Foundation Watch

The Institute for Policy Studies

Architects of American Decline

(Foundation Watch, February 2011, PDF here)

For nearly 50 years the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has conducted a systematic campaign to undermine American foreign policies and the social and economic system that supports them. Webster’s defines “undermine” as “to excavate beneath, to weaken or wear away secretly or gradually.” Such a description is particularly appropriate for IPS, the oldest and most ideological organization founded to impose leftist political change on America.

The political outlook of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is classically Marxist. It thinks capitalism is responsible for the public policies of the American government. It is convinced that the corporation is the vehicle by which real change is made in American politics. It says the American people suffer because of this system, and so does the cause of world peace and prosperity. Since its founding in 1963, IPS has attacked capitalism as the scourge of the poor, the economic system that props up the nation-state, and the cause of war and “imperialism.” Only the business class—the “bourgeoisie”—prospers under capitalism. The rest of the world suffers.

Take a quick look at the IPS website: It blames the Tucson shootings by Jared Lee Loughner on the “incendiary” rhetoric of Sarah Palin. The United States is held responsible for suicide bombings in the Middle East because “foreign occupation, not Islamic fundamentalism, causes suicide bombing.” Global warming could be brought to a standstill if only “countries with the smallest carbon footprints adopt U.S. babies.” Apparently coddled babies in America use up too much energy.

One IPS article argues that a Republican lawmaker is a greater problem than a totalitarian state with nuclear weapons: “You think negotiating with North Korea is difficult? Try sitting down with Jon Kyl (R-AZ).” An IPS blog asserts that there are “parallels between the bombing of Hiroshima and the attacks of 9/11.”

Obama’s election has not deterred IPS from its mission to oppose American capitalism, its affiliates and public policies. Like other leftist groups that may have found some comfort in Obama’s rhetoric, IPS has been chastened by reality. In a more “sorrow than anger” mode, IPS sees very little to cheer about. From its perspective, Obama is a “system” politician, hardly the revolutionary implied in the 2008 campaign. From its opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israeli policy and the Obama retreat on tax cuts, IPS is still out-front in its original mission to undermine America. If anything, IPS is more potent than before, since the triumph of “Tea Party” Republicans has given its mission a renewed sense of urgency. The lines have been drawn in a wholly new political civil war.

The current IPS website bears this out. To IPS, almost nothing has changed. On Israel: “The Obama Administration is promising to interfere with and prevent any effort to hold Israel accountable in the international arena.” On Iraq: “President Obama’s speech [on Iraq] will not use any terms remotely close to ‘mission accomplished’ … there is no victory to claim.” On Afghanistan: “This is a war we cannot win and cannot afford. … And yet, the military battle goes on, despite its inevitable failure.”

IPS helped organize the massive “One Nation Working Together” demonstrations held in New York and Washington in October 2010. Only now has IPS finally acknowledged that the old anti-war protests have become passé and that a higher calling for wholesale restructuring of the American social system had a new urgency: “… the anti-war movement itself is only one stream in a much wider river of protest.” Thus, the new IPS agenda concentrates on a variety of projects addressing peace, justice and the environment, in a more determined program to transform capitalism into socialism, in its own words: “working to re-establish the United Nations’ central role in global relations and transform U.S. policies to focus on fairness and justice instead of unilateral power.” The struggle for a New World Order has been joined.

But IPS has been at this game a long time.

The group was created by Marcus Raskin and Richard Barnet, two disgruntled minor officials in the Kennedy administration who found the American system of government unsatisfactory and who decided to wage political war against it. According to Raskin, American capitalism was a system in which “the rich, the quick, the clever, the unseen, set out paths which the wretched and mystified must travel.”[1] Barnet believed “the myth of the market … is still a driving force for more mindless accumulation and waste.”[2] The two established IPS as an organization to undermine a system that they believed was the singular source of global evil.

It is fair to call IPS a systemic opponent of America’s public culture, its economic and political institutions and its social order. The group opposes America’s national security institutions (the Pentagon, the FBI, the intelligence agencies), its legal system that charters corporations and protects private property, and the political system writ large. IPS represents much more than a segment of society unhappy with current politics and determined to vote the bums out of office. In classic Leninist design it is a revolutionary “cell” of politically motivated activists.

From the start IPS tried to hide its true character by posing as a “progressive” group that participates in the democratic process. An IPS annual report maintains that it is little more than a community of “public scholars” dedicated to exposing “the moral and political bankruptcy of the ideas and assumptions now governing America.”[3] But scholarship as ideology is an oxymoron. IPS is no think tank when it takes on the role of revolutionary agent, an “enemy of the state.” This is how IPS acted during the Cold War, and it’s how it is acting during the present War on Terror.

