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Activist Education at the Albert Einstein Institution: A Critical Examination of Elite Co-option of Civil Disobedience
anti-war / imperialism |
Saturday July 21, 2012 21:51 by lefty
Gene Sharp, harmless old man or cynical CIA asset?
Abstract: For most progressive activists, it is a given that the military-industrial
complex is a clear and highly visible barrier to progressive social change. So it is particularly interesting to note that a number of groups involved in progressive activist education – which are held in high regard by activists – maintain strong links to military and political elites. One of the best known of these organisations is the US-based Albert Einstein Institution. This paper will provide a systematic analysis of the history of this Institution, and the key people associated with it, and demonstrate how their work is intimately linked to the international democracy-manipulating community – whose work is exemplified by the US-based National Endowment for Democracy, a group which is well-known for its support of the failed 2002 coup in Venezuela. This analysis will expose the crucial role such activist educators play in catalysing revolutions in countries deemed appropriative for regime change by transnational elites. In the light of the dubious nature of these educational activities, this paper will conclude by offering a number of suggestions for how concerned citizens and educators may counter the cynical (ab)use of activist education by political elites as a new and powerful tool of imperialism.
Related Links: 'How To Start A Revolution'
Thierry Meyssan on AEI / Gene Sharp |
Sharp attack unwarranted - defence of Gene Sharp in FPIF by Stephen Zunes |
Sharp reflection warranted - a robust response by Michael Barker |
How to start a wall street backed revolution |
How to start a revolution (propaganda film teaser) |
Sourcewatch AEI page |
NED website |
Gene Sharp (wikipedia) |
Tony Cartalucci's "landdestroyer" blog
Foreword by lefty:
Given the media spin and lies about events in Libya, Syria and the sabre rattling against Iran, I have reproduced here the contents of this important paper which was published as part of the "Activating Human Rights and Peace 2008" Conference Proceedings. I do hope Michael will forgive me for this but I feel certain that he would want this work to be more widely read given recent events, and the fact that his paper has recently been excised from the university website. (I guess it must have upset somebody!! :-) Kudos Michael Barker.
Note: This article is not copyleft. All copyright to this article remains with Michael Barker
Activist Education at the Albert Einstein Institution: A Critical Examination of Elite Cooption of Civil Disobedience
By Michael Barker
Key Words: Imperialism, Philanthropy, Polyarchy, Revolution
It is well understood by radical political theorists and historians that the strategic use of civil
disobedience has provided a vital means of promoting democracy around the world (Zinn,
2003). However, while civil disobedience has certainly been used to benefit progressive
activists, by enabling people power to present a viable threat to elite power, there is much
overlooked evidence that suggests that elite powerbrokers have responded to this threat by
attempting to co-opt this strategic resource.
Progressive activist-scholars theorize about the dynamics of elite power to facilitate its
demise, while elitist scholars, on the other hand, document the processes of social change in
an attempt to constrain progressive victories. Consequently, given the interests of elite
theorists in progressive social change it not surprising that there is a long history of elite
cooption of progressive social movements. In this regard, key elites that have been, and
continue to be, involved in proactively manipulating civil society to serve their own ends
include liberal foundations (Roelofs, 2003), corporations (Sims, 2005), labour groups (Scipes,
2007), government intelligence agencies (Saunders, 1999), and of course governments
(Weissman, 1974). The success that such democracy manipulators have had in taming dissent
and shaping the contours of progressive activism – in all manner of popular social movements
– has been well documented (Barker, 2007a, 2008a; Haines, 1988; Wright et al., 1985). Such
overt manipulations have been used to successfully combat the influence of communism
through the provision of strategic support to socialists (Saunders, 1999), and have even
succeeded in hijacking revolutionary popular uprisings, facilitating transitions from
authoritarian to neoliberal forms of governance (Robinson, 1996). It is no contradiction then
26 Activating Human Rights and Peace 2008 Conference Proceedings
that civil disobedience, like all other political resources, is considered to be a key armament of
both the powerful and the less powerful, and can be used alternatively to either bolster or
challenge imperialism. Thus, given the potential for the abuse of civil disobedience, that is its
pragmatic geopolitical use by elites, it is highly problematic that progressive scholars have
failed to critically focus on such abuses.
