Non-profit

Institute for Policy Studies

This is a logo owned by Institute for Policy Studies for infobox. (link)
Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-0788947

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $6,892,959
Expenses: $5,134,805
Assets: $11,094,382

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is a left-of-center think tank and advocacy group that is active on a variety of public policy issues. It operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with 2020 revenues totaling approximately $6.9 million. Since 2021, its executive director has been Tope Folarin. [1]

IPS was founded in 1963 by former members of the Kennedy administration who were interested in critically analyzing American foreign policy, particularly as it related to the Cold War. Widely seen as an institutional outgrowth of the New Left movement, a number of those associated with the radical Students for a Democratic Society were connected to IPS, and the institute soon became deeply involved in anti-Vietnam War activism. [2] [3]

During the 1970s, the institute shifted its focus more towards geopolitical and development issues in the Third World, particularly Latin America. Events in Chile during the mid-1970s brought considerable attention to the institute, especially after IPS fellow Orlando Letelier was assassinated in 1976 by operatives of Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Washington, D.C. [4]

IPS developed a reputation for anti-capitalist views that stood at the far-left of the American ideological spectrum. A number of prominent institute personnel were noted for their positive portrayals of communist and other leftist governments, including (at various points) those of North Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Chile, and others. Author Joshua Muravchik coined the term “communophilism” in 1984 to describe the ideology of IPS’s leadership. [5] At least one individual associated with the institute publicly questioned the Cambodian Genocide perpetrated by the communist Khmer Rouge regime during the late 1970s, both in print and before Congress. [6] [7]

While generally less sympathetic towards the Soviet Union, IPS broadly minimized the Soviet threat during the Cold War and tended to be much more critical of the actions of the United States. It advocated for nuclear disarmament and opposed American military interventions overseas. Those at the institute also opposed certain American governmental institutions, particularly those involved with national security and intelligence such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). [8] [9]

More recently, IPS has been highly critical of United States foreign policy in the Middle East generally, and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict specifically. It vigorously opposed the actions of the George W. Bush administration during the War on Terror, and was one of the few American think tanks to openly argue against American military intervention in Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. [10]

Those associated with IPS have long been connected to a wide variety of other movements, organizations, and politicians, and have influenced the left’s ideological and structural development over the decades. Historian Brian S. Mueller wrote in 2021 that “the story of the American Left cannot be told without discussing the contributions of IPS.” [11]

As of 2022, IPS focuses on five principal issue areas: economic inequality, race and gender considerations, climate change, foreign policy, and leadership development. Its personnel generally advocate from a left-wing or far-left perspective on such issues. [12]

Founding and Purpose

Institute for Policy Studies opened on November 3, 1963, with former Kennedy administration staffers Marcus Raskin and Richard Barnet serving as co-directors. [13] According to the institute’s website, the two had concluded that the “systemic change” that they sought for the United States could not be accomplished from within the government, and decided to found an independent think tank in order to promote that change via the power of “social movements.” [14]

IPS identifies three “key principles” that have guided it since its founding: [15]

  1. Public scholarship: Only in the nexus of policy research, advocacy, and grassroots activism can ideas be turned into action.

  2. Independence: Speaking truth to power requires financial and programmatic independence from governmental funding and corporate influence.

  3. Local, National, Global: partnering with allies and social movements on the ground, IPS work operates simultaneously on the local, national, and global levels because we believe that transformation requires engagement at every level.

Individuals associated with the institute—generally known as “fellows”—were particularly focused on analyzing, criticizing, and disseminating alternatives to American governmental policies through books and articles, media appearances, conferences and seminars, and other forms of public outreach. [16] According to historian Brian S. Mueller, “analyzing government policies and programs, formulating alternative plans and strategies, and educating citizens to play a greater role in governance” were central to IPS’s purpose from the beginning. [17]

Left-leaning journalist Sidney Blumenthal wrote in 1986 that IPS “pioneered the modern politics of ideas in the capital,” and noted that right-of-center think tanks like the Heritage Foundation were subsequently modeled on it. [18]

IPS described its purpose in 1968 as “try[ing] to be radical in perceiving the need for change, visionary in conceiving alternatives to the present policy, and practical in developing alternatives.” That same year, founding IPS fellow Arthur Waskow wrote that IPS stood “on the bare edge of custom in the United States as to what an educational research institution is, as against what a political institution is.” [19]

In its 1979-1980 annual report, IPS described itself as “first of all a center of scholarship and education.” The central questions it sought to address included “critical examination of the national security state, seeking other ways for the United States to live in the world; investigation of the effects of centralized power—public or private, seeking paths to greater democracy in practice; inquiry into the growing disparity between rich and poor in the world, seeking greater equity and decency.” [20]

Then-IPS director Robert Borosage explained in 1983 that “our job is to expose the moral and political bankruptcy of the ideas and assumptions now governing America, to offer a feasible alternative vision, and to work with citizen groups and popular movements to make that vision a reality.” [21] The institute’s efforts were directed towards both policymakers in Washington, D.C., and the American people more broadly. [22]

Historian Harvey Klehr characterized IPS in 1988 as functioning “as an intellectual nerve center for the radical movement.” [23] Looking back on the institute’s influence in 1981, author Joshua Muravchik wrote that its “genius” was in the way it served “as a bridge between radicalism and the liberal establishment.” Co-founder Richard Barnet explained that in creating IPS, “we wanted a place where all kinds of people would come. We would have Senators here and Congressmen, and we would have Stokely Carmichael. That was exactly what we wanted.” [24]

Political activist Karl Hess was quoted as describing the way in which those at IPS straddled the gap between intellectual and activist in the following way:

If this were 1773, and the city were Boston, the Institute would be holding a seminar on British imperialism. There would be tables and charts to show the injustice of the tax on tea. Probably somebody from the Governor’s office would be invited. Then, independent of the Institute, six or seven of the fellows would go out and dump a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor. [25]

Founders’ Backgrounds

Writing in the mid-1980s, author Joshua Muravchik concluded that the most important leaders at IPS up to that time had been Marcus Raskin, Richard Barnet, and Robert Borosage, the three individuals who had served as the institute’s directors; Eqbal Ahmad, Orlando Letelier, and Saul Landau, who had served as directors of the affiliated Transnational Institute; and the institute’s board chairman Peter Weiss. [26] Of these, Barnet and Raskin, the institute’s co-founders, were the most influential in establishing IPS and guiding its early philosophy and development.

Prior to co-founding IPS in 1963, Raskin had served as a legislative assistant to several congressmen, most notably Rep. Robert Kastenmeier (D-WI), and had taken a leading role in coordinating a partnership between various left-of-center politicians and intellectuals that came to be called the Liberal Project, [27] established in the fall of 1959. [28]

The Liberal Project resulted in a collection of essays, completed by the beginning of 1960 and ultimately published as part of a book called The Liberal Papers in 1962, [29] which made some controversial recommendations on United States foreign policy with respect to the Cold War. The book was derided as amounting to a proposal for appeasement by its critics, with Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL) commenting that “Chamberlain surely never did as much for Hitler as is proposed here under the name of liberalism to be done for Khrushchev and Mao.” [30]

After several of the congressmen he had been working for were defeated in the 1960 elections, Raskin had joined the incoming Kennedy administration as a staffer to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. Though his creativity and intelligence were recognized and appreciated, Raskin’s controversial recommendations — including unilateral disarmament by the United States and demilitarizing the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba — eventually led him to be re-assigned to the Bureau of the Budget (the predecessor to today’s Office of Management and Budget). Some Republican critics, such as Rep. Robert Stafford (R-VT), had argued that Raskin’s prior involvement in the Liberal Project had made him unfit to serve at the National Security Council at all. [31]

Richard Barnet also served in the Kennedy administration from 1961 to 1963 as a special assistant for disarmament at the U.S. Department of State. As an aide to presidential advisor John J. McCloy, Barnet helped create the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Prior to joining the administration, he had been a fellow at Harvard University’s Russian Research Center, where he wrote Who Wants Disarmament? According to historian Brian S. Mueller, “Barnet refused to lay the blame solely on the Soviet Union and exonerate the United States” for failed attempts at nuclear disarmament in the post-World War II era. [32]

Raskin and Barnet first met one another at a conference on arms control on April 14, 1961, while both were serving in the Kennedy administration. An official history of IPS explains that they were “drawn together in a shared belief that steps had to be taken to combat over-militarized ways of thinking in foreign and national policy.” [33]

Notable founding-era IPS trustees included David Riesman; Thurman Arnold; banker and Franklin Roosevelt administration figure James P. Warburg; Sears, Roebuck & Co. heir Philip Stern; and Scientific American publisher Gerard Piel. [34] Arthur Waskow was also closely involved with the establishment of IPS and served as one of its original fellows. [35] Other founding-era fellows included Christopher Jencks [36] and Gar Alperovitz. [37]

Warburg, Riesman, and Waskow had all contributed essays to The Liberal Papers, [38] and Waskow had worked with Raskin in Rep. Kastenmeier’s office. The two had kept in contact after Raskin joined the National Security Council staff in 1961, while Waskow had joined a Washington, D.C.-based think tank called the Peace Research Institute. [39] When financial difficulties led the Peace Research Institute to seek a merger with another think tank, Waskow helped convince its board to approve a merger with the newly-formed IPS. [40]

Early Funding

IPS was established with initial seed money from the Stern Family Fund, which in turn owed much of its original endowment to the estate of Sears, Roebuck & Co. chairman Julius Rosenwald. Philip Stern, a grandson of Rosenwald, [41] served as president of the Stern Fund and was one of IPS’s original trustees. [42] He personally contributed significant additional funding to IPS during the 1960s. Early funding also came from the merger with the Peace Research Institute and from other sources. [43] IPS bylaws specifically prohibited the institute or its fellows from accepting government funding. [44]

