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Civil unrest has broken out in France as a global economic downturn is just getting underway. The significance of this warning sign should not be underestimated.
The Yellow Vest Protests in France (les gilets jaunes) were never about a fuel tax. This was made clear when Macron caved in to their initial demands and cancelled it. Nor is this merely an expression of Macron’s unpopularity (though a 25% approval rating certainly doesn’t help).
A deep undercurrent of discontent has been rising in western Europe, and the conditions which are fueling it are set to accelerate.
When living conditions deteriorate and a population is frightened, people tend to gravitate towards strong leadership and groups which offer a sense of collective identity and order. National, religious, and racial heritage provide low hanging fruit. The left typically underestimates these forces, and overestimates the power of their own ideologies. Also their contempt for tradition and authority undermines their ability to organize much beyond brief shows of collective force (Occupy Wall Street for example).
Most of the money created by central bank stimulus over the past decade was funneled to the wealthiest strata of society, who mostly reinvested it rather than spending it into the economy. As a result inequality levels increased globally. In 1980 the top 1 percent held close to 10 percent of the wealth, by the year 2016 this share had doubled to 20 percent in the United States.
As central banks begin reversing stimulus (quantitative tightening), money is being sucked out of the economy faster than it was injected. Monetary and credit conditions are being tightened simultaneously into a crash. As this crash unfolds, and living standards are meaningfully impacted, we will see upheavals throughout the West make the yellow vest uprising seem quaint.
History will remember them as a canary in the coal mine.
“The rich are only defeated when running for their lives.” ~ CLR James, The Black Jacobins
In less than two months, the yellow vests (“gilets jaunes”) movement in France has reshaped the political landscape in Europe.
For a seventh straight week, demonstrations continued across the country even after concessions from a cowing President Emmanuel Macron while inspiring a wave of similar gatherings in neighboring states like Belgium and the Netherlands.
Just as el-Sisi’s dictatorship banned the sale of high-visibility vests to prevent copycat rallies in Egypt, corporate media has predictably worked overtime trying to demonize the spontaneous and mostly leaderless working class movement in the hopes it will not spread elsewhere.
The media oligopoly initially attempted to ignore the insurrection altogether, but when forced to reckon with the yellow vests they maligned the incendiary marchers using horseshoe theory to suggest a confluence between far left and far right supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen.
To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have also stoked fears of ‘Russian interference’ behind the unrest. We can assume that if the safety vests were ready-made off the assembly line of NGOs like the raised fist flags of Serbia’s OTPOR! movement, the presstitutes would be telling a different story.
It turned out that a crisis was not averted but merely postponed when Macron defeated his demagogue opponent Le Pen in the 2017 French election. While it is true that the gilets jaunes were partly impelled by an increase on fuel prices, contrary to the prevailing narrative their official demands are not limited to a carbon tax. They also consist of explicit ultimatums to increase the minimum wage, improve the standard of living, and an end to austerity, among other legitimate grievances.
Since taking office, Macron has declared war on trade unions while pushing through enormous tax breaks for the wealthy (like himself) — it was just a matter of time until the French people had enough of the country’s privatization. It is only a shock to the oblivious establishment why the former Rothschild banker-turned-politician, who addressed the nation seated at a gold desk while Paris was ablaze, is suddenly in jeopardy of losing power. The status quo’s incognizance is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette who during the 18th century when told the peasants had no bread famously replied, “let them eat cake” as the masses starved under her husband Louis XIV.
While the media’s conspicuous blackout of coverage is partly to blame, the deafening silence from across the Atlantic in the United States is really because of the lack of class consciousness on its political left. With the exception of Occupy Wall Street, the American left has been so preoccupied with an endless race to the bottom in the two party ‘culture wars’ it is unable to comprehend an upheaval undivided by the contaminants of identity politics. A political opposition that isn’t fractured on social issues is simply unimaginable.
Not to say the masses in France are exempt from the internal contradictions of the working class, but the fetishization of lifestyle politics in the U.S. has truly become its weakness. We will have to wait and see whether the yellow vests transform into a global movement or arrive in America, but for now the seeming lack of solidarity stateside equates to a complicity with Macron’s agenda.
It serves as a reminder of the historically revisionist understanding of French politics in the U.S. that is long-established. The middle class dominated left-wing in America ascribes to a historical reinterpretation of the French Revolution that is a large contributor of its aversion to transformative praxis in favor of incrementalism.
The late Italian Marxist philosopher and historian Domenico Losurdo, who died in June of this year, offered the most thorough understanding of its misreading of history in seminal works such as War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century. The liberal rereading of the French Revolution is the ideological basis for its rejection of the revolutionary tradition from the Jacobins to the Bolsheviks that has neutralized the modern left to this day.
According to its revised history, the inevitable outcome of comprehensive systemic change is Robespierre’s so-called ‘Reign of Terror’, or the ‘purges’ of the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. In its view, what began with the Locke and Montesquieu-influenced reforms of the constitutional monarchy was ‘hijacked’ by the radical Jacobin and sans-culotte factions.
Losurdo explains that counter-revolutionaries eager to discredit the image of rebellion overemphasize its violence and bloodshed, and never properly contextualize it as self-defense against the real reign of terror by the ruling class. The idea behind this recasting of history is to conflate revolutionary politics with Nazi Germany whose racially-motivated genocide was truly the inheritor of the legacy of European colonialism, not the ancestry of the Jacobins or the Russian Revolution.
Maximilien Robespierre’s real crime
Maximilien Robespierre’s real crime in the eyes of bourgeois historians was attempting to fulfill the egalitarian ideals of republicanism by transferring political power from the aristocracy and nouveaux riches directly into the hands of the working class, just as the Paris Commune did nearly 80 years later. It is for this reason he subsequently became one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned figures in world history, perhaps one day to be absolved.
The US reaction to the yellow vests is a continuation of the denial and suppression of the class conflict inherent in the French Revolution which continues to seethe beneath the surfaces of capitalism today.
In today’s political climate, it is easy to forget that there have been periods where the American left was actually engaged with the crisis of global capitalism. In what seems like aeons ago, the anti-globalization movement in the wake of NAFTA culminated in huge protests in Seattle in 1999 which saw nearly 50,000 march against the World Trade Organization.
Following the 2008 financial collapse, it briefly reemerged in the Occupy movement which was also swiftly put down by corporate-state repression. Currently, the political space once inhabited by the anti-globalization left has been supplanted by the ‘anti-globalist’ rhetoric mostly associated with right-wing populism.
Globalism and globalization may have qualitatively different meanings, but they nevertheless are interrelated. Although it is shortsighted, there are core accuracies in the former’s narrative that should be acknowledged. The idea of a shadowy world government isn’t exclusively adhered to by anti-establishment conservatives and it is right to suspect there is a worldwide cabal of secretive billionaire power brokers controlling events behind the scenes. There is indeed a ‘new world order’ with zero regard for the sovereignty of nation states, just as there is a ‘deep state.’
However, it is a ruling class not of paranoiac imagination but real life, and a right-wing billionaire like Robert Mercer is as much a globalist as George Soros.
Ever since capitalism emerged it has always been global. The current economic crisis is its latest cyclical downturn, impoverishing and alienating working people whose increasing hardship is what has led to the trending rejection of the EU. Imperialism has exported capital leading to the destruction of jobs in the home sectors of Western nations while outsourcing them to the third world.
