A couple of my recent blog entries (here and here) have made reference to the International Freedom Foundation, a right-libertarian political organisation of the 1980s which operated in a number of countries, including both the UK and the USA. The IFF, as I explained, was opposed to apartheid but also opposed to sanctions against South Africa, instead taking refuge in the dogma that the problem would be solved by the free market. However, the organisation turned out to have been compromised by secret funding from the apartheid regime. In the USA this became a subject of discussion following the disgrace of Jack Abramoff, who ran the American branch. Harper’s magazine reported in 2006:
It started when Abramoff, as Chairman of the College Republican National Committee, visited South Africa in 1983. There, he came to know Russel Crystal, a South African intelligence asset who headed a government-funded student front group. Presumably, it was Crystal who in 1986 brought Abramoff in as the first chairman of the International Freedom Foundation (IFF)—a seemingly independent right-wing group headquartered in Washington, D.C., that was effectively run from Johannesburg and given the code name “Pacman” by South African intelligence. I spoke to a source who was intimately familiar with the IFF and the key players behind it, and who asked not to be identified. “The South Africans needed front men,” he told me. “Abramoff was identified early on as an ambitious, up-and-coming American conservative who could be useful.”
The IFF/Pacman advocated for the contras in Nicaragua and the mujahideen in Afghanistan. But its primary interest was South Africa, and much of the group’s energy was spent attempting to discredit Nelson Mandela and the global antiapartheid movement, opposing sanctions on the government and building support for Jonas Savimbi, the loopy but murderous Angolan faction commander backed by Washington and Pretoria (and upon whom Nikolai, Dolph Lundgren’s character in Red Scorpion, is loosely based).
Crystal, it should be noted, denies knowing about such support from the regime, although he concedes it may have happened.
As with some other “libertarian” organisations, the IFF also had links with organisations belonging to other conservative strands. One of these was a Roman Catholic group known as Tradition, Family and Property. I blogged on TFP a couple of years ago, when I researched a revisionist academic conference on the Crusades. (1)
I have in my possession a newsletter published by TFP in South Africa in 1986; page two includes an account of a visit to South Africa by Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus and Don McAlvany of the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor. TFP arranged for the delegation to meet a number of individuals and groups, including a pro-apartheid columnist named Aida Parker and “Mr R Crystal of International Freedom Foundation”. (2)
The TFP is known to be extremely right-wing, and it has been accused of cultish, bullying, and heretical practices. The late Penny Lernoux surveyed its role in politics in 1989:
[Plinio Correa de] Oliveira was fifty-two when he founded TFP in Sao Paulo in 1960. By then, he had accumulated a considerable number of hates, including the French Revolution, Protestantism, liberal Catholicism, and Marxism…A major part of TFP income comes from the landed proprietors of South America who, as might be expected, associate agrarian reform with Marxism.
TFP played a role in the 1964 coup in Brazil, and in Uruguay it allegedly received explosives from the Brazilian military attaché that were used to attack communist installations. The editor of TFP’s Chilean magazine, Jaime Guzmán, became chief ideologist for General Pinochet’s regime. It also made links with the right in the USA:
TFP also belongs to an extreme right coalition known as RAMBO that sponsors rightist protests, such as a demonstration against Chevron Oil for its business dealings with the leftist Angolan regime. RAMBO works with the New Right’s Conservative Caucus, and it was through this connection that its leadership became friendly with Paul Weyrich…Weyrich helped TFP organize a press conference in Washington to denounce agrarian reform in Brazil and the “trained and armed bandits coming out of the basic Christian communities.”…TFP in 1986 gave a banquet to honor Weyrich at its Bedford estate. Other influential American friends claimed by TFP included North Carolina’s ultraconservative senator, Jesse Helms…(3)
In South Africa, TFP created “Young South Africans for a Christian Civilization”. TFP boasted that the government had banned a liberal Roman Catholic journal entitled New Nation after TFP had published a booklet against the magazine in 1987. New Nation commissioned a research project on what had happened:
A comparison of the TFP booklet with ‘warnings’ sent New Nation by the Directorate of Media Relations, the Directorate of Publications and other state agencies shows a remarkable coincidence of assumptions, phrases, allegations and even sentence structure. In an interview with TFP (Durban), Dias Wellington showed a Unit researcher copies of letters written to TFP by the State President and Mr C Heunis in which they commended them for their work. Indeed, TFP even took credit for the government’s banning of New Nation in March 1988, claiming that the government had based its decision on the TFP report (see also The Citizen). TFP claimed that “at no stage in the work had the government been asked as such to act against the newspaper” but despite its unsuccessful appeal to the Pope to ban the paper “noted regret on the need for the banning”. This expression of regret fits in well with the government’s strategy to make it appear that bannings of newspapers are the fault of the papers’ owners rather than the government…(4)
TFP also operated in the UK, where it had links with the Conservative Monday Club. (5)
(1) The conference was organised by Roberto de Mattei, who has written a biography of TFP’s founder, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. I noted that de Mattei is also an advisor to the “post-fascist” Italian politician Gianfranco Fini. A few years ago Fini’s Alleanza Nazionale party was courted by Andrew Rosindell, former chairman of the Greater London Young Conservatives and Monday Club member and now a Tory MP.
(2) “American Conservative Leaders Visit the TFP in Johannesburg”, in TFP Newsletter, 26, 1986, p.2.
(3) Penny Lernoux, People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism, New York: Viking Penguin, 1989, pp. 338-9, 341-3.
(4) Research project commissioned by New Nation, 1988. Undertaken by the Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa. Re-posted at this website. See also Richard L. Abel, Politics by Other Means: The Struggle against Apartheid 1980-1994, London: Routledge, 1995, p. 283, 305-306.
(5) “Whispers”, in Searchlight, March 1986, p. 16.
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