This paper will provide the first critical and comprehensive overview of one elite-supported
group that promotes civil disobedience globally, a US-based group called the Albert Einstein
Institution. This Institution provides a particularly relevant case study, because in spite of the
strong links that it maintains to military and political elites it is still held in high esteem by
progressive activists all over the world. By providing a systematic analysis of the history of
this Institution, and the key people associated with it, the analyses presented in this study will
expose the crucial role that activist educators can sometimes play in catalysing revolutions in
countries deemed appropriative for regime change by the international democracy-
manipulating community – a community whose work is exemplified by the US-based
National Endowment for Democracy. In the light of the dubious nature of these educational
activities, this paper will conclude by offering a number of suggestions for how concerned
citizens and educators may counter the cynical (ab)use of activist education by political elites
as a new and powerful tool of imperialism.
Gene Sharp and the National Endowment for Democracy
The Albert Einstein Institution was founded in 1983 by Dr. Gene Sharp and is an organisation
that, according to its website, is ostensibly “dedicated to advancing the study and use of
strategic nonviolent action in conflicts throughout the world.” At face value both Sharp’s
ongoing work – which has caused him to be “widely recognised as the world’s leading non-
violence researcher” (Martin, 2005: 252; Weber, 2003: 251) – and Albert Einstein’s historical
contributions to peace activism seem related: however, a more critical investigation of the
activities of Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution suggests that this is not the case. It appears
that Sharp has, politically speaking, moved a long way from the days when he was able to
convince the notable anarchist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) to write the foreword for his first
book manuscript in 1953 – a book that was eventually published in 1960 as Gandhi Wields
the Weapon of Moral Power.
Martin (1989: 213) notes that “compared to the intensive use of his ideas by activists, scholars
have devoted little attention to Sharp.” On this score, Martin provides a useful antidote to the
uncritical adoption of Sharp’s ideas by critiquing “Sharp’s theory of power… by comparing it
to structural approaches to social analysis.” Moreover, given that the funding for Sharp’s
major theoretical contribution to non-violent scholarship – his trilogy, The Politics of
Nonviolent Action (1972) – came from former RAND Corporation ideologue Professor
Thomas Schelling’s grants (Abella, 2008), which Schelling had in turn obtained from the US
Department of Defense and the Ford Foundation (whose work was intimately linked with that
of the CIA, see Berman 1983; Saunders, 1999) (Sharp, 1972: viii), it is fitting that Weber
notes that Sharp often refers to nonviolence as an ‘alternative weapons system’ and even describes it as
a ‘means of combat, as is war. It involves the matching of forces and the waging of
“battles”, it requires wise strategy and tactics, employs numerous ‘weapons,’ and
demands of its “soldiers” courage, discipline, and sacrifice.’ The central dynamic is one
of ‘political jiu-jitsu’ rather than the ‘moral jiu-jitsu’ of Richard Gregg and Gandhi.
(Weber, 2003: 258)1
This is not something that Sharp has tried to hide, and in the foreword to The Politics of
Nonviolent Action Sharp observes that…
"I have been arguing for years that governments and defense departments – as well as
other groups – should finance and conduct research into alternatives to violence in
politics and especially as a possible basis for a defense policy by prepared nonviolent
resistance as a substitute for war. As acceptance of such Defense Department funds
involved no restrictions whatever on the research, writing, or dissemination of the results,
I willingly accepted them." (Sharp, 1972: viii)
Eerily, echoing Sharp’s simple defence of the merits of encouraging the military to fund peace
research, Serbian activist Ivan Marovic – who is a founding member of the US-funded
opposition group, Otpor (for more details, see later) – acknowledged receiving funding from
the US government to help overthrow Slobodan Milosevic, but says: “So we did get money,
but we never got orders from anyone. That’s why we succeeded” (cited in Mueller 2005).
This comment is significant on a number of levels, as not only did Sharp’s Albert Einstein
Institution play an integral role in training Serbian activists in the techniques required to oust
Milosevic, but Otpor itself also received financial aid from numerous foreign groups which
included the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). This latter US-based quasi-
nongovernmental organisation, the NED, was formed in 1984 with bipartisan support, and
according to their former president, carries out “a lot of work” that was formerly undertaken
by the CIA (cited in Ignatius 1991). Indeed, Cavell (2002: 105) in his book Exporting ‘Made
in America’ Democracy suggests that the “degree to which the NED will go to subvert a
country’s sovereignty can perhaps best be gleaned from its funding of anti-Sandinista groups
in Nicaragua” throughout the 1980s.