Over time, deep disgruntlement among the working class has grown toward an economic system that is clearly rigged against them, where the skewed distribution of capital gains and widespread tax evasion on the part of big business is camouflaged as buoyant economic growth. When it came crashing down in the last recession, the financial institutions responsible were bailed out using tax payer money instead of facing any consequences. Such grotesque unfairness has only been amplified by the austerity further transferring the burden from the 1% to the poor.
Before the gilets jaunes, the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in 2016 laid bare these deep class divisions within the European Union. One of the most significant events in the continent since WWII, it has ultimately threatened to reshape the Occident’s status in the post-war order as a whole. Brexit manifested out of divisions within Britain’s political parties, especially the Torys, which had been plagued for years by internal dispute over the EU.
Those in power were blind to the warning signs of discontent toward a world economy in crisis and were shocked by the plebiscite in which the working class defied the powers that be against all odds with more than half voting to leave.
In general, well-to-do Brits were hard remainers while those suffering most severely from the destruction of industry, unemployment and austerity overwhelmingly chose to leave in what was described as a “peasants revolt” by the media. The value of the pound sterling quickly plunged and not long after the status of the United Kingdom as a whole came into question as Britain found itself at odds with Scotland’s unanimous decision to remain. Brexit tugged at the bonds holding the EU together and suddenly the collective standing clout of its member states is at stake in a potential breakup of the entire bloc.
Euroscepticism is also by no means a distinctly British phenomenon, as distrust has soared in countries hit the hardest by neoliberalism like Greece (80%), with Spain and France not far behind. In fact, before there was Brexit there was fear among the elite of a ‘Grexit.’ In response to its unprecedented debt crisis manufactured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Greek people elected the Coalition of the Radical Left, SYRIZA, to a majority of legislative seats to the Hellenic Parliament during its 2015 bailout referendum.
Unfortunately, the synthetic alliance turned out to be anything but radical and a Trojan horse of the establishment. SYRIZA was elected on its promise to rescind the terms of Greek membership in the EU, but shortly after taking office it betrayed its constituency and agreed to the troika’s mass privatization. Even its former finance minister Yanis Varousfakis admitted that SYRIZA was a controlled opposition and auxiliary of the Soros Foundation.
Apart from suffering collective amnesia regarding the EU’s neoliberal policies, apparently the modern left is also in serious need of a history lesson regarding the federation’s fascist origins. It has been truly puzzling to see self-proclaimed progressives mourning Britain’s decision to withdraw from a continental union that was historically masterminded by former fifth columnists of Nazi Germany.
It was in the aftermath of WWII’s devastation that the 1951 Treaty of Paris established the nucleus of the EU in the European Coal and Steel Community, a cooperative union formed by France, Italy, West Germany, and the three Benelux states (Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The Europe Declaration charter stated:
“By the signature of this Treaty, the involved parties give proof of their determination to create the first supranational institution and that thus they are laying the true foundation of an organized Europe.
“This Europe remains open to all European countries that have freedom of choice. We profoundly hope that other countries will join us in our common endeavor.”
The idea of forming a “supranational” union was conceived by the French statesman Robert Schuman, who during the outbreak of WWII served as the Under-Secretary of State for Refugees in the Reynaud government. When Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940, Schuman by all accounts willingly voted to grant absolute dictatorial powers to Marshall Philippe Pétain to become Head of State of the newly formed Vichy government, the puppet regime that ruled Nazi-occupied France until the Allied invasion in 1944. By doing so, he retained his position in parliament, though he later chose to resign. Following the war, like all Vichy collaborators Schuman was initially charged with the offense of indignité nationale (“national unworthiness”) and stripped of his civil rights as a traitor.
More than 4,000 alleged quislings were summarily executed following Operation Overlord and the Normandy landings, but the future EU designer was fortunate enough to have friends in high places. Schuman’s clemency was granted by none other than General Charles de Gaulle himself, the leader of the resistance during the war and future French President. Instantly, Schuman’s turncoat reputation was rehabilitated and his wartime activity whitewashed. Even though he had knowingly voted full authority to Pétain, the retention of his post in the Vichy government was veneered to have occurred somehow without his knowledge or consent.
Marshal Pétain meets with Adolf Hitler in 1940.
Schuman is officially regarded as one of the eleven men who were ‘founding fathers’ of what later became the EU. One of the other major figures that contributed to the federal integration of the continent was Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Nuremberg Trials may have tried and executed most of the top leadership of the Nazi Party, but the post-war government that became West Germany was saturated with former Third Reich officials. Despite the purported post-war ‘denazification’ policy inscribed in the Potsdam agreement, many figures who had directly participated in the Holocaust were appointed to high positions in Adenauer’s administration and never prosecuted for their atrocities.
One such war criminal was the former Ministry of the Interior and drafter of the Nuremberg race statutes, Hans Globke, who became Adenauer’s right hand man as his Secretary of State and Chief of Staff. Adenauer also successfully lobbied the Allies to free most of the Wehrmacht war criminals in their custody, winning the support of then U.S. General and future President Dwight Eisenhower. By 1951, motivated by the desire to quickly rearm and integrate West Germany into NATO in the new Cold War, the policy of denazification was prematurely ended and countless offenders were allowed to reenter branches of government, military and public service. Their crimes against humanity took a backseat to the greater imperialist priority of rearmament against East Germany and the Soviets.
In the years following WWII, there was also concern among the elite of anti-Americanism growing in Western Europe. The annual Bilderberg Group conference was established in 1954 by Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, himself a former Reiter-SS Corps and Nazi Party member, to promote ‘Atlanticism’ and facilitate cooperation between American and European leaders. Invitations to the Bilderberg club meetings were extended to only the most exclusive paragons in politics, academia, the media, industry, and finance. In 2009, WikiLeaks revealed that it was at the infamous assembly where the hidden agenda of the European Coal and Steel Community, later the EU, was set:
“E. European Unity: The discussion on this subject revealed general support for the idea of European integration and unification among the participants from the six countries of the European Coal and Steel Community, and a recognition of the urgency of the problem.
“While members of the group held different views as to the method by which a common market could be set up, there was a general recognition of the dangers inherent in the present divided markets of Europe and the pressing need to bring the German people, together with the other peoples of Europe, into a common market.
“That the six countries of the Coal and Steel Community had definitely decided to establish a common market and that experts were now working this out was felt to be a most encouraging step forward and it was hoped that other countries would subsequently join it.”
Prince Bernard presides over the first annual Bilderberg meeting in 1954.
At the 1955 conference, the rudimentary idea for a European currency or what became the Eurozone was even discussed, three years before the Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community, without the public’s knowledge.
“A European speaker expressed concern about the need to achieve a common currency, and indicated that in his view this necessarily implied the creation of a central political authority.”
The mysterious Bilderberg gatherings are still held to this day under notorious secrecy and are frequently the subject of wild speculation. One can imagine a topic behind the scenes at this year’s meeting would be how to address the growth of anti-EU ‘populism’ and uprisings like the gilet jaunes. Hitlerite expansionism had been carried out on the Führer’s vision for a European federation in the Third Reich — in many respects, the EU is a rebranded realization of his plans for empire-building. How ironic that liberals are clinging to a multinational political union founded by fascist colluders while the same economic bloc is being opposed by today’s far right after its new Islamophobic facelift.
