The Vietnam POW/MIA issue needs to be laid to rest – Part One

The issue of the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) is one of the last remaining leftover campaigns from the Vietnam War. This refers to the fate of American military personnel still listed as Missing in Action or Prisoners of War in Vietnam and the related military operations of the United States forces in Southeast Asia.

The issue has its own very public and heavily promoted symbol – the POW/MIA flag. This flag has attained particular prominence since the conclusion of the Vietnam War – it is flown alongside the American flag atop many government buildings throughout the United States.

In Honolulu, the POW/MIA flag is flown at the headquarters of the American Legion, a military veterans organisation. The motorcycle group Rolling Thunder, dedicated to the return of all ‘live captives’ from Vietnam, held their rally through the streets of Honolulu in late last year. Alongside the American flag, the standard bearer of the rally held the POW/MIA flag. Though the popularity of the motorcycle group has declined, the POW/MIA issue still holds a special place, almost that of a national religion, in the American cultural consciousness.

Is there any truth in this widespread belief that the North Vietnamese kept live American POWs after the conclusion of the Vietnam hostilities? Even a cursory examination of the popular culture reveals that the belief in POW/MIAs still persists. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, numerous movies were made in Hollywood depicting attempts by private individuals – usually Vietnam veterans – to launch rescue missions despite official resistance and denials by the US government that such captives exist. Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, Chuck Norris’ numerous Missing in Action movies, Gene Hackman in Uncommon Valor – all had as their common theme a rightwing version of Watergate.

The US government and its various agencies, the Pentagon, the US Congress, the military intelligence agencies – all are engaged in a deceitful and monumental coverup – namely, denying the existence of live American captives in Vietnam after the end of that war – so we are led to believe by the partisans of this conspiratorial viewpoint. This conspiracy reaches the highest levels of the American government, and it is only the lonesome and courageous efforts of unrepentant Vietnam war warriors – such as Bo Gritz, aided and abetted by organisations such as the National League of POW/MIA Families – that has kept alive this issue in the face of government attempts to squash it.

It is worthwhile examining this issue – and being skeptical of the continued existence of live captives after the Vietnam war – for a number of reasons. The POW/MIA myth – because that is what it is – is unique to the Vietnam conflict in that it has provided a never-ending rehabilitation of that war.

There have been – and still are – military personnel unaccounted for from every war. At the end of World War 2, there were 79 000 American military personnel still unaccounted for. That is out of a total of 16 million Americans who served in that conflict. The Department of Defence’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency is still researching and updating their records as new information about the MIAs filters in.

It is not just from the World War 2 conflict – 7800 Americans still remain unaccounted for from the Korean conflict. There is no residual campaign to liberate American captives from either of these conflicts. The POW/MIA issue is a deliberately constructed propaganda exercise – originating with the Nixon administration – to justify American efforts to continue the Vietnam conflict in a different way from open military intervention. Examining this issue forces us to ask serious questions about ourselves and our own political culture – a culture which exploits the legitimate grief of loved ones of unaccounted personnel for imperialistic political purposes.

Prior to American involvement in Vietnam, there was no such category as POW/MIA. The military had maintained a strict distinction between those who were known to have been captured by the enemy, and those personnel who were unaccounted for. The category Killed in Action/ Body Not Recovered (KIA/BNR) was used in those instances where the body had disintegrated, or was lost in totally inaccessible locations. Aircrew whose plane had been shot down, or who were lost at sea, or downed over dense tropical jungle, were included in this category.

Prior to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, this category was kept separate. The Nixon administration cleverly lumped all MIAs and POWs into one conflated category. It was a brilliant, if malignant, propaganda coup. For now on, any MIA personnel would immediately and inevitably be associated with POW. Once MIAs could be directly linked as possible POWs, the Nixon administration created a category that could never be falsified – if a soldier is listed as MIA, surely they could possibly still be alive somewhere in Southeast Asia as a captive in a secret POW camp?

H Bruce Franklin, an American cultural historian and author of books on this subject, wrote that:

Arguably the cagiest stroke of the Nixon Presidency was the slash forever linking POW and MIA. In all previous wars, there was one category called “Prisoners of War,” consisting of those known or believed to be prisoners. There was an entirely separate and distinct category of those “Missing in Action.” The Pentagon internally maintained these as two separate categories throughout the war and its aftermath. But for public consumption, the Nixon Administration publicly jumbled the two categories together into a hodgepodge called POW/MIA, thus making it seem that every missing person might possibly be a prisoner. Because this possibility cannot be logically disproved, the POW/MIA invention perfectly fulfilled its original purpose: to create an issue that could never be resolved.

Why did the Nixon administration do this? By the late 1960s, despite intensive aerial bombardment of Vietnam, the prospect of outright military victory was remote. The 1968 Tet Offensive by the North Vietnamese demonstrated to the American military that victory was virtually impossible. Nixon’s predecessor, Johnson, had kept the issue of captured American military personnel, most of them air force pilots, under wraps. Increasing number of Vietnam veterans were protesting the war, most notably organised into the Vietnam Veterans Against the War group.

In addition to the deteriorating military situation for the Americans, the routine torture and killings by their allies, the South Vietnam Saigon regime, was achieving greater publicity and generating further domestic opposition to the war. The Saigon puppet government, a collection of corrupt generals and thieving politicians, was a kleptocratic dictatorship that used savage violence against any and all opponents. When the Vietnamese Buddhists rose up and protested the discriminatory policies of the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in the early 1960s, protesters were locked up in so-called ‘tiger cages’ where they were manacled, beaten, malnourished and tortured.

When Diem failed to successfully suppress the non-violent Buddhist opposition, he was assassinated in a CIA-backed coup by his generals in November 1963. This coup had the support of the Kennedy administration. Diem was gone, but the client regime remained. Torture and violence was the way the Saigon rulers stayed in power, a regime US forces were supporting. News about this client regime’s brutal measures filtered out, influencing American domestic opposition to the war.

Nixon, inheriting this mess, decided to change the goalposts. No longer was definitive military victory promised, but the rescue of American POW/MIAs. Shifting the moral onus of the war onto North Vietnam, he portrayed the situation as one of helpless captives being held hostage by the scheming, maniacal North Vietnamese. After all, Asian Communists make for convenient villains in American culture. No longer was the Vietnam war a case of American aggression against a weaker opponent. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia – none of these nations ever attacked America. Even if they wanted to, they did not have the capacity to attack.

