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.

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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.

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

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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.

Bob Geldof and the Aid Industry: “Do They Know it’s Imperialism?”

I published the following article in the activist journal Capitalism Nature Socialism in 2014 (Volume 24, No.1, pp.96-110).

The central role that celebrities maintain within global society provides a good illustration of the essentially hollow and manipulative nature of contemporary democracies. Corporate elites literally manufacture all-star celebrities, and acting through these malleable figureheads, freely flood the world with imperialist propaganda. Much like the economic forces acting to misguide politicians, institutional pressures ensure that only right-thinking individuals become trusted celebrities. However, the main difference between celebrities and politicians is that the public cannot exert democratic control over celebrities. Bob Geldof is no different in this regard, and as the consummate celebrity-power broker, he stands clear of many contemporaries as a pioneer of celebrity-led imperialism: acting effectively in the service of capital. It is for this reason that this article critically excavates such a largely overlooked history to help unearth an explanatory framework for understanding exactly why the ongoing tragedy of famines will never be solved under a capitalist framework.

Stephanie McMillan industry

Geldof first rose to fame in the 1970s as the lead singer of the Irish band the Boomtown Rats and, having learned how to play the music industry’s game to perfection, went on to become a rare beneficiary of the stifling culture industry. However, that was not enough for Geldof, and at the peak of his musical career he attempted to give something back to the world; call it something akin to musical social responsibility. For Geldof, this time of charitable maturation arrived in 1984 when, having been shocked by a news report about the ongoing famine in Ethiopia, he sought to harness his celebrity power and to direct it toward the challenge of solving global injustice. Such good intentions are all well and good, but seeing that Geldof explicitly set upon this task in a manner that ignored any systematic critique of the politics of exploitation, his actions ending up bolstering the very same unjust capitalist system that created the problem in the first place. In fact, a good case can be made that it is precisely the imperialism-lite of ostensibly good-intentioned liberal elites—whose activities are subsumed under the kind-sounding rhetoric of “philanthropy,” “democracy,” and “human rights”—that has facilitated the institutionalization of neoliberalism.

Celebrities and the Politics of Starvation

In our interconnected world, extended famines do not occur when harvests fail, or because there are too many mouths to feed; quite the opposite, they occur with unfortunate regularity precisely because geopolitical priorities place profit before people. Scrutinizing the case study provided by the Ethiopian famine is important, as not only did it mark Washington’s “first hundred-million dollar commitment to international disaster relief,” but the intervention has also provided a “blueprint for future policymakers to follow”. Thus, to advance a realistic and useful solution to starvation, one needs to look beyond the mainstream media’s propaganda of futility, and strive to examine the role of capital in catalyzing “natural” disasters. Celebrity activists cannot be relied upon in searching for such solutions; as embedded within capitalist networks of power, they tend to be amongst those few individuals least likely to engage in such a rational approach to problem solving.


Counter to the rational nature of anti-capitalist thought, the latest tried and (media) tested method of addressing capital’s wrong-doings is to harness the angry voice of a celebrity (or better still a group of celebrities) to rant and rave about individual greed. Illustrating this is the latest iteration of a longstanding trend that has seen capitalists harness the power of philanthropy to the extension and consolidation of capitalist relations worldwide. This smokescreen approach to social change channels public attention away from any discussion of meaningful issues, and ensures that capitalists are empowered to “solve” the very same problems they caused in the first place. Geldof is singled out in particular because he took this basic formula for corporate success and then pushed this model for celebrity-led reaction to such an extent that celebrities are now a vital part of the “aid” industry.

Geldof clearly does not interpret his own actions in such a negative way, and seems to believe that the moral suasion of celebrities can force the hands of the very same political and economic elites that sustain their careers. There may be a limited grain of truth in this way of thinking, but it is to state the obvious that a celebrity campaign to expose capitalist injustice is hardly likely to be instigated by corporate-sanctioned celebrities, let alone gain active elite support in corporate circles. Hence, a good case can be made that Geldof’s entire Band Aid/Live Aid phenomenon actually shifted:

the focus of responsibility for the impoverishment of the Third World from western governments to individuals and obscured the workings of multinational corporations and their agents, the IMF and the World Bank. Worse, it made people in the West feel that famine and hunger were endemic to the Third World, to Africa in particular (the dark side of the affluent psyche), and what they gave was as of their bounty, not as some small for what was taken from the of the Third recompense being poor World…. [A] discourse on western imperialism was transmogrified into a discourse on western humanism. [1]

Geldof’s own humanitarian campaign thus exemplified itself as a stereotypical attack on governments and the existing aid industry: the visual problem was identified (famine), blame was then squarely placed on the local (foreign) government, and a “new” uncorrupted form of charity was then promoted. Along with such myths, he also pushed the equally misleading idea that foreign governments allowed the famine to continue because they were apathetic. Geldof’s serviceable response to these “problems” was obvious; he had to force Western governments to care more for distant others and rail against the existing aid industry’s inefficiencies. In both instances, this meant that Geldof dismissed the primary institutional reason for the existence of the aid industry. This is because governments do not donate food out of generosity; rather their food distribution networks are considered to be an integral weapon through which they promote their foreign policies. Critical books that Geldof might have read at the time include Nicole Ball’s World Hunger: A Guide to the Economic and Political Dimensions (1981), Susan George’s How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976), Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty (1981), and Marcus Linear’s Zapping the Third World: The Disaster of Development Aid (1985).

Geldof book

Paradoxically, writing in 1986, Geldof was evidently aware (at the rhetorical level anyway) of the strategic use of aid:

Aid is given in direct proportion to how friendly a government is towards the donor. It is used as threat, blackmail and a carrot. This is wrong …. Aid by and large benefits the donor country as much as the recipient, more so in fact as it stimulates, by trade, the donor’s economy, but leaves the recipient aid-dependent. (Bob Geldof, Is That It?, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986, p.318.)

However, such critical words never informed his actions.

Band Aid Imperialism

Considering the exploitative nature of government food aid, the actions of the glut of “Bloody Do-Gooders” that Geldof brought together under the remit of Band Aid in 1984 certainly need to be viewed in a critical light. [2] Released in December 1984, Band Aid’s humanitarian anthem “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” quickly became the fastest-selling UK single of all time and marked Geldof’s return to the public stage as a born-again humanitarian rabble-rouser. Reflecting on his initial experiences in his autobiography Is That It? (1986), Geldof acknowledged that the result of Band Aid’s fund raising “would be so small in the context of the problem that it would be like putting a tiny plaster on a wound that required twelve stitches” (p.223).

Do They Know It's Christmas

With the benefit of hindsight, I would suggest that this is an extremely bad misdiagnosis. A more accurate description of Band Aid’s work would be to say that they put a plaster over capitalism’s body politics and sutured the public’s eyes shut. Here, Geldof would vehemently disagree as he insists that Band Aid carried out its work without involving itself in regional politics. Such claims, however, are patently false, especially given the fact that he recruited some of Britain’s leading elites to serve as trustees of the charity, the Band Aid Trust, which was set up to distribute the funds raised in the course of his activism. [3]

So how did it all start? If one returns to the initial seven-minute BBC story broadcast on October 24, 1984 that fueled Geldof’s humanitarian impulses, it turns out that the two reporters who filed the report (Mo Amin and Michael Buerk) were working under the auspices of World Vision—a well-publicized, imperialist, evangelical Christian charity. World Vision exists as just one, often overlooked part of imperial counterinsurgency efforts carried out by conservative evangelists who wage “spiritual warfare” upon recalcitrant populations. Little wonder that the television report described Ethiopia as the scene of a “biblical famine,” which was the “closest thing to hell on earth”. Thus, it is appropriate that in the early stages of Geldof’s frantic organizing efforts, the head of World Vision UK, Peter Searle, “kept phoning” Geldof in a bid to influence his activities. Having never heard of World Vision, Geldof recalled that he was “very suspicious” of Searle’s offers of help, but he seems to have been reassured when told that “they were an excellent organization but with roots in the right-wing American evangelical revival.” As Geldof continues: “Later we backed several of their projects” (p.235), [4] but to be more precise, it should be noted that as reported in May 1986, the “largest sum spent so far [by Band Aid] on a single project, dollars 1m, went to the charity World Vision” for their work in the Sudan (“The Band’s Last Big Number/The Future of Band Aid.” The Sunday Times, May 11, 1986).

