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Note to the reader:

This article is being re-published here with permission from the author.  It is the second of two articles originally published at OpEdNews.com, 4/22/2011.  The first article is here. One ‘link’ needed to be updated from the original and appears as: (here**).

You can find Dr. Bramhall’s blog here: The Most Revolutionary Act / (About the Author)

 The Cointelpro Role of Left Gatekeeping Foundations

By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall 

[this is the 2nd of two articles related to left gatekeeping foundatings – foundations that appear to promote progressive and liberal causes, but are funded by the CIA and/or right-leaning corporations]

The two most prolific contemporary writers regarding foundation funded Cointelpro-style counterinsurgency tactics are historian and journalist Webster Tarpley (in Barack H Obama: the Unauthorized Autobiography) and Australian-born academic researcher Michael Barker. A list and link to all Barker’s publications can be found on his website and blog at: Michael James Barker’s Weblog. My sense, related to direct personal experience with foundation-funded “astroturf” (see * below) and “counterinsurgency” activity in the single payer movement, is that the domestic variant of left gatekeeping tends to rely less on CIA or other government funding than on direct right wing corporate funding.

Barker’s articles devote particular attention to the role played by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Institute for Peace, the Albert Einstein Institute, the Arlington Institute, Freedom House, the NED-funded Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute and individual philanthropists (for example, Bill Gates and George Soros) in “democracy manipulating” activities overseas (Promoting ‘democracy’ through civil disobedience).

The Role of “Democracy Manipulating” Foundations Overseas

According to Barker the “democracy manipulating role” played by CIA-linked foundations was first identified in William I. Robinson’s groundbreaking 2006 book Promoting Polyarchy. “Polyarchy” is defined “low intensity democracy” — a form of government that replaces violent coercive control with the type of ideological control (i.e. brainwashing) that Noam Chomsky describes in Manufacturing Consent.

In Promoting Polyarchy, Robinson describes how the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies were pressured to cut back on many of their more repressive covert activities (i.e. covert assassinations) as a result of Church committee reforms enacted in the 1970s. This resulted, in 1984, in the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which works closely with the CIA and the US Agency for International Development (the USAID is a well-documented conduit for CIA funding), as well as the other “democracy manipulating” foundations listed above. Robinson specifically outlines how these US-based “democracy manipulating” foundations worked to bring about “non-violent” revolutions in the Philippines and Chile to prevent genuinely democratic governments from coming to power, as well as sabotaging democratically elected governments in Nicaragua (where they orchestrated the ouster of the Sandinista government) and Haiti (where they instigated a coup against the populist priest Jean Bastion Aristide).

Since then numerous studies (which Barker references on his website) have furnished further evidence where these foundations have infiltrated and “channeled” (i.e. co-opted) the genuine mass movements that form naturally in countries dominated by repressive dictators. The goal is too make sure they don’t go too far in demanding economic rights (for example, protections for organized labor or restrictions on foreign investment) that might be detrimental to the interests of multinational corporations. All the “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe, which also received substantial funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, have been a major disappointment to citizens that supported them, owing to their failure to bring about genuine change (see The ‘Color’ Revolutions: Fade to Black).

The Domestic Counterinsurgency Role of Left Gatekeepers.

Webster Tarpley, in Barrack H. Obama: the Unauthorized Biography, uses the example of the Ford Foundation to outline how left gatekeeper foundations, often backed by CIA funding, have taken over some of the Cointelpro-type counterinsurgency functions formerly performed by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Tarpley quotes extensively from conservative political commentator Heather MacDonald, “The Billions of Dollars that Made Things Worse,” City Journal, Autumn 1992 (here); Philadelphia attorney and writer Vincent Salandria “The Promotion of Domestic Discord,” October 23, 1971 (here); and immigration activist Tamar Jacoby, “McGeorge Bundy: How the Establishment’s Man Tackled the Problem With Race” (here**).  He also cities MacDonald’s work in describing the pressure put on the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Carnegie Foundation (which they succumbed to) to follow the Ford Foundation’s example.