The institute’s budget from 1963-1964 was just over $200,000 ($1.9 million in 2022 inflation-adjusted dollars), which grew to almost $500,000 ($4 million in 2022 dollars) by the end of the 1960s. Significant funders during the 1960s included the Ford Foundation, the D.J. Bernstein Foundation, the EDO Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Field Foundation. James P. Warburg, who served as one of the institute’s original trustees, gave IPS $400,000 in 1967 ($3.5 million in 2022 dollars). [45]

Tax filings for 1971 [46] and 1972 [47] show gross receipts of $1,477,450 and $718,400, respectively ($10.8 million and $5.1 million in 2022 dollars). IPS faced a financial crisis in the mid-to-late 1970s, and by fiscal year 1977-1978 its budget had reached $1.5 million ($6.8 million in 2022 dollars) on projected income of just $833,800 ($3.8 million in 2022 dollars). [48] In the late 1970s, disgruntled IPS scholars formed a union in response to budgetary cutbacks and philosophical differences, ultimately settling with Barnet and Raskin for $470,000 ($1.9 million in 2022 dollars)—reported to be a third of IPS’s endowment—in order to leave and establish their own think tank. [49]

By the 1970s, the Samuel Rubin Foundation was providing much of IPS’s funding—totaling millions by the mid-1980s. [50] Historian Brian S. Mueller wrote that it gave the institute over $300,000 in 1974-1975 ($1.7 million in 2022 dollars), [51] while an article in the Washington Post gave a figure of $450,000 for 1975 ($2.5 million in 2022 dollars). [52] Author S. Steven Powell wrote in 1987 that the foundation had been giving $400,000 to $500,000 annually to IPS. (Inflation adjusted, $500,000 in 1987 equaled $1.3 million in 2022.) [53]

As recounted by Powell in his 1987 book Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies, the Samuel Rubin Foundation was established by Russian émigré businessman Samuel Rubin, founder of the successful cosmetics company Faberge, Inc., which he had named after the famous family of Russian jewelers without their knowledge or permission. The Faberge family’s jewelry business had been expropriated during the Russian Revolution, though some family members were able to flee the Soviet Union during the 1920s and re-establish themselves in Paris. They did not learn of Rubin’s unauthorized use of their name until after World War II. [54]

The Faberge family sued Rubin and obtained an injunction, but to avoid the extensive legal expenses that the latter was prepared to spend litigating the matter, the family agreed to settle in 1951—permitting Rubin to use their name in exchange for $25,000 ($285,000 in 2022 dollars). Powell wrote in Covert Cadre that some Faberge descendants became “justifiably upset that their stolen name was used to bankroll IPS and other left-wing causes,” particularly since some family members had fought against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. [55]

Samuel Rubin died in 1978, with Raskin eulogizing him as one of those “who dare call themselves revolutionary.” His daughter Cora Weiss took over as president of the Rubin Foundation. Her husband Peter Weiss was the chair of IPS’s board of trustees. [56] An attorney by profession, Peter Weiss was a prominent member of the radical-left National Lawyers Guild, [57] and also served on the board of directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights for almost fifty years. [58]

The institute’s revenue in fiscal year 1980 was $1,747,000, [59] and in fiscal year 1983 it was $1,630,107. [60] Its budget was approximately $2 million in 1986, with major funding that year coming from the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. [61] (Inflation-adjusted, $2 million in 1986 was the equivalent of $5.4 million in 2022.)

In 1993, IPS reported receiving a three-year $650,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and operating on an annual budget of $1.5 million (or $3.1 million in 2022 dollars). [62]

Relationship with the New Left

From the beginning, IPS was closely associated with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and with the New Left movement more broadly. In his 2021 book Democracy’s Think Tank: The Institute for Policy Studies and Progressive Foreign Policy, historian Brian S. Mueller wrote that “IPS epitomized the ideals of the New Left, especially those found in the 1962 Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of SDS.” A 1962 prospectus for IPS written by Marcus Raskin contained ideas similar to those found in the Port Huron Statement. [63] Founding IPS fellow Arthur Waskow joined SDS in 1963, and both he and Raskin served for a period as contributing editors for the radical New Left magazine Ramparts. [64]

A number of prominent New Left figures were connected to IPS during the 1960s; former IPS trustee Garry Wills reportedly remarked that “wherever things were happening on the Left throughout the sixties, the Institute was bound to be represented by one or more of its Fellows.” [65] Tom Hayden, the primary author of the Port Huron Statement, asked about joining the institute in 1964. So did SDS national secretary Lee Webb in 1966. SDS presidents Todd Gitlin and Paul Potter also collaborated with IPS, and Raskin was invited to speak at SDS’s 1964 convention. [66] According to author S. Steven Powell, at least three members of the Weather Underground—a violent extremist SDS offshoot—were known to have been associated with IPS in some capacity, including Bill Ayers, who reportedly participated in an IPS seminar in 1969. [67]

According to Waskow, IPS co-directors Raskin and Barnet were “more outside the new left” than many of their colleagues at the institute. Founding IPS trustee David Riesman criticized the New Left during the 1960s, [68] and was later reported to have resigned from the institute in part due to his belief that it was operating on a principle of “no enemies on the left.” [69] Despite this, IPS remained widely viewed as an outgrowth of the New Left movement. As early as 1966 the institute was being described as “the intellectual arsenal of the New Left,” [70] while an article in The Washington Post more than a decade later characterized it as “the first ‘respectable’ offspring of the New Left.” [71]

Philosophy and Ideology

Institute for Policy Studies has consistently been placed on the left-wing, often the far or radical left, of the American ideological spectrum. The institute has been particularly critical of American foreign policy and governmental institutions, and of global free-market capitalism. Author Joshua Muravchik coined the term “communophilism” in 1984 to describe the particular form of left-wing ideology advocated by prominent IPS personnel. [72]

In his 1971 book Think Tanks, Paul Dickson described IPS as “the farthest one can travel to the Left on the think-tank continuum.” [73] Left-leaning columnist Sidney Blumenthal wrote during the Reagan administration that IPS was “the Pluto of think tanks, the one farthest from the Reagan sun.” [74]

As described in Think Tanks, IPS co-director Marcus Raskin used the term “existential pragmatism” to characterize IPS’s guiding philosophy:

As he explains it, this way of thinking dictates the need to perceive present irrationality—accomplished via the institute’s studies of existing policies and institutions—and then to move beyond that to experimentation with alternatives to present polices and intuitions. Raskin’s intellectual premise is that to develop social theory one must be involved in social experimentation and action. Firmly aimed at the concept of change, it also dictates that social theorizing must be closely identified with those who are powerless and oppressed. [75]

Historian Brian S. Mueller summarized IPS’s functional and ideological position as occupying “a gray area between activist and intellectual while synthesizing certain liberal, radical liberal, New Left, and progressive ideals.” In Mueller’s opinion, “the story of the American Left cannot be told without discussing the contributions of IPS.” [76]

Though those at the institute espoused reliably left-wing views, some occasionally found common ground on certain issues, particularly foreign policy, with libertarians. Karl Hess wrote that he was welcomed to IPS by Barnet and Raskin, whom he specifically distinguished from the other “Utopian Marxist sloganeers at the institute,” because they treated him “as a representative of [the] Old Right who could engage in fruitful dialogue with the New Left.” The Cato Institute worked with IPS during the 1970s, and provided it with $10,000 in grants from 1977 to 1978. [77]

The Pyramidal Structure and the Four Colonies

The 1983 book First Harvest: The Institute for Policy Studies, 1963-1983 reprinted the introduction from Marcus Raskin’s 1973 book Being and Doing, with a preface noting that it “perhaps best expressed” the institute’s philosophy. In the excerpt, Raskin wrote of a pyramid that he believed structured American political, social, and economic life. He argued that this hierarchical pyramid structure could be seen in four overlapping and interrelated “colonies,” each of which “hollows out man and objectifies him for the purpose of running the colony.” [78]

The first of these was the “violence colony,” in which “specialists in the techniques of violence are given power by those at the top of the pyramid.” The second was the “plantation colony,” in which people “work at meaningless and unreal jobs to obtain things that they are led to want.” The third was the “channeling colony,” in which students were educated in a school system that served “to break people in to accepting authority structures.” The fourth was the “dream colony,” in which mass media provided “a surrogate of action and passion for the colonized, replacing their own actions and passions.” [79]

Raskin’s philosophy held that true democracy could only be realized through dismantling these “colonies,” of which he considered the “violence colony,” represented prominently by the Cold War and the concomitant arms race, to be the most dangerous. According to historian Brian S. Mueller, IPS sought worldwide “decolonization,” which those at the institute thought would only be possible “if the United States renounced empire and its role as guardian of the liberal capitalist international order.” [80]

The Four Myths and the Four Pillars

In 1979, IPS co-founder Richard Barnet wrote an article for the New York Times magazine in which he listed four “astounding myths” that he argued had formed the basis of American national security policy during the Cold War, and prevented “a reasoned discussion of the options available to the United States.” [81]

The first was the “myth of defense,” his assertion that it was functionally impossible to protect the American people from an all-out Soviet nuclear attack. The second was the “myth of deterrence,” the assertion that peace maintained through the threat of nuclear war was precarious and prone to catastrophic miscalculations. The third was the “myth of military power,” the assertion that the American military was not capable of influencing international political or economic developments. The fourth was the “myth of the arms economy,” the assertion that high levels of defense spending were harmful to the economy over the long term. [82]

Later, in a 1987 article published in The New Yorker, Barnet listed four “pillars” that he considered to comprise “the basic instruments of American foreign policy”: nuclear weapons-based deterrence; membership in international anti-communist alliances; a willingness to intervene militarily to prevent leftist revolutions in foreign countries; and a liberal capitalist international economic order. Barnet argued that these pillars were “so incongruent with the patterns of international life today that they offer little hope of assuring long-term security for the United States.” [83] IPS sought to tear down each of these pillars. [84]

Anti-Capitalism

IPS has always been highly critical of free-market capitalism, particularly on a global scale, viewing it as “the primary impediment to a more democratic and equitable international economic order,” according to historian Brian S. Mueller. [85]

