The UK’s “left” is taking some strange positions at the moment. Stop the War is prioritising Net Zero and “climate crisis” at a time when we’re possibly the closest we’ve ever been to nuclear annihilation. Meanwhile, figures from the new-left media that latched on to the Corbyn project between 2015 and 2020 are arguing that foreign policy isn’t a priority and that we shouldn’t be talking about leaving NATO, while also supporting the CIA regime responsible for ethnic cleansing and child kidnap in north-eastern Syria. So just what is going on with today’s Left?
To answer this question, we first need to take a brief detour through the history of Anglo-American crony capitalism from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, when many of the institutions of the modern security state were founded and began their journey into what is now called the “left”.
The origins of “philanthropic” crony capitalism
Early examples of the oligarch class which originated our culture of crony capitalism included South Africa diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes, who used the wealth extracted from his colonies to finance the further expansion of the British Empire in the region and the aggrandisement of his own political stature. Towards the end of his life, Rhodes conspired to extend the future of the British Empire and planned its expansion to incorporate the German Empire in a federation of capitalist states. Something like his vision actually transpired with the creation of the Western European Union—later evolving into the EU and NATO—under the Treaty of Brussels between 1948 and 1954.
The inheritors of Rhodes’ legacy, who took his ideas forward into the twentieth century, were members of an informal alliance dubbed the Milner Group by Professor Caroll Quigley. Involved with the Milner Group were the Nazi-sympathising Lord and Lady Astor, who played host to the equally Nazi-sympathetic future CIA director, Alan Dulles. The group, which shared Rhodes’ views regarding the supremacy and special destiny of the English-speaking and German peoples, worked with the American “philanthropist”, eugenicist and early investor in the Nazi eugenics programme J.D. Rockefeller to found the Royal Institute of International Affairs—more commonly known today as Chatham House—in 1917.
Rockefeller also financed the construction of the Rockefeller Centre in Manhattan, which, during the Second World War, would host MI6's British officers as they worked to create the OSS—which later evolved into the CIA under Alan Dulles. Dulles also worked from the Rockefeller Centre during the war.
The origins of climate activism in Western crony capitalism
Following the Second World War and throughout the Cold War, the Rockefeller family and fortune continued to sponsor its cronies in the Anglo-American Establishment and the security services by serving as an intermediary for the Congress for Cultural Freedom, “a worldwide CIA-funded forum for intellectuals of centrist persuasion”. According to academic Harm Langenkamp, “from the very onset, the CIA tried to transfer 'Operation Congress' to the philanthropic sector, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in particular”.
Again according to Langenkamp,
The CCF was […] successful in soliciting subsidies from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), albeit not on a structural basis. Nelson and David Rockefeller were indeed closely tied to the intelligence community and anything but shy in providing assistance to the CIA’s covert operations.
As I argued in my short essay The Big Lie? Climate Activism, Oil and Empire, concerns over the environmental impact of fossil fuels emerged from the Trilateral Commission following the pressure placed on the Anglo-American Empire by the OPEC oil embargo:
In 1973, in response to “Trilateral Countries’” support for Israel during the Yom Kippur war, Arab members of OPEC, quadrupled the price of oil effectively placing an embargo on Western oil consumption. This crippled the US economy to the extent that the Government was forced to impose fuel rationing, while reducing speed limits to restrain consumption […] the crisis demonstrated how OPEC countries had the power to influence US foreign policy via their leverage over the United States’ domestic economy.
As I also explained,
... the climate change agenda [which is still being pushed by the Trilateral Commission] emerged, at least in part, from the desire by the managers of the Anglo-American Empire to decrease oil prices, by diversifying their energy supply. This in turn would place a downward pressure on oil prices and ensure that the OPEC countries would never again enjoy the leverage they had previously held over the US economy and increase the strength of the Anglo-American Empire’s bargaining power in international relations.
It is worth noting that Rockefeller family money continues to finance climate activist movements. For example, both Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have received money from the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), which itself receives money from the Rockefeller family-financed European Climate Foundation.
Another notable donor to the CEF, with connections to the establishment via its co-founder Hillary Clinton, is the Onward Together Foundation. Clinton is also allegedly connected to “deep politics” via the so-called “7th Floor Group”. According to Wikispooks:
The 7th Floor Group was a US deep state faction made up of US State Department officials. Over the years, the term has been used for the State Department leadership […] The group appears to have formed around Hillary Clinton […] although no direct evidence has yet emerged to tie her to the group.
Clinton is, of course, largely credited with pushing ahead with the disastrous Western intervention in Libya in 2011. That the destruction of Libya is understood to have been partially motivated by the West’s coveting of that country’s oil reserves means that Clinton’s involvement in the CEF—and the possibility that some of her foundation’s money has made its way to Just Stop Oil—is laced with irony.
