Pro-Business Institutions, Their Strategies, And How To Fight Them

Martin Luther King Jr. at the March On Washington, 1963. He would be assassinated 5 years later.

Movements on the Left shook the US in the 1960’s. The Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, MLK Jr. and millions of people across the country took to the streets to address racial inequality, oppose wars, and advocate for their rights. Two documents prove the efficacy of the nonviolent student and labor movements of the 60’s, The Powell Memorandum (1971) and The Crisis of Democracy (1975).

Lewis F. Powell considering using a dollar as toilet paper and giving it to a homeless person.

The documents were written, respectively, by a corporate lawyer and eventual Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and members of the neoliberal think tank The Trilateral Commission. These documents reflected the operations of a covert FBI program, established in 1956 to disrupt the Communist Party U.S.A., entitled COINTELPRO, or Counter Intelligence Program.

Powell drafted the memorandum confidentially for the US Chamber of Commerce and titled it, “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System.” It recognized that the Left had begun to affect corporate interests, citing Ralph Nader’s war with the Ford Pinto. To respond to this he prescribed surveillance of textbooks and TV content, and a media campaign to push pro-business ideologies. The media campaign would seek to influence public opinion by funding business friendly scholars, and publishing propagandistic books and papers.  

The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies was written to highlight the effects that the movements of the 60s had on the political process. The paper claimed that, by demanding Democratic representations, activists wanted “to make government less powerful and more active, to increase its functions, and to decrease its authority.” They referred to the problem as an excess of democracy, and claimed it would undermine international trade, balanced budgets, and American hegemony. These documents represented the interests of the conservative and liberal Capitalist classes, and they led directly to State action to undermine democracy.


The main targets of COINTELPRO were liberation organizations for black, indigenous, and Puerto Rican communities, and general leftists. COINTELPRO operatives infiltrated, surveilled and wiretapped their targets. They would write misattributed or anonymous letters to their targets, or their peers and enemies. The letters would try to blackmail, incite suicide/murder, or cause internal strife in their activist communities. In a 1964 memo FBI agents celebrated the heart attack of a leader in the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, they believed his death was caused by one of their letters. A strategy they used on The Black Panthers was to harass and arrest their leadership. This forced the party to spend more than $1 million, in today’s dollars, in bail between 1967 and 1969. Their most disruptive strategy was assassination, of course. They, at least, held a part in the high profile assassinations of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton with the Chicago PD, and Malcolm X by creating a split in the Nation of Islam. A 1999 court case also found a jury deciding that the US Government was complicit in, and possibly perpetrated, MLK, Jr.’s assassination. These are some of the tools of FBI repression from the 60’s. Surveillance, blackmail, and assassination crippled a budding movement for Democracy.

Fred Hampton being prescient.

They destroyed American Democracy, but they also need to enfranchise a new political and economic ideology for Corporate supremacy. This is where media contacts, and Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics took up their roles. They trained economists from around the world to believe that deregulation and open markets were the future. These economists went on to be the economic advisers behind policies that broke labor power, opened markets and resources to Capitalist exploitation, spread their recipe for global subjugation and Capitalist superiority in the media, and committed straight up genocide in Indonesia. This neoliberal school of thought is the predominate school of thought behind both American political parties’ foreign policies. Powell called for a pro-business media campaign and the intelligence community gave him one. The FBI’s counterintelligence strategies also continue, with agent provocateurs at protests to incite violence, surveillance and infiltration of left-wing groups, and through informants who subvert vulnerable Muslims and empower them to commit terrorist attacks for which they will be entrapped. These strategies help the FBI marginalize left-wing, anti-war voices.

In 2012 Obama signed a National Defense Authorization Act, a defense budget. It included a clause which allows the government to legally undertake propaganda campaigns against Americans. Psychological operations are a favorite tool of the intelligence community and this law creates uncertainty over the veracity of any information being fed to Americans through the media or the White House. One example of this corruption is the $600 million contract between the owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, and the CIA.

To counteract these programs, which would be directed at any movement showing promise of producing social change beneficial to the masses, the activists involved will need to focus on security culture, especially through message encryption. The FBI once failed to assassinate Fred Hampton by sending a letter to a gang leader allied with the Panthers, they hoped he would kill Hampton for them. This failed, we need to work out how to make their machinations fail over and over. These FBI tactics may seem overwhelming for an organizer, with all of the resources of an Oligarchic State militantly against Progressive change, but an inclusive, justice-based society cannot be won without trying. 

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