One principle of this blog is that I give my views whether they will be welcome or not, either to the general public or to the portion of the public who regularly read this blog. Since we started accepting subscriptions to keep it going, almost every article causes somebody to write to me saying they are canceling their subscription because they did not agree with me. I would much prefer anybody who is kindly giving money in the expectation of agreeing with everything I write, to cancel now. The purpose of this blog is to be intellectually challenging and provide food for thought, with facts and viewpoints not readily available in the mainstream media. It is about intellectual inquiry, not followership.
This is one of those occasions when I know that a significant number of people here will not agree with me. I like George Soros and consider him to be a good man. I should declare an interest; he once bought me a pizza, over 20 years ago. But I considered then, and I consider now, that Soros is a man who has devoted huge amounts of his personal resources, in terms of time and in terms of money, to attempting to make the world a better place, from motives of altruism.
Furthermore I believe that a lot of the work of the Open Society Institute, which I witnessed first hand, in Poland and Uzbekistan and elsewhere, is good work, particularly in the field of human rights and media freedom.
I believe that Roger Scruton’s attack on Soros, particularly in a venue in Hungary where the far right Prime Minister has conducted a truly hateful, state orchestrated, anti-semitic and anti-immigrant campaign against Soros, puts Scruton totally beyond the pale.
Soros frequently is cited in comments below the line on this blog as the personification of evil capitalism. Let me address the obvious elephants in the room. The first is how he made his money. This I make no attempt to defend. He has simply managed assets and traded derivative products, particularly in foreign exchange markets, and either by brilliance or sustained good luck, become extremely wealthy from an activity that provides no societal good. Indeed derivatives trading is a cancerous growth on modern economies, where the financial flows vastly exceed the value of trade in actual goods or genuine first party services.
However, people live and work in the economic situation that exists; to condemn people for not dropping out and going off-grid is to adopt a purist and ineffective position. I do not know how Soros got into the business line he adopted, but I am not condemning every individual working in trading. It is also worth stating that Soros’ ethnicity is utterly irrelevant to his career, and those who hint otherwise are offensive.
The second elephant in the room is that Soros appears aligned to the global spread of neo-liberalism, and to the Clinton camp with its warmongering foreign policy. Leaving aside for two paragraphs the question of whether or not that is true, the most important answer to that is that the man is entitled to his beliefs. To condemn him because his beliefs are not all my beliefs would be wrong. That Soros uses so much of his personal wealth to try to make the world a better place, according to his view of how society might best be structured, makes him a good man and not a bad man. That I may have a different view of how society should be structured is not the test; it is whether somebody is genuinely trying to do good by others.
Soros’ view of how society might best be structured is coloured by his past experience of the Eastern bloc. It is natural that anybody from what was occupied Hungary looks at Russia with a wary and distrustful eye. It is natural that those who understand the real failings of Soviet style central planning are dubious of schemes of socialism. But Soros is in fact fairly mainstream European social democrat with very liberal societal views. I genuinely do not understand his demonisation by large sections of the left. Soros is anathema to the right wing nationalist parties of Eastern Europe.
It is also worth pointing out that Soros’ view of his own profession is by no means straightforward. He argued extremely strongly for greater financial regulation, publishing highly informative and reasoned books on the subject, at the height of the craze for deregulation. He was not a supporter of the Big Bang or of Gordon Brown’s market worship. His 1998 opus, The Crisis of Global Capitalism, argues that financial markets are inherently unstable and swing like a wrecking ball not like a pendulum, and that globalisation is in fact an extension of Imperialism. That someone made so much money, from rules he believed should have been altered to stop him doing it, is a conundrum; but he is altogether a complicated character.
Finally, that Soros is a warmonger and supporter of US military attacks on the Middle East is not true. He opposed the Iraq war, and is generally against military intervention. His funding reaches so many NGO’s, of diverse views, it is always possible to find a tweet by Avaaz, or a report on Syrian human rights violations by Amnesty International, and make the claim “that is Soros shilling for war”. But in fact his influence on the vast array of civil society institutions he funds is extremely light touch, and they encompass widely differing viewpoints. Soros’ strong support for the warmonger Clinton is something I do not attempt to justify, other than to note that many people of liberal views are taken in by the old “liberal” establishment. It is quite a psychological step to accept it has gone full neo-con.
I most certainly do not agree with all of Soros’ views, or actions. But I agree with more of them than you may suppose. That all of his actions are motivated by a desire to make more money for himself or to benefit the ruling class, I am quite sure is not true. That he is a hawk and a warmonger I do not believe. That his efforts do a lot of real good I have witnessed first hand. The demonisation of Soros is lazy, inaccurate and unfair.