The NED’s current president, Carl Gershman, stated in 1999 that “democracy-promotion has
become an established field of international activity and a pillar of American foreign policy”
(cited in Cavell, 2002: 112). With a relatively meagre annual budget of around $80 million,
the NED’s most important function is to coordinate the work of larger better endowed
‘democratic’ funders like the US Agency for International Development and the CIA. The
most detailed critical examination of the NED’s attempts to co-opt progressive movements
and install low-intensity democracy around the world is Robinson’s (1996) seminal book
Promoting Polyarchy: however, since then numerous other studies have bolstered his analyses
(for further details, see Barker, 2006a).
The Albert Einstein Institution and Postmodern Coups
Writing in 1949, Albert Einstein observed that
"…under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly,
the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult,
and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective
conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights." (Einstein, 1949)
Einstein’s observations which also raised his concern over the lack of a free and open
discussion of socialism, apply almost perfectly to discussions surrounding the arguably
polyarchal work of the Albert Einstein Institution. Yet unfortunately within both academia
and the peace movement, there has been almost no critical discussion of the problems
associated with this Institution’s role in theorizing and promoting civil disobedience globally.
It is perhaps fitting that Sharp named his Institution after Einstein rather than after a more
radical dissident, like for example Bertrand Russell. As Chomsky (2001: 167) points out, both
Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein essentially agreed that “nuclear weapons might well
destroy the species”, but while Russell demonstrated in the streets and was subsequently
denounced and vilified by US elites, Einstein remained in his office and was considered a
“saintly figure” who “didn’t rattle too many cages.” Thus as will become clearer later, it
makes sense that Sharp wanted to associate his organisation with a leading dissenting
intellectual whose activism was considered to be elite-friendly.
In a rare critical examination of Sharp’s work, Martin (2005: 258) observed that the “linkage
of nonviolence research to policy makers is weak at best and often nonexistent.” Martin goes
on to add that: “Some activists and scholars would say this is a good thing, given the risk that
nonviolence could be co-opted by the state, having its radical potential defanged.” However,
arguably this cooption has already happened. So considering the lack of critical research
surrounding the Albert Einstein Institution’s activities, this article will now examine some of
the Institutions’ funders, and investigate the polyarchal ties of many of the people who have
been associated with the Institution.
A close examination of the groups that have provided funding to the Albert Einstein
Institution over the years suggests that the latter’s work is highly entwined with imperial-
minded foreign policy making elites. Consequently, although a complete documentary record
of the Institution’s funding relationships is presently unavailable, a summary report of their
work between 1993 and 1999 provides an informative list of their financial supporters (see
Jenkins and Houlihan, 2000). During this period, the most ‘democratic’ of the Albert Einstein
Institutions financiers were the National Endowment for Democracy, the International
Republican Institute (one of the NED’s four core grantees), the US Institute for Peace (the
NED’s sister organisation, see Hatch and Diamond, 1990), and the German-based Friedrich
Naumann Stiftung. In addition, the Albert Einstein Institution received aid from two of
America’s most influential liberal philanthropic organisations, that is, the Ford Foundation
and the Open Society Institute. This support is particularly significant given that the long
history of collusion between the CIA and the biggest liberal foundations (e.g. the Ford and
Rockefeller Foundations’) and their corrosive influence on the development of civil society
worldwide (Arnove, 1981; Barker, 2008a; INCITE!, 2007; Roelofs, 2003). It is fitting then
that from 1974 until 1976 Gene Sharp served as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow at Harvard
Other noteworthy liberal foundations that provided funding to the Albert Einstein Institution
between 1993 and 1999 include the Arca Foundation (whose secretary, Mary King, is also a
director of the Albert Einstein Institution), the Compton Foundation (whose president, James
Compton, is Emeritus Chair of the NED-financed Fund for Peace (see Barker, 2007a), and
has formerly worked for twelve years for the key democracy-manipulator World Learning for
International Development – a group formerly known as the Delphi International Group, see
Robinson, 1992), and the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation (whose former program officer,
Antonio Maciel, is now the Director of the Open Society Institute’s US Justice Fund).
