S. labor’s role in Latin America.

This paper was developed out of the discussions of trade unionists. In our attempt to penetrate the role of the AFL-CIO’s American Institute for Free Labor Development in Chile, we found the facts so startling as to be unbelievable. To put the AIFLD in perspective we found it necessary to trace its development through an all-but-hidden history of government-labor-CIA and corporate involvement.

This paper is intended as background for the resolutions to be found in the back of this analysis.

All funds raised through sales of this publication are delivered to the movement of the people of Chile to free political prisoners, restore full human rights and put an end to the military dictatorship.

Copyright, F. Hirsch, San Jose, CA. 1974 Second printing, April, 1974.

Fred Hirsch CIA cover


The tragic and dramatic overthrow of the Popular Unity Government in Chile opens many questions in the labor movement which remain unanswered. These questions will remain unanswered unless there is a deliberate pursuit of answers on the part of active and determined trade unionists. Questions surrounding the nature of the involvement of officials of the AFL-CIO in Latin America and Chile are of such a profound nature that they challenge the underlying principles of trade unionism.

We take pride in the protests voiced by some local unions and by a number of Central Labor Councils. The denunciations of the Chilean junta and its fascist-like methods on the part of such major names in labor as Pat Gorman, Ralph Helstein, Leonard Woodcock, Floyd Smith and Harry Bridges are a clarion of conscience.

But the blame for events in Chile and in other Latin American and Caribbean nations cannot simply be placed on the military dictators who kill the people in the name of “fatherland and liberty.” The blame must also be placed on the multinational corporations which reach out from North American soil to multiply their wealth on the labor and resources of such places as Chile. The blame must fall on those in government who guarantee the profits of the multinationals – not just with risk-free insurance and credit and loan manipulations – but with arms, troops when they deem necessary, and with the ever threatening presence of the CIA. More important for us in the labor movement, we must discover as exactly, as possible just what the role of U.S. labor has been in clearing the brush for the advancing corporations, the State Department and the CIA. That we have played such a role is a fact; only the extent of that role is in question.

Has the U.S. labor movement allowed itself to be shanghaied into service as aide to the junta executioners of Latin America? Has such a thing happened through the democratic processes we boast, or has our power and representation been hijacked by the CIA for use against our brothers and sisters abroad?

There is enormous evidence to show AFL-CIO complicity in the overthrow of democratic governments elected fairly by the people of Latin America and the Caribbean. Well-documented facts’ suggest that we of the AFL-CIO allowed our powder to be used to bring about the murderous coup in Chile which outlawed the Chilean labor movement killed tens of thousands and abolished the civilian and human rights of the people. If such is allowed it sorely diminishes our stature as trade unionists. If such decisions were made behind closed doors in our Washington offices, they must be brought out and questioned, reviewed and altered to the satisfaction of the rank-and-file of our organizations. If that cannot be done, it is time to drop the words “democratic” and “free” from our statements of principle. Anything less is hypocrisy.

Shortly after the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile, Dr. Ernesto Galarza, a well-known author, former labor chief of the Pan American Union, who for ten years was the organizer for the National Agricultural Workers Union (predecessor of AWOC, and now UFWU), attempted to open a dialog with AFL-CIO Legislative Director Andrew Biemiller. Biemiller had testified against a trade bill designed to open commerce with the eastern countries. He objected to dealing with “countries which repress their population, thwart formation of free trade unions, and stifle political dissent.” Galarza asked why the AFL-CIO leveled its attack only on the eastern countries when “the military assassinations that the Chilean junta has been carrying out systematically” fit the description so closely. Yet the Chilean situation was never cited by the AFL-CIO. Dr. Galarza charged that Biemiller’s statement kills “a myth to which the AFL-CIO has been paying homage for decades, namely, that there is a Dear Sir and Brotherhood among all workers of the Americas.” Biemiller failed to so much as send brother Galarza a reply. The same letter was sent to Andrew McLellan, AFL-CIO Inter-American representative; again no reply. There is only one reason why these AFL-CIO officials would not respond to a man of Dr. Galarza’s stature: their reply could never stand the scrutiny of honest trade unionists.


The mechanism of the AFL-CIO in Latin America is the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). This organization was formed as a non-profit corporation in 1962. Its president is none other than George Meany. Chairman of the Board of Trustees is J. Peter Grace, chief executive of W. R. Grace & Company, a multinational corporation with extensive interests in Latin America. The AIFLD Board of Trustees is made up largely of leading labor officials and corporate executives with enormous holdings in Latin America and the Caribbean countries.

AIFLD was set up as the latest step in the program of AFL (now AFL-CIO) to split the leftist labor unions in Latin America and increase U.S. influence. Its stated goal is “the development of the democratic trade union movement in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Whether or not the stated goal conforms to the reality of its practice is a crucial question.

Originally an educational project, AIFLD now operates in several other fields – social projects, credit facilities, social action and “community development.” The educational phase of the operation is massive. In Colombia and Peru it has trained as much as 5% of the union membership – far exceeding any AFL-CIO training programs offered to unionists in the U.S. In local seminars, people are chosen to participate in area-wide or nationwide seminars; from these are selected the most likely people (often they are not even unionists) who are offered a three-month course in AIFLD’s training center at Front Royal, Virginia. During this time the trainee’s, family receives a stipend and the trainee gets a per diem payment in excess of what he or she would earn on the job. When the Front Royal course is completed, trainees are returned home where they continue on the AIFLD payroll for at least an additional nine months. Subjects covered at Front Royal include:

  • The InterAmerican and International Labor Movement
  • Adult Education
  • Instruction in Cooperatives
  • Time and Motion Study
  • Credit Unions
  • The Cooperative Movement; Techniques and Problems
  • The AIFLD – Department of Social Projects
  • History and Structure of the North American Labor
  • Movement Political Systems: Democracy and Totalitarianism

The courses are heavily larded with material similar to that dispensed in the Sixties by the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade. (In fact, one of the first Directors of AIFLD was listed as a speaker for that group.) They do not deal with problems created by multinational corporations, American or European neo-imperialism, oligarchic national control, land redistribution or the fascist patterns of military governments. They mention no courses relating to strike strategy. The basic premise of the educational program is that all solutions will come to working people through collective bargaining and opposing communism in collaboration with management and government. In addition to the above mentioned courses, AIFLD has added one and two year courses in labor economics.

The social programs of AIFLD are generally brought into play to fill some of the needs of members in unions which are engaged in direct conflict with leftist unions. These programs are used to “showcase” the benefits of AFL-CIO style unions. Housing development is the program given the most publicity in AIFLD reports. Unfortunately the thousands of housing units they construct in Latin America are priced beyond the means of average workers and the overwhelming numbers of poor people. This housing is more suited to the income of high wage earners and professionals.

In addition to limiting costs, AIFLD housing is tied with strings in such a manner that, from time to time, it has been rejected even by anti-communist unions which seek to maintain their autonomy. According to a U.S. Senate study, “AIFLD apparently demands that, in all questions relating to a given housing project, it be allowed to act with complete authority on behalf of the Latin American union involved. Many unions feel this is too high a price to pay. [Survey of the Alliance for Progress, Labor Policies and Programs, by the staff of the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 7/15/68.]

The other social projects are carried out under the guidance of AIFLD advisers and are paid for through US AID (Alliance for Progress) funds. In Chile the funds were loosely accounted for; the Senate study charged that billings were “prepared on the basis of unsupported estimates” which “demonstrate serious financial management weakness in the AID-AIFLD contract relationship.” [Ibid. p.48] According to David Bell, former director of USAID:

American labor people work continuously in Latin America as advisers to labor leaders who are trained as sources of Ideas and stimulation for our type of labor union… It is intended to work directly with the leadership of the Latin American trade unions and educate them and persuade them of the direction to follow that we think and our American labor leaders think is sensible and so on.

If Bell’s statement seems to bind American labor leaders in AIFLD too tightly under State Department AID direction, it is no coincidence. William C. Doherty, Jr., Executive Director of AIFLD, claims that 92% of his budget comes out of government funds; the rest is out of the AFL-CIO and “some 95 business establishments with interests in Latin America.” [AIFLD Booklet, l962-72, p.17]

The general approach of AIFLD is laid out for us by Doherty in a 5/6/69 report to the Senate Committee:

After the AFL-CIO had decided to set up the organization, conversations ensued between our labor leaders and leaders in the United States and we found there was common ground. People like David Rockefeller and Peter Grace — and I don’t want to mention all their names because I’m sure to leave some out — decided that we had a lot to gain from cooperating Latin America, and that we would try to throw away some of the classic concepts of how labor view management, and how management views labor, and to see if we could not do some co-operating, What we did was set up the AIFLD in cooperation with management.

This approach is given further depth by J. Peter Grace:

We need to understand that today the choice in Latin America is between democracy and communism. We must bear in mind that we cannot allow communist propaganda to divide us as between liberals and conservatives, or between business and labor, or between the American people and their government… In this organization we have a joint venture that the communists cannot hope to match – one of free men from all walks of life working together in consensus for a common goal without selfish purpose. [AIFLD Pamphlet, “A Decade of worker to Worker Cooperation.”]

Grace’s holdings extend to Chile, where the Grace Company has made unprecedented profits (“without selfish purpose”) for more than a hundred years.

The U.S. government expectations of AIFLD are best expressed in the 1966 State Department contract which handed over $645,000 to Doherty’s apparatus for use in Chile [AID-LA #259, Chile]:

… The target of this activity is to strengthen and develop a trade union leadership that is capable of organizing a democratic labor movement in Chile which can participate and contribute to national development…

and to develop and implement

…small impact projects intended to meet the needs of workers’ groups and develop a friendly attitude to the United States.

It takes more than a fair share of arrogance to assume that Chileans have not or cannot organize their own democratic labor movement. The labor movement in Chile began as early as our own with effective general strikes as far back as 1890, and Chileans have organized a higher percentage of the working class than the AFL-CIO here at home. At the time of the coup there were two million Chileans in unions out of a population of ten million. The U.S. has some 20 million organized workers in a population of 210 million. U.S. unions have 25% of the work force organized; in Chile it was 90%. The difference is that the democratically elected leaders of the majority of Chilean workers are oriented toward socialism and against collaboration with the corporations which exploit their labor, many of which are to be found in the membership and directorate of AIFLD.

Note also that the $645,600 in the AIFLD Chile budget for 1966 was an expenditure of U.S. workers’ dues money and taxes – more than three times greater than the budget of the entire Chilean labor movement. Fortunately or not for AIFLD, the organization of working people is not always a commodity to be bought and sold. The Chilean unions consolidated their power to the point where they were able to elect the Allende government and take control of their country’s major corporations. Those corporations, to the discredit of unionists in the U.S., were represented best by AIFLD.

Hirsch page


By 1967 the AIFLD budget was well over 96 million, a figure three times the annual AFL-CIO budget. Though we still have more than 60 million workers in this country who are unorganised, the AFL-CIO has never asked for government funds to use here in the U.S. for organizing a “democratic labor movement.” In fact, AFL-CIO’s Department of Organizing has, in just a few years, dwindled from a staff of 600 to an extremely cautious staff of about 300, and those remaining are fearful that the entire Organising Department soon will be dismantled.

On the other hand, the government is not only disinterested in offering money for trade union organization, but such expenditure would be illegal in 1966 a small group of organizers who had been close to the farmworkers latched onto some Office of Economic Opportunity funds. Its purpose was to establish a training center for “rural organizers” and it was called California Center for Community Development (CCCD). After much hassle t the funding came through under the protective wing of a few Democratic politicians. The CCCD program was similar to AIFLD in structure, but not in outlook. The organizer-trainees spent three weeks at the Center and then stayed on a payroll for six months in the field. The very first time a “trainee” was found organizing a farmworker picketline without covering his tracks, the Feds moved in and the program was shut down. It was clearly evident that the U.S. government was not going to allow any trade union organizing to be funded through the taxes paid by working people and it had the law to back it up.


As for the corporations’ interest in “organizing a democratic labor movement” in Latin America, that is patently ridiculous. The whole history of the union movement in this country flies in the face of such an idea* Even an uneducated examination of a partial list of corporate supporters of AIFLD reveals companies which have fought unionization at an immense cost in the lives of working people. There are the mining companies – Kennecott, Anaconda and American Smelting and Refining, which fought bloody battles with the Western Federation of Miners, Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers and, to this day, the United Steel Workers.

There is Readers Digest, which has put out material supporting the anti-union “right to work” drives and whose most published contributor, incidentally, is Richard Nixon.

There is IBM, which has successfully done everything in its power to keep out unions.

There are the Rockefeller corporations, the major oil companies and the great banking giants which have denied workers the right to organize by scheming brute force and racism; some of these succumbed only when the workers became so powerful that continued company resistance was uneconomical.

Among the companies affiliated with AIFLD are a slew which have been nailed in the courts and in the Watergate hearings for oversized and illegal contributions to Nixon’s campaigns and who benefit far beyond their donations in inflated superprofits taken from the pockets of unionists and unorganized workers across the United States.

The entire history of trade unionism shows that the only time a company is interested in trade union representation for its workers is when it adds up to increased profits. Corporations have always tried to put together company unions or their equivalent when there was a danger of organization by a bona fide labor organization. The same California growers who supported the so-called “right to work” law today promote the Teamsters to represent farmworkers. They don’t do that because they want a union; they do it because they want some organization – any organisation – to help them avoid dealing with a true and militant representative of the men and women who work in the fields. It is precisely the same with the 95 corporations in AIFLD’s fold. They are interested in a stable labor situation through which they can continue their outrageous rates of profit. They need the same status quo which has institutionalized massive and gross poverty in Latin America, They view cooperation with the program of AIFLD as the most economic means of fulfilling their manifest destiny as super profiteers. The AIFLD corporations are run by hardheaded businessmen; their collaboration with the AFL-CIO in Latin America is not based on softheadedness. It is simply the best available method for them to maintain corporate control over the lives and productive power of the working people in the various countries.