Another Clinton connection to the Climate Emergency Fund is one of the group’s (now resigned) co-founders, Trevor Nielson, who served in the Clinton Administration White House. In addition to this, Nielson was also formerly a member of the CIA-linked US foreign policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations. He now runs the company Threat Pattern, which “uses cutting edge intelligence and counter-intelligence strategies to protect corporate assets and brand reputation”, and works with “several former officers from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)”.
The Rockefeller family’s sponsorship of the climate activist movements, and their links to people and organisations close to the intelligence community and political establishment, indicates that climate activism can be identified as a product of this NGO-intelligence complex.
Crony capitalism captures the British Left via climate activism
In his 2021 blueprint for the future success of the left, Our Bloc: How We Win, Jeremy Corbyn’s former spokesman and Director of Strategic Communications, wrote how the "climate emergency" should be at the heart of the Left’s agenda going forward. Specifically, he recommended that the Left unite under “a red-green banner”, and advocated federating “Labour and ecological movements around a Green New Deal,” as espoused by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise movement.
This proposed green-red alliance includes several organisations funded by CIA-linked NGOs, including Extinction Rebellion, and Just Stop Oil, the latter of which Schneider is himself involved with.
Schneider’s federated red-green alliance appears to have met with considerable success. Jeremy Corbyn endorsed Our Bloc, describing it as a “powerful case for action”. Stop the War UK, of which Corbyn is a patron, has—bizarrely, given the more immediate risk of nuclear war—emphasised green issues over the impending threat of annihilation. In 2022, Corbyn’s own Peace & Justice Project announced a collaboration with Just Stop Oil, which Schneider appears to have helped to facilitate.
That Corbyn’s former Director of Strategic Communications is recommending that the Left be brought together under an umbrella of the NGO-intelligence Complex may surprise some. However, it is less difficult to comprehend when we consider that Schneider’s circle of university friends are also part of this milieu.
In an article for the Spectator entitled John le Carré’s London of exiles is alive and well, Schneider’s friend and fellow Oxford alumnus, David Patrikarakos, describes le Carré’s protagonists—“many of whom”, he asserts, “were spies”—as “[p]ukka but not really; English but not quite”. He goes on to liken Schneider, Judah and himself to them in the following passage:
It was in my third year as a postgraduate student at Oxford that I met my now great friend (and probable distant cousin) the writer Ben Judah […] Halfway through the night, in walked Ben’s friend, James Schneider […] another product of exile (via a Jewish father whose origins lay in Eastern Europe), formed by his passage through England’s institutions, and like us ‘Pukka but not really; English but not quite.’
In a rather intemperate response to my previous article, Not Just Bad Advice, Schneider accused me of using “heavy innuendo” to suggest that he may be a “spy”. To his allegation, I plead not guilty: any innuendo suggesting that Schneider may be a spy came not from me but from Patrikarakos’s Spectator article, which I simply quoted and is still visible on the magazine’s website.
To be clear, I have not seen evidence to suggest Schneider himself is a spy. Nevertheless, Schneider’s friends Patrikarakos and Judah certainly do appear to be close to the intelligence community. Specifically, both have been named in leaks from the Integrity Initiative, which Wikispooks describes as “an organ of the UK deep state”.
Run by Chris Donnelly, former reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps and special advisor to four NATO Secretaries-General, the Integrity Initiative presented itself as an effort to counter Russian "disinformation" but appears to have disseminated propaganda of its own. That it produced its own briefings to be disseminated “to defence circles and political circles in member states” is revealed in a leaked 2016 memo from Donnelly to members of the Integrity Initiative’s French cluster.
Here, Donnelly explained how he intended disseminate Integrity Initiative “product” via sympathetic individuals in NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, naming Ben Judah as a proposed intermediary. Patrikarakos’ name arises in a leaked proposal for UK Government funding to finance the Expose Network, purportedly a “network of NGOs” intended to counter the “state-backed disinformation” that was ostensibly “undermining the credibility of mainstream media” as well as to abate the “growing cynicism and distrust towards democratic institutions and processes”.
If it could be considered unfortunate for an avowed radical leftist like James Schneider to have one friend named in connection with influential intelligence officer Chris Donnelly, to have three might be regarded as embarrassing. Perhaps more embarrassing still is for one of these individuals—in this case, Ben Judah, now a senior fellow at the CIA-linked Atlantic Council (effectively NATO’s think tank), itself originally bankrolled by the Ford Foundation, another historic CIA intermediary—to have endorsed Schneider’s blueprint for a federated red-green bloc as “brilliant”.
A Progressive International?
Perhaps the most significant organisation in the red-green coalition is Progressive International, for which Schneider serves as Director of Communications. Bankrolled by a Democratic Party establishment-linked NGO (the Sanders Institute), Progressive International claims to stand “against imperialism in all its forms: from war and sanctions to privatization and “structural adjustment”. This agenda is, of course, couched in environmentalist terms, with their Declaration, which states:
Our mission is to build a planetary front of progressive forces. We define progressive as the aspiration to a world that is: democratic, decolonised, just, egalitarian, liberated, feminist, ecological, peaceful, post-capitalist, prosperous, plural, and bound by radical love.