Likewise, another group with particularly strong democracy-manipulating credentials that has
funded the Albert Einstein Institution’s work is the Ploughshares Fund: however, owing to the
lack of critical commentary on the Ploughshares Fund’s work, the following section will
briefly introduce the work and people behind this philanthropic body.2
The Ploughshares Fund’s website notes that is a “public grantmaking foundation that supports
initiatives to prevent the spread and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and
other weapons of war, and to prevent conflicts that could lead to the use of weapons of mass
destruction.” Major funders (so-called Council Ambassadors) of the Ploughshares Fund
include well known philanthropists like the Ford Foundation; while the Fund’s Peace and
Security Funders Group includes, amongst its ranks, some of the most powerful liberal
foundations, e.g. the Carnegie Corporation, the Compton Foundation, the Ford Foundation,
the MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (Ploughshares Fund, 2006).
According to the Fund’s most recent annual report, they have provided financial aid to a wide
variety of the world’s key democracy-manipulating organisations: some of these include
Americans for Informed Democracy, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Henry
L. Stimson Center, the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development (whose president,
Stephen Cohen, is a national scholar at the Israel Policy Forum – an organisation that “seeks
to strengthen Israeli security and to further U.S. foreign policy interests in the Middle East”),
the International Crisis Group, Refugees International, and the NED-funded Search for
Given the Ploughshare Fund’s strong propensity for funding ‘democratic’ groups’, it is not
surprising that many of its directors and advisors have vigorous polyarchal credentials: thus
their directors include David Holloway (who is a faculty member of Stanford University’s
Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, which is headed by former NED
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Michael McFaul, whose most prominent ‘democratic’ ties
are to Freedom House and the Eurasia Foundation), Cynthia Ryan (who serves on the
advisory board of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and is a former trustee of the
Women for Women International – a group that received NED funding in 2003), and Philip
Yun (who is currently vice president for resource development at the Asia Foundation);
‘democratic’ advisors to the Ploughshares Fund include J. Brian Atwood (who was president
of the cored NED grantee the National Democratic Institute from 1986 to 1993, and served as
the administrator of USAID from 1993 to 1999), Lloyd Axworthy (who is the chair of Human
Rights Watch’s Americas Advisory board), Susan Eisenhower (who is a trustee of the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), and Leslie H. Gelb (who is a member of the
International Crisis Group, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a
trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).
Civil Disobedience in the Service of Polyarchy
According to recent reports, the current Principals of the Albert Einstein Institution are
Colonel Robert Helvey (who is the current president), Major General Edward Atkeson and
Peter Ackerman (both of whom act as advisors to the Institution). Critical aspects of the
biographical details of the first two former high-ranking military men, Colonel Helvey and
Major General Atkeson, are fully outlined by Mowat (2005), while Ackerman’s lengthy
democracy-manipulating resume has been outlined in full by Barker (2007b). Notably
Ackerman is linked to various democracy-manipulating groups that work closely with the
CIA, as he is member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, serves on
the US advisory council of the US Institute of Peace, and is chair of the neoconservative
Freedom House (where his his predecessor in this position was none other than former CIA
Director, James Woolsey).
Freedom House provides a good example of an influential democracy-manipulating
organisation whose work is uncritically promoted by both mainstream and progressive
writers. This is despite the fact that Herman and Chomsky (2002: 28) note that Freedom
House “has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the government and international right
wing.” One clear example of Freedom House’s democracy-manipulating activities is provided
by their long-term involvement in destabilising the Nicaraguan government throughout the
1980s. Indeed, they undertook vital work for the democracy manipulators in Nicaragua,
receiving around US$1 million to create an anti-Sandinista publishing house (Libro Libre),
think-tank (CINCO), and quarterly journal (Pensamiento Centroamericano) in San Jose, Costa
Rica. Furthermore, Freedom House’s democracy-manipulating propagandizing was not
limited to Central America, as between 1984 and 1989 the NED provided them with around
US$3 million to disseminate anti-Sandinista viewpoints within the US media. An extended
critique of Freedom House, is provided by Barker (2008b).