Lest one forgets, the Cold War was in full swing, and Ethiopia was in the grip of a protracted civil war against rebels of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Geldof thankfully recognized the existence of this war; but when he met the officials of the Ethiopian government’s relief commission, he told them, “It seems to me that your basic problem is one of PR.” He added that while “I may not know anything about famine … I do know a lot about PR.” The narrow solution as viewed through Geldof’s celebrity eyes was that Ethiopia should see the international media as their natural ally because, he continued, “once people in the West appreciate the scale of what is going on here you won’t be able to stop them from helping” (p.249). Geldof’s naivety certainly did not make him receptive to the contrary idea presented by members of the Ethiopian government, that the Western media were part of the problem, and that it had actually consciously acted against the best interests of their country. Further, given Geldof’s gross ignorance about Ethiopian politics, it is no surprise that he missed the fact that the Ethiopian government was deliberately withholding food aid from the “huge areas of Tigray where TPLF guerrillas held sway” because, as their acting foreign minister Tibebu Bekele made clear at the time, “Food is a major element in our strategy against the secessionists”. [5]

William Hogarth the_lottery

One might note that the only aid group active in Ethiopia at the time that challenged the hegemonic imperialist discourse of the famine was Médecins sans frontiers, and for doing so, they were promptly ejected from the country. At that time, the longstanding trend of manipulating humanitarian aid to serve the donor countries’ geostrategic interests is most clearly demonstrated in the provision of aid on the borders of Pakistan-Afghanistan and Honduras-Nicaragua during the 1980s. In the former case, Fiona Terry concludes, “Whether they believed they were neutral or not, NGOs that received US funding either in Pakistan or for cross-border operations were assisting the foreign policy strategy of the US government.” With respect to Honduran “aid,” some NGOs themselves were openly critical about such manipulations, and a report by Catholic Relief Services concluded, “The border relief programs are not designed to meet the long- or short-term interests of the Miskitos, but rather are designed for political purposes as a conduit of aid to the contras”. Interestingly in Ethiopia, Catholic Relief Services appear to have maintained a somewhat antagonistic stance vis-à-vis their role in promoting US foreign policy objectives but, despite rhetorical objections, still retained their prestigious position as the largest recipient of US disaster grants.

It is, therefore, far from surprising that more recent reports demonstrate that some of the relief monies entering Ethiopia were used to buy arms for the rebels via the TPLF’s aid front group, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). The US government was of course well aware of this situation as a now-declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report written in 1985 makes clear. The report observes, “Some funds that insurgent organizations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes”. Geldof, no doubt dismissed such possibilities as belonging to the realm of conspiracy theories, which is perhaps the reason he did not refuse an offer of aid from the shadowy employee of a former CIA agent. As Geldof recounts in his autobiography, the influential CIA agent in question was Miles Copeland, whose philanthropic-minded boss was the longtime Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and whose militaristic background remained unmentioned by Geldof. Thus, Geldof adds, he was informed by Miles Copeland’s son, Stewart Copeland (the drummer in the rock group The Police), that:

Khashoggi was interested in donating some planes for us to use. On the eve of my departure for Ethiopia I met up with Khashoggi’s son who was passing through London. The planes would be for famine relief in the Sudan only, he said, and a meeting would be arranged between me and President Numeiri’s personal adviser, Baha Idris. It all seemed very complex, but the offer for the planes was firm, I was assured. (p.251) [6]

Then, while on his subsequent foray to the Sudan, Geldof had lunch with Andrew Timpson of Save the Children where his briefing provided:

… one enlightening piece of information. Adnan Khashoggi was said to have oil interests in the Sudan and a special relationship with President Numeiri which led him to getting a remarkably good return on his investment. It was said that if anyone could arrange a cease-fire in the civil war which was disrupting development in the oil field which was thought to be the biggest in black Africa, it was he. (p.252)

Alan Hardman

Geldof’s follow-up sentence is increasingly curious, but as far as he is concerned, that is the end of the story as he fails to return to this intriguing subject. He does, however, mention in passing that during the preparations for the Band Aid concert, “all the Band Aid office expenses were being paid for by a Malaysian oil millionaire called Ananda Krishnan” and, contrary to Geldof’s own personal intentions for the project, Krishnan “was interested in turning Band Aid into a permanent institution” (p.266). Such curious humanitarian contacts befit a man with little enthusiasm for challenging the legitimacy of powerful political interests. In Geldof’s own words:

[A]s in England, where I didn’t want to get involved in party politics, so too in Africa. ‘I will shake hands with the devil on my left and the devil on my right to get to the people who need help,’ I would say, when I first asked questions about the political complexion of some local government. That was crucial, for you could become bogged down in the myriad moral uncertainties of dealing with an imperfect political system. (p.318)

Geldof Versus the American Government?

Despite Geldof recognizing the fact that aid is regularly used by powerful governments “as threat, blackmail and a carrot,” in 1985, Band Aid strangely sought to gain the support of the best-organized imperialist aid agency in the world, the US Agency for International Development (AID). No need to worry about such incongruous behavior though, as Geldof would have us believe “the greatest single donor in the world” did not really know what it was doing in terms of coordinating its global operations. Geldof recalls that he “was frightened” that USAID “would have the better of me or have a better grasp of the facts.” “But they didn’t” he continues, “we were all tap dancing” (p.320). [7] This seems most peculiar, and I would argue that this interpretation of events owes more to his naivety than to reality, but either way this false impression certainly gave Geldof the confidence boost he needed to argue for their help. That said, he didn’t have to argue much, as USAID already knew his plans, as he “had stipulated the agenda before” he arrived in America. He recalled, “They knew that we were not prepared to leave without firm undertakings from them that they should match us on a dollar-for-dollar basis on some of our mutually beneficial projects” (p.322). So in the end, it is not surprising that the US State Department came through for Band Aid. The Ethiopian government, on the other hand, was, as Geldof reports, “not delirious to have help from US Aid” (p.323).


Are we really to believe that it was Band Aid that manipulated the US government and not vice versa? If we just consider the quantitative issue of food aid, the total value of US aid for Ethiopia in fiscal 1983 was around $3 million; this then increased to some $23 million the following year, and then “jumped to more than four times that amount (about $98 million) between October 1 and December 1, 1984.” Given that approximately two-thirds of this last increase was committed after the initial National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcast of the famine in the United States (October 24, 1984), one way of interpreting this change would be to say this boost in aid was due to the change in media coverage and the resulting public outcry. Alternatively, one could just as easily interpret this change as illustrating that the media became more receptive to the issue once the US government signaled that they were increasing, and no longer decreasing, food aid to the region. This latter argument is evidenced by the fact that in March 1984, Senator John Danforth (Republican-Missouri)—who throughout 1984 played an important role in lobbying for famine relief in Ethiopia —successfully introduced a bill (H.J.Res. 493) that provided $90 million in food assistance for emergency food assistance for Africa. This money was not, however, freed up until an earlier bill (H.J.Res. 492), which aimed to provide $150 million to famine-stricken areas in Africa (which the $90 million represented part of) stalled, passing into law in July 1984, but only when proposed amendments to add covert funding for the Contras in Nicaragua had been dropped from the bill (African Famine: Chronology of U.S. Congressional and Executive Branch Action in 1984, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service).