Mueller noted that IPS’s anti-capitalism was not rooted “in strictly Marxist terms,” but rather in its belief that human rights should be extended beyond political and civil protections to encompass various economic, social, and cultural rights. IPS developed a view that the international capitalist system led by the United States was the cause of various human rights abuses. According to Mueller, “IPS sought to topple the liberal international capitalist order.” [86]

Those at IPS became highly critical of capitalism’s impact on global development. IPS chairman Peter Weiss called for dispensing with the “utterly foolish notion that capitalism can bring about economic and social justice to the Third World.” [87] Michael Moffitt, director of IPS’s International Economic Order project, wrote in 1978 that “we begin from the perspective that the current economic, political and social situation in the Third World countries is a product of the historical development of the international capitalist system.” [88]

Left-wing sociologist Andre Gunder Frank’s work on the dependency theory of development greatly influenced the thinking of those at IPS who worked on the issue. According to Frank, global capitalism slowed economic grown in under-developed countries by favoring export-oriented economies, which resulted in the perpetual exploitation of poorer countries by richer ones. Mueller wrote that motivated by this belief, “IPS set out to demolish the capitalist system,” [89] and became highly supportive of Third World socialist politicians such as Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and Jamaica’s Michael Manley. [90]

Communism and “Communophilism”

S. Steven Powell wrote in his 1987 book Covert Cadre that it would be more accurate to describe IPS as Marxist rather than liberal. [91] A number of individuals associated with IPS expressed support for Eurocommunism, a form of communism in Western Europe that emphasized independence from Soviet influence, and the institute hosted a seminar by the general secretary of the Communist Party of Spain, Santiago Carrillo, in 1977. According to Brian S. Mueller, “Raskin suggested that Eurocommunism increased the likelihood ‘of a Europe united across transnational lines without bending the knee to either the Soviet Union or the United States.’” [92]

In the early 1980s, then-IPS director Robert Borosage characterized the institute’s personnel as coming “almost completely” from “a liberal, pragmatic philosophical basis,” while those at the affiliated Transnational Institute came “almost completely” from “a Marxist or at least a liberation basis.” [93] Right-leaning commentator David Horowitz, who had himself formerly been associated with the New Left, claimed to have met IPS fellow and Transnational Institute director Saul Landau while both were members of a communist youth organization. [94]

In a 1984 article for World Affairs, author Joshua Muravchik argued that IPS’s ideology was best encapsulated in the term “communophilism,” which he considered to be distinct from other manifestations of leftism such as communism, socialism, and liberalism. As-defined by Muravchik, “communophiles” shared the following characteristics: they believed capitalist democracies like the United States needed to be fundamentally transformed, rather than reformed; they were generally sympathetic towards international communist movements; and they were not beholden to a specific model of communism as-implemented by any state and were least sympathetic towards the Soviet model. [95]

To Muravchik, IPS’s ideology evidenced “a general attitude that the future of mankind lies, as it should lie, with the communist world,” while at the same time adopting an “unremittingly hostile” attitude towards the political system of the United States, which it viewed as “fundamentally flawed.” Muravchik concluded:

If IPS’ sympathy for the communist world was consistent, it was also eclectic. The Soviet Union is almost never praised. Communist China has been praised on occasion. So has China’s communist enemy, Vietnam. And so has Vietnam’s communist enemy, Cambodia. Occasionally support is expressed for the communist regimes of Eastern Europe; more often for those of the Third World, notably Cuba, and for communist movements not yet installed in power. There is no strict consistency. Nor is there any evidence of discipline or a party line. [96]

Though admitting that IPS’s leadership held a spectrum of views, Muravchik argued that it was a narrow one: “all are on the left; few, if any, are liberal; most, if not all, are anti-anti-Communist.” [97]

Power and the “National Security State”

According to IPS, by 1972 most institute fellows “had concluded from their work that a concentration of vast power in the hands of a few had become typical of the American policy, economy, and culture,” and that this concentration of power was itself responsible for sociopolitical ills including racism, deforestation, militarism and the Vietnam War, and “the exhausting workplace and the exhausted family.” [98] Raskin considered the United States to be a “modern tyranny” for the way it maintained “organized power in the hands of the state, its military and bureaucratic apparatus, and its corporate system.” [99]

Those at the institute—especially Barnet and Raskin—blamed unelected foreign policy bureaucrats whom they termed “national security managers” for giving rise to a “national security state” that favored militaristic foreign interventions and was responsible for numerous harmful domestic impacts, all while being largely unaccountable to the American people. Raskin defined the “national security state” as “the actualizing mechanism of ruling elites to implement their imperial schemes and misplaced ideals.” [100] According to Brian S. Mueller, “IPS found in these two concepts an explanation for America’s frequent intervention abroad to suppress ideological pluralism and to suffocate democracy on the home front.” [101]

In their 1971 book Washington Plans an Aggressive War, Barnet, Raskin, and Ralph Stavins wrote:

…the lawlessness of the nation-state constitutes the greatest threat to peace and human survival. The only hope of subjecting the state to law is to hold individuals who act for the state responsible for their acts. Thus the establishment of personal responsibility of national security officials for what they do in the name of the American people is the key to any program of practical reconstruction.[102]

Raskin reportedly declared in 1970 that “the FBI, Secret Service, intelligence services of other government agencies, and the military should be done away with in that order.” [103] IPS wanted the American people—through Congress—to deconstruct the “national security state,” and Raskin proposed changes he believed would make Congress more directly accountable to those it represented. One proposal was to impanel permanent rotating citizen grand juries in every Congressional district, which would have investigative powers and meet directly with their Congressional representative for at least one week at the end of every legislative session. [104]

Mueller used the example of IPS’s anti-Vietnam War activism to highlight the institute’s tendency to point to “participatory democracy as the panacea for all of America’s ills,” while at the same time failing to fully appreciate that sometimes “Americans supported ideas inimical to IPS’s worldview.” While IPS vigorously opposed the war, many of those at the institute were seemingly ignorant of public opinion supporting it. Raskin and Barnet, in faulting elected officials for their actions or inactions, never “considered the possibility that Congress acted as it did in response to the wishes of the American people,” according to Mueller. [105]

The Vietnam War

Though the Institute for Policy Studies was involved in the Civil Rights Movement — Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader Bob Moses was an IPS fellow [106] — the sharp escalation in American military involvement in Vietnam during the mid-1960s resulted in anti-war activism becoming the institute’s most important activity during that decade. [107]

IPS co-founder Richard Barnet described the Vietnam War as “one of the very formative experiences in both my life and the life of the institute.” [108] IPS personnel strongly opposed the war, which they considered to be a manifestation of the militant anti-communist imperialism that characterized American foreign policy. [109]

Involvement in Antiwar Activism

In 1965, IPS co-founder Marcus Raskin and Bernard B. Fall published The Viet-Nam Reader, a collection of essays that proved highly influential among antiwar activists, particularly at the various teach-ins that were being held at American colleges and universities. [110] Raskin and Fall proposed “diplomatic alternatives” to end the war, writing:

As a first step, we must limit the damage present military operations are inflicting on innocent people; second, we must “de-escalate” the war itself for the sake of meaningful contacts, discussions, and negotiations with the other side; and third, join with others in planning ahead for the restoration of a Viet-Nam that will not be a menace to itself, to its region, or to world peace. More generally, what we must attempt to do is end the present Viet-Nam war, and build from the diplomatic settlement a more rational American foreign policy, one that is not isolated from the rhythm of world change or opinion.[111]

In 1967, Raskin and IPS fellow Arthur Waskow co-authored a statement entitled “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” which condemned the Vietnam War as illegal and immoral, and urged those who opposed it to resist the draft. [112]

Both Raskin and Waskow were involved in public antiwar demonstrations, and Raskin was among several individuals indicted in January 1968 for conspiring to encourage the violation of draft laws. He was ultimately acquitted. [113] At a demonstration in front of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in April 1970, Waskow reportedly urged the assembled crowed to refuse to pay taxes, saying that “revolution must be planned, organized and then pulled off…not through the courts, but through methods that put lives on the line.” [114]

Former IPS fellow Earl C. Ravenal was quoted as saying that during the Vietnam War, “there was an infusion…of revolutionary activists…people who didn’t like to write and didn’t want to think very much, and spent most of their time demonstrating and just using the I.P.S. building more or less as a headquarters.” [115]

Several individuals connected to IPS were involved in the protests and riots that occurred during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Cora Weiss played a role in planning the protests, while her husband Peter was one of those arrested. [116] According to an article published in Barron’s magazine in October 1969, which was subsequently entered into the Congressional Record, Waskow was also involved in planning the demonstrations and at least seven individuals affiliated with IPS were members of the Committee to Defend the Conspiracy established to assist the “Chicago Eight” (later the “Chicago Seven”) defendants who had been charged with conspiracy in connection to the riots, including Raskin, Waskow, Gar Alperovitz, and Christopher Jencks. [117]

IPS personnel including Barnet and Philip Stern were involved with Dispatch News Service, [118] a small anti-Vietnam War news agency best known for breaking Seymour Hersh’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1969 story on the My Lai massacre, in which American servicemen killed hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians. [119]

In the preface to their 1971 book Washington Plans an Aggressive War, Raskin, Barnet, and Ralph Stavins accused American leadership of planning and carrying out “an aggressive war against a people who did not and could not hurt the United States,” and argued that their doing so constituted a war crime. The authors considered the Vietnam War to have been “politically and morally wrong from the outset.” [120]

According to historian Brian S. Mueller, Raskin initially favored holding war crimes trials for those American government officials that he considered responsible for causing the Vietnam War. By 1971, however, he advocated applying his various proposals, which included establishing “a court of international law and security” in which American citizens could bring cases against U.S. officials for alleged illegal acts in foreign countries, only to future conflicts. Still, Raskin stated in a 1972 interview that he considered prominent Kennedy and Johnson administration officials such as Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Walt Rostow, William Bundy, and McGeorge Bundy to be war criminals. [121]

