The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is a left-wing think tank that was founded in 1963 with seed money (derived from a fortune made in perfumes and cosmetics sales under the Faberge trade name) from the Samuel Rubin Foundation. (The Stern Fund — whose assets originated in the fortune of Sears, Roebuck president Julius Rosenwald — also contributed substantial money to help bankroll the nascent IPS.) Samuel Rubin (1901-1978), who established the foundation that bore his name, was a dedicated socialist and a Communist Party USA member. His daughter, Cora Weiss, headed the Samuel Rubin Foundation from its inception. Cora’s husband, Peter Weiss, served as chairman of the IPS board of trustees from the group’s founding until the 1990s. He has also held prominent positions with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, and the National Lawyers Guild.
To serve as the nominal co-founders and the official co-directors of IPS, the Weisses selected Richard J. Barnet (a State Department lawyer) and Marcus Raskin (an assistant to McGeorge Bundy, President Kennedy’s national security adviser). The FBI would later identify Barnet as a “communist” and “a potential espionage agent” who not only had “known contacts with intelligence agents from Soviet and Soviet bloc countries,” but was “willin[g] to use his position of influence with the IPS to discredit and undermine U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic.” Raskin, too, had numerous socialist and communist ties. The Capital Research Center describes Barnet and Raskin as “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.”
IPS’s founders and leaders presented their new Institute as a benign, independent, “progressive” group committed to participating in the democratic process. Their true objective, however, was to transform the United States by pushing its public attitudes, laws, and foreign policies decisively leftward. Toward those ends, IPS worked with agents of the Castro regime and championed numerous environmentalist, pacifist, and anti-war positions in the 1960s and 1970s; it opposed the Reagan administration’s efforts to roll back Communism in the 1980s; it joined the vanguard of what IPS hailed as the “anti-corporate globalization movement” in the 1990s; and it furnished policy research assailing the U.S.-led war in Iraq during the George W. Bush administration.
According to a Capital Research Center (CRC) analysis, IPS holds a “political outlook” that is “classically Marxist” and portrays capitalism as the chief cause of human suffering, not only in the U.S. but worldwide. “Since its founding in 1963,” CRC elaborates, “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.”
As soon as IPS opened its doors in 1963, it immersed itself in the anti-Vietnam War movement. In 1965, Marcus Raskin and IPS associate fellow Bernard Fall edited The Vietnam Reader, which became “a textbook for [anti-war] teach-ins across the country.” Two years later, Raskin and IPS fellow Arthur Waskow co-authored “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” a document that helped launch the draft-resistance movement. Further, the Institute organized congressional seminars and published a number of books that challenged what IPS disdainfully termed “the national security state.”
When several leading black activists joined the IPS staff in the mid-sixties, the Institute, in addition to its other functions, assumed the pose of a support base for the civil-rights movement, particularly for the movement’s more radical fringe elements. IPS fellow Bob Moses, for one, organized trainings for field organizers of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. A number of Black Panther Party members also found safe haven at IPS. One IPS employee, Jean Wiley, had formerly been a personal secretary to black militants H. “Rap” Brown and Stokely Carmichael.
Also in the 1960s, IPS staked out a spot near the forefront of the emerging feminist movement and has remained there ever since. Institute fellow Charlotte Bunch organized a major women’s-liberation conference in 1966 and later founded two feminist periodicals, Quest and Off Our Backs. In the 1970s, IPS staffer Rita Mae Brown published Rubyfruit Jungle, a lesbian coming-of-age novel. And in the early 1980s, the now-famous socialist Barbara Ehrenreich led IPS’s “Women in the Economy” project.
As IPS began to establish itself as a major force on the Left, the organization’s Washington, DC headquarters quickly became a resource center for national reporters, most of whom bought into the idea that the Institute was an independent liberal entity. IPS also became a place for KGB agents from the nearby Soviet embassy to convene and strategize; they frequently tried to recruit IPS members.