While nationalism may have played an instrumental role in Brexit, there is a manufactured hysteria hatched by the establishment which successfully reduced the complex range of reasons for the Leave EU vote to racism and flag-waving. They are now repeating this pattern by overstating the presence of the far right among the yellow vests. Such delirium not only demonizes workers but coercively repositions the left into supporting something it otherwise shouldn’t — the EU and by default its laissez-faire policies — thereby driving the masses further into the arms of the same far right.
Echoes of this can be seen in the U.S. with the vapid response to journalist Angela Nagle’s recent article about the immigration crisis on the southern border. The faux-left built a straw man in their attack on Nagle, who dared to acknowledge that the establishment only really wants ‘open borders’ for an endless supply of low-wage labor from regions in the global south destabilized by U.S. militarism and trade liberalization. Aligning itself with the hollow, symbolic gestures of centrists has only deteriorated the standards of the left participating in such vacuousness and dragged down to the level of liberals.
There is no doubt Brexit and Trump pushed the xenophobia button and could not have come about without it. However, such criticism means nothing when it comes from moral posturers who claim to “stand with refugees” while supporting the very ‘humanitarian’ interventionist policies displacing them. Nativism was not the sole reason the majority voted to leave the EU and many working class minorities also were Brexiters. Of course their fellow workers and migrants are not the true cause of their misery. After all, it was not just chattel slaves who came to the U.S. unwillingly but European immigrants fleeing continental wars and starvation as well — the crisis in the EU today is no different.
Fundamentally, migrants seek asylum on Europe’s doorstep because of NATO’s imperial expansion and the unexpected arrival of Brexit has threatened to weaken the EU’s military arm. Already desperate to reinvent itself and a new enemy in Russia despite its functional obsolescence, the shock of the referendum has inconveniently undermined NATO’s ability to pressure Moscow and Beijing, a step forward for mitigating world peace in the long run and a silver lining to its outcome. It is the task of the left to reject the EU’s neoliberal project while transmitting the message that capital, not refugees, is the cause of the plight of the masses. It is also necessary to have faith in the people, something cynical liberals lack. Racism may historically be the Achilles heel of the working class but underlying Brexit, the election of Trump, and the yellow vests is the spirit of defiance in working people, albeit one of political confusion in need of guidance.
If the yellow vests are today’s sans-culottes, like those which became the revolutionary partisans in the French Revolution, they will eventually need a Jacobin Club. Relatively progressive but ultimately reformist figures like Mélenchon are no such spearhead and will only lead them down the same dead end of SYRIZA. The absence of any such vanguard has forced the working class to take matters into their own hands in the interim. If history is any guide, the gilets jaunes will be stamped out until a new cadre takes the reins whose objective is, as Lenin said, “not to champion the degrading of the revolutionary to the level of an amateur, but to raise the amateurs to the level of revolutionaries.”
We also cannot fall into ideological fantasies that we live in permanent revolutionary circumstances or that a spontaneous uprising can become comprehensive simply because of ingenious leadership. Nevertheless, as Mao Tse-Tung wrote, “a single spark can start a prairie fire” and hopefully the yellow vests are that flame.
Independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. My work has appeared in CounterPunch, Greanville Post, OffGuardian, Global Research, Dissident Voice, and more. Max may be reached at email@example.com
When Jimmy Gomez, U.S. Congressman, accompanied a group of recently arrived migrants to the U.S. border in San Isidro, he got a revealing, first hand glimpse of ICE policy. The group went to the border to inquire as to how they could apply for asylum.
They were no sooner at the border when, in the Congressman’s words, they were “corralled” by armed ICE agents, who literally built a cage around them and forced them to remain, and eventually sleep on the cold ground right at the border.
While Gomez and the other U.S. citizens were told by ICE they could leave, they decided to stay with the group of immigrants which was a majority children, to protect them with their presence.
While they were huddled in ICE’s makeshift prison, ICE agents harassed them and a few “hurled verbal abuse about ‘vile’ migrants who are ‘criminals’, ‘bringing disease.’”
The “criminal” charge has become the standard Trump line of agitation to rile his white supremacist, fascist adorers. The charge of bringing disease is particularly hypocritical and revolting, given that within the past few weeks, many otherwise healthy children — who successfully endured a long and difficult journey — have taken ill, and even died, while in the custody of these border protectors!
Two children, Jakelin Caal, seven and Felipe Gomez, eight, likely died as a direct result of CBP and ICE “care”. There are indications that Jakelin may have died of contaminated water at an ICE facility in New Mexico, water that agents themselves refused to drink. Felipe likely sickened due to the callous abuse that nearly all migrants who surrender themselves to ICE at the border are subject to. It has become routine to throw migrant families – mothers, fathers and children – into “hieleras”, cold rooms with cement floors, with no more protection from the purposely air conditioned cold than thin mylar sheets. While in custody they are fed a diet of frozen bean burritos. In these conditions migrants are kept for days, without access to showers. When they’re released, as they have been in El Paso and other areas, the children are often sick with the flu, strep throat and pneumonia, or (when lucky) only colds and sore throats.
When confronted with criticism over the death of these children Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielson complained that DHS has been overwhelmed by the number of migrants that have come to the border in the past month. This is hardly credible for agencies – CPB, ICE and Border Patrol — which have a combined annual budget of more than $24 billion! Nielson and other ICE spokespeople never mention the purposeful and systematic abuse by ICE of those in their custody. Nor does their rationale explain how refugee shelters on the border, also confronted with a sudden, dramatic increase in immigrants, have managed, overnight, with volunteers from the community and around the country, to serve these same immigrants in these same large numbers without access to the vast resources of the “wealthiest and most powerful” government on the planet! No child has died in the care of these emergency shelters set up in churches, community centers and motels. In addition to providing warm healthy food, warm places to sleep, adequate hygiene, clothing and conscientious medical help, the shelters have also facilitated the travel for many thousands of migrants to cities around the country.
Unlike ICE, which has callously left hundreds of immigrants stranded at El Paso bus depots, for example, the shelters have provided guides who accompany new immigrants to bus depots and airports to help in making travel connections for people completely new to the country and unfamiliar with the language. The shelters provide travel food, blankets and other things for their journeys. All of this from the good will of people motivated by a moral commitment to other human beings, but also, by outrage at the shabby and overtly hateful actions of ICE.
According to the NY Times 2,100 migrants are now appearing at the Mexico – U.S. border every day, 60% of them in families. More than 25,000 migrant families have come in the past month. This wave is different from past migrations which have generally been mainly single men from Mexico. This change in geography and demographics is significant, but the fact of migration to the U.S. from south of the border is not new. There is a consistent historical fact that the migration north has paralleled the flow of wealth in the same direction. Mexico, Central and South America have, historically, been areas of exploitation by U.S. economic interests and victims of vast interference in their country’s internal affairs by government agencies of the U.S. — for the purpose of geo-political and economic advantage. The result has been a freakish and insane polarization of wealth — stupendous affluence accumulating among a small number of corporations and individuals at the U.S. end of the spectrum and horrific poverty and misery among millions at the other.
