The May 25th killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota shocked the world and set off mass protests against racism and police brutality in dozens of cities from the mid-western United States to the European Union, all in the midst of a global pandemic. In the Twin Cities, what began as spontaneous, peaceful demonstrations against the local police quickly transformed into vandalism, arson and looting after the use of rubber bullets and chemical irritants by law enforcement against the protesters, while the initial incitement for the riots was likely the work of apparent agent provocateurs among the marchers. Within days, the unrest had spread to cities across the country including the nation’s capital, with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to invoke the slavery-era Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy the military and National Guard on American soil, federal powers not used since the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King case.
The debate over the catalyst for the uprising into its period of lawlessness has drawn a range of theories. The suspicious placement of pallets of bricks in the proximity of numerous protest sites have spurred rumors of sabotage by everything from white supremacist groups to “Antifa” to law enforcement itself. Predictably, liberal hawks such as Susan Rice, the former National Security Advisor in the Obama administration, made ludicrous assertions suggesting “Russian agents” were behind the unrest, a continuation of the narrative that the Kremlin has been behind inflaming racial tensions in the U.S. that began during the 2016 election. While Democrats like Rice and Senator Kamala Harris of California have revived an old trope dating back to the Civil Rights movement of Moscow exploiting racial divisions in the U.S., Trump and the GOP have similarly resurrected the ‘outside agitators’ myth attributed to segregationists of the same era. Hypocritically, many of those claiming to be in support of the protests have denounced the latter theory while endorsing the former, when both equally show contempt for the legitimate grievances of the demonstrators and deny their agency. However, both false notions overlook the more likely hidden factors at play attempting to hijack the movement for its own purposes.
Believe it or not, there could be a kernel of truth in accusations coming mostly from the political right as to the possible role of the notorious liberal billionaire investor and “philanthropist” George Soros and his Open Society Foundation (OSF). Ironically, if any of the right-wing figures of whom Soros is a favorite target were aware of his instrumental role in the fall of communism staging the various CIA-backed protest movements in Eastern Europe that toppled socialist governments, he would likely not be such a subject of their derision. The Hungarian business magnate’s institute, like other NGOs involved in U.S. regime change operations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is largely a front for the CIA to shield itself while destabilizing U.S. adversaries, the spy agency’s preferred modus operandi since the exposure of its illicit activities in previous decades by the Rockefeller Commission and Church Committee in the 1970s. In the post-Soviet world, nations across Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and beyond have become well acquainted with the political disruptions of the international financier and his network. In particular, governments that have leaned toward warm relations with Moscow during the incumbency of President Vladimir Putin have found themselves the victims of his machinations.
Under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin, Soros made a killing off the mass privatization of the former state-run assets in the Eastern Bloc, as journalist Naomi Klein explained in The Shock Doctrine:
“George Soros’s philanthropic work in Eastern Europe — including his funding of (Harvard economist and economic advisor Jeffrey) Sachs’s travels through the region — has not been immune to controversy. There is no doubt that Soros was committed to the cause of democratization in the Eastern Bloc, but he also had clear economic interests in the kind of economic reform accompanying that democratization. As the world’s most powerful currency trader, he stood to benefit greatly when countries implemented convertible currencies and lift capital controls, and when state companies were put on the auction block, he was one of the potential buyers.”
In contrast, the Putin administration over a period of two decades has since restored the Russian economy through the re-nationalization of its oil and gas industry. Its two energy giants, Gazprom and Rosneft, are state-controlled companies serving as the basis of the state machinery‘s reassertion of control over the Russian financial system, a move that has gotten Mr. Putin branded a “dictator” by the West. As a result, most of the notorious Russian oligarchs enriched overnight during the extreme free market policies of the 1990s have since left the country, now that such rapid accumulation of wealth to the rest of the nation’s detriment is no longer permitted. While economic inequality in Russia may persist, it is nowhere near that of the Yeltsin era where the average life expectancy was reduced by a full decade.