Before long, IPS had evolved into the leading central agency of Soviet/Marxist/socialist disinformation. This term refers to false or inaccurate information (e.g., forgeries, rumors, and fabricated intelligence) that is spread deliberately to deceive. Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is intended to manipulate its audience at the rational level by either discrediting certain information or supporting false conclusions. A common disinformation tactic is to mix a measure of truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal only part of the truth while presenting it as the whole. Another technique is to destroy the credibility of particular entities or individuals by feeding them false data which, after they subsequently repeat it, can be easily disproved.
IPS deliberately used terminology designed to suggest that it was a scholarly rather than a political entity, as evidenced by its references to Institute personnel as “fellows” and “scholars.” Throughout the Cold War, IPS personnel published a constant stream of op-eds, letters, and articles in such prestigious publications as The New York Times and The Washington Post, where the Institute was consistently identified as an “independent” or “non-partisan” think tank or research center. By means of this approach, IPS was able to promote the causes of America’s enemies (e.g., North Vietnam, Cuba, and the Soviet Union) without preaching Marxist doctrine.
Starting in 1964 (and continuing to the present day), IPS held seminars designed to persuade U.S. congressmen and their staffs to support pro-Soviet and socialist policies, as well as other policies opposed to American interests. For example, IPS’s “Housing and Property” seminar promoted preferential mortgage-lending policies for nonwhite minorities who were underrepresented among homeowners. One such seminar in 1969 — which brought together speakers from big-city tenants councils, neighborhood legal services, FHA insurance, savings-and-loans entities, and the Shannon and Luchs Realty Company — was among the earliest in a long chain of events that would eventually result in the U.S. housing crisis of 2008. Also in 1969, IPS conducted “Experimental Education” seminars for federal legislators and their aides; a notable guest speaker at these events was Bill Ayers, a Weather Underground leader.
In the 1960s IPS sponsored the Venceremos Brigades, which, organized and trained in guerrilla warfare techniques by Fidel Castro‘s intelligence agency, covertly took hundreds of young Americans to Cuba to help harvest sugar cane and interact with Havana’s Communist revolutionary leadership. Cora Weiss, meanwhile, helped establish the radical disarmament group Women Strike for Peace, which, throughout the Cold War, sought to block American efforts to develop a nuclear deterrent against Soviet aggression.
From its beginning, the young IPS disseminated much of its ideology by way of numerous “front” groups and spin-offs masquerading as educational institutes. When a new issue emerged in the ’60s or ’70s — feminism, for example, or a NATO upgrade — new IPS fronts and spin-offs sprang up seemingly overnight, like mushrooms. Most of them had IPS figures as board members, officers, or fellows. Many were mere shadow organizations, existing in name only — possibly nothing more than a box of letterhead and a few titles to use in full-page newspaper ads protesting U.S. policies — for the purpose of making the left-wing movement appear to be more extensive than it actually was. To enhance one another’s perceived credibility, these phantom organizations (which often shared the same mailing address) routinely referred to each other, cited each other’s positions and research, etc. Such IPS spin-offs were (and continue to be) often short-lived, targeting specific policy issues in the name of broad causes (peace, etc.). When the issues changed, the organizations disappeared. American officials were bewildered by the number, the sudden appearances, and the proliferation of such groups.
Other IPS spin-offs, by contrast, were viable and enduring entities unto themselves.
IPS has long been as hostile toward U.S. intelligence agencies as it is toward capitalism and the American military. 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.” The Center for National Security Studies (CNSS) was a 1974 IPS spinoff and strove to compromise the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence agencies. In 1975 Morton Halperin became the director of CNSS.
Meanwhile, the Transnational Institute (which IPS had created in 1973) came to the aid of Philip Agee, a onetime CIA agent who had since allied himself with Fidel Castro‘s Cuban intelligence apparatus. In 1975 Agee published Inside the Company: CIA Diary, a book revealing the identities of some 250 CIA operatives, one of whom was subsequently murdered. Agee then promptly took refuge in Britain; but when Britain announced soon thereafter that it planned to expel Agee, the Transnational Institute invited him to Amsterdam.