Forgotten were the lies fabricated by the United States which served as a pretext to invade Vietnam. Forgotten was the constant napalming of villages, burning and mutilating Vietnamese with overwhelmingly firepower. Long forgotten were the millions of Vietnamese victims, and the 300 000 Vietnamese missing in action. Forgotten is the fact that the United States dropped more tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than it did during all its participation in World War Two.

Distracting the domestic opposition to the war, the Nixon campaign found an issue that would serve to deflect criticism of its war policies, and refocus energy on continuing the patriotic effort to fight the Vietnam war. Singling out the POW/MIAs in Vietnam was a cynical manoeuvre to counter the Vietnam veterans who were organising protests against this war and exposing the crimes of the Saigon allies.

The Nixon administration, and subsequent presidents, made the rescue of the POW/MIAs a top priority. Former President Reagan declared that if the Vietnamese government did not provide a full accounting of the POW/MIAs, he would resume bombing that country. Actually, the defence department accounting agency keeps detailed statistics about those personnel unaccounted for. The latest information places the number of unaccounted for from Vietnam at 1247. Out of those, 470 are deemed to be non-recoverable. That leaves 777 as the remainder.

Since the war’s end, there have been numerous investigations – congressional committees, federal departments and agencies, as well as private organisations – and no credible or verifiable evidence has yet emerged that a single POW is being held by Vietnam after the end of the war. Yet, we are still gripped by a fever to find those missing POWs.

How did the POW/MIA myth take hold and become such a powerful factor in American culture? How does this issue contribute to an unending Vietnam war? We will examine these issues in the next part. Stayed tuned.

In the meantime, you may wish to read the magisterial study of this issue written by Professor Michael J. Allen, called Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War.

The Covington kids, the MAGA hat and Donald Trump

The Indigenous Peoples March, held in January this year, has been overshadowed by a controversy regarding the confrontation between a Native American Omaha elder and a group of Make America Great Again (MAGA) teens from Covington Catholic school. The students, ostensibly attending a misnamed ‘pro-life’ rally in Washington, were filmed harassing the indigenous American elder. No doubt millions have viewed the viral video footage of the confrontation, and various interpretations have been offered regarding the responsibility for the altercation.

The most public image of the conflict is that of a smirking Nick Sandmann, one of the dozens of Covington Catholic school students wearing the MAGA hat, confronting the indigenous American man. The MAGA-wearing students, after initially being blamed by social media commentators for harassing the Native American elder, have been turned into victims by right-wing and conservative media outlets willing to excuse or at least minimise the causative factor of racism and white supremacy in this incident.

Jason Wilson, writing for The Guardian newspaper, documents how the conservative Right reframed the confrontation into one of a ‘rush to judgement’, where the Covington students are the victims and the indigenous peoples marchers are the aggressors. Wilson perceptively deconstructs the PR campaign the conservative and right-wing media have waged to promote the myth of white victimhood. Much has been made of the presence of a cult, the black Hebrew Israelites, at the indigenous peoples march.

There is no question that the black Israelites are a cult, who misuse and misread history for their own narrow purposes. It is true that this grouping in homophobic and anti-Semitic. But it is interesting to note that the black Hebrew Israelites were never directly confronted by the Covington Catholic MAGA teens. The latter harassed and intimidated the one person who was trying to bring civility and maturity into the incident, the indigenous Omaha elder.

Interestingly, a Louisville public relations company, RunSwitch PR, was hired by the Sandmann family to promote the version of events supportive of the Covington MAGA students. In this age of perception management, having a PR company on side definitely tilts the balance in one’s favour. Propaganda is not the exclusive preserve of Communist systems. Corporate propaganda has become a mainstay of capitalist societies.

The MAGA hat

There is no question that the slogan “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) is an effective propaganda weapon. The MAGA hat, emblazoned with the Trumpist slogan, is now a ubiquitous feature of American political life. It has become a statement of tribal loyalty, a shared white victimhood that rages against ethnic minorities, civil rights, and any perceived encroachment on the privileges of the nativist white majority.

In fact, the MAGA hat has become a more successful and widely implemented symbol of white supremacy than the white hood and bedsheet of the KKK. In the past, there was (and in some Southern states still is) the Confederate flag, a relic of a bygone era of slavery and white privilege. That flag has an atavistic quality about it, symbolising as it does, an economic and political system that was defeated in the ravages of war.

There exists, until today, a neo-Confederate movement, which attempts to rehabilitate the slaveholding South and resist racial integration. This movement, with its own reservations, has endorsed the presidency of Donald Trump. Proponents of the neo-Confederacy look to the antebellum South for values, ideals and as an exemplar of “Anglo-Celtic” heritage. But this movement cannot shake the stigma of being stuck in the past – it required an update for the 21st century.

The MAGA hat is the perfect upgrade for an outmoded and obsolete racist message. Robin Givhan, writing in the Washington Post, states that the MAGA hat is not only an expression of garrulous narcissism – exemplified by Trump himself – but something much deeper:

The MAGA hat speaks to America’s greatness with lies of omission and contortion. To wear a MAGA hat is to wrap oneself in a Confederate flag. The look may be more modern and the fit more precise, but it’s just as woeful and ugly.

By turning the Covington MAGA teens from perpetrators to victims, the conservative media have successfully ignored the legitimate issues raised by the indigenous peoples march – one major issue being the mistreatment of indigenous children. Trump, by allying himself with the MAGA teens, disguised his intervention as concern for the well-being of the Covington students and the alleged ‘rush to judgement’ by the media. However, his posturing of concern for children is rank hypocrisy, given the Trump administration’s mistreatment of children at immigration detention centres.

Donald Trump is the modern version of George Wallace

When discussing the Trump presidency, much is made of the contrast between him and his predecessor Barack Obama. Trump’s detractors on the conservative side of politics emphasise the differences between past Republican presidents and the current incumbent. The implication of this viewpoint is that Trump represents a striking break with the past. While there is merit in this evaluation, I think it falls short in one major respect. We have seen Donald Trump before – his name was George Wallace.

The late George Wallace, the former racist governor of Alabama and diehard segregationist, gained national attention in 1963 when he made his symbolic stand in the schoolhouse, protesting the racial integration of the University of Alabama. After that stunt, Wallace became the public candidate of white resentment, the counter-reaction to the growth of civil rights and formal racial equality. While ultimately unsuccessful, his campaign advocated many of the themes and ideas updated and recycled by Donald Trump.