In one sense, the Institute for Policy Studies is a product of both nineteenth century liberal internationalism and classic Marxism. Both of these movements helped engender American “progressivism” in the early twentieth century. They played a role in the creation of the labor movement, anti-business reform politics, and the rise of anti-war protest movements that reached their crescendo during the Vietnam War era. (See my book The Politics of Peace: What’s Behind the Antiwar Movement? published by Capital Research Center in 2005.) But all these pre-date the Cold War origins of IPS and the organization as it exists today.

IPS should not be dismissed as a juvenile form of street theater against war and industry. If left unchallenged its actions could shape the future world order.

Anti-American Ideology

During the Cold War IPS spouted a far left anti-capitalist ideology, and it fostered close ties to communist and socialist parties around the globe. IPS activists made their careers exposing and condemning what they considered human rights abuses by the U.S. and its allies. But they took advantage of American civil liberties to protect themselves while they denounced the government that guaranteed their liberty.

IPS was careful to put itself on record as being critical of the police state methods of the KGB and other Communist security forces. But it was largely silent about totalitarian rule in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and other Marxist states, and instead found reasons to support America’s enemies.

For decades IPS welcomed foreign and domestic radicals. IPS co-founder Richard Barnet once said the communist threat was a “myth … that no one quite believed in” and he described the Soviet Union as an innocent victim of U.S. corporate power: “the Soviets moved in a spirit of insecurity and panic.”[4] IPS senior fellow Saul Landau called the USSR mankind’s savior: “The Soviet Union has been the one insurance policy of successful revolutions.”[5]

In retrospect, how could any group prosper when it made such preposterous claims? It’s clear that IPS had little or no interest in America’s Founding principles and social virtues. But what explains its neutrality toward the contest pitting totalitarianism against liberty. Were the “public scholars” at IPS naïve progressives, “fellow travelers” or “agents of influence”?

In his massive study Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute of Policy Studies (Greenhill Books, 1987) author Steven Powell writes that it is “problematic” to call IPS “treasonous.” But he argues that the group’s motives are “less relevant” than its actions. Writes Powell, IPS “activities frequently fall in line with Soviet active-measures campaigns conducted against the United States.”[6]

The past is prologue. World Communism has been dead for over two decades, and the outline of a future world order is still unclear. But IPS has already staked its claim: It endorses a world order that is based on the philosophy it has promoted for nearly 50 years. This, not the history of the Cold War, is the basis of its current ideology and activism.

An IPS Foreign Policy for America

In 1991, as he prepared for the Gulf War that drove Iraq out of Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush sparked a political debate when he called for a “new world order.” President Bush never adequately explained his vision—he admitted that he had a problem with “the vision thing”—but it’s unlikely that his notion of world order was anything like the IPS vision.

A 2007 IPS report Just Security: An Alternative Foreign Policy Framework provides a blueprint that details that vision. IPS believes American society will be transformed in a new world order. Combining the ideas and rhetoric of Marxism/socialism and liberal internationalism, the report calls American society the chief obstacle to a “just” and “fair” world. The report ignores the complexities of history, geography, religion and culture that explain why different parts of the world are rich or poor. Instead, the causes of poverty and inequality around the world are laid at the doorsteps of Coca-Cola, Ford, GM, Citibank, Time Warner, Disney and the boardrooms of corporate America. Their power, write the report’s authors, dwarfs the influence of past cultures and empires.

Citing “inequality” and “injustice” as the chief causes of global chaos, poverty and war, the report indicts the American “national security state anchored in a growing military industrial complex” which is singly responsible for the world’s condition.

In this scenario, our task is to “fix it” by undertaking a series of initiatives that will reduce America’s role in the world to something approximating its global standing in the 1930s. Corporations need to withdraw from foreign markets; the defense budget should be slashed; there should be no foreign intelligence collection and no domestic counterintelligence and no border surveillance; overseas U.S. military bases must be closed and military alliances ended; nations must look to the UN and other multilateral structures to make the most important decisions in politics and economics. In short, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the United States must retrench at home and abroad. The nation that led the West for 60 years—and ended the Cold War by a policy of peace through strength—must relinquish political power abroad but control economic freedoms at home.

Finances and Trustees

In 2008, IPS had revenues of $3.3 million, assets of $1.8 million, and 39 paid employees, according to the most recently available IRS 990 tax forms. The list of institutional donors that have contributed to IPS is a Who’s Who of the radical left. Grants by far-left funders (partial but cumulative totals since 1999?) include the Wallace Global Fund ($745,700), Arca Foundation ($584,200), Tides Foundation ($468,220), Foundation for Deep Ecology ($230,000), George Soros’s Open Society Institute ($75,000), and the Funding Exchange ($55,000).

