Anti-Communist US Government Training of Youth Activists
The US government funds pro-conservative democracy organizations, leading to charges that the CIA uses youth groups to foment rebellions such as the 2004 coup in Haiti, the 2009 coup in Honduras, the Solidarity Movement in Poland in 1917, well-known ongoing efforts to overthrow the Castro brothers in Cuba and the Arab Spring. The American democracy promotion campaign dates back to the 1980s, when Poland’s Solidarity movement was a beneficiary. A New York Times article lists some of the groups funded by the government-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House: the April 6 Youth Movement, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and individuals such as Entsar Qadhi, a Yemeni young woman activist. WikiLeaks diplomatic cables revealed that Middle Eastern leaders vehemently protested the work of these groups to destabilize their governments, especially Mubarak and his son Gamel. For example, a 2006 cable from an official in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested to American Embassy officials about the US government’s “arrogant tactics in promoting reform in Egypt.”[i] A New York Times article quoted Stephen McInerney, director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, an advocacy and research group. Commenting on the Arab Spring, he said, “We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking. That training did play a role in what ultimately happened, but it was their revolution. We didn’t start it.”
Washington Times reporter Charles Hanley maintained that, “the USAID grants, from an $800 million budget for developing ‘political competition’ and ‘civil society’ in 67 nations, that have proved vital to activists in a half-dozen Arab lands, from Morocco to Yemen.”[ii] For example, the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit in New York City in 2008 was organized by the US State Department, Google, Facebook, MTV, etc.. Young activists were trained to use social networking to promote democracy. Hanley reported that since 2005 an estimated 10,000 Egyptians participated in USAID programs sponsored by 30 Egyptian and international organizations.
Professor Julia Buxton reported that US interests that oppose socialism decided to use students as their new tool, focusing on students in private universities as the leaders of “democracy promotion.”[iii] She stated that a large amount of the $45 million annual funding to opposition groups went to “youth outreach” programs such as Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida (JAVU) mobilized after 2010. The 2014 student movement joined with López and Machado in the Salida/exit campaign in “frenzied” Twitter activity using photos of police violence from other countries as if they were in Venezuela.
It’s well known that the CIA manipulated regime change around the world; perhaps the best known is the Pinochet coup in Chile[iv] and recent USAID efforts to destabilize Cuba with a Twitter-like program. The most recent accusation is that the CIA was involved in an attempted coup against Venezuelan socialist President Madero in 2015. Author Frances Stonor Saunders charged in Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Lectures that the CIA funded the non-communist left since the late 1960. through pass-through organizations: the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the US Institute of Peace, the Ford Foundation, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, CANVAS (Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). WikkiLeaks showed that CANVAS was working for Stratfor to destabilize Venezuela.
Gene Sharp’s advice about how to use non-violent tactics is widely used to train activists globally. His Albert Einstein Institution is housed in Sharp’s Boston home, with a small annual budget, and only one assistant–evidence given by those who dismiss changes of working for the CIA in an ongoing debate about his funding.[v] Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institute states on the website, “From Dictatorship to Democracy was first published in Burma in 1993. It has since been translated into at least 34 other languages and was used by the campaigns of Serbia’s Otpor, Georgia’s Kmara, Ukraine’s Pora, Kyrgyzstan’s KelKel and Belarus’ Zubr.” Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments also used his writings during the breakup of the USSR. Lithuanian Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius was quoted on the website; “I would rather have this book [Civilian Based Defense] than the nuclear bomb. The Albert Einstein Institution is housed in Sharp’s Boston home, with a small annual budget, and only one assistant– evidence given by those who dismiss changes of working for the CIA.[vi] However, his board of directors has links to the US military or pass-through foundations and he has received funding from CIA-linked foundations and the Defense Department, according to Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, author of a free ebook 21st Century Revolution.[vii] She next traced CIA involvement in the Arab Spring, pointing to evidence in L’Arabesque Americaine by Ahmed Bensaada, 2011.[viii]
The next wave of social activism surfaced in the late 1990s including queer rights, indigenous rights, China’s Tiananmen Square protests for democracy, global justice, food rights, and alternative media that became part of the Global Left. The thousands of global justice protesters at IMF, WTO, G8 summits and World Social Forums are listed in an article titled “Turtles, Puppets and Pink Ladies.”[ix] The World Social Forum was formed in 2001 to counter the World Economic Forum representing the 1% that meets annually in Devos, Switzerland. The former provides networking for left-wing organizations against what’s been called “turbo-capitalism,” “casino capitalism,” and McWorld. Many of the WSF participants are students and educators.
