By David O’Connor
Russell Corn, the leader of major private intelligence firm Dilligence, believes that 1 in 4 activists at nonprofits are corporate spies. In the radical left, which idealogically holds more of a threat to corporations than reform-oriented non-profits, that number might actually be true. And this is without counting all the government spies that have infiltrated left movements.
The public-interest group Corporate Policy wrote a report in 2013 that states “many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations – including the US Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP… have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.” These undercover agents have worked to destroy many prominent anarchist and left-environmental campaigns.
What are we doing to these companies in return? Can a leftist spy on capitalists like they spy on him?
Salting, the practice of covertly joining a non-unionized workplace with the intention of instigating a union, has been around for at least 75 years. It is mostly done by mainstream unions not interested in necessary revolutions, but it a successful example of how leftists can spy and infiltrate capitalist institutions. In some cases, salts are the difference between winning and losing a union campaign. It would not be crazy to think it would be the same for radical unions, also.
Some say The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a reformist union, goes a step further and practices professional corporate espionage by doing “document reconaissance”, otherwise known as going through the trash or dumpsters of different employers. Though this is not considered an honorable practice, capitalists often do this to great success in finding out what the “enemy” is up to. It’s a simple tool leftists aren’t taking advantage of.
There are many great stories of covert radicals. In 1933, for example, a single anti-capitalist
Daniel Ellsberg received guidance from prominent anarchist Howard Zinn before he released the Pentagon Papers, classified documents detailing the true history of the Vietnam War. He even stashed some of the documents at Zinn’s house before the FBI raided his own. It also rumored that Zinn managed his life while he was underground. The release of the Pentagon Papers significantly helped end the war.
Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are modern examples, though not leftists. Snowden gave top-secret NSA documents to the press that eventually led to Obama publicly saying he will be making major NSA reforms. And Manning released gigabytes of confidential military data known as the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Logs which led to a very unfavorable view of the wars for millions of people. The release of these documents have aided many radicals.
Leftists who are privy to secret knowledge have an obligation to expose information that could change things in the world. And they should organize as many of these potential people, too. You never know who the next Daniel Ellsberg or Smedley Butler will be.