“The triumph of demagogies is short-lived. But the ruins are eternal.”
—Charles Peguy

Jeane Kirkpatrick has given us two useful ways to think about that segment of the American intelligentsia that continuously finds fault with virtually everything this country does: they are the “blame America first” crowd and the believers in “moral equivalency.” After reading S. Steven Powell’s penetrating study, Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies, it seems clear that a new vocabulary is needed. If some of the nation’s critics “blame America first,” it is because many of them “hate America first,” i.e., they find the political, economic, social, and cultural institutions of America more offensive than those existing anywhere on the globe. It is not “moral equivalency” they seek to promote, but “moral malfeasance”—they hope to convince the world of the immorality and venality of everything American. There is no better example of the “hate America first” crowd than the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Founded in 1963 by Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin, two disenchanted members of the foreign policy establishment in the Kennedy administration, IPS has spent the past quarter century trying to undermine the foundations of American society and destroy its defensive capabilities. Given seed money by the Stern Family Fund, IPS has long depended on the Samuel Rubin Foundation for the lion’s share of its revenue, and has received generous contributions as well from the likes of the Playboy, Ford, and MacArthur Foundations.

The late Samuel Rubin was a member of the Communist Party and a wealthy businessman, a capitalist who took the millions he made from Faberge cosmetics to discredit the very system that made him stinking rich. His daughter, Cora, as well as her husband, Peter Weiss, has been faithful to the family tradition, working through IPS to sabotage American security interests and disable the economy that supports their subversion. It is no exaggeration to say that IPS is the most respectable mainstream left-wing institution in American history. It even enjoys tax-exempt status.

The strong language used to characterize IPS is deliberate: it is designed to provoke readers to understand that we are not simply dealing with yet another case of the unintended evil caused by well-meaning but deluded intellectuals. We are dealing with planned, organized, intended effects engineered by people who are neither wellmeaning nor intellectuals. IPS personnel are strategists, activists who are sometimes engaged in the war of ideas, sometimes in breaking the law, and sometimes in giving succor to our adversaries. It is a mistake to think that they are reformers: to reform is to improve, and there is almost nothing in American society that IPS wishes to improve upon. They prefer to ruin, not rectify.

The key players in IPS history testify to its radical status. Richard Barnet, for example, was invited by Hanoi during the height of the Vietnam War to give credence to the Communist cause. He openly said he was on their side, telling North Vietnamese officials that they were fighting “against the same aggressors that we will continue to fight in our country.” Consistent with such thinking, Barnet has said that the US is no model for underdeveloped countries and that the revolutions in Russia and China have brought economic progress, while Cuban Communism has yielded educational improvements. And he has justified the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by arguing that the Kremlin sensed “its own security slipping away.” (Were the mountain men, armed with World War I Lee-Enfields, about to take Moscow on foot?)

Marcus Raskin is even more blunt. He, too, collaborated with the enemy in Vietnam, and has written that American-style democracy “menaces the freedom and well-being of its citizenry” and “poses a danger to world civilization.” He has referred to the Pentagon as a “bloated genocide-preparing military system” and has, not surprisingly, called for the elimination of the FBI, Secret Service, CIA, and Armed Forces. Raskin believes that neither a democracy nor a republic exists in America and has worked relentlessly to weaken US intelligence activities. A former member of the editorial board of Ramparts, Raskin today says of IPS activists, “We are all Marxists.”

Other senior IPS players include Chester Hartman, the advocate for the homeless who sponsors rent-control legislation (thereby contributing to the problem he claims to worry about), and author of a lavish public housing program, the express intent of which is to “further undermine the existing economic system.” Robert Borosage is the IPS director, an activist who holds that (a) the Soviet Union is more interested in arms control than the US and (b) Moscow is the source of “interesting social experiments” in “Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Cuba and Nicaragua.” Most revealing of all is Saul Landau, former member of the Communist Party’s youth organization, participant in the World Communist Youth Festival in Havana, initial member of the KGB-sponsored Venceremos Brigade, personal friend of Fidel Castro, and producer of propaganda movies on Cuba and Nicaragua.

It would be one thing if only a few hacks were involved in IPS. But such is not the case. Perhaps the most valuable contribution that Powell has made in this well-researched and welldocumented book is the insight he provides into the extensive network of IPS activities and programs. IPS is, unquestionably, the mecca for leftwing causes in the United States. More than that, it is the mother of left-wing spin-off organizations and projects, responsible for the genesis of organizations like the Center for National Security Studies and publications like Mother Jones. It has founded radio syndicates, news wire services, journals and periodicals, foundations, “peace institutes,” anticorporate associations, socialist leagues, and international organizations.

