Back to Main Page | Notes | Table 1
Gary T. Marx
In spite of the impression left by much of the literature through the 1960s, social movements are not autonomous forces hurling toward their destiny only in response to the oppression, intensity of commitment, and skill of activists. Nor are they epiphenomena at the mercy of groups in their external environment that seek to block or facilitate them. Instead movements represent a complex interplay of external and internal factors. Until recently researchers have tended to focus much more on the latter than the former, but both must be considered.
McCarthy and Zald (1973b), in focusing on external factors, have helped to redress the balance. They note how broad social trends in the United States are conducive to the emergence and growth of social movements, regardless of the nature and type of deprivation felt by the beneficiaries of the movement. However, we can also note that many of the same factors are equally conducive to the emergence of counter-movements and to efforts on the part of the government or private groups to block, damage, inhibit, or destroy social movements. The resources are clearly there in greater abundance than ever before; how they will be used is another question. Our perspective on the external environment must be broad enough to include repressive as well as facilitative actions.
I will consider how selected elements of the external environment may seek to affect social movements by examining some strategies and tactics intended to facilitate or damage social movements, looking at some questions raised by these activities and some efforts at explanation, and showing some of their intended and unintended outcomes. My attention will focus on the actions of government because more is known about this area and a consideration of it can suggest concepts more generally applicable to the actions taken by nongovernmental groups. Beyond this, one of the insights to emerge from recent hearings and court cases is that some elements of the media, some interest groups, and some social movements can be extensions of government.
My concern is primarily with social control or facilitation efforts that have appeared with respect to specific movements in the United States. Of less concern are aspects of culture and social structure or general actions taken prior to the appearance of a movement that affects grievances and possibilities for collective action.1 For example, our legal system, with the protected freedoms of the Bill of Rights and local ordinances regarding parade permits, is a more distant form of facilitation and control. It is part of the societal framework within which a movement operates. In principle such forms of control and facilitation apply universally. They can be separated from the specific actions at the micro-level taken by government in response to a given movement.
Strategies And Tactics Intended To Facilitate Or Damage Social Movements
To highlight the issues involved, let us take the least ambiguous, extreme case where an outside group such as the government either wants to damage or facilitate a movement. A review of the last two decades suggests a number of broad strategies and specific tactics that have been undertaken to achieve the desired goal. Many of the actions taken with the aim of damaging a movement are the reverse of those taken to enhance a movement. These can be characterized in terms of opposing organizational, tactical, and resource mobilization tasks. The actions of those seeking to further the cause of the social movement lie on the left side of Table 1, and those seeking to damage the movement lie on the right side.
Although analytically distinct,
these factors are obviously related. Some-such as inhibiting the capacity
for corporate action, directing energies to maintenance needs, and damaging
morale-are general and include most of the others. Obtaining one end, such
as the application of legal sanctions, can be a means to other ends, such
as creating an unfavorable public image or destroying leadership. One end
can be pursued by multiple means, and the same means, such as the use of
agents provocateurs, can serve a number of ends. These represent the point
of view of the outside analyst, although they are likely to overlap considerably
with the point of view of the actor.2 Let us first
consider the far more prevalent efforts to damage movements.
1. Some General Strategies for Facilitating or Inhibiting a Social
|To Facilitate The Movement||To Inhibit The Movement|
|Facilitate capacity for corporate action||Inhibit capacity for corporate action|
|Make it possible for energies of movement to go toward pursuit of broader social change goals, as well as maintenance needs||Direct energies of movement of defensive maintenance needs and away from pursuit of broader social goals|
|Create favorable public image; develop and support ideology||Create unfavorable public image and counter-ideology|
|Give information to movement||Gather information on movement|
|Facilitate supply of money and facilities||Inhibit supply of money and facilities|
|Facilitate freedom of movement, expression, and action; offer legal immunity||Inhibit freedom of movement, expression, and action; create myth and fact of surveillance and repression; apply legal sanctions|
|Build and sustain morale||Damage morale|
|Build leaders||Destroy or displace leaders|
|Encourage internal solidarity||Encourage internal conflict|
|Encourage external coalitions with potential allies and neutral relations (or conflict only insofar as it is functional) with potential opponents||Encourage external conflict with potential allies and opponents|
|Facilicate particular actions||Inhibit or sabotage particular actions|
Creation of an Unfavorable Public Image
Public labeling of a social movement, its leaders, and its activities is affected by what leaders say about it (Nixon's references to antiwar protesters as bums and Johnson's "we shall overcome" speech are examples), as well as by more covert actions designed to affect how its image is projected by the media. What and how the media report are crucial topics for understanding social movements, independent of government pressures. For example, advertisers and the beliefs of those working in the media can be crucial to what is said-and not said-about a social movement.3 Our concern here, however, is government actions.
We do not know with certainty what effect recent Federal Communication Commission pressure or Vice President Agnew's attack on the "liberal media" had. Yet real or anticipated pressures from government on the media may make it more difficult for a movement to communicate accurately with the public. Easier to identify than self-censorship in the presentation of news are more direct tactics that may be undertaken by social control agents in efforts to affect actual media content.
Image-damaging information may be given to friendly journalists or supplied anonymously. This may involve passing on information about arrest records, associations, life-styles, and statements of the targeted person or group that are thought likely to hurt the movement. For example, information obtained from electronic surveillance supposedly dealing with Martin Luther King's sexual behavior was offered by the FBI to various journalists. Or control agents may write their own stories and editorials, which they pass on to the media. For example, the FBI planted a series of derogatory articles about the Poor People's Campaign (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 16). The media are not necessarily aware of the source of such material.
The information given to the media may be fabricated, it may be accurate yet privileged information known to authorities only as a result of wiretaps, informers, and other forms of surveillance) or it may be accurate but only in a contrived sense (as when authorities have taken covert action to create events whose reporting will reflect negatively upon the movement). Examples of this would be provoking the movement to illegal actions, carrying out illegal actions themselves that will then be attributed to the movement, or tempting leaders with vice opportunities.
Efforts may be undertaken to block or counter the publication of materials favorable to the movement. "Disinformation" and "counterpropaganda" arguing that the movement's ideology and claims are empirically wrong, illogical, in conflict with basic American values, or linked to foreign or disreputable sources may be published.
