Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 16, 2018

George Soros: destroyed by the monster he created

Filed under: Soros — louisproyect @ 7:17 pm

Ever since George Soros became a major donor to Bard College, I have followed his intellectual and financial trajectory. His millions not only allowed Leon Botstein to transform the school into something much more like Swarthmore than the woolly, bohemian enclave it was when I attended from 1961-1965 but to build a satellite of universities worldwide in its image embodying the Soros/Botstein ethos. This boils down to a defense of capitalism and imperialism mixed with lip-service to democracy and human rights.

One of those satellites is the Al-Quds University in Jerusalem that epitomizes Soros’s fence-straddling approach. As someone with the guts to criticize the Likud Party’s heavy-handedness alongside other liberals like Peter Beinart and the late Tony Judt, Soros put his money where his beliefs were by creating a school that would “lift up” the unfortunate Palestinians. He even was smart enough to see that Sari Nusseibeh was hired, a well-known Palestinian academic who had spent time in an Israeli prison in 1991 for opposing the first Gulf War. Despite this seemingly radical stance, he was also widely considered in Palestinian circles for being an accommodationist.

This came to a head in 2005 when the Palestinian professor’s union called for his dismissal because of his advocacy of “normalising ties with Israel” and for “serving Israeli propaganda interests”. Taking a provocative stance against BDS, Nusseibeh earned the condemnation of Awni al-Khatib, a professor of chemistry at Hebron University who said: “He (Nusseibeh) criticised the British union boycott of two Israeli universities, but he didn’t utter a word against the routine Israeli policy of closing Palestinian colleges and universities and of erecting roadblocks that prevent professors, employees and students from reaching Palestinian campuses.”

Nusseibeh resigned in 2014 after student supporters held a rally on campus commemorating Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Ibrahim Maqadmeh, all killed by Israel.

The other newsworthy Soros satellite is the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest that Viktor Orban has attempted to shut down. Demanding that the CEU establish a home base in New York in order to satisfy questionable Hungarian legal requirements, the university has been on the ropes for the past year. Although I have little use for George Soros, I have even less use (by far) for scum like Viktor Orban. Last April I ended an article on CEU with this appeal: Is it possible to oppose what George Soros stands for and simultaneously defend CEU’s right to exist in an increasingly repressive and barbaric Hungary? I would hope so. My advice is to go to the CEU support page and show your solidarity.

In addition to facing the ouster of CEU, Soros is also facing the eviction of his NGO’s in Hungary as the NY Times reported today:

Under intense political pressure and the threat of legal sanctions, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations said on Tuesday that it had become impossible to work in Hungary, whose prime minister has blamed Mr. Soros for the country’s problems, and that the foundations would move their operations to Berlin.

The foundations, which promote democracy, free expression and civil rights, have come under growing political and legal pressure from Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has stifled dissent and declared last week that “the era of liberal democracy is over.” The foundations have been a frequent target of the Hungarian government, and Mr. Orban himself has painted Mr. Soros as a shadowy figure seeking to undermine the country’s sovereignty.

Viktor Orban is basically the Donald Trump of Hungary. His animosity toward Soros is a function of nativist politics that are identical to rightwing governments and parties across Europe. Not surprisingly, his re-election last month was interpreted as a boost for Putin’s project of building the alt-right in Europe as the Daily Beast’s Anna Nemtsova reported:

In Russia the Kremlin celebrated Orban’s victory as its own. Senator of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev said on Monday that Orban’s victory showed that Hungary managed to defend its national interests in the European Union and NATO. “This [EU/NATO] line, if we slightly simplify it, means the following: We are in solidarity with our partners for as long as they do not contradict with our interests.”

If you thought that Orban was a consistent rightwing asshole going back 40 years just like Donald Trump, you’d be wrong. As it happens, he was George Soros’s Frankenstein monster who turned against his creator as Adam Lebor reported in the Intercept in 2015.

A graduating from law school in 1987, he joined the Soros-funded Central-Eastern Europe Study Group. Many intellectuals in that period were easily seduced by the deep-pocketed billionaire. In a sense, it was like knocking down an open door since the majority of Soviet and Eastern European intellectuals and academics had become convinced that capitalism would better serve their interests. In fact, all Soros needed to do was pay for some Xerox machines as Michael Lewis reported in the New Republic:

In 1984 Soros opened his first office, in Budapest, and began all manner of subversive activities for which he is temperamentally very well-equipped. “I started by trying to create small cracks in the monolithic structure which goes under the name of communism, in the belief that in a rigid structure even a small crack can have a devastating effect,” he wrote in Opening the Soviet System. “As the cracks grew so did my efforts until they came to take up most of my time and energy.” Says Liz Lorant, who worked with Soros from the start: “It was the excitement of what we got away with [that is irreplaceable]. We got away with murder. [For example] at that time Xerox machines were under lock and key. That was the way it was. In Romania you had to register a typewriter with the police. Well, we just flooded the whole damn country with Xerox machines so that the rules became meaningless.” In short, by the time the dust settled over the Berlin Wall—boom! bust!—Soros had accumulated a highly charged portfolio of gratitude. The Great White Gods of Eastern Europe—Havel, Michnik, Kis, Haraszti—were all in his debt. So were all sorts of lesser—known, highly motivated people wending their way to high political office.

