Unidentified Flying Nazis

The following is an excerpt (without footnotes) from Michael Barker’s just-published book The Occult Elite: Anti-Communist Paranoia and Other Ruling-Class Delusions (2022) which is available to purchase for just $10.

It was published by CounterPunch here https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/02/01/unidentified-flying-nazis/

Understanding the Role of Right-wing Conspiracies in the Covid Pandemic

The world is in turmoil, and it is the working-class who are being made to pay for the ongoing crises of capitalism, not only with our livelihoods but also with our lives. The question of a future of barbarism or socialism is therefore once again starkly posed. And as ever the looming threat posed by barbarism can only be avoided if we refuse to accept the dictates of our exploiters in the billionaire-class and unite to fight for the socialist transformation of society. Only by taking such action can we ensure that ordinary people are positioned to democratically decide our own futures.

Ensuring that our classes main democratic organisations are capable of leading this struggle against the powers-that-be has always been a work-in-progress; and there is no question that a lot of work still needs to be done to turn the trade union movement into a powerful and effective tool for liberating our class. But with the democratic involvement of tens of millions of trade union members both within our workplaces and within the democratic structures of our unions these organisations can play a critical role in challenging capitalist exploitation and in doing so pose the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism.

Throughout this pandemic, socialists have been at the forefront of social struggles, demanding that our government take action to protect life. But the Tories lust for profiteering means that the elites in power would rather ignore such reasonable demands and instead are abusing this crisis to escalate their plunder of societies collective wealth. This helps explain why the corporate press has been so keen (as always) to demonise and misrepresent the views of those who have been willing to forcefully challenge the government’s dangerous and wholly inadequate response to Covid-19.

With the pandemic causing massive disruption across the planet, increasing numbers of people are clear that there will be no going back to the old normal. But what is the alternative? Socialists say we need to step up our campaigning for a democratic and socialist future; but with the parlous state of Britain’s labour movement combined with a corporate-own media system that exists to perpetuate the needs of capitalism, such emancipatory solutions are not always apparent to huge swathes of society. Labour mis-leaders (like Keir Starmer) working together with the mainstream media thus continue to throw dirt into the eyes of the public. In recent years such collusive efforts to promote mass confusion were of course most clearly seen when, in 2015, a socialist was finally elected leader of the Labour Party. This led to all parts of the labour and media establishment embarking upon one of the most vicious smear campaigns in history – which most notably accused Jeremy Corbyn of being an anti-Semite! (See “The Hate Factory Vs. Jeremy Corbyn.”)

So, with pro-capitalist politicians misleading most of the mainstream political parties across the world — all being united in their refusal to represent the needs of ordinary people as opposed to corporations – ordinary people seeking out some clarity in their lives have been forced to turn elsewhere in their search for answers. And with the assistance of the internet, not to mention Facebook’s repulsive algorithms — which actively market information to people who ask questions like “how to burn Jews” — it is becoming easier for people to get absorbed in the type of all-encompassing conspiracies promoted by the far right. Indeed, rather than popularise the type of socialist ideas that might help people gain control of their lives; the corporate media (whether rightwing or liberal) continue to provide a breeding ground that allows divisive political conspiracies to flourish.

When a toxic nurse goes down the rabbit hole

One dangerous conspiracy that is currently gaining traction amongst some circles is that Covid-19 is a fiction, a plandemic orchestrated by a global liberal elite headed by the like of Bill Gates and George Soros. While another sordid conspiracy intimately linked to this plandemic narrative that continues to spew forth from right-wing media outlets is that of QAnon – a conspiracy that would have you believe that the world is run by a tiny elite of Satanic paedophiles: a demonic conspiracy in which Donald Trump is presented as the only world leader who is willing to battle against the perpetration of such heinous crimes against humanity.

This article aims to explore the roots of these disturbing and increasingly popular conspiracies. In doing so it will demonstrate that although such opportunist tales may harness some element of peoples righteous anger at an unjust status quo, such theories ultimately only serve to undermine efforts to unite the working-class against our real oppressors, the ruling-class. For illustrative purposes this article will delve into the views and actions of one of the up-and-coming stars of this growing conspiracy movement, the one-time botox practitioner Kate Shemirani, who calls herself the “Natural Nurse in a Toxic World.” Shemirani being a toxic nurse whose meteoric rise to fame led to serving as the MC of the first “Unite for Freedom” protest that was held in Trafalgar Square on August 29. The protest was organised to deny the existence of Covid-19 and successfully brought together in excess of 10,000 people in an event that had been organised by notorious climate denier Piers Corbyn.

