Printer Friendly

Corporate interests, philanthropies, and the peace movement.

Nuclear war threatens all of us, even capitalists, and some members of the capitalist class apparently have realized that nuclear holocaust may not be in capital's long-term interests. This realization poses some interesting problems, since North American corporations have invested so heavily in the arms race. Beyond the threats to economic stability, it is hard to imagine that accumulated wealth will be nearly so enjoyable after a nuclear war. For a capitalist who fears the impact of nuclear war on business and pleasure, it must be hard to join forces with a peace movement that includes young people, old people, minority groups, workers, veterans, women's organizations, and anti-imperialists--many of whom feel at least mildly critical of the capitalist system.

Despite such difficulties, corporate and philanthropic involvement in the peace movement is growing. In this article, we argue that a discernible pattern of philanthropic support has emerged that partly reflects the divergent views of the conservative and liberal corporate establishments. In considering medical peace groups as examples, we are interested in the subtle (and not too sublte) ways that philanthropic giving may shape the directions of acceptable and unacceptable activism.

To research the funding patterns of the major foundations, we examined the Foundation Grants Index from 1974 through 1983. We looked at statements that the foundations have made concerning their criteria for grants in the categories of peace, arms control, and disarmament. Supplementing our own experiences in the peace movement, we interviewed leaders of activist organizations, as well as foundation officials. In carrying out this research, we have tried to uncover some of the problems that the peace movement faces in building a wider resistance against the incredibly destructive force of militarism in the United States. We offer our comments not as a criticism of peace organizations (we ourselves are active members in several organizations that we discuss), but as a possible aid in building our movement. Corporate Interests and the Peace Movement

Corporate interests in preventing nuclear war stem from at least two sources. The first is a concern for global stability in which world markets may expand. This position, often associated with the Trilateralists, leads to favoring a reduction of some nuclear weapons in favor of conventional arms buildups. The same orientation is apparent in the call for increasing NATO conventional forces while decreasing nuclear warheads, coupled with a no-first-use policy on remaining nuclear weapons.

A second corporate concern involves the framing of issues posed by the peace movement in a way that will not challenge basic structures of power and finance. The capitalist class has an interest in deflecting criticism away from itself and onto supposedly autonomous social processes. Corporate leaders also aim to preserve a positive image through public relations and investments in research that supports, or at least does not challenge, that image. Philantropic largesse conveys a symbolic impression of concern for peace without the need to encourage actual political work that might contribute to peace more directly.

Before dealing with specific examples of corporate and philanthropic involvement in the peace movement, we want to spell out some general features that make peace groups respectable and attractive to philanthropy. First and foremost, respectable peace groups do not use a systematic critique to analyze the participation of major corporations in the arms race. Such groups do not criticize the continuing ways in which corporations benefit from the production and sales of weapons, including nuclear weapons. Instead, respectable groups place their emphasis on other factors in the arms race. They advocate incremental reforms that will reduce the danger of nuclear war. However, they do not argue for fundamental changes in the political-economic system that would foster world peace--no matter how successful such changes might be in enhancing the conditions for peace. Incrementalism is a hallmark of respectable peace activism.

Respectable peace groups also call attention to a second, equally safe viewpoint which holds that the main danger of nuclear war stems from a profound conflict between the United States and Soviet superpowers. Because of this conflict, embedded as it is in fundamental ideological differences, the peace movement supposedly must emphasize bilaterality. That is, disarmament and other peace initiatives must involve a mutuality between the United States and the Soviet Union. This perspective assumes that the two superpowers have basic equality of nuclear might, equality of blame for the arms race, and equality of responsibility for peace. While bilaterality has a certain appeal of symmetry, it de-emphasizes a long history of peace initiatives by the Soviet Union to which the United States has not responded. This viewpoint also downplays asymmetric weapons development by the United States and the use of nuclear threats by a succession of U.S. governments. The same viewpoint helps maintain an image of the Soviet Union as enemy, along with a persisting anti-Sovietism in U.S. foreign policy and anti-Communism in domestic policy.