According to The New York Times, “[Agee’s] example inspired several more books and magazines, including the Covert Action Information Bulletin, written by close associates and sometimes with Mr. Agee’s help, which published the names and often the addresses of hundreds more agency officers working under cover around the world.”
Some of the noteworthy organizations that were launched and/or financed by IPS during the seventies and eighties included the following:
Between the mid-1970s and early 1980s, scores of ostensibly independent organizations shared many of IPS’s major policy views; sometimes these groups actually grew out of IPS or were founded by key IPS leaders. in many cases, the groups shared officers, board members, fellows, and rank-and-file members with the Institute.
During this same period, a number of charitable foundations gave financial support to IPS. These included the DJB Foundation, the Field Foundation, the Janss Foundation, the New World Foundation, the Ottinger Foundation and Trust, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Shalan Foundation, the Stern Fund, and the Stewart R. Mott Foundation.
Also during this period, Cora Weiss played a leading role in many IPS activities, particularly those involving opposition to U.S. and NATO military and defense policies in the name of “peace” and “disarmament.” She headed one of IPS’s most successful operations: its association with the famous Rockefeller-built Riverside Church in Manhattan, thereby exploiting the church’s distinguished reputation to enhance her own projects. In 1978 Weiss was invited by Riverside’s liberal activist minister, William Sloane Coffin, to run the church’s disarmament program, which, in the name of “peace,” sought to help consolidate Soviet nuclear superiority in Europe. In 1982 Weiss helped organize the largest pro-disarmament demonstration ever held. Staged in New York City, the rally was attended by a coalition of communist organizations. During her decade-long tenure at Riverside, which was situated across the street from the headquarters of the National Council of Churches, Weiss regularly received Russian KGB agents, Sandinista friends, and Cuban intelligence agents.
In a 1978 National Review article, Brian Crozier, director of the London-based Institute for the Study of Conflict, wrote: “The IPS is the perfect intellectual front for Soviet activities which would be resisted if they were to originate openly from the KGB.” Five years later, 12 U.S. senators and 70 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to then-Secretary of State George Shultz describing IPS as an organization “which has for 20 years consistently supported foreign policy objectives that serve the interests of the Soviet Union.”
In Target America: The Influence of Communist Propaganda on U.S. Media — James L. Tyson’s 1981 expose of the Soviet Union’s massive “propaganda campaign designed to weaken and demoralize America from the inside” — the author states that then-IPS fellow Saul Landau “figured prominently” in “anti-intelligence activity and elsewhere in the work of the Far-Left Lobby.” Tyson reveals that Landau, in a letter to a friend in Cuba, once wrote: “I think that at age 40 the time has come to dedicate myself to narrower pursuits, namely, making propaganda for American Socialism … we cannot any longer just help out third world movements and revolutions, although obviously we shouldn’t turn our backs on them, but get down to the more difficult job of bringing the message home.” On other occasions, Landau advocated on behalf of “Revolutionary Socialism.” (Now an author and filmmaker, Landau remains an IPS senior fellow to this day.)
Throughout the 1980s, IPS continued to undermine American efforts to combat Communism and Soviet interests. In 1985, for instance, as President Reagan pressed Congress to fund the Contras, anti-Communists who were fighting the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, IPS fellow Peter Kornbluh arranged for Senators Tom Harkin (an IPS board member at the time) and John Kerry to fly to Managua to meet with Sandinista leaders. Persuaded by the Kerry-Harkin report on the allegedly happy atmosphere in Managua, Congress denied the funding for the Contras, though it reversed itself a few weeks later when Sandinista President Daniel Ortega met with his Soviet friends in the Kremlin.
Also in the ’80s, as President Reagan built up American defenses and promoted the missile-defense program popularly known as “Star Wars,” IPS was closely linked to many of the Left’s most prominent anti-war and anti-nuclear groups. Among these were Business Executives for National Security, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE), European Nuclear Disarmament, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Nuclear Research and Information Service, Promoting Enduring Peace, and the World Information Service on Energy.