For the FBI, such activities go back at least thirty years. In 1946 the head of the FBI Intelligence Division suggested that "educational material" be released through "available channels [to] influence public opinion" about American communists. Propaganda efforts were carried out that aimed to bring the U.S. Communist party and its leaders "into disrepute before the American public" (ibid., p. 66).4 In the case of the New Left, FBI agents were told that "every avenue of possible embarrassment must be vigorously and enthusiastically explored." In efforts "to discredit the New Left and its adherents," agents were requested to send information for "prompt dissemination to the news media" (ibid., p.. 16). Among specific instructions given agents were:
The CIA in its foreign activities appears to have gone even farther in media manipulation by becoming, rather than merely trying to influence, the media. The CIA supported two European news services used by U.S. newspapers, and as of February 1976, about fifty U.S. journalists and other news organization workers were employed by or had a covert relationship with the CIA. In a few cases regular CIA agents also posed as journalists (Select Committee, book I, 1976). When asked whether the CIA ever planted stories with foreign news organizations, former director William Colby replied, "Oh, sure all the time" (New York Times, February 4, 1976). When foreign sources such as Reuters are used, this material can help shape American public opinion, as can books paid for or affected by the ClA.5
The largest single activity of control agents with respect to social movements has probably been in information gathering. Indeed it is a prerequisite for most other activities. Information-gathering techniques developed for criminal investigations have been applied to social movements. In roughly decreasing frequency, they include:
Inhibiting the Supply of Resources and Facilities
Social movement organizations need money, means of communication services and supplies, and physical space. Government actions may be taken to deny or restrict a movement's access to these, particularly insofar as they come from sources external to the movement. Where the government was the sponsor and an organization comes to be seen as too threatening, funds may simply be withdrawn, as was the case with Office of Economic Opportunity programs (Donovan, 1970). The social movement organization may experience direct pressure and threats from private funding agencies, which themselves may anticipate government sanctioning. As Goulden (1971) has noted for the Ford Foundation, even the accusation that a foundation is funding a radical group can lead to pressure on the group to become more moderate.
The government may seek to discover the source of an organization's funding. Efforts of varying degrees of legality may then be carried out to dry up larger sources of contribution. For example, the FBI considered its attempts to put a stop to a Southern Christian Leadership Conference funding source as "quite successful" (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 15).
The tax-exempt status of social movement organizations or those contributing to them may be chosen for auditing on strictly political grounds and then revoked. Contributors and activists may be subjected to special audits (ibid.). Recent general congressional inquiries into laws regarding the tax-exempt status of foundations appear to have resulted in greater caution in their funding activities.
Those renting offices or providing office or meeting space to a movement may be encouraged by the government not to do so. For example, the FBI tried to prevent the holding of a forum by an alleged Communist front on a Midwest campus. It then investigated the judge who ordered that the meeting be permitted (ibid., p. 17). The FBI claimed in a 1965 report that "as a result of counterintelligence action, many meeting places formerly used on a regular basis by the communists have been barred from their use" (Berman and Halperin, 1975, p. 28).
As McCarthy and Zald (1973b) note, the more than subsistence income, fringe resources, leisure, and flexibility offered by many jobs can indirectly be important in facilitating social movement participation. Conversely the denial of such employment to activists can be a means of indirectly damaging a movement. Authorities have attempted to get activists fired from their jobs and to affect their credit standing negatively. Those whose names are in security files may have difficulty finding new employment.
During the McCarthy era, more than 490 persons lost government jobs on loyalty grounds though no cases of espionage were found. More recently, the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence report cites examples such as FBI records being given to employers and their receiving anonymous letters about activist employees.
Such activities can damage morale, shrink resources, and make sustained actions difficult or impossible. For some activists, the cost of continued participation may become too great, and they may quit. But more direct efforts toward this end may also be undertaken in the form of explicit derecruitment activities.
One way to create an unfavorable public image is to keep potential recruits away. The public sanctioning of activists may also be a means of deterring new recruits. But beyond trying to stop a movement from expanding, the government may try to reduce the movement's size and weaken the morale and degree of commitment among those currently active. Obtaining membership and mailing lists have been given high priority by authorities, even where this practice necessitated breaking and entering.
Once the identity of activists is known, employers, parents, neighbors, friends, or spouses may be contacted, sometimes anonymously, in hopes of encouraging them to dissuade or threaten activists. A policy directive advising FBI agents to make such contacts expressed the hope that "this could have the effect of forcing the parents to take action" (Select Committee, book III, 1976, p. 26). For example, in 1968, the FBI sent anonymous letters to the parents of two Oberlin College students involved in a campus hunger strike against the Vietnam war urging them to intervene to prevent their children from becoming dupes of the Young Socialist Alliance (Berman and Halperin, 1975, p. 30). It has also sent anonymous letters to the spouses of activists in the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers and other groups accusing their marital partners of infidelity (ibid., p. 51). A Klan informant testified that he was instructed "to sleep with as many wives as I could" in attempts to break up marriages and gain information (Select Committee, Hearings, 1976, 6 :118).
Activists may encounter direct appeals from government agents who point out the risks they face, argue matters of ideology, give them damaging information about others in the movement, and threaten them. There may be efforts to maneuver activists into situations (such as of a sexual nature) from which they can then be controlled under threat of exposure or arrest. They may seek to persuade them to become informants. An FBI directive tells agents, "There is a pretty general consensus that more interviews with these [New Left] subjects and hangers-on are in order for plenty of reasons, chief of which are it will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across that there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox" (Wise, 1972).
In at least one case, FBI agents appear to have kidnapped an antiwar activist in hopes of scaring him into ceasing his protest actions (New York Times, July 11, 1976). During preparation for a large Washington, D.C, antiwar demonstration, another activist recalls: "We were followed more and more. The Feds came to a lot of different people's apartments in the middle of the night with keys. They grabbed people as they were getting into their cars in parking lots and threw them into the car and drove around for a few hours, bribing them, telling them they'd give them thousands of dollars and a new passport if they'd only sing a song. And it didn't make any difference whether they did or not, cause their goose was cooked, they had information on us- it just went on and on" (Wise, 1976, p. 377).
An example of derecruitment efforts in a private context is provided by attempts to deprogram youthful converts to religious movements, such as Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification church. A new class of countersocial movement specialist has emerged here, the functional equivalent of those playing recruitment roles from within the movement. In the rural South there were many privately initiated efforts to apply, and threats of applying, economic sanctions against civil rights activists. Private police in their campaign against labor radicals and union organizing had a marked degree of success here, at least until the reforms of the New Deal. For example, according to one estimate, labor spying was a major factor in a one-third decline in labor union membership between 1920 and 1929 (Bernstein, 1960).
Because social movement leaders are symbolically and instrumentally important, movement-damaging activities often focus on weakening them as the most visible and presumed central part of a movement.6 Visibility as a social movement leader may offer the person some protection from some of the more nefarious and illegal tactics, yet leaders have been targets for most of the movement-damaging strategies we are considering. They may be subject to image-damaging efforts, surveillance, harassment, assaults, and threats. They may face a variety of legal sanctions, such as injunctions against demonstrating, grand jury inquiries of a fishing expedition nature, arrest on false or vague conspiracy charges, and excessive bail and sentences. Tax difficulties may be created for them. They may be the principal figures in efforts to create internal and external conflict. There may be efforts to maneuver them into compromising positions where they can be made informers or at least be forced into cooperation with the government. Co-optive efforts may be undertaken. There may be efforts to displace them, as the government infiltrates its own people into the movement who become leaders or builds up a rival group. The campaign against Martin Luther King included most of these tactics-plus some others-and Communist, Klan, black militant, and New Left leaders have faced similar efforts.