Wallace, when campaigning for the presidency, tapped into a reservoir of white racial resentment against the perceived rising tide of civil rights. But he also portrayed himself as the anti-establishment candidate, the maverick outsider willing to take on the liberal and cosmopolitan elites that have purportedly excluded the white working class. In tones eerily echoed down the ages by Trump and the Republican right, Wallace contemptuously sneered at the media and the federal government for allegedly giving too much ground to those pesky and demanding ethnic minorities.

Trump is not a brazen segregationist like Wallace, and his only fixed ideology is that of financial speculation. However, his politics has strong similarities to that of Wallace – while Trump popularised MAGA, Wallace had the similar ‘Standing up for America’. In fact, when comparing the political rhetoric of the two candidates, it is difficult to determine where Trump’s viewpoints differ from those of Wallace.

Indigenous nations and anti-racism

There can be no serious anti-racist politics without including the recognition of the indigenous nations of the Americas. Multiethnic solidarity does not submerge all nationalities into one ‘rainbow coalition’ – as nice as the latter sounds. Anti-racist politics recognises the specific demands of each ethnic group, but brings them together to create a nation of solidarity. Focusing on issues of race and gender does not involve marginalising class-based struggles or ignoring economic issues.

It is appropriate to highlight an article by Armenian American writer Anoush Ter Taulian, who wrote about the reasons why she marched in the indigenous peoples march earlier this year. We would do well to learn from her example.

Cultural Marxism – the delusional conspiracy theory motivating the Alt-Right

While wading through the feverish swamps and fetid cesspits of the internet, you most likely will come across the contemptuous and accusatory snarling phrase ‘cultural marxism’. This term, in the view of the conservative Right, constitutes a conspiratorial endeavour by multiple non-white and non-Christian forces to sabotage and ultimately overthrow white, Western Christian civilisation. There of course numerous iterations of this view, but that is the central component.

Is there any truth to this? No. So why propagate this myth? Because it serves as a scaffolding to unite the disparate and fractious groups of the conservative Right around a single philosophical worldview.

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian ultra-right terrorist, rationalised his actions by claiming that his murderous rampage in 2011 was a defensive strike against cultural Marxism. Mark Latham, former leader of the Australian Labour Party and current advocate for the racist One Nation group, promoted the viral toxic falsity of cultural Marxism to attack multiculturalism and immigration.

As Jason Wilson of The Guardian explained, it provides a unifying theory for the conservative Right to wrap themselves in the mantle of victimhood. Wilson states that:

What do the Australian’s columnist Nick Cater, video game hate group #Gamergate, Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik and random blokes on YouTube have in common? Apart from anything else, they have all invoked the spectre of “cultural Marxism” to account for things they disapprove of – things like Islamic immigrant communities, feminism and, er, opposition leader Bill Shorten.

The main themes of the ‘cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory go back decades, and they have emerged from the phantasmagoric world of the Alternative Right thanks to inordinate publicity given by mainstream ‘respectable’ conservative politicians. While conspiracy theories are rife in the septic-tanks of the Alternative Right, they become weaponised as political platforms when advocated, with numerous mutations, by the conservative Right. The latter, informed by religious fundamentalist and fascistic inputs, becomes a platform for conspiratorial perspectives that toxify the wider society. This mix has dangerous consequences.

So what in the hell is this mysterious and all-consuming conspiracy theory? Let’s attempt a working summation of this large subject.

A working definition

So what is meant by the phrase ‘cultural Marxism?’ For all its various permutations, the basic core of this contemptuous snarl word remains as follows: there exists a basic and unscrupulous alliance between feminism, socialism, mass immigration, multiculturalism, indigenous nations, Islam, identity politics, the LGBTQIA community – essentially, anyone despised by the Alt-Right, to undermine the character of white, Christian nations by moving the arena of struggle from class to culture. A series of culture wars, it is alleged, is the new tactic of the cultural Marxists, surreptitiously working their way through the educational and cultural institutions to take over the capitalist nations.

The notion that the universities are overwhelmingly staffed by Marxists indoctrinating students in the tenets of Marxism is ludicrous. If the universities intended to churn out graduates ideologically committed to the goals of Marxism, then they have failed ignominiously. Capitalism has remained resilient throughout the decades since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc. With that last point, we come to the main reason why the zany theory of ‘cultural Marxism’ has gained traction.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990-91, the radical and conservative Right needed a new enemy on which to fixate. Throughout the decades of the Cold War, the Communist system as embodied in the USSR provided a target on which the Right could focus their obsessive rage. With the removal of that target, they required a new rationale – and one was provided. William Lind and Pat Buchanan, outspoken advocates for the radical Right, formulated an updated version of the old conspiracy theory – ‘cultural Marxism’ was infiltrating and subverting capitalist society.

Class struggle was no longer – supposedly – the prime area of Marxian subversion. Culture became the new stomping ground for the pesky Marxists. Any expression of the multiethnic and sexual diversity of the society could now be attacked as manifestations of the underlying agenda of ‘cultural Marxism’. 

Anti-Semitism repackaged and updated

From its inception as a coherent philosophy, Marxism – or more correctly, scientific socialism – has provided a criticism of the cultural domination of capitalism. This is nothing new. The detractors of Marxism, from the beginning, attacked this cultural critique as a product of the allegedly Jewish origins of scientific socialism. An outsized role was ascribed to the fact that the German labour movement contained, among its adherents and leaders, workers of Jewish background.

The notion that Jews form a distinctive conspiratorial formation is at the heart of numerous conspiracy theories – and formed the basis for the earliest attacks against the doctrines of Marxism. This core anti-semitism has been resuscitated by the modern ‘cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory.

Mikhail Bakunin, the anarchist leader, attacked Marxism on the grounds that ostensible Jewish ethnocentrism prevented the Jewish people from fully participating in a project of cross-cultural and multiethnic worker emancipation. This portrayal of Jews involved in a secret cabal to overthrow the existing order and implement their plans of domination did not start with Bakunin, but has formed a central component of many critiques of Marxism from the ultra-right.

From the 1920s, the Nazi movement – exemplars for today’s Alternative Right – propagated the myth of ‘Judeo-Bolshevism‘, an alleged secretive grouping of Jews – this time in Bolshevik form – operating to overthrow capitalist society from within. Working mainly within the realm of culture, this plot involved spreading doctrines intended to dilute the white Christian nature of Western societies.

At its core, today’s cultural Marxism conspiracy theory contains an updated, recycled and modernised version of the old anti-Semitic Jewish cabal trope. This is where we need to examine the so-called Frankfurt school, and the entirely deceitful portrayal of this branch of academia by the modern white supremacist Right. We need to understand the role that this deception plays when elaborating why the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is so toxic.