There are certain and clear contradictions among the AFL-CIO, the U.S. government and the multinational corporations. Their unity in AIFLD seemingly violates the contradictions. Conflict of interest ought to characterize the relationship between the members of the tri -partite alliance; yet the conflict fails to divide these partners. In order to understand this, we must look briefly at the role of U.S. labor in foreign policy before the emergence of AIFLD, for the historic roots of the present corporation/government/labor cooperation go back more than a half century.

The AFL policy, which developed during World War I, was first of all against American Socialists who opposed the war and in support of the war policies of the Woodrow Wilson administration. Samuel Gompers’ policy of “bread-and-butter” craft unionism was under sharp attack by the Socialists in the labor movement. Their militancy, industrial union policies and political action were not only an embarrassment to the Gompers forces, but challenged their conservative leadership. The conflict drove Gompers into anti -Socialist cooperation with “labor’s friends.” One of the prime examples of “labor’s friends” was Woodrow Wilson. A personal friendship flowered between Gompers and the President, It was only a short step to collaborating with the friends of “labor’s friends”- labor’s enemies – who sat on the other side of the bargaining table. The collaboration became so cozy that the first labor delegations sent to confer with European unions had to pass muster with the National Civic Federation, an organization of leading businessmen and top labor leaders founded by Mark Hanna and financed by the Morgan interests. The interplay of these relationships brought about many bitter situations in which craft unions were used to break strikes in the mass production industries. Cozy collaboration principles left the unions defenseless by the Twenties, when the rank-and-file was subjected to speed-up, mechanization, yellow-dog contracts and the right- to-work scheme of the “American Plan,” Gompers’ willingness to support Wilson’s war aims paid off in some respects. It gave the labor officials new prestige, hobnobbing with high leadership in industry, and it made the AFL a junior partner in some government planning related to the war effort. It also put Gompers in the position of enlisting the aid of a group of pro-war Socialists who had splintered from the main group of their party. It became necessary for Gompers and Wilson to use the Socialist reputations of such men in order to strengthen the resolve of Socialist labor leaders in Europe to continue the war.

In this period, Sam Gompers – having become a “labor statesman” – leaned heavily on the pro-war ex-Socialists who formed the Social Democratic League. In their European tours (trying to convince the Socialist-oriented unions to stick behind the war effort} they began to use the words “free” and “democratic” to characterize those unions which were not led by Socialists and, later, by “bolsheviks” and “communists.”

Algernon Simons, a leader of the Social Democratic League, was in Italy when Gompers toured for the Wilson war effort. There Gompers earned the scorn of the largely socialist labor movement, with one notable exception: he received warm praise from a pro-war Italian “patriot” who had broken with the Socialist Party and founded his own newspaper – that was Benito Mussolini. [North Winship, “Gompers Visit to Milan, Oct. 17, 1918.] The term “democratic” was already thoroughly perverted in the jargon of the AFL when, in a note to Gompers, Simons characterised Mussolini’s publication as a “democratic, pro-war paper.” [Memo of Algie M. Simons, Gompers’ Manuscripts, Sept, 12, 1918.]

From that period on, the AFL was involved in the sphere of foreign policy/ acting for succeeding administrations and working in conjunction with the Social Democratic League and its inheritors og Jay Loves tone (chairman of the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department) and his sidekick, Irving Brown. Both are listed as operatives for the Central intelligence Agency. [Julius Mader, “Who’s Who in the CIA”, p.75, 318.] With the advent of the Russian Revolution at the end of World War I, the world labor movement underwent sharp polarization. Labor in Europe and Latin America gained widely in strength and moved to the left, while the AFL did its best to continue backing Wilsonian policy. There were sharp differences among leftist labor leaders – they divided into various groupings; moderate socialists, anarchists, anarcho-sindicalists, Trotskyists and Leninists – but the AFL stood fast against any group which did not pay total allegiance to the capitalist economic system.

The various socialist unions held international meetings and formed labor alliances which struck fear of revolution into government circles. To combat this, Gompers participated in the formation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) under the auspices of the League of Nations. Though ILO was ineffective, it brought the previously covert partnership of labor, government and business into the open. Each national delegation was to be composed of representatives of the three sectors, setting the precedent for a policy of collaboration between labor leaders and industrialists, which today shows up in AIFLD.


The period between the wars saw a large growth in U.S. corporate investment in Latin America, basically in agriculture and production of raw materials for industry. The Latin American workers’ organizations generally did not follow the “bread-and-butter” unionism of the AFL. Such a policy would have been impossible under landowner oligarchic governments which dealt with strikes at gunpoint and thought little of bringing “order” into labor relations by massacring workers, Latin Americans had the severest extremes of great individual wealth and mass poverty and starvation. The common view in South and Central America was that their misery was protected and perpetuated through economic control by U.S. business, backed by our government and the Monroe Doctrine. For that reason, Latin American unions geared themselves toward political and revolutionary solutions; they felt a need to wrest control from the foreign corporations and those hand-picked to serve them, Gompers moved into the Latin American scene with the Pan American Federation of Labor (PAFL) which he personally initiated. At the opening convention in Laredo in November, 1918, Gompers was accompanied by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. [Sinclair Snow, “Samuel Gompers and the Pan American Federation of Labor,” Doctoral Dissertation, Unv. of Virginia, 1960, pp.68-71.] It was significant that PAFL was financed directly by the U.S. government, its newspaper given a free mailing permit and published in Washington. This relationship carries over to AIPLD today. Gompers explained it: “The fundamental policy I have pursued in organising the Pan American Federation of Labor is based upon the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine, to establish and maintain the most friendly relations between the governments of the United States and the Pan American countries.” [Samuel Gompers, “Seventy Years of Life and Labor,” pp.321-412]

The PAFL lasted slightly more than ten years it failed to reflect and represent the interests and needs of working people. When it faded in the depression of the 30s, PAFL was replaced by the Latin American Confederation of Workers (CTAL), an anti-imperialist confederation which succeeded in organising millions of workers of all political shades in Latin America. CTAL was free from Worth American domination though it included Marxists in leadership, it enjoyed the support of the newly- formed CIO.


During World War II, there was a relaxation of tensions between the right and the left, nationally and internationally. Most union organizations held the defeat of the Axis the uppermost consideration. It was not until after the war – when communist- led unions and socialist nations were in ascendancy internationally – that the old battle stations were resumed. The United States emerged from the war stronger than it had entered it, and the economies of Europe were devastated. The Marshall Plan to rebuild Western European economies under until financial and military leadership began, and the “cold war” got into gear. The Truman administration needed the unions to deal with the left labor groups of Europe and the AFL leaders were there – ready and willing.

Toward the end of World War II the AFL set up the Free Trade Union Committee (FTUC). AFL head William Green, George Meany and David Dubinsky of the ILGWU chose a man to head FTUC who had served Dubinsky as a reliable “anti -communist expert.” Jay Lovestone had been expelled from Communist Party leadership in 1929 and in the Thirties had held a position leading an anti-communist witchhunt for Homer Martin, United Auto Workers head. When Martin was defeated by Walter Reuther it was not long before Loves tone went on the ILGWU payroll, fingering his former friends for Dubinsky.

When the FTUC position was offered, Love stone called on Irving Brown, his No.1 man in the UAW anti-communist crusade. Brown dropped his job as Director of the Labor and Manpower Administration in Europe to once again become Lovestone’s chief aide – this time for bigger stakes. These two were to carry their crusading anti-communism against the growing strength of the left in the European labor movements.

As leader of FTUC, Love stone became the defacto expert on international affairs for the AFL, where he has remained despite strong CIO objections at the time of the merger of AFL and CIO. The United Auto Workers objection to Lovestone was high on the list of grievances, leading up to the recent departure of the UAW from AFL- CIO.


Irving Brown went to work in Europe, operating in France, Germany and Greece. It was in France that the general pattern of action was set with the compound fracturing of every known trade union principle.

The workers of France democratically had elected communists to the leadership of the CGT (the French equivalent of AFL-CIO) and, in so doing, they ousted those labor leaders who had served the Nazis during the German occupation of France. According to Brown, “this had been done unjustly under Communist instigation,” and contributed to a “lack of manpower on the non-Communist side”. Brown’s program was to select CGT members, finance them with “laundered” money in secret deals to which neither the AFL nor the recipients would admit, and start splitting the CGT, when the recipients were strong enough, they were then aided in forming a dual union outside the CGT, the Force Guvriere (FO).

The FO then, with a small membership of mostly white collar unions fought against the CGT and its “bread-and-butter” demands – which were the wages demanded by the overwhelming number of French workers. All of this information is thoroughly documented via the original letters of Irving Brown in a collection of the correspondence of Florence Thorne, who was Gompers’ secretary and remained in the AFL head office until the mid-fifties. [Ronald Radosh, “American Labor and U.S. Foreign Policy” pp.310-323.]

The policy of dual unionism, support of Nazi collaborators and AFL-laundered money was not enough. By 1947, the CIA was born and the “Free” Trade Union Committee had a new source of funds.

Brown needed money to import scabs from Italy, replete with goon squads to protect them in efforts to break a dock strike in Marseilles, Thomas W, Braden, European Director of CIA from 1950 to 1954, reports:

Lovestone and his assistant, Irving Brown, needed it to pay off strongarm squads in Mediterranean ports so that American supplies could be unloaded against the opposition of communist dock workers… With funds from Dubinsky’s union, they organized the Force Ouvriere, an anti communist union. When they ran out of money they appealed to the CIA. Thus began the secret subsidy of free trade unions…” [Thomas W. Braden, “I’m Glad the CIA is Immoral,” Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1967, pp.10-12.]


The basic tactic in each European country touched by the PTUC and representing – without our knowledge -us members of the American labor movement, was rabid and unconditional anti-communism. The paranoic pre-McCarthyism of Jay Lovestone, to the exclusion of all other considerations, stood in the way of any real aid to so-called “free democratic” trade unionism. The FTUC looked for the red bogeyman and ran to the opposite corner and, in fits of tantrum, hurled the weight of the AFL and the CIA. This occurred even when the democratic decision of the workers clearly favored a left- led union. Pursuing anti- communism in lieu of supporting democratically chosen representatives of the workers, Jay Lovestone’s committee earned the contempt of organized workers in every nation touched by FTUC.

In country after country they found themselves in league not only with the CIA, but with fascists, monarchists, opportunists and thugs. Even if we assume that their purposes were the highest, the result of their work was to leave behind a divided and weakened labor movement, open prey to their home country employers and to the multinational industrial giants.


Who was calling the shots? Was it the American working people? We in the trade union movement never voted that the program of the FTUC should divide and castrate European union movements by any means necessary! Did this program simply spring from the head of David Dubinsky’s employee, Jay Lovestone, who rose – without any election – to be the hired far-righthand of George Meany? It is more likely that the program was shaped, as is usually the case, by the men who paid the bills in the inner sanctum of the CIA.

It would not be possible to accurately prove the extent to which the CIA has become the pay-master in shaping the policies of our labor movement, but there have been startling disclosures in the press. The international Federation of Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers was reported to receive $25,000 per month from a CIA conduit, the Andrew Hamilton Foundation. This money was for use in Latin America in cooperation with the AIFLD. [Washington Post, Feb. 23, 1967.] Gerald J. Poulsan of the International Association of Food and Allied Workers claimed that his organisation had been used as a cover for CIA agents. He said that eight such agents took orders from Andrew McLellan, [New York Times, Feb, 23, 1967.] The Washington Post identified William C. Doherty, Jr. as a man “closely identified with CIA operations.” Drew Pearson noted in his Feb. 24, 19 67 column that Irving Brown “spends CIA money” and that ORIT takes direction from Lovestone and with it takes CIA money.” Pearson pointed out the role of Joseph Bierne, Secretary-Treasurer of AIFLD, in channeling CIA funds, and claimed that CIA money accepted by labor organizations is “estimated at about $100 million a year.”

On the other hand, George Meany says:

Not one penny of CIA money has ever come into the AFL or the AFL-CIO to my knowledge over the last twenty years, and I say to you, if it had come in, I would know about it. [5/6/67]

It is surely not likely that, if an AFL-CIO official were receiving CIA money secretly, he would be running to the “honest plumber,” Meany, to inform him about graft. Meany’s insistence that he “would know about it” must come from his certainty that the CIA would not lay a dollar on a union without his okay. On page 354 of “Who’s Who in the CIA” we find a curious listing: “George Meany; from 1949 work for CIA.”


The FTUC became active in Latin America after World War II through the activities of Serafino Romualdi, another hireling of David Dubinsky. As an emigre from fascist Italy, it would seem that Romualdi would have been a prime candidate for work in his native country but, instead, he accepted a position as the No. 1 functionary in Latin America.

The dominant labor group in Latin America after World War II was the Latin American Confederation of Labor (CTAL). Although comprised of a cross-section of political influences, CTAL was generally leftist in its orientation. Romualdi took the task of putting together an anti-communist dual federation to break the political power of the CTAL. According to AFL’s past practices, such an undertaking called for the cooperation and assistance, if not the leadership, of the U.S. government.