In the 1960’s, IPS was busy sponsoring the W.E.B. DuBois School of Marxist Studies, a Communist Party front group. It was also the intellectual training camp for scores of self-styled revolutionaries, including Bill Ayers, one of the chief bomb and demolition engineers for the Weathermen. When the Weathermen were locked up for rioting in Chicago in 1968, Arthur Waskow of. IPS wired money for bail. Waskow even tried to convince the Justice Department that it should indict the Illinois State Attorney General for prosecuting the urban terrorists.

Meanwhile, senior IPS activist Cora Weiss was planning and leading antiwar demonstrations, inciting her followers to “storm the doors of the White House” next time around. At the end of the decade, IPS became the depository for the Pentagon Papers, having been given the stolen classified documents by Daniel Ellsberg. IPS kept the documents for a year and a half before Ellsberg gave the papers to The New York Times for publication. Interestingly, it was Paul Warnke—later to become the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency director—who gave Ellsberg access to the Pentagon Papers in the first place. Today Warnke is a trustee of IPS.

In the 1970’s, IPS continued to work against US national security interests, helping to launch CounterSpy magazine, which ex-CIA agent Philip Agee used to publish the names of CIA operatives. CounterSpy was directly responsible for the death of Robert Welch, the CIA bureau chief in Athens, Greece, but that didn’t stop IPS fellow Paul Jacobs from commenting that “It should come as no real surprise, nor cause for grief, when a CIA agent gets killed in the line of ‘duty.'” In the late 1970’s, atheist Cora Weiss and minister William Sloane Coffin cofounded the Riverside Church Disarmament Program. Both of them were among the welcoming party that hosted Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega in 1985. Predictably, IPS has raised money for the Sandinistas.

What keeps IPS afloat, more than anything else, is the credibility it carries with important segments of the media and the Congress. In a piece that The New York Times did in the fall of 1987 on Jesse Jackson, it quoted IPS fellow Roger Wilkins, referring to him as a member of the liberal Institute for Policy Studies. When Ted Koppel introduced IPS activist Chester Hartman on Nightline, December 26, 1987, he made no mention of the status of IPS and simply told viewers that Hartman works for the Institute. Worse still is The Washington Post, an organ whose writers have been known to teach at IPS. The major media not only treat IPS with respect, they often pick up stories published in IPS publications. Still another way IPS influences the media is by positioning its members, like Richard Barnet, on the editorial board of magazines like Sojourners.

Congress grants legitimacy to IPS by letting its spokesmen testify before committees of the House and Senate. Moreover, some congressmen and senators speak at IPS functions, some permit the organization to schedule trips for them to places like Nicaragua, others make space available in their chambers for conferences, and many more solicit budget studies from the Institute. And to top it off, presidential candidate Jesse Jackson regularly avails himself of IPS advisors.

It is testimony to the moral and intellectual dissolution of liberalism that a body like IPS is tolerated as a mainstream organization. IPS is accepted because liberalism has left itself completely open to penetration from the left, without any standards by which to discriminate between reformers and revolutionaries. That is why Robert Borosage thinks he can seize the moment and profess to make IPS an “invisible presence” in the Democratic Party. But as Steven Powell maintains, the only thing that is invisible about IPS is its real intent: “Operating in the open may well provide the best cover for pursuing subversive activities in a free society. IPS thrives. And few suspect it of seditious or disloyal behavior.” Now that Powell has successfully unmasked IPS for what it is, there is no room left for claiming ignorance.

IPS has more in common with the KGB than with any conventional liberal organization. Moreover, as Powell nicely documents, KGB agents not only speak glowingly of IPS, they come and go from IPS seminars on a regular basis, fraternizing with their American comrades. The only real difference between IPS and the KGB is that IPS activists are not on Moscow’s payroll and do not spend their time exclusively serving the interests of the Soviet Union—in virtually every other respect they are alike. Both hold the US in contempt, both seek to smash capitalism and introduce socialism (IPS associate fellow Derek Shearer admits to sugarcoating the organization’s preference for socialism by calling it “economic democracy”), and both support wars of national liberation—wars which are neither national in scope nor liberating in effect.

It’s ironic: in the Soviet Union, people who agitate for freedom and democracy are charged by official psychiatrists with “paranoid delusions of reforming society,” and are then shipped off to the local nuthouse. In this country, people who agitate for the destruction of freedom and democracy are courted by the nation’s cultural elite, awarded tax-exempt status for organizing, and given the opportunity to become advisors to the President of the United States. And yet with all this, liberals learn nothing.

In his excellent introduction to this revealing book, David Horowitz says it’s about time we end the taboos that still inhibit honest discussion on the subject of the left in America. Agreed. Let us begin by discriminating between those who are unable to think clearly about the difference between the US invasion of Grenada and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and those whose profession is to make sure that the liberal disability remains uncorrected. Then we’ll be prepared to understand the difference between well-meaning liberals and the gang at the Institute for Policy Studies. 


[Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies, by S. Steven Powell; Ottawa, IL: Green Hill Publishers]