The Frankfurt school and cultural studies

The Frankfurt school – more correctly known as the Institute for Social Research – was a grouping of German Jewish intellectuals who studied the influence and application of culture. They fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and continued their work in the United States. These thinkers, coming from different intellectual traditions, tried to understand why the wider European proletariat did not rise up in revolutionary fervour in the 1920s. The role of culture was highlighted as a barrier to the consciousness of the working class.

The Frankfurt school’s major theoreticians also included examinations of gender roles, patriarchy, and they drew upon the work of Sigmund Freud. A number of these scholars became neo-Freudians, elaborating and revising some of Freud’s basic ideas. This work became the springboard for further examinations of the instruments of cultural domination. The Alt-Right has taken this school, and in particular its German Jewish scholars, as the incubator of a vast anti-Western conspiracy.

Let us presume that the German-Jewish intellectuals of Frankfurt school intended on subverting capitalist civilisation through the propagation of Marxist and feminist doctrines. What was the fate of the collective of philosophers and theorists of the Frankfurt school? If they ever did intend to undermine and overthrow Western civilisation, then we have to conclude that they failed miserably.

Rather than serving as a hotbed of leftist agitation, the Frankfurt school’s thinkers merged into the very institutions they were allegedly attempting to subvert. Only one, Herbert Marcuse, remained a Marxist for the entirety of his life. The others all sank into neo-Freudianism – others, like Theodor Adorno, were openly hostile to the 1960s counter-culture and protest movements.

Indeed, the Frankfurt school was the progenitor of postmodernism, the latter the ultimate repudiation of any kind of transformative political project. Postmodernism rejects all kinds of grand, totalising narratives – hardly the basis for a monolithic, surreptitious conspiracy aimed at taking over society.

Cultural diversity and conspiracy

All Marxist intellectuals have, at one point in their lives, examined the capitalist mechanisms of cultural domination in Western society. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist, famously wrote books while imprisoned on this very subject. Is there a fightback by the disenfranchised and impoverished against the dominant capitalist culture of consumerism? Yes. Expressions of cultural and gender diversity reflect the multiple identities of people in the working class. Is there a secretive cabal of Jewish cultural Marxists intent on toppling Western civilisation? No, there is not.

Professor Samuel Moyn from Yale University wrote that the Alt-Right, and their mainstream enablers, advocate a conspiratorial worldview because it homogenises and combines various groups of people into a shadowy, secretive network to thwart ‘normal’ white, Christian society. The conspiratorial framework is quite flexible, and can be adapted to include any number of groups the Alt-Right loves to hate. Feelings of white resentment can be effectively channeled into attacking minority groups and scapegoats, rather than focusing on the capitalist system that has undermined the living standards of everyone.

The St Kilda neo-Nazi rally, the swamp of the ultra-right and the Ukip-ization of Australian politics

In the course of 2018, a number of hate preachers had uninterrupted access to the Australian media outlets, and were able to spread their messages of hate and intolerance far and wide. These preachers were able to disseminate their vitriol because of the active complicity of sections of the Australian political and media establishment.

Oh, and by the way, none of the hate preachers in question were Muslim – they were white. While in this day and age, the term ‘hate preacher’ is normally associated with Islamic clerics, that description can equally be applied to the more effective – and better publicised – hate preachers who were business suits. Do not focus exclusively on religious garments to identify those whose message is one of racial and ethnic hatred.

In St Kilda, a south-eastern suburb of metropolitan Melbourne, a neo-Nazi rally was held by about 150 ultra-rightists and racists. The gathering was met with anti-racist protestors, and the original goal of the neo-fascists – to incite racial violence – was defeated. While it is tempting to simply ignore developments like this, it is important to elaborate the political significance of such gatherings.

The rally was attended by racist Senator Fraser Anning, who has gone on record advocating a return to a ‘White Australia’ policy. In his first speech to the federal parliament, Anning condemned multiculturalism, denounced the Muslim community, and called for a reintroduction of a white-only immigration system in Australia. Anning, one of a number of ultra-rightist and racist politicians, has been condemned by the Australian political establishment.

The current stand-in for the position of Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, issued a statement about the neo-Nazi rally, condemning the ‘ugly racial protests’. Note that the PM did not explicitly denounce the fascist gathering, but – like US President Trump in the wake of the Charlottesville race riot – condemned both sides as equivalents. This incident serves to highlight the role of the mainstream Australian political parties in aiding and abetting the political circumstances that gave rise to neo-fascist groupings, like the ones at St Kilda.

This perverse equation of racist militants with anti-racist protestors is a sign of the times in Australian politics. The demonization of refugees and asylum seekers, the constant attacks on immigration as a security issue, and the promotion of xenophobia by the corporate media have fan the flames of the ultra-rightist and racist groups. While the neo-Nazi groups may be small in number and remain on the fringe, it is the complicity of the mainstream that needs to be examined.

The St Kilda rally, and the presence of a united front of disparate ultra-rightist groupings, is an inevitable consequence of the Ukip-ization of Australian politics. The latter is not my invention, but a concept originated by British sociologist and blogger, Richard Seymour. Ukip is a specifically British creation that originated in the bowels of the Tory financial elite, and has pushed British politics in a xenophobic and ultra-rightist direction. We can see similar trends here in Australian politics. Stoking paranoia about Muslim immigrants as ‘potential terrorists’ and whipping up social anxieties about refugees is not unique to Ukip, but a characteristic of the major political parties in Australia as well.

Hate preachers

At the beginning of this article, we spoke about the presence of hate preachers in Australia in the course of 2018. One particular example of this variety of species is Nigel Farage, founder and former leader of Ukip. He came to Australia and conducted a speaking tour in September last year. His trip was sponsored by sympathetic Australian businesspeople, and Farage was given respectful coverage in the Australian media.

He travelled to a number of Australian capital cities, where he was able to recycle his message of vitriolic hate. It is true that he was met by enthusiastic counter-protesters, the latter actually confronting the politics that Farage promoted – a job that the media failed to do.

The most appalling aspect of his speeches, apart from his racism, was his attempt to position himself as a defender of working people. Ukip, in a similar way to far right parties across Europe, adopt a leftist mask to disguise their pro-business and neoliberal politics. Farage, in finding a supportive audience in Australia, seeks to direct public anger about the inequalities and injustices of capitalism onto the most vulnerable – immigrant communities, welfare recipients and refugees.

The far right has a long history of cynically appropriating leftist-sounding phrases – even talking about ‘revolution’ to disguise its nature as a revolt of the oligarch. Farage himself is a former investment banker and multi-billionaire, who presents himself as a ‘rebel’ against the mythical ‘politically correct’ cosmopolitan establishment.