In the wake of this huge protest The Times were quick to promote the growing anti-covid movement, devoting a double spread to explaining Kate Shemirani’s ascension to the leadership of the so-called freedom movement (see “Kate Shemirani: antivax leader is banned nurse who fears 5G network”). In keeping with the uncritical output that typifies the right-wing press, the article gave previous column inches to restating Shemirani’s proudly held anti-scientific beliefs before advertising her next planned protest (held in London on September 19). The Times explained how her popularity, like that of David Icke (who headlined the August 29 protest), had been increasing by the day. But no attempt was made to locate Shemirani and Icke’s politics within the resurgent alt-right, or to describe how their advocacy of elaborate schemes of satanic domination were feeding directly into the resurgence of the QAnon movement.

That is not to say that The Times has not exposed the anti-democratic nature of the QAnon phenomena in the past, as in mid-August they ran an article that warned that the QAnon was gaining popularity in Ireland. The article however neglected to mention that the academic report that served as the source for their article had actually emphasized that this was not just a problem for Ireland but for the whole of the UK. So it is ironic considering The Times fixation on the growth of QAnon in Ireland that when it came to their article discussing Shemirani’s role in leading the growing Covid-19 denial movement the newspaper failed to draw attention to the political credentials of the one Irish speaker earmarked to speak at her forthcoming protest. That speaker was Dolores Cahill, the chair of the far-right Irish Freedom Party. Nor does The Times bother to remind their readers of David Icke’s longstanding liaisons with the far-right, something that the newspaper was happy to discuss at some length just a few years ago.

But in The Times latest ‘advert’ for the conspiracy theorists’ mass gatherings they write: “David Icke, the conspiracy theorist and antivaccine campaigner, has seen a surge in his Twitter following, up by nearly a quarter since May.” Icke now has more than 365,000 followers they added, a surge which “indicates the rapidly growing interest in his anti-lockdown rantings.” The paper however passed on the opportunity to mention that the main argument being popularised by Icke is that we already live in a fascist state (as he stated at the August protest). Perhaps Icke’s own reactionary rants were downplayed because they are not really so different from the government’s own conspiratorial ideas, as illustrated by the recent comments made by the Tories attorney-general, Suella Braverman, who stated the government was in a “battle with cultural Marxism”. Icke of course agrees on the threat posed by cultural Marxism and views the threat of an imminent global Marxist takeover of the entire world (spreading from China) as representing an additional threat to his freedom in so-called fascist Britain.

“Do your own research”: finding the truth of the far-right

Highlighting the bizarre pedigree of many of Shemirani’s closest allies, the day after she had acted as the MC for the August freedom protest she was invited to speak on a YouTube show known as “Camelot TV” which is hosted by John Mappin, the multi-millionaire QAnon booster. Impressed by her militant anti-vax activism he rejoiced in introducing her as the voice of “the Great Awakening”; and during the course of her interview Shemirani professed to be in awe of Alex Jones (“I used to have his app on my phone”) and later pointed out how “one of the things that took away my fear of death was reading a book by David Icke and I hugged him yesterday.” She maintained that such coincidences could only be the work of God. Likewise, like many good patriotic spiritual warriors of the far-right she had internalised the QAnon mythology as the real truth, and speaking of the perversions of the world’s elite overseers she explained:

“So, when they kill these children they do a lot of satanic rituals with them. You know there is a very famous one where they strip children and all these royal elites were hunting these 14 year olds and they cut their genitals off and put them on plaques. This is all fact.”

Elsewhere in another discussion held in the extremist netherworlds of the internet, Shemirani positions herself as a “leader” for the people. And in making the case for why people should maintain hope she says:

“I have read the science, and I have read the science fiction, and I have read the Revelation. And so, it is in there and we don’t need to give up. The one thing I always say when people get really freaked out is that what if we can’t shop [for food] without [taking the Covid] vaccine and I said that the one thing that I love about humans is that if there are really smart guys on the Left that are making these things, there’s going to be really smart guys on the Right that are making fraudulent ways for us to get around it.”