A major aim of domestic counterintelligence activities has been to create internal conflict by encouraging factionalism, jealousy, and suspicion among activists. Schisms based on disagreements over tactics, goals, or personalities may be created and encouraged. Agents were encouraged to create "personal conflicts or animosities" between leaders (Select Committee, book III, 1976, p. 26). In some cases government agents within opposing factions exacerbated tensions between them. This was apparently the case with the major split in the Black Panthers between the Newton and Cleaver factions and splits within the New Left between Students for a Democratic Society and groups such as the Progressive Labor party.
Key activists or those known to be violent may be anonymously and falsely accused of being informants or set up to make it appear that they are, in the hope that they will be attacked, isolated, or expelled. Beyond generating internal conflict, this tactic can be a means of derecruitment and efforts to destroy leadership.
William Albertson, a Communist party leader and member for almost thirty years, was drummed out of the party as a "stool pigeon" and one who had led a life of "duplicity and treachery." The FBI had planted "snitch jackets" (forged documents) on him to make it appear that he was an informer. One letter offered an FBI agent information in exchange for a "raise in expenses." After this episode, Albertson was unable to find work or to remain active in the movement he had given his life to, he was ostracized by his friends, and his home was burned after arson threats. He was ironically later approached by the FBI about becoming an informer and refused. Its assumption perhaps was that he would cooperate out of anger in response to the group's falsely accusing him (Donner, 1976). In describing this action and assessing its consequences, an FBI memo noted:
Conflict between the movement and groups in its environment may be encouraged in the hope of damaging it and diverting it from the direct pursuit of broader social change goals. In extreme cases, this strategy involved the encouragement of armed conflict. In San Diego, four people were wounded and two killed during a summer of clandestinely encouraged FBI fighting between rival black groups (U.S. and the Black Panthers). A 1969 memo to J. Edgar Hoover on this episode stated, "Shootings, beatings, and a high degree of unrest continues to prevail in the ghetto area of southeast San Diego. Although no specific counterintelligence action can be credited with contributing to this overall situation, it is felt that a substantial amount of unrest is directly attributable to this program" (Wise, 1976, p. 319).
Actions aimed at preventing coalitions and cooperative actions may be undertaken. For example, after Malcolm X's assassination, the Socialist Workers' Party attempted to gain new recruits from the Black Muslims. FBI informers within the New York Black Muslims were encouraged to speak out against the "anti-religious" Socialist Workers party and to thwart their recruitment efforts (Berman and Halperin, 1975, p. 26).
Rather than encouraging conflict between organizations under the umbrella of the same social movement, conflict may also be encouraged among social movements with very different ideologies. Thus an FBI informant organized the right-wing Secret Army Organization in San Diego, a group that attacked leftists (Viorst, 1976). In Operation Hoodwink, the FBI sought to encourage conflict between the Communist party and elements of organized crime. According to an FBI memo, it was hoped that this action "would cause disruption of both groups by having each expend their energies, time, and money attacking each other" (Donner, 1976, p. 19).
A related tactic involves creating alternative social movement organizations. For example, during the 1960s and early 1970s, U.S. authorities created Communist, student, Klan, and anti-Communist type groups. These may compete with the target group for a limited resource base, fight with it over matters of doctrine and policy, and offer authorities unprecedented control over the movement since it is a government front. There are some parallels to the trade unions sponsored by the Russian police.
Sabotaging Particular Actions
When social movements take public action, they often seek to expand their base to include sympathetic but nonactivist members of their presumed mass constituency, as well as enter into coalitions with other social movement organizations whose members are not well known to them. Movements often have a loose and shifting nature, are geographically dispersed, and frequently lack specialized internal resources.
When national or regional meetings or demonstrations are held, out-of-town members must be housed and fed. Goods and services must be obtained from secondary sources. Strangers are brought together ostensibly in cooperative action but without the usual means of verifying identity. These factors make public social movement events vulnerable to disruption. Those seeking to disrupt a movement are offered a rich field for intervention.
Tactics of misinformation have been used to notify members falsely that events were canceled, that they were being held elsewhere, or that times had been changed (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 10). Fake orders have been broadcast over the same citizen's band frequency used by marshals trying to control demonstrations, and CB communications have been jammed.
For large demonstrations planned in Chicago and Washington, FBI agents obtained and duplicated housing supply forms, which they filled in with fictitious names and addresses of people supposedly willing to offer housing to demonstrators. After "long and useless journeys to locate these addresses," demonstrators found themselves with no housing (ibid., p. 10).
Particular protest events are often affected by social control activities such as restrictive parade routes, permit denials, police provocation, and police failure to restrain those bent on attacking demonstrators. The government may pay and encourage counterdemonstrators, though only in a few recent cases have such actions been used. As one example, Bernard Barker and six other Cubans later to be involved in Watergate were flown in from Miami on White House orders to disrupt an antiwar demonstration on the Capitol steps. According to one of those involved, they were to punch Daniel Ellsberg, call him a traitor, and run. They did not succeed, but they did fight with some other demonstrators. Two of them were taken by police but were soon released (Wise, 1976, p. 174). The Secret Service roughed up and prevented demonstrators with antiwar and anti-Nixon signs from attending a Billy Graham rally in North Carolina. Demonstrators were told their admission tickets were counterfeit (New York Times, April 22, 1975).
In labor struggles, there have been many alliances between management and local and state authorities. In labor struggles up to the 1930s, goon squads and private police hired to break strikes and attack organizers sometimes avoided prosecution and were even deputized. Police and National Guard were also called out to break strikes.
Some of the actions taken or contemplated would be worthy of humorous appreciation for the imagination involved were they not on behalf of legally and morally questionable ends. The FBI in Newark suggested an action that would result in "confusion and suspicion" during a Black Panther party convention. The idea was to send a telegram warning that food donated to the convention contained poison and that one of its symptoms was stomach cramps. The FBI laboratory then planned to "treat fruit such as oranges with a mild laxative-type drug by hypodermic needle or other appropriate method." The oranges were apparently not injected because of the FBI's lack of control over the fruit during shipment, though Hoover felt that the idea "has merit" (Wise, 976, pp. 318-19).
Efforts to Facilitate Social Movements
It appears that government actions aimed at damaging rather than facilitating movements have been much more formalized and prevalent. At least many more examples of the former have become public. It is hard to identify equivalent government agencies such as the police or FBI, or programs such as COINTEL, concerned with facilitating domestic social movements. The actions of nonpolice government agencies, courts, or legislators with implications for social movements are much more likely to be of a general and overt nature, rather than being at the specific micro-level in response to a given movement. When micro-level facilitative actions do occur, they are often indirect, and reactive; examples are courts' overturning, or inhibiting police efforts to damage a movement.