Another hate preacher who was able to gain a sympathetic audience in Australia was Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief of staff, campaign adviser and alt-right ‘theoretician’. Interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bannon was basically given a free pass, and the interview failed to confront his racism. Bannon went to great lengths to deny that he is a racist, or that his political platform contains any hint of racism. That is quite interesting, because in 2018, at an international conference of ultra-rightist parties, Bannon proudly declared that he wears the label racist as a badge of honour.

Bannon is nothing if not a clever and cynical media operator. His main target, in his interview, was China, and its supposed rising influence in Australia. Tapping into the long and dark history of anti-Asian sentiment in Australia, Bannon repeatedly stressed that Australia was the ‘tip of the spear’ in America’s drive against China. While stopping short of urging a direct military confrontation, Bannon nevertheless took a belligerent stand against China, drawing on recent hysteria about a purported Chinese military presence in Vanuatu. Never matter the hundreds of American military bases sprawling across the Asia-Pacific.

The American ruling class has been ramping up the militaristic rhetoric against China in recent years, because of the latter’s growing economic and technological clout. China has opened up to foreign capital and investment, and has participated in international economic relations with numerous countries. Chinese ‘market socialism’ has caused intense trepidation in Washington, not because it presents a military threat, but because China can mount a serious challenge to American economic interests. Bannon sought to include Australia in America’s new Cold War – against China.

There is no shortage of hate preachers in Australia – Andrew Bolt, a columnist for the Herald Sun and syndicated radio show host, regularly spouts his hatred for migrants in his columns. Whipping up fears about mythical ‘African crime gangs’ in 2018, he went on record to denounce immigration as a form of colonisation. In this endeavour, he was reflecting the thinking of major figures in the ultra-conservative Liberal government, such as Peter Dutton, the current Home Affairs minister. The media’s racialized reporting about crime has consequences for the South Sudanese, and other African communities in Australia.

The ultra-rightist swamp

Jason Wilson, writing in The Guardian newspaper, states that we must call out a fascist movement, even though it is still small and disparate. These groups may be fractured today, but with a uniting set of theories centered on racial resentment and anti-multiculturalism, these groups can combine. Aided and abetted by political and media figures who regurgitate hysteria about immigration and trash refugees, these groupings can gain a wider audience. Ignoring them would be the height of folly. As John Passant stated in his article regarding this issue:

Ordinary workers and others have to unite around the common goal of stopping fascism from spreading and getting a bigger audience before it is too late — too late for Jews, Africans, Muslims, women and the organised working class. Unite now.


It is time to stop the anti-Russia hysteria – Russophobia, birther conspiracy theories and opposition to Trump

Do you wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in a cold sweat? Does your television turn on and off for no apparent reason? Does your pet dog begin howling like a coyote at midnight? There is one overall explanation to account for all of these terrifying events – the Russians are responsible.

The Russians did it!

2018 is drawing to a close, but Russophobia has escalated, more paranoid and ridiculous than ever before. Your car won’t start? The Russians sabotaged it. You have an upset stomach? The Russians poisoned your meal. Your favourite football team lost the game? The Russians fixed the match.

While the tone of the above is facetious, there is nothing even remotely amusing about the current round of anti-Russia hysteria. The accusation of Russian interference has become the default explanation for any and every kind of problem in the US and Britain. This Russophobic mode of thinking disables our critical thinking faculties, blinds us to the myriad causes of social and economic problems in our own society, and serves the definite political purposes of the US and English ruling classes. The Russophobic mindset takes a paranoid, downward spiral, seeing malignant Russian/Soviet influence here, there and everywhere.

The portrayal of Russia as some sort of Machiavellian monster-superpower pervading every aspect of American life is preposterous, but it does fulfill political functions. Originating in the ruling circles of Washington and London, this anti-Russia paranoia has eerie similarities to the anti-Communist McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s and 60s.

Specifically, opposition to Trump, built up by the Democratic party and their supporters in the US military-intelligence community, is based on the absurd accusation that Trump is a Kremlin stooge, or at least owes his election victory in 2016 to Russian meddling.

This line of opposition ignores the very real reasons to oppose the racist Right – anti-immigration attacks, privatisation of public services, pushing down workers – and misdirects political opposition along “Trump is a foreign stooge” lines. Foreign powers are assigned responsibility for America’s problems, and the American capitalist system goes unexamined. We must fight back not only against Trump and his racist supporters, but against the economic system that produced him and made his ascent possible.

What is the purpose of this vocational demonisation of Russia, and in particular its president, Vladimir Putin? We can start examining this question by recalling the wise words of emeritus Professor Stephen Cohen, a scholar and expert commentator on Soviet and Russian history and politics – the Cold War ended in Moscow, but not in Washington.

With that concise and accurate observation, we can begin to understand that Cold War thinking still dominates policymakers in Washington and London as well. Russia under President Putin has reasserted itself, and this pushback has set off alarm bells in Washington’s ruling circles. Not only has President Putin avoided the attempts by the Western powers to isolate Russia, he stopped the Jamaicanisation of the Russian economy, restoring its fundamentals and asserting Russian capitalism on the international stage. This hardly makes Russia an enormous superpower, or a mythical resurrection of the Soviet Union, but a serious competitor to the other capitalist nations.

Birtherism and Russophobia

Birtherism – the racist conspiracy theories about former President Obama’s citizenship and birth – alleged that he was a secret Muslim, and a puppet of a foreign power. Denounced as disloyal and a traitor, the ludicrous assertion that Obama was controlled by a foreign state was used by Trump and the racist right to divert opposition to Obama’s policies. No mention was made of Obama’s escalation of drone strikes, letting Wall Street banks and financial institutions off the hook for their criminality, or continuing privatisation of public assets.

The anti-Russia hysteria is a xenophobic realignment of the birtherism paranoia. The “Trump is a Kremlin stooge” allegation may not be openly racist, but it is equally xenophobic as the birtherism attacks against Obama. Attacking and smearing opponents, particularly left-wing alternatives, to the Democratic party in the US as stooges of Communist/Soviet/Russian influence has a long and sordid history.

Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and other opposition candidates have faced scurrilous accusations of Russian influence. Interestingly, it was the Republican party, during its failed 1992 campaign for the presidency, that accused the eventual winner, Bill Clinton, of being ‘soft’ on Russia.