With the CIO supporting the CTAL, the State Department was cagey about taking sides between our two labor federations. Winning affiliates among rightist unions was difficult without the okay of their governments and their oligarchs were unwilling to give that okay without official sanction of the U.S. State Department. To soften up the State Department, Romualdi launched an attack that made him the forerunner of the late Senator Joe McCarthy, charging that government policymakers, “If not openly allied, they are definitely supporting groups in Latin America who are enemies of the American way of life and who are followers of the Communist Party line.” [AFL Convention, Committee on International Relations, May 5, 1946.] The attack was sufficient to shake State Department functionaries and resulted in their direct cooperation with FTUC. This alliance was promptly cemented with endorsements by Nelson Rockefeller and other major industrial leaders. The doors then swung open for Romualdi’s welcome into every state-sanctioned “free” trade union office in Latin America.

By 1948 Romualdi and FTUC had driven a dual union wedge into the labor movement of Latin America. The Inter- American Confederation of Labor (CIT) was born, comprised largely of minority factions from seventeen countries. The “free and democratic” CIT lasted almost two years when changing relations between AFL and CIO allowed for a bolder and broader approach in Latin America. The fine hand of government interference stroked the healing wounds in the U.S. labor movement.


A relatively unknown labor lawyer appeared on the scene in Chicago. Fresh from service in the OSS (precursor of CIA), Arthur Goldberg was chosen general counsel to the CIO. His major involvement between 1947 and 1949 was engineering the split in the CIO which resulted in the expulsion of ten independent (“communist-dominated”) unions. The expulsion of these left-oriented unions and the growing anti-communist hysteria then opened the way for AFL and CIO agreement on international matters. The CIO withdrew from supporting CTAL and entered the newly formed anti-communist “free world” labor grouping of the international Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The CIT then broadened its scope to become the “Pan American” branch of the ICFTU, the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT) .

Arthur Goldberg rose from engineering the expulsion of the “red” CIO unions to become “architect” of the 1955 merger of the AFL and CIO. This fitted the two major federations under the international policy of Lovestone and FTUC. The “liberal” Goldberg had served the needs of Lovestone, the State Department and the CIA more effectively than any other single individual. Within three years he became Secretary of Labor, then went on to the Supreme Court and, finally, to the United Nations, [Goldberg is listed in “Who’s Who in the CIA,” p.200.]


ORIT served as the AFL and CIO arm in Latin America for more than ten years before the domination by North American unionists finally limited its effectiveness. A staff report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations {July 15, 1968) says:

ORIT was originally founded for the specific purpose of combatting Communist infiltration of the Latin American labor movement, ORIT has never quite solved the problem of emphasis as between fighting communism and strengthening democratic trade unions… Generally speaking, in ORIT North Americans have emphasised anti- communism? Latin Americans have emphasized democratic trade unionism.

This is one reason for what seems to be a decline in ORIT prestige in Latin America. More fundamental, perhaps, has been the tendency of ORIT to support US government policy in Latin America. ORIT endorsed the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala and of the Goulart regime in Brazil. It supported Burnham over Cheddi Jagan in Guyana, and it approved the U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic. To many Latin Americans, this looks like ORIT is an instrument of the U.S. State Department.

Romualdi’s work in ORIT is currently sustained by Andrew McLellan who, according to Dan Kurzman in The NEW REPUBLIC, Jane, 1&66, has risen “to his present important position despite a limited trade union background. This is regarded by some AFL-CIO colleagues as more the result of ties with certain government agencies than of his labor experience,” McLellan, the Inter-American representative and AFL-CIO delegate to ORIT, finds his measure of recognition, too, in “Who’s Who in the CIA” on page 351: “from 1951 work for CIA.”

By 1961, internal eruptions and divisions made it difficult for ORIT to retain the appearance of independence and continue to reflect the Lovestone-Meany policy. Discussions began which led to the development of the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) as a prop and organizing tool to sustain the ORIT unions.


AIFLD has functioned successfully to increase AFL-CIO dominance of the Latin American labor movement. The Institute boasts of having trained 133,755 trade unionists by 1972. Of these, 1,092 people were put through their paces at the tightly guarded Little Anti-Red Schoolhouse in Front Royal Virginia and then sent home to work out the rest of their year- long stipend. In addition to the regulars, an unspecified number of Latin Americans have been brought to this country and given a grand tour of the benefits of “bread-and-butter” trade unionism. During these tours, one of the favorite stops has been Delano, California, where AIFLD attempts to use the struggle of the United Farm Workers Union as its very own showplace. [AIFLD Memo reprinted in El Siglo, Aug, 17, 1971.]

While ORIT is viewed in Latin America and the Caribbean as a tool of U.S. foreign policy, AIFLD has cut a deep swath of influence in affairs south of the Rio Grande, Subsidized bountifully by the State Department, it has been able to buy many more supporters than could be reached in the past, AIFLD has obtained everything money could buy toward creating a docile, subservient labor movement and, in so doing, has proved the magnetic persuasive capacity of the Yanqui dollar.


A fair number of AIFLD personnel was recruited from among Cuban supporters of dictator Fulgencio Batista. The AFL-CIO policy in Cuba was pushed by Romualdi r who supported the union element aligned with Batista, and Batista offered the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) the “right” to exist in return for neutralizing the organizing efforts of working people to end the dictatorship, Eusabio Mujal, leader of CTC, was Romualdi’s man. By supporting inaction against Batista, they supported mass murder (50,000) complete political repression, government press censorship, the outlawing of political parties and any trade unions which failed to knuckle under. When the CTC rank-and-file called for strike action, Mujal suspended union elections, removed opposition members from office, declared strikes illegal and arranged with Batista for a new checkoff system. By government decree, union dues were to be paid to the national CTC office instead of to the local unions.

When Romualdi could not make a deal with Fidel Castro, he praised the “non-political character of the CTC. The Castro forces then terminated the Batista regime and forced Batista’s collaborators out of CTC. With those expulsions, CTC was put into the hands of its members, thereby losing its standing as “free and democratic” in the eyes of the AFL-CIO.


In Guatemala in 1954, Jacobo Arbenz, elected with solid labor support, started a program of land reform which threatened the interests of United Fruit Company (later to become a corporate member of AIFLD). Romualdi tried to organize a dual union to break the solidarity of Arbenz’s labor support. This foreign interference was rejected by the unions and the government, convincing George Meany that it was time to “break the shackles of Communist domination,” [Inter-American Labor Bulletin, April 1954.] Members of the unsuccessful dual union joined forces with a CIA “liberation army” under Col. Carlos Castillo Armas which toppled the Arbenz government. (Howard Hunt of Watergate fame made mention of his CIA involvement in Guatemala while testifying before the Ervin committee.) Immediately after the coup, Romualdi arrived to help the unions “reorganize their forces.” He stayed two months and left praising the Armas regime; “The people of Guatemala were solidly behind Castillo Armas and a strong wave of anti-communism was sweeping the country,” George Meany announced that the AFL “rejoices over the downfall of the Communist controlled regime,” Castillo Armas received massive economic and military aid from our tax money and instituted a bloody repression, shackling absolute control over the unions. Emil Mazey of the UAW was one of the few men in U.S. labor who voiced oppositions:

The State Department and the United Fruit Company have been manipulating the polities of that country [Guatemala]… They have organized revolutions… They have opposed land reform. They have opposed any special progress for the people… I say we have got to change this foreign policy of ours. We have got to stop measuring our foreign policy on what’s good for American business that has money invested in South America and elsewhere in the world. [CIO Executive Board Meeting, June 29, 1954.]


In Guyana (formerly British Guiana) the AIFLD financed some of its graduates for a longer-than-usual period in order to strengthen a company union in pulling off a completely political strike and lockout to oust Cheddi Jagan from leadership. Jagan was twice elected president despite AFL-CIO efforts. He was finally defeated in the chaos brought about by the CIA, using AFL-CIO unions as a front fox intervention, Arnold Zander of AFSCME publicly admitted using his union as a CIA funnel in the operation. His man in British Guiana was Howard McCabe, described in the April 23, 1967 London TIMES as a man who “appears in fact to have been a CIA operative,” He received “at least 150,000 pounds (approximately $450,000) on which reached Zander’s office to finance a “wholly political” work stoppage. Government control of unions and the use of political strikes are – according to AIFLD doctrine – the trademark of those unions which fall beyond the pale of “free and democratic.”


At the end of the dictatorship of General Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in 1362, AFL-CIO heavyweights went into action. Andrew McLellan and Fred Sommerford set themselves up as “advisers” to the newly formed United Workers for Free Unions (FOUPSA). When FOUPSA leader Miguel Soto contemplated a general strike, McLellan offered him $30,000 to call it off, Soto refused the money and thereafter was labeled a communist by the AFL-CIO representatives. McLellan and Sommerford then used the money to split several unions off from FOUPSA, establishing a small dual union, CONATRAL. [Ronald Radosh, “Labor and U.S. Foreign Policy,” p.405.]

They used CONATRAL to fight the “communist” majority of the Dominican labor movement. When FOUPSA supported liberal Juan Bosch, CONATRAL supported the Cabral regime which overthrew him by a military coup. The Bosch government had been the first in Dominican history to recognize the majority union in every factory as legal bargaining agent, Cabral, on the other hand, froze wages, outlawed strikes, fired militant workers and arrested uncooperative labor leaders – and pinned a medal on the chest of Serafino Romualdi. Cabral credited U.S. unions with the “defense of freedom in the Dominican Republic” and with transforming “into free democratic trade unions what had been a slave labor movement.” [Romualdi, “Presidents and Peons,” pp.402-3.] In the street fighting that broke out based on the split in the labor movement the overwhelming majority of workers participated in a demonstration at which effigies of McLellan and Sommerford were burned. Sommerford, incidentally, is .listed in “Who’s Who in the CIA” on page 489 as “1950-1965 work for CIA: 1956 Chief of Central American Section, Information Service of Department of State.”

CONATRAL called for military action against the Bosch government and was the only union which supported the intervention of U.S. troops. The Johnson troop intervention in 1965 was later proved to be based on completely false information – at no time was any evidence of Communist activity shown. In fact, FOUPSA (the “communist dominated” enemy unions) had, by that time, become part of the Christian Trade Union Movement (CLASC). In 1965 CONATRAL declined in strength from an estimated 100,000 to 25,000 members.

A little known AIFLD “Emergency Plan for the Dominican Republic” of November 15, 1965 (confidential memo to State Department requesting funds) reveals the organizational point of view and modus operandi. Preparation of the plan included “the ORIT representative… all AIFLD personnel in the Dominican Republic… the U.S. Ambassador… The Executive Committee of CONATRAL, the AID Director and the Labor Attache… the Ambassador and the AID Mission Director have pledged their support for our request of $50,000 for this emergency program… The plan called for a stepped-up propaganda and education campaign in addition to motorized vigilante brigades: “3) organizing campaigns in all regions- by educator-organizers which will be supplemented by a specially trained mobile group of Educator-organisers for emergency situations. These will be used to confront and battle the ‘goon squads’ of the extreme left forces. 4) An increase in means of transportation, i.e., jeeps for the educators…”

The reason for planning such extreme measures was because “CGNATRAI has been identified as a Yankee-sponsored organisation, and under present conditions this makes the organization ineffective.”

This plan was typical of operations in other Latin and Caribbean countries. The AIFLD, as a “private organization, was able to use immense backing from the State Department for the deepest possible intervention in the affairs of a nation. Our government, by itself, could never get away with such activities out in the open; it would be in violation of agreements with OAS and the United Nations. If such intervention occurred without using AIFLD as a front organization, the U.S. would become a self-confessed international gangster. The State Department has preferred the path of hypocrisy paved by the AFL-CIO.


Over all, AIFLD follows a policy laid down by its director, William C. Doherty, Jr., in a speech in 1966: “The key question of our time is the future road of their (Latin American) revolution: toward Communist totalitarianism or toward democracy. For the American labor movement this is one of the paramount, pivotal issues; all other questions… must remain secondary.” This doctrine pushes all the issues of primary importance to working people to the background. What happens to wages, working conditions, living conditions and union recognition when the No. 1 issue is anti-communism? This doctrine is the single factor responsible for AIFLD support of the brutal dictatorships of Latin America which have destroyed the various national labor movements through jails and terror, it is a betrayal of working people when we sanction any regime that permits AFL-CIO-oriented, anti-communist unions to function at a minimum level of activity while bringing an iron fist down on all other social and economic action.

Even George Meany stated in October, 1969: “We sincerely believe that the extension of dictatorship – anywhere – which is always accompanied by the destruction of free unions, represents a threat to freedom everywhere in the world.” Within this principle, AIFLD narrowly defines a “free union” as one which will take both money from AIFLD and orders from Washington. By a perverted definition – and the one now practiced – any government which permits such a union is not a dictatorship and not a threat. This justifies AFL-CIO acceptance of the dictatorship in Brazil, and virtual silence when the hatchetmen in Chile outlaw the left-oriented labor movement and murder the militants.


Reading through the AIFLD Report offers an unusual view of the organisation. The monthly house organ is a poorly edited reflection of paranoid anti-communism. The journalistic level fails to reach even that of the average high school newspaper. The only social or political issue to appear in any of the Reports between 1969 and 1973 is that of anti-communism. At no point is there any indication of any strike boycott or other labor struggle; if, indeed, the AIFLD touches even “bread-and-butter conflicts, it is not indicated. There is very little real information to be found between the constantly overblown reports on the success of the various social projects and training programs. One piece of useful information given is that the cost to AIFLD programs through 1973 comes to $43 million.