Relationship with North Vietnam

IPS accepted a potential communist victory in Vietnam as a consequence of American withdrawal and advocated for direct negotiations with the communist National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (better known as the Viet Cong). In his 2021 book Democracy’s Think Tank, historian Brian S. Mueller argued that IPS’s opposition to the Vietnam War was driven less by pro-communist sympathies and more by the institute’s broader opposition to the principle of anti-communist military interventions by the United States. Still, a number of those affiliated with IPS had direct contact with North Vietnamese officials, and Mueller also wrote that “like many other antiwar activists in the 1960s, IPS intellectuals were prone to see only the best in the North Vietnamese.” [122]

IPS co-director Richard Barnet traveled to North Vietnam in 1969, where he met with Prime Minister Pham Van Don and other officials. Though he later acknowledged that he knew what he said would be used for propaganda purposes, [123] he expressed solidarity with the North Vietnamese, remarking that they were fighting “against the same aggressors that we will continue to fight in our country.” [124]

Upon returning, Barnet appeared on NBC’s “Today” where he accused the United States of standing in the way of peace between North and South Vietnam. He wrote a report on North Vietnamese society characterized by Mueller as “glowing” in which he remarked on the high morale of the country’s citizenry and favorably referred to its progress in food production, industry, education, and medicine. [125]

IPS board chairman Peter Weiss and his wife Cora also traveled to North Vietnam during the war. [126] After a trip in late 1969, Cora spoke highly of the treatment of American prisoners of war, and reportedly remarked at a press conference in January 1970 that a particular U.S. naval aviator who had suffered an arm injury in the course of his captivity “was lucky to have an arm at all,” since he had been captured by North Vietnam “as a war criminal.” [127]

At the request of the North Vietnamese, [128] Cora Weiss formed the Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam, and served as its co-chair and director from 1969 to 1972. [129] The committee had a “near monopoly” on information about American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam, and according to Joshua Muravchik, Weiss “used her platform to deny charges that American prisoners of war were suffering mistreatment.” [130]

After Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces in 1975 and Vietnam was subsequently unified under communist rule, IPS downplayed the various reprisals and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Vietnamese government. Mueller wrote that Barnet in particular “remained committed to the communist experiment in Vietnam” despite mounting evidence of these abuses. [131]

Barnet and Cora Weiss were among the signatories to a January 30, 1977 advertisement in the New York Times that responded to criticism of Vietnamese reprisals by declaring that “the present government of Vietnam should be hailed for its moderation and for its extraordinary effort to achieve reconciliation among all of its people.” [132] The advertisement, which had been drafted by Corliss Lamont, argued that Americans should applaud the communist government for not pursuing a “cruel policy of reprisal,” and claimed that reports of human rights abuses had been distorted or exaggerated. It blamed any abuses that had in fact occurred on an environment of instability caused by the United States. [133]

Role in Publishing the Pentagon Papers

IPS played a key role in publicly releasing the Pentagon Papers, officially titled the Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force. The 7,000-page report was originally commissioned in 1967 by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to comprehensively document and analyze the United States’ post-Second World War involvement in Southeast Asia. The report was completed in early 1969, and contained unreported revelations regarding the extent of America’s involvement in Vietnam. It was classified as top secret. [134]

After the report was completed, one of the analysts assigned to work on it, Daniel Ellsberg of the RAND Corporation, stole it and made photocopies. After unsuccessfully searching for a government official willing to publicly release the documents, Ellsberg brought some of the papers to Marcus Raskin at IPS in 1970. [135]

Raskin contacted journalist Neil Sheehan of the New York Times, and after some discussions a Times reporter came to pick up “many thousands of sheets of paper” from IPS’s office, according to the institute. [136] At Raskin’s urging, Ellsberg also talked with Sheehan about the Pentagon Papers, and began providing access to them directly to the Times in March 1971. [137] Raskin later explained that he hoped their publication “would be treated as proof of war crimes.” [138]

The New York Times published its first article about the Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971, and other major newspapers soon followed. The Nixon administration attempted to obtain injunctions to prevent further publication, but the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that such prior restraints violated the First Amendment. [139] Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) also entered approximately 4,100 pages from the papers into the Congressional Record, and according to the institute, the documents he used “had been photocopied on a copier at IPS offices by a young IPS employee.” [140]

Partly due to its experience working with Ellsberg, IPS established the Government Accountability Project in 1977 in order to focus on “creating the perception of whistleblowers as patriots and truth-tellers and advancing model legislation that would both protect whistleblowers and ensure that their concerns would receive public attention.” It became an independent organization in January 1984. [141]

Cambodian Genocide Controversy

Between 1975 and 1979, Cambodian dictator Pol Pot’s revolutionary communist Khmer Rouge regime perpetrated the Cambodian genocide, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1.7 million people, an estimated 21 percent of the country’s population. [142]

In May 1977, while an “associate” at IPS, Gareth Porter testified before the U.S. House Committee on International Relations regarding reports of mass killings in Cambodia. Porter questioned the reliability and motivations of refugees, disputed the reported death toll, and argued that most of the deaths that had occurred were due to disease. He stated that he could not “accept the premise…that it is a fact that 1 million people have been murdered systematically or that the Government of Cambodia is systematically slaughtering its people.” Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-NY) remarked at the hearing that he considered efforts to question the fact that vast numbers of Cambodians had been murdered “essentially contemptible.” [143]

The year before, Porter had co-authored a book entitled Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution in which, according to author Joshua Muravchik, he praised Pol Pot’s regime for having implemented “a collective framework designed to release the creative energies of the people,” defended the policies of the Khmer Rouge, and charged its critics with perpetuating “the enforcement of an ideology that demands that social revolutions be portrayed as negatively as possible.” [144]

FBI Investigations and 1979 Settlement Agreement

Both Raskin and Barnet were reported to have been listed on President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list,” [145] and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating IPS in 1968, at least in part due to its antiwar activities. [146] According to IPS, agents utilized more than 70 informants, searched through the institute’s trash, and wiretapped its phones. [147] Though the FBI admitted in 1979 to having paid dozens of informants for information about IPS and to having established a listening post near its office, it denied ever wiretapping the institute or its personnel. [148] IPS continued to maintain that the FBI’s surveillance of the institute was illegal. [149]

IPS sued the FBI in 1974 over what it alleged to be improper monitoring, and both sides agreed to settle in 1979. Though the FBI admitted no wrongdoing, it agreed to pay the institute’s legal expenses. [150] The stipulated settlement agreement also provided that the FBI would “undertake no investigation of plaintiffs unless in accordance with statute, executive order, or other lawful authority,” collect no information on IPS except under similar circumstances, and would not publicly disclose material it had already collected except under specific circumstances. [151] The Washington Post described the settlement terms as “a major concession” by the FBI. [152]

The Cold War: The Eastern Bloc

Institute for Policy Studies broadly opposed the foreign policy of the United States towards the Soviet Union and the communist-controlled Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. The institute was particularly critical of American military interventions and installations overseas, which IPS co-founder Richard Barnet argued served to compel responses from the Soviet Union. [153] In An American Manifesto, Barnet and IPS co-founder Marcus Raskin wrote that “Americans believe that the world must be made safe for America, but for the sake of survival itself, America must be made safe for the world.” [154]

In his 2021 book Democracy’s Think Tank: The Institute for Policy Studies and Progressive Foreign Policy, historian Brian S. Mueller wrote that IPS personnel generally adhered to a revisionist interpretation of post-Second World War relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, placing significant blame on the U.S. for bringing about the Cold War and the resulting nuclear arms race. Gar Alperovitz, a prominent Cold War revisionist historian well-known for his 1965 book Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam, was a founding IPS fellow. [155]

Perspective on the Soviet Union

During the Cold War, IPS was accused of promoting a perspective on world affairs that was favorable towards the Soviet Union and its interests. Though individuals associated with the institute held varying opinions, IPS personnel broadly minimized the Soviet threat and were much more critical of the actions of the United States.

Prominent IPS leaders, including Richard Barnet, Marcus Raskin, and Saul Landau, all were “eager to refute any suggestion that they are pro-Soviet.” In the 1980s, IPS director Robert Borosage stated that he felt that the political systems of both the United States and the Soviet Union led “to dead ends,” though he considered the Soviet failures to have produced interesting “social experiments” in Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Cuba, and Nicaragua. [156] In the introduction to his 1973 book Being and Doing, Raskin criticized the Soviet Union for maintaining “the feudal and bourgeois values of hierarchy based on privilege,” yet he also characterized Marxism as a “positive social philosoph[y].” [157]

While researching and writing about IPS during the 1980s for publications like Commentary magazine, World Affairs journal, and the New York Times magazine, author Joshua Muravchik concluded that IPS was much more sympathetic towards non-Soviet forms of communism than it was towards the USSR. While observing that “IPS literature abounds in praise of Ho [Chi Minh] and Mao [Zedong] and Fidel [Castro] and the Sandinistas,” he concluded that “this admiration for Communist governments does not usually extend to the Soviet Union.” [158]

Historian Brian S. Mueller also disputed the characterization of IPS as “pro-Soviet,” arguing that the institute “served ‘the people’ more than the Soviet Union.” While Mueller wrote that it was “inaccurate to say that IPS sought victory for the Soviet Union and communism,” he also acknowledged that criticisms of IPS along those lines did have “some merit,” and noted that “most IPS intellectuals avoided strong denunciations of the Soviet Union.” [159]

Author S. Steven Powell concluded in his 1987 book Covert Cadre that “an ordered accounting” revealed that “much of what the institute does, for all intents and purposes, also serves the interests of the Soviet Union.” [160] Writing in 1988, historian Harvey Klehr concluded that “IPS fellows have consistently maintained that the Soviet threat is largely non-existent and a product of the military-industrial complex in the United States.” [161]

Onetime IPS fellow Earl C. Ravenal cited his occasional criticism of the Soviet Union as one reason for his eventual estrangement from his colleagues at the institute. [162] In reflecting on her time working with the institute’s nuclear weapons project, another researcher commented that she wasn’t sure if there were any “anti-Soviet people” at IPS outside of that project. [163] At an IPS conference, Cora Weiss was recorded as having condemned “anti-Soviet communism” for being “a hereditary disease transmitted over the past sixty years.” [164]