Lesser-known, highly motivated people wending their way to high political office? Those words fit Orban to a tee.

Like the big bourgeoisie of the 19th century that gained their millions through shady deals as well as outright criminality in order to create universities and think-tanks dedicated to their worldview, Soros follows suit. Unlike an Andrew Carnegie who instructed Pinkerton gunmen to open fire on strikers, Soros uses less bloody tactics like insider trading. Found guilty in 2002 and 2011, he never spent a day in jail. In other transactions, he did not break the law but certainly caused widespread suffering—enough conceivably to kill even far more people than were killed by Carnegie’s Pinkertons. In 1997, Soros’s manipulation of the Thai baht led to a financial crisis throughout Southeast Asia that while being entirely legal was criminal in its impact. Indonesian was particularly hard-hit according to a UN report that noted that the Soros-triggered crisis wiped out one-fifth of non-farm jobs, driving 40 million people, a fifth of the population, into poverty.

Digging into the history of George Soros’s philanthropy and intellectual output reveals a rather sophisticated, multifaceted approach. In an article by Nicolas Guilhot titled “Reforming the World: George Soros, Global Capitalism and the Philanthropic Management of the Social Sciences” that appeared in the May 2007 Critical Sociology, you get the definitive analysis. Since it is behind a paywall, let me provide a summary of his main arguments.

To start with, the idea of a West-East collaboration such as the CEU was not Soros’s innovation. In the 1950s, the Ford Foundation was exploring the same idea as way of seducing the Soviet bloc’s intellectuals. One think-tank, the Foundation for European Intellectual Solidarity, was spawned by the CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Soros avoided being connected to the CIA even though for many on the left, he is just as evil. Whatever you want to say about Soros, including the suffering he caused through the baht manipulation, I doubt that the Open Society would have ever gotten involved with waterboarding.

After narrowly escaping the Judeocide, George Soros was encouraged by his father to enroll with the London School of Economics. Failing the admission exams, he was not dissuaded. He snuck into LSE lectures over a two year period and absorbed the ideas of a school that was founded by the Fabian Society and had close ties to the Labour Party in its early days.

However, by the time Soros got there, the LSE had evolved to the right, largely under the influence of Friedrich Hayek who held roost there. Frankfurt School refugees were never considered for the faculty and headed straight to the USA where they were more welcome. Under Hayek’s stewardship, the LSE had become similar to the U. of Chicago economics department and an ideological foe of the Cambridge school that was committed to Keynesian orthodoxy. Karl Popper’s seminars were the main influence on Soros. Karl Popper was a close friend of Hayek and an ideological soulmate. Both men were traumatized by the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary upheavals of their youth and were predisposed to blame fascism and socialism equally. In a letter to Hayek in 1944, Popper stated, “I think I have learnt more from you than from any other living thinker, except perhaps Alfred Tarski.” (Tarski was a logician and mathematician.)

In a nutshell, Popper’s philosophy was anti-systemic in the same way that other Cold War philosophers and sociologists were. The ideas were similar to Daniel Bell’s “The End of Ideology” and what I heard from Heinrich Blucher at Bard College who urged us to read Albert Camus’s “The Rebel”, another anti-systemic work. Guilhot sums up the role of such ideologies:

Popper’s conception of the social sciences was perfectly in line with the strategy that the foundations were pursuing at the same moment: it made possible the normalization of the social sciences around an empirical and experimental model, and it legitimated the struggle against historicism, and therefore Marxism, thus linking this scientific project with the defense of freedom. By theorizing the idea that nothing less than the nature of social reform was at stake in the development of the social sciences, Popper provided a powerful rationale for the philanthropic management of the latter.

The Austrian school of economics resonated with Soros because it was deeply entrenched in the Austrian-Hungarian empire that for men like he and his father was a beneficent haven for freedom of thought and of enterprise. When the 20th century gave birth to warfare and economic collapse, systemic movements vied to replace the dying remnants of fin de siècle liberalism. There was no possibility of putting the genie back in the bottle. What Soros obviously does not understand is that we are living in an identical period today when the center cannot hold, as W.B. Yeats put it.

To some extent, the Austrian school understood that its economic principles rested on shaky grounds. You get a sense of that when Alan Greenspan told a congressional committee in 2008 that “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.” But instead of abandoning capitalism, Soros and like-minded liberals sought to strengthen political institutions that could help an economic system that had begun to wobble precariously on its feet.

The post-WWII mission to conjoin capitalism with strong democratic institutions based on human rights—the basic goal of the Open Society—was bound to collapse under the weight of what some call a Great Recession. Its impact on working people has been to drive some to the left and others to the far right. Soros is obviously concerned about this, even though for the time being it is being expressed as Orban’s toxic brand of reactionary populism.