The August 1973 REPORT offers a rare insight as to how far the vision to fight a communist union can go to distort one’s consciousness. The Brazilian military dictatorship, which Doherty openly admits was aided in its coup by AIFLD, has become notorious for its broad use of torture against political prisoners and a policy of genocide against its native Indian population and many effective dissenters. There are severe anti-strike laws, wages are controlled at the lowest possible levels and the labor leadership has been decimated in an “anti-communist” drive. Heloio Magheaani, an AIFLD trustee and director of Brazil’s Workers Cultural Institute (ICT), has a long article in the issue. With not one word alluding to any of the above described crises he claims that his ICT is making an “effective contribution to the Brazilian labor movement in helping to make it into.. an independent anddemocratic movement.” He takes extreme care to assure us of ICT’s anti-communism and acceptance of Nazi-like dogma in its “philosophy of funamental democracy and deterrence of extraneous ideologies alien to the nature and feelings of the Brazilian people…” Do you hear an echo from the Labor front of Hitler Germany?

In the October 1972 REPORT, we are treated to a rare profile of one of AIFLD’ s operatives, James Nolway, the dynamic driver of AIFLD in Argentina. Here are his credentials in labor leadership and organization: he is a lawyer and graduated from Northwestern University School of Business; he was a rnember of the First National Bank of Chicago Trust Department,1954-56; staff judge advocate in the Air Force; then went into the State Department as a foreign service officer, became vice-consul to Brazil, then staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American loan Affairs, and — from that rank-and-file position, entered the AIFLD. It is startling that that such a man would be given a labor position, but more amazing is that AIFLD publicly boasts about him.

Leafing through issue after issue of the AIFLD REPORT one is bound to get an impression that all developments in Latin American trade unions revolve around three individuals. The publication consistently uses photos of Doherty, Meany and Joe Bierne of the Communications Workers to break up the inevitably boring filler material. The eunuch-like face of Doherty is always smiling, perhaps because he expects that repeated publication of his bosses snapshots will keep them from questioning the quality of the publication, Doherty’s diminished capacity to obtain quality journalism in his house organ is an embarrassment to union members. It must be especially degrading to members of the Newspaper Guild.

The June, 1972 issue is filled with tenth anniversary greetings to AIFLD. There are 80 greetings in all, and no indication that any were omitted. Surprisingly — of the 80 — 29 messages were sent from one of the smallest Latin American nations, Uruguay, which has been under a long totalitarian state of siege. Other greetings of interest are from Nelson Rockefeller and from Chile. The latter marks the last time Chile is mentioned at all until the junta terminated the Allende government in September 1973. This contrasts with AIFLD REPORTS previous to June ’72 which contain perfunctory notes on progress in Chile in almost every issue.

The October 1969 REPORT carries a profile of Robert J. O’Neill, program director for Chile. The cosmetically touched-up picture is of the man who represented AIFLD until the junta took over the government. O’Neill is an intelligent writer who took up law after becoming an officer in the American Association of Catholic Trade Unionists before joining AIFLD’s staff. O’Neill complains, “There are still unfounded charge a that AIFLD teaches a brand of sweetheart contract unionism or company unionism…” He also protests too much that “the role of AIFLD/Chile is not to teach our brand of trade unionism, nor is it to teach or support our economic system.” Either this shows a growing sophistication or it is in complete contradiction to the past practices of AIFLD, one item in his article gives the lie to his denial of company unionism. Strangely included in O’Neill’s description of AIPLD training courses is listed as “Time and Motion study.” Most trade unionists know that the time-and-motion engineer is the company man with the clipboard who takes notes on workers’ movements to find new speed-up methods. The workers in a shop lose no love on the time-and-motion engineer, would any union but a company union promote time-and-motion studies?


Analyzing the role of O’Neill and AIFLD in the overthrow of the Allende government of Chile may be somewhat premature. There is not much hard information to date. We will review what we can, beginning with AIFLD’s first venture in Chile.

The first entrance to Chile by AIPLD is described in “Chile Invadido” by Eduardo Labarca Godard, published in Santiago: Editora Austral, 1968. None other than William C. Donerty, Jr led a delegation to Chile in 1962; he met with labor leaders in the Pan American Hotel and offered loans for cooperatives, housing and small ?? Labarc a says Doherty’s moves were like a tank that opens the way for the infantry. Next came John Snyder and Ester Cantu. Their object was to organize telephone workers away from the militant Union of Telephone Employees. They opened an office in Santiago, were given a list of employees by the company, and launched a campaign of wining and dining. Those workers who didn’t buy the line and had influence found themselves fired for various reasons. When Doherty’s people won the next union election, the company saw to it that the former militant leaders no longer had jobs in the industry. To the credit of the workers, by 1967 the situation was reversed and the company once more had to deal with militant union representatives.

On a larger scale, AIFLD employed the dual union tactic used- in so many other countries, in 1962 AFL-CIO representative Morris Paladino went to Chile to make a deal with Jose Goldsack, a leader of the minority Christian Democrat faction of the Central Confederation of Workers (CUT). The tactic was to split the CUT convention. The tiny National Confederation of Workers (CNT) and its largest member, the Maritime Confederation of Chile (COMACH) were to demand admission to the CUT convention, Paladino was to supply all back dues; if they were denied entry, it was to signal a mass withdrawal of the minority of Christian Democrats and Paladino would pay the rent on a new hall and the first expenses of a new labor federation devoid of leftists. The plan fell through. Goldsack sacked the gold and the Christian Democrats backed out. The dual union deal is detailed by Serafino Romualdi in his book, “Presidents and Peons,” pp.345-354.

The main forces in CUT were leftists of several varieties. They held their own against AIFLD and became the strongest political force in Chile.


Through the sixties, AIFLD had unusual difficulty in Chile for several reasons. The Christian Democratic minority of unions kept vacillating in its alliances. Open collaboration with U.S. money was unthinkable; it would invite rejection by the rank-and-file. The long and militant history of organized labor in Chile placed economic exploitations by American companies high in the consciousness of the workers.

CUT presented a militant program and had the strength to win immediate gains while keeping an eye on a socialist future. This kept AIFLD at bay, especially after 1970 when CUT – as part of the Popular Unity – elected Allende president. Then, for the first time in Chilean history, CUT made political gains in the bi-elections. Continuing to spout the standard AIFLD line to CUT workers was like talking to a copper- lined wall.

The situation accounted for the sophisticated deviations of Robert O’Neill, in his AIFLD article, he dared to disown simple “bread-and-butter” unionism, it must have become clear to him that, in a nation where there was not enough bread for the working people, they – would not be persuaded by talking about butter, Chile’s history as a democracy is longer than that of any other Latin American country. In that setting, the radical actions of the labor movement had made a deep impression, proving to the satisfaction of the majority of working people and peasants that their only answer was in ridding Chile of foreign economic domination and taking social control of industrial and farm production. There was no doubt among Chile’s working people that there were more solutions to be found in political action than in “bread-and-butter 11 collective bargaining by itself.

From a Chilean worker’s viewpoint, reliance on “bread-and-butter” collective bargaining alone could, at best, give him a few more crumbs from a pie that was already divided. The multinational companies which dominate the extractive and communications industries have historically grabbed off the largest slice of the pie – long before any collective bargaining took place. The working peoples’ only hope for reaching a sufficient and growing balanced economy was to shake off the grip of the multinational corporations and the paid-off politicians and oligarchs who benefited from the status quo. If this were not true, when Allende finally nationalised the copper companies he never could have received the unanimous support of an otherwise divided and conservative Congress.


With the election of Allende, tensions grew between Chile and the U.S. State Department. Most credits and economic aid were cut off – with two exceptions; U.S. military aid and training programs continued to the tune of $12 million. Though Allende controlled the executive branch of the government, the military operated with a certain amount of independence. Judging by the events of September 11, 1973, the $12 million was a fine business investment for the expropriated U.S. copper companies. The other exception was $1 million of AID money set aside for “technical assistance.” Much of this was for the continued operation of AIFLD, which receives 92% of its funds from AID.

Robert O’Neill tells us that, through October of 1969, 5,963 Chileans had participated in AIFLD seminars in Chile. It is impossible to tell whether or not the figures are based on reality or puffery, but the 1972 ten-year report of AIFLD puts the Chile seminar total at 8,837. Between 1969 and 1972, the continuing seminars involved 2,877 more people.

The ten-year report states that 79 Chileans were graduates of the AIFLD school at Front Royal, Virginia. A memorandum from AIFLD’s Washington office dated 2/28/73 lists the names of the Front Royal graduates from Chile; there are a total of 108, indicating 29 graduates in a six-month span, opposed to 79 in a ten-year period. For a reason never explained or mentioned in public AIFLD reports, O’Neill’s staff suddenly went into high gear in the short time prior to the coup. There is a difference between including “time-and-motion” in a course for trade unionists and speeding up student turnout by 400%!

The speed-up of “education” activity multiplied AIFLD contacts and information. They were, at the time of the coup, well prepared to offer the generals detailed information on the whereabouts and activities of trade union leaders at all levels. The junta has been using that sort of information for the selective massacre of trade unionists who had been effective supporters of the Allende government. The evidence that AIFLD Chile files were used in this manner is only circumstantial.

On January 6 in 1974 the Washington POST carried an in-depth article describing the connections and similarities between the Brazilian coup and recent events in Chile. The primary Brazilian adviser to the Chileans who plotted against the Allende government was Dr. Glycon de Paiva, He recommended to his Chilean counterparts that they “create an intelligence system to study the actions of all key people and movements.” dePaiva advised using Chile’s professional organizations and said, “Only after you have established the central information banks, anti-government actions can be properly prepared and coordinated, ” Other circumstances pointing toward AIFLD complicity are the friendly attitude the junta displays toward unions connected with AIFLD, while other union activity is outlawed.


Also we get some clues to the reason for the speed-up in activity from the multinational corporation chairman of AIFLD: “The AIFLD urges co-operation between labor and management and an end to class struggle. It teaches workers to help increase their company’s business… promote democratic free trade unions; to prevent communist infiltration, and where it already exists to get rid of it.” (Address by 0, Peter Grace, AIFLD Booklet, Sept. 16, 1965.] Salvador Allende was a Marxist, the CUT was leftist, and Chile was viewed by ITT, the copper companies and the State Department as a communist menace. We can be certain that the State Department did not continue special AID funding for an AIFLD speed-up without specific purpose.

Representing 600,000 workers in 1970 and two million by 1973, CUT was not a labor federation which could fit under the AIFLD definition of “democratic and free.” Although its elections were democratic and it was not tied to any single political party, it was leftist and supported by the Marxist- oriented government. Through emphasis on organizing the unorganized, CUT left but a few unions in which AIFLD could overtly make inroads. To determine AIFLD’s activities, it is important to know something about the people and the organisations it dealt with.

The ten-year report [AIFLD-1962-1972, A Decade of Worker to Worker Cooperation] says that the Chilean Maritime Federation (COMACH) was the “major labor organization with which AIFLD cooperates,” Leaders Of COMACH were among Romualdi’s contacts and have been on AIFLD’s board of trustees since 1962. According to Jorge Kef, a Chilean Christian Democrat and professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara, COMACH is not a typical Chilean union. “Its membership is largely maritime officers, many of whom served as officers in the Navy. Even those without naval background spend their first year of training in classes with naval officers.” The first city to fall in the September 11 coup was Valparaiso at 3:00 a.m. The naval officers in that port city were prominent in the leadership of the coup. A working relationship with the coup cannot be proved at this point, but there was no other reason for the unusual presence of U.S. naval intelligence in Valparaiso at the time. Additionally, off the coast of Valparaiso on September 11, 1973, U.S. vessels were standing by in maneuvers with the Chilean navy. [N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 14, 1973.] It would seem that the AIFLD activity with COMACH offered one excellent opportunity to live up to past practice and doctrine by intervening to destroy the Allende government.

Several months prior to the coup a great deal of world publicity was given to a strike by copper mine employees. This occurred after the mines were nationalized and when the economy was greatly troubled by an economic blockade. Waqe demands were not met. The government felt that the wage level of the Professional Employees Union was far above all other workers’ wages, and priority for increases was shown to those at the lowest wage level. The vast majority of production workers in the mines supported CUT and the government. Though the strike petered out, it served to promote the dissatisfaction used by the junta to justify the coup.

AIFLD was especially active among elite professional employees, engineers, supervisors and executives. Through one of its “impact programs” it gave a $5,000 assist to the Professional Employees Union of the Andes Mining Company; the money was “needed to complete a vacation colony at Rodillo Beach.” [AIFLD Report, May 1970.] While Chile was struggling with mass malnutrition AIFLD saw fit to help set up a country club, in contrast, one of the prouder achievements of Allende was a program to distribute a pint of milk a day to every Chilean child.

Though there had been professional employee associations for some time, in May 1971 AIFLD assisted the formation of the Confederation of Chilean Professionals (CUPROCH), which was started in the copper mines but became an important national force when it supported the truck owners’ and merchants’ strike in October ‘of 1972 The former secretary general of CUPROCH says that the federation was suddenly flooded with funds toward the end of the strike. This may account for the sudden drop in the black market rate for U.S. dollars. It could also account for a story by TIME correspondent Hudolph Bausch, who interviewed striking truckers near Santiago one mealtime. Despite serious shortages, they were having a “lavish meal of steak, vegetables and empanadas.” He asked them where the money for meal came from. They replied: “From the CIA.” TIME Magazine, Sept. 24, 1973.]

The influence of AIFLD-supported professional unions (CUPROCH) grew beyond anything one might expect. Its ability to finance largescale economic disruption surpassed the limits of its own treasury by leaps and bounds. The importance of CUPROCH was so great that, in his last moments of life, Allende could not avoid reference to it. When bombs were falling on the Moneda, he spoke his last words on radio; explosions can be heard in the background of the recording of this broadcast as Allende’s voice penetrates the bombardment.