What comes through clearly from these early investigations into left gatekeeping is that McGeorge Bundy, who assumed the leadership of the Ford Foundation in 1966, was principally responsible for expanding the Foundation’s counterinsurgency functions (which under McCloy were focused mainly overseas) to America’s progressive movement. A former army intelligence officer and National Security Adviser to both Kennedy and Johnson, Bundy was largely responsible for the cynical “strategic hamlets” policy in Vietnam.

McGeorge Bundy by JFK + 50

Using Race to Divide the Progressive Movement

When Bundy left government to run the Ford Foundation, he openly expressed concern about efforts by Martin Luther King and the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee to merge the struggle of the black community with the labor and antiwar movement. His response was to have the Ford Foundation use its grant making power to create factional divisions in an increasingly broad-based movement that was demanding an end to the Vietnam War. The result was a massive shift in the Foundation’s grant making agenda. Over the next four years, it moved away from funding broad economic needs — such as housing, education, mass transit and health care — to focus on black and Latino organizations that specifically targeted blue collar racism as the cause of minority disadvantage. According to Heather MacDonald, education resources particularly were re-allocated to race-based organizations, whose share of grant funding went from 2.5% in 1966 to 40% in 1970. MacDonald and Salandria also describe some of the militant black and Latino organizations these grants went to and how they were used to launch divisive race-baiting campaigns against working class whites.

Another of Bundy’s strategic moves was to break up the traditional black-Jewish progressive coalition in New York City. He did so by funding minority community coalitions to churn out rabidly anti-Semitic propaganda directed at leftist Jewish teachers and administrators, many of whom had radical New Deal backgrounds. The demand posed by these community groups (backed by $1.4 million from the Ford Foundation) for the right to arbitrary fire teachers was a blatant violation of their union contract and an important precipitant of the disastrous 1968 teachers’ strike.

Richard Nixon: the Father of Affirmative Action

In 1968, Bundy, Richard Nixon and his secretary of labor George Schultz collaborated in pushing affirmative active and quota legislation (Martin Luther King had opposed affirmative action and quotas, due to their inherent divisiveness). In meetings with Republican Congressional leaders, Nixon acknowledged that his primary agenda in sponsoring mandatory hiring quotas was to “split the Democratic Constituency and drive a wedge between civil rights groups and organized labor.” (Hugh Davis Graham, The Civil Rights Era, New York: Oxford, 1990).

I find this extremely ironic. Exactly as Bundy, Nixon and Schultz predicted, these policies have created an enormous white blue collar backlash, which the Republicans have used very successfully to capture working class votes. Yet many progressives still mistakenly believe that affirmative action originated with the civil rights movement.

Infiltrating the Single Payer Movement

My own knowledge of left gatekeepers stems from fourteen years as a single payer activist (1988-2002) in Washington State. Our local single payer movement was launched by a group of doctors belonging to Physicians for a National Health Program. Our goal was to reduce health care costs and cover the uninsured by following the example of all other industrialized countries, by lobbying the government to create a Canadian style government-funded “single payer” health program to cover all Americans. Our group seemed to make the most progress in the first five years, when we were a primarily doctor-run organization focused on educating other doctors, lawmakers and community groups about the mechanics of a single payer health care system. In fact we were an important partner in a broader coalition that included the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington State Hospital Association and that pressured the government to appoint a blue ribbon commission to develop a proposal for a state based, publicly financed health care system.

In 1993, when we joined with Seattle Gray Panthers to form a broad based citizen’s coalition, we began to have the same difficulties many of experienced in the antiwar and Central American solidarity movement, and which one African American member experienced as a Black Panther in Los Angeles. It started with the appearance, out of nowhere, of quirky strangers who disrupted and sabotaged our meetings, tampered with our database and seized control of our contact list to launch rumor and character assassination campaigns. In 1994 one of these “outsiders” managed to take control of the leadership and totally shut down the single payer for six months. After we learned he had done the same, seizing control of the database and the leadership and committee structure of two other groups — the Anti-Gulf War Coalition and the Seattle chapter of Democratic Socialists of American, we logically assumed he was a Cointelpro agent and worked for the FBI.

