Aris Anagnos was born in Athens, Greece on December 17, 1923. He came to the U.S. in 1946 and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UCLA in 1951. He then worked several years in the insurance industry before going into real estate investments and development, where he earned a billion-dollar fortune.
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Anagnos and his wife Carolyn organized the Committee for Democratic Freedoms in Greece. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, the Anagnoses established the Save Cyprus Council, which evolved into a political lobbying group dedicated to the promotion of Greek-American interests. In 1985 the organization changed its name to the Hellenic American Council.
Throughout the 1980s, Anagnos was a vocal opponent of U.S.-backed regimes in Central America, particularly in El Salvador. Moreover, he supported the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Marxist rebels in Chiapas, and Fidel Castro in Cuba.
In the early 1980s, Anagnos became a board member of the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union, a position he would hold for the rest of his life; for two years, he served as president of that chapter. In 1985 Anagnos was among the founders of the Humanitarian Law Project, over which he presided for a number of years. He also served a stint as president of the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action.
In the 1980s as well, Anagnos was a prominent financial backer of the Christic Institute. Indeed, he contributed some $600,000 to the Institute’s infamous lawsuit which falsely alleged that the CIA was scheming with the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Contras to use drug money to finance their war against the Marxist Sandinistas. For details of this case, click here.
In 1988 Aris and Carolyn Anagnos established the Los Angeles Peace Center, a building where several anti-war and “social justice” organizations were given access to rent-free office space. Now known as the Aris and Carolyn Anagnos Peace Center Foundation, this location has served as an operating base for such organizations as the Coalition for World Peace, the Humanitarian Law Project, the Office of the Americas, Peace No War, and branch offices of the National Lawyers Guild and the Democratic Socialists of America. Anagnos himself served for some time on the Board of Directors of the Office of the Americas, along with such notables as Martin Sheen, Ed Asner, Jodie Evans, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn.
In January 1989 the FMLN, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group based in El Salvador, solicited Anagnos, his wife, and a radical Catholic nun (Sister Pat Krommer) to ceremoniously deliver to U.S. congressional leaders a document outlining the organization’s proposed peace plan for El Salvador. Sixteen years later, the FMLN awarded Anagnos its 25th Anniversary “Farabundo Marti Medal,” named in honor of the late Salvadoran Communist revolutionary.
In the summer of 1989, Aris and Carolyn Anagnos donated $1 million to the Nicaraguan government for “humanitarian, educational and relief purposes” which included the construction of the Che Guevara Housing Project for Sandinista soldiers who had been disabled in the Nicaraguan civil war. Anagnos was subsequently awarded the Comandante Enrique Schmitt Medal, the highest Sandinista honor for non-Nicaraguans.
In 1999, Anagnos and his wife were among the founders of the California-based Progressive Jewish Alliance.
In 2000, Anagnos told the Los Angeles Times that he considered Fidel Castro to be “one of the outstanding statesmen of the world today.” “He [Castro] has served his people faithfully and unselfishly and is a model for presidents to imitate,” Anagnos added.
In the early 2000s, Anagnos sat on the board of directors of the Office of the Americas. Serving alongside him were such notables as Ed Asner, Roy Bourgeois, Noam Chomsky, Jodie Evans, Dolores Huerta, Martin Sheen, and the late Howard Zinn.
In 2002 Anagnos was a signatory to Not in Our Name’s “Statement of Conscience,” which condemned the Bush administration’s “stark new measures of repression” domestically, and its “unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world.”
For years Anagnos was a major supporter and financial donor to the Pacifica Radio Network, whose station KPFK held its local advisory board meetings at Anagnos’ Los Angeles Peace Center.
Over the years, Anagnos gave much financial support to such entities as the Council for a Livable World, Democracy For America, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, MoveOn.org, and the Progressive Majority. In addition, he contributed large sums of money to the political campaigns of Pete Aguilar, Tammy Baldwin, Xavier Becerra, Medea Benjamin, Joe Biden, Barbara Boxer, Judy Chu, John Edwards, Keith Ellison, Russell Feingold, Bob Filner, Lois Frankel, Al Franken, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Tom Harkin, Kamala Harris, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Lee, Carolyn Maloney, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Frank Pallone, Linda Sanchez, Bernie Sanders, Hilda Solis, Norman Solomon, Zephyr Teachout, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, and Lynn Woolsey. For a comprehensive list of candidates whom Anagnos supported, click here.
In his later years, Anagnos was a member of the publishing consortium associated with the socialist journal In These Times.
Anagnos died of natural causes on July 23, 2018.
Further Reading: “Aris Anagnos” (American Hellenic Council, KeyWiki.org); “Greek American Human Rights Activist Aris Anagnos Dies at 94” (Greek Reporter USA, 7-25-2018); “Humanitarian Law Project” (by Jean Pearce, Front Page Magazine, 4-14-2004); “Humanitarian Law Project to Continue to Sabotage American Security …” (by Jean Pearce, Front Page Magazine, 4-14-2004); Aris Anagnos’s Political Donations (OpenSecrets.org).