Workers of my country, I want to thank you for the loyalty you have always shown, for the trust you have placed in a man who has only been the mouthpiece of the great aspirations of justice, who gave his word to respect the constitution and the law and was faithful to his promise… I am speaking to the members of the professions, those patriots who a few days ago were continuing to struggle against the revolt led by the professional unions. That is, the class unions who were trying to hold onto the advantages granted to a few of them by the capitalist society. [Emphasis added.]

Moments later the transmitter was destroyed and Allende murdered.

In those countries where AIFLD intervention has aided the overthrow of governments which threatened the continued economic domination by the multinationals, it has followed a pattern, AIFLD tries to promote its influence in the transport and communications industries. READERS DIGEST, AIFLD member and contributor, for December 1966 carries an article describing the influence of AIFLD graduates in Brazil. There, graduates saw to it that communications workers kept the lines open to facilitate the military takeover, even though it meant scabbing on the general strike called by the Brazilian labor movement. The Washington POST of Jan. 6, 1974 quotes a prominent Brazilian historian, who asks to be unidentified, speaking of the Chilean coup: “within first two days I felt I was living a Xerox copy of Brazil, 1964.”

The list of Front Royal graduates from Chile shows 37 of 108 people from the communications and transport industries. Could AIFLD have pressed the same strategy in Chile that was so disastrous to the working people of Brazil? The results surely have been similar.

In the memorandum list of Front Royal graduates seven are listed as members or officers of the professional associations and an undetermined number of others are CUPROCH members.


The organization which directed the “strike” of truck owners and merchants is called the National Command for Gremio Defense. This organization was responsible for planning and executing Chile’s internal economic chaos. It also set up paramilitary groups to terrorize supporters of the Allende government.

The word “gremio” makes for convenient confusion in English; it is often translated as union, but actually means “guild” or “society.” In Chile, a gremio is usually an association of employers s professionals or tradespeople, but it can include both workers and employers, “Gremio” embodies the AIFLD concept of labor-management solidarity moreso than any word in English. In December, 1972 Jorge Guerrero, secretary of the National Command for Gremio Defense, was invited to attend one of the advanced courses offered by AIFLD in Washington. Because AIFLD was involved with many of the Gremio people in Chile, it is important to know about the leading organizations and people in the National Command, in order of importance they are:

Confederation of Production and Commerce. Jorge Fontaine, president, comes from one of the wealthiest oligarch families, He was once publicly associated with the Nazi movement.

Society of Manufacturers. Orlando Saenz, president, is reputed to be the brain behind the National Command for Gremio Defense; served as liaison with the U.S. Embassy and was a secret director of Fatria y Liber tad (Fascist-like paramilitary organization), National Society of Agriculture, Manuel Valdes represented this group on a post- coup international good will publicity tour. He is president of the Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Employers (COSEMACH). This was the key organisation in setting up roadblocks to prevent land reform even before Allende’s election, COSEMACH led the economic disruption. A man most important in the establishment of COSEMACH was William Thayer, AIFLD trustee. The past president of the National Society of Agriculture, Benjamin Mattet was also a director of Patria y Libertad who openly advocated mass murder of all foreigners and communists.

Chamber of Construction. Hugo Leon, president; “We will carry all our forces to an enormous strike and not give in until the Armed Forces intervene and Allende is finished.” The Chamber is comprised of the largest construction companies with votes allotted according to size of company. Chamber companies halted construction on low- cost housing and then locked out workers during the pre-coup “strikes.” In some cases, they paid double wages to keep workers off the job.

Chamber of Commerce. Jorge Martinez; organized and coordinated black market activities through the organizational control of 70% of wholesale distribution.

Central Work Confederation. This group has the same initials in Spanish as CUT, the labor federation which backed Allende. The initials are designed to create confusion, both in Chile and the world press. This paper confederation was set up after the Sept. 11 coup and after the junta outlawed the two million member CUT. Central work Confederation is a “union” of businessmen which claims to be open to labor and management “equally its founder, Leon Vilarin, is also president of the National Command for Gremio Defense? He was president of the Confederation of Truck Owners of Chile, although he does not own a truck, and though now organizing a “workers confederation,” he is not a worker. These contradictions are of little importance in his relationship with AIFLD; the formation of this group closely parallels AIFLD actions in other Latin American countries.

Central Confederation of Chilean Professionals (CUPROCH). Julio Bazan, president, belongs to one of the oldest aristocratic families. He takes home $7,000 a month as a mining engineer. “No one has the right to deny me a carpeted house and a furnished patio…” It now seems inevitable that an authoritarian government will have to be imposed on Chile… such a government will rely on a combination of the armed forces and the trained educated elite… the only possibility of a right wing government would involve a massive massacre of communists and members of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), “AIFLD was deeply involved with the groups which comprise this confederation, as evidenced by the composition of Front Royal graduates and assistance to the Andes Mining Company professionals. Such are a few of the allies of AIFLD in Chile.


The above forces, with the aid of AFL-CIO, will build “free and democratic” unions on the ashes of the left-oriented CUT and of the estimated 30,000 workers thus far slaughtered by the junta. All union activists who supported the legally elected constitutional government of Popular Unity are now labeled as communists. Many of those who have not been killed have been jailed or forced into exile or hiding; the rest who have been fingered as Allende government supporters are blacklisted and unable to find work. According to Carlos Altimirano, former government minister, 30,000 are imprisoned and 200,000 have been fired from their jobs for political reasons.

“Free, democratic” unions will probably be tolerated by the junta and the government it installs as time goes on, but there will be strict controls. Union members will “freely elect” only those who meet with the approval of the government. The unions themselves will be “free” to function just so long as they keep from pressing any troublesome demands upon the employers, the government and especially the multinational corporations.

Meanwhile, with the main body of organized labor outlawed, inflation has zoomed to an unprecedented minimum of 1100% and wages are frozen. The living standards for many thousands of families have fallen far below a starvation level. The press and other media are entirely in the hands of the junta- Curfews are in force,” violators subject to being shot on sight. Any meetings other than small family groups are violations of law. Dissenting political thought, organization and action are capital crimes. AIFLD, with junta sanction secured by the U.S. State Department and CIA, now has fertile ground in which to sink some roots, an opportunity riper than at any time in Chile’s history.

In a new development the first week of January 1974, the junta arranged for and approved a meeting of 26 small AIFLD-connected unions. This group, the Chilean National Workers Confederation led by Eduardo Rojas, president of AIFLD’s prime client union, COMACH, claims to be the “new alternative” to CUT. Its vice-president is Luis Villenas, another AIFLD graduate. The fascist junta knows which side its “bread-and-butter” unionism is on.

A recent report of labor conditions in Chile comes from the respected Mexico City daily, Excelsior. A subway under construction in Santiago was the scene of a sitdown strike against frozen wages and rocketing prices. “The workers went before the military administrator and demanded a salary increase. The military asked who the leader of the group was and all workers- raised their hands. Immediately an official ordered the soldiers to fire on all of them….with heavy machine guns… 80- 100 workers died.” In the Hirmans textile factory in Santiago, workers verbally protested on a wage issue; seven leaders were taken away by military intelligence and have not been heard from since. The IAM Machinist of January 10, 1974 quotes: “General Oscar Bonilla, the junta’s interior minister, explaining the official attitude on strikes: ‘They will not be necessary; the government will settle workers’ problems.'”


The actions of the AFL-CIO leadership in foreign (especially Latin American) affairs have a severe impact on those of us in the rank-and- file of the American labor movement. Through alliance with the major multinationals and U.S. government representatives bought and paid for by those corporations, only one thing has been gained: top men in the AFL-CIO are able to sit down with the men who run our government and deal as junior partners. This amounts to less than nothing at all on the paychecks or in the dignity of the working people of our country. In exchange for such favors, our name is used as a front for the State Department and the CIA, whose invisible tentacles wrap around the vital functioning parts of the labor movement.

As we act through AIFLD to support and sustain the most right-wing elements of labor through-out the world, we become labor relations experts for the very corporations that squeeze us every day on the job here at home. And what self-respecting true labor representative can be found who would accept domination from outside his own union? None of us would want that in our local. When we elect a man to office, we expect him to represent the members – not some well-heeled CIA-union bureaucrat with a fat wallet and fancy promises dreamed up in a corporate boardroom.

We have permitted our unions to become perverted by the dogma of anti- communism to the point where we support clearly fascist governments. By supporting such governments as those of Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Brawl and Chile, we are supporting the very people who murder and jail our most loyal union brothers and sisters. In the name of anti -communism, we have placed ourselves in the hands of bureaucrats who label as “communist” any threat to their own power. (In the government-controlled press of present-day Chile, even TIME Magazine and Ted Kennedy are “agents of the world-wide communist conspiracy.”)

Since when is an honest trade unionist afraid of a communist or anyone else? We’re used to all kinds of differences of opinion — you put it before the membership, argue about it, and vote.

Virulent anti-communism led our overseas representatives into dual unionism, scabbing and strikebreaking in defense of “free and democratic unions. Once down that road, it was first step or two out of the way to become willing workers for the CIA. How workers in other countries find it impossible to know the difference between the AFL-CIO and the CIA, and the term AFL-CIA has become a standard joke that is never funny.

Once involved with the CIA, the CIA was involved with us. With the CIA operating in the labor unions, we turned upon ourselves. Instead of pushing for organization of the unorganized, we saluted “communist” at those unions which would not buy U.S. foreign policy without asking questions: In place of action to end all discrimination in our unions, we kicked out those fighting hardest against discrimination and called them “red.” Instead of strengthening our ties with unions around the world in order to deal with the rising conglomerates and multinational corporations, we split international labor groups. We put our arm around the boss’ shoulder and it was “Yes, sir, brother!” We went worldwide in search of a “free, democratic, bread-and-butter labor movement” which would accept U.S. State Department policy and keep its mouth shut while the boss was talking. All the time, whoever stood in the way of the corporate financial status quo was a “communist” from the liberal Juan Bosch and the Catholic unions to the Socialist Allende and the Communist Fidel Castro.


Meanwhile, in our own backyard our corporate and government “allies” dropped the Taft-Hartley law around our necks and cinched it firm with Landrum-Griffin, all the time pushing to pass right-to-work. AFL-CIO collaboration with business and government set the scene for Meany’s willing acceptance of a place for labor on Nixon’s wage control board. Our own paid official have sat on these government- corporate- labor bodies Helping to decide how much is to be ripped off our paychecks after negotiations. Instead of outlawing strikes, the Nixon government uses labor officials to legitimise a new totalitarian control of collective bargaining. Our officials’ adherence to State Department policy pushed the AFL-CIO out front for the Indo-China war. When we, the American people, demonstrated by the millions against the war, the head of the AFL-CIO shouted “traitors and kooks and commies.” And the Amencan people, whose pressure brought home the troops and stopped the bombing, are none other than the working people of this country who paid for that war and lost our children. We are union men and women and our daughters and sons and some other workers just waiting to be organized. Instead of joining with the American people in the massive moves for peace and the continuing battle against racism, we have seen our “leaders” take a chair in the corner of the boardroom while the Nixons, the ITTs, the Kennecott Coppers and Standard Oils and united Fruits work out a policy of “cooperation and consensus.”


That consensus for labor-management- government collaboration is institutionalised in AIFLD. Labor willingly stays out in front to pacify the organizations of working people in Latin America, allowing continued multinational corporation domination of those unfortunate national economies. We work hand- in-hand with the “dirty tricks” department of the executive branch and the CIA, fastening down military dictatorships which are economically and militarily indebted to the U.S. for their very existence. Our government then supplies these dictatorships with the technical assistance and materiel to keep their miserable, poor working people in line.

On the way toward fulfilling this job, AIFLD buys off union officials with trips and paychecks and, where necessary to fulfil political goals, provides limited high-cost housing, service centers and the like. Our officials boast of these things as humanitarian efforts, they pat each other on the back, and exchange awards at banquets. They may offer the people a carrot and stick, but the people of Latin America are not donkeys. They see us as the Yankee medicine men handing out two-cent aspirins to supposedly cure a pestilence of poverty. When they can no longer bear the burden, their will to change their situation must erupt. Our government will, at a point, not be able to trust the dirty work to the Pinochets of Chile or to a Castillo Armas of Guatemala. We will once more “have to” send in the Marines or Green Berets, and we will have created a continent- wide Vietnam in the Western Hemisphere.

In the meantime, the 95 corporations behind AIFLD will rake in all profits the market will bear. When our demands for wages and conditions are higher than they want to pay, the multinational runaway shops will have a southern continent full of low- wage workers hungry for jobs. The contagion of poverty in Latin America will spread north. Those manufactured goods still produced in this country will go begging for a southern market and there will be none, because the very wealthy few who control the Latin American nations cannot consume enough to keep our assembly lines rolling.


The Latin American working people need exactly what we union members need: to be permitted to work out their own destinies in societies shaped by themselves- We wouldn’t tolerate intervention in our lives by Latin American governments — how can we expect them to accept interference from us?

If we want to do justice to our sisters and brothers in Latin America, we have to leave them alone to develop their urn ion structures and their governments according to their own choices within the dynamics of their own societies. The people of Latin America need the chance to develop balanced economies which are not open to the absurd profiteering of the multinationals. When they move to control their own economies what they don’t need any more Nixon economic blockades, and they don’t need the AFL-CIO raising the curtain for anymore military takeovers.

The withdrawal of AIFLD from service as the advance men for company unions suitable to the major corporations is the first step. If Chile had been allowed to work out her own problems without interference, we would have plants working now turning out machine tools for new industries. Her people would supply an expanding market for our consumer goods. Our giant copper companies would have to deal straight with U.S. copper miners and come a hell of a lot closer to meeting their economic demands. They would not have the option of switching production beyond our southern border in order to hold down payrolls here at home.