Who Infiltrated Washington’s Single Payer Movement?

In retrospect, some aspects of this “infiltration” of the single payer movement that strike me as distinctly different from classic the Cointelpro methodology. The first was a heavy reliance on the formation of “parallel” health care reform organizations, both to compete with us for new members and to discredit us. The second was a much higher level of sophistication and national coordination than is normally associated with the FBI operation. The FBI memos American Indian Movement activist Ward Churchill reproduces in the Cointelpro Papers suggest that J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro operation was quite decentralized — that for the most part, he left it to field agents to devise their own strategies for infiltrating and sabotaging local Black Panther chapters.

In contrast, single payer activists in Washington State quickly discovered that single payer activists in Ohio, Oregon and California were experiencing the exact same problems that we were. As in our own state, short-lived “parallel” single payer organizations were being created by brand new left think tanks or left leaning foundations that claimed to support single payer health care — but disagreed with grassroots organizing to mobilize public support for it. Despite their nominal support for nationalizing health care, their newsletters, brochures and publicly forums almost exclusively focused on arguments against lobbying for single payer health care. What was even more uncanny was the virtually identical rhetoric employed in state after state. All the arguments boiled down to “political climate” and “politically timing” being wrong for single payer and accusations about grassroots single payer activists being “inexperienced,” “reckless,” and “wrong-headed” to aggressively push for it. In some cases, these parallel organizations also launched competing proposals based on the private health insurance model.

Co-opting and Forming Parallel Organizations

In Oregon, for example, single payer activists complained how the Oregon Health Action Campaign, which began as a single payer advocacy organization, was systematically co-opted by Governor John Kitzhaber and foundation-funded staff who argued the “political climate and timing” was wrong for single payer and revamped OHAC’s mission to advocate for Kitzhaber’s Oregon Health Plan. The OHP, enacted in 1994, employs state and federal funding to subsidize and maintain a private health insurance model.

Between 1997 and 2001, Washington’s single payer movement confronted four parallel foundation-funded (in Washington State, they also received substantial support from a very conservative Washington State Labor Council) health care reform organizations. The first, the Equal Opportunity Institute (EOI), was formed in 1997 to launch a health care initiative campaign (to expand the insurance-based Washington Basic Health Plan) to compete with our own single payer ballot initiative. The second was Just Health Care, which had a brief existence between 1999 and 2000, was solely focused on attacking our single payer initiative. The third was Code Blue Now! (2001-2008), which was supposedly formed to develop “public consensus” on the best way to reform health care (despite polling showing that 60% of Washington voters supported a single, publicly financed system). The fourth was the Rainier Foundation, a “progressive” foundation (2001-2005) also established to “promote consensus” around health care reform.

It was never clear from the website of these “parallel’ groups exactly where they got their funding. And since all but the EOI are now defunct, it would be quite complicated to get their tax records via the Freedom of Information Act. My sense has always been that they derived most of their funding from the private insurance industry (which stands to lose big if federal and/or state governments enact publicly financed health care programs). Thus in this sense they were most likely pure “astroturf” creations (*see below), though they clearly adopted techniques employed by CIA-linked counterinsurgency foundations and classic FBI Cointelpro operations.

* Senator Lloyd Bentson, himself a long-time Washington and Wall Street insider, is credited with coining the term “astroturf lobbying” to describe the synthetic grassroots movements that now can be manufactured, for a fee, by a dozen or so public relations companies. The Tea Party movement, largely created and funded by the infamous Koch brothers, is probably the most high profile example of astroturfing (see here).


This link (here**), to Tamar Jacoby’s “McGeorge Bundy: How the Establishment’s Man Tackled the Problem With Race,”  was updated from the original.