A third feature of respectable peace activism is a single-issue focus. From the corporate perspective, the least problematic peace orientation is the one that calls attention only to nuclear war as the issue at hand. No matter how much other issues--such as the environment, imperialism, discrimination, the position of minorities in the United States and the third world, racism, and even conventional warfare--may relate to the danger of nuclear war, respectable peace groups attend only to the issue of nuclear war as narrowly defined. Such a stance is attractive to the corporate world, since it permits support for the slogan of peace without challenging the injustices of the capitalist system.

The single-issue focus obscures many of the political and economic underpinnings of militarism. The profit motive leads corporations to develop and sell nuclear weapons, nuclear power, toxic chemicals, and fossil fuels. Third world nations and national minorities in the United States suffer underdevelopment and economic exploitation by multinational corporations. In support of corporate interests the U.S. government intervenes militarily with conventional weapons throughout the world, and U.S. military planners contemplate the use of theater nuclear weapons in such regional conflicts. Yet, from the respectable point of view, the complexities and interrelatedness of these issues are not a proper concern of the peace movement, since any deep analysis would call attention to the profound corporate contribution to the risk of nuclear war. Corporations and their affiliated philanthropies look favorably on peace groups that strictly limit their attention to nuclear war, no matter how unrealistic and misleading the single-issue focus may be.

The mechanisms by which corporation and foundations interact with one another are clear from previous studies. In brief, through interlocking directorates and endowments corporations influence the direction of philanthropic grants. The overlapping of personnel among corporations, foundations, and government affects policy-making through the setting of research agendas and directions of social action. Foundation directors and staff help determine the course that grant recipients will take by requesting proposals from organizations and institutions with similar interests.

Given these dynamics, peace groups that adopt a critical theoretical position about the structure of power and finance in society gain little access to foundation funds. Those groups deemed respectable, that is, those whose position is atheoretical or unifactorial and not in conflict with corporate interests, are in a much better position to receive money. The latter groups are perceived as politically neutral and safe. Medical groups have emerged as particularly good candidates for philanthropic support, and their recent history has much to tell the peace movement in general. Medical Groups Working Against Nuclear War

Two medical groups, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), have concentrated on working for peace. PSR emerged as a viable organization in 1960. A small group of academically based doctors in Boston decided to study the projected medical consequences of nuclear war. The results of their investigations led to conclusions that previously had not been widely acknowledged: the impact of nuclear war in terms of death and human devastation would be so extensive that no effective medical response would be possible. During the mid-1960s, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war interrupted PSR's growth. The magnitude of these struggles overshadowed the issue of nuclear war in the public consciousness and in activists' political work.

Later, beginning in 1979, PSR entered a phase of remarkable rebirth. During the last two years of his presidency, Jimmy Carter moved toward more aggressive military plans, including the MX missile and the neutron bomb. Another decisive issue concerned military contingency planning for limited nuclear war. Carter's famous Presidential Directive 59 clarified this approach to nuclear strategy, which had been going on secretly for many years previously. The Reagan administration's bellicose posturing has heightened the fear of nuclear war even among those who previously were quite blase. Many doctors who earlier were content to ignore this issue have flocked to PSR conferences. PSR has amassed such a convincing scientific portrayal of the medical consequences of nuclear war that the emotional impact of these conferences, which have occurred in cities throughout the United States, has been enormous. Over forty thousand doctors and other health professionals have joined the organization. PSR has also influenced other large professional organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association, which have adopted resolutions questioning the medical profession's ability to respond in the event of nuclear war.

The second major doctor's organization working for peace, IPPNW, is formally an international organization, of which PSR is the North American affiliate. IPPNW emerged as a separate group in 1980, partly because the leadership of PSR opposed closer relationships with the Soviet medical profession. Whether to build closer ties between North American and Soviet doctors has been a very controversial issue in PSR's history. Helen Caldicott (president of PSR during the early 1980s) and her supporters usually have maintained a very critical stance toward the Soviet Union and generally have been unwilling to adopt a public position espousing dialogue. Part of this orientation, which has conveyed frequent messages of anti-Sovietism, may have reflected a fear of redbaiting and potential anti-Communist smears of PSR by the right in the United States. Largely because of difficulties in building ties to the Soviet medical profession through PSR, Bernard Lown, an eminent Boston cardiologist and one of the original founders of PSR during the 1960s, initiated IPPNW as a separate organization. Lown worked out a bi-national governing structure, in which he himself has served as a co-president with Evgeni Chazov, a well-known Soviet cardiologist.