There are other considerations, too, which demand an end to the practices of AIFLD. We can- not keep giving our blessing to dirty trick CIA efforts to replace democratically elected governments with fascist type dictatorships. The CIA has operated inside and alongside AIFLD without any supervision from our own representatives in Congress. It has been beyond any democratic regulation. It is now impossible to measure the extent of CIA influence either in the labor movement or the U.S. government. It is not reasonable to expect the CIA to have scruples in dealing with the American people. This group of men takes on the god- like power to create fascist overthrows in Latin America and is not answerable to us. We have no control over the CIA through either the processes of government or our trade union organisations. Our labor movement has no means of control over the CIA; even the U.S. Congress, despite occasional but persistent efforts to investigate or control the CIA, has failed,

There is no one who can say that a day will not come when those invisible CIA forces feel so threatened by the American people and by our own labor movement that they openly turn on us. What happens if a nervous Nixon is impeached and won’t move out of the White House? Does he send his executive dirty tricks department out for the “mission impossible n folks in the home organization – the CIA? It takes no far stretch of imagination to envision our labor movement and our people caught in the same vise that was used in Chile, and with the same men turning the screw.


The hypocrisy of AIFLD calls for free, democratic trade unions to oppose totalitarianism. In every crisis the lushly payrolled fighters for these “free, democratic” unions invoke the armed force of totalitarian government to enforce control, even without crises, what kind of democracy is it when a completely alien force can enter a union, select a spokesman and supply him with un-limited technical help and money? The democratic choice of the rank-and-file is replaced by the outside moneybags. All the rhetoric of AIFLD cannot hide the absurd hypocrisy in its abuse of “freedom and democracy.”

The very first meetings in which AIFLD was formed characterized its future. On October 11, 1962, a Project Review Committee was set up to “coordinate activities*’ 1 In addition to Joe Beirne and his protege, William C, Doherty, Jr., the key man was Edward Powell, listed as a CIA agent, [“Who’s Who in the CIA,” p. 449.] The earliest strategy was to control the Latin American and Caribbean societies via two elements; the labor movements with AIFLD, and the military with Pentagon cash and equipment. This has been the pattern in every national crisis situation. Both control levers have had more than ample lubrication by the CIA, It is a fact that the CIA helps to determine the strategy of labor. We cannot say that labor determines any strategy for the CIA. Each national crisis has been temporarily resolved by putting the military in charge of government and AIFLD organizations in charge of a “de-politicized” labor movement.

These maneuvers prove beyond any doubt the enormous power and potential we have in the labor movement. If the destiny and control of the nations of Latin America can be locked up by the labor movement, those labor movements can be the most powerful force for unlocking such control.

Our labor movement cannot only unlock control of our Latin American policy by AIFLD, we can unlock the CIA influence on our own labor movement. We can return to the needed business of organizing the unorganized which was put aside to make way for labor- corporate -government collaboration. We can unlock the control of the great multinational monopolies which have incorporated the Nixon government so neatly into their national ripoff of our labor and our lives.

To do so, we must take the foreign policy decision making out of Jay Lovestone’s backroom.

The issues must be brought back to the rank-and-file to be determined in a truly democratic fashion. The American Institute for Free Labor Development must be abolished, with all it represents. It is time for a brand new policy of international labor solidarity based strictly on equality, without intervention, without any more money under the table, and without the CIA.

The unions of Great Britain, France and Sweden are showing their solidarity with the working people of Chile by boycotting production and shipping destined for the junta. The Chileans need our cooperation in that effort.

With liberal governments existing today in Peru and Venezuela, the danger of repeated intervention by AIFLD on behalf of the multinationals is imminent. Action to terminate the AIFLD is needed – not just for our own honor and economic well-being – but as a matter of life and death by our trade union brothers and sisters in Latin America.


The foreign policy of the AFL-CIO as it is reflected in AIFLD is not set in concrete it is largely based on the myths and prejudices that became an habitual part of our thinking during the developing “cold war.” For too many years our heads were whipped into conformity by the ism of Joe McCarthy. Under such conditions, it is not surprising that the labor movement has failed to question and defeat AIFLD policies. One large reason why the booming voice of the rank-and-file has not been raised against AIFLD is that we have not really known about it.

The fact is that meetings in most unions never get past unfinished business. We hardly ever deal with questions of foreign affairs. Instead, we leave such matters in the smooth hands of the Lovestones and the Dohertys, who gladly take our power and prestige to use as they see fit, in conjunction with the multinationals and the State Department, The AIFLD operation never has been passed upon by the AFL-CIO membership, it is time now to move the agenda to unfinished business, and finish with AIFLD.

There is a basic lie put forward by AIFLD, a lie which powers the machine. Amid the puffery and pictures which adorn the ten-year report of AIFLD is the statement that, “AIFLD has had the wholehearted backing of – most importantly – the vast majority of workers belonging to both the North and South American labor movements.” This lie is the weakness of AIFLD, and because of the lie, it can be stopped.

We could spend a hundred pages documenting the fact that AIFLD is scorned by working people from Mexico to Argentina, AIFLD could reply with self-serving statistics and statements from hundreds of Latin American labor officials. One might be convinced by their affirmation of the lie, but not after visiting and talking with working people south of our border.

To be convinced beyond doubt that their statement is a lie, it is necessary to consult “the vast majority of workers belonging to the North American labor movement.” A sampling of this has been done. A young woman sat with a telephone in Southern California and called union offices inquiring about AIFLD, both by its initials and by name. The response was that no more than two out of fifty labor officials knew even the barest detail about the organization. On the jobs and in the shops the response is clearer — not a single one of hundreds of union members canvassed had any idea at all of the existence of AIFLD.

AIFLD has none of the “wholehearted backing” it boasts. It is based on a lie* but this lie will continue to be sufficient until it is challenged. The perverted foreign affairs of the AFL-CIO will persist so long as the men and women in the shops and on the jobs in the United States remain uninformed about the AIFLD.

AIFLD has been used as the cutting edge of multinational corporate strategy in Latin America. Of course, many of the men and women who work in AIFLD do so in honesty and with naive good intentions, but the program has served to neutralize, divide and, as in Chile r attack the movement of working people. Where AIFLD tactics have failed to insure expanding profits for the multinationals it has enlisted the State Department, CIA and Pentagon for economic blockades, military coups and direct military force. The working people upon whom the strength of the AFL-CIO is based have no idea that our movement is the vanguard of this web of strategy. By raising the issue on the floors of union meetings and labor councils, the rank-and-file can come to understand what is happening and, with that awareness, move to control the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO and dissolve the American Institute for Free Labor Development.

The AIFLD program of hemispheric pacification can be stopped by the rank-and-file. We can blunt the edge of the most valuable cutting tool of the multinational corporations by passing resolutions in union after union and in labor councils in every major city. We can confront the AIFLD before the rank-and-file, and demolish the Meany-Lovestone lie of “wholehearted backing.” To continue to function, AIFLD must have a protective blanket of rank-and-file silence. That silence can become peals of thunder if we can move AIFLD out from the shadows of ignorance so it can be seen for what it is by union members across the United States.

Trade unionists in the United States will not be able to deal successfully with the great multinational corporations until we can end the policies reflected in AIFLD. We will never be able to act in solidarity with working people in Latin America until the AFL-CIO stops the program of division and subversion of independent and militant unions.

By ending that policy, we can cement the solidarity needed to take on the multinationals and break the corporate grip which exploits and threatens working men and women throughout our hemisphere.


WHEREAS there is abundant evidence that the AFL-CIO has been involved in Latin America and the Caribbean in actions that violate basic labor principles, and

WHEREAS actions have it appears that U.S. labor been instrumental in precipitating governmental takeovers and violence against unionists and working people abroad; and

WHEREAS the AFL-CIO, through the American Institute for Free Labor Development, has involved the labor movement in questionable relations with multinational corporations, the U.S. State Department and the CIA;

THEREFORE, unless the AFL-CIO Executive Council can provide contrary evidence,

BE IT RESOLVED that this Labor Council disassociate itself from any further actions of the AIFLD, and demand the dissolution of the Institute and complete disentanglement of the AFL-CIO International Relations Department with government and business strategies abroad.


WHEREAS delegates of the Santa Clara County Central Labor Council have received in recent weeks copies of a 46-page report entitled “An Analysis of Our AFL-CIO’s Role in Latin America”; and

WHEREAS the report quotes apparently authentic documents linking the AFL-CIO with anti-labor corporations and such government agencies as the CIA in Latin America, and specifically in Chile, functioning in an organization called the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD); and

WHEREAS the report charges that AIFLD activities have constituted intervention against the best interests of the Labor movement in Latin America and the United States.

THEREFORE BE IN RESOLVED that the Santa Clara County Central Labor Council requests the AFL-CIO to respond and to provide information that will enable this Council to reaffirm the integrity and high purpose of the AFL-CIO in foreign, as well as in domestic affairs, as well as in domestic affairs, on behalf of all working people, here and abroad.

Respectfully submitted by AFL Local 2390.

[Passed at meeting of Santa Clara County Central Labor Council, Monday, March 4, 1974.]



Alba, Victor, Politics and the Labor Movements in Latin America. Stanford, CA., Stanford Univ. Press, 1968.

Alexander, Robert J., Organised Labor in Latin America. New York, The Free Press, 1965.

Aronowitz, Stanley, False Promises* The Shaping of American Working Clues Consciousness * New-York, McGraw Bill, 1973.

Boyce, Richard O. and Herbert M. Morals, Labor’s Untold Story, New York, United Electrical Workers, 3rd Ed., 1972.

Dulles, Foster Rhea, Labor in America: A History. New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1960.

Foner, Philip S, American Labor and the Indochina War: The Growth of Union Opposition. New York, International Publishers, 1971.

Foster, William Z., Outline History of the World Trade Union Movement. New York, International Publishers, 1956.

Gerassi, John, The Great Fear in Latin America. New York, Collier Books, 6th printing, 1971.

Godard, Eduardo Lab area, Chile Inuadido, Santiago. Editor a Austral, 1969.

Gompers, Samuel, Seventy Years of Life and Labor. New York, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1943.

Hawkins, Carroll, Two Democratic Labor Leaders in Conflict! The Latin American Revolution and the Role of the Workers. Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1973.

Levenstein, Harvey A., Labor Organisations in the United States and Mexico. Westport, Conn., Greenwood Publishing Co. , 1971.

Lieuwen, Edwin, Arms and Politics in Latin America. New York, Fraeger, 1967,

Light, Robert E, and Carl Marzani, Cuba vs. the CIA. New York, Marzani & Munsell, 1961.

Lipset, Seymour M., Martin Trow and James Coleman, Union Democracy: The Internal politics of the International Typographical Union. Garden City, Doubleday Anchor , 1956.

Mader, Julius, “Who is Who in the CIA.” Berlin, Published by the author, 1968.

McCoy, Alfred W, The Politic of Heroin in Southeast Asia. New York, Harper & Row, 1972.

McGarvey, Patrick J., CIA: the Myth and the Madness. Baltimore, Penguin Books, 1972.

Mills, C. Wright, Power Polities and People. New York, Ballantirs, 1963,

Morris, George, The CIA and American Labor. New York, International, 1967.

Petras, James and Maurice Zeitlin, Latin Americas: Reform or Revolution? a Reader. New York, Fawcett, 1969.

Radosh, Ronald, American Labor and United States Foreign Policy. New York, Random House, 1969.

Romualdi, Serafino, Presidents and Peons, New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 1967.

Smith, Richard Harris, OSS: The Secret History of America & First Central Intelligence Agency. Berkeley, Univ. of California Press, 1972.

Sturmthal, Adolf and James G. Scoville, The International Labor Movement in Transition. Urban a, Univ. of Illinois Press, 1973,

Wimdmuller, John P., International Trade Union Organisations: Structure, Functions and Limitations. New York, Harper & Row, 1967.

Zink, Dolph Warren, The Political Risks for Multinational Corporations in Developing Countries. New York, Praeger, 1973.

Galeano, Eduardo, “The Open Veins of Latin America.” [Translated by Cedrie Belfrage, Monthly Review, 1973.


Berger, Henry W., “American Labor Overseas.” The Nation, January 16, 1967.

Bodenheimer, Susan, “The AFL-CIO in Latin America- The Dominican Republic: A Case Study,” Viet Report, Septembers-October, 1967. “U.S. Labor’s Conservative Role in Latin America.” The Progressive, November, 1967.

Braden, Thomas W., “I’m Glad the CIA is Immoral.” Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1967.


Grace, J- Peter, “Labor Group Boosts Living Standards,” The Journal of Commerce, April 4, 1966.

Jerome, Gail S., “American Labor in Latin America. Cross Currents* XXI, iii, 1971.

Kurzman, Dan, “Labor’s Cold Warrior,” Washtngton Post, December 30, 1965. “Lovestone’s Cold War.” The New Republic, June 25, 1966.

Lens, Sidney, “Lovestone Diplomacy.” The Nation, July 5, 1965. “Labor Between Bread and Revolution.” The Nation, September 19, 1966.

North American Congress on Latin America [NACLA], Latin America & Empire Report. October, 1973. “New Chile,” NACLA, 1972.

Romualdi, Serafino, “The Latin Labor Leader – Democratic and Dedicated.” The American Federation, April, 1964.

Simons, Marlise, “The Brazilian Connection. Washington Post, January 6, 1974.

TIME Magazine, September 24, IS 73.

Winship, North, “The American and the Confederate Avantis October 16, 1918.


American Institute for Free Labor Development, 1962-1972. A Decade of Worker to Work Cooperation, Washington, D.C. The AXFLD Report Washington, D.C.

