Soros and the
Rise of the Neo-centrics
By Walt Contreras Sheasby
2003 saw the rise of a new current in U.S. politics,
best described as neo-centrics, or simply neo-cens, for ease
of comparison with the better known "neo-con" defection
of Socialists to the conservative right.
Although allied with long-time social democrats
(who were once distinguished by whether they accepted secret funding
in bags from
John A. McCone's office or Armand
Hammer's office), the neo-cens are former radical critics of
"lesser-evilism" who have decided, a year before the 2004
election, that the whiff of fascism is in the air.
Funding for some neo-centrics comes from George
Soros, who gives away $400 million a year through his Soros
Foundation, subsidizing many of the activist groups, luminaries,
and publications of the American left, with contributions that likely
dwarf the sums that once trickled out of Langley or Moscow.
Soros does not control the left, as right-wingers
might imagine, but his monetary influence is one of those hushed
secrets inside the left usually dismissed as conspiracy-thinking.
He has given $60,000 to the Independent
Media Institute, whose executive director, Don
Hazen, is a former publisher of Mother
Jones. A $50,000 grant went to the Nation
Institute to support Radio
received a $40,000 grant in 1995. A $35,000 grant went to American
Prospect magazine. The list goes on and on.
$150,000 has gone to the Feminist
Majority Foundation, whose President, Eleanor
Smeal, once broke with the Democrats and formed the 21st
Century Party before endorsing Bill Clinton in 1992. $75,000
has gone to Robert S. McIntyre's Institute
on Taxation and Economic Policy, $50,000 to the Network
for a Progressive Texas, $75,000 to the Economic
Policy Institute, and even $200,000 to the prison reform group,
Parenti, a writer on the prison-industrial system and son of
Parenti, is a Senior Fellow at George Soros's Open
Society Institute (named after a book by Soros' fiercely anti-Marx
Popper), as are a number of other radicals.
Soros and the Democratic Party
All of Soros' gifts to the radical left are penny
ante compared to his high stakes dispensations to liberal Democrats,
however. On Nov. 11, 2003, Soros told the Washington Post
that the day before, he had given $5 million to MoveOn.org
to benefit Howard
Dean. He has donated more modest sums to other Democratic candidates
and already had given $10 million in August 2003 to the newly-formed
Coming Together." ACT is one of the pseudo-parties recently
created to get around the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that
made it illegal for fat cats to give huge sums of money directly
to a political party. Howard Dean is now free to accept large contributions
from groups like ACT (often referred to as 527's, after their section
of the new tax code) using this loophole, and no longer has to adhere
to the limits imposed for partial public funding.
Early on last summer, in a reunion at his home in
Westchester, N.Y., Soros raised $115,000 from his friends for Dean's
candidacy. According to the Washington Post, the Soros campaign
for Dean began with "the help of Mort Halpern, a liberal think
tank veteran." "Soros invited Democratic strategists to
his house in Southampton, Long Island," including Clinton chief
of staff John D. Podesta, Clinton advisors Jeremy
Rosner and Robert
Boorstin, and Carl
Pope, executive director of the Sierra
They discussed the coming election. Standing on
the back deck, "the evening sun angling into their eyes,"
Soros took aside Steve
Rosenthal, CEO of America Coming Together and former political
director of the AFL-CIO, and Ellen
Malcolm, ACT's president and founder and donor of Emily's
List. After announcing to them his $10 million gift to ACT,
"They were ready to kiss me," Soros quipped.
Other fat cat guests followed his lead. Before coffee
the next morning, Soros' friend Peter
Lewis, chairman of Progressive
Corp., had pledged $10 million to ACT. Rob
Glaser, founder and CEO of RealNetworks,
promised $2 million. Rob
McKay, president of the McKay
Foundation, gave $1 million, and benefactors Lewis
and Dorothy Cullman committed $500,000 each. Soros also promised
up to $3 million to Podesta's new think tank, the Center
for American Progress.
