|***** GEORGE SOROS AND THE RISE OF THE NEO-CENTRICS
By Walt Contreras Sheasby, WSheasby@cs.com
2003 has seen the rise of a new current in US politics, best
described as Neo-Centrics, or simply Neo-Cens, for ease of comparison
with a better known 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 a some of the Neo-Centrics comes from George Soros, who
gives away $400m a year through his Foundation and thus subsidizes
many of the activist groups, luminaries and publications of the
American left, probably dwarfing the sums that once trickled out of
Langley or Moscow. Soros does not control the left, as right-wingers
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 Nation.
KPFA 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 Clinton. $75,000 went 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, Critical Resistance. Christian Parenti, a writer on the
prison-industrial system and son of Michael Parenti, is a Senior
Fellow at George Soros's Open Society Institute (named after a book
by his fiercely anti-Marx mentor, Karl Popper), as are a number of
All his gifts to the radical left are penny ante compared to his high
stakes, his dispensations to the liberal democrats, however. On
Tuesday, Nov. 11 Soros told the Washington Post that the day before
he had given five million dollars to MoveOn.org to benefit Howard
Dean. He has donated more modest sums to other Democratic candidates
and had already given 10 million dollars in August to "America Coming
Together." ACT is one of the pseudo-parties created (often referred
to as 527's, after their section of the new tax code) to get around
the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that made it illegal for Fat
Cats to give huge sums directly to a political party. By refusing to
adhere to the limit imposed by public funding, Dean is now free to
accept large contributions through this loophole.
At his home in Westchester, N.Y., Soros early on raised $115,000 from
his friends for candidate Dean. According to the Washington Post,
the Soros campaign for Dean began last summer 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
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, its president and founder
and donor of Emily's List. After his announcement of the $10m, "They
were ready to kiss me," Soros quipped.
Other Fat Cat guests followed his lead. Before coffee the next
morning, his friend Peter Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Corp.,
had pledged $10 million to ACT. Rob Glaser, founder and CEO of
RealNetworks, promised $2 million. Rob McKay, president of the McKay
Family Foundation, gave $1 million and benefactors Lewis and Dorothy
Cullman committed $500,000. Soros also promised up to $3 million to
Podesta's new think tank, the Center for American Progress.
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 for
the L.A. Times Book Review titled *A Lesson for the Left: Go to the
Aid of the Party* on Nov. 9, 2003. 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, like Fat Cats and Democrats, Domhoff hammered home the
reality that the corporate rich dominate both the Republican and
Democrat Parties and that grass roots insurgencies were inevitably
co-opted. I was one of many students who took up that thesis in a
paper I wrote that Domhoff approved on the Fund for the Republic.
Weinstein showed that Progressive politics in both mainstream parties
were aimed at co-opting and deflecting the Socialist Party in its
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,
which the election of any of the democrats would not be.
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 Rockefeller Republican."
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.
The General, after all, has been a central figure in one of Soros'
most influential institutions, the International Crisis Group.
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.
Beside the Open Society Institute, foundation and private sector
donors include The Atlantic Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of
New York, Ford Foundation, Bill & 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 Fund, The Ruben & Elisabeth
Rausing Trust, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Sarlo Foundation of
the Jewish Community Endowment Fund and the United States Institute
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.