To guard against such an eventuality, Soros undertook the creation of a university that would culminate in the CEU. Its goal, according to archives Guillhot gained access to at the university, was to “train the next generation of economists”. The CEU was conceived as “a high-level vocational school to train privatizers and democratizers, people who could immediately go into real life after they finished their studies and translate their knowledge into practical action”.

With this goal in mind, the CEU was established in order to create a world-class economics department that was based on the Washington Consensus. Guest speakers from the IMF and the World Bank were commonplace. Larry Summers was a regular, bring with him the expertise that helped him gain the top post at the World Bank. The World Bank created seminars on privatization and student programs on corporate governance. Its aid, including financial, was solicited when the CEU created a business school.

Guillhot describes the fashion in which free market intellectuals came off the assembly line at CEU:

The creation of a Westernized elite by philanthropic foundations that identify emerging young leaders and expose them to mainstream economic doctrines is a process that can be illustrated by following the career of a political science professor at the CEU. Prior to 1989, trained as an economist and not affiliated with the Communist Party, he worked in a research institute linked to the Hungarian reform movement. In 1988, this position qualified him to become department head in the Institute of Economic and Market Research, and then to join the Liberal Party as an advisor for economic affairs. It is among this pool of young reformers that US foundations, following a well-tried strategy, identified emerging young leaders and coached them. In this case, the benefactor was the conservative Pew Charitable Trust, which offered a six-month exchange program in the USA at Georgetown University. Seminars in political science, international relations, and economics were intertwined with selective meetings during which the fellows conferred with high-ranking politicians and advisors (such as, in his case, Ronald Reagan, Madeleine Albright, or Jeffrey Sachs), thus expanding their own international networks of contacts. Th e last two months of this fellowship were spent as an internship within an international institution – United Nations, USAID, IMF – in this case, the fellow opted for the World Bank.

It has been such elites that have created the fertile ground out of which Viktor Orban has risen. Although I reject the idea that Donald Trump can ever impose a fascist regime on the USA, there are worrying signs that Orban seeks to rule Hungary with an iron fist. He has recently stated that he has replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy. In 2015, Orban threatened to create work camps for immigrants and has made speeches repeatedly about preserving European identity. Right now, the world economy seems to be crawling slowly out of the crevice it fell into in 2008. But what happens if a new economic crisis, even deeper than the last, comes to pass?

As Rosa Luxemburg once said, the choice is between socialism and barbarism. You can find the phrase in the Junius Pamphlet that also describes what the USA, Hungary and other countries poised on the knife’s edge are facing:

Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth – there stands bourgeois society. This is it in reality. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics, order, peace, and the rule of law – but the ravening beast, the witches’ sabbath of anarchy, a plague to culture and humanity. Thus it reveals itself in its true, its naked form.

 

5 Comments »

  1. George Soros’ Open Society Foundation contributes money to the Adalah organization in Israel, which documents and campaigns against institutionalized discrimination against its Palestinian citizens. The Netanyahus hate Soros and Bibi’s son, Yair, concocted an anti-Semitic cartoon to demonize Soros. The OSF also supports decriminalization of sex work.

    Comment by Sheldon Ranz — May 17, 2018 @ 3:42 am

  2. Very interesting background on a figure who manages to be at once famous and rather obscure–and whose name is Pavlov’s bell to armies of slavering cretins, no matter what his actual qualities are.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — May 17, 2018 @ 6:42 pm

  3. Karl Popper and Friedrich Hayek were certainly close friends but they did not see eye to eye on all public issues. Hayek became a hero among libertarians and conservatives for his championing of free market capitalism, while Popper, with his background in the Bernsteinian wing of the Austrian Social Democrats was more partial to the welfare state and Keynesian economics. However, they both shared an antipathy towards Marxism, and it was Hayek who helped Popper get his Open Society and Its Enemies published, and it was Hayek who secured Popper an academic post at the London School of Economics.

    Comment by Jim Farmelant — May 27, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

  4. Soros is quite evil in that a) He acts like he owns the world b) he feels he can tell people what to think, then call them racist when they don’t agree on every issue c) overthrow whomever gets in his way d) attempts to destroy nations and put the UN in charge of a world government, in the interest of corporations who will treat people like cattle to be herded wherever they are needed, and ruled by an iron islamic thumb controlling their every move and thought. ITs just ALL SO SICK. It is honestly time the media were halted in the USA from encouraging civil war with endless hysteria.

    Comment by Cindy Rosengarten — July 4, 2018 @ 8:24 pm

  5. I have an idea. Take a medium sized HOUSING ESTATE/CONDO/HOA that maybe has its own pool,gym, store.. and stick utopian communist/marxist/sorosian ideals in their bylaws. Then watch what happens on a MICROCOSM level. Are people happy? How is utopia working out? If utopia is no longer utopia- don’t try to force the cancer on millions.

    Comment by Cindy Rosengarten — July 4, 2018 @ 10:29 pm


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