Here, however, it is particularly important to point out the links that exist between the Albert
Einstein Institution and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), because in
addition to serving as an advisor to the Albert Einstein Institution, Ackerman also serves as
the chair (and major funder) of the latter group.3 In addition, ICNC director of programs and
research, Hardy Merriman, formerly worked for three years with Gene Sharp at the Albert
Einstein Institution. Consequently, it is hardly coincidental that in March 2005 the ICNC
funded a strategy workshop in Boston that was hosted by the Albert Einstein Institution for
Venezuelan nonviolent activists (Albert Einstein Institution, 2006 :10). The hosting of this
workshop is controversial for two reasons, firstly, the workshop involved the participation of
two former leaders of the Serbian nonviolent struggle group Otpor (Slobodan Dinovic and
Ivan Marovic) – a group that was strongly supported by the NED and the international
democracy-manipulating community to help facilitate the ouster of President Milosevic
(Barker, 2006a). And secondly, it is not clear why NED-connected groups like Otpor, the
Albert Einstein Institution and the ICNC, are training nonviolent activists from a country in
which the NED actively supports opposition groups which have been involved in attempting
to oust the democratically elected President Chavez from power.
Owing to the Albert Einstein Institution’s Venezuelan related activities, last year the
organisation was accused by several writers of being linked to the US-led promotion of
polyarchy (Barker, 2007c). Yet the Institution has to date been unable to respond to the
various accusations that have been filed against it, and instead resorts to disingenuous claims
of innocence. For example, in December 2007, the Albert Einstein Institution’s executive
director, Jamila Raqib, wrote that:
"The Albert Einstein Institution is an independent nonprofit organization. It does not take
direction from any other organization, or from any government, including the US
government… The allegation of funding and support for the Albert Einstein Institution
from… any… government body, is categorically false." (Raqib, 2007: 1)
Echoing the words of the Institution’s founder, Gene Sharp, Raqib (2007: 1) says that: “In
principle… [they are] not opposed to accepting funds from institutions that have in turn
received their funds from government sources, as long as there is no dictation or control of the
purpose of our work, individual projects, or of the dissemination of the gained knowledge.”
Yet besides the fact that his Institution has already received such funding, this statement
demonstrates a narrow-minded, ahistorical appreciation of the influence of funding on social
change. On this matter in reference to the cooption of academia, Horowitz (1969) points out
that: “In the control of scholarship by wealth, it is neither necessary nor desirable that
professors hold a certain orientation because they receive a grant. The important thing is that
they receive the grant because they hold the orientation.”
Overemphasis in Leftist literature on aggressive aspects of imperialism (waged through both
overt and covert military, economic, and diplomatic domination) has unfortunately meant that
little attention has been paid to the equally important ‘friendly face’ of imperialism. Thus,
when combined with the near total media blackout of critical analyses of elite funding of
progressive groups, it is little wonder that there is minimal discussion of this phenomenon.
This is not to say that there have not been a number of excellent critiques of the
hijacking/colonisation of civil society by liberal elites – although they tend to be ignored
(older examples include Brown, 1979; Lundberg, 1975; Whitaker, 1974). However, in recent
years Petras’ (1999) landmark article NGOs: In the Service of Imperialism, has inspired much
critical reflection among the Left – for example, see the work of Choudry (2002), Roy (2004),
Bond (2005), Engler (2007), and Mojab (2007).
Needless to say many of the people who have worked for the Albert Einstein Institution over
the past few decades have been well connected to elite circles. For example, former directors
of the Institution include Joanne Leedom-Ackerman (who is a director of the NED-linked
Human Rights Watch and International Center for Journalists (Barker, 2007a)), Stephen
Marks (who has served as program officer for international human rights at the Ford
Foundation), Hazel McFerson ?? (who is a director of the USAID-funded group, Pact), and
Thomas Schelling (a famous economist who formerly worked for the imperial think tank, the
Rand Corporation, Abella, 2008). Likewise the late Connie Grice who served as the Albert
Einstein Institution’s executive director from 1986 to 1988 was married to William Spencer, a
person who was instrumental in guiding the creation of the US Institute of Peace. Having
introduced some of the elitist funders and people involved with the work of the Albert
Einstein Institution the final section of this paper will briefly review some of the countries in
which the Institution has been active.
Facilitating Polyarchal Revolutions
According to the Albert Einstein Institution’s (2004: 16) historical overview of its global
activities, proponents note that they have “conducted consultations with groups in more than
20 countries” around the world. Countries listed in the Consultations section of this report
include Serbia, Venezuela, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Tibet, the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and
Estonia), Burma, Iran, and Iraq.4 Thus given the evident importance attached to supporting
civil disobedience in these countries this section will briefly compare the Institution’s work in
the first five countries mentioned in their report with the work that undertaken by the NED.