At the same time, U.S. border and immigration policy is shaped to serve that arrangement in the most advantageous way for U.S. imperial interests. The impoverishment and accompanying violence that drives Mexicans and Central Americans north, also provides a large pool of cheap, vulnerable labor for low wage jobs in the U.S., or in U.S. owned maquiladora factories on the U.S.- Mexico border, U.S. controlled agricultural zones in Mexico and special industrial zones in Central America. Essential industries in the U.S. like agriculture, construction and service survive and thrive on the influx of low wage labor. U.S. border policy, even amid an overheated rhetoric about “national sovereignty”, and xenophobic rage over demographic shifts, largely serves to facilitate this arrangement.
And, it needs to be mentioned, that both major political parties, Democrats and Republican, have been equally involved over the years in shaping the immigration policies of mass detention, deportation and border walls that have directly lead to the deaths of thousands of immigrants. The policies of plunder such as CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), that have lead to so much misery and desperation, especially among farmers in Central America, have been consistently bi-partisan.
In an increasingly more complex world, border policy has become more contentious, but the same essential factors are at work today as they were nearly 80 years ago when hundreds of thousands of bracero workers from Mexico came north to help feed the U.S. at a time of war and in the post war era (1942 to 1964). U.S. policy on its southern border has been largely about regulating the flow of highly exploitable labor that has been a significant factor in the rise of the U.S. as a major economic and political power.
Some of the conditions that have driven this recent wave of immigrants from Honduras and Guatemala have received notice in the press – especially the gang violence. Less discussed, if not completely missing, are the historical and present day factors that create and perpetuate the violence, especially the extreme economic hardships resulting directly from foreign plunder and meddling.
Another relevant factor is the damage to Central American agriculture as a result of global climate changes. Deadly droughts, hurricanes, flood and mudslides have wreaked havoc in this vulnerable region, and provoked the desperate flight of migrants.
Less clear are the factors up north that also influence this surge of migration. The expansion of job opportunities, the need for workers in such industries as agriculture and the service sector serves as a magnet. An aging population that requires greater services is also a stimulant. And, this might well include the recruitment of low-wage workers in areas hard hit by the effects of global climate change, hurricane struck areas in the U.S. southeast, for example. Climate-created destruction at one end of the migratory path serving to assist repair to climate-created destruction at the other end — climate refugees in Central America forced to leave their homes and communities coming north to assist in repairing damage to climate created destruction in the U.S. Could there be a more compelling illustration of the staggering inequality and injustice of this system?
Bruce Neuburger is a retired teacher and author of the book Lettuce Wars.
Britain's political uncertainty over Brexit means that all bets are off for what might happen in the first three months of 2019.
But one distinct possibility is a general election, which the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn may be in a prime place to win.
A key question is: will Corbyn transform British foreign policy in the Middle East away from supporting repressive regimes and selling them arms, and challenge the London establishment that has prioritised these concerns over all others for decades?
There are four areas where Labour's declared foreign policy is seriously worrying the British elite.
Ambivalence on Israel
Firstly, Labour has pledged to allow the Chagos islanders to return to their homeland in the Indian Ocean after being removed in the 1970s. Their largest island - Diego Garcia - is used as a key US military intervention platform for the Middle East. Labour's policy will be bitterly fought in Whitehall, which is shamefully continuing to fight the Chagossians in court, having recently agreed with the US to allow its use of the base until 2036.
Secondly, Labour has committed to "immediately recognise the state of Palestine" if elected, while its last election manifesto also called for "an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements". However, the specifics of Labour's policy towards Israel remain unclear. Corbyn has said in the past that he would halt arms exports to Israel if he became prime minister, adding that he also supported the right to return of Palestinian refugees.
While Corbyn has intimated that he backs a targeted boycott of trade with illegal Israeli settlements, Thornberry rejects this, noting only that settlement goods should be 'clearly labelled'
Yet, Labour has recently been silent on these policies, and there are differences between Corbyn and his shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry. While Corbyn has intimated that he backs a targeted boycott of trade with illegal Israeli settlements, Thornberry rejects this, noting only that settlement goods should be "clearly labelled" so "it would be up to individuals" whether to buy them.
Thornberry's position is itself ambivalent. In November 2017, she told a conference for Bicom, a UK Israeli lobby group, that Israel is "a beacon of freedom, equality and democracy". At the Labour Party conference in September, however, she condemned the Netanyahu government "for its racist policies and its criminal actions against the Palestinian people".
Wars for regime change
A third policy that the British establishment will resist is Corbyn's opposition to regime-change wars. Corbyn opposed UK military involvement in Kosovo in 1999, Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2015. He has spoken of the "disastrous invasions and occupations of recent years" which "have failed on their own terms, devastated the countries and regions and made Britain and the world a more dangerous place". He has also, correctly, drawn a connection between these wars and terrorism at home.
Two specific Labour policies flow from this. One is that Labour will create a minister for peace, who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office to promote UN efforts to resolve conflicts. Another is that Labour wants to enshrine into law a "War Powers Act" for the UK, by which a government must seek parliamentary approval before committing to military action.
There is a fourth issue that Whitehall will bitterly fight, surely with all its might. Although it is not formal Labour policy, Corbyn has intimated that he wants to hold former Labour leader and prime minister Tony Blair, and possibly other figures, accountable for the Iraq War. This is a red line for the British elite, which will simply not allow such accountability at the heart of UK foreign policy. Traditionally, British ministers are permitted to literally get away with murder.
But there Labour's challenge to the elite may largely end, since, as things stand, few of the party's other declared foreign policies are likely to represent a strong break with the current government. Labour's position on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, for example, is not to halt them completely, but simply to "suspend" them pending a UN-led investigation into violations of international law in Yemen.
Business as usual
In fact, Labour's stance on arms exports is virtually identical to the government's. It says it will only stop arms exports "where there is concern that they will be used to violate international humanitarian law" - a position that allows exports to repressive regimes if they do not use British weapons. There would be no blacklist of countries that would never receive UK arms.
The shadow minister for peace, Fabian Hamilton, told Middle East Eye in 2017 that arms exports would go only to "states with a long history of using weapons solely for defensive purposes" and that exports to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt would be embargoed. This would be different, but it is not clear whether this is formal policy. He also said that all arms exports would have to be pre-approved by a parliamentary committee.
Labour has also promised to "review all training and equipment contracts with repressive regimes, to ensure that Britain never colludes in the mistreatment of civilians". This is welcome, but it is again unclear whether such a "review" would result in any real shift in overall British support for repressive regimes. Labour's promise to reintroduce human rights advisers into British embassies around the world might herald some policy shifts but could, by contrast, simply put a gloss on business as usual.
Worse is Labour's position on the military industry, which it says is "world-leading" and in which "Labour will continue to support development and innovation". Since this includes the production of arms for export, the UK, already the world's second-largest arms exporter, will continually be seeking new markets. In this light, it is unclear how far Labour's commitment to promoting defence diversification will actually go.
Will Corbyn be worn down?
Labour's shadow defence secretary, Nia Griffith, has been just as supportive of the military industry as the Conservative government. Meanwhile, Labour has even tried to outdo the government on military expenditures, saying that it is committed to spending at least two per cent of GDP on the military, and that "Conservative spending cuts have put Britain's security at risk".