IPS co-founder Richard Barnet was of the opinion that “the Soviet threat is the big lie of the arms race,” [165] and sought to challenge “the conception of the USSR as a power-hungry aggressor.” [166] In his view, the Soviet Union acted only to protect its own national interests, rather than seeking to spread communism internationally. By contrast, Barnet considered the United States to represent the “latest of the modern world empires.” [167]

In early 1979, IPS hosted a two-day conference entitled “The Myths and Realities of the ‘Soviet Threat.’” Months later the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and some at the institute attempted to explain or defend the invasion. As quoted by Mueller in Democracy’s Think Tank, IPS and Transnational Institute fellow Fred Halliday portrayed the invasion as a last resort that the Soviets had “tried their best to avoid,” and argued in a letter to then-IPS director Robert Borosage that “the USSR has a duty—to help liberation movements fight for victory.” Barnet did not attempt to justify the invasion, but rather sought to explain it as a defensive action, rather than an offensive one. [168]

After returning from a trip to the Soviet Union in 1983, the Marxist political scientist Michael Parenti—then an IPS fellow—gave a presentation at the institute about his travels. As related by S. Steven Powell, who attended the presentation, Parenti praised numerous aspects of Soviet communism. He argued that the country’s citizens did not suffer from “the rationing of the free market,” and that the long lines at Soviet stores were caused by the citizenry’s “very high percentage of disposable income.” He praised the country’s jobs guarantee, food security, healthcare, and rent control systems, and disputed the existence of anti-Semitism in the USSR. [169]

According to Powell, Parenti maintained that democratic elections were indeed held in both the Soviet Union and in Cuba, particularly since “democracy” needed to be understood as “to what extent do the democratic forces of society, that is the ordinary workers, minorities…women, and the people who are starving, to what extent do they get an outcome.” He claimed to be writing a book on “American political disinformation” with respect to the Soviet Union, and complained that “even on the Left the anti-Soviet bias is so incredible.” Powell, citing his own firsthand observations, also claimed that representatives from the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. regularly attended public events at IPS during the 1980s, including Parenti’s presentation. [170]

Opposition to NATO

IPS opposed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which it viewed as bearing heavy responsibility for perpetuating Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact alliance that the USSR led. Those associated with the institute envisioned a strengthened United Nations as taking the place of a diminished or dissolved NATO. In their first co-authored book after founding IPS—After 20 Years: Alternatives to the Cold War in Europe—Raskin and Barnet argued that authority to approve NATO military actions should be vested with the United Nations. [171]

According to Brian S. Mueller, future U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reviewed After 20 Years for the New York Times, and criticized the authors for seeming to assume that the lack of Soviet aggression in Europe since NATO’s establishment was proof that the alliance was unnecessary, rather than acknowledging the role that NATO itself had played in deterring the Soviets. Kissinger felt that Barnet and Raskin trusted the Soviets too much in this regard. [172]

Support for Disarmament

During the Cold War, IPS advocated for drastic reductions in defense spending alongside corresponding increases in domestic social spending. IPS co-founder Richard Barnet wrote that “disarmament and arms control provide a sounder basis for security than an unending arms race.” [173] In 1978, at the request of 56 Democratic members of Congress, the institute produced a study on the federal budget entitled The Federal Budget and Social Reconstruction. The project was directed by Marcus Raskin. [174]

The study recommended that the United States cut defense spending by almost 50 percent, unilaterally withdraw from NATO, and end its military involvement in the Middle East. It proposed that federal funding be redirected towards a variety of left-wing domestic priorities including “a socialist housing program which would compete with and steadily replace the private housing and mortgage markets,” a radically changed educational system that “would disrupt capitalist control over the distribution of knowledge,” and “a publicly controlled and operated health service” that would replace private medical practice. It also suggested that the federal government should “purchase majority ownership of at least one leading firm in each major growth sector of the economy.” [175]

IPS strongly opposed the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, and advocated for unilateral disarmament by the U.S. in order to achieve the ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons worldwide. To this end, IPS personnel opposed arms control treaties supported by many liberals, arguing that  those treaties did not go far enough and implicitly countenanced the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which IPS considered unacceptable. [176] In 1979, IPS co-founder Richard Barnet predicted that upwards of 100 countries would have the ability to acquire nuclear weapons by the year 2000. [177]

The institute worked closely with the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (better known as SANE, and now known as Peace Action). David Cortright, who became SANE’s executive director in 1978, [178] had previously studied at IPS with Raskin as his advisor. In 1985, Raskin joined SANE’s board of directors. [179]

In early 1982, IPS sponsored a trip to Moscow for ten individuals including Raskin and then-IPS director Robert Borosage, where they met with senior Soviet officials including Georgy Arbatov and Vadim Zagladin in order to discuss the issue of nuclear armaments. [180] In May 1983, IPS co-sponsored a second meeting on disarmament in Minneapolis with a Soviet think tank called the Institute for the Study of the United States and Canada. [181]  It was attended by Raskin, Borosage, Cora and Peter Weiss; Minneapolis mayor Donald Fraser; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Donald McHenry; and others. Follow-up meetings were held in 1984 and 1985. [182]

It was reported that current and former members of Soviet intelligence services were among the conference attendees, [183] a presumption that author S. Steven Powell records Borosage and other IPS personnel as sharing. [184] Arkady Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Soviet official to defect to the United States, wrote in his 1985 book Breaking With Moscow that the Institute for the Study of the United States and Canada was “a front used by the Central Committee of the KGB for many purposes,” including promoting the Soviet government’s official position, recruiting Soviet sympathizers, and sowing disinformation. [185] Raskin and other American conference participants were reportedly frustrated by the Soviet delegation’s general unwillingness to deviate from its government’s official position. [186]

The Cold War: Latin America

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Institute for Policy Studies began to devote significant attention to the Third World, particularly on human rights and the policy of the United States government towards Latin America and the Caribbean. [187] Historian Brian S. Mueller wrote that those at IPS “tended to mark off certain regions of the world as more important than others when it came to demanding protection of human rights,” and the institute’s primary targets were U.S.-backed authoritarian governments in Latin America. [188] IPS co-founder Richard Barnet would later acknowledge that it was “a fair criticism” to say that IPS became “overly-concerned with the Third World.” [189]

IPS was broadly sympathetic towards leftist revolutionary movements in these countries. Writing in 1984, journalist Joshua Muravchik characterized the views of IPS leadership towards “Third World communist movements” as ranging from “hesitating approval of at least some to enthusiastic approval.” In 1976, while a fellow at IPS, Eqbal Ahmad described the governments of China, Cuba, and North Vietnam as “the forces of liberation” in the journal Race & Class. [190]

IPS co-founder Richard Barnet wrote in his 1969 book The Economy of Death that the “unfortunate truth is that the U.S. has no better alternative to offer the poor nations which is any better than revolution, which for all its brutality, has had some spectacular successes.” Though admitting that “we may not like it” and that “it is easy to point to terrible evils and injustices,” he cited the Russian, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions as positive examples of “what regimentation and the shake-up of an old corrupt order can do.” [191]

Mueller pointed to socialist former Prime Minister of Jamaica Michael Manley as a “lodestar for IPS intellectuals,” whom they considered to be “someone who could lead the fight to free the Third World from the oppressive bonds of capitalist imperialism.” IPS fellow Saul Landau produced campaign films for Manley in both the 1976 and 1980 Jamaican elections. [192]

Support for Cuba

Though recognizing that there were some differences among IPS leadership with respect to their views on communist Cuba, Muravchik wrote in the mid-1980s that “they all concur in approving of the general thrust of [Fidel Castro’s] socio-economic policies.” In 1977, the institute’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Latin America published The Southern Connection: Recommendations for a New Approach to Inter-American Relations. The report argued that the United States should accept “ideological diversity” in the Western Hemisphere and normalize relations with Cuba, which it contended had “no reason to make amends for its decision to follow a socialist development alternative.” Muravchik noted that three of the seven members of the Working Group had been involved with pro-Castro organizations. [193]

According to S. Steven Powell’s book Covert Cadre, a number of individuals associated with IPS traveled to Cuba as part of the Venceremos Brigade, which arranges for sympathetic Americans to visit Cuba in order to learn about and express solidarity with the country’s revolutionary-socialist government. IPS fellow Saul Landau was reported to have been involved with the first iteration of the Venceremos Brigade in 1969. [194]

Described in his New York Times obituary as “a determinedly leftist documentary filmmaker and writer,” who “said he saw no difference between documentary and fictional films,” Landau produced the movie Fidel in 1969 after having filmed a journey through Cuba that he had taken with Castro the previous year. [195] [196] Landau considered Cuba to be “the first purposeful society that we have had in the Western Hemisphere for many years.” [197]

Author Joshua Muravchik interviewed Landau regarding his views on Cuba in late 1980, by which time he had become a personal friend of Castro. Landau described Castro as “one of the most brilliant politicians in the world today,” whose “successes far outnumber his failures.” He disputed the characterization of Castro as a dictator, arguing that since he enjoyed “enormous popular support” his policies were “not dictated to the people, but…most of the time [were] very well in tune with them.” Landau was of the opinion that no other Latin American government had done as much good for its people as communist Cuba. [198]

Chile and the Assassination of Orlando Letelier

IPS became closely associated with geopolitical developments in Chile during the 1970s. Salvador Allende, a Marxist, served as president of Chile from 1970 to 1973, when he was overthrown in a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet. Though Pinochet’s regime enacted free-market economic reforms that stimulated Chile’s economy—which had suffered greatly under Allende—it also engaged in widespread political repression and human rights violations that included imprisonment, torture, and as many as 3,000 extrajudicial killings. [199] [200]

IPS strongly opposed the coup, and institute fellows Saul Landau and Peter Kornbluh wrote ten years later that had it not occurred “the lesson in Chile might have been that socialists and communists can play by the electoral rules of democracy and that profound changes can be accomplished peacefully rather than violently.” In early 1974, the Transnational Institute (an international affiliate of IPS) hosted a conference in Amsterdam to discuss the coup, which was attended by representatives from IPS, political allies of Allende, and members of a Chilean communist guerilla group called the Revolutionary Left Movement. [201]