Many of the facilitative actions that police use are of a rather special nature. They may be part of an indirect strategy to strengthen or create (in order to control) a group that is the opponent, or rival, of the real target group. The government's aim is not to help the aided group obtain its goals as such. Or in the classic tradition of the provocateur, authorities may covertly encourage a group in order to sanction it later. A separate issue is that some actions by authorities inadvertently end up being facilitative.
It is easier to illustrate the right than the left side of Table 1. Nevertheless there are some domestic examples of intended facilitation involving anti-Communists, the Klan, and the labor, civil rights, and women's movements. There are also many examples of facilitation in the activities of the CIA outside the United States.
Until the 1960s when the federal government legitimated the civil rights movement and put resources into voter registration and initiated the War on Poverty and community action, and the 1970s when women's rights gained considerable support, the major beneficiaries of facilitative efforts were right-wing, anti-civil rights, and management groups. Such groups have tended to involve countermovements and often vigilante-like action. The predominant forms of support were immunity and information. Periods of intense anticommunism-the red scare, the Palmer raids, and McCarthyism-have seen increased alliances and cooperative actions of government-investigating committees, police, and private groups, such as the American Protective League, the American Legion, and the American Security Council. Some retired FBI members or local police who have worked in intelligence units go to work for Americanism committees. Sometimes it appears that the social movement is primarily helping the government to a much greater extent than the reverse.
The granting of de facto legal immunity can be seen in some Latin American countries in attacks of the right on the left, which the government tends to ignore. Another example is the relation between the police and the Klan, where, in some parts of the South, the Klan was given what amounted to a license to break the law. Police in a sense delegated authority to Klansmen to carry out racial status quo-preserving activities that police could not legally carry out. Police behavior in many instances of earlier American racial violence has involved offering a de facto legal immunity to whites attacking blacks and some examples of the direct facilitation of particular actions by actually joining in the attacks (Marx, 970).
The CIA gave large sums of money to domestic student, business, labor, church, and cultural groups. By strengthening moderate groups, such actions may have indirectly hurt more-radical groups. Although these moderate groups are not social movements as usually defined, they often give money and support to them. Ironically money given to the National Student Association may have helped build up an infrastructure and national student networks that were important to the later student movement.
A major way that government has aided recent movements such as those concerned with consumer and environmental issues has been through information leaks of various kinds. Groups such as Common Cause and Ralph Nader's consumer groups that seek to mobilize public opinion often appear to have allies within the government who pass on important technical and political information. Sometimes these efforts are part of a strategy by top administrators to build public support for goals shared with the movement. At other times, they stem from movement sympathizers within the government. As the cohort that reached adulthood during the late 1960s and early 1970s enters the government, this practice may become even more common. The Freedom of Information Act is likely to have important facilitative implications.
In a special category of pseudofacilitative activities, the government helps a movement (or segments of it) but not out of a desire to have it obtain its goals. Rather it can be a means of exercising partial control over it. Assumptions may be made about the extensiveness of mass anger and the predisposition to join a movement. A government-controlled movement able to obtain some concessions may be considered the best alternative.
The police-initiated Russian trade unions and some company unions are examples, as are the moderate Klan-type organizations created by the FBI. However hostile the FBI was to the Communist party, it took actions to keep it in its traditional form rather than to see it reorganized under a new label. Some observers would also place community action organizations created under the War on Poverty in this category.
Efforts By Other Groups And Countries
Recent congressional hearings offer much information on the extent to which the ClA has attempted to be a resource or a constraint for social movements in other countries (Commission on CIA, 1975; Select Committee, book l, 1976). Concomitantly many foreign countries have a strong interest in U.S. internal affairs.
A number of government investigations have been unable to find strong links between broad American movements such as the New Left, antiwar, and civil rights movements and the U.S.S.R., China, or Cuba. Yet it is unlikely that a lack of foreign intervention (in supportive or adversarial form) could be found for more narrowly based movements concerned with U.S. policy toward, and the nature of the government in, countries such as Cuba, Chile, Korea, Iran, Israel, and Yugoslavia and other countries of Eastern Europe. Such movements are often formed around a nucleus of immigrants. Depending on their orientation, they are likely to receive resources or face constraints from the country in question. We must ask questions about the Cuban government, as well as the CIA, in seeking to understand the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, or current struggles in Miami between groups with opposing views of Cuba. This also holds even for what appear to be strictly domestic issues-for example, the pro-Nixon demonstrations organized by Reverend Moon, who is apparently linked in complex ways to the Korean government.8
Another fascinating and almost completely unstudied source of external mobilization and constraint is the corporation. For example Samuel Zemurray, the man primarily responsible for building the United Fruit empire, created a 1910 revolution in Honduras. His hired bands swept through the country and established a puppet president sympathetic to the needs of United Fruit. Many years later, several United Fruit ships carried men and weapons to the Bay of Pigs (McCann, 1976). In the age of the multinational corporation, increased overt and covert intervention efforts may be expected.
Questions, Patterns, And Explanations Of Government Behavior
In trying to account for the behavior of the government (rather than looking at what it tried to do or what the consequences were) a number of questions arise:
The much greater emphasis on the Left than the Right may be explained by the fact that there are possibly more social movements on the Left than the Right; yet the imbalance of governmental attention appears to go far beyond this. For example, of the political cases in the Media, Pennsylvania, FBI files, more than two hundred involved Left and liberal groups, and only two involved right-wing groups. It could also be argued that the Left is more prone to illegal actions; yet the relative absence of successful prosecution of those on the Left would not support this theory. A General Services Administration audit of domestic intelligence investigations notes that only about 1 percent resulted in convictions. More likely, the pattern represents a carryover from a cold war ideology where the Left is defines as the enemy and the Right as the enemy of the enemy; it thus appears in a more benign light. In addition, the Left attacked J. Edgar Hoover while the Right praised him.
With his highly personalized style of directing the FBI, Hoover often used its resources against those he defined as enemies, whether or not they had broken laws or were clearly security threats. Authorities in general are closer in terms of social characteristics, ideology, and lifestyle to those on the Right. Cases where the government has intervened with right-wing groups have, in general, been more likely to involve manifest illegality that cannot be ignored, and often, as with Klan-type groups in the South, disagreements between local and national social-control agents. Cases where the Right turns on the government, as with Joseph McCarthy's attacks on the army or the John Birch Society's attacks on President Eisenhower, have also elicited responses.
The much greater emphasis on damage than facilitation (regardless of whether the Left or Right is involved) may be because social movements with their goals of change and their less institutionalized form are more likely to be seen as threats, rather than assets, by authorities tied to the status quo. Even where this is not the case, authorities may find it easier to justify illegal actions against those seen as subversive than to justify illegal actions on behalf of those seen as patriots. In addition, domestic social control agencies concerned with enforcing the criminal law have a conflict-apprehension ethos, that is probably more conducive to combatative than facilitative forms of interaction.