IPS also enjoys substantial support from major left-of-center philanthropic foundations whose assets derive from some of America’s great capitalist fortunes, including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation ($1,633,352)—Mott (1875-1973) was an original partner is the creation of General Motors; the Ford Foundation ($1,555,000), the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($820,900), HKH Foundation ($695,000)—the initials stand for Harold K. Hochschild (1892-1981), president of the Amco mining company; Rockefeller Brothers Fund ($586,000), Turner Foundation ($260,000)—as in media mogul Ted Turner; the Bernard & Audre Rapoport Foundation ($225,000)—Rapaport (born 1917) is founder of the American Income Life Insurance Company; and the Nathan Cummings Foundation ($70,000)—Cummings (1896-1985) was the founder of Consolidated Foods, parent of Sara Lee. IPS makes a point of noting that it accepts no government funding.

IPS also makes grants to new organizations. According to its 2008 tax return, it gave $168,145 to the Hip Hop Caucus Institute, which lists the same Washington, DC address as IPS: 1112 16th Street NW. The Institute uses hip hop music to promote political activism to young voters. The Institute’s president, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., works on grassroots political organizing and get-out- the-vote drives with hip hop musicians and producers like P. Diddy, Russell Simmons and Jay Z, names well known to African- American young people.

IPS trustees include HKH Foundation executive director Harriet Barlow; singer Harry Belafonte; former IPS president Robert Borosage; writer Barbara Ehrenreich; California philanthropist Lawrence Janss; Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans, the widow of computer pioneer Max Palevsky; Texas politician Frances Farenthold; and Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, the granddaughter of Jules Stein, co-founder of MCA, the movie and music company.

The IPS interim director is Joy Zarembka, a former director of the Break the Chain, a program in community organizing. Director John Cavanagh is on leave to work on an IPS global economy project.

Origins of IPS

What would become IPS originated in “The Liberal Project” an effort undertaken in the late 1950s to create something similar to The Fabian Society in Great Britain, a place where leftist academics could circulate ideas with members of Congress. Those early discussions resulted in a book called The Liberal Papers, a collection of essays published in 1962 with an introduction by James Roosevelt, FDR’s son. The authors called for a wholesale reversal of U.S. Cold War policies, including the dismantlement of NATO, the end of U.S. nuclear testing, withdrawal from Berlin and the recognition of Soviet-controlled Central Europe. The contributors included Marcus Raskin, an assistant to Kennedy national security adviser McGeorge Bundy; Arthur Waskow, who had earlier worked with Raskin in the office of Rep. Robert Kastenmeier, a Wisconsin Democrat; and the Harvard sociologist David Reisman, who was Raskin’s teacher. Convinced that the Kennedy administration was unwilling to fundamentally alter U.S. foreign policies, Raskin and his friend Richard Barnet, who worked in the State Department, founded IPS.

The organization received its initial financial support from two sources: the Stern Family Fund and the Samuel Rubin Foundation. The assets of the Stern Fund originated in the fortune of Sears, Roebuck president Julius Rosenwald, father of Fund co-founder Edith Stern. Stern’s son Philip was IPS board chairman before his death in 1992. The Samuel Rubin Foundation was established by the creator of the Faberge cosmetics firm. Rubin was at one time a member of the Communist Party. Rubin’s daughter and son-in-law, Cora and Peter Weiss, have continued to play prominent roles in the Institute.

It did not take long for IPS to attract a diverse and radical following, and it became a major center for anti-American activism. Karl Hess, a former Goldwater speechwriter-turned anarcho-communitarian, was an IPS fellow and Black Panther supporter who urged “no alternative but to use violent tactics to destroy the U.S. government.” Robert Burlingham, an associate fellow, was a member of the Weather Underground and likewise advocated a new America in no “other way but through violence.” Paul Jacobs, another IPS associate fellow, agreed that a “violent overthrow” was needed.[7]

By the mid 1960s IPS had all but abandoned any academic pretence and was a hub of activism against the Vietnam War. Arthur Waskow, a member of the IPS founding group, invented the term “creative disorder” to urge homegrown revolution. At a 1970 rally outside the IRS, Waskow told protesters that chanting slogans was futile. He said, ”Revolution must be planned, organized and then pulled off … through methods that put lives on the line.”[8] Anti-war militants, Black Panthers, and members of SNCC found jobs and safe haven at IPS. (SNCC was the acronym for the Student National Coordinating Committee, which was once called the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee until it changed its name in 1969 to reflect a change in strategy.) One IPS employee named Jean Wiley was the former personal secretary to black militants Stokely Carmichael and H. “Rap” Brown.