One of those imprisoned after the coup was Orlando Letelier, who had held multiple high-ranking positions in Allende’s government, including ambassador to the United States and successive appointments as ministers of foreign affairs, interior, and defense. [202]  He was released a year later after the influential governor of Caracas, Venezuela personally appealed to Pinochet for Letelier’s freedom. After his release, Letelier traveled to Caracas and soon thereafter accepted a fellowship at IPS. [203] He later became director of the affiliated Transnational Institute in 1976. [204]

While at IPS, Letelier argued that the Pinochet regime’s human rights abuses were directly linked to its capitalist economic policies. In an article published in The Nation in August 1976, he criticized the ideas of Milton Friedman and the manner in which those ideas were being implemented in Chile by a group of free-market economists known as the “Chicago Boys.” [205] Letelier’s hope for Chile, as he expressed it in a letter to Allende’s daughter, was that “perhaps some day, not far away, we also will be able to do what has been done in Cuba.” [206]

On September 21, 1976, while driving to IPS’s office in Washington, D.C., Letelier was assassinated when a bomb that had been planted on his car exploded. [207] The blast also killed his 25-year old IPS colleague Ronni Moffitt and injured her husband Michael Moffitt. [208] Subsequent investigations led to the prosecution of a number of individuals in connection with the murder, including an American expatriate who had been working for the Chilean secret police. [209] A declassified 1987 CIA intelligence assessment concluded that there was “convincing evidence that President Pinochet personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder.” [210]

During the investigation, the contents of Letelier’s briefcase were leaked to the press. They revealed that Salvador Allende’s daughter Beatriz had promised Letelier payments of $1,000 a month to support his work in the United States, which she said had been approved by another exiled Allende government official. Beatriz Allende was living in Cuba at the time and was married to a Cuban intelligence official. [211] She later stated that the payments had been made by exiled Chileans “through our own channels.” Investigations revealed that Letelier had received money via the Cuban diplomatic pouch, and had been in regular contact with high-ranking Cuban intelligence officials. [212] [213] [214] His address book also reportedly contained numerous Cuban, East German, and other Eastern Bloc contacts. [215]

These revelations led to accusations that Letelier was operating as an agent of the Cuban government. This was strongly denied by IPS, which explained that the funds had been raised from supporters in Western Europe and the United States, not from the Cuban government. [216] Beatriz Allende and Orlando Letelier’s widow Isabel both stated the same thing. [217]

Eugene Propper, the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the Letelier murder case, was skeptical that Letelier was operating as a Cuban agent. In his view, Letelier could have accepted assistance via Cuba in order to further what he considered to be Chilean interests, particularly since he had made no attempt to hide his admiration for communist Cuba. [218]

Orlando Letelier’s widow Isabel later became a senior fellow at IPS, and a member of the institute’s board of trustees. [219] IPS created the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award to “recognize individuals and groups in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas most dedicated to the struggle for human rights.” First awarded in 1978 to Samuel Rubin and Benjamin Chavis, notable awardees have included Pete Seeger, Seymour Hersh, Richard Trumka, Samuel Ruiz, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and CASA de Maryland. [220]

Support for the Sandinistas

During the 1980s, IPS was supportive of the far-left Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, who were then being opposed by anti-communist rebels known as Contras. The Contras received controversial support from the United States government. Robert Leiken of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was formerly affiliated with IPS, reportedly described the institute as “absolutely pro-Sandinista. I have not heard a critical word.” [221]

A number of individuals associated with IPS, including Barnet, Landau, Cora Weiss, Peter Kornbluh, and Robert Borosage, traveled to Nicaragua to meet with Sandinista leaders on multiple occasions. [222] In April 1985, IPS arranged for then-Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) to travel to Nicaragua and meet with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. [223] The trip occurred shortly before a scheduled Senate vote on whether to provide additional aid to the Contras, something which Kerry had publicly framed as “funding terrorism to overthrow governments of other countries.” [224]

Networks and Affiliated Groups

Historian Harvey Klehr wrote in 1988 of how Institute for Policy Studies functioned as “an intellectual nerve center for the radical movement,” and of the institute’s role as “a forum and catalyst for the radical left in the United States” during the first two decades of its existence, [225] while Brian S. Mueller wrote in 2021 that “the story of the American Left cannot be told without discussing the contributions of IPS.” [226]

IPS fellows and former fellows were involved in the establishment of various left-of-center publications including Mother Jones, In These Times, Working Papers, and Southern Exposure. [227] According to author S. Steven Powell, the institute itself published In These Times until June 1982. [228] IPS created the Institute for Southern Studies in 1970, and the Government Accountability Project several years later. In 1979, it founded the Washington School to serve as “an adult education center dedicated to progressive politics and ideas.” [229] By 1983 the Washington School was attracting more than 300 students per semester. [230]

In its annual report for 1979-1980, IPS wrote:

In the past year, IPS Fellows have been instrumental in organizing the Committee on National Security and the Progressive Alliance, and have been active organizers in The Peacemakers, the Chile Committee on Human Rights, the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, Americans for Democratic Action, the New Democratic Coalition, Mobilization for Survival, the Riverside Church Disarmament Program, the Urban Bishops of the Episcopal Church, and many more organizations. [231]

Other IPS spin-offs included the Cambridge Institute in Massachusetts and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C. [232] IPS provided funding to help establish the California-based Bay Area Institute in 1970, which housed Pacific News Service. [233]  According to S. Steven Powell, the Center for National Security Studies (CNSS) grew out of an earlier IPS project called the Project on National Security, designed to study American intelligence agencies. [234] It was founded as an independent organization in 1974, with its first director as Robert Borosage. [235]

Transnational Institute

In 1974, IPS established the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam to serve as the institute’s international branch. [236] In its statement of purpose, the Transnational Institute was described as “a community of scholars from different countries who are committed to the search for alternatives to imperialism,” particularly as it concerned relations between developed and undeveloped countries. The “world-wide empire managed and dominated from the United States” was considered by its onetime director Saul Landau to be the Transnational Institute’s principal focus. [237] Several years after its founding, IPS director Robert Borosage said that those affiliated with the Transnational Institute came “almost completely” from “a Marxist or at least a liberation basis,” as opposed to a liberal one. [238]

Eqbal Ahmad, whom the Transnational Institute described as a “Pakistani journalist, professor, and dedicated revolutionary,” was selected as its first director in 1973. [239] Ahmad had been prosecuted in 1972 as one of the “Harrisburg Seven” on charges that he and six others had conspired to, among other things, kidnap then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. The case ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked on the charges. [240] Ahmad was the Transnational Institute’s director until 1975, though he remained a senior fellow at IPS until 1982. [241] He was replaced by Orlando Letelier in 1976, but Letelier was assassinated later that year. [242] Saul Landau became director of the Transnational Institute after Letelier’s death. [243]

Relationships with Politicians

Almost from the beginning, IPS was involved in hosting seminars for members of Congress and their staffers. Forty-six legislative aides participated in foreign policy seminars at IPS in 1964 and 1965, while 18 congressmen did so from 1965 to 1967. [244] Fifty incoming members of Congress attended a 1976 seminar. Senators James Abourzek (D-SD), Paul Tsongas (D-MA), and Mark Hatfield (R-OR), and Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Henry Reuss (D-WI), Ron Dellums (D-CA), and John Conyers (D-MI) all taught courses at IPS. [245] Author S. Steven Powell identified Dellums, Conyers, and Rep. George Crockett (D-MI) as being especially closely-aligned with IPS. [246] Sen. Abourzek served for a time as an IPS trustee, as did former South Dakota senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. [247]

In his 1987 book Covert Cadre, Powell relates the results of an informal poll conducted in early 1984 of the staff of 84 liberal representatives and 31 liberal senators. The results reportedly indicated that more than 70 percent of those interviewed either read material from IPS or considered the institute to be a credible source of information. [248]

IPS personnel were involved with Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. Then-IPS director Robert Borosage resigned in order to work for the campaign, [249] holding the position of issues director. [250]  According to Powell, Borosage (who had also worked on Jackson’s 1984 campaign) previously explained that IPS hoped to “move the Democratic party’s debate internally to the left by creating an invisible presence in the party.” [251] Referring to Jackson’s 1988 campaign, the Washington Post quoted Borosage as explaining that “we’re creating a new Democratic Party as we go.” [252] IPS fellow Roger Wilkins, who had known Jackson for decades, claimed that “the relationship between Jesse and IPS is built on me.” [253]

The Post-Cold War Era

In its 30th Anniversary Report for 1993, IPS forecast that the 1990s promised to be as “turbulent” as the 1960s and suggested that the end of the Cold War and Democratic Party control over both the presidency and Congress presented “unprecedented opportunities to enact progressive ideas into law and policy.” The report quoted Rep. George Miller (D-CA) as saying that “the ‘80s belonged to the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. The ‘90s belong to IPS.” It also explained how the institute had reoriented itself towards younger activists, with most of its personnel at that time being in their 20s or 30s. [254]

During the early 1990s, IPS proposed cutting American defense spending by 50 percent and dismantling the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile “as part of an international disarmament regime.” It also advocated for new and expanded taxes to pay for left-wing social programs such as a national single-payer healthcare system and government employment guarantees for all those “who want to work.” The institute also supported abolishing “most of the CIA and other parts of the now obsolete ‘national security state.’” [255]

In early 1993, IPS fellow (and former director) Robert Borosage wrote that newly-elected president Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan of “Putting People First” should be expanded globally, and that the administration needed to “join [its] commitment to high-wage jobs at home with a policy designed to bolster Third World wages, environmental standards and living conditions.” Borosage argued that significant cutbacks to defense spending could be used to “pay for this global investment.” [256]

