Governments across the globe turn on Hillary Clinton supporter accused of pushing his neoliberal agenda worldwide
(News Agencies) The growing hatred nationalists and conservatives the world over towards liberal billionaire George Soros has been detailed by a series of political experts. Those who oppose Soros and accuse him of being a ‘puppetmaster’ claim the American financier-cum-philanthropist has successfully manufactured Europe’s migration crisis, backed a coup in Macedonia and sponsored protests in Hungary. All from the comfort of his New York home. From the Kremlin via Skopje to the power corridors of Washington, the Hungarian-born Jewish immigrant is public enemy number one of nationalists around the globe. The 86-year-old, who Forbes Magazine lists as the world’s 29th richest man, and his Open Society Foundations is accused by his right-wing attackers of trying to meddle in politics by pushing a liberal, multicultural agenda.
Some of those who oppose him in Poland, a nation that once bestowed upon him one of its highest civilian honors, accuse him of being an enemy of the state who wants to destroy their sovereignty. Similar attacks have been particularly vicious in his birth country Hungary, which on Tuesday is set to pass a controversial anti-NGO bill seen as directly targeting his foundation.
And his status as the right-wing’s most hated man has not been lost on many in the political realm.
To go on what you read and hear these days, Soros seems to be responsible for every political upheaval,’ said German political analyst Ulf Brunnbauer.
‘He makes an excellent scapegoat for increasingly authoritarian regimes as someone who’s invested a lot of money into philanthropy and represents capitalism.’
Another Hungarian law hastily approved in April threatens to shut down the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest.
Across Hungary, government-backed billboards have popped up showing the magnate as a puppeteer pulling the strings of an opposition politician, a motif associated with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
‘His (religious) background is irrelevant to the central issue, which is that an increasing number of governments… see Soros’ networks as a threat to democracy,’ Zoltan Kovacs, the spokesman of ultra right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, wrote in a recent blog post entitled ‘Myths and facts about Hungary and George Soros’.
Orban – a one-time recipient of a Soros scholarship – has accused his former benefactor of using ‘predator’ NGOs to flood Europe with Muslim refugees and create a ‘transnational empire’. But he himself has his critics, having been accused of being a ‘tyrant’, while coming under fire last year for saying, ‘every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk,’ the Guardian reports.
‘For us migration is not a solution but a problem… not medicine but a poison, we don’t need it and won’t swallow it.’
Soros has a long and complicated history. Born in Budapest in 1930, he survived both the Nazi and Soviet occupation before eventually moving to the US where he made his fortune from hedge funds.
But those dealings, as with many on Wall Street, were not without controversy.
In 1992, the he became known as ‘the man who broke the bank of England’ when his aggressive speculation against the sterling sent it crashing out of the European exchange mechanism.
He also has a 2002 conviction of insider trading in France, a verdict he described as a ‘gift to my enemies’.
‘I have seen the damage done when societies succumb to the fear of the “other”,’ he wrote in the New York Times in March.
As a result of that driving force to avoid future totalitarianism, Soros created his foundation in 1984 to help countries move from communism toward democracy.
Since then, he has poured billions into ex-Soviet satellite states for causes and programs ranging from finance, health and justice reforms, to promoting the rights of minority groups and keeping tabs on government corruption.
He also backed pro-democracy groups in the color revolutions in central and eastern Europe, and vowed to spend $1billion in Ukraine to help save it from ‘Russian aggression’. Recently, he described Moscow as having a: ‘concept of government (that) is irreconcilable with that of open society’. As a result of his outspoken nature, and what those who oppose him describe as ‘interference’, he has earned him powerful enemies. Earlier this month, Orban likened Soros’s description of Hungary as a ‘mafia state’ to a ‘declaration of war’ The Kremlin has accused Soros of fermenting violent uprisings and banned his foundation in 2015 as part of a massive NGO clampdown. Europe’s migration crisis, which erupted that same year, has also deepened the rift between the pro-refugee OSF and anti-immigration nationalists. In January this year, a ‘Stop Operation Soros’ campaign emerged in Macedonia. It was fueled by the country’s authoritarian ex-premier Nikolas Gruevksi, who regularly called for the country’s ‘de-Sorosisation’. The head of Poland’s governing right-wing party Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Soros wanted to create ‘societies without an identity’, while Romania’s ruling party leader alleged the tycoon had ‘financed evil’ by sponsoring recent mass protests. And the hate towards Soros has not just been fostered in Europe. In the US, he is a favored target of the far-right website Breitbart, which runs anti-Soros stories on an almost daily basis. The website’s founder, Steve Bannon, left the website to become an aide to Donald Trump. The website’s hatred for Soros played a part in a petition calling for the philanthropist’s arrest for ‘standing in the way of making America great again’ receiving 60,000 signatures online. And while all these examples prove hostility towards Soros is not new, its increased intensity is unprecedented,OSF’s Eurasia director Leonard Benardo said.
‘The OSF as an institution and George Soros as a person condemning corruption have always faced pressures from governments that have an illiberal cast,’ he told AFP. ‘What is different about now is the ferocity and tenacity of the response.’ Incidentally the attacks come at a time when the OSF only spends a faction of what it used to. ‘What we’re witnessing is that democracy is not only about institutions, that you can have largely free and fair elections and yet still have great anxieties and problems when it comes to forms of open society.’