Subsequently, IPPNW has held a series of annual international conferences involving participants from over 30 countries. The organization has become quite influential in Western Europe. In the United States, IPPNW's approach also has had an impact on PSR's policies. After Caldicott resigned as national PSR president in 1983, PSR rapidly began to adopt policies more favorable to exchanges with the Soviets, including expanded visits by PSR members to the Soviet Union. Despite such controversies, both PSR and IPPNW meet the criteria of respectability within the peace movement. Neither organization offers much threat to corporate control of a military-oriented economy. Although other health professionals technically can join, both groups try to recruit mainly among doctors. There have been no serious attempts to organize nonprofessional health workers. For that reason, both groups have retained an almost exclusively upper-middle-class composition. This class composition has reinforced the organizations' policies that shun any critique of corporate responsibility in the arms race. Although these groups make extensive efforts to publicize the medical consequences of nuclear war, they do not call attention to corporate motivations in nuclear arms proliferation. The role of corporate profit-making in the arms race is a concern that receives little emphasis in PSR and IPPNW activities.

PSR and IPPNW also consistently stress bilaterality. Specifically, they depict the danger of nuclear war as a problem of conflict between the nuclear superpowers and foster the impression that initiatives in arms controls must be mutual. As we have mentioned, PSR has conveyed frankly anti-Soviet positions in its national policies until quite recently. IPPNW has always favored dialogue but has carefully avoided assigning greater responsibility to the United States in the arms buildup. This public stance has enhanced IPPNW's credibity in the United States and may be one reason that the group has avoided being redbaited. Ironically, IPPNW's public position differs from the private views of the group's national and international leadership, who generally see the United States as the main force responsible for the nuclear arms race and continuing nuclear tensions.

Another criterion of respectability is the single-issue focus, and both PSR and IPPNW measure up well here also. These groups have consistently refused to address other problems, no matter how closely these problems are related to nuclear war. For example, PSR and IPPNW have avoided taking a position on chemical and biological warfare, despite the resurgence of this "conventional" (i.e., non-nuclear) technology. These organizations also have not addressed regional conflicts, even if these conflicts have the potential of erupting into limited or global nuclear confrontations.

For example, the Nicaraguan Medical Association petitioned PSR to send a representative to the group's national convention in January 1984. The Nicaraguan doctors carefully phrased their proposal to concentrate on the risks of limited nuclear war in Central America. PSR's national leadership decided not to permit the Nicaraguan presentation on the convention's program, explaining that they did not want to dilute the group's single-issue focus and feared that consideration of the Central American situation would alienate PSR's conservative members. PSR's national staff also justified the decision partly because of the perceived risk of redbaiting by the right if the Nicaraguans appeared on the program.

As respectable peace groups, PSR and IPPNW have done quite well in the world of fund-raising from foundations. From 1979 to 1981, PSR received $121,000 in grant aid from the Rockefeller Family Fund, in addition to grants from the Stern Fund, J.M. Kaplan Fund, and Ruth Mott Fund. Foundation money constituted approximately 45 percent of PSR's budget between 1979, the year of the group's resurrection, and 1981. As PSR's total income has increased through added memberships, direct mailings, and other fund-raising activities, philanthropic funding as a proportion of the budget has declined slightly, to about 28 percent in 1983. Also, PSR has moved to diversify its sources of foundation money by applying for a larger number of relatively small grants.