Russophobia is back in fashion in Washington, and in Canberra for that matter. There are a whole host of reasons to oppose Trump. Being an agent of a foreign power is not one of them. It is easy to blame outsiders for your own domestic problems. While Russia is no longer a Communist country, its allegedly perfidious activities are normally ascribed to underlying Communist-Marxist influence in the Kremlin. After all, Putin himself is an ex-KGB agent, is he not? Those pesky Commies still manage to come back.

Putin and George H W Bush

It is interesting to note that Putin’s background as a KGB operative is frequently cited to denote Russia’s supposedly authoritarian character since he took office in 1999-2000. However, the late George Bush’s background as head of the CIA made little if any impact on the American system of government.

Even though Bush, in the 1980s, was responsible for constructing a shadowy criminal-business network outside the scrutiny of the US congress in carrying out the Iran-Contra affair. Bush became a traitor to the very constitution he swore to uphold, circumventing it and its laws to continue supplying the murderous Nicaraguan contras.

All forms of dissent in the United States, from Black Lives Matter to Wikileaks, are routinely smeared in the corporate media as Russian stooges or agents influenced by the Kremlin. The sinister effectiveness of this tactic is quite astounding- dismissing your opponents as foreign agents actively discourages any discussion about the serious and legitimate reasons for political dissent. Rather than have a substantive discussion about the ongoing problems of racism, state surveillance, the crimes of US foreign policy and corporate corruption, these issues are swept under the carpet under a tide of false and malicious accusations of Russian influence.

Opposition to Trump and the Alternative Right becomes constrained; rather than discuss the criminal and predatory policies of the Trump administration, the politically dissenting groups have to answer deceitful questions about their alleged lack of patriotism and foreign influence.

Russia’s reorientation and resurgence

In the last few weeks, Russia has delivered to the Venezuelan government two long-range strategic bomber aircraft, capable of carrying short-range nuclear warheads. Moscow also pledged to establish joint defence training and military strategies with the Venezuelan authorities.

These measures, along with the Russian government’s decision to block the Kerch strait separating Russia from the Crimean peninsula and seize three Ukrainian naval warships, touched off a war of words between Moscow and Washington. But these moves also demonstrate the major reason Washington and London harbour bitter resentment towards Moscow and Putin in particular. Putin has been outmanoeuvring the US and Britain for decades.

Russia has recuperated from the disastrous consequences of the USSR’s dissolution in 1991. In what was the worst peacetime collapse of industry and social services, millions lost their lives through destitution, the rise of unemployment and crime, and the subsequent loss of medical services. The change from a centrally-planned socialist economy to a privatised, oligarchic ‘free market’ produced the mass pauperisation of the population, massive inequalities, child malnutrition and homelessness. Health and social policy experts have calculated that in the 1990s, millions died as a result of the reestablishment of capitalist economic relations and the destruction of social services.

The orgy of criminal self-enrichment of the Yeltsin years stopped under President Putin. No, he is not going to restore the Soviet Union; no, he is not a new Stalin, neither is he a dictator. He is a Russian nationalist, a De Gaulle-style leader who stresses cooperation with Europe while maintaining Russia’s interests. While criticising unilateral actions by American imperialism, he is not anti-imperialist. Russia is not a superpower about to devour the globe; neither is it an economically disastrous place as it was in the 1990s.

Russia has vast natural resources, and this, combined with its resurgence, makes it an obstacle to the plans of the United States. Let us bear in mind that Russia today has an economy smaller than South Korea and Brazil. It has military bases in Syria, and along Armenia’s border with Turkey. The United States has at least 800 military bases around the world, plus its expanding and covert military presence in African countries.

It is not Kremlin propaganda to point out the obvious fact that NATO has expanded to incorporate former Eastern bloc nations. It is not Kremlin proper to observe that the 2014 Ukrainian putsch was led by neo-fascists and Nazi-rehabilitating racist criminals. It is not “Putin apologetics” to point out that the United States – and interestingly Israel – are militarily and diplomatically supporting the neo-Nazi government in Kiev to stoke tensions with Moscow.

Russia under Putin has got itself together, and waged diplomatic measures to increase ties with China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India and other nations. The Kremlin intervened decisively in Syria to protect its interests, and militarily defeat what it sees as religiously extremist militia groups fighting to topple the Ba’athist Syrian regime. Demonising Putin may make us feel self-righteous, but does nothing to assist us in understanding the legitimate grievances that Moscow raises regarding current conflicts.

Australia – let’s stop the anti-Russia paranoia

What has all this got to do with Australia?

In an article for Russia Beyond the Headlines, journalist Rakesh Krishnan Simha makes the powerful case that Australia, rather than blindly and mindlessly following the policy directives of Washington, should abandon its anti-Russia paranoia. As Simha writes:

Over the decades, they have blindly followed the U.S. and have been loyal foot soldiers in a string of American-inspired conflicts around the world – Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria. Plus, with old co-hegemon Britain’s defense forces shrinking because of budget cuts, Australia is keen to take over the role of America’s closest ally.

With the end of the Cold War, the Australian foreign policy establishment were euphoric – Russia was defeated (supposedly) and Yeltsin opened up the nation to the inroads of foreign capital. But the euphoria was short-lived. Putin’s ascent to power, and Russia’s resurgence as a force to be reckoned with, has made Canberra sullen, hostile and resentful. We must stop this ongoing hostility to Russia, simply making America’s enemies our opponents as well.

If we maintain this direct collision course with Russia, the consequences for the world will be catastrophic. Let us stop this insane psychology of ‘Russiagate’, and look at ourselves and our own problems. In their attempt to unseat Trump, factions of the American ruling class are using Russophobia as a weapon. Let us not go down that road, but oppose Trump by presenting an anti-capitalist alternative, and thus sweep away the diseased system that gave rise to such a diseased mind.

The anti-Semitic shooting at Pittsburgh was a long time in the making

The murder of worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pensylvannia, by the white supremacist Robert Bowers, was motivated by anti-Semitism. Bowers circulated his views on social media, referring to immigrants and ethnic minorities in derogatory and menacing terms. However, he saved particular scorn for the Jewish people, regarding them as a uniquely cunning, sinister, organised and direct threat to the status of white America. While carrying out his attack, he reportedly yelled ‘all Jews must die.’

Why did this particular brand of hatred – anti-Semitism – rear its ugly head at this point? It is worth examining the persistence of this long-standing hatred. This act of domestic terrorism at Pittsburgh is arguably the largest slaughter of Jews in recent American history. While this shooting bears a striking resemblance to the racist killing of African African worshippers at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston in 2015, the Pittsburgh killing was motivated by anti-Semitic undercurrents that have been ever-present in American political and cultural life.

