Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ben Bedell

Agents tried to sow splits
’Maoists’: The FBI’s target

Published: Guardian, February 26, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Two case histories of FBI infiltration within the ranks of the Marxist-Leninist left emerged last week. A Feb. 16 New York Times article, focusing on the use of FBI agents abroad, described two particular instances of agents who had traveled abroad as part of their informant work in the U.S.

The agents, using an ultra-“left” cover had some success, but were eventually isolated and exposed.

The article detailed the history of an informer in the Tampa, Florida area, Joe Burton. Burton had been assigned to infiltrate and disrupt a number of emerging radical organizations in the South during the early 1970s. In addition, he had made several trips to Canada to monitor conferences of leftist groups there, particularly the Communist party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

The report by New York Times reporter John M. Crewdson also tells of an unnamed husband-and-wife team of informers in the New Orleans area. New Orleans activists have identified the subjects of the article as Gi and Jill Schafer. They also were assigned to sow confusion and dissension among movement groups in the area. Jill Schafer went to China in 1971 as part of a delegation of radical students.

Both Burton and the Schafers had been under suspicion by activists since they began their infiltration of the left. Activists in both Tampa and New Orleans said that the activities of the three had been so seriously compromised in the last year that they were no longer effective agents.

“Burton was well-known for his provocateur-type splitting actions” said a Tampa activist. “He always operated under an ultra-’left’ cover.”

Burton, a 42-year-old white man, apparently began his career as an informer by posing as a community activist in the fall of 1971. In the guise of a progressive small businessman—he ran a junk shop—Burton was active in a number of local struggles. He branched out into other areas and apparently concentrated his activities on what the FBI called “Maoist” groups. He attended a number of conferences in the region, participating in actions organized under the auspices of Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization (VVAW/WSO), the Communist League (CL), the American Communist Workers Movement (ACWM) and the Revolutionary Union (RU). Burton set up various sham organizations in an effort to gain legitimacy among leftists in the area.


As with the Schafers in New Orleans, Burton appears to have met with little success in his efforts. “Nearly everyone was suspicious of him from the beginning,” said a long-time Tampa activist. “It was clear to us that if he was not a cop he was missing a paycheck. He would promote splits, distrust and confusion.”

One action characteristic of Burton’s career was his attempt to disrupt an organizing drive by the United Electrical Workers union (UE) at a Westinghouse plant in Tampa in 1973. Burton hired on at the plant and before his probation period was up, openly declared himself a communist and began attacking the UE as a “sellout union.” Burton, while trying to turn the workers against the union, also gave the company a pretext for its subsequent red-baiting attack against the UE. He was eventually isolated, however, and left the plant after several months.

Burton jumped from one organization to another, lasting only a few months in each. He ended his career last July by openly detailing his activities in a local right-wing newspaper. He now works as a ”police advisor” to the city of Tampa.

A similar pattern emerged in the case of Jill and Gi Schafer in New Orleans. They began their activities in the late 1960s, infiltrating several leftist study groups and collectives. The targets of the FBI were the same here—VVAW/WSO, ACWM and the CL, among others.


They too would hop from group to group, operating under an ultra-“left” cover. They would systematically spread lies about other activists and had a reputation for gossiping and name-dropping. They had been identified as disrupters and splitters and were generally isolated from other activists. Both have recently disappeared.

Jill Schafer was able to infiltrate one of the first groups to visit China after the 1971 announcement that President Nixon would go there the following year. The group was a 25-member delegation of Marxist-Leninist students.

Both Burton and Jill Schafer told the New York Times that they had been full-time agents for the FBI. Burton said he was paid about $500 a month plus expenses, while the Schafers together received an average of $16,000 a year from the FBI. They were apparently recruited by FBI operatives in the cities in which they worked.

Burton expressed misgivings to the Times about the “constitutionality” of his work as an informer and claimed to be disenchanted with the FBI. The revelations about the FBI come at a time when it is under increasing scrutiny from liberal congressional critics. A Senate select committee has been impaneled to investigate the government’s intelligence agencies, including the FBI.

It has been known for some time that the government was stepping up its activities against the Marxist-Leninist left. The FBI in the 1973 Uniform Crime Report—an annual bulletin put out by the agency—singled out “Maoists” as particular targets for “surveillance.” A year ago, then Attorney General William Saxbe called a special press conference to express his fears about the “Maoist” left. Division Five, the FBI section that carries out covert actions against the domestic left was ordered to beef up its penetration of the new Marxist-Leninist movement.