(For further details of the NED’s activities in Burma, Iran, and Iraq, see Barker, 2006c,
With regards to Serbia, in March-April 2000, Robert Helvey ran a workshop in Budapest
(Hungary) that was funded by the International Republican Institute (one of the NED’s core
grantees) for members of Serbia’s US-funded opposition group Otpor. Additionally, the
Albert Einstein Institution observes that in 1999 a Serbian nongovernmental organisation
called Civic Initiatives “coordinated the publication of a Serbian edition of AEI’s booklet,
From Dictatorship to Democracy”. This is particularly significant because from 1997 until
2001, Civic Initiatives served as one of the major project partners of the NED-funded Institute
for Democracy in Eastern Europe’s Civic Bridges program. Moreover, as Barker (2006a)
observes, polyarchy promoters were heavily active in Serbia, and:
In 2000, the US government provided approximately US$40 million to “promote
democracy” in Serbia and "US-funded consultants played a crucial role behind the scenes
in virtually every facet of the anti-Milosevic drive.” US$40 million is a significant
amount of money, especially if you consider that the Serbian population is less than fifty
32 Activating Human Rights and Peace 2008 Conference Proceedings
million, which means it is equivalent to giving more than US$200 million in foreign aid
to US social movements to “promote democracy” domestically. Such an amount of aid
would no doubt have also enabled opposition groups in the United States to successfully
challenge the results of an election (for example, the “stolen 2000 election”) (Barker,
Moving to the next country, Venezuela, the Albert Einstein Institution notes that since
President Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, his “regime has become
increasingly authoritarian”, a verdict that stands at odds with nearly all progressive
commentators (e.g. Scipes, 2006), but not with the corporate media or the US government
(Lendman, 2007). So, contrary to most progressive writers, the Institution then notes that
since December 2001 “Chávez’s popularity began to wane” and points that in order to retain
his hold on power his “government responded with violent repression against... protesters”.
Consequently Gene Sharp and other Albert Einstein Institution staff have met with citizens
opposed to Chavez’s democratic presidency to “talk about the deteriorating political situation
in their country”, and these talks led to the Institution organising a nine-day in-country
consultation in April 2003 in order to – with no irony evidently intended – “restore
democracy to Venezuela.” Given the close links that exist between the work of the Albert
Einstein Institution and the NED it is fitting that the NED provided aid to Sumate, the key
nongovernmental organisation that coordinated the unsuccessful coup against President
Chavez in 2002.
Belarus is another country in which the US is attempting to promote polyarchy: as the Albert
Einstein Institution writes: “Since 1917, Belarus has been almost completely controlled and
operated by the Russian security service... [and] Alyaksandr Lukashenko, the autocratic
President of the Republic for the last decade, is himself a former KGB Major.” From 26-31
January 2001, Gene Sharp led a workshop in neighboring Lithuania to help facilitate
“democratization in face of a dictatorial regime.” Belarus provides an interesting example of a
country that has so far resisted the best efforts of the polyarchy promoters, as in 2000 alone,
the US government (that is, Administration) provided opposition groups with US$24 million
and according to US officials even more in 2001 (Chaulia, 2005). In addition to such financial
aid, at around the time that Sharp was present in Lithuania, diplomatic aid was also used in an
attempt to oust Lukashenko, and the skills and knowledge of the US Ambassador in Belarus,
Michael Kozak, were of critical importance in organising the opposition. This is because
Ambassador Kozak was an old hand at promoting polyachy, having gained invaluable
experience overseeing the ‘democratic’ replacement of the Sandinistas in the 1990 elections,
while acting as the US Ambassador in Nicaragua (1990 and 1992).
Next up: “In February 2002, [Albert Einstein Institution] consultants... met with Zimbabwean
opposition groups” on two occasions, once with leaders of the Movement for Democratic
Change, and another time with representatives from other assorted civil society groups. Again
as in Serbia these consultations were sponsored by the International Republican Institute, and
so it is fitting that the NED’s British counterpart, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy,
has been one of the most influential polyarchy promoters in Zimbabwe, channelling a lot of
funding to the Movement for Democratic Change (Elich, 2002). As in the previous cases, the
NED has been very active in Zimbabwe busily manipulating democracy, and in 2006 alone
they provided civil society groups with $1 million (Barker, 2008e).