United States Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on AIFLD with George Meany, August 1, 1969, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office.

“Survey of the Alliance for Progress. Compilation of Studies and Hearings of Subcommittee of American Republic Affairs, April 29, 1969, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office.

Meany, George, National Press Club Speech,” as reprinted in Congressional Record, July 25, 1967, pp. H9370-72, University of Chicago Research Center in Economic Development and Change. “United states-Latin American Relations. United States Business and Labor in Latin America. 11 Study prepared at reguest of Subcommittee on American Republic Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations. V.S. Senate, Washington, D.C., 1960.

A direct and tight view from the ranks of labor – salty with bias and bitter with facts — an invitation for change.

Lessons to be Learned: Trade Unions and People-Power in the Philippines

I first published this article in February 2011 as a guest blog post for Monthly Review Online. It is reproduced here with links to the following video and an interview that I conducted with Kim Scipes, author of AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (2010).


A Warning for Egyptian Revolutionaries: Courtesy of People Power in the Philippines

Much like Mubarak, the former democratic reformer turned long serving US dictator for the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, demonstrates what can happen to even stalwart defenders of capitalism when they are opposed by their citizens en masse. Like Mubarak, Marcos previously provided a ray of hope for Western elites intent on quelling popular resistance within their own countries; after President Ronald Reagan launched his “worldwide campaign for democracy” before the British Parliament at Westminster in June 1982, he then decided to visit Marcos in the Philippines “where he announced in a public homage to the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, that ‘the Philippines has been moulded in the image of American democracy.’” This commitment to ‘democracy’ in the Philippines was not new; the previous year vice-president George Bush “raised a toast to Marcos during his visit to Manila, declaring ‘We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic process.’”[1]

Little wonder that when the US government institutionalized their commitment to democracy, it took the form an Orwellian organization called the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an organization that was set up by the US government to overtly carry out the ‘democracy promoting’ interventions that had formerly been undertaken covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency. Since then, the NED has assumed a pivotal position in defusing revolutionary movements all over the world, but their central role in the eventual ouster of Marcos is worth retelling, especially bearing in mind the similarity of his regime of oppression to Mubarak. Thankfully the history of the US government’s ‘democratic’ invention in the Philippines has already been analysed in William I. Robinson’s ground breaking book Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996); consequently this article merely aims to encapsulate some of his key points.

To begin with, there should be no doubt that the ouster of President Marcos in 1986 was due to any long-range conspiracy hatched in the White House: his removal from power was entirely due to a popular uprising. On the other hand, the US government did belatedly succeed in undermining and co-opting the revolutionary ferment that was in the air. What is clear is that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the poor and oppressed citizens of the Philippines had been gathering political strength. This emerging power was significantly bolstered by the August 1983 assassination of the most visible leader of the elite opposition, Benigno Aquino Jr. — a murder which had the effect of ensuring that the non-Marcos elite was finally “galvanized… into active opposition.” This galvanization had the effect of drawing the middle-classes into the already popular and vocal opposition movement, and with the potential for a broad-based increasingly radicalized opposition movement developing in the Philippines, the US government became more than a little interested in intervening in the region. Elite concern in the United States was further aggrieved when in late 1984, the wife of the assassinated Benigno, Cory Aquino — who was now a serious contender for power — worked with other opposition leaders to draw up plans that “spelled out a nationalist-orientated program of social reform and development and also called for the removal of US military bases from the Philippines.”[2]

The US had always been  interested in the Philippines because of the Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base: military bases which were key strategic sites from which every US invasion of Asia had gone through since 1898. Concern really heightened and got greater in about 1984, because of the people’s movement, including the New People’s Army (NPA), a fighting force of over 20,000 fighters and led by the Communist Party of the Philippines.

If it wasn’t obvious before, it now became evident to US planners that a “diverse and well organized” movement was gaining momentum in the Philippines, “ranging from the NPA insurgency, to the mass, left-of-center civic movement BAYAN (New Patriotic Federation, which went by its acronym in Tagalog), which brought together millions of Philippine citizens, to numerous parties and groups of the center, center-right and right.” Noting that “[p]erhaps the weakest among the opposition were the center and conservative sectors which, as in Nicaragua and other authoritarian Third World regimes, had vacillated during many years between support for, and opposition to, the dictatorship,” ‘democracy’ aid was quickly funnelled to these needy sectors of civil society.[3]

Between 1984 and 1990, Philippine organizations received at least $9 million from the NED and other US sources. These included: the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), which mobilized the business community against Marcos; the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), a minority, conservative union federation affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and which competed with more radical and left-leaning labor organizations; Philippine “youth clubs” established under the guidance of US organizers to mobilize Philippine youth; the KABATID Philippine women’s organization (KABATID is the Tagalog acronym for Women’s Movement for the Nurturing of Democracy), also established under the guidance of US organizers; and the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL).[4]

Here one should note that Robinson’s figure of $9 million is based on publicly available NED annual reports, and as he observes, “the actual amount is probably much higher, since millions more were sent to the Philippines circuitously via such organizations as the AAFLI [Asian-American Free Labor Institute] and via the CIA and other ‘national security’ related spending, which is classified.”[5] To be sure the TUCP, which was the local affiliate of the AFL-CIO’s Asian-American Free Labor Institute, was a creation of the Marcos Dictatorship pure and simple, and its goal was to keep the labor sector under control. Indeed, after Aquino’s assassination, the US Government channelled millions of dollars to the TUCP through AAFLI as a way to help the TUCP — and the Marcos Dictatorship — survive. On the other hand, the most significant pro-worker, anti-management part of the labor movement in the Philippines was the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU-May First Movement) — which was a nationalist, militant labor center of unions built in the various regional political economies across the nation that united on a national level on May 1, 1980, in Manila. KMU specifically challenged the TUCP, and they were central to the nationalist challenge to the dictatorship.

Living in fear of the evolution of a “left-center popular alliance,” the US State Department dispatched their finest experts in conflict resolution to meet with Cory Aquino and the leader of the  right-wing opposition, Salvador “Doy” Laurel, to “convince them to run under a united ticket that would stress anti-communism and refrain from opposing US bases in the Philippines (Laurel subsequently became Aquino’s running-mate as candidate for vice-president).” Having laid the groundwork for a change of leadership, events then heated up when Marcos decided to ignore the results of the snap election held on February 7, 1986, in which  the people of the Philippines elected the Aquino/Laurel ticket to power. Contrary to US interests, Marcos’ adverse Dictatorial reaction further inflamed popular resistance, providing further fuel for the popular insurrection.[6]

The US wanted to do whatever it could to contain the growing insurrection, and an important part of the US’s ultimately successful intervention in the Philippines was to get the military onside and ready for the ‘democratic’ transition; and a key player in this regard was General Fidel Ramos, a long-time loyalist to Marcos who was acting as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). It was in this way, with a ‘little’ prodding by the United States, that in mid-1985 General Ramos came to see the futility of supporting Marcos’s crumbling regime and joined with Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile in helping organize a reformer’s revolt which split the military shortly after the contested election.[7] Thus when the people subsequently rose up in defiance of Marcos to protect the military reformers and their forces in Manila, Marcos’ only choice at that time — if he had wanted to crush the military revolt — was to order the Army to slaughter the masses, and the US didn’t want that!

With few other options left on the table, the US turned all its resources to bring pressure to bear on Marcos , and they did this by dispatching “at-large ambassador Philip Habib to Manila to urge Aquino to keep her followers off the streets and to convince Marcos to step down.”[8] However, when Habib failed to make the US’s case firmly enough, Paul Laxalt, a right-wing US Senator from Nevada, called Marcos (on February 24) and told him to “cut and cut clean”; and within twenty-four hours Marcos was gone and Aquino had been sworn into office.[9] Taken together, these actions served to undermine the growing political power of the people’s power movement, as they circumscribed the need for the massive (potentially revolutionary) social protests that were in the pipeline — which were to include economic boycotts and a general strike.


Significantly, “[s]uch actions would have greatly enhanced the labor movement, with its militant base and left-wing tendencies, in both removing Marcos and in shaping the post-Marcos government and policies.” Yet one should note that there was never any question of Aquino — soon to be Time magazine women of the year — supporting labor, and particularly KMU, over the military. All the same, the big question for the US was could she re-establish social stability, and be won away from wanting to close the US military bases. Consequently after Aquino assumed power, there were several military coup efforts against her by the Marcos-inspired military,[10] in which her side eventually prevailed: Ramos and Enrile played key roles here, with Ramos becoming more important of the two over time. Both Enrile and Ramos were long time allies of the US — Ramos is a graduate of West Point — and they were able to convince her to keep the US bases. At the same time, the US government provided tons of money, and a direct address by Aquino to the US Congress to keep her on their side, which wasn’t hard: Aquino herself had gone to college in the US, and was very pro-American. She also agreed to pay debt incurred by the Dictatorship, seeing them as legitimate.

In the aftermath of the US’s ‘democratic’ intervention in the Philippines there has been a vigorous debate about the significance of the US’s role in the process. Yet as Robinson points out, “whether or not US intervention was itself the determining factor in the overthrow of Marcos obscured a much more significant issue: US intervention was decisive in shaping the contours of the anti-Marcos movement and in establishing the terms and conditions under which Philippine social and political struggles would unfold in the post-Marcos period.”[11] Moreover it is critical to observe that the post-Marcos era has not been a happy period for the majority of the Philippines’ citizens, In fact, Walden Bello and John Gershman described this new post-Marcos environment as “politically sanitized” to such an extent that “anti-elite candidates with radical political programs have been driven from the electoral arena by the threat of force — so that even intense electoral competition would not be too destabilizing.”[12] Likewise in a stark reminder of what might happen in Egypt, Philippines labor specialist Kim Scipes writes how…

… replacing Marcos with Aquino left a brutal state apparatus intact, which Aquino used to kill peasants, workers and the urban  poor. In fact, KMU leaders told me that the human rights abuses under  democrat Aquino were worse than under dictator Marcos: she couldn’t control her generals. However, whether she couldn’t control them or if she didn’t want to control them — Alfred W. McCoy in Policing America’s Empire (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009) claims the  latter — the fact is that unless the brutal state apparatus is dismantled, and especially the Police and the torture agencies, the repression could be re-instituted.[13]

The Egyptian people have struck a great blow for freedom from tyranny, and have complicated US and Israeli foreign policy in the region immensely, and such external forces will want to re-establish control at very first opportunity. However, not only foreigners but remnants of the Egyptian elite want to re-establish the control they’ve long had, and will do anything they can to do so. The Egyptian people need to learn from the Philippine experience, and do all they can to keep that from happening.



[1] William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p.117, p.122.

[2] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.123, p.126.

[3] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.125. “In November 1984, a secret NSC Study Directive made the call for a concerted US intervention in the Philippines to facilitate a transition. ‘The United States has extremely important interests in the Philippines… Political and economic developments in the Philippines threaten these interests,’ stated the directive. ‘The US does not want to remove Marcos from power to destabilize the GOP [Government of the Philippines]. Rather, we are urging revitalization of democratic institutions, dismantling “crony” monopoly capitalism and allowing the economy to respond to free market forces, and restoring professional, apolitical leadership to the Philippine military to deal with the growing communist insurgency.’ ‘These efforts,’ it went on, ‘are meant to stabilize (the country] while strengthening institutions which will eventually provide for a peaceful transition.’” Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, pp.124-5.

[4] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, pp.125-6. The reactionary Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) received almost US$7 million from the National Endowment for Democracy between 1984 and 1991. (p.135) One of the reasons for such emphasis on Philippine labor was the challenge from the militant KMU and the importance of labor in national political struggles.” (p.136) For an excellent historical study of the KMU, see Kim Scipes, KMU: Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994 (New Day Publishers, 1996). Scipes is also the author of AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lexington Books, 2010), which provides an excellent historical overview of the interaction between the US government and the National Endowment for Democracy and organized labor. Needless to say, this labor movement imperialism is not being done through labor movement procedures, but behind the backs of members.

[5] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.403.

[6] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.127.

[7] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.128.

[8] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.127.

[9] With the ouster of Marcos, Ramos was now rewarded for his assistance by the newly elected Aquino administration who appointed him Chief of Staff of the AFP, and later Secretary of Defense. In 1992 when Cory Aquino left office, Ramos was elected president of the Philippines, a position he held until 1998. After his presidency, Ramos became a committed ‘champion for democracy’ by taking up a position as the Asia advisory board Member for the  Carlyle Group, that is, until the board was disbanded in 2004. He is presently a trustee of the ‘democracy promoting’ International Crisis Group, and is a patron of the related Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

[10] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.141.

[11] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.129.

[12] Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy, p.141.

[13] Kim Scipes, Email to Author, February 12, 2011. For a must-read analysis of the post-Marcos developments in the Philippines, see Kim Scipes, “Review of the Month: Global Economic Crisis, Neoliberal Solutions, and the Philippines,”  Monthly Review, 51 (7), December 1999, pp. 1-14.

The Givers Who Take: David Callahan’s Delusions of a Liberal Utopia

Every day that passes us by the wealth and power of the billionaire-class is further consolidated. The gap between rich and poor grows, a process that is umbilically-linked to the immense profits that continue to be amassed by a greedy handful at the expense of the rest of us. Under capitalism the only true givers are the working-class. But as the rich know all too well, this anti-democratic method of misrule is inherently unstable, hence the capitalist takers are compelled to give us back a little. This institutionalized system of take and give is the subject of David Callahan’s just-released book The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age (Knopf, 2017).