Counter to Geldof’s recommendation to Ethiopian officials that they only needed better PR to get their story out to the global public, US journalists had been attempting to air stories about the famine for some time, but they simply had no takers in the mainstream media. As far as the media were concerned, “It was not ‘new’ news, for the roots of the 1984 disaster lay in conditions known for years before the disaster hit the headlines”. However, by the end of the year, Ethiopia was now considered as being an issue that deserved political attention. One wondered if this was in any way related to ongoing attempts to coerce the Ethiopian government to accept more aid from the West. For example, it is interesting to observe that just after the increase in aid and media attention (in October), Reuters reported on December 1, 1984, how “The Marxist Government of Ethiopia has agreed to move toward a free market policy to improve the country’s agricultural production…” (“Ethiopians Consider Free Market.” The Globe and Mail, December 1, 1984). Thus, extensive economic and diplomatic pressure was clearly being brought to bear on Ethiopia well before the rise in media attention. By way of another example, the Italian government had its own important role to play in ramping up the political pressure, “and the Italian ambassador is generally credited with making it clear to Mengistu in early October 1984 that Ethiopia could not continue to suppress information about the famine, but must publicize it in order to attract Western relief”.

Ethiopia was now the media’s number one story, but during the seemingly endless deluge of one-dimensional coverage, at no point did the mainstream media help the public understand what was happening by making any significant effort to explain the root causes of the famine. One would have been hard-pressed to have heard of the ambitious land reform program—launched in 1975 when the military Marxists (known as the Derg) rose to power—that was “very successful in eliminating large holdings, absentee landlordism and landlessness.” Similarly, there was no talk of how the Derg’s top-down control over their agrarian reform program had the net effect of “lessen[ing] farmer’s incentives for good natural resource management by decreasing both the security of land tenure and the profitability of agriculture”. Factors that combined with the prolonged civil war and the Derg’s massive resettlement program (which was undertaken in the wake of the 1984–1985 famine) exacerbated farmer land insecurity and mismanagement, which depressed agricultural production in Ethiopia’s time of need.


Instead of providing historically-informed investigative journalism that explored such issues, the racist media delivered up a nightmarish story about a natural disaster of biblical proportions. This is an outcome that was entirely predictable given the propagandist nature of the mainstream media that was well aligned to celebrate the successes of the imperialist development narratives upon which the nongovernmental (NGO) aid industry operates. Thus, the media and the international aid community simply latched onto well-worn neo-Malthusian environmental degradation narratives to justify ongoing aid in the post-famine period (1985–1990). Likewise, little or no mention has been made of the deleterious effect that the Soviet Union’s policy of disengagement had on the nominally Marxist government.

Such an ill-informed development narrative was supremely useful to imperialist donors as it promoted an intervention in a geostrategically important region which “was narrowly technical, largely bypassed the Ethiopian government, was targeted directly on the rural poor and would be welcomed by the growing environmental lobby in Washington”. With respect to the utility of this massive influx of aid (for the people of Ethiopia), “in retrospect, it is clear that much of this effort was wasted or counterproductive.” It is not coincidental that it was during this golden period of “development” aid that the Derg “moved away from socialist agriculture”.

One might point out that neo-Malthusian arguments drawn upon in Ethiopia are intimately enmeshed with the ideological underpinnings of the mainstream environmental movement, which are especially in line with the environmental lobby in Washington. Indeed, since the 18th century, such specious logic has solidified yeomen service to imperial elites who falsely argue that humans simply cannot cultivate enough food to feed the entire human population. Thus, given Ethiopia’s positioning in the ongoing Cold War, it is appropriate that the leading proponents of neoliberal environmentalism played a major role in justifying the aid communities’ protracted interventions in the region. For example, from late 1984 to mid-1986, the executive coordinator of the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa was none other than Maurice Strong, the immensely powerful former oil executive who, over the past four decades, has arguably done more than any other individual to promote the misnomer of sustainable development.

Capitalists for Just Exploitation

Old humanitarian habits die hard and, having already proved their ability to neglect the role of imperial power politics in global affairs, Geldof and his Band Aid friends have continued to act as willing implementers of capitalistic responses to capitalist-bred inequality. However, if one had to choose one Band Aid contributor who best followed Geldof’s own model of leadership on behalf of imperial elites it would have to be Bono, who in 2005 was voted TIME magazine’s Person of the Year alongside the well-known “humanitarian” couple Bill and Melinda Gates. After contributing to the Band Aid single and the Live Aid gig in 1985, Bono had even emulated Geldof’s commitment to the right-wing evangelical charity World Vision, and spent six weeks volunteering at one of their orphanages in Ethiopia. Bono’s overt commitment to Christian missionary work was then put on hold, that is, until 1997 when Jamie Drummond encouraged him to became a spokesperson for a church-based campaign known as Jubilee 2000, a group which was set up to campaign the canceling of Third World debt. Fresh from this spiritual revival, Bono then began spending weekends at the World Bank with his friend Bobby Shriver, who himself was an old colleague of the World Bank’s president, James Wolfensohn, having worked with him within the venture capital division of the Wolfensohn Firm.

Having gained his humanitarian apprenticeship under leading imperialists like Wolfensohn, it is fitting that economist Jeffrey Sachs completed Bono’s education. Bono, like Geldof, was pioneering new ground within the realm of celebrity activism, moving from the former archetypal celebrity-as-fundraiser to the realm of celebrity-as-corporate-lobbyist. With the zeal of a born-again zealot, Bono endeavored to work the circuits of power of the hallowed nonprofit-industrial complex, and in 2002 he turned to Geldof, who helped devise the name DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) to christen his and Bobby Shriver’s new group; this organization flourished with $1 million start-up grants flowing in from the likes of global democracy manipulator George Soros, software businessman Edward W. Scott, Jr., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Once established, DATA recruited like-minded high profile corporate lobbyists, the two main ones being the Democrat AIDS activist /defense contractor lobbyist Tom Sheridan, and Scott Hatch, who formerly ran the National Republican Campaign Committee. Much like Geldof, Bono sees his work as bipartisan, that is, encompassing all political views as long as they stand firmly on the side of capitalism.


In 2004, Bono extended his activist commitments, and with the backing of Bread for the World, the Better Safer World coalition, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he created “ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History,” which merged with DATA in 2007 and is now known as ONE Campaign. All board members of ONE are leading representatives of the US power elite, but three who exhibit outstanding service to capitalist propaganda are president and CEO Michael Elliott (who most recently served as the editor of TIME International), board chair Tom Freston (who is the former CEO of Viacom and MTV Networks), and Joe Cerrell (who presently works for the Gates Foundation, but formerly served as the vice president of the philanthropy practice at APCO Worldwide and as assistant press secretary to former US Vice President Al Gore). A significant recent addition to ONE’s board of directors is World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is active on the board of Friends Africa where he sits alongside African “friends” like Jeffrey Sachs and the chairman of De Beers, Jonathan Oppenheimer. Yet another especially interesting ONE board member is Helene Gayle, who as a former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now employed as the president of the leading international “aid” outfit, CARE.

Here, it is noteworthy to recall that CARE was formed by Herbert Hoover as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, and since its inception in 1945 has provided a valuable means of promoting imperialism via the strategic provision of food aid. Indeed, as Susan George suggests in her excellent book How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976), Hoover was given the opportunity to form CARE primarily because he had demonstrated his ability to use food aid as a weapon during and after World War I. In fact, she suggests that Hoover was arguably the “first modern politician to look upon food as a frequently more effective means of getting one’s own way than gunboat diplomacy or military intervention”. As recent critical scholarship on the international role of CARE demonstrates, it still serves much the same imperial purpose that it was created to perform.