During the early 1980s, the period of behind-the-scenes conflict between PSR and IPPNW, the two organizations tended to compete for support from the same foundations. IPPNW also eventually attracted funding from the Rockefeller Family Fund, Mott Fund, Stern Fund, and Public Welfare Foundation. As with PSR, IPPNW has relied heavily on philanthropic funding during several years of rapid organizational growth.

Has foundation money shaped these groups' policies and activities? As participants in both organizations, we have questioned the national leadership and staffs about the impact of foundation money. Governing board members of both PSR and IPPNW express varying views. They recognize that foundation funding may have exerted some subtle effects on policy and activism. In particular, they note that the groups have avoided many pertinent issues that relate to the danger of nuclear war, including the buildup of conventional arms by NATO, chemical and biological warfare, and regional conflicts in the third world. The national leaders point out that the groups do not take a partisan political stance in relation to particular candidates, elected officials, or national administrations. Several leaders also suggest that the lack of criticism of corporate involvement in the arms race may partly reflect concerns about alienating potential sources of funding. Generally, the national leaders claim that the foundations which have given money have placed few if any overt strings on the ways that money can be spent. Interestingly, the paid administrative staffs of these organizations consistently deny that philanthropic funding has exerted any appreciable impact on the groups' policies or activism.

In these conversations, we became aware of the subtle ways in which dependence on philanthropy helps shape the work of these important peace groups. The respectability of PSR and IPPNW depends largely on the group's concrete activities. When money comes in and fosters growth, it is hard to redirect organizational policy to areas that may be more controversial.

PSR and IPPNW therefore continue to work in ways that are both important and superficial. That is, while increasing consciousness about the dangers of nuclear war, they tend to exclude non-elite constituencies that may be both troublesome and less respectable. These group's policy approach also downplays the fundamental ways that the nuclear arms race is embedded in the structures of advanced capitalism. Extent of Philanthropic Involvement in the Peace Movement

Since about 1980, some of the largest U.S. philanthropies--particularly those based on Ford, Rockefeller, Mellon, and Carnegie wealth--have prioritized arms control and peace activities. This recent emphasis actually is the culmination of a trend that began during the mid-1970s.

Among those groups concerned with nuclear war and arms control, we looked closely at 33 organizations that received funds between 1977 and 1982, to determine patterns of funding. Recipients of foundation grants included activist groups (PSR, IPPNW, Union of Concerned Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, Ground Zero, Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control, Arkansas League for Nursing, Presbyterian Urban Council, Boston Cambridge Ministry in Higher Education, Riverside Church's Disarmament Program, Interreligious Peace Colloquium, and the American Friends Service Committee), universities (Columbia, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Pittsburgh, Cornell, Indiana, Harvard, Stanford, and Ucla), and think-tanks and policy groups with a variety of political orientations (Institute for Policy Studies, International Institute of Strategic Studies, International Peace Academy, Aspen Institute for Humanistic Study, Arms Control Association, Fund for Peace, World Without War Council, Council for a Livable World Education Fund, SANE Educational Development Fund, International Research Fund, American Security Council Education Foundation, and the Committee on the Present Danger). We broke down the grants into several categories: operational expenses and general support, research, and education.

The category of research accounted for the largest number of grants, and far and away the largest amount of money. Prestigious universities received a sizable chunk, more than $2 million. Think-tanks obtained more than $4 million. As compared to support for academic or academically oriented institutions, foundations funded activist groups at a relatively low level, about $800,000 in all.

Educational and research organizations therefore seem to be more attractive targets for foundation giving than activist groups trying to organize for peace. Intellectual effort is generally safe for the status quo, as it threatens current structures of power and finance very little. On the other hand, support for intellectual endeavors oriented toward peace conveys the symbolism of deep concern for the future of humanity. By supporting universities and think-tanks studying peace, the foundations convey an impression of corporate responsibility in peace-making, while not changing the social conditions that lead to war. Activist groups receive a small part of the philanthropic pie. Those groups that do obtain foundation money are respectable ones, in the ways that we have discussed. Variations in Corporate Interest

In trying to account for increased corporate involvement in the peace movement and peace-related issues, we also need to look at splits within the corporate world itself. A major split that has received wide attention involes the northeastern liberal establishment and sunbelt conservative interests. There are many overlaps between these two sectors, and a superficial distinction is not too useful. Another way to look at these ruling groups of North American society is to separate them into a liberal international sector (represented by the Council on Foreign Relations, Business Council, Committee on Economic Development, Conference Board, and Brookings Institute), as opposed to a conservative national sector (represented by the National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce, American Enterprise Institute, and American Security Council). Although the nuances of the split are beyond our scope here, its broad contours seem fairly clear.