Trump’s words have lethal consequences

Bowers targeted that particular synagogue because it has its roots in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), an organisation has helped refugees and migrants from multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds settle in the United States. The anti-immigration rhetoric that pours out of the Trump administration has very real and serious consequences. Make no mistake – current US President Donald Trump has emboldened and legitimised anti-immigrant hatred and white supremacy through his words and actions.

Trump and his supporters have routinely denounced migrants and refugees as a threatening presence in the United States; speaking of migrants as an existential menace is a talking point of the white supremacist Alternative Right. The migrant caravan from Honduras, consisting of people fleeing US-made wars, poverty, environmental destruction and criminal violence, are portrayed by Trump as an emergent menace for which a military response is the only solution.

It is not surprising that responsibility for the Honduran caravan is attributed to the scheming and organisation power of the mysterious Jews by right-wing commentators. It is no exaggeration to say that the hysterical response to the migrant caravan – encouraged and led by the Trump administration – led to the Pittsburgh shooting. Bowers emerged from the fevered swamps of the racist and anti-Semitic Right to take action against persons that the president said were a direct and immediate threat.

Of course, it is the Jews who are held responsible – a conspiracy theory that denies any agency or intelligence to the Honduran refugees, but rather reduces them to naive dupes of the ever-conniving Jews. Amplified by right-wing commentators, the message of the Trump presidency was unmistakable – the Jews are ‘pulling the strings’. Trump and his supporters cannot dismiss political rhetoric as just mere exaggeration or playing to the crowd. Bigotry becomes normalised, and the hate that it spawns emerges from the fringes and makes its way into the political mainstream.

The longest hatred

It would be naive in the extreme to blame Trump exclusively for the eruption of anti-Semitic violence in America. Anti-Semitism has a long and dark history that predates Trump and the Republicans. It is an unusual hatred in that it found expression first as a religious anti-Semitism with the triumph of European Christendom and then as a racialised form of bigotry with the rise of pseudo-scientific theories about race from the late eighteenth century.

While it is common for racists to look down on people they see as inferior – note the habitual targeting of Hispanic migrants as lazy and subsisting on welfare – the Jewish people have been pilloried for their purported collective intelligence. This intelligence is not something that is ascribed to individuals, but as a collective entity to be wary of – the scheming, conniving, villainous Jew has made an appearance in many guises. Since the days of Shakespeare’s Shylock, the money-lending, greedy and sinister Jew has been held responsible for manipulating political events and economies, using the liberal cosmopolitanism of the Christian West to undertake treacherous, and sinister projects for financial gain.

Anti-Semitic oppression has a long pedigree – Jews were attacked for being ‘Christ-killers’, drinking the blood of Christian children, holding dual loyalty while living in Christian communities – among many other accusations. With the emergence of pseudo-scientific racial doctrines, the Jews were compartmentalised as a unique ‘race’ unwilling and unable to assimilate in the European West. When Jewish communities reached out to other ethnic and religious minorities in solidarity, such as the Tree of Life Synagogue, they were denounced by the Right as ‘bringing invaders’ into their country of residence.

The mechanised mass murder of the Holocaust, brought to the world’s attention the horrors that anti-Semitic bigotry can produce. For a time after World War Two, the menace of anti-Semitism seemed, if not completely vanquished, at least significantly diminished. Jews emigrated to the United States, which emerged from the world war as a strong, vibrant economy. Jewish people moved into the newly expanding middle-class suburbs and assimilated into the capitalist society which appeared to welcome them.

It is their role as the alleged puppeteers, the ones ‘pulling the strings’ by using their financial power that is the accusation that has resurfaced in numerous forms. In this context, it is useful to examine the work of a Belgian socialist, Abram Leon. Murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camps in 1944, Leon wrote a classic study called ‘The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation.’ Leon examined how the Jews became traders and financiers, first in the era of feudal lords and nobles, and subsequently in the capitalist economies of Europe. While Christian Europe was deeply anti-Semitic, the Jews could find only one area where they could at least make a living – in money-lending.

It would be incorrect to dismiss European Jews as exclusive money-lenders, for they did find themselves taking up jobs as artisans, stevedores and other manual labouring occupations. However, it was their role as the financier which the ruling classes latched onto – making a convenient scapegoat, the ills of capitalist society could be blamed on the tax collector, and the usurious money-lender.

In times of economic crisis, it was convenient to direct public anger against the money-lending, huckstering Jew – the Shylock of old, and the alleged puppeteer of events in the collective imagination of today’s conspiracy theories. Based on the erroneous belief that the ‘Jews have too much power’, the Jews now stand accused of masterminding Black Lives Matter, the civil rights movement, feminism, immigration (particularly from Muslim-majority nations), LGBTQIA rights, political correctness – all the usual talking-points of the ultra-right racists.

This concept of the Jews as a secret cabal with power over the majority fits quite well with the far-right; the latter are longstanding supporters of the state of Israel. The best friends that Israel has in Europe are the ultra-rightist anti-Semitic parties and political figures. Philo-semitism – elevating the Jews into a racial category of exceptional intelligence – is a common theme of anti-Semites.

Far-right parties have expressed their support for the construction of an ethno-supremacist state of Israel, because it mirrors their own desire for an ethnically homogenous white-settler state in their countries of residence. With a new demon against which to fixate – Islam – Israel and its anti-semitic supporters have made common cause.

Anti-Semitism is not just an afterthought or peripheral to the white supremacist mindset. The philosophical core of white nationalism is the claim that the Jewish people constitute the striking antithesis and eternal enemy to the white Christian nation. In times of economic crisis, as capitalism goes into terminal decline, old scapegoats are revived from hibernation. The Atlantic consensus of austerity and so-called ‘free markets’ is breaking down, and into the breach steps the Alternative Right. Let us stop victimising the Jewish people yet again by opposing the resuscitation of an old, discredited and lethal bigotry.

No, George Soros is not a globalist puppet master

George Soros is a lot of things: a currency speculator, a financier who made billions by taking advantage of adverse conditions in Britain and Europe, a hedge fund manager whose only activity is buying and selling money, and an objectionable figure.

He is a hypocrite, promoting the “Open Society” as a value-free, purely democratic non-ideological societal vision. In fact, the underlying motivation of the supposed ‘Open Society’ is a deep commitment to neoliberal capitalist ideology. However, is he the puppet master, the Jewish entrepreneur at the hub of a vast globalist conspiracy, bankrolling fake revolutions and bringing down national economies? No, he is not.