CARE thus provides a vital training ground for budding “humanitarians”; for instance, many of their former staff are involved in a relatively new venture known as Build Africa—a “charity” working in rural Uganda and Kenya that helps “young people” better themselves through learning about the wonders of “business enterprise.” One particularly significant trustee of Build Africa (who also heads their board of ambassadors/investment bankers) is the investment banker and private equity power broker Mark Florman, the CEO of the British Venture Capital Association. In addition to acting as one of the co-founders of the UK-based Center for Social Justice—a think tank that was set up in 2004 by the former leader of the Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith [8]—Florman worked with Bob Geldof to raise $200 million to launch a private equity fund in 2012, called 8 Miles, with the aid of J.P Morgan, which, bluntly put, aims to capitalize on Africa. According to the Financial Times:

Among others that Mr. Geldof has approached for advice on the [8 Miles Fund] venture is Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born telecoms tycoon turned philanthropist, and Arki Busson, the founder of hedge fund EIM. He has also discussed his plans with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who sits with Mr. Geldof on the Africa Progress Panel, monitoring donor commitments towards increased aid to Africa. [9]

To flesh out the backgrounds of Geldof’s new friends, one might note that Mo Ibrahim was soon to be a board member of the ONE Campaign and is currently chair of the advisory board for an investment firm focused on Africa called Satya Capital; its small portfolio includes Namakwa Diamonds, a mining group whose board members notably include a former executive vice president of the notorious Barrick Gold. In 2004, Ibrahim founded the Mo Ibrahim Foundation “to recognize achievement in African leadership and stimulate debate on good governance across sub-Saharan Africa and the world.” In this context, “good governance” means implementation of neoliberal reforms. [10] Hedge fund tycoon Arki Busson, like Ibrahim, is well-versed in the power of philanthropic propaganda, and on the side of his main business interests he runs an educational charity known as Absolute Return for Kids (ARK), which is one of Britain’s powerful new academy chains that run academies on US charter school lines. In 2007, at ARK’s seventh annual fundraiser, Geldof and Tony Blair were in attendance, so it is suitable that ARK’s patrons include two close associates of Geldof’s. The first is the “human rights” crooner Sir Elton John, and the second is the former World Bank economist Dambisa Moyo.

Moyo is the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (2009), and she lividly expresses her humanitarian commitment through service on the boards of Barclays, SABMiller PLC, and the global independent oil and gas exploration and production company, Lundin Petroleum. [11] With “her total unflinching faith in markets as the ultimate solution and her silence on issues of social justice” Moyo’s book sits comfortably with the ambitions of the “Bono-Bob Geldof-driven development industry that is convinced that the ingredients of lifting the wretched of the earth out of poverty include higher economic growth, liberalised markets, good governance, better-funded NGOs and, most important of all, more aid”.

A Leftist critic of the aid industry (and of Geldof in particular) reminds us:

[t]o understand the Geldof phenomenon, we need to look historically at the role that Africa has played in the European imagination and in global capitalism. Geldof’s crusade and attitude is not new. He is only the latest in a long line of European men whose personal mission has been to transform Africa and Africans. David Livingstone, the celebrity of his day, embarked on a similar crusade in the late 19th century, painting Africa as a land of “evil,” of hopelessness and of child-like humans. His mission was to raise money to pursue his personal ambitions.

In this manner, “Livingstone’s and Geldof’s humanitarianism fits well with the demands of global capitalism as they serve to obscure distinct phases in the exploitation of Africa.

early bob

Close Your Minds and Give Your Money!

Contrary to the pleasant-sounding rhetoric accompanying the entire Band Aid phenomena, Band Aid and its offshoots have always worked closely with imperialist policy agendas. Thus, the Band Aid Trust still exists, with the most recent revival of their formula for deception being the Live8 concert, which was held in 2005, which again relied heavily upon the two most famous celebrity big hitters, Geldof and Bono. While Geldof and Bono’s initial approach to humanitarianism could at best be described as naïve, the power-struck duo are now quite obviously working hand-in-hand with neoliberal elites, not in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. So while the musicians involved in the first Band Aid project might argue that they were unaware of the means by which food aid is tied to imperialism, the same could be not true of the artists who participated in the monumental corporate aid bonanza that was Live8. After all, it was there that Geldof introduced Bill Gates to the millions watching Live8 as “the world’s greatest philanthropist”; George Monbiot appropriately observed, “Geldof and Bono’s campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviours.”

Over the past three decades, the formidable Bono-Geldof tag-team has provided a vital propaganda service to ruling elites. On a broader level too, some argue that their celebrity activism is a natural corollary to the politics of privatization. C. Wright Mills, in his seminal book, The Power Elite (1953), dedicated an entire chapter to celebrities, observing that with the rise of national means of mass communication, “the institutional elite must now compete with and borrow prestige from these professionals in the world of the celebrity.” He thereby outlined the integral function that celebrity lives fulfill vis-à-vis the requirements of managing democracy, noting “the liberal rhetoric—as a cloak for actual power—and the professional celebrity—as a status distraction—do permit the power elite conveniently to keep out of the limelight”. Writing so many years ago, Mills was unsure as to whether the power elite would be content to rest uncelebrated; however, now, under neoliberal regimes of media and social management, the differences between interests of the jet setting crowd and other parts of the power elite have converged. Celebrities become political leaders and politicians become world class “actors,” while the real power behind these media-friendly figureheads remains in the hands of an increasingly concentrated economic elite.


1 For a musical critique of Live Aid see Chumbawamba’s album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records: Starvation, Charity and Rock & Roll – Lies & Traditions (1986).

2 Geldof’s initial suggestion for Band Aid’s name was “The Bloody Do-Gooders.”

3 Geldof was also involved in the US version of Band Aid which under the organization of Harry Belafonte released the song “We Are the World” in March 1985, which became the fastest-selling American pop single in history. The Band Aid Trust was initially chaired by Lord Gowrie, then Minister for the Arts. Other founding trustees included Lord Harlech, the head of Harlech TV, Michael Grade, the controller of BBC1, Chris Morrison, the manager of Ultravox, Maurice Obserstein, the chairman of the British Phonographic Institute, John Kennedy, a pop industry lawyer, and Midge Ure (Geldof 1986 Geldof, B. 1986. Is That It? London: Sidgwick & Jackson. [Google Scholar], 256).

4 On his first visit to Ethiopia, Geldof bumped into another conservative religious “aid” worker, Mother Teresa (Geldof, Is That It? p.239), who according to Christopher Hitchens “has consoled and supported the rich and powerful, allowing them all manner of indulgence, while preaching obedience and resignation to the poor.”

5 One should look to Ethiopia’s recent past for similar examples that illustrate the political nature of famines. For example, “During the final two years (1973–1975) of the US-supported Haile Selassie regime, some 100,000 Ethiopians died of starvation due to drought. At least half the amount of grain needed to keep those people alive was held in commercial storage facilities within the country. In addition, Emperor Selassie’s National Grain Corporation itself held in storage 17,000 tons of Australian wheat which it refused to distribute. While commercial interests thrived by selling hundreds of tons of Ethiopian grain, beans, and even milk to Western Europe and Saudi Arabia, the Ethiopian government received 150,000 tons of free food from aid donors”.