In other countries, covert U.S. actions have involved facilitation to a much greater extent than has been the case domestically. For example, U.S. interests in Communist, Left-leaning, or anti-American countries are likely to be defined in opposition to the status quo. As such, the logic is to help elements wanting change, while in the United States (or in cases where its allies are weak or threatened) it has generally been the reverse: to damage social movements, some of which in a foreign context may themselves be facilitated by the Soviet Union or other countries.
The Expansion Of Social Control
The government's ability and willingness to monitor and intervene in domestic social movement affairs has increased significantly in the last forty years.9 According to the Select Committee, there has been "a relentless expansion of domestic intelligence activity beyond investigation of criminal conduct toward the collection of political intelligence and the launching of secret offensive actions against Americans" (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 21). There has been an expansion with respect to criteria for defining who is to become a target, the number of agencies involved, and the tactics used.
Those considered appropriate targets for FBI intelligence activities have expanded from Communist party members and groups, to those allegedly under Communist influence, to those taking positions supported by Communists, to those who might become subject to Communist influence. A wide range of domestic groups who broke no laws and had nothing to do with Communists, fascists, or foreign threats became subjects for intelligence activities and covert action. From a concern with Communists, government attention was broadened in the 1960s to include "racial matters," the "New Left," "student agitation," and alleged "foreign influence" on the antiwar movement. Counterintelligence activities and investigations were undertaken against "rabble-rousers," "agitators," "key activists," and "key black extremists." The women's liberation, gay, and ecology movements have also received attention, as have PTAs and religious groups.
Government intervention in social movements affairs spread from the FBI to the Internal Revenue Service, the National Security Administration, and military intelligence agencies. Local police have also become much more involved. Their activities are particularly relevant to understanding the struggles of blacks, students, and the peace movement during the 1960s and early 1970s. A significant expansion of political policing at the local level occurred, partly in response to encouragement and resources from the Justice Department. The IRS in response to White House pressure created a program to audit certain politically active persons and organizations. Army intelligence collected massive amounts of data and carried out surveillance on citizens. The CIA used its vague mandate to protect its intelligence sources and methods to set up Operation Chaos and to engage in electronic surveillance, break-ins, and the use of informers among domestic protest groups.
By 1975 this expansion had halted and, according to public accounts, was being reversed.10 In the post-Watergate period and following the decline of mass demonstrations (and new austerity programs in many municipalities), authorities at both the local and national level have lessened, sometimes significantly, their efforts to monitor and intervene in social movement affairs in destructive ways. Formal policies were established and updated, dossiers destroyed, intelligence units reduced in size or disbanded, and new accountability measures created.
What best explains the general expansion of government intervention, particularly at the federal level, in social movement affairs since its revival! in the late 1930s? Many different government agencies, different types of intervention, and thousands of different groups across the country expanded over almost four decades. The topic is highly complex and multifaceted. No single theory is sufficient. Yet the broad pattern indicates at least five types of explanations that may be relevant: (1) a reactive crisis-response model, (2) a pro-active anticipation-prevention model, (3) a bureaucratic and individual aggrandizement model, (4) a resource expansion-temptation model, and (5) a society-needs-devils model.
This model assumes that systems operate to protect themselves and respond to threats to their equilibrium. Authorities are compelled to take the actions they do because of what the social movement does or claims it wants to do. As laws are broken, symbols attacked, and revolutionary rhetoric expressed, authorities respond in kind. They are seen (and publicly often see themselves) as reactive to subversive system-damaging social movements. Conditions for the emergence of such social control efforts and their expansion or contraction are found in the extent of the threat posed by a change-seeking social movement. If social control efforts have generally expanded over the last forty years, it is because the threats, or at least the perception of them, have also. As the threats decrease, so do social control activities.
To test this model, some objective means of threat assessment is needed, though it is likely to be difficult to get agreement on just who and what a threat is, particularly when laws have not been broken. A better measure might be authorities' perceptions of the extent of threat, though here one must be careful to separate actual from self-serving beliefs. National security and subversion offer easy rationalizations, as Watergate demonstrated. The threat-crisis argument seems consistent with the expansion of intelligence activities just prior to and during World War II; the creation of COINTEL programs against white hate groups, black nationalists, and the New Left, and the Huston plan, following the killing and intimidation of civil rights workers, civil disorders, and widespread antiwar and campus demonstrations; and the significant reduction in government efforts to damage social movements as relative calm returned in the mid-1970s.
Anticipation-Prevention and Inherent Pressures in the Role
Tendencies to expand may be inherent in intelligence gathering and crime or subversion prevention roles. The role may be defined in such a way as to create an appetite that can never be satiated. Unlike the crisis-response model, the response here comes because a crisis is anticipated, or at least can be conceived of. This ability to imagine future threats calls forth action. The emphasis is put on offensive action. Factors conducive to this response are the vagueness of concepts like subversion and conspiracy, the absence of obvious states of goal achievement, and the fact that one can never be certain that an investigation has turned up all the relevant information. Those charged with such open-ended tasks may find it in their interest to cast the widest possible net and to operate as indiscriminate intelligence gatherers.
Officials can always imagine future scenarios that require new data-gathering tasks and preventive efforts (some of the actions directed against Martin Luther King, Jr. seem to have been of this sort). Proving hypotheses in intelligence work presents all the problems of data collection, interpretation, and validity found in proving them in a scientific inquiry. In addition, the subject may be consciously engaging in deceptive action. According to this rationale, an investigation that suggests minimal threat and no outside conspiracy may be part of a carefully designed trap to confuse the investigator, or the conclusion may stem from insufficient and careless investigation. Can you trust your own agents? Can one ever be too prepared in a context thought likely to become a war or when dealing with enemies that one's ideology may describe as utterly ruthless, cunning, and driven to subvert you?11
Recent government hearings offer abundant examples consistent with this model. In 1940 Hoover wrote that those advocating foreign "isms" "had succeeded in boring into every phase of American life, masquerading behind 'front' organizations" (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 31). The FBI's "theory of subversive infiltration" meant that Communists and other domestic enemies might be found anywhere. A belief that individuals are guilty until proven innocent calls for eternal vigilance. The FBI, with little statutory justification, came to define itself in a 1966 memo to all its field offices as an "intelligence agency . . . expected to know what is going on or is likely to happen [italics added]" (ibid., p. 70).
Vague, all-inclusive definitions became the rule. For example, the FBI manual stated that it was "not possible to formulate any hard-and-fast standards [for measuring] the dangerousness of individual members or affiliates of revolutionary organizations." The manual further stated, "Where there is doubt an individual may be a current threat to the internal security of the nation, the question should be resolved in the interest of security and investigation conducted" (ibid., p. 47). In the case of groups such as the New Left, efforts to define it were vague and were "expanded continually." The agent in charge of intelligence on the New Left stated, "It has never been strictly defined . . . it's more or less of an attitude" (ibid., p. 72). A memo to all FBI field offices noted that the term does not refer to "a definite organization" but a 'loosely- bound, free-wheeling, college-oriented movement" and to the "more extreme and militant anti-Vietnam war and antidraft protest organizations" (ibid., p. 73).