IPS worked through number of “front” groups masquerading as educational institutes. For instance, the W.E.B. DuBois School of Marxist Studies, an active CPUSA front sponsored by IPS, aimed “to organize the people and to spread as widely as possible a knowledge of Marxism as the Science of Social Change.”[9] IPS also sponsored the Venceremos Brigade which defied the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba. Cora Weiss, the daughter of Samuel Rubin, helped create the radical disarmament group Women Strike for Peace, which mobilized opposition to the U.S. nuclear deterrent throughout the Cold War.

Attacking U.S. Intelligence Agencies

The heyday for IPS was the era of the Vietnam War. Like actress Jane Fonda, IPS fellows took dissent one step further and celebrated North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, feeding pro-communist propaganda to both the radical and mainstream media. IPS operatives worked with the radical Liberation News Service (LNS) in channeling North Vietnamese “messages.” According to LPS officials the IPS was “the sugar daddy of New Left operations”[10] in disseminating materials nationwide. At its peak, LNS claimed over one thousand subscribers, described by a Senate Internal Security subcommittee as “Marxist-Leninist, anti-capitalist, anti-military, pro-Viet Cong and pro-Black Panther.”[11] Another anti-war propaganda front, Dispatch News Service, was funded by Philip Stern, chairman of the IPS board of trustees with Richard Barnet, an IPS founder. IPS associates, including Cora Weiss, Arthur Waskow, Sidney Lens, Rennie Davis and David Dellinger, helped organize the massive 1969 protests of the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (“New Mobe”). IPS operatives traveled to North Vietnam to coordinate anti-war protests. During the 1969 march Richard Barnet was in Hanoi telling North Vietnam officials that they were fighting “against the same aggressors that we will continue to fight in our country,”[12] Cora Weiss also went to Hanoi and came back praising the “immaculate” facilities of POW prison camps.[13]

IPS intrigued with the New York Times and Washington Post in helping to release The Pentagon Papers, the classified documents stolen by Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg in 1971. Fearful of the legal consequences of releasing classified material, IPS held the papers for over a year before letting the mainstream media publish them. IPS officials were subpoenaed by the grand jury but avoided testimony. Defense Secretary Clark Clifford would call the Pentagon Papers release “an event of outstanding significance”[14] in anti-war protest and the North Vietnamese admitted that “it could not have won the war without the western press.”[15] IPS antiwar activities and the organization’s contacts with domestic radicals and foreign communists naturally prompted FBI surveillance. In 1973 IPS accused the agency of breaking into its Washington, D.C. offices. In 1979, in the political climate of the post-Watergate era, IPS won an out-of-court settlement against the FBI forbidding it to “collect, gather, index, file, maintain, store or disseminate” information on IPS, its “associations, speech or activities …” In effect, IPS was given carte blanche to attack U.S. national security while the agency responsible for protecting national security was stripped of its constitutional responsibility to guard against this attack. The decision was breathtaking.

IPS has never disguised its hostility to U.S. intelligence agencies. In 1970 Marcus Raskin told the group Federal Employees for Peace that “government agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service, intelligence services of other government agencies, and the military should be done away with in that order.”[16] U.S. intelligence, like capitalism, had to be dismantled. Richard Barnet echoed Raskin’s sentiments. He labeled the CIA “a criminal enterprise which must be eliminated.”[17]

It is arguable that the long campaign by IPS against U.S. intelligence services culminated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The massive failure of American intelligence agencies followed four decades of unrelenting criticism.

Regulating The Global Economy

IPS did not invent anti-capitalism, but it has worked hard to build international support for the global regulation of trade and for tight controls over national and multinational corporations. Never mind that communism has collapsed and markets are spreading goods and prosperity around the world. IPS has decided that what it calls “groups in civil society,” (i.e., nongovernmental organizations or NGOs) must rally to control corporate power. This strategy fulfills the demand of IPS fellow Staughton Lynd who in 1969 told an audience that “We need to find ways to lay siege to corporations. We need to invent anti-corporate actions which involve masses of people, not just a dedicated few.”[18]

The notion that the free market is a threat to American democracy rather than the foundation of democracy is central to the IPS outlook. Democracy is threatened in America, Richard Barnet once wrote, because “the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few hundred corporate managers and stockholders is inevitably translated into political power.” Barnet concluded, “The redistribution of economic and political power is the price of maintaining democracy in America.”[19]

IPS has created an international anti-corporate network called the Transnational Institute (TNI) to achieve its goals. Based in Amsterdam, TNI amasses data on multinational corporations and collaborates with labor unions, churches, environmental groups and other political action groups to force change on corporations. A TNI subsidiary, Transnational Information Exchange (TIE), has hundreds of affiliates and contacts with activists around the world.