If elected, Corbyn would be the first anti-imperialist to win power in a major Western country. Whitehall will be hoping that his view that "we have to rethink our role in the world" will remain rhetoric. But he might be serious.
The real issue is the extent to which Corbyn's genuine personal commitment to internationalism and human rights will be worn down by a British establishment determined to stop him. This can already be seen in the British media smear campaigns over the past two years, and even a warning of a coup against Corbyn by a senior serving general if he failed to support current UK military policy.
His own party, lined with Blairites who supported the Iraq and Libya wars, has traditionally backed repressive regimes, arms exports and US foreign policy in ways similar to the Conservatives
But Corbyn is not just up against the mainstream media and the "permanent government" of officials in Whitehall. His own party, lined with Blairites who supported the Iraq and Libya wars, has traditionally backed repressive regimes, arms exports and US foreign policy in ways similar to the Conservatives, despite the party's high-sounding rhetoric about "internationalism".
If elected, Corbyn will face this triple attack. Only an extensive public movement of grassroots support - making full use of alternative media and international solidarity, and challenging the British establishment more effectively - will be able to bring about a UK foreign policy that genuinely promotes human rights.
Mark Curtis is a historian and analyst of UK foreign policy and international development and the author of six books, the latest being an updated edition of Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.
"After reading through all the released Initiative papers and lists one gets the impression of a secret military intelligence operation, disguised as a public NGO.
"Financed by millions of government money the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative work under a charity label to create and disseminate disinformation to the global public and back into the government and military itself."
Today the Anonymous account released a new batch of some 50 internal Integrity Initiative documents at the Cyber Guerrilla website.
With the new release Anonymous lays out a timeline that connects the Skripal affair in Britain with the activities and personal of the Integrity Initiative. Our last piece had already drawn the Skripal connection to the Initiative, but some of the new documents add to the trail.
The trail starts with a document (pdf), written in January 2015(!), that lays out a plan and options for sanctioning Russia.
Jewish charity is being audited for funding Israeli forces and illegal building in occupied West Bank, report details.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has published an expose on a Jewish charity in Canada, which has been under investigation for using its donations to build infrastructure for the Israeli forces in violation of the country's tax rules.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada, one of the country's long-established charities, has been the subject of a Canada Revenue Agency audit after a complaint was filed in October 2017.
The JNF funds numerous projects in Israel, such as reforestation efforts in areas hit by wildfires but it has also funded infrastructure projects on Israeli army, air and naval bases, the CBC reported on Friday.
Their activities are in violation of Canadian law which prohibits charitable funds from supporting a foreign army.
CBC's article details many troubling aspects of the charity's projects which, along with funding infrastructure on Israeli military bases, it has also contributed directly to the construction of at least one hilltop settler outpost - illegal under international law, and considered illegal by Israel itself.
The organisation, which disclosed to donors last year that it has been under audit by the Canada Revenue Agency, said it stopped funding those projects in 2016, according to the CBC.
Funding Israeli military bases
A complaint was submitted in October 2017 with the support of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), which presented detailed evidence that JNF Canada works in violation of the Income Tax Act and contravenes Canadian foreign policy in numerous ways.
According to CRA guidelines, funding for projects intended to increase the "effectiveness and efficiency" of a foreign military cannot be considered charitable and therefore should not be tax-deductible.
"It is unconscionable that Canadians are subsidising an organisation that has used tax-deductible donations to support the Israeli military, especially when that army has killed nearly 200 unarmed protesters in Gaza this past year, including medical personnel, members of the media and children," said Canadian Rabbi David Mivasair, one of four complainants.
According to IJV, JNF Canada has funded well over a dozen projects to support the Israeli forces in the last few years alone, and has officially partnered with the Israeli forces and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Its military projects include "the new planned [Irsaeli military] Training Base City in the Negev" desert and "helping the development of the Bat Galim (naval) training base complex area", according to the CBC.
In 2014, JNF Edmonton held a Negev Gala dinner, where proceeds were to,
"develop three areas of the Negev's Tse'elim army base, the largest military training facility in Israel. The project will upgrade and landscape the family visiting area, intake and release facility and the barracks' main plaza. The base is the national centre for ground forces training," its Facebook page read.
JNF Canada has also funded security roads along Israel's hostile borders with Lebanon and Gaza, which in the words of JNF Canada, are designed to "enhance military activity" in these border regions, IJV wrote.
Building in the West Bank
JNF Canada missions in Israel also have contributed directly to the construction of at least one illegal hilltop settler outpost, CBC reported. Givat Oz VeGaon received and ignored at least 18 demolition orders from the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
A JNF Canadian Young Leadership Solidarity Mission visited the site in August-September 2014 and worked with picks and shovels "to prepare the ground for building a residential unit to be used by the security guard".
Fifteen million dollars of tax-deductible Canadian funds have also contributed towards building JNF Canada's flagship project, Canada Park, along with a new adjacent Israeli settlement.
The park was built on militarily occupied territory, over the ruins of three Palestinian villages which Israeli forces depopulated and demolished in 1967 as well as the lands of a fourth, according to IJV.
Low marks for transparency
The organisation gets a mark of zero for financial transparency, according to Kate Bahen, head of Charity Intelligence, a Toronto-based NGO that produces a report rating Canadian charities on their transparency and efficiency in spending donors' money.
Bahen said the charity has done the right thing by disclosing to donors that it's being audited, but it is "an utter black box" when it comes to providing a breakdown of how its money is spent.
"Any Canadian donor who knows of JNF automatically thinks of planting trees. And there is a lot more to JNF than planting trees," Bahen told CBC.
"We have absolutely no information on how much it's spent planting trees, how much goes for irrigation, or education, or how much is diverted to military bases. And that information, I think, is critical, and it's not provided to Canadian donors."
Update: Voice of Europe has issued a statement denying the claims, offering no new facts and refusing to comment on the story any further.
In a startling revelation, an editor for major populist online publication Voice of Europe is accused of working for British police intelligence as part of a program targeting political organizations in the UK and broader Europe.
The alleged breach comes several weeks after Disobedient Media highlighted the danger of the UK becoming involved with the Gilets Jaunes protests for geopolitical gain.
Individuals at the center of the incident warn that it may have been part of a wider British program targeting anti-establishment organizations such as Wikileaks as well as right-wing movements and politicians throughout the US and Europe.
Disappearance Leads To Scrutiny Of Voice Of Europe’s Editor
The operation was first exposed on January 1, 2019 by independent researcher Nicholas Monroe, who had grown concerned over the disappearance of Peter Imanuelson, a Norwegian-born UK national living in North Yorkshire and blogging under the alias Peter Sweden.
Imanuelson, who was known for his affiliation with identitarian and populist movements in Europe such as Defend Europe, had caused alarm by ceasing his usually constant Twitter activity for the month of December 2018. Monroe’s investigation revealed troubling indications that Imanuelson had become wrapped up in a British police intelligence operation that has been known to target right-wing and far-left political movements across Europe.
Imanuelson had become engaged in November to an editor and “second in command” of the right-wing populist news website Voice of Europe. The editor, known by the moniker of “Laura Cat,” claims to be a 25-year-old unmarried woman. However, “Laura Cat’s” own social media posts established that she is in fact a marriedmother whose brother in law is an employee of the UK Metropolitan police.