Like Icke, Kate Shemirani maintains an excellent working relationship with far-right activists in the United States and she supports the work of Sons of Liberty Radio by acting as their “health and wellness expert.” Speaking to the host of this far-right Christian YouTube channel just a few months ago Shemirani talked about her understanding of the evil cult’s sinister plans. Nevertheless she ended up an upbeat note saying:

“I don’t want people to be scared because in battle it’s never just the army who are the strongest or have the best weapons that win ever, it is always the one who knew his opponents plan. We know their plan. We know their plan. Their plan ultimately is to depopulate. The devil wants us all gone, and he wants our souls; he doesn’t just want us to die because that is no good to him, he wants our souls.”

Savouring the media limelight, on September 5 Shemirani broadcast live from a protest outside Downing Street to Sons of Liberty Radio. With her megaphone directed at the Prime Minister’s residence she warned: “Boris we are waiting… Your times up. You have decided to declare war on the people of the United Kingdom. This is fourth generation warfare: quiet warfare with silent weapons.”[1] The deeper significance of this statement might be lost on most people but not on her fellow-travellers from the American far-right, as her warning referenced the name of an alleged secret document known as “Quiet warfare with silent weapons.” As outlined at some length in Bill Cooper’s militia-classic Behold a Pale Horse (1991), the nefarious goals outlined in this non-existent document were apparently proof positive of the Illuminati’s declaration of war on humanity. (Icke himself wrote about this in one of his first books and identifies it as a secret document found in 1986 which “reveals that the IRS passes personal details about American people to the Brotherhood manipulators.”)[2]

Seeking to cache in on the anger and despair of ordinary people from all walks of life, Shemirani is careful to pick her most trusted political allies from the far-right of the political spectrum. Hence on July 8 she conducted an online interview with the chairman of the English Democrats, Robin Tilbrook, where, in awe of his patriotism, they discussed his decision to challenge the tyranny of the covid laws. (Tilbrook was subsequently interviewed by Sons of Liberty.) During Shemirani’s interview with Tilbrook she made it clear that any doctors and nurses who believed Covid-19 was real “were complicit in genocide”; and both then stood in agreement that Britain is “like a police state”. This led Shermirani, in another stream of verbal diarrhoea to breathlessly assert:

“It’s like 1984, and of course Orwell’s tutor was Aldous Huxley and he was a member of the Committee of 300 and when he wrote Brave New World everyone just thought it was be best science novel ever, and it was written in the thirties – I have read it so many times – but if you actually look at it, it was a blueprint. He wrote it as a blueprint for modern society, and every single little thing in that book has come to fruition.”

Evidently impressed with Tilbrook’s take on Marxism, Shermirani invited him to elaborate. He thus droned on about how Black Lives Matter was both a Trotskyist and neo-Maoist project that bathed in the glory of communist China. As he put it BLM were simply repeating China’s cultural revolution of “smashing the four olds: old ways, old customs, old ideas, and old habits.” Shermirani added, “unless we actually get off our knees we are heading right into communism.” “Literally,” Tilbrook replied.

But even Tilbrook was not wholly persuaded by Shermirani’s belief that this Marxist scheme was part of a diabolical globalist plot to depopulate the world, as he said the “Chinese government would have no intentions of being part of a one world government unless they are the ones ruling.” Whether he knew it or not, this of course is the end game for the Illuminati as far as Shemirani understands it – with Chinese government ruling the world with the helping hand of liberal globalists like Bill Gates (an identical historical distortion to the one currently being propounded by David Icke). Having bonded during this interview, the two patriots were subsequently reunited at Shermirani’s second anti-covid protest in London (held on September 19), where Tilbrook — for perhaps the first time in his life — addressed a crowd so huge that it filled out Trafalgar Square.[3]

Who believes in the Illuminati?