 “Government’s responsibility is to revitalize the nation’s economy through creative forms of public ownership.”[20] IPS founder Marcus Raskin and Michigan Rep. John Conyers wrote in “Taking Over America,” a 1979 New York Times op-ed. Public acquisition of corporations, banks and utilities and national planning on the use of energy and healthcare was a radical dream thirty years ago. Today, it is Executive Branch policy.

Creating A New World Order

Two beginnings, the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the onset of the War on Terror in 2001, mark a new and profound transition in world politics. But when the old “socialist bloc” disappeared, what would take its place? IPS and other “New Left” era activists who apologized for communism and championed revolution in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s are looking for a new model of political action. They are not about to accept the United States as the “sole remaining superpower.”

Without the promise of communism or social revolution, IPS has concentrated its attention on a variety of political gambits. It wants to save the environment, redistribute global wealth, end nuclear proliferation, and liberate the world from what it terms the American “National Security State.”

IPS continues to participate in protests against American foreign policies, especially U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. It publishes pamphlets and white papers, airs radio broadcasts and runs a school for activists. In 2001 IPS convened the meeting that led to the creation of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group that organized major protest demonstrations against the Bush intervention in Iraq. But the street theatrics of protest are mere sideshows compared to a larger task. IPS intends to change the world.

The 2007 IPS report Just Security develops the agenda to transform U.S. society to fit a new world order. In 2007 Marcus Raskin also published The Four Freedoms Under Siege, which also imagines a new America that puts corporations under political control. Former IPS director John Cavanagh has written ten books outlining the need to control corporations. Cavanagh and Barnet observe:

The architects and managers of these space-age business enterprises understand that the balance of power in world politics has shifted in recent years from territorially bound governments to companies that can roam the world.[21]

According to IPS analysts, nothing less than a shift in “global consciousness” is required. A new world order should be based not on global markets, but on some kind of a neocommunitarian power-sharing. IPS derides the old “celebrations of ethnicity, nationalism, religion and hallowed territory.” What’s needed is a “globalization from below”:

… Because the global economic and political systems are out of synch, and therefore unresponsive and unaccountable, people are staking out their own living space. Exiles from the new world order, they spend their lives building small communities that give their lives meaning…”[22]

Such visions may seem harmless and utopian compared to Soviet military power during the Cold War era. But like the last century’s Marxism, they could be the basis of profound political change if harnessed properly. Fifty years ago IPS helped to create and “harness” such notions. With the Cold War long gone, it still yearns to shape the course of world politics.

1. Notes on the Old System, (N.Y.: David Kay, 1976), p. 13.
2. Quoted from S. Steven Powell, Covert Cadre, Inside the IPS, Ottawa Il.: Green Hill, 1987), p. 170.
3. IPS Annual Report, 1983, p. 6.
4. Powell, op. cit., p. 85.
5. Ibid., p. 363.
6. Ibid., pp. 355, 359.
7. Ibid., p.29.
8. Ibid, p. 31.
9. DuBois School catalogue, Spring 1971.
10. Raymond Mungo, Famous Long Ago My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), p. 17.
11. Washington Star, July 13, 1971.
12. Powell, op. cit., p. 38.
13. Ibid., p. 39.
14. Sanford J. Ungar, The Papers and the Papers, (N.Y.: E. P. Dutton, 1972), p. 19.
15. Robert Elegant, “How to Lose a war: Refl ections of a Foreign Correspondent,” Encounter, London, August, 1981, p.76.
16. Powell, op. cit., p. 54.
17. “Dirty Tricks and the Underworld,” Transaction: Social Science and Modern Society, vol. 12, no. 3, p. 57.
18. Staughton Lynd, “AttackWar Contractors Meetings,” Guardian, November 15, 1969.
19. The Crisis of the Corporation, (Washington, D.C.: IPS Studies, 1975).
20. June 1, 1979.
21. Global Dreams, Imperial Corporations and the New World Order (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 14.
22. Ibid., p. 429.

John J. Tierney is the Walter Kohler Professor of International Relations at the Institute of World Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based graduate school. He is author of The Politics of Peace, published in 2005 by Capital Research Center.