6 Khashoggi was the arms dealer in the Iran-Contra scandal.

7 “The impact of food aid can only be understood within the context of the broader US aid programme. Two-thirds of the total aid package is security assistance: military aid and cash transfers to governments deemed ‘strategically important’ to the US national interest. So whatever worthwhile may be achieved by feeding some people or supporting some useful development efforts is far outweighed by the propping up of anti-democratic elites and regimes whose policies perpetuate inequality”.

8 It is interesting to note that the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Philippa Stroud, was recently employed by the charity known as Christian Action Research and Education, which is also known as CARE, and whose activities are separate from the aforementioned “aid” agency with the same acronym. The long-serving chair of Christian Action Research and Education is Lyndon Bowring, who is a council member of the conservative Christian group The Evangelical Alliance and a member of the board of reference of the equally zealous Christian Solidarity Worldwide that is very active in promoting “aid” in the Sudan.

9 The “core funding 2008–2010” for the Africa Progress Panel “comes from two sources: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).” Africa Progress Panel, available online at:, accessed 11 January, 2012.

10 Mo Ibrahim is one of many elite counselors of a group called One Young World, which describes itself as “the premier global forum for young people of leadership calibre.” Bob Geldof is also counted as one of their counselors, and One Young World’s cofounder, marketing executive David Jones boasts of “work[ing] closely” with David Cameron and the Conservative Party in the UK and having been tasked to “create and lead the Tck Tck Tck, Time for Climate Justice Campaign.” For an insightful critique of this latter campaign, see Cory Morningstar’s “Eyes Wide Shut: TckTckTck Expose from Activist Insider.”

11 Lukas Lundin a board member of Lundin Petroleum serves as the chair of Lundin Mining, a corporation whose CEO, Phil Wright, is the former president of Freeport-McMoran’s Tenke Mining.

Making Red Nose Day Really Work for the 99%

One things is certain in these uncertain political times: income inequality between the rich and poor is on the rise. It seems like a sick joke, but the world’s eight richest individuals now have the same combined wealth as the lower earning 50% of humanity residing in our vast universe!

Red Nose Day, which takes place this Friday in Britain, thus lends itself as the perfect chance to bloody the noses of the out-of-touch billionaires who seem all too willing to sacrifice our lives to engorge their profit margins. I can think of eight noses to get started with, but those in America will have to wait to May 25 for their own opportunity to “come together to end child poverty, one nose at a time.”


However, the celebrity extravaganza of comedy and fundraising that marks Red Nose Day need not be ditched quite yet. There is much poverty and gloom in the world, and I for one would not want to deprive millions of people of a rare opportunity to laugh together while demonstrating the deep depths of their generosity.

£100 million was raised for charitable causes during the last Red Nose Day — a not insignificant amount of money given the austerity that is currently being rammed hard down our throats. But let us dream for a moment, as wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have to go through this regular ritual of scraping together our pennies to help others whose need is greater than our own?

By means of an alternative, in Britain at least, we could do well if we committed to enforcing current tax laws so we could gather together the £120 billion worth of tax that the super-rich fail to pay to the British government each and every year. This huge sum of money would certainly go a long way towards helping relieve poverty in Britain, which would of course could spill over to helping people in poorer countries too.

We could still have our Red Nose Day, but we might decide that any money raised could be gifted to those members of the super-rich who refuse to pay their way in Britain, that is, to help them relocate their sponging business empires to some other distant tax haven.

One overly-privileged recipient of Britain’s charitable impulses who might be in need of such charitable incentives to move on might be current Comic Relief trustee Robert Webb, who only recently retired as the General Counsel for monumental tax avoider Rolls Royce. A good example of Rolls Royce’s less than positive contribution to society came in January, just over a year after the end of Webb’s four-year term of service at the company, when Rolls Royce executives coughed up a whopping £671 million fine to avoid being prosecuted by anti-corruption investigators in the UK, US and Brazil.

Comic Relief darling Mr Webb is also presently the chairman of the spookily named Darktrace Ltd — an enterprise which apparently brings together “world-leading intelligence experts from MI5 and GCHQ, to bring transformative technology to the challenge of cyber security.” High-level spooks working as advisors for Darktrace include Lord Evans of Weardale, who served as the Director General of MI5 from 2007 to 2013 — a well-connected man who is presently being well-remunerated as a non-executive Director of HSBC Holdings (a position he has held since 2013).

Mr Webb’s friends are clearly in need our attention. Some of the expected £100 million raised by the British public during Red Nose Day could be diverted to send the profit-drunk bosses of HSBC packing as well. If you needed reminding, in 2015 HSBC were at the centre of the tax avoidance scandal that demonstrated that “HSBC’s Swiss banking arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, doling out bundles of untraceable cash and advising clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities”.

Deemed as too powerful to fail, HSBC had of course been dealt a maddening amount of charity already, when in 2013 they had their corporate wrists gently slapped, not shackled — they were fined $1.9 billion or about five weeks’ profit — for their central role in the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case in history. At the time, Rolling Stone magazine reported:

“For at least half a decade, the storied British colonial banking power helped to wash hundreds of millions of dollars for drug mobs, including Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, suspected in tens of thousands of murders just in the past 10 years – people so totally evil, jokes former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, that “they make the guys on Wall Street look good.” The bank also moved money for organizations linked to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and for Russian gangsters; helped countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea evade sanctions; and, in between helping murderers and terrorists and rogue states, aided countless common tax cheats in hiding their cash.”

For these dark services to humankind HSBC were dealt yet another charitable hand, as nobody from the bank went to jail or paid a dollar in individual fines.

So this year let us once again extend our collective donations to the folks at HSBC, Rolls Royce and all corporate tax avoiders residing in Britain, but this time we should attach a few strings to our philanthropic good will.

Then, and only then, would we be in a more comfortable position to laugh our way through the light Comic Relief provided by this years Red Nose Day safe in the understanding that all our monies will pay for the forced repatriation of super-rich scroungers beyond our generous shores. Or alternatively, we could use the money we raise this year to fund a political party of the working-class that is committed to fighting tooth-and-nail to ensure that everyone pays their way in Britain; we might even raise corporation tax as well.

Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy – February 2017.

Why the Population Bomb is a Rockefeller Baby

Rockefeller baby

The following important article was first published by Steve Weissman in the May 1970 issue of Ramparts magazine. The article is reproduced in full below:

Paul Ehrlich is a nice man. He doesn’t hate blacks, advocate genocide or defend the empire. He simply believes that the world has too many people and he’s ready at the drop of a diaper pin to say so. He’s written his message in The Population Bomb, lectured it in universities and churches, and twice used America’s own form of birth control, the late-night Johnny Carson Show, to regale bleary-eyed moms and dads with tales of a standing-room-only world, a time of famines, plague and pestilence.

Together with Berkeley’s Kingsley Davis and Santa Barbara’s Garrett Hardin, Ehrlich represents a newly-popular school of academics out to make overpopulation the central menace of our age. Except for a still hesitant Pope, their crusade seems sure of success. Everyone from Arthur Godfrey to beat poet Gary Snyder to the leaders of China’s 700,000,000 (whom the populationists alternately ignore and disparage) now agrees that population growth is a problem and that something must be done. The question is what? Or, more precisely, who will do what … and to whom?

Kingsley Davis, who finds voluntary family planning hopelessly futile, suggests that government postpone the age of marriage. Garrett Hardin in the April 22 Teach-In’s Environmental Handbook urges mutual coercion mutually agreed upon. Paul Ehrlich wants to eliminate tax exemptions for more than two children, forgetting that the power to tax is the power to destroy. Voluntary family planning is out and population control in, leaving those less kindly disposed to the government to see the gaunt spectre of genocide. Long before even the least of the predicted ecological catastrophes comes to pass, such fears might well turn race on race, young on old, rich on poor.