IPS opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994. A July 1993 institute report entitled “NAFTA’s Corporate Cadre” suggested that the agreement “would advance certain narrow individual corporate interests, often to the detriment of communities, states and North America as a whole.” It also argued against international economic integration unless it was paired with measures to “address the inequalities between our nations and that uphold worker rights and environmental standards.” [257]

The War on Terror

IPS opposed the American-led military interventions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the institute released a statement entitled “Justice Not Vengeance” on behalf of more than 150 signatories. The statement supported “bringing [the terrorists] to justice under the rule of law—not military action.” IPS later commented that it had stood “virtually alone” among Washington, D.C.-based think tanks in opposing military action in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. [258]

In 2003, IPS played a key role in organizing United for Peace and Justice, which became the largest coalition of organizations opposing the Iraq War. [259] Phyllis Bennis, now director of the institute’s New Internationalism Program, and former IPS director Jon Cavanagh co-authored an article in The Nation in April 2003 in which they argued that the United Nations must become “the legitimate replacement for the United States empire we seek to disempower.” [260] Bennis was instrumental in founding United for Peace and Justice, and historian Brian S. Mueller observed that she and Cavanagh “used arguments nearly identical to those their predecessors [at IPS] espoused” during the Cold War. [261]

John Feffer, associate fellow at IPS and director of its Foreign Policy in Focus project, wrote in 2021 that the presidency of George W. Bush was a “disaster,” characterized by numerous foreign policy failures. Feffer argued that the only reason Bush’s relative position had improved between 2009 and 2021 in a C-SPAN poll of historians that ranked United States presidents was because he was being compared to Donald Trump. In Feffer’s view, “George W. Bush, No. 29 in the historians’ ranking, has no moral standing to lecture people – with one exception. And that’s number 41, Donald Trump.” [262]

After Bush administration Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld passed away in June 2021, Bennis published an article in The Nation entitled “War Criminal Found Dead at 88.” In it, she wrote that “unlike the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and so many others killed in the wars he launched and in the torture cells he oversaw, Donald Rumsfeld died peacefully.” [263]

The Obama Administration: Mandate for Change

In early 2009, after the election of Barack Obama as president, IPS published Mandate for Change: Politics and Leadership for 2009 and Beyond. Edited by IPS associate fellow Chester Hartman, the book contained 47 essays written by 70 different contributors including Marcus Raskin, Robert Borosage, John Cavanagh, Chuck Collins, Saul Landau, Eric Mann, Miles Rapoport, Dorian Warren, Katrina vanden Heuvel, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and former U.S. Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-CT). The essays made numerous left-wing policy recommendations on both domestic and international issues. [264]

Contributors recommended major federal spending in areas such as infrastructure and transportation, education, housing, and the environment, alongside significant reductions in defense spending. New or expanded taxes were proposed on financial transactions, inheritances, capital gains, wealth, and other forms of income. Contributors also advocated for universal healthcare, expanded privileges for organized labor, mandatory paid time off, racial reparations, mandatory federal charters for corporations, and automatic universal voter registration. [265]

On international issues, contributors proposed ending the then-ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, removing sanctions on Iran, eliminating nuclear weapons, halting all military aid to Israel, lifting restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba, and closing the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and other overseas American military installations. [266]

Activities and Positions

Institute for Policy Studies describes itself as “a progressive organization dedicated to building a more equitable, ecologically sustainable, and peaceful society.” Its website identifies five primary issue areas on which it works: economic justice, racial & gender justice, climate justice, peace & foreign policy, and leadership programs. [267] It generally promotes a left-wing policy perspective on these issues.

Economic Issues

IPS believes economic inequality should be addressed by “lifting up and building power at the bottom, and breaking up concentration of wealth and power at the top.” [268] The objective of its Global Economy Program is to “speed the transition to an equitable and sustainable economy while reversing today’s extreme levels of economic and racial inequality and excessive corporate and Wall Street power.” [269]

The institute’s Program on Inequality and the Common Good promotes left-of-center policies that it believes would reduce income inequality and “extreme wealth concentration.” [270] Chuck Collins directs the program, and co-edits the website Inequality.org, which has been a project of IPS since 2011. Inequality.org publishes reports and commentary from a left-of-center perspective in response to the question: “What can we do to narrow the staggering economic inequality that so afflicts us in almost every aspect of our lives?” [271] It supports policies such as estate, gift, and wealth taxes, as well as other “CEO-worker pay ordinances and progressive tax and revenue initiatives.” [272]

Since 1994, IPS has published the “Executive Excess” report, which examines the compensation paid to corporate executives and its impacts. Among the proposals supported in the 2021 report was the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act, which would levy progressively-increasing taxes on corporations based upon the difference between what the company paid to its highest-paid employee and its median employee. Companies at which the ratio was less than 50 to 1 would not be taxed, while those at which the ratio was more than 500 to 1 would be subject to a 5 percent tax. [273]

Senator and former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has utilized IPS’s economic research and reports. A 2019 article in The Nation observed that “Sanders gets some of his sharpest talking points about inequality from the Institute for Policy Studies, a more radical outfit that is usually ignored by the mainstream of the Democratic Party.” [274] During the 2020 election cycle, Sanders based some of his arguments regarding wealth inequality on a 2017 study produced by IPS. [275] At a Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina, Sanders cited an inaccurate figure regarding the wealth of United States billionaires, which IPS had provided him. IPS took responsibility for the error and released an updated number. [276]

IPS also operates the National Priorities Project, which publishes information about the United States federal budget and advocates for spending “that prioritizes peace, economic opportunity, and shared prosperity for all.” The project broadly opposes spending on military and defense, which it argues serves only to enrich “corporate profiteers” without actually preventing armed conflict. [277] It supports redirecting defense spending towards housing, education, healthcare, energy, and other social programs. [278]

In 2020, the National Priorities Project supported a proposal to cut the federal defense budget by ten percent, approximately $74 billion. It claimed that this money could instead be used to accomplish any one of ten other preferable objectives, such as purchasing a year’s supply of N95 face masks for 55 million “essential workers,” conducting two billion additional COVID-19 tests, powering “almost every household” in the United States with “renewable energy,” or hiring 900,0000 new public elementary school teachers. [279]

In July 2022, IPS released the Gilded Giving 2022 report. Among the report’s findings were that the proportion of American households who gave to charity dropped from 66 percent to 50 percent between 2000 and 2018, while “mega-gifts” of $450 million or more combined to total nearly $14.9 billion in 2021. It also found that gifts made to private foundations and donor-advised funds combined to account for 30 percent of all charitable giving. [280]

The Gilded Giving 2022 report recommended a number of changes to “the rules governing philanthropy,” including three-year payout requirements and increased transparency for donor-advised funds, increased payout requirements for private foundations, a lifetime cap of $500 million on charitable tax deductions, and a wealth tax of 2 percent on donor-advised funds and private foundations with assets of over $50 million if those entities “are managed by founders or their family members.” [281]

Racial and Gender Issues

IPS views its work across all issue areas through the context of dismantling “systemic racism and patriarchy.” [282] The institute argues that “the criminalization of poor people happens at the intersectional oppressions of race, class, gender and gender identity.” [283]

The Black Worker Initiative at IPS “operates under the belief that black workers hold a key role in union revitalization.” The initiative’s “flagship report” is And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power and Promise, which seeks to promote labor organizing specifically among Black women, as well as “to advance economic justice within organized labor and the broader progressive movement.” The Black Worker Initiative is directed by IPS associate fellow Marc Bayard. [284]

In May 2022, Bayard co-authored an article with Saqib Bhatti of the Action Center on Race and the Economy, in which they advocated for racial equity audits at prominent American corporations like Starbucks, Facebook, Airbnb, and JPMorgan Chase. The authors wrote that because of “the immense harm these corporations continue to cause to communities of color,” such an audit was a necessary “first step of many to hold these companies accountable.” [285]

In 2020, IPS associate fellow Dedrick Asante-Muhammad wrote that “the hard truth is that the United States—and its economy—is based on a white supremacist concentration of wealth and resources,” and that “a massive redistribution” of both was necessary. He argued that the United States government should pay reparations of $20,000 per year for 20 years to every African American who is descended from an enslaved person and calculated that this would cost approximately $16.5 trillion. He characterized that amount as “not a serious obstacle.” [286]

Environmental Issues

IPS has expressed the view that the use of coal, petroleum, and natural gas will cause “a climate catastrophe.” [287] It also opposes nuclear energy, waste incineration, biofuels, and large-scale hydroelectricity, calling these sources of energy “false solutions.” [288]

The institute views climate change as being linked to various economic and social issues, and argues that it “is caused by an economic model that values the short-term financial gain of a few over the rights of most of humanity, and especially indigenous peoples, people of color, and poor people.” Though the institute’s work in this area has both domestic and international components, its Climate Policy Program is primarily focused on the United States. [289]

In January 2019, IPS signed an open letter entitled “Legislation to Address the Urgent Threat of Climate Change.” The letter asked Congress to adopt Green New Deal legislation that met certain “minimum” requirements, including transitioning to “100 percent renewable power generation by 2035 or earlier,” halting all oil and gas exports, and holding energy companies liable for “damages caused by climate change.” [290] The letter specifically excluded nuclear energy from its definition of “renewable.” [291]

In November 2020, IPS Climate Policy Director Basav Sen signed an open letter in opposition to S. 4897, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020. The letter stated that nuclear power “amplifies and expands the dangers of climate change” and denounced it as an example of “false solutions to the climate crisis that perpetuate our reliance on dirty energy industries.” [292]

In April 2022, Lorah Steichen, outreach coordinator for IPS’s National Priorities Project, wrote an article for The Progressive in which she argued for cutting $350 billion from the United States’ defense budget, suggesting that “putting even a portion of that toward protecting our planet would make us far safer than buying more missiles, jets and bombs.” [293]

Foreign Policy Issues

IPS’s foreign policy work is based on a fundamental opposition to the use of military force and support for international law and diplomacy. The institute believes that “to build peace, we must dislodge the economic and political foundations of war.” [294]