In 1996 the Albert Einstein Institution began a series on consultations in India with Tibetan
democracy activists, and the Institution note that in 2002 they held yet another strategic
workshop at the invitation of the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Center. This is
significant because this Center was formed in 1991 as a “joint project” of the Friedrich
Naumann Foundation and Tibet's Parliament in exile. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation is
one of the German ‘democracy promoting’ foundations whose success the NED was modelled
upon. It is also important that one member of the Center’s governing council, Samdhong
Rinpoche, also serves on the international advisory council of a group called the International
Campaign for Tibet (ICT), as this group is a regular recipient of NED funding. Furthermore,
like many groups that obtain NED aid, ICT are not afraid to boast of their ‘democratic’
connections: thus in 2005 they awarded one of their annual Light of Truth awards to the
president of the NED, Carl Gershman; while the year before (in 2004) ICT gave the same
award to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Barker, 2007).
In the light of the dubious nature of the educational activities undertaken by the Albert
Einstein Institution – in the name of progressive activism worldwide – it seems fitting that
activists committed to replacing imperial plutocracies with participatory democracies (not
polyarchies) begin to critically reflect upon their relationships with such groups. In many
ways activist education is being cynically utilized by political elites as a powerful tool in the
service of imperialism. Of course this does not mean that valuable information cannot be
gleaned from the research of government funded activist educators like the Albert Einstein
Institution: in fact, much of the Institution’s research is very useful to progressive social
movements. However, given the pragmatic adoption of civil disobedience by foreign policy
elites to facilitate the ouster of ‘unfriendly’ governments, progressive activists must recognize
and theorize about the potential limitations of the research undertaken by government-funded
groups like the Albert Einstein Institution. For instance, an important question to ask is “are
there certain subjects, tactics, or countries that are under-theorized by researchers attached to
the Albert Einstein Institution?” Moreover, how do such groups studies compare to more
explicitly political activist researchers like Churchill (1998) and Gelderloos (2007)?”
Progressive activists need to determine whether they want to help legitimize the work of a
group that is so closely tied to the interests’ of capitalist elites. Indeed considering the evident
connections that exist between the Albert Einstein Institution and the National Endowment for
Democracy it seems sensible that concerned activists should distance themselves from both
groups, and facilitate a public debate that thoroughly investigates the problems associated
with both groups’ activities. Only once such forms of critical reflection becomes the norm
within progressive social movements will activists be sure that their work is not being subtly
manipulated, abused or deradicalised by polyarchal elites.
1. Weber (2003: 259-60) points out: “There are the occasional immediate, practical, and solidly ‘this
worldly’ arguments for principled as opposed to pragmatic nonviolence. For example, Hayes has
argued, ‘Sharp’s view of nonviolence could allow it to become a content-neutral technique of
political struggle stripped of vocative elements which would then render it amenable for use by
dominators.’ Richards adds that Sharp’s ‘neutralized concept of nonviolence,’ where the
‘distinguishing characteristic of nonviolent action… seems to be only the absence of any direct
use of physical coercion,’ ‘may allow a considerable amount of coercion and harm to others’ and
may be used for ‘evil as well as for good purposes.’ However, most of those arguments go
strongly the other way with ‘this worldly’ arguments favoring pragmatic nonviolence.”
2. Another interesting group that has provided funding to the Albert Einstein Institution is the Olof
Palme International Center – an organization that notes on its website that it “works with
international development co-operation and the forming of public opinion surrounding
international political and security issues.” The Center’s international work is funded by the
Swedish International Development Agency, and crucially the Center’s board is chaired by Lena
Hjelm-Wallen, who is a the former foreign minister of Sweden, and currently serves as the chair
of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and is also a director of the
International Crisis Group – two key democracy-manipulating groups (Barker, 2007).The
Center’s website also notes that: “Promoting democracy is central to the Palme Center’s
programme”, so it is fitting that they are currently “managing over 40 projects and initiatives with
a total budget of SEK 35 million” for the Swedish International Development Agency’s Iraq
Other funding bodies that have supported the Albert Einstein Institution that do not appear to have
obvious ‘democratic’ ties include the California Community Foundation, the CS Fund, the
Greenville Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Miriam G. and Ira D. Wallach
Foundation, and the New York Friends Group.
3. Notably Ackerman also serves on the advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations
misnamed Center for Preventive Action, a group that should arguably be referred to as the Center
for Preventing Democratic Action (Barker, 2008).
4. Other countries that the Institution has worked with that are mentioned in the same overview
report include Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Haiti, Ukraine, and Israel.
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