IPS’s involvement in the various anti-nuclear and peace movements of the 1970s and 1980s, coupled with its crusade against “corporate-driven globalization,” paved the way for the Institute to embrace the agendas of radical environmentalism following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991. By 2011, IPS would emphasize “the urgency of the climate crisis,” the potential for “environmental collapse,” and the need for “transformational policies” that could bring about “solutions to global warming” while “protecting the ‘commons’.”
In 2001, IPS convened the meeting (which was held in the office of People For the American Way) that ultimately led to the creation of the massive United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) anti-war coalition. The Institute subsequently became a steering committee member of UFPJ.
IPS endorsed a May 1, 2003 document titled “10 Reasons Environmentalists Oppose an Attack on Iraq,” which was published by Environmentalists Against War. That same year, it was reported that IPS, in conjunction with the National Organization for Women, was making some of its Washington, DC office space available (at no charge) to the feminist antiwar group Code Pink, headed by Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans.
The consistently anti-American positions adopted by IPS are frequently expressed in tandem with the Institute’s condemnations of Israel. In February 2005, for instance, IPS fellow Phyllis Bennis published a commentary depicting the United States as a cynical manipulator seeking only to extract favorable deals for its ally, Israel, no matter how negatively those arrangements might affect the Palestinians. Bennis further denounced Israel for its efforts to “demolish Palestinian homes” (a reference to IDF demolitions of the homes of Palestinian terrorists and their enablers); for its “assassination policy” (a reference to IDF’s targeted killings of Palestinian terrorist leaders); and for its “land-grab known as the Apartheid Wall” (i.e., the anti-terror security barrier designed to stop the infiltration of suicide bombers from the West Bank).
Central to IPS’s worldview is its unyielding opposition to free-market economies. Viewing capitalism as a breeding ground for “unrestrained greed,” IPS claims that it seeks, through its reports and programs, to “create a more responsible society.” In their 2004 book Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World Is Possible, IPS director John Cavanagh and IPS board president Jerry Mander called capitalism “a system in crisis,” and they appealed to “an alliance of leading activists, scholars, economists, researchers, and writers” to take up the ideological cudgel against globalization. Similar sentiments have been purveyed by such IPS-affiliated scholars and ideologues as Norman Birnbaum (a New Left sociologist), Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Richard Falk, and Gore Vidal.
Beginning in early 2012, IPS rented out three of its offices in Washington, DC to Occupy Wall Street, which shifted its main base of operations to the nation’s capital. The Service Employees International Union pledged to pay the $4,000-per-month rent for those offices for at least the next six months.
Notable current members of IPS’s board of trustees include Robert Borosage (who served as the Institute’s drector from 1979 to 1988), Harry Belafonte, John Cavanagh, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jodie Evans, Marcus Raskin, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
IPS’s current major campaigns are listed below, along with their stated objectives. The actual, underlying agendas of these campaigns, however, are to depict America as a nation that: abuses nonwhite minorities and the poor; seeks to bully the rest of mankind militarily; creates immense suffering both at home and abroad through its capitalist economic tradition; and countenances industrial practices that inflict great harm on the natural environment.
Financial support for IPS comes from such foundations as the Arca Foundation, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Energy Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Foundation for Deep Ecology, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the Ploughshares Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Surdna Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Town Creek Foundation, and the Turner Foundation.
The Institute for Policy Studies: Architects of American Decline
By John J. Tierney
Institute for Policy Studies
By The Heritage Foundation Staff
April 19, 1977
The Institute for Policy Studies and America’s Enemies
By Cliff Kincaid
The IPS and the Media: Unholy Alliance
By Cliff Kincaid
April 9, 1983
The Marxist Influence
By Devvy Kidd
February 18, 2005
Institute for Policy Studies
Book Review of Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies
By Joshua Muravchik
October 1, 1988
Clinton Ties to IPS
By ‘Lectric Law Library
July 27, 2006
Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies
By S. Steven Powell