Ehrlich, recognizing this danger, aims his appeal for smaller families less toward the poor and black than toward the white middle-class American family, which consumes more resources, occupies more space, and creates more waste than any ten of its economic inferiors. But his appeal, while barely denting the great waste-production economy, will only create the self-righteousness to impose America’s middle-class will on the world.

We “are going to have to adopt some very tough foreign policy positions,” Ehrlich explains, and limiting our own families will let us do that “from a psychologically strong position … We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control.” Exactly what kind of power, or whether we would use it globally, or simply in countries which food shipments and “green revolutions” might save from starvation, is unclear. But he hints at a time when we might put temporary sterilants in food and water, while some of his more adventurous colleagues, no doubt impressed by pinpoint bombing in Southeast Asia, would spray whole populations from the air. If we’re so willing to napalm peasants to protect them from Communists, we could quite easily use a little sterilant spray to protect them from themselves.

We really needn’t speculate, however, Uses of the new over-population scare are quite out of the hands of either nice academics or average anti-Communist Americans. The same elites and institutions which made America the world’s policemen have long been eager to serve as the world’s prophylactic and agricultural provisioner, and they are damned grateful to the academics for creating a new humanitarian justification for the age-old game of empire. The academics shouldn’t really get the credit though. The heavies had it all planned out back in the ’50s, while young Dr. Ehrlich was still studying water snakes in the western end of Lake Erie.


In June 1952, John D. Rockefeller III, father of four, eldest grandson of Standard Oil and chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, hosted a highly select conference on population in Colonial Williamsburg. To this showpiece of historical conservation, restored by the Rockefellers to its pre-Revolutionary beauty, came some 30 of the nation’s most eminent conservationists, public health experts, Planned Parenthood leaders, agriculturalists, demographers and social scientists. After two and a half days of intensive discussion, they agreed to form a new group which could act as “a coordinating and catalytic agent in the broad field of population.” The following fall, John D. publicly christened The Population Council and announced that he himself would serve as its first president. With this act of baptism, the population bomb became a Rockefeller baby.

In the decades previous, birth control had been largely small potatoes. The Rockefeller Foundation, together with the Milbank Memorial Fund, had, in 1936, provided John D.’s alma mater, Princeton, with an Office of Population Research. Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas pioneered programs for the (sometimes voluntary) sterilization of the poor. Planned Parenthood, a direct descendant of Margaret Sanger‘s American Birth Control League, struggled to provide America’s poor with free counsel and contraceptives. Guy Irving Burch‘s Population Reference Bureau, long the leading educator on population dynamics, was little more than a one-man show, as was the Hugh Moore Fund, set up in 1944 by the founder and board chairman of Dixie Cup “to call to the attention of the American Public the dangers inherent in the population explosion.”

Once the Rockefellers joined the family, however, family planning became a very different kind of business. The Ford Foundation, Carnegie, the Commonwealth and Community Funds, the Molt Trust and the Mellons joined with John D., his mother, his sister (wife of banker Jean Mauze), his brother and their financial adviser, AEC chairman Lewis Strauss, in pumping fresh blood and money into the Population Council, some of which even trickled over into the Reference Bureau and Planned Parenthood. Wealthy Englishmen and Swedes and their third world associates joined with the Americans in making Planned Parenthood international. The World Bank, headed by Chase National Bank vice president and future Population Council director Eugene Black, put its money behind Princeton’s pioneer study on population and economic growth in India. Where birth controllers once went begging, now guest lists at Planned Parenthood banquets and signatures on ubiquitous New York Times ads read like a cross between the Social Register and Standard and Poor’s Directory of Corporation Executives.

This sudden interest of the world’s rich in the world’s poor, whatever the humanitarian impulse, made good dollars and cents. World War II had exhausted the older colonial empires, and everywhere the cry of nationalism sounded: from Communists in China and Southeast Asia, from neutralists in Indonesia and India, from independence movements in Africa and from use of their own oil and iron ore and, most menacing, the right to protect themselves against integration in an international marketplace which systematically favored the already-industrialized.

But the doughty old buzzards of empire were determined to save the species. They would pay deference to the new feelings by encouraging a bit of light industry here, and perhaps even a steel mill there. To give the underdeveloped areas what Nelson Rockefeller termed “a community of interest with us,” and to extend control, they would give public loans and foreign aid for roads, dams and schools. Their foundations and universities would train a new class of native managers who, freed from outmoded ideologies, would clearly see that there was more than enough for both rich and poor.

But there wasn’t enough, especially not when the post-war export of death-control technology created so many more of the poor. The poor nations rarely came close to providing even the limited economic security which, as in Europe of the Industrial Revolution, would encourage people to give up the traditional peasant security of a large family and permit the population curve to level off. In fact, for much of the population, the newly-expanded money economy actually increased insecurity. Faced with this distortion between fertility and development, developed country elites could see no natural way of stopping population growth. All they could see was people, people, people, each one threatening the hard-won stability which guaranteed access to the world’s ores and oil, each one an additional competitor for the use of limited resources.

More people, moreover, meant younger people, gunpowder for more than a mere population explosion. “The restlessness produced in a rapidly growing population is magnified by the preponderance of youth,” reported the Rockefeller Fund’s overpowering Prospect for America. “In a completely youthful population, impatience to realize rising expectations is likely to be pronounced. Extreme nationalism has often been the result.”


It was to meet these perils of population that the Rockefellers and their kindred joined the family planning movement in such force. But until they had completed a much more thoroughgoing prophylaxis of the new nationalisms, and had worked out an accommodation with Catholic opposition, they were much too sophisticated to preach birth control straight out. That would have sounded far too reminiscent of the older colonialisms and, indirectly, too much like a condemnation of the new pattern of “development.”

Consequently, until the spurt of technical assistance in the ’60s, the Population Council preached and, within the ideological confines of development thinking, practiced “the scientific study of population problems.” They provided fellowships to Americans and, as part of the broader building of native elites, to deserving foreign students. This, they hoped, would build up a cadre of “local personnel,” well-studied in population problems, “trained in objective scientific methods and able to interpret the results to their own people.” The Council also undertook population studies in the colonies, funded both demographic and medical studies at U.S. universities, worked with international agencies, and maintained its own biomedical lab at Rockefeller Institute. The foundations supplemented this approach, directly funding roughly a dozen major university think-tanks devoted to population studies. These grants no more bought scholars and scholarship than native elites. It was more efficient to rent them. Like Defense Department dollars or direct corporation gifts, the smart population money posed the right (as opposed to the left) questions, paid off for right answers, and provided parameters for scholars interested in “realistic” policy alternatives.

Study, of course, was an apprenticeship for action. By 1957, an “Ad Hoc Committee” of population strategists from the Council the Rockefeller Fund, Laurance Rockefeller‘s Conservation Foundation and Planned Parenthood mapped out a full population control program. Published by Population Council President Frederick Osborn as Population: An International Dilemma, the committee’s report insisted that population growth, in the rich nations as well as the poor, would become a decisive threat to political stability. To preempt such instability, the population planners planned first to win over the educated classes, many of whom themselves felt the threat of population. But, wary of widespread personal sensitivities and nationalist sentiments, they would never push birth control as an end in itself. Instead they would have it grow out of the logical needs of family planning, and leave the task of gaining public acceptance to the native elite, many of whom they had trained.

An even more important antidote to nationalist reaction was the population planners’ admission that population was also a problem here in the U.S. “Excessive fertility by families with meager resources must be recognized as one of the potent forces in the perpetuation of slums, ill-health, inadequate education, and even delinquency,” the Ad Hoc Committee noted. They were satisfied, however, with the overall “balance of population and resources” in this country and sought only to use tax, welfare and education policy “to equalize births between people at different socio-economic levels” and to “discourage births among the socially handicapped.”