This statement is somewhat undermined by Progressive International’s support for the US occupation of northeastern Syria—dubbed “Rojava” in “progressive” circles, which is being administered by the YPG, an offshoot of the Kurdish nationalist PKK, in coordination with CIA. The occupation involves the theft of Syria’s oil reserves and reportedly human rights abuses ranging from ethnic cleansing to child rape and kidnap. Progressive International was even invited by the “Rojava”-aligned Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)—another branch of the PKK, like the YPG—to observe Turkey’s elections, while explicitly siding with the anti-Erdoğan HDP. Other imperialist stances taken include Schneider’s own support for the US-backed and likely CIA-orchestrated coup against Omar al-Bashir in Sudan, and his praise for the US-endorsed resistance committees in that country, which have continued to destabilise the situation following a counter-coup in 2021.
His position has been reflected by Progressive international in 2023, which featured statements by the spokesperson for the Resistance Committees of Khartoum, which oppose the Sudanese Government.
If we suppose that General Coordinator David Adler’s views are broadly reflective of Progressive International’s positions, the organisation’s condemnation of sanctions also seems selective. In an article published in the Guardian and the Kyiv Post and co-authored with none other than the Atlantic Council’s Ben Judah, Rhodes Scholar Adler advocated a programme of sanctions against Russia—or, in his and Judah’s words, a “programme of ‘corporate accountability’ to shut down tax havens, eliminate anonymous shell companies and strictly regulate the Wall Street banks that have facilitated the flow of kleptocrats’ cash all around the world”.
Regardless of its inconsistently anti-imperialist positions, numerous leftists of the red-green tint have flocked to Progressive International, including Jeremy Corbyn, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Žižek and Naomi Klein, who serve on its “Council”.
Of all the present leftist groups, Progressive International best resembles the function Schneider suggests for his proposed “Secretariat” of a united, Federalised left in Our Bloc. According to Schneider:
the Secretariat would be charged with coordinating across federated forces, advancing collective campaigns and interests and securing maximum attention for progressive positions […] with a well-resourced and empowered team, the combined weight of progressive assets—people, platforms, organisations—could be brought to bear in a focused way on the campaigns and issues of the day. On a practical level, the secretariat would run a shared grid of diary activities, collectively agreed, extending the organisation, reach and impact of each action.
As unnervingly antidemocratic as this concept seems, it nevertheless resembles the current role played by Progressive International as an aspiring umbrella organisation drawing together the red-green Left while leading it down the path of imperialism as it has been laid down by the NGO-intelligence complex.
Conclusion: Red plus green makes brown
Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Just Stop Oil has argued that, in order to prevent a “genocide”, drastic action to required to reduce fossil fuel use.
This prompts the question of whether it matters that the climate movement is following in the footsteps of Nazi sympathisers, eugenicists and imperialists if its aim is to save the world from ecocide.
When considering this problem, we should remember that some of the worst atrocities in history were committed by people proclaiming themselves to be righteous. Moreover, Just Stop Oil is simply wrong about the likely outcome of climate change and in its interpretation of the IPPC’s findings. Even the IPCC does not proclaim that climate change will definitively result in the destruction of countless millions of people—but what might do this is the “climate emergency” agenda itself. As I argued in my piece on the Dangers of Net Zero, which draws on the IPCC’s own findings:
A sharp reduction in fossil fuels, and corresponding decline in their use in agriculture, as is required for Net Zero, could thereby make it impossible to produce adequate amounts of fertiliser to feed the world. Simply stopping oil—even if that is just preventing the awarding of new oil licenses at a time when the global population is growing and food production is already under strain due to the war in Ukraine—will cause the price of fertilizer to sky-rocket further. This could, in turn, cause shortages and even lead to the kind of mass starvation that Just Stop Oil is erroneously predicting will result from climate change.
The revelation that climate activists are inadvertently pushing solutions with genocide-equivalent outcomes may shock some people, but it is entirely consistent with the origins and crony capitalist-driven history of the climate activist movement, as I have recounted above.
History is not a dead artefact but a living process; the past is alive in the present. It should not surprise us that groups rooted in and arising from the NGO-intelligence complex wind up interpreting facts according to biases that happen to legitimise the agenda of empire and may pave the way for potentially “genocidal” outcomes. Institutionally imperialist organisations will, by nature, be positively predisposed towards imperialist institutions, practices and ideas.
It also follows that progressives seeking to achieve socialism with a march through the institutions of the NGO-intelligence complex are unlikely to be successful in anything other than accommodating leftists to imperialist policies and practice. This, in my view, is the case with Progressive International and the climate activist movement more generally.
In their alliance with the NGO-intelligence complex, the climate activist Left has become what it has claimed to oppose; it is the twenty-first century successors to Rhodes and Rockefeller and constitutes the vanguard of Western imperialist crony capitalism.