There is always abundant room for ideological predispositions and/or contrary expectations on the part of supervisors to generate pressure for more information. In a large investigation of the civil rights movement, J. Edgar Hoover pressured one of his top assistants to keep investigating until he found the link between the civil rights movement and the Communist party that Hoover was convinced existed. His insistence came after an initial investigation found no such connection. President Johnson, unhappy over investigations concluding that there was almost no link between the antiwar movement and foreign countries, pressured for more vigorous and extensive investigations.
The source of this pro-active model may go beyond conspiratorial ideologies to a managerial model involving planning and the anticipation of demand (Graber, 1976). Galbraith's argument that the modern corporation has moved from passively being at the mercy of market forces of supply and demand to trying actively to affect those forces by intervention may apply here. Social control activities may also spiral because authorities increasingly feel a need to cover, protect, and justify their actions.12
Bureaucratic and Individual Aggrandizement
Factors that explain the origin of a phenomenon may not necessarily explain its continuance. Thus the origin of government programs for social movement intervention may generally lie in events that most members of a society would define as a crisis or a serious threat. However, the programs can take on a life of their own as vested interests develop around them, and new latent goals may emerge. Rather than social control as repression, deterrence, or punishment, it can become a vehicle for career advancement and organizational perpetuation and growth. The management and even creation of deviance, rather than its elimination, can become central. Intelligence and crime or subversion prevention roles offer rich possibilities to an entrepreneurial administrator or employee seeking to expand his or her domain. J. Edgar Hoover offers a clear example of this, but there are also many examples at the local level. The FBI increased from 500 to 4,000 employees by the end of World War II. Hoover, faced with the prospect of a greatly reduced agency with the end of the war effort, may have felt pressure to justify its size. The problem of Communist subversion offered a means of doing this. The bureau now has 25,000 employees.
Hoover skillfully manipulated the threat of domestic communism to gain continued support and increased resources from Congress, as his predecessors Attorneys General Palmer and Dougherty had done with the red scare around World War I. Hoover was a moral entrepreneur with respect to both targets and tactics. He was a genius at using subtle language; he stressed "endeavors," "attempts," and "goals" of the target groups such as Communists, rather than their successes, because there were so few of the latter (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 49). Documents now available suggest that Hoover did not believe much of his own rhetoric and that he had accurate assessments of how weak and ineffective the Communist party was. When the size of the party began declining sharply, the FBI stopped reporting its strength and told inquirers that such information was classified (Boston Globe, November 19, 1975). Hoover also knew that whatever their rhetoric (which stopped short of incitement to violence), the Socialist Workers party did not engage in criminal acts over the thirty years that the FBI investigated it (Halperin et al., 1976, pp. 102-05).
Yet although this model fits some of the data, particularly J. Edgar Hoover's activities with respect to the Communist party, other data do not fit it. Thus Hoover appeared hesitant to move against the New Left, preferring to focus on the Old Left. When he finally did approve COINTEL operations, it was in response to a memo that rather than showing how the New Left was a threat to national security, argued that "the New Left has on many occasions viciously and scurrilously attacked the Director and the Bureau" (Select Committee, book II, 1976, p. 73). Vindictiveness rather than resource expansion seems the motive. However, an aggrandizement model would seem to fit the middle-management officials on the New Left desk who sought to extend COINTEL activities.
This model must also be tempered by noting that social control agencies operate within a broader political and social environment. Actions taken are partly in response to pressures perceived (both correctly and incorrectly) from this environment. Hoover, for example, was formally subordinate to the president and the attorney general, and he was very concerned with the public image of the bureau. His hand was not completely free. Some of the actions he took were in direct response to orders from superiors. In many of his actions, he may have anticipated what they wanted and not gone beyond that.
The bureau's reentry into political intelligence actions in the later 1930s was undertaken at the direction of President Roosevelt. The Johnson and Nixon administrations wanted information on and action against student, antiwar, and militant black protesters. Other actions that Hoover refrained from taking appear related to his concern with the public image of the FBI. His formal abolition of FBI break-ins, his reducing wiretaps by half in 1966, and his rejection of the Huston plan in 1970 are examples. With increased citizen and congressional concern, Hoover apparently believed such activities were too risky.
Yet to explain intervention in social movement affairs in light of the wishes of higher authorities has a question-begging potential.13 The explanation is simply pushed up a level. We must then ask what conditions the behavior of higher authorities. Response to a perceived crisis and a desire to prevent a crisis are, of course, relevant. But as was the case with Richard Nixon and to a much lesser extent Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt, a desire for the information gained from political intelligence and counterespionage, independent of any threats to national security, may also be involved. As the technology for these evolves, so too may the temptation to use it. Among the most interesting of questions are the links between having secret information and the desire to take covert action on the basis of it. Leaders, like the rest of us, may find that they can resist anything but temptation. An opportunity structure approach to deviance may apply to them as well as to more traditional deviants.
Governmental Expansion and New Resources
This century has seen a major expansion of government at all levels, and increased authority and centralization at the federal level. In this sense, increased government involvement-whether in health care, communications, or social movements-is part of a broader trend. But beyond this trend, the expansion of social control activities no doubt is also related to increased resources for doing this.
New opportunities and temptations have been created by ever more sophisticated technology for data gathering (bugging, electronic surveillance, and photography are examples), data storing, retrieving, and analyzing (computers as well as forms of analysis such as game theory or in-depth psychological profiles that call for data); and scientific developments permitting ever more subtle covert action.
An increasing pool of veterans of the cold war skilled in covert operations would also seem to be a factor. With respect to personnel, for example, all of those involved in the Watergate break-in were former CIA or FBI employees. John Caulfield and Anthony Ulasewitz, who did secret political investigations for the White House, were formerly of the New York City Police Department's Bureau of Special Services and Investigations. The absolute number of retired CIA, military intelligence agents, and local police increases each year. Thus in 1973, CIA director Schlesinger asked Congress to increase from 830 to 1,200 the number of CIA agents who could retire after twenty years of service at the age of fifty (New York Times, May 2,1973). Lucrative pension plans at the municipal level also mean that an increasing number of local police are retiring at an early age after twenty or twenty-five years of service.
What line of work such retired agents choose, if any, is conditioned by many factors, but their availability offers new resources for covert social movement intervention and intelligence gathering on the part of government (which may choose to delegate out some of this work to its own private police, as Nixon did), private interest groups, or other social movements. Such former agents are in some ways the counterpart of the new group of social movement professionals noted by McCarthy and Zald (1973b). Both have specialized career skills independent of any specific social movement.
Society "Needs" Devils
This approach draws on a functionalist perspective on deviance from Durkheim (1960) and Erikson (1966). The creation of disvalued symbols is seen to help integrate a loosely organized society with considerable strain. Sanctioning of activists ("dangerous radicals," "subversives," "aliens," "reds," "hippies," "communists," "Klansmen," "militants," "fascists") who go too far from basic norms, even if they break no laws, can serve as a reminder to others to stay in line and can help bring a heterogeneous society together in shared condemnation of the outsiders.