For all their domestic concern, however, population planners were primarily absorbed in “the international dilemma” and the problems of “economic development.” Like Walt Rostow, Max Millikan and the authors of the Rockefellers’ Prospect for America, they emphasized top-down national planning, Western-influenced elites, foreign aid penetration, and the use of economic growth, rather than distribution and welfare, to measure development. As a result, their plan for population bore a scary resemblance to the first Vietnamization which was then recasting the educational system, banking and currency, public works, agriculture, the police, and welfare programs of Vietnam into an American mold.

The population planners’ counter to insurgency then entered “official” development thinking in 1959, in the Report of President Eisenhower’s Committee to Study the Military Assistance Program. Headed by General William H. Draper II (perhaps best remembered as the American government official who most helped Nazi and Zaibatsu industrialists re-concentrate their power after World War II), the committee urged that development aid be extended to local maternal and child welfare programs, to the formulation of national population plans, and to additional research on population control.

Ike, a bit old-fashioned about such intimate intervention, flatly refused. He just could not “imagine anything more emphatically a subject that is not a proper political or government activity or function or responsibility … This government … will not … as long as I am here, have a positive policy doctrine in its program that has to do with this problem of birth control. That’s not our business.”

Business disagreed, the Draper Report became the rallying cry of big business’ population movement, and General Draper, an investment banker by trade, headed up both Planned Parenthood’s million dollar-a-year World Population Emergency Campaign and even bigger Victor Fund Drive.

The foundations also expanded their own programs. But the Rockefellers, Fords, Draper, and others seemingly born into the population movement hadn’t gotten rich by picking up such large tabs; not if they could help it. Despite Ike’s sense of propriety, they had continued to press for government sponsorship of birth control – and not without piecemeal gains, even in the Eisenhower government.

When Kennedy became President he agreed to a government role in research, promising to pass requests for birth control information and technical assistance to the foundations, and permitting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Richard Gardner to make an offer of U.S. family planning aid to the UN.

But none of this satisfied the population people, who, beginning in 1963, made a big public push for major government programs in both domestic and overseas agencies. In May of that year, the blue-ribbon American Assembly, with the help of the Population Council, brought “The Population Dilemma” to a convocation of leaders from all walks of American life. The National Academy of Sciences, assisted professionally and financially by the Council, issued a scary report on The Growth of World Population. Draper, Moore, and Harper & Row’s Cass Canfield then set up the Population Crisis Committee, “the political action arm of the population control movement,” to publish ads, lobby government officials and promote public support for government aid to family planning.

Sometimes the population people defended their proposals on humanitarian grounds; at other times they were more candid: “If the World Bank expects to get its loans repaid by India,” explained Draper, “if the U.S., much of whose aid is in the form of loans, expects to have them repaid … the population problem … must be solved.” Bolstered by Fulbright, Gruening and other long-term congressional advocates of “economic development,” and by a public reversal of position by former President Eisenhower, the campaign pushed the Kennedy, then the Johnson government closer to open birth control programs.

But fear of domestic controversy, especially in the Catholic community, and a lack of positive foreign response held the movement in check until the White House Conference on International Cooperation, keynoted by John D. Rockefeller III, in November 1965. The Conference Committee on Population – chaired by Gardner and including Black, Canfield, Draper and John D. – then urged that the government greatly expand its birth control assistance to foreign countries. Conference committees on Food and Agriculture and Technical Cooperation and Investment concurred, urging a multilateral approach.

Much impressed by this show of “public support,” the very next session of Congress passed Johnson’s “New Look” in foreign policy, which made birth control part of foreign assistance and permitted the President to judge a nation’s “self-help” in population planning as a criterion for giving Food for Freedom aid. (Separate legislation gave the Department of Health, Education and Welfare a birth control program for domestic consumption.) The “New Look,” which combined population control with agricultural development, international education, encouragement of private overseas investment, and multilateral institution-building, was, of course, the response of the mid-’50’s to nationalism. It was also a foretaste of what Paul Ehrlich’s “tough foreign policy positions” would easily become.


The new look in intervention got a good test in the Indian famine of ’65 and ’66 – until Biafra the best-advertised famine in recent times, and a major boost for the population control campaign. Ever since the victory of the Chinese Revolution, India has been a bastion of the “free [enterprise] world.” But Western businessmen long fretted over her “neutralism” and “socialism” and her restrictions on foreign participation in key areas of the economy.

In 1958, India faced a devastating foreign exchange crisis. In response, the World Bank and the “Aid India Club” promised one billion dollars a year in aid, and international investors found themselves with golden opportunities. The Ford Foundation quickly stepped in with a “food crisis” team of experts, which pushed India’s planners into increased agricultural spending, ultimately at the expense of planned investments in housing and other social services. Several rounds of business conferences on India together with official and semi-official visits followed until, in 1964, Undersecretary of Commerce Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. led a top-flight delegation of American business executives to New Delhi with the explicit objective of “persuading the government to adopt policies more attractive to potential investors.”

Hunger warriors from agribusiness were particularly hot for expansion. Poor harvest in prior years had driven food prices up, and with them, the demand for fertilizer and pesticides. Consequently, the Rockefeller’s Jersey Standard wanted price and distribution restrictions lifted on their Bombay fertilizer plant. A Bank of America syndicate, together with India’s Birla group, needed government support for what would become “the largest urea and compound fertilizer plant in this part of the world.” Petroleum producers, foreseeing an otherwise useless excess of naphtha, wanted permission to set up fertilizer plants which could utilize the petroleum by-product. The Ford and Rockefeller foundations wanted to expand use of their new high yield seeds deliberately bred for large fertilizer and pesticide inputs, and get on with the commercialization of agriculture.

But Western pressure was of little avail until the failure of the summer monsoons in 1965. Then, in the words of the World Bank’s Pearson Report, “Instead of signing annual or multi-year [food] sales agreements, as with other countries and with India itself, in earlier years, the United States doled out food aid a few months at a time as policy conditions were agreed upon.”

India, faced with a short leash on food supplies, acceded to the foreign pressures. She pared down government control, liberalized her import restriction and devalued the rupee. Her government gave the chemical and oil men permission to build new fertilizer plants, to fix their own prices, to handle their own distribution outside the normal channels of the rural cooperatives, and to maintain a greater share of management control than permitted under Indian law. Most important, officials agreed to give greater emphasis to agriculture and to maintain high food prices as an incentive to growers. “Call them ‘strings’, call them `conditions,’ or whatever one likes,” boasted the New York Times, “India has little choice now but to agree to many of the terms that the United States, through the World Bank, is putting on its aid. For India simply has nowhere else to turn.”

With the ground so carefully prepared, the miracle seeds grew beautifully. Once-barren land flowered. Indian farmers harvested 95 million tons of grain in 1967-68, bettering the best of previous yields by five per cent. The following year they did almost as well, and growers laid plans for 100 million metric tons in 1969-70. Ecstatic Indian government officials announced that India would be self-sufficient in food production by 1971. “The Green Revolution,” exclaimed David Rockefeller to the International Industrial Conference, “may ultimately have a cumulative effect in Asia, Africa, and Latin America such as the introduction of the steam engine had in the industrial revolution.”


The pressure, bantered about everywhere from the Canarsie Shopping News to Business Week, had been anything but subtle. Profits would be high. Yet even liberals like John Kenneth Galbraith and Chester Bowles, both former ambassadors to New Delhi, lavishly praised the whole enterprise. People have to eat.