Now, when it comes to the evil deeds of the so-called Illuminati – that is, the individuals accused of orchestrating the globalist plot against humanity — Shermirani regularly harps on about the depravity of something known as the “Committee of 300”. The existence of this fictional committee was popularised some years ago within the pages of John Coleman’s deeply paranoid Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300 (1991) – a book that was first published by a notorious anti-Semitic publishing company called America West. And although Coleman’s text takes care to avoid referring to Jews as the lynchpin of the Illuminati hierarchy, his personal views on such matters were clear as he regularly referred to the Jewish problem within the pamphlets he wrote for the Christian Defence League. This Jewish obsession makes sense when we understand that the primary political inspiration for Coleman’s book was the work of one of the twentieth-century’s most famous anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, a financially independent woman named Nesta Webster (1876-1960). Indeed, in reviewing Coleman’s updated treatise on the Illuminati, Colonel Barry Turner — an ultra-right-wing activist who in the past had helped David Icke with his own research efforts — remained aghast at Coleman’s failure to apply a rigorous referencing system within Conspirators’ Hierarchy. Turner believed that a more academic style would have lent greater creditability to the arguments presented within Coleman’ s book, and contrasted Coleman’s shortcoming with the “meticulous referencing” of Webster.

Nesta Webster it turns out was a dyed-in-the-wool fascist — whose reactionary ideas had inspired Winston Churchill’s own anti-Semitism – and she saw her own occult super-conspiracies as a fitting way to defend Christian civilization from the threat of socialism. With the help of her many aristocratic friends, Webster’s writing brought about a new renaissance in anti-Semitic theories that revolved around the hidden hand of the Illuminati. These ideas then gained a new breath of life on American shores shortly after her death, when in the mid-sixties the John Birch Society rediscovered and subsequently popularised her back catalogue of anti-communist tracts. To this day Webster’s delusions continue to inspire Christian patriots and militia activists in America, while David Icke has cleverly upcycled her toxic texts into her own variant of New Age fascism.[4]

Icke, like Webster, luxuriates upon the lewdest plots of the hidden controllers, and like the QAnon movement, both influential conspirators placed child abuse at the centre of their deeply disturbing delusions. For example, in her influential 1924 book Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, Webster describes the activities of one notably Satanic individual, Gilles de Rais (1405–1440) whose evil, she asserts, was driven by Jewish spiritual traditions. She explains that after Gilles had “offered himself to the powers of darkness” where he became involved in “perverted vice in every form” which included “holocausts of little boys and girls collected by his agents in the surrounding country and put to death with the most inhuman tortures.” These “strange perverted rites which we associate with the dark ages” were, Webster assured her readers, still “going on around us today. Illuminism, Cabalism, and even Satanism are still realities.”

In this way we can understand how Kate Shemirani’s own quest to help lead a world movement against baby-gobbling elites did not just materialise out of thin air. Such QAnon-styled witch hunts can in fact be traced back even further in time to the first century BCE and the manufactured demonisation of the pre-Christian pagan cults – a troubling history that is recalled in Norman Cohn’s classic 1977 book Europe’s Inner Demons: An Enquiry Inspired by the Great Witch-Hunt. As Cohn summarises:

“In each case, the murder and the cannibalistic feast form part of a ritual by which a group of conspirators affirms its solidarity; and in each case the group’s aim is to overthrow an existing ruler or regime and to seize power. There is no evidence that such murders and feasts took place. … But even if it could be shown that groups of conspirators really did sometimes indulge in such practices, that would not affect [the] argument. Ritual murder and cannibalistic feasts belonged to one particular, traditional stereotype …of the conspiratorial organization or secret society engaged in a ruthless drive for political power.” (p. 7)

More relevant contemporary precursors to QAnon’s ever-evolving obsession with the baby-raping habits of the powerful include the satanic moral panics that swept across America in the 1980s. As we know now, this specific panic, or witch hunt, was in large part fuelled by the overzealous interrogation of infants through the misuse of leading questioning and misplaced reliance upon hypnosis induced Regression Therapy. Together these ill-suited and high-pressure techniques led to deeply disturbing (albeit fictitious) tales of satanic childhood abuse being committed on an industrial scale. This tragic story of wrongful accusations of satanic torture is best exemplified by the McMartin preschool trial; and one far-right conspiracy theorist who built bridges between this trial and present-day obsessions with the Illuminati was a man named Ted Gunderson (1928-2011). A stalwart supporter of J. Edgar Hoover, Gunderson was a truly deluded individual, who until the late 1970s had acted as the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for the FBI.[5]

The occult enters militia country

Ted Gunderson kept alive his obsession with occult sacrifice and in the nineties went so far as to assert that there were more than 4 million practising Satanists in America who were carrying out between 50-60,000 human sacrifices every year.[6] Among the far-right milieux, of which he was a central part of, Gunderson gained most fame for exposing the existence of an alleged group called “The Finders” which, as he explained, was a “covert CIA operation” whose only purpose who to kidnap tens of thousands of children a year. The children were then allegedly sold for up to $50,000 to wealthy paedophiles. But Gunderson was adamant that “to really under this you have to go back 235 years or so when the Illuminati was established in 1773” with the central involvement of the Rothschild family who, according to Gunderson, aimed to take control of the world through the control of satanic cults. For those interested in learning more about the specifics of this dastardly mission he refers his followers to William Guy Carr’s “great book” Pawns in the Game (1958).