Devil creation can also be seen as part of a scapegoating phenomenon wherein authorities' conscious manipulation of the threat of a social movement takes mass attention away from more basic sources of grievance, although with the increased education and sophistication of the American public and increased resources for mobilization, this becomes more difficult to do.
This model is the most difficult to test. It can involve teleological assumptions and the reification of the concept society. It is likely most useful for considering some of the consequences of government sanctioning of social movements rather than the expansion or contraction of such activities.
Outcomes: Intended And Unintended
I have noted ways in which authorities may seek to help or damage a movement and have offered examples to illustrate the relevant concepts. I have assumed authorities know what they wanted to do and were able to do it. Sometimes this is the case; often it is not. In considering efforts to damage or facilitate a movement, it is important to ask what the actual (rather than intended) consequences of such efforts are; whether the government achieves the result it seeks; if it does not, what factors prevent it; and what other results are possible.
Let us turn to some of the complicating factors that may result in consequences other than those intended by authorities. That there is frequently a gap between formal and informal factors and intended and actual consequences is not surprising. Indeed much sociological research is directed toward understanding this general issue. In this regard, it is necessary to inquire what is unique about the situation of authorities' responding to the social movements. At least six somewhat exceptional factors that increase the likelihood of the government's intervention having unintended consequences can be identified: the secrecy involved; the frequent illegality of the actions; the lack of effective intervention techniques in the face of the diffuse, noninstitutionalized collective-behavior character of much social movement activity; the need to establish credibility through seemingly loyal actions; and the reactive neutralization processes inherent in many social control efforts.
Secrecy has meant a lack of accountability and usual standards of performance evaluation. There are problems in controlling agents, and occasional scenarios take place in which secret agents (unbeknown to each other) engage in mutual intelligence gathering and provocation.
It is more difficult to damage social movements in a context with a tradition of civil liberties and with levels and branches of government that are not monolithic. Many of the actions taken by authorities have been illegal. When authorities take illegal or morally questionable actions in a nonconsensual context, they run the risk of helping the movement should they be exposed. The government's legitimacy and credibility may be damaged, and court cases may be filed because of illegal procedures.
But even if government actions are not exposed or there is widespread public support, the nature of the phenomenon and our lack of social engineering knowledge may result in effects on group processes, or individual motivation, that are quite different from those authorities sought. Attention directed toward a movement may convince activists that they are a genuine threat and that what they are doing is of vital importance. By clearly focusing external conflict for the movement, authorities may heighten the sense of group boundaries and increase internal solidarity. Surveillance may make participation more exciting. It may increase the will, resolve, and anger of some activists. It may call forth martyrs who become important rallying symbols. It may make activists more radical and push them away from the reformist belief that change within the system is possible.
Infiltrators may be an important resource for the movement. To establish and maintain credibility, they must take actions that help it. For example, FBI informant Robert Hardy provided leadership, training, and resources to those involved in the Camden draft board raid (New York Times, March 16, 1972). He stated, "I taught them everything they knew . . . how to cut glass and open windows without making any noise. . . . How to open file cabinets without a key. . . . How to climb ladders easily and walk on the edge of the roof without falling. . . . I began to feel like the Pied Piper" (Washington Post, November 19, 1975). A Klan informant has reported how while performing duties paid for by the government, he had "beaten people severely, had boarded buses and kicked people, had [gone] into restaurants and beaten them [blacks] with blackjacks, chairs, and pistols." FBI informants were formally told that they could not be involved in violence; nevertheless he understood that in the Klan "he couldn't be an angel and be a good informant" (Select Committee, book III, 1976, p. 13).
As a movement comes under increased attack, it may be able to obtain increased resources for defense or a counteroffensive from its mass constituency and other sympathetic audiences.14 Rival groups may make covert attempts to neutralize and disrupt the activities of government agents. The conflict may escalate.
Recent social movement repression in the United States clearly has some unique elements. Judged in a historical and international context, much of it was relatively benign, particularly at the federal level. It is hard to imagine national police forces in most of the rest of the world today, let alone in the past, responding to opposition social movements by injecting oranges with a laxative, tattling about sexual affairs, or printing and circulating false offers of housing for demonstrators. If a group is judged worthy of attention, violence against activists, threats, and arrests are far more common and effective. For American police at the federal level (in the absence of legal violations), such actions were too risky and morally unacceptable to many agents in a domestic context. The lesser availability of these overtly repressive tactics helps explain the tactics that emerged and the receptivity to agents capable of provoking illegal actions to justify government intervention. Many of the FBI COINTEL actions are best seen as expressive and symbolic; they were a way of doing something when there was often little that could be done legally. The local, relatively spontaneous, mass-based, collective-behavior-like quality of much activism also made traditional social-movement monitoring and breaking tactics less applicable.
In broad outline, several conclusions can be made about the effect of government efforts to damage the social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. Let us take goal attainment and organizational viability as our criteria and consider the movements that received the most attention from the FBI's COINTEL program. There is a varied pattern. In the case of the Klan, Communist party, Socialist Workers party, and more radical black groups like the Panthers, the evidence is consistent with the argument that social control efforts were effective. These groups did not obtain their goals and did not increase with respect to organizational viability; indeed most seemed to decrease. These groups tended to be ideologically extreme and to recruit from marginal sources. As a result, they may have been more vulnerable to government efforts to damage them because they could not draw on mass audiences for support and sympathy to the extent that the more moderate groups could. The Klan and more radical black groups also appear more likely to have been involved in felonious actions and to have used violent rhetoric, offering authorities greater possibilities for legal interventions. Relative to many of the other movements, they also seem to have in lesser abundance the organizational skills and sophistication needed to run a national movement.
Authorities appear to have been least successful against the antiwar, student, and moderate civil rights movements, groups that maintained, and even increased, strength until their major goals were obtained. In the case of the student and antiwar movements, this was in spite of massive efforts to damage them on a scale unprecedented in American history. With the exception of black groups, these movements have now declined, yet this is partly as a result of their very success.
In the case of the early civil rights movement, especially in the South, efforts by local authorities to damage the movement were more than matched by the facilitative efforts of the federal government (though efforts of nonsupport and even to damage can also be seen). The civil rights movement sought basic rights that had long been part of the American tradition for other groups, and it did so with nonviolent action in the name of Christianity. Its successes were the continuation of civil rights trends evident since before World War II. Only later, following the ghetto riots, did the federal government attempt covert action to damage the more radical black groups.