They have to, but even with paternalistic green revolutions they still don’t always get to. “Modern” agriculture in America and the West, dependent upon high inputs of fertilizer and pesticides, is an ecological disaster. We are only now discovering what DDT and many fertilizers do to our food, water, soil, mother’s milk and farm workers. India’s prospects are even more bleak. Chemically resistant miracle grains will soon produce miracle pests, which could easily wipe out whole areas. Early high yields depended heavily on unusually good weather – which is not dependable, and on irrigation – which is reportedly salting the soil. These problems have led many experts to question how long the revolution will remain green. But most of the experts still come down on the side of more “modern” agriculture, without even exploring possibly safer alternatives like the high-yield, labor-intensive and biologically-integrated “gardening” of the best traditional Asian agriculture.

But the real disaster is more immediate. The same high food prices which gave incentive to growers also put sufficient food out of the reach of those who need it most. Commercial agriculture, by definition, produces for profit, not people. At the same time, the new seeds required irrigation and pesticides, and heavy inputs of fertilizer, the costs of which soared with the removal of government price ceilings. “So far,” reports Clifton Wharton, Jr., writing in Foreign Affairs, “spectacular results have been achieved primarily among the relatively large commercial farmers.” Those who haven’t the capital, or can’t get the credit from village moneylenders or meager government programs, are pushed off their land and into an agricultural proletariat or worse, while the new Kulaks, the peasant capitalists, re-invest their profits in modern labor-saving machinery.

The inevitable result of this trend is class and regional conflict. Wharton reports a clash in the prize Tanjore district of Madras in which 43 persons died in a struggle between landlords and the landless, “who felt they were not receiving their proper share of the increased prosperity brought by the Green Revolution.” Two Swedish journalists, Lasse and Lisa Berg, reporting in Stockholm’s Sondagsbilagan, provide pictures of “excess” Indian peasants burned in kerosene by a landlord. One hates to speculate on how a companion population program would work, but it is all too easy to believe reports from India of forced sterilization.

But there is a positive side. As in the Philippines, where peasants displaced by the commercialization of agriculture are strengthening the Huk resistance, the Green Revolution in India is producing a Red Revolution. For the first time since Independence, militant revolutionary movements have led Indian peasants into rebellions in different parts of the country, and in certain areas, the Bergs report, the poorest people in the countryside are organizing themselves across the boundaries of caste.


Despite all a Rockefeller might do, the New Look in empire even met obstacles at home. From 1966 on, displeasure with the unwinnable war in Vietnam escalated along with the war-caused inflation, and Congress, though it had authorized the new programs, was increasingly unwilling to fund any new foreign entanglements. In the spring of 1967, for example, Senator Fulbright, impressed with what the White House Conference’s Committee on Population had proposed, asked Congress to support voluntary family planning abroad with an appropriation of $50 million a year for three years. His less liberal colleagues approved $35 million for one year. Congress has treated the domestic birth control issue with the same lack of enthusiasm, despite the growth of third world nationalism within the U.S. Members of Congress are just too provincial to understand the needs of empire.

In an attempt to create a congressional climate more favorable to population control, the empire builders decided to drum up some public pressure for their cause. Consequently, a new avalanche of full-page spreads warned war-weary newspaper readers that “The Population Bomb Threatens the Peace of the World”; that “Hungry Nations Imperil the Peace of the World”; that “Whatever your cause, it’s a lost cause unless we control population.” The ads, sponsored by Hugh Moore‘s Campaign to Check the Population Explosion and signed by the usual crew of population controllers, urged greatly expanded appropriations and a crash program for population stabilization. A new Presidential Committee on Population and Family Planning, headed by HEW Secretary Wilbur Cohen and, of course, John D. III, persuaded Nixon to promise greatly-expanded federal programs and a commission on domestic population problems. The Ford Foundation, initiating its first grants for birth control assistance in the U.S. in 1966, provided a barrage of money and reports. The American Assembly, with the help of the Kellog Foundation and now-Secretary of Agriculture Clifford Hardin, sponsored a national conference on Overcoming World Hunger which, despite its optimism about the green revolution, continued to push for population control. Hugh Moore pushed Ehrlich’s book and his own ads. Draper urged doubling the 1970 AID appropriation for birth control to $100,000 and was warmly applauded by James Riddleberger, his successor as head of the Population Crisis Committee. Environmentalists, along with their enemies, “the industrial polluters,” found the chief cause of every problem from slums to suburbs, pollution to protest, in the world’s expanding numbers.

More than ever, the population power structure pushed for a world population policy. From the early ’50s, the population people realized thee sensitivities – religious, ideological, military, political and personal – raised by the offer of birth control assistance, and always advocated international programs. Then, when domestic reaction to intervention in Vietnam soured the overall population control effort, they quickly joined in the generalized elitist move to transfer the entire economic development program to international agencies, where they and their third world friends could directly control the programs without interference from congressional “hicks.”

The UN should take the leadership in responding to world population growth. So urged a special United Nations Association panel headed by John D., financed by Ford, and including Richard Gardner, former World Bank president George Woods, former AID administrator and now Ford Director of International Operations David E. Bell, and AID director John A. Hannah. The committee urged the creation of a UN Commissioner of Population with broad powers to coordinate “radically upgraded” population activities. The Commissioner would work under the United Nations Development Program, whose director, Paul Hoffman, is a former president of the Ford Foundation, administrator of the Marshall Plan, and aide to General Draper in the reconquest of Japan by big business. Under Hoffman’s guidance, the second UN Decade of Development is already preparing to concentrate on agricultural development, education, and population control.

The American population elite is also trying to beef up the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which brings together the old Marshall Plan nations with Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States. Since the mid-’60s, DAC has given greater efforts to coordinating the agricultural and population control aid of the members. James Riddleberger, Draper’s replacement on the Population Crisis Committee, was the first chairman of DAC, while the present chairman, former State Department official Edwin Martin, served as a staff member of the original Draper Committee.

Most important in the new internationalism is the World Bank. Headed by Robert McNamara, veteran of population control efforts in Vietnam, the Bank is now developing the management capacity to become the key institution in administering the empire. “Just as McNamara concentrated on the cataclysmal, the nuclear threat, while at the Department of Defense,” gushed a New York Times feature, “so at the World Bank he has chosen to make the population explosion, another cataclysmal problem, his central, long-range preoccupation. For if populations are allowed to double every 20 years, as they do in low-income countries, it will wipe out the effect of development and lead to chaos.” Aided by former AID administrator William S. Gaud, now executive vice-president of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, and former Alliance for Progress chief Covey T. Oliver, now U.S. delegate to the World Bank, McNamara is currently preparing for the day when the great statesmen meet to discuss the control of population.

With support in the White House and agreement among their friends (the trustworthy American managers in the international agencies), everything seems to favor the new interventionism of the big business internationalists. Everything, that is, except a new-found popular preference for non-intervention, or even isolation. But if overpopulation per se becomes the new scapegoat for the world’s ills, the current hesitations about intervention will fall away. Soon everyone, from the revolting taxpayer who wants to sterilize the Panther-ridden ghettos to the foreign aid addict, will line up behind the World Bank and the UN and join the great international crusade to control the world’s population. Let empire save the earth.

Simply fighting this war on people with a people’s war will not eliminate the need for each nation to determine how best to balance resources and population. But where there is greater economic security, political participation, elimination of gross class division, liberation of women, and respected leadership, humane and successful population programs are at least possible. Without these conditions, genocide is nicely masked by the welfare imperialism of the West. In the hands of the self-seeking, humanitarianism is the most terrifying ism of all.

From the 1970 biographical note: Steve Weissman is a member of the Pacific Studies Center in Palo Alto, California. The Center is a research collective specializing in the social, political and economic dimensions of American capitalism. Projects range from studies and publications on U.S. involvement in the Third World, multinational corporations, labor problems, high finance and environmental destruction, to films on ecology and inflation.