Regarding economic and military policy, there are some important differences between the two camps. The northeastern establishment has heavy interests in international banking and multinational corporations operating in the third world. As noted earlier, prominent members of this sector have become alarmed by the threats that nuclear war poses to capital. Sunbelt interests also have bases in banking and multinational corporations but are more deeply invested in the aerospace and heavy armaments industries within the United States. Economically, these industries have benefited greatly from the nuclear arms race.

During the Reagan administration, increased grant giving by philanthropies aligned with the northeastern establishment has been one response to hawkishness from the White House on nuclear weapons policy. The new power of sunbelt interests has generated much alarm in northeastern centers of power and finance. Philanthropic funding for medical and other respectable peace groups supports an important channel of expression for views that are consistent with northeastern corporate preferences.

Meanwhile, sunbelt interests support their own brand of international policy analysis and activism through a separate set of philanthropic intermediaries. Foundations closely linked to the defense and aerospace industries have contributed huge amounts of money during the 1980s to conservative think-tanks and activist groups advocating a strong nuclear defense. In the medical field, two groups have emerged that have aligned themselves with sunbelt interests. These are the physicians' caucus of the American Civil Defense Association and the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. Both groups have supported the Reagan administration's policies on nuclear arms development. To date, these conservative organizations have not attracted a sizable following, but the publicity they have received has provided a certain legitimacy for the Reagan administration and for sunbelt interests that seek an expanded nuclear arsenal. Conclusion: Disrespectable Routes to Peace

Is the risk of nuclear war so overwhelming that it justifies alliances between the peace movement and important sectors of the capitalist class? Activists often justify their decisions in terms of impending holocaust: that is, the nuclear threat has become so dangerous that it dwarfs all other issues and demands overlookings, or at least downplaying, considerations that otherwise would be quite important. Thus, for example, it is accetable to join forces with former CIA directors and secretaries of defense in calling for a nuclear arms freeze, even though these people also advocate an expansion of the non-nuclear arsenal. It is also appropriate to accept large amounts of money from foundations tied to major corporate interests even if a subtle cooptation tends to restrict the scope of feasible political activism.

The time has come to look critically at these practices. We in the peace movement live under the awful anxiety of nuclear catastrophe, and we should do almost anything we can to reduce the risk of nuclear war. It is important to introduce the "almost," because some actions may do more harm than good.

alliances with the capitalist class limit our activism too much, and it is doubtful that the philanthropic funding which peace groups receive justifies the inevitable compromises that must be made. We need to work against nuclear war, but also against non-nuclear military intervention around the world. For instance, in working for a nuclear freeze, we should not give a platform to warmongers of past decades who still seek military supremacy by non-nuclear means. We also need to pay attention to the many other issues--imperialism in the third world, racism, destruction of the environment, the impact of the military budget on human services, and so forth--that are inextricably linked to the nuclear arms race. Most important, we need to build a broad-based peace movement that recognizes the roots of militarism within the capitalist system.

In short, the peace movement needs to shed its concern for respectability. The corporate interests that have become involved will continue to find ways to avoid getting their property ruined by nuclear war. The rest of us need to recognize that the struggle for peace cannot succeed without fundamental change in the corporate system which initiates, maintains, and promotes the arms race.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Monthly Review Foundation, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Wright, Talmadge; Rodriguez, Felix; Waitzkin, Howard
Publication:Monthly Review
Date:Feb 1, 1985
Previous Article:The current crisis in Latin America and the international economy.
Next Article:Reflections on the present state of economics.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters