CIA feminist backs Gore

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Thu Jan 27 13:10:34 PST 2000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lbo-talk at
> [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at]On Behalf Of Doug Henwood
> I don't think it's irrelevant to wonder about the ideological and
> employment history of someone who's had a divisive and conservatizing
> influence on American feminism. Did Steinem know who was behind the
> CCF and the NSA?

And did she care? If it allowed her to do what she wanted to do politically (whether you agree with her or not), does it matter that much where the money came from? My problem with the AFL-CIO actions funded by the CIA is not that they were funded by that agency, but that what they did was so abominable. On the other hand, some of what the NSA (National Student Association) did with CIA money and folks like Allard Lowenstein at the helm was quite admirable.

Of course, the CIA was trying to create a credible left-liberal alternative to far left student organizations, and that is worth analyzing in understanding what was going on. But the fact that some folks like Lowenstein or maybe Steinem saw such groups as a way to pursue their politics hardly seems like the worse thing in the world- even if the ultimate source of funds was embarassing. It's worth remembering that a lot of conservatives were pretty outraged as well at the fact that moderately left groups were receiving government money.

> No doubt. Outwitting the intelligence service of the world's leading
> imperialist power is a pretty risky game.

Possibly, but there are also cases of threat that go with cooptation-- cough up the money for moderately left politics or else everything will go even farther left. We can bemoan the fact that the CIA was smart enough to block an even more leftward tilt, but that doesn't mean that anti-communist liberals condemning Apartheid or taking other moderately left positions have that much to apologize for. Folks who fronted for Stalinism made their own compromises as well.

I may personally prefer the handful of folks who did neither, but retroactive second-guessing other people's strategic and political choices is not a big thing for me. Show me a horrible political act the person did in their own name and I will evaluate and condemn that, but playing a long string of guilt-by-association just indicates very little to me about the person.

> >Given the fact that so many lefties are so nasty and so unrelentingly
> >libelous in their attacks on people they don't like, I am not
> surprised that
> >Steinem refuses to say anything about the matter.
> This is curious reasoning. Say nothing, which only encourages the
> worst suspicions of the tongue-waggers.

But as you noted, even most conservatives have never heard of these charges. So keeping silent seems to have kept the whole discussion in a tiny cubbyhole of the left.

> >As noted, there are plenty of things Steinem can be criticized on
> >substantively for her political work, but I again wonder at the
> joy of some leftists in slagging one of the handful of top feminists
> to publicly identify herself as a socialist.
> When did she do that? She always seemed bourgeois to me, even when
> she wasn't dancing with Mort Zuckerman.

Her picture and endorsing quotation is on the main Democratic Socialists of America literature. I think their present big name line-up is John Sweeney, Delorese Heurta, Cornell West, Eric Dyson, Ed Asner, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Gloria Steinem.

-- Nathan Newman

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