The institute’s New Internationalism Project focuses on shifting “U.S. policies away from militarism and towards the goals of human rights, equality for all, and peace with justice—a policy that chooses diplomacy over war.” It also works to challenge the influence that the United States exerts within the United Nations. The project is directed by Phyllis Bennis. [295]

IPS personnel have spoken strongly in favor of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Bennis has argued that the deal “was the Obama administration’s top foreign policy achievement,” and that the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it represented a “reckless abandonment of diplomacy.” She also called the Trump administration’s decision to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization a “blatantly political move” designed to “make it politically much harder for the U.S. to rejoin the deal,” which “unfortunately…seems to have worked.” [296]

Individuals affiliated with IPS have been highly critical of Israel. Bennis has written that Palestinians in locations such as the West Bank and Gaza live under a system of “oppression, dispossession and apartheid,” [297] and argued that the significant amount of military aid that the United States provides to Israel annually “makes the U.S. complicit in Israel’s criminal wrongdoing.” [298] She has advocated that the Biden administration relocate the United States embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and “acknowledge the clear reality that [Israeli] settlements [in the West Bank] are illegal.” [299]

Established in 1996, Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) is a project of IPS that seeks “to make the United States a more responsible global partner.” It advocates for “peace, justice, and environmental protection, as well as economic, political, and social rights,” which it believes are the most effective methods of advancing stability and security in the world. FPIF is edited by IPS senior editorial manager Peter Certo and directed by IPS associate fellow John Feffer. [300]

Congressional Progressive Caucus People’s Agenda

In collaboration with the Kairos Center, Repairers of the Breach, and the Poor People’s Campaign, IPS published a fact sheet to support the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s 2021 People’s Agenda. The agenda contained left-wing legislative priorities to be pursued in the aftermath of the 2020 United States elections, and the fact sheet explained the purported benefits of such legislation. Nearly every proposal was justified at least in part on the basis of racial or ethnic considerations. [301]

Specific proposals included providing $2,000 monthly stimulus checks to everyone (including illegal immigrants), raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and canceling medical debt and up to $50,000 of student loan debt. The fact sheet also argued that minority-owned businesses should be prioritized for direct assistance, partly because COVID-19 pandemic-related closures at Asian-owned businesses had been exacerbated by “xenophobia stoked by President Trump.” [302]

The fact sheet blamed “corporate concentration” for being “a significant factor behind many pressing problems,” and supported higher taxes on both corporations and higher-income individuals. It also advocated for conditioning all government funding to large corporations on the recipient adopting policies to “reduce economic, gender, and racial inequality.” [303]

The IPS fact sheet also supported proposals designed to benefit organized labor, promote public investment in weather dependent wind and solar energy, loosen election laws, implement a public campaign finance system, ban all semi-automatic firearms, and establish commissions on reparations and on “truth, racial healing, and transformation.” It also argued that “immeasurable benefits” would result from reducing defense spending and foreign military aid, and opposed utilizing economic sanctions as an alternative to military action—describing them as “largely ineffective.” [304]

Commentary on the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

While IPS personnel universally condemned Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, some of those affiliated with the institute argued that the United States and NATO were the ultimate cause of Russia’s aggression and opposed both economic sanctions on Russia and military aid to Ukraine.

John Feffer, director of the Foreign Policy in Focus project at IPS, called Russia’s invasion an example of “an imperialist aggressor…destroying another country in order to ‘save’ it,” and commented further that “peace and diplomacy and negotiations all sound like fine things right now. But there’s a big difference between just a ceasefire and a just ceasefire. Peace at any cost is not true peace.” In Feffer’s view, “Ukrainian resistance must stop Putinism” before such a “just ceasefire” could be concluded. [305] He also argued that if Russia succeeded in its war against Ukraine, it might embolden a hypothetical future “Trumpist president” of the United States to attack Iran, Venezuela, or Cuba. [306]

In February 2022, IPS project director Phyllis Bennis wrote that while she agreed that the invasion was “unjustified,” she disagreed that it was “unprovoked.” Pointing to the enlargement of NATO to include former Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe during the 1990s and 2000s, she argued that Russia was “certainly” provoked into launching its invasion “not so much by Ukraine, but by the United States.” [307]

Bennis later expressed opposition to “broad-based sanctions” targeting Russia, [308] and argued that Western military aid to Ukraine could threaten peace talks. [309] While she acknowledged that it made “perfect sense” for Ukraine to request weaponry to combat Russian forces, Bennis argued it also made “perfect sense” for Western countries to deny those requests. [310] She has advocated for humanitarian and refugee assistance to Ukraine, rather than military aid. [311]

Khury Petersen-Smith, a fellow at IPS, wrote that while there must be “a clear condemnation of Putin’s Russia,” the United States and NATO were themselves “guilty of militarizing the region,” and that “the story of how Russia came to invade Ukraine requires looking at what the U.S. and NATO have been doing in Europe over decades, and especially in recent years.” Petersen-Smith criticized both military aid to Ukraine and economic sanctions on Russia, describing the latter as essentially “an act of war.” [312]

Leadership

Tope Folarin became executive director of IPS in May 2021. He joined the institute as a fellow in 2010, became a board member in 2014, and board chair in 2017. Folarin formerly worked as vice president for storytelling at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and also worked at the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. He is an author, and his novel A Particular Kind of Black Man won a Whiting Award for fiction. [313]

John Cavanagh is a senior advisor at IPS. He worked as the group’s director from 1999 to 2021 and was the director of its global economy program from 1983 to 1997. He was an economist at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development from 1978 to 1981, and at the World Health Organization from 1981 to 1982. He has been a senior advisor to the Poor People’s Campaign, and has been a member of the boards of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, the International Forum on Globalization, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, the National Guestworker Alliance, and the Fund for Constitutional Government. [314]

Chuck Collins is the director of IPS’s program on inequality and the common good, and co-edits the website Inequality.org. He is a founding member of the Patriotic Millionaires and a co-founder of United for a Fair Economy, where he also worked as executive director from 1995 to 2001 and as a program director until 2005. [315]

John Feffer is an associate fellow at IPS and director of its Foreign Policy in Focus project. He was a former fellow at the Open Society Foundations and at Stanford University, a writer in residence at the Blue Mountain Center and the Wurlitzer Foundation, an associate editor of the World Policy Journal, and also worked as an international representative for the American Friends Service Committee. [316] In 2019, he was listed as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. [317]

Phyllis Bennis is the director of IPS’s New Internationalism project, and is also a fellow at the Transnational Institute. [318] She helped found the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and United for Peace and Justice, and is a member of the board of directors of Jewish Voice for Peace. [319]

As of June 2022, IPS listed 16 trustees on its website. Some notable board members include former IPS director Robert Borosage, singer Harry Belafonte, actor Danny Glover, Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans, Ford Foundation vice president of US Programs Sarita Gupta, editorial director and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel, and activist Barbara Ehrenreich. [320]

Financials

In 2020, IPS reported $6,892,959 in total revenue and $5,134,805 in total expenses. [321] In 2019, it reported $5,518,401 in total revenue and $4,926,725 in total expenses. [322] In 2018, 36 percent of revenue came from contributions by individuals, while 59 percent came from foundations. [323]

Major foundation funders of IPS include the Ford Foundation, which provided $1,950,000 from 2017-2021; the JPB Foundation, which provided $850,000 from 2017-2019; the NoVo Foundation, which provided $775,000 from 2017-2019; the Foundation to Promote Open Society, which provided $675,000 from 2018-2020; the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, which provided $549,781 from 2017-2019; and the Wallace Global Fund, which provided $445,000 from 2017-2019. The Samuel Rubin Foundation also continues to provide modest support to IPS, granting $35,000 from 2017-2020. [324]

IPS makes a comparatively small number of grants each year. In 2020 it paid out $210,362 worth of grants, including $56,302 to the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership and $39,750 to the Center for Civic Policy. In 2019 it paid out $288,626 worth of grants, including $84,000 to Repairers of the Breach and $24,225 to the Sierra Club Foundation. It paid out $58,000 worth of grants in 2018 and $109,382 in 2017. [325]

References

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  2. “Our History.” Institute for Policy Studies.” Accessed July 25, 2022. Available at: https://ips-dc.org/about/history/ ^
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  322. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990). Institute for Policy Studies. 2019. ^
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  324. Author’s calculations based on respective IRS Form 990 filings. ^
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Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Ajamu Baraka
    Associate Fellow
  2. Harry Belafonte
    Board Member
  3. Sarita Gupta
    Board Member
  4. Frank Smith
    Former Trustee
  5. Chuck Collins
    Program Director

Supported Movements

  1. Green New Deal (GND)
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  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 1965

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $6,892,959 $5,134,805 $11,094,382 $1,343,507 N $6,498,704 $46,833 $30,703 $115,707
    2019 Dec Form 990 $5,518,401 $4,926,725 $8,435,382 $863,778 N $5,214,475 $41,210 $45,548 $124,331
    2018 Dec Form 990 $4,682,455 $4,417,403 $7,643,880 $1,116,057 Y $4,371,379 $19,544 $68,320 $110,833 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $4,953,902 $4,269,603 $7,448,188 $1,001,530 N $4,430,459 $5,346 $68,987 $208,534 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $5,273,565 $3,889,771 $6,190,373 $536,070 N $5,024,377 $59,489 $47,197 $208,534 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $3,963,688 $4,184,183 $4,568,522 $273,079 N $3,799,890 $102,770 $31,844 $224,902 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $6,239,864 $3,487,435 $4,862,162 $350,949 N $6,016,024 $88,041 $24,483 $213,128 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $2,914,157 $3,119,731 $2,159,389 $411,875 N $2,759,958 $70,586 $21,473 $240,936 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $3,749,583 $3,558,488 $2,263,349 $396,469 N $3,606,547 $29,994 $21,695 $240,032 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $4,188,445 $3,512,598 $1,947,676 $295,618 N $4,067,043 $28,389 $22,005 $488,905 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $2,943,472 $4,080,221 $1,266,735 $279,015 N $2,806,072 $28,392 $28,892 $486,480 PDF

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