Again, there is a lot of continuity between various conspiracists on the far-right, and William Guy Carr’s work was greatly inspired by the work of Nesta Webster. However, although Carr certainly incorporated all manner of anti-Semitic tropes into the body of his writings, he did so in a way that enabled him to distance himself from direct accusations of discrimination. Carr tried to do this by saying that the leading role that powerful Jews had played in the satanic conspiracy (like the Rothschilds) was a clever trick hatched by the Illuminati that aimed to encourage antisemitic interpretations of history that “play[ed] right into the hands of the Illuminati.” So, while Carr believed in the legitimacy of the anti-Semitic forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion he asserted that it had originally been written by the Illuminati. This deceptive argument is one that has been deployed by many other Rothschild-obsessed conspiracists, most famously by Bill Cooper, David Icke, and John Coleman.

Gunderson like Icke became enthralled by the burgeoning militia movement during the 1990s, and speaking to a meeting of The Granada Forum (in 1996)[7] Gunderson launched into his speech by recommending that his rapt audience read Carr’s Pawns in the Game. Later, during his wide-ranging talk, Gunderson reminded his fellow patriots of the time he had teamed up with the former Nebraskan senator John DeCamp in what proved to be an ultimately failed attempt to expose a huge paedophilia ring, a story publicized in DeCamp’s 1992 book The Franklin Cover-up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska.[8] DeCamp after publishing this book went on to serve as a lawyer for the Militia of Montana — a group which played a leading role in organising The Granada Forum.

Another Christian patriot who, in 1996, gave a now-famous talk to The Granada Forum was Cathy O’Brien – who during her speech bore personal witness to the abuse she said she received while being forced to serve as a personal sex slave to the leaders of the Illuminati. It turns out that in the same year O’Brien had published a book which detailed her own Satanic experiences (as Trance-Formation of America), which David Icke then rapidly assimilated into his own best-selling conspiracy tome, I Am Me, I Am Free (1996). In his own highly derivative book, Icke rehashed the sordid details of O’Brien’s sexual abuse for some 24 long drawn-out pages, abuse which was apparently meted out by the staff at a NASA facility (whose side-line, she says, was making pornographic films), numerous world leaders who were attending Satanic-inspired meetings at the Bohemian Grove, and by leading American politicians (Clinton, Reagan and Bush) who she says all raped her at the “covert mind-control slave camp” at the military base in Mount Shasta (California). Furthermore, flowing from O’Brien’s detailed descriptions of her abuse, Icke famously introduced his readers to the proposition that some members of the Illuminati were actually reptiles. He arrived at this bizarre conclusion because O’Brien had suggested that “holographic projections were used to give the appearance to her of people turning into ‘lizard-like’ aliens.” But Icke was not wholly convinced by O’Brien’s recollections, and asks: “What if it was not a hologram that Cathy saw?” It would seem that the truth is out there; although it is safe to say that is probably won’t be found within the pages of Icke or O’Brien’s books.

Promoting freedom

Considering the dangerous implications of the history that I have outlined so far, combined with the open support that QAnon has received from both Donald Trump and the conservative media, it is perhaps not entirely unexpected that Britain’s right-wing press would also give such divisive ideas a free ride. For example, the day before Shemirani’s latest “Resist and Act for Freedom” protest (held in London) the Daily Mail ran a piece that gave her free reign to air her troubling views. Titled “Is this the most dangerous woman in Britain?” (September 18) the article described her as a forthright and confident “epitome of conventional middle-classdom” (while drawing attention to her “working-class roots”), with the paper christening her as the “new face of the UK’s anti-vaccination movement.” The widely read tabloid then listed some of Shemirani’s many whacky ideas before telling their readers about the location and date of her forthcoming protest.

Following on from such fawning love-ins with the individuals who have become so enmeshed in the far right’s favoured conspiracies, The Sunday Times (