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The Billionaires Behind the Far-Right

Photograph Source: DonkeyHotey – CC BY 2.0

Billionaires and working people have one thing in common: they hate the government. But they hate the government for different reasons. For working people, government is too right-wing on some issues: it allows transnational capital to undermine jobs and wages. On other issues, many working people see government as too left-wing, allowing what they see (incorrectly) as excessive immigration. Billionaires hate government because government is sometimes forced to respond to grassroots pressure, which can mean introducing financial regulation, unionization, and other profit-harming policies.

In the absence of staging outright fascist coups, elements of the ruling class engineer social unrest to compel government to support policies that are against the interests of working people.

BILLONAIRES FUNDING A BILLIONAIRE PRESIDENT

Today, a handful of billionaires fund far-right, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant, and/or ultra-nationalist political figures, movements, and alternative media personalities. Their aim is to push mainstream politics further to the right, as mainstream politicians fear losing voters to the new extreme parties. But how can elites get working people to support policies that are against their own interests? The answer is to divert them from the real causes of their misery—austerity, privatization, economic deregulation, and disinvestment, i.e., the very policies supported by billionaires—and, instead, play on their anger over immigrants and Islam.

In the US, concerns have been raised about President Trump’s affiliations with far-right hate groups and the political support he receives from those groups. Robert Mercer is a billionaire hedge fund manager and CEO of Renaissance Technologies. A Trump donor, Mercer worked with Trump’s short-lived strategist, Steve Bannon, to make Breitbart News a platform for the so-called alternative right, or “alt-right.” The term alt-right was coined by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist and Trump-supporter who is himself funded by the multimillionaire, William Regnery II, via the National Policy Institute. Regnery has published a series of anti-Islamic, anti-left books by, among others David Horowtiz, director of the eponymous Freedom Center. Having helped to get Trump elected, Mercer then dissociated himself from Bannon, Breitbart, and the alt-right. Job done.

Another Bannon-Mercer venture was Cambridge Analytica, a company set up in the UK as a subsidiary of SCL, a group known for its involvement in elections abroad, including its providing of consultancy services for Iraq’s first “democratic” elections while the nation was still under illegal US-British occupation. Cambridge Analytica supported the Leave campaign in the run-up to Britain’s 2016 referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union. Indeed, the pro-Brexit faction of the Conservative Party consists of billionaire hedge funders and asset managers who want to leave the EU to avoid its financial regulations. They include: Crispin Odey, Michael Hintze, and Peter Hargreaves. Another pro-Brexiter hedge funder is Arron Banks. It is alleged that, as Home Secretary, Britain’s PM Theresa May personally intervened to prevent a police investigation into Banks’s alleged financing of the Leave.EU campaign, which used Cambridge Analytica to market anti-EU, anti-immigrant messages to social media users.

BREXIT & THE BILLIONAIRES

Using Facebook, Cambridge Analytica also worked with employees of Palantir, a data-mapping company set up with CIA money and owned by a billionaire tech entrepreneur, the PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel. Thiel has openly stated that democracy is incompatible with capitalism. Thiel was a big investor in Facebook and Reddit, the latter being a message board that worked “meme magic” to help boost Trump’s profile on social media. The near-billionaire founder of Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey, bragged about being a member of the upper 0.0001% and using his internet skills to generate online, pro-Trump activism via Reddit.

Returning to Arron Banks: As well as donating to Leave.EU, Banks is a big donor to the UK Independence Party (UKIP); the hard-right, anti-immigration, Eurosceptic party formerly headed by ex-banker, Nigel Farage. Farage used his knowledge concerning the Brexit referendum to short sell stocks and make money from Brexit. Recently, several Conservative Party MPs quit to form an independent group (now called Change UK), claiming that their party had been infiltrated by UKIP-supports encouraged by Banks, some allege, to push it further to the right. But UKIP turned too far-right even for Farage, by allowing, for instance, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, to work as an advisor to its new leader.

Robinson founded the English Defence League, an anti-Islamic group consisting largely of angry young-to-middle-aged white males. For a while it seemed that Robinson might have mellowed when he joined Quilliam, a think tank dedicated to helping Muslims, secularists, and anti-Muslims find common ground. But more lucrative offers came his way. Robinson received money indirectly from the billionaire tech CEO, Robert Shillman, who regularly donates to anti-Islamic organizations, including the David Horowitz Freedom Center, noted above. Robinson worked with the Shillman-funded Rebel Media, a Canadian far-right company that attracts (mostly male) viewers by employing alluring young women to whip up hate against the left, immigrants, and Muslims. After being fired from the corporate, right-wing British radio company, LBC, the far-right commentator Katie Hopkins joined Rebel Media. Hopkins’s university work was funded by the British Army Intelligence Corps and she is a graduate of Sandhurst Military Academy.

CONCLUSION

Instead of focusing on the far-right figureheads of hate, like Tommy Robinson, it makes more sense to look behind the curtain to their mega-wealthy donors, without whom they would barely register.

Fascism and capitalism have an incestuous history. Capitalists want “strongmen” politicians who aren’t afraid to use violence to crush unions and make economies more appealing to international investors. US Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (Ret.) testified that in 1933, following the Wall Street Crash of ’29, leaders of banking and industry plotted to install a fascist regime in the US rather than allow the New Deal social investment program. In Germany, the anti-Semite, Henry Ford of Ford Motors, famously praised Hitler, whose Nazis admired Ford’s business model. As a middle-aged journalist, Italy’s Mussolini was recruited and paid by Britain’s MI5 as an anti-communist propagandist.

We don’t have fascism yet, but who knows where a heavily-funded, international far-right might end up?

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T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

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