A Spanish observer believes that The 15M movement’s use of media to inform and work with other nationalities is, “forging a new internationalist movement, as far-reaching as the workers movement of the late 19th century, but endowed with an historically unmatched set of tools and connectivity.”[x] The youth uprisings are international in the similarity of their goals and horizontal organizing, their sharing of information and support on social media, and also face-to-face assistance. “Global revolution” is a term used by Occupy Wall Street, a Spanish university, etc. Egyptian revolutionary leaders studied organizing techniques in Serbia and the US. The Egyptians “woke us up,” said one Greek demonstrator, and Spanish M-15 occupations inspired discussions about how to do the same in Greece, resulting in the occupation of Syntagma Square ten days later. Some say protests started in Athens when Spanish students organized a sit-in in front of their embassy.
Chile sent leaders to assist the Mexican students who organized Yo Soy 132. Egyptians and Serbians came to New York to help Occupy Wall Street leaders and Egyptians supported Wisconsin demonstrators against Governor Scott Walker before that. To support Turkey, Tasksim solidarity camps formed in Athens, Berlin and New York. Other than USAID “democracy training” programs for young people around the world, the most international outreach is CANVAS and it has monetary ties to US agencies and companies. This training center is led by Serbian Otpor revolutionaries who ousted President Slobodan Milošević in 2000.
Regional differences do occur as seen in repeated phrases used by activists specific to regions:
MENA and other Islamic countries: Allahu Akbar (God is Great), and Insha’ Allah (God willing) in the region with the most focus on religion.
North America: “We’re the 99%,” indicating the focus on economic inequality.
Europe: “It’s the system,” and “Enough!” an outcry against neoliberal capitalism.
Latin America: Horizontallsm and we’re creating a new human in a new society.
Russia: Putin is a tiger. (A positive for some, a negative for activists.)
China: Human rights
Africa: African solutions for African problems.
[i] Ron Nixon, “U.S. Groups Helped nurture Arab Uprisings,” New York Times, April 14, 2011.
[ii] Charles Hanley, “US Training Quietly Nurtured Young Arab Democrats,” The Washington Post, March 13, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/12/AR2011031202234.html
[iii] Julia Buxton, “Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests,” Latin American Bureau, February 20, 2014.
[iv] Peeter Kornbluh, “CIA Acknowleddges Ties to Pinochet’s Repression,” The National Security Archive, September 19, 2000.
[v] Stephen Zunes, “Attacks on Gene Sharp and Albert Einstein Institute Unwarranted,” Huff Post Politics, February 21, 2015.
[vi] Stephen Zunes, “Attacks on Gene Sharp and Albert Einstein Institute Unwarranted,” Huff Post Politics, February 21, 2015.
[vii] Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, “Why the CIA Funds Nonviolence Training,” Dissent Voice, March 13, 2012.
[viii] Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, “The CIA Role in the Arab Spring,” blog, January 18, 2014.
[ix] Agnieszka Paczynska, “Turtles, Puppets and Pink Ladies: The Global Justice Movement in a Post-9/11 World,” Center for Global Studies, August 1, 2008.
[x] Michel Bauwens, “Spain’s Micro-Utopias: The 15M Movement and its Prototypes, P2P Foundation, May 25, 2013.