In 2009, the Guardian revealed that a British police officer had traveled to 22 different countries on a fake passport including Ireland, Iceland and Spain. Targeted movements included green, “anti-racist” and anarchist groups.
Mark Kennedy was a member of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, a secretive organization run by a private limited company which allows it to remain exempt from freedom of information laws and other public accountability checks and balances. A database published by the Guardian on October 15th, 2018 revealed that British police had infiltrated 124 movements since the 1970’s and would even engage in sexual relationships with targets.
According to a statement from Imanuelson, “Laura Cat” also works with an unnamed anti-trafficking charity that collaborates with MI5 and the US Department of Justice.
Peter Imanuelson’s father Emanuel revealed that since Peter had begun speaking to “Laura Cat,” their family had been systematically targeted by hacking and phone tapping attempts. When Imanuelson confronted the woman about his concerns that she was a part of a government program to target his son, he was blocked on social media both by her personal account as well as by the Voice of Europe.
Operation May Affect Britain’s UKIP, Targeting Populist Leadership In Europe, US
Further statements from Emanuel Imanuelson indicate that “Laura Cat” was allegedly part of a program targeting political organizations and figures in both the US and Europe.
According to Imanuelson’s father, targets include Wikileaks, the Voice of Europe’s owners, Polish politician Dominik Tarczyński, unnamed Republican politicians, a “person close to Donald Trump,” Tommy Robinson and UKIP politician Janice Atkinson.
“Laura Cat” had also purportedly hoped to use her connections with Voice of Europe to develop ties to high profile figures such as Geert Wilders, Marie Le Pen, Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orban. The Voice of Europe editor has also done design work for independent journalists such as Laura Loomer.
If the testimony of Imanuelson’s family and research by Nick Monroe is confirmed, it will represent a major breach of security for anti-establishment movements in the US and Europe.
In November 2018, a report from Mintpress News revealed that American white supremacists had received training from the Ukrainian Neo Nazi group the Azov Battalion, who are assisted by the Ukrainian, US and Israeli governments. Far-right groups in Ukraine such as Right Sector are also working with Islamic militants who have received training from ISIS in Syria.
Infiltration of extremist groups on the left and right is a known tactic of security forces, but the UK’s program appears to be seeking to broadly target more mainstream populist movements and public figures. It raises serious questions about the possibility that similar operations may exist in the US and Canada as well.
Much like CIA infiltration of left wing protest groups during the Cold War, the British approach allows them to use their assets to control narratives fed to supporters, hamper the effectiveness of populist movements and direct policy in a way that will benefit them politically.
Regular followers of WikiLeaks-related news are at this point familiar with the multiple serious infractions of journalistic ethics by Luke Harding and the Guardian, especially (though not exclusively) when it comes to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. However, another individual at the heart of this matter is far less familiar to the public. That man is Fernando Villavicencio, a prominent Ecuadorian political activist and journalist, director of the USAID-funded NGO Fundamedios and editor of online publication FocusEcuador.
Most readers are also aware of the Guardian’s recent publication of claims that Julian Assange met with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on three occasions. This has now been definitively debunked by Fidel Narvaez, the former Consul at Ecuador’s London embassy between 2010 and 2018, who says Paul Manafort has never visited the embassy during the time he was in charge there. But this was hardly the first time the outlet published a dishonest smear authored by Luke Harding against Assange. The paper is also no stranger to publishing stories based on fabricated documents.
In May, Disobedient Media reported on the Guardian’s hatchet-job relating to ‘Operation Hotel,’ or rather, the normal security operations of the embassy under former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. That hit-piece, co-authored by Harding and Dan Collyns, asserted among other things that (according to an anonymous source) Assange hacked the embassy’s security system. The allegation was promptly refuted by Correa as “absurd” in an interview with The Intercept, and also by WikiLeaks as an “anonymous libel” with which the Guardian had “gone too far this time. We’re suing.”
How is Villavicencio tied to The Guardian’s latest smear of Assange? Intimately, it turns out.
Who is Fernando Villavicencio?
Earlier this year, an independent journalist writing under the pseudonym Jimmyslama penned a comprehensive report detailing Villavicencio’s relationships with pro-US actors within Ecuador and the US. She sums up her findings, which are worth reading in full:
“…The information in this post alone should make everyone question why in the world the Guardian would continue to use a source like Villavicencio who is obviously tied to the U.S. government, the CIA, individuals like Thor Halvorssen and Bill Browder, and opponents of both Julian Assange and former President Rafael Correa.”
As most readers recall, it was Correa who granted Assange asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Villavicencio was so vehemently opposed to Rafael Correa’s socialist government that during the failed 2010 coup against Correa he falsely accused the President of “crimes against humanity” by ordering police to fire on the crowds (it was actually Correa who was being shot at). Correa sued him for libel, and won, but pardoned Villavicencio for the damages awarded by the court.
Assange legal analyst Hanna Jonasson recently made the link between the Ecuadorian forger Villavicencio and Luke Harding’s Guardian stories based on dubious documents explicit. She Tweeted:
“2014 Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry accused the Guardian of publishing a story based on a document it says was fabricated by Fernando Villavicencio, pictured below with the authors of the fake Manafort-Assange ‘secret meeting’ story, Harding and Collyns.”
Jonasson included a link to a 2014 official Ecuadorian government statement which reads in part:
“There is also evidence that the author of this falsified document is Fernando Villavicencio, a convicted slanderer and opponent of Ecuador’s current government. This can be seen from the file properties of the document that the Guardian had originally posted (but which it has since taken down and replaced with a version with this evidence removed).”
The statement also notes that Villavicencio had fled the country after his conviction for libeling Correa during the 2010 coup and was at that time living as a fugitive in the United States.
It is incredibly significant, as Jonasson argues, that the authors of the Guardian’s latest libelous article were photographed with Villavicencio in Ecuador shortly before publication of the Guardian’s claim that Assange had conducted meetings with Manafort.
Jonasson’s Twitter thread also states: “This video from the news wire Andes alleges that Villavicencio’s name appeared in the metadata of the document originally uploaded alongside The Guardian’s story.” The 2014 Guardian piece, which aimed a falsified shot at then-President Rafael Correa, would not be the last time Villavicencio’s name would appear on a controversial Guardian story before being scrubbed from existence.
Just days after the backlash against the Guardian reached fever-pitch, Villavicencio had the gall to publish another image of himself with Harding and Collyns, gloating :
“One of my greatest journalistic experiences was working for months on Assange’s research with colleagues from the British newspaper the Guardian, Luke Harding, Dan Collins and the young journalist Cristina
Solórzano from @ somos_lafuente” [Translated from Spanish]
The tweet suggests, but does not specifically state, that Villavicencio worked with the disastrous duo on the Assange-Manafort piece. Given the history and associations of all involved, this statement alone should cause extreme skepticism in any unsubstantiated claims, or ‘anonymously sourced’ claims, the Guardian makes concerning Julian Assange and Ecuador.
Astoundingly, and counter to Villavicencio’s uncharacteristic coyness, a recent video posted by WikiLeaks via Twitter does show that Villavicencio was originally listed as a co-author of the Guardian’s Manafort-Assange allegations, before his name was edited out of the online article. The original version can be viewed, however, thanks to archive services.
The two photographs of Villavicencio with Harding and Collyns as well as the evidence showing he co-authored the piece doesn’t just capture a trio of terrible journalists, it documents the involvement of multiple actors associated with intelligence agencies and fabricated stories.