In the last decade, the United States has gotten its own taste of the incitement and agitations that have previously fallen upon governments across the global south. Instead, domestically the CIA cutouts in the non-profit industrial complex have played a pivotal counterrevolutionary role in co-opting and ultimately derailing such uprisings meant to bring systemic change to the U.S. political system. In late 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged at Zuccotti Park in New York City’s financial district against the deepening global economic inequality following the Great Recession and the protests quickly spread to other cities and continents. In just a few months, the sit-in was expelled from Lower Manhattan and the anti-capitalist movement itself largely was diverted towards reformism and away from its original radical intentions. It was also revealed the origins of OWS and its marketing campaign were traced to Adbusters, a media foundation that was the recipient of grants from the Democratic Party-connected Tides Foundation, a progressive policy center which receives significant endowments from none other than George Soros and the OSF.
Emerging just two years later, the roots of Black Lives Matter were not just in community organizing but partially took inspiration from the Occupy movement. Unfortunately, the similarities between them were not limited to a shared lack of clarity in their demands but facing the same dilemma of being absorbed into the system. While OWS was quickly suppressed after hopeful beginnings, the BLM leadership became career-oriented apparatchiks of the Democratic Party and left grass-roots organizing behind. Through the non-profit industrial complex, the Democratic Party has mastered bringing various social movements under its management on behalf of Wall Street in order to funnel public funds into private control through various foundations. Along with the Ford Foundation which has given BLM enormous \$100 million grants, Soros and the OSF have been one of the principal offenders. Still, many who correctly identify right-wing protests such as the Tea Party movement and the recent ‘anti-lockdown’ demonstrations as the work of astro-turfing by the Koch Brothers and Heritage Foundation seldom apply the same scrutiny to seemingly authentic progressive movements assimilated by corporate America.
One figure who mysteriously appeared on the scene in the early days of OWS connected to Soros was the Serbian political activist Srđa Popović, the founder of Otpor! (“resistance” in Serbian) and the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) political organizations which led the protests in 2000 which ousted the democratically-elected President of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević, known as the “Bulldozer Revolution.” Not long after Popović’s consulting of activists in Zuccotti Park, Wikileaks documents revealed the Belgrade-born organizer’s significant ties to U.S. intelligence through the global intelligence platform Stratfor (known as the “shadow CIA”), exposing the real motives behind his involvement in U.S. politics of outwardly supporting OWS while trying to sabotage the popular movement. Since their role as instruments of U.S. regime change in Serbia, Otpor! and CANVAS have received financial support from CIA intermediaries such as the NED, OSF, Freedom House and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as the Boston-based Albert Einstein Institute founded by the American political scientist, Gene Sharp.
Despite ostensibly professing to use the same civil disobedience methods of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Gene Sharp‘s manual for “non-violent resistance” entitled From Dictatorship to Democracy has been the blueprint used by political organizations around the world that have only served the interests of Western imperialism. Beginning with the Bulldozer Revolution in Serbia, the successful formula which ousted Milošević spread to other Central Asian and Eastern European nations overthrowing governments which resisted NATO expansion and the European Union’s draconian austerity in favor of economic ties with Moscow. These were widely referred to in the media as ‘Color Revolutions’ and included the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine and its 2014 Maidan coup d’état follow-up, as well as the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, among others.
Subsequently, Srđa Popović and CANVAS also lent their expertise in Egypt during the predecessor to its Arab Spring in the April 6 Youth Movement which appropriated Otpor!’s raised fist logo as its emblem. In preparation for the organization of anti-government demonstrations, the activists poured over Gene Sharp’s work in coordination with Otpor! whose fingerprints can be found all over the Arab Spring uprisings which began as protests to remove unpopular leaders in Egypt and Tunisia but were carefully reeled in to preserve the despotic Western-friendly systems that had put them to power initially. Where Sharp’s “non-violent” template failed, countries with U.S. adversaries in power such as Libya and Syria saw their protests rapidly morph into a resurgence of Al-Qaeda and a terrorist proxy war with catastrophic consequences. This recipe has also been exported to Latin America in attempts to remove the Bolivarian government in Venezuela, with self-declared ‘interim president’ and opposition leader Juan Guaido having received training from CANVAS.
