NED and Carl

Although there is always the danger of looking back more than looking forward, it is helpful to look at our history to celebrate the things we did right and address the things we did wrong.  Yesterday, I received a tweet from Damon Wilson at the Atlantic Council:

@NEDemocracy‘s Carl Gershman accepts @AtlanticCouncil Freedom Award; 30 yrs since Reagan Westminster address launched NED #WGF

Although tweets are notoriously short, this brief message brings all kinds of memories back to the fore.  For those who have been around the SDUSA for a while, you know that Carl Gershman is a former Executive Director of our organization.  He was a leader in the internationalist pro-democracy movement.  That movement advocated that the U.S. should use its might to intervene in countries oppressed by dictatorships.  Although there were some serious errors in the application of the principle (Angola, Central America), the support of Polish Solidarity was a great success.  In an interesting linking of political left and right, the movement caught the attention of President Reagan and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was born in 1984.  Carl left the SD to take up the leadership of NED and has been there ever since.

See these tweets also:

@2012WGF: Freedom Awards back under way. Fmr Polish PM Jerzy Buzek to honor @NEDemocracy & President Gershman.#WGF

@NEDemocracy early grantee was #Poland‘s Solidarity per Carl Gershman #WGF

In looking back to the ’70s and ’80s, there was a focus at SDUSA on the linkage between the labor movement and the freedom movement.  There was a recognition that by planting the seed of democracy in the workplace we can grow the fruit of democracy in an entire country.  Carl was right in the middle of that.  Congressional funds designated for support of Solidarity were facilitated by the AFL-CIO with Carl being the point man.  But through the ’90s and ’00s, that linkage was neglected.  The focus on freeing a country without freeing its workers led the SDUSA to drift towards “military only” solutions and support of neo-cons.  In Iraq for example we killed about 100,000 civilians and one has to wonder if an Iraqi woman appreciates her new found freedom when her husband and kids are dead.  There are other ways to accomplish democracy without dropping a bomb on someone.  If you think this is wishful thinking, I ask you, ” did you expect the Soviet Union to collapse without a bullet being fired”?  Look back to Polish Solidarity.  Look at a people’s movement rooted in Labor.  Yes, it does work.  It really does.

I offer congratulations to Carl on receiving the Freedom Award.

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