Callahan sets himself a big task, which it seems he is not really up to. He notes how critical “scholars like C. Wright Mills worked to gain an understanding of a new ecosystem of power that included major corporations, government, and the military.” Thus Callahan sees his task as being to “reckon with the rise of big philanhtropy – and the givers behind it.” Loosely inspired by The Power Elite (1956), Mills’ classic exposition on the mechanics of class rule, The Givers set out to describe the activities of this “new philanthropic power elite.” The major difference is that while funding from the philanthropic community for studies on what Mills’ referred to as “The Cultural Apparatus” were blocked, Callahan’s own ahistorical boosterism has been well-received.

The Givers Callahan

Hardly a philanthropic outsider, Callahan had — prior to setting up the website Inside Philanthropy — cofounded a think tank called Demos in the late 1990s which received generous funding from the historic big three philanthropic foundation giants, Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie. He waxes lyrical about his hopes for a future overseen by loving givers only because he closes his eyes to any alternative more egalitarian future, and to the seriously problematic history of liberal philanthropy itself. “Even if you worry about inequality, it’s hard not to feel hope as super-empowered, high-minded givers looks to solve problems” – problems that are at root caused by the actions of his billionaire takers.

Over a century ago, Callahan reminds his readers, “John D. Rockefeller’s proposed foundation had been denounced by the U.S. attorney general as ‘an indefinite scheme for perpetuating vast wealth’ that was ‘entirely inconsistent with the public interest.’” At the time, the then germinal Rockefeller Foundation was correctly referred to as a “Trojan horse” in a devious plot by one of America’s most infamous robber barons to undo democracy. Nevertheless, Callahan confidently asserts, “these early criticisms of mega-givers” have now “faded.” “As distrust of robber barons and their monopolies became a distant memory, so too did fears that philanthropy was yet another tool of oligarchical control…”


Institutionalizing Feminism: Why Foundation Funding Matters

With revolution in the air, the 1960s represented a tumultuous period of history in which global elites struggled to reassert control over sprawling and disparate movements for social change. Rising to confidence on the back of countless other struggles for freedom, a new and powerful wave of feminism found itself sweeping across the United States, bringing newfound confidence to millions of women irrespective of colour or class. This rising tide of activism was keenly feared by liberal philanthropic elites like those ensconced in their thrones at the Ford Foundation who sought to domesticate this latest rebellion by constraining its participant’s thirst for sexual equality and emancipation.

Details of the defensive reaction of elite powerbrokers in response to this troublesome feminist contagion are provided in Susan Hartmann’s intriguing book The Other Feminists: Activists in the Liberal Establishment (Yale University Press, 1998). Hartmann however is certainly no critic of liberalism, and rests content in noting that her study helps to explain “how establishment organizations came to apply some of their resources to the women’s movement and to institutionalize feminism within their structures.” (pp-9-10)

Working-class struggles for women’s rights have been a perpetual feature of life under capitalism, and it is appropriate that Hartmann’s first chapter features the important work that was undertaken by the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) from the 1950s onwards “to ensure enforcement of antidiscrimination policy at the workplace.” (p.15) That said, even this inspiring union was less radical than its forerunner, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE), which during World War II “stood out as one of the most vigorous unions addressing women’s concerns, thanks to the large number of women workers in the industry and also to the strong left-wing and communist presence in the union.” (p.19) Other labor activists who similarly helped pave the way for the emergent feminist wave that shook America included the likes of Eleanor Flexner and Eve Merriam, authors respectively of the important books, Century of Struggle: The Women’s Rights Movement in the United States (1959) and After Nora Slammed the Door, American Women in the 1960s: The Unfinished Revolution (1962).

Hartmann documents how well-established liberal institutions like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) like the IUE paid early attention to gender equity in the 1940s; efforts for change which were later bolstered by the National Council of Churches which began “to take moderate feminist stands in the early 1960s”. Surprisingly, the Ford Foundation was a relative latecomer to the feminist cause, perhaps because it was otherwise preoccupied with determined efforts to defang the ascendant, increasingly radical, civil rights movement.

The Ford Foundation did fund “a few women-specific projects in the 1960s,” but only “joined the feminist bandwagon” in 1970. (p.13) Nevertheless, owing to its size and influence, once Ford did start intervening in the women’s movement, it made up for lost time and its efforts put it in “the vanguard of philanthropies both in the money expended on feminist projects [$30 million by 1980] and in the variety of issues addressed.” (p.133) Highlighting the seriousness with which Ford treated the still-developing feminist movement, in 1980 the foundation doubled their funding for women’s programming, “allocating $19.3 million, 10 percent of total spending, to women-specific projects for the years 1980 and 1981.” (p.173)

Ford foundation feminism

During the 1970s Ford’s primary focus was on pushing “mainstream feminist organizations” to the fore of the movement, and lucky groups that were backed by Ford wealth included the likes of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL), Ms. Magazine, the Women’s Action Alliance, and the Feminist Press. Ford likewise provided “seed money for Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society which quickly became the premier interdisciplinary journal in women’s studies.” (p.161, p.166) Even with the feminist wave in full flow, foundation largesse was slow in coming at first, and NOW’s Legal Defense and Education Fund only received its first grant from the foundation in summer 1974; while with continued support the Fund obtained a total of $675,000 by 1978. (p.161) In summary “Ford’s greatest contributions were focused in two areas: litigation on behalf of women’s rights and the development of university-based women’s studies.” (p.135) As Hartmann explains:

“In some cases, Ford money alone enabled feminist projects to come into being or to survive, for example, the Women’s Law Fund, which depended upon the foundation for 70 percent of its budget.” (p.135)

The Ford Foundation also contributed towards the establishment of broader networks to help coordinate the broader philanthropic exertions of the liberal establishment, all the better to contain the feminist threat. Hence in 1972, Ford project officers helped establish Women in Foundations, while another organization, Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy was subsequently established in 1977. (p.150)

Ford’s unrelenting focus on boosting the liberal elements of the broad feminist movement meant that “Ford did not… address issues of specific concern to lesbians, nor did it provide any significant support for key priorities of radical feminists, such as violence against women.” (p.171) Furthermore, while prior to the 1970s the foundation did fund some programs for women’s causes, on balance Hartmann concluded, “Ford virtually ignored women in its equal opportunity initiatives throughout the 1960s.” This neglect is noteworthy because during this same period the foundation was busy funding eugenic-inspired programs that were concerned with limiting female reproductive rights. Hence in the decades prior to their delayed decision to begin funding mainstream feminism:

“The foundation dispensed massive support for research, education, and policy development related to birth control, but the desire to limit population growth, not an effort to meet women’s needs, drove those programs.” (p.137)

On this highly pertinent bombshell vis-à-vis the Ford Foundation’s obsession with controlling not helping women, Hartmann has no more to say, other than to provide a footnote that refers us to Thomas Shapiro’s insightful book Population Control Politics: Women, Sterilization, and Reproductive Choice (Temple University Press, 1985). Although one would not know it by Hartmann’s avoidance of this issue, Shapiro’s book provides shocking details of how liberal philanthropists like Ford provided enthusiastic backing for eugenically-inspired population control strategies, regressive policies which were subsequently rolled out worldwide from the 1950s onwards. The so-called ‘voluntary’ sterilization of poor working-class women was a central thrust of Ford’s gargantuan population establishment. The injustice perpetuated by foundation policies — that by the 1970s had unfortunately become official government policy — were summarized by Shapiro in the following way:

“In the 1970s there was a dramatic increase in the use of sterilization as a method of contraception. Female ster­ilization is the most rapidly growing form of birth control in the United States, rising from 200,000 cases in 1970 to over 700,000 in 1980. This threefold increase was aided by government participation through legislative measures, which established family-planning clinics and assisted in payments for sterilizing procedures. While federally funded family planning clinics began operating in 1965, funds for sterilization first became accessible officially in 1971. Ster­ilization thus became widely available for poor people in a decade that has seen cutbacks in virtually all other public services—and a subsequently reduced standard of living—for the poor. It was also a decade during which abortions became legal, yet were severely re­stricted for the poor.” (p.6)

This institutionalization of such attacks upon society’s most vulnerable women is the logical conclusion of the dead-end capitalist funding priorities of a bankrupt liberal establishment. This much has always been clear to socialist feminists, such as Linda Gordon in her landmark book Women’s Body, Women’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America (1976). She demonstrated how despite the “direct attacks on women’s rights” carried out by the Ford-backed population control movement, all too often these attacks on women were subsequently blamed on feminism instead of capitalism.

Thankfully such attempts to divide mass resistance to inequality need not continue, and Gordon concluded her book by observing:

“In all social movements every gain by the exploited has been manipulated, ‘coopted’ by the rulers. Women fought for sexual freedom only to find themselves imprisoned in new forms of sexual exploitation; women fought for jobs only to find themselves exploited more intensely; women fought for education only to find it used to keep them in subordinate places.

“But these manipulations are not part of an unending chain. Their limits are set by the strength and intelligence of the political opposition to them. Indeed, the twists and turns of the rulers of women, attempting to adapt their supremacy to new situations, help to educate their subjects. The lesson to be learned is that reproductive freedom cannot be separated from the totality of women’s freedom.” (p.418)

Michael Barker’s latest book is Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).

When the Left Get Funded

In October 2015, inspired anarchist cartoonist Stephanie McMillan published an excellent article (with a neat illustration) that summarised some of the many reasons why genuinely emancipatory social change will not be funded by the super-rich: no surprises there I guess. The article in question was titled “Why NGOs and Leftish Nonprofits Suck (4 Reasons)

When the left get funded

Stephanie begins with an anecdote relating to a distant conversation she had a Bangladeshi organizer that elicited the blunt response from her consort: “I hate NGOs.” That was twenty years ago, and although Stephanie was already familiar with many of the negative aspects of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), she adds, “I didn’t yet fully appreciate how terrible they really are.”

Since then, she says “NGOs have proliferated like mushrooms all over the world”; “fattening up large layers of the petite bourgeoisie and draping them like a warm wet blanket over the working class, muffling their demands.”

With rightful indignation, Stephanie sketches out four reasons why NGOs suck:

1) “NGOs are one of many weapons of imperialist domination.” “Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction such as agribusiness for export, sweatshops, resource mines, and tourist playgrounds.”

2) “NGOs undermine, divert, and replace autonomous mass organizing”; “instead of fighting the Left head-on as they once did, capitalists have smothered it in their loving arms.” “Sincere people often believe they will be able to ‘get paid to do good,’ but it doesn’t work that way. Capitalists didn’t take over the world by being fucking stupid. They aren’t going to pay us to undermine them.”

3) “NGOs replace what the state should be doing.” “In the imperialist core and the periphery alike, NGOs are taking over state responsibilities to meet social needs. This ‘withering away’ of state-run social programs doesn’t mean that capitalist states have become weak (sorry, anarchists and libertarians). It simply means they can devote more of their resources to conquest, repression and accumulation, and less to worrying about preventing the populace from rising up in mass discontent.”

Fightback we must, so Stephanie adds:

“Health care, food, water, shelter, childcare, and meaningful employment are basic necessities of human life. They should be provided by any decent society, but we’re being made to feel like humiliated beggars as we wade through red tape and argue with functionaries. This is bullshit. We deserve decent lives. We need to organize and fight for them together.”

4) “NGOs support capitalism by erasing working class struggle.” “Historically, whenever the working class opens its mouth to call for revolution, the soft pillow of the petite bourgeoisie has been willing to suffocate it. Capitalists always build up the petite bourgeoisie exactly to act as enforcement agents for capitalist domination of the working class.”

Finally, Stephanie ends with “A Note to NGO Employees,” making it clear: “I’m not questioning your sincerity.” Everyone is “compelled” to earn a living, but as she observes, it is simply not possible to argue that paid work for an NGO is compatible with fighting for a non-capitalist, non-exploitative future world. If we can agree that the only way forward “is to organize with the aim of rising up together in revolution,” then we should acknowledge that work in the service of NGOs will not contribute to this emancipatory project. This is why Stephanie writes:

“What we must avoid in the meantime, though, is confusing NGO (or collaborationist union) employment with real autonomous organizing. Understand its nature: your job at an NGO is not to organize the masses, but to disorganize them, pacify them, lead them into political dead ends. So do your real organizing elsewhere.”

This leads her to a concluding sentence: “Real revolutionary organizers don’t get paid.” And although this statement is largely true, especially with regard to NGOs, revolutionary political organizations should and do use funds raised directly from the working-class to employ revolutionary organizers! With time at a premium in our low-wage world, such full-time and paid organizers continue to provide a critical aid to our collective struggle to fight for a socialist alternative to capitalism!

A Short Note on Publishing

In a note accompanying Stephanie’s article, she explains that the…

article was initially solicited by Jacobin magazine, went through several versions of editing before being finally rejected by them. This is very close to my original version. Another version exists, which is co-authored—Vincent Kelley of Grinnell College joined the project to add his perspective and to help revise it according to the Jacobin editor’s requests. We attempted to do so without diluting the content. Their requests included making the language less informal and more ‘academic,’ and culminated in what we both interpret as blatant attempts to erase the working class from its content (the Jacobin editor disagrees). When we refused to remove what we felt was our central point, Jacobin decided not to run the piece. The co-authored version is at]”

Here I would like to add, that in 2013 I published my own article on the web site of “One Struggle(which is a media project at which Stephanie plays a leading role) that also dealt with the problems facing the NGO-ization of social change. My article, “Questioning Labor Imperialism in Egypt: A Critique of the Solidarity Centre’s ‘Justice for All’ Report,” had actually been written for a special issue on New Worker Movements for Interface: A Journal About and For Social Movements. The eventual decision of Interface to reject my article resulting in Dr Magid Shihade — Interface’s editor for the Arab world — to resign from their editorial board in protest.