In the last article, we examined the role of anti-Semitism in shaping and motivating George Soros conspiracy theories. Naming Soros as the ultimate puppet master recycles long-standing prejudices about Jews being the malevolent masterminds of social dissent, funding protests and social unrest to upset the white, Christian status quo.

But repackaging anti-Semitism is not enough. Anti-Semitism, while crucial to the world view of the ultra-nationalist right, is not sufficient to provide an alternative to the growing anti-capitalist mass movements.

We need to go further in our analysis, and examine how the far-right – the main purveyors of such conspiratorial thinking – serve to obscure the underlying causes of immiseration today, and helps to misdirect outrage onto the victims of neoliberal capitalism. The notion of globalism – which predates the election of Trump – has deep roots in the American political culture. This is the label which the Alternative Right, and its mainstream supporters, use to attack all its favoured targets, including George Soros.


The term globalism, as used by the ultra-right, has seeped into popular discourse since the early 1990s. With globalisation becoming a hot-topic with the growing reach and operation of transnational corporations, issues surrounding unchecked corporate influence, national sovereignty and human rights rose to the fore. The Left made an economic and political critique of the capitalist system; the white supremacist Right substituted globalisation with the word globalism, to redirect the debate to ground that is conducive to the ideology of the anti-immigrant ultra-right.

Liam Stack, writing in the New York Times, explains that globalism has its origins as an anti-Semitic slur term with the beginning of the Cold War. It referred to a secret, powerful cabal of super-rich individuals who manipulate social forces to undermine American national sovereignty. The term, rather than elaborating a strong anti-capitalist analysis, perceives the world as run by secretive groups of conspiratorial elites (usually Jewish) to overturn white, Christian nations such as the United States.

This far-right conspiratorial world view has evolved, especially since the early 1990s, to incorporate all the elements to which the Alternative Right is opposed. As Liam Stack explains:

Globalism is often used as a synonym for globalization, the system of global economic interconnection that has been critiqued for decades by liberal groups like labor unions, environmental organizations and opponents of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But for the far right, the term encapsulates a conspiratorial worldview based on racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, according to Mark Pitcavage, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League.

This conspiratorial world view has developed into a generalised anxiety about what the ultra-right regards as the New World Order (NWO). The latter is a fictional objective of the allegedly globalist elites, who intend to create one world government through international bodies such as the United Nations. The racist John Birch Society began the conspiratorial theorising of the NWO, alleging that the UN was a tool of the Communists and Jews. Similar tropes are trotted out about various international bodies, included the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg group.

What has this got to do with Soros?

As the typical example of an all-powerful Jewish financier, Soros fits the bill for our times – an updated version of Shylock, Soros represents the ultimate liberal globalist, and thus becomes the perfect bogeyman for the ultra-right. No longer is the economic debate about poverty, inequalities, structural racism or neoliberal capitalism. The conversation is transformed into a denunciation of mass immigration and elite influence – supposed tools of the globalist conspiracy to undermine American (and white Western) national sovereignty.

The enemy is no longer the capitalist billionaire, but the immigrants, the refugees, ethnic minorities, feminists, Muslims, atheists, the LGBTQ community – in short, the favoured targets of the Alternative Right. Globalism has, in many ways and forms, continued and extended the old Right’s Cold War-era thinking, and adapted it to our times. Globalism, rather than Communism, is the new demon against which to rally American civilisation (and there is always Islam). Discussions regarding the injustices of capitalism become transformed into anti-immigrant and xenophobic outbursts – working class people become mini-Enoch Powells.

Alex Jones, the shouting conspiracy theorist, regularly screamed his opposition to the fictitious New World Order creeping totalitarianism – his main target being immigration, which is regularly denounced as a tool of the globalist elite. Attacking any kind of protest movement as funded by George Soros, anti-capitalist opposition is delegitimised and written off. If the Walmart protesters, the anti-Kavanaugh protests, Black Lives Matter and anti-corporate groups can all be dismissed as paid puppets of the globalist Soros, then the only alternative oppositional outlet is that of the white supremacist Right.

Soros – hedge funds and philanthropic capitalism

George Soros is one of the wealthiest people in the world, having made his fortune through managing hedge funds. They are a type of pooled investment structure, designed to derive maximum returns for its main investors. Soros is also a currency speculator – the buying and selling of foreign currencies in order to profit from the ever-fluctuating prices of those currencies. Soros Fund Management is one of the most profitable entities in the business.

This economic activity is quite typical of the present day – the financialisation of capitalism; the economic workings of finance capital, as opposed to industrial capital. The domination of finance capital in the operation of the capitalist system produces figures like George Soros – hedge fund managers who make billions without actually producing anything. The shift in gravity from traditional industrial capital – factories, assets, manufacturing and so on – over to finance capital, has led to a fundamental shift in the current stage of the capitalist system.

Of course finance capital, and its domination of the system, is international in scope. Transnational corporations, operated purely for profit and increasingly owned by large banks and hedge funds, increase their scope and size across the globe. Soros, ever willing to exploit an opportunity, made his money by rising through the world of financial speculation.

No, Soros is not the ‘man who broke the Bank of England’, but he did take advantage of the tensions between the UK and Europe in the early 1990s to short-sell the British pound and make billions in the process. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir accused Soros of being responsible for the 1997 Asian economic crisis, a claim for which he later apologised.

Soros engages in corporate philanthropy, providing money to organisations such as the Democratic Party in the US, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others long-derided by the Right as bastions of left-wing ideology. His fellow billionaires also engage in philanthro-capitalism. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson – all participate in an economic system that enriches them at the expense of others, and then provide a portion of their wealth to grant-making organisations to salve their consciences.

Most of their money remains hidden away in tax havens. Ironically, with all the talk of globalisation and weakening of states, the billionaires have used the laws passed by nation-states and national governments to provide a veneer of legality to their dubious activity.

Soros promotes his Open Society Foundation, as an instrument to further the values upon which his career and wealth depend.  Ideologically and politically committed to ‘free-markets’, Soros worries that if liberal capitalism is collapsing, then the activity of financial speculation will cease with it.

Finance capital has impoverished the lives of millions of people, devastated environments, and demolished the living standards of working class people. This is not the result of the evil workings of a cabal of Jews, or immigration, or refugees, or Muslims, or single mothers on welfare. Finance capital and its attendant social misery is the direct outcome of the billionaire class, and the decisions they make. It is time to identify the cause of immiseration, so we can consciously fight the system that depletes all of us.