With the ending of the Vietnam war and the draft, greater flexibility and democratization on college campuses, and more sensitive college administrators who learned how not to be provoked and overreact to the small cadre of fully committed student radicals, the mass-based antiwar and more moderate student movements practically disappeared. They were at best heterogeneous and loosely held together by opposition to particular policies that were changed. They did not draw on shared interests growing out of historic or enduring cleavages and a culture of opposition within the society. As such, with victory came organizational defeat. Their large-scale, decentralized, participatory, fluid, shifting, and spontaneous collective behavior character did not lend itself well to the kinds of movement-damaging tactics the FBI had used against the bureaucratically organized Communist party. Yet even with better tactics, the level of mass support for stopping the war became so great and included so many powerful and respected business and political leaders that it is doubtful the movement could have been stopped within the traditional American framework. The same applies to the demands of the civil rights groups through 1964.
In response to the question of what happened to the student and antiwar movements, one is tempted to say they never really existed beyond the evening news and the immorality of the war or the incompetence of college administrators. They did not resolve the problems of structure noted by Jo Freeman (1977). At least they did not exist in the sense that the NAACP, Communist party, Socialist Workers party, Klan, and Black Panthers did. These groups had more ideological coherence and unity and a steadier organizational structure, and they were capable of mobilizing members and sympathizers in other than a reactive sense. They knew what they were for, as well as what they were against. Yet even in the case of those groups such as the Klan, radical blacks, and the Communist party, where the results desired by authorities appeared, can we conclude that authorities were responsible? Many factors beyond the efforts of external groups to facilitate or inhibit social movement processes affect them so there is a major difficulty in separating correlation from causation in natural field settings. Determining the effect of efforts at social control or facilitation on a given outcome is difficult. Where a major social change goal sought by a movement is obtained (and this is infrequent, particularly in the short run), it is difficult to tell how important the movement was to this end, what the causal link was, whether it occurred in spite of the movement's efforts, and whether the appearance of both the social change and the social movement were accounted for by some third set of factors.
Is the splintering of a sectarian group into two rival groups more a function of the efforts of authorities to create internal conflict, or of the seemingly endemic tendency of such groups to factionalism, even where no social control efforts are present? Is a high degree of turnover, sporadic participation, and ebbs and flows in mass participation more a function of authorities' ability to damage morale and create an unfavorable public image and the myth of surveillance and repression, or of the general problems involved in sustaining a mass movement, where many of the rewards for participation may be minimal and some may be available (if the movement succeeds) to nonparticipants as well?
With respect to the movements in question, it could be argued that government actions contributed to their failings but were not really decisive. The black power and black pride groups that grew out of the moderate civil rights groups failed when they opted for more radical goals and means. They moved from demands for inclusion and basic rights of a political and symbolic nature that could be granted without direct economic loss to whites (the right to vote, equal justice, nondiscrimination in hiring and public services, and racial dignity) to more controversial and zero-sum issues of an economic nature involving redistribution, retribution, quotas, non-achievement criteria, and, in many cases, racialism if not always racial separation. Matching the shift in goals were (primarily at the level of media rhetoric) calls for revolution, violence, and ties to the Third World. This shift in the nature of the black movement does not seem to be something directly initiated by agents of social control. It developed out of previous victories and defeats and the structure of American society. It had also occurred several times earlier in the history of the black movement. However, authorities were soon in the thick of it and no doubt encouraged (whether they intended to do so is less clear) through self-fulfilling effects the radicalism and violence of some groups such as the Black Panthers and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Like the more radical black groups, the Klan seemed on the wrong side of historical trends (something that was not always true). It failed to obtain its goals of halting civil rights gains for blacks, and its membership declined significantly. Once it became the subject of concentrated government attention, its well-documented pattern of criminal conspiracy and violence markedly declined. Government intervention efforts seem most successful here.15 However, the same broad consequences might have been forthcoming, although they may have taken longer and at a greater toll of life, if the government had not been involved in preventive and disruptive efforts. The escalation of the conflict that characterized authorities' response to radical blacks did not seem to occur here, perhaps because the Klan started out violent and often correctly saw local authorities as their allies, or at least as being neutral.
In the case of groups such as the Communists and Socialist Workers party that sought radical economic change or black groups that sought separatism, one can argue that they would have failed anyway as their counterparts have throughout the twentieth century before efforts at social movement repression became so developed and commonplace.
The structure of American society and natural social movement processes seem to work toward the weakening of ideologically extreme movements and those not organized around fundamental societal cleavages. It is difficult to sustain less institutionalized collective behavior phenomena under the best of circumstances. This would seem to be even truer for movements resisting broad historical trends. External efforts seeking to facilitate such movements (and beyond local support for movements seeking to counter the civil rights movement, there was not much of this) would seem to have much more difficulty and would in general appear to be less effective than those seeking to destroy them. Many of the outcomes sought by authorities seeking to damage social movements were likely to happen anyway, though perhaps not as rapidly or to the same degree.
Some inferences might also be made from what happened between 1924 and 1936 when the FBI ceased domestic intelligence. There was not a sudden upsurge in movement effectiveness, although given the conditions of the depression, social movements proliferated. Movements such as those of Townsend, Long, Smith, and Coughlin gained in popularity and then almost disappeared for reasons that appear to have little to do with federal-level social control intervention (or its absence).
Nor in the period since 1975, when both the FBI and local police seem to have significantly reduced their policing of social movements, have movements suddenly flourished.
To be sure with respect to the local level and for particular people, groups, and events they were often decisive, though not always in ways that they hoped. Social control efforts certainly had some effect on the style and direction of many movements. The humanitarian community of love, trust, and openness sought by early student, pacifist, and civil rights groups becomes difficult to sustain in the milieu of paranoia, suspicion, and violence that authorities contributed to. Activists became more cautious in their dealings with strangers. The need to be suspicious of strangers is an obvious liability for a movement that seeks to build a mass base. But considering the broad national pattern, agents are only one among a variety of historical, cultural, social structural, and resource and grievance factors to be considered.
Not By Resources Alone
Just as there were clear limits to what social control agents could accomplish, there were limits to what the social movements could do. Both are bounded by historical, cultural, structural, and psychological factors that have not been well conceptualized.
Thus, the course of the Moon movement with millions of dollars, Madison Avenue techniques and superb organization was roughly parallel to that of other youth-oriented religious movements lacking their resources (Lofland, 1977). Such movements recruited poorly during the 1960s, significantly expanded during the early and mid-1970s as disillusionment with politics spread, and now are contracting. The availability of resources or social control does not help much in explaining this pattern, though it may be useful for intramovement comparisons.
A major future challenge for analysts of social movements lies in bringing together the resource mobilization perspective with its emphasis on organizational variables and rational self-interest, with the collective behavior perspective with its emphasis on emotion, expression, symbols, and the fluid nature of mass involvement.
I think the prime significance of government efforts to damage recent movements lies not in the all-too-easily-available conspiracy theories of social movement failure or success. Rather it lies in calling attention to an important and neglected variable, the increased ability of government to engage in practices that are abhorrent to a free society. Our liberties are fragile, and we must be prepared to ask with Yeats, "What if the Church and the State are the mob that howls at the door?"
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