All of this provoke the question: did Villavicencio provide more bogus documents to Harding and Collyns – Harding said he’d seen a document, though he didn’t publish one (or even quote from it) so readers might judge its veracity for themselves – or perhaps these three invented the accusations out of whole-cloth?
Either way, to quote WikiLeaks, the Guardian has “gone too far this time” and its already-tattered reputation is in total shambles.
Successful Propaganda, Failed Journalism
Craig Murray calls Harding an “MI6 tool“, but to this writer, Harding seems worse than an MI6 stooge: He’s a wannabe-spook, hanging from the coat-tails of anonymous intelligence officers and publishing their drivel as fact without so much as a skeptical blink. His lack of self-awareness and conflation of anecdote with evidence sets him apart as either one of the most blatant, fumbling propagandists of our era, or the most hapless hack journalist to stain the pages of printed news.
To provide important context on Harding’s previous journalistic irresponsibility, we again recall that he co-authored the infamous book containing the encryption password of the entire Cablegate archive, leading to a leak of the unredacted State Department Cables across the internet. Although the guilty Guardian journalists tried to blame Assange for the debacle, it was they themselves who ended up on the receiving end of some well-deserved scorn.
In addition to continuing the Guardian’s and Villavicencio’s vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks, it is clearly in Harding’s financial interests to conflate the pending prosecution of Assange with Russiagate. As this writer previously noted, Harding penned a book on the subject, titled: “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” Tying Assange to Russiagate is good for business, as it stokes public interest in the self-evidently faulty narrative his book supports.
Even more concerning is the claim amongst publishing circles, fueled by recent events, that Harding may be writing another book on Assange, with publication presumably timed for his pending arrest and extradition and designed to cash in on the trial. If that is in fact the case, the specter arises that Harding is working to push for Assange’s arrest, not just on behalf of US, UK or Ecuadorian intelligence interests, but also to increase his own book sales.
That Harding and Collyns worked intensively with Villavicencio for “months” on the “Assange story,” the fact that Villavicencio was initially listed as a co-author on the original version of the Guardian’s article, and the recent denial by Fidel Narvaez, raises the likelihood that Harding and the Guardian were not simply the victims of bad sources who duped them, as claimed by some.
It indicates that the fake story was constructed deliberately on behalf of the very same intelligence establishment that the Guardian is nowadays only too happy to take the knee for.
In summary, one of the most visible establishment media outlets published a fake story on its front page, in an attempt to manufacture a crucial cross-over between the pending prosecution of Assange and the Russiagate saga. This represents the latest example in an onslaught of fake news directed at Julian Assange and WikiLeaks ever since they published the largest CIA leak in history in the form of Vault 7, an onslaught which appears to be building in both intensity and absurdity as time goes on.
The Guardian has destroyed its reputation, and in the process, revealed the desperation of the establishment when it comes to Assange.
In November hacking syndicate Anonymous leaked internal files from
the shadowy Institute for Statecraft and its subsidiary the Integrity
The explosive documents exposed how the 'think tank' was in
fact an international "information war effort", run by British military
intelligence specialists, and funded by the British state and NATO.
A bid for Ministry of Defence funding submitted by the Integrity Initiative to the UK Ministry of Defence in 2017 lists a "tougher stance in government policy towards Russia" and "more information published in the media on the threat of Russian active measures" as key performance indicators for the organization.
To achieve this end, the Institute via its Initiative is amassing 'clusters' the world over — groups of politicians, businesspeople, military officials, academics and journalists — who "understand the threat posed to Western nations" by Russian "disinformation" and can be mobilized to influence policy in support of the "Anglo-Saxon worldview", and against the interests of the Russian state.
Integrity Initiative Performance Indicators
Moreover, it quietly employs a small army of operatives who routinely flood the mainstream media with anti-Russian messages — the files make clear Ben Nimmo, a 'Senior Fellow' at the Institute, and 'Information Defence Fellow' at the (likewise NATO-funded) Atlantic Council leads the charge.
Critics have long-questioned Nimmo's status as a leading 'expert' on Russian 'information warfare' and 'cyber operations', and Kremlin strategy and thinking — he has no discernible history in data analysis, information technology, research or even political journalism, studying medieval European epic literature at Cambridge University, then becoming a scuba-diving travel writer for some years when his post-graduate dream of authoring fantasy fiction went nowhere.
It's unclear how and why he joined NATO as a press officer in 2011 — but it's surely reasonable to state he lacks any professional background relevant to the topics he frequently discusses, outside the military-connected organizations for which he's worked since then.
Pair of Invoices Submitted by Nimmo to the Institute for Statecraft
Over the years, Nimmo's cemented a prominent platform as a Kremlin detractor, authoring and appearing in a panoply of articles, reports and academic papers on the threat posed by Moscow to the Western world — he was for instance a prevalent and persistent advocate of the theory Russian trolls and/or bots assisted in the election of Donald Trump as President, a notion he himself now seemingly dismisses. In December 2018 alone, he told ABC News Putin was exploiting Instagram via "hashtag propaganda", the BBC Russia was weaponizing humour by creating "funny memes", and Politico social media was leading to the "internationalization of nationalism", in an article blaming Russia for the apparent proliferation.
Back in March 2016, he also submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee, along with Jonathan Eyal, Associate Director at UK military think tank the Royal United Service Institute. However, while their paper stated it was "submitted in a personal capacity", the leaked files list the submission as part of the Institute for Statecraft's 'production timetable' for March — June 2016, along with a number of articles and reports he likewise authored.
Elsewhere, files indicate Nimmo has received substantial monthly 'consultancy fees' plus expenses from the Institute for Statecraft since at least December 2015, raising the prospect much of his ‘independent' media and political activities since then have been partially or wholly state-funded.
Leaving aside the obvious conflicts of journalistic and professional interest his typically unadvertised employment at the Institute creates, such remuneration takes on an extremely sinister dimension when considering his activities and statements in respect of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
For instance, in August 2015 Nimmo authored a piece for The Daily Beast — Putin Loves Labour's Leader-in-Waiting - in which he alleged the Kremlin was "pushing far-left Corbyn's candidacy for party leader". The story appears in an Institute 'impact' statement, documenting how many unique views various articles written by individuals connected with the Integrity Initiative had received "as at" April 19 2016.
Institute for Statecraft 'Impact' Statement Lists Nimmo's Anti-Corbyn Article
He described RT as being "solidly in [Corbyn's] corner", and claimed from June 1 to August 10 RT had published 25 stories with headlines bearing Corbyn's name, of which "21 were positive or neutral, while just four were negative, a proportion of 84 percent positive" — the methodology by which he determined these figures wasn't disclosed. While conceding Corbyn was likewise the most ‘headlined' candidate on the BBC website, Nimmo also documented Corbyn's prior appearances on the channel, alleging RT "has a track record of backing election candidates whose policies would be likely to make Britain more fragmented, more isolated and less militarily capable."