While the right seems to have a bizarre misconception that the parasitic hedge fund tycoon is somehow a communist, there is an equal misunderstanding on the pseudo-left where it has become a recurring joke and subject of mockery to naively deny Soros’s undeniable influence on world affairs and domestic protest movements. Less certain, however, are the claims from conservatives that Soros is a supporter of “Antifa” which Trump wants to designate as a domestic terrorist organization, a dangerous premise given the movement consists of a very loose-knit and decentralized network of activists and hardly comprises a real organization. Various autonomous chapters and groups across the U.S. may self-identify as such, but there is no single official party or formal organization with any leadership hierarchy. While the original Antifa movement in the 1930s Weimar Republic was part of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), the current manifestation in the U.S. has a synonymous association with black bloc anarchism (even inverting the colors of the original red and black flag), though it is really made up of a variety of amateurish political tendencies.
Amidst the ongoing nationwide George Floyd protests, the demonstrations in Seattle, Washington culminated in the establishment of a self-declared “autonomous zone” by activists in the Northwestern city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood — known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). In response, Trump doubled down on his threats to quash protests with the use of the military while blaming “anarchists” in “Antifa” for the unrecognized commune occupying six city blocks around an abandoned police precinct. Anyone who has paid close attention to the war in Syria for the last nine years will find this highly ironic, given the U.S. military support for another infamous “autonomous zone” of Kurdish nationalists in Northern Syria’s Rojava federation. The Kurdish sub-region and de facto self-governing territory purports to be a “libertarian socialist direct democracy” style of government and has been the subject of romanticized praise by the Western pseudo-left despite the fact that the autonomous administration’s paramilitary wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), were until recently a cat’s paw for American imperialism as part of the U.S.-founded coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Not coincidentally, many of those who use the Antifa vexillum are enthusiastic supporters of and even volunteer mercenaries fighting with the YPG/SDF in an ‘International Freedom Battalion’ which claims to be the inheritors of the legacy of the International Brigades which volunteered to defend the Spanish Republic from fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, these cosplayers forgot that the original International Brigades were set up by the Communist International, not the Pentagon. Meanwhile, despite their purported “anti-fascism”, there are no such conscripts to be found defending the Donetsk or Luhansk People’s Republics of eastern Ukraine against literal Nazis in the War in Donbass where the real front line against fascism has been. Instead, they fight alongside a Zionist and imperial proxy to help establish an ethno-nation state while the U.S. loots Syria’s oil.
Prior to Trump’s decision last October to withdraw troops from northeastern Syria which preceded a Turkish invasion, Ankara and the U.S. repeatedly butted heads over Washington’s decision to incorporate the Kurds into the SDF, since the YPG is widely acknowledged an off-shoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the militant and cult-like political group regarded as a terrorist organization that has been at war with Turkey for over forty years. It is also no secret that jailed PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan’s theories of “democratic confederalism” are heavily influenced by the pro-Zionist Jewish-American anarchist theorist, Murray Bookchin. So when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Trump that there were links between the U.S. protests and the PKK, there was a tiny but core accuracy in his exaggerated claim. As Malcolm X said, “chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad.”
The George Floyd protests, like previous uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore, certainly began spontaneously, nor does any of this discount the legitimate issue of ending the militarization of U.S. law enforcement which disproportionately victimizes black Americans. Nevertheless, time and again we have seen how bona fide social movements become political footballs or quickly go to their graves. Like BLM, it is practically inevitable the protests will become a partisan tool for the Democratic Party in the coming 2020 election when it has no concrete political articulations of its own, even if it does bring substantive change to domestic policing. In January, Trump was impeached for temporarily withholding security aid to the Ukraine and Democrats advocated his removal because he is regarded as insufficiently hawkish toward Moscow. Since 2016, they have actively diverted all opposition to Trump into their own reactionary anti-Russia campaign and soft-coup attempt in the interests of the military- intelligence community, a shared agenda with Soros. When all of corporate America, the media, and even the NED have publicly declared their support for a movement, it is no longer just about its original cause of getting justice for Mr. Floyd, whose funeral became a virtual campaign rally for Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden. It is too early to say determinedly whether what is taking place in the U.S. is indeed a ‘Color Revolution’, but by the time we realize it may too late.
Max Parry is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. His writing has appeared widely in alternative media. Max may be reached at [email protected]