Gen. Wesley Clark and the George Soros' International
Business Week on Aug. 11, 2003 wrote that,
"Dean had a knack for positioning himself and never lost an
election. Those who know him best believe Dean is moving to the
left to boost his chances of winning the nomination." If he
wins the nomination, he'll run back to the center. A Vermont political
scientist says: "Howard is not a liberal. He's a pro-business
If Howard Dean wins the nomination and puts Wesley
Clark on the ticket, as he planned before Clark himself entered
the race, the final days of September and October 2004 could be
a real awakening for the left. Or perhaps a bestirring of the ghost
of the Rockefeller vision of a genuine Internationale of the bourgeoisie.
Gen. Clark, after all, has been a central figure in one of Soros'
most influential institutions, the International
Founded in 1986 as a private multinational organization
"committed to strengthening the capacity of the international
community to understand and respond to impending crises," the
ICG comprises numerous ex-politicians, diplomats, and representatives
of business and the media.
Besides the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation's
second name), foundation and private sector donors to ICG include
Atlantic Philanthropies, Carnegie
Corporation of New York, Ford
& Melinda Gates Foundation, William
& Flora Hewlett Foundation, The
Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.,
John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The
John Merck Fund, Charles Stewart
Mott Foundation, Ploughshares
Ruben & Elisabeth Rausing Trust, the Sasakawa
Peace Foundation, the Sarlo
Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund and the United
States Institute of Peace.
George Soros would have a great deal of influence
over a Dean-Clark administration, but particularly so in the international
context. For that vision to be achieved, the neo-centrics are needed
to steer the former Nader voters and the independent left back into
the Democratic Party. Soros is a past master at forging unlikely
alliances, and the odds seem to be moving in his favor once again.
Neo-centrics vs. the Green Party
The neo-cen attack on Ralph Nader has been welcomed
by unreconstructed social and liberal Democrats who have long been
critics of the Green Party and independent political action. Michael
Tomasky, executive editor of the American Prospect, wrote
a piece on Nov. 9, 2003 for the L.A. Times Book Review titled
"A Lesson for the Left: Go to the Aid of the Party." He
reviewed two books by radical intellectuals, G. William Domhoff's
Changing the Powers That Be: How the Left Can Stop Losing and
Win, and James Weinstein's The Long Detour: The History and
Future of the American Left.
Both books are monuments to the new revisionism
transforming the most trenchant critics of co-optation in the 1960s.
Considered ultra-left then, they are masters of the back-flip in
the new century. Through many books, Domhoff has hammered home the
reality that the corporate rich dominate both the Republican and
Democratic parties, and that grassroots insurgencies have been inevitably
co-opted. In his book, Weinstein showed that progressive politics
in both mainstream parties were aimed at co-opting and deflecting
the Socialist Party in its heyday.
The neo-cens have been joined by any number of former
leftist revolutionaries like Carl
Davidson and Angela
Davis. The Green Party is split between neo-cens who previously
touted the line "Neither right nor left, but out in front,"
to those who are supporting the intransigent Ralph Nader and/or
Peter Camejo for President. Camejo says, "The Green Party is
under enormous pressure and attacks, including some from liberal
or progressive Democrats. I consider the campaign against Ralph
Nader and the Green Party part of the same anti-democracy campaign
that includes the Patriot Act...."
The division could weaken the Green Party and perhaps
result in its demise. On the other hand, if the counter-revisionists
rally to their own party, this could be a real turning point in
U.S. politics, while the election of any of the Democrats would
certainly not be.
This article appeared in the
December 2003 issue of Change Links (www.change-links.org).
Billionaire financier George Soros.
Howard Dean has picked up
big bucks from the Soros Foundation.
Billionaire Peter B. Lewis.
Wesley Clark has been a top figure in George
Soros' International Crisis Group (ICG).
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