Nimmo has attempted to connect Corbyn with Russia on numerous occasions since — his aforementioned submission to the House of Commons Defence Committee rehashed much of the Daily Beast article's content, and in April 2018 he told The Sun there was a "direct attempt by pro-Kremlin, and perhaps Kremlin-controlled, accounts" to boost the Labour leader's support online, and suggested to The Independent "commercial bots…someone hired to amplify political messaging in the UK, or dedicated bots someone set up to generate the political effect themselves", potentially connected with the Russian state, were perpetuating pro-Corbyn messages. In neither case did he provide evidence for his assertions, and as ever his commentary was rife with qualifications and uncertainties.
If these activities were in any way connected with his work for the Institute — as his 2015 Daily Beast article seemingly was — they potentially make a mockery of the Initiative's claim in December 2018 that the organization "at no time has engaged in party-political activity and would never take up a party-political stance", and could constitute a breach of official UK charity regulations.
Nimmo's prominent media platform is rendered all the more illegitimate given several articles uncritically promoting his views were authored by journalists with connections to the Integrity Initiative.
For example, the aforementioned November 2018 Guardian article in which Nimmo said Nigel Farage was "phenomenally useful" for the Kremlin was the work of journalist Carole Cadwalladr. She furthermore wrote an article a year prior — Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russia pulls strings in UK - suggesting a Russian cyber campaign helped secure a ‘leave' vote in the June 2016 referendum on Britain's EU membership, where she quoted Nimmo saying evidence of Russian online interference in Western politics is now "incontrovertible", and "it is frankly implausible to think [Britain] weren't targeted too".
Cadwalladr has also posted numerous tweets linking Corbyn with the Kremlin, stating "Labour has a Russia problem", and Corbyn adviser Seumas Milne is "pro-Putin" and a "Russian propaganda tool" who has "wittingly or unwittingly" furthered "the Kremlin's agenda". Intriguingly, she spoke at an Integrity Initiative event in London in November 2018 — Tackling Tools of Malign Influence — Supporting 21st Century Journalism - and has even defended the organization on the social network, stating on December 16 its Twitter account "also pushed attacks on the government and the Conservatives" in addition to the controversial anti-Corbyn tweets. Despite being challenged to provide a single example by a vast number of users, she's been unable to as of January 3 2019.
Likewise, in August 2018 Nimmo was featured in an article by David Leask, chief reporter at Scotland's Herald newspaper — Meet the McBots: how Scottish cyber activists try to game Twitter — claiming "it [looked] like" pro-independence activists in Scotland had set up "automated or semi-automated accounts", a deduction he made after finding 10,000 tweets using the hashtag ‘#dissolvetheunion' posted by 2,000 accounts in the span of a week. Leask did not ask or establish how a small number of users employing a single hashtag an average of five times each amounted to an attempt to "game" Twitter — and within hours of publication, many of the accounts deemed ‘McBots' by Nimmo had made clear they were very much run by real people.
The full nature of Leask's relationship with the Initiative isn't clear — but in March 2018 he gave an extensive briefing to Institute operative and former MI6 employee Guy Spindler, offering insight on key figures within — and opponents of — Scottish nationalism and the wider independence movement. He claims to have merely received a "cheese sandwich" for his efforts — but other documents indicate he's attended Initiative seminars, and articles he's written are included in "outcome" reports the organization regularly delivers to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
David Leask Briefs MI6 Operative Guy Spindler
In a similarly questionable piece four months earlier, Nimmo was interviewed by The Times' then-defence correspondent Deborah Haynes. In it, he claimed to have identified a concerted online campaign by "pro-Kremlin trolls" in the wake of Sergei Skripal's poisoning in March. In support of this thesis, he said he'd detected "strange activity" around a Twitter poll posted by popular pro-Corbyn tweeter @Rachael_Swindon, which posed the question of whether Britain's evidence in the Skripal poisoning was sufficient to apportion blame Russia.
A majority voted 'no' — but Nimmo said "many of the accounts that retweeted and most probably voted in the survey" either posted primarily Russian-language tweets, or "pro-Kremlin" content, proof to his mind of an attempt by Russian trolls "to influence the poll and create the appearance of greater hostility towards the UK government than UK users themselves showed". Nimmo further justified his claims of a conspiracy by noting a number of "suspected troll accounts" he "[called] out" on Twitter responded by accusing him of peddling propaganda.
Despite the sizeable caveats and highly unsound supporting evidence, at no point did Haynes challenge or critique Nimmo's analysis — a serious journalistic failing, made all the more problematic by internal Initiative files listing her as a member of the organization's UK Cluster. Haynes was evasive when I contacted her about her connection with the Institute/Initiative in December, claiming to have "not seen" the documents, failing to definitively confirm or deny having a relationship of any kind with either body, and threatening legal action for "publishing false accusations". She's since blocked me — other curious users who've similarly asked her for clarity have likewise been ignored and/or blocked.
Times journalist Deborah Haynes discusses
Ukrainian reservist meeting on Twitter
Whatever the truth of the matter, Haynes has demonstrably written articles with intimate input from the Institute, strongly furthering the organization's interests. For instance, in July 2016 she met with five Ukrainian reservists at the Institute's offices in Two Temple Place, London — they'd flown to the UK for a week-long trip organized by the Institute and funded by the Ministry of Defence. A month later, she'd write a brief piece on the visit that didn't directly state she'd rendezvoused with them in person, but ardently supported the Institute's stated primary objectives of hyping the 'threat' posed by Russia to the Western world, degrading relations between London and Moscow, and rallying public support behind increased defence spending.
Haynes left The Times in September, but the paper still employs another listed member of the Initiative's UK cluster as a columnist — Edward Lucas, senior vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
Lucas has gone to great lengths to pour cold water on the Integrity Initiative scandal, repeatedly dismissing suggestions the organization has sought to undermine Corbyn and the Labour party and defending its Twitter account's activities, on December 17 even authoring a column — Don't Swallow Labour's Claims of Black Ops — warning criticism of the Initiative amounted to "playing into the Kremlin's hands by letting it undermine our anti-propaganda institute". Two days later, he conceded he'd been "paid one small freelance fee" by the Initiative, although contradictorily still claimed he had "no paid or unpaid relationship" with the organization.
The Times' advocacy for the Initiative has continued since, with the paper publishing an extraordinary hit-piece on Sputnik UK and its staff — Edinburgh radio station Sputnik is Kremlin stooge, says MSP — on 23 December. The article published the names and photos of eight employees, stated without corroboration there was "mounting suspicion" the Kremlin was behind the hack of the Institute's internal files and their release thus amounted to an act of "information warfare", and quoted Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP as saying Russian nationals in the UK associated with Sputnik should have their assets frozen as a result.
In a perverse twist, Nimmo also made an appearance — billed purely as a 'defence analyst', he labelled Sputnik "an instrument of Russian state power". True to form, there was no acknowledgement of his well-remunerated and long-running employment with the very organization the article effectively defended, despite this being openly stated on his Atlantic Council profile.
Shockingly, Nimmo is just one example of an Institute for Statecraft operative who's repeatedly appeared in mainstream discourse offering politically charged and highly prejudiced agitprop under the guise of ‘independent expertise'. It's even more troubling his views have often featured in articles written by journalists, or in outlets employing journalists, who themselves have unclear and/or potentially paid relationships with Nimmo's employers, which — to paraphrase Nimmo — is an "instrument" of British state and NATO power, and a well-funded and highly secretive one at that. In the weeks and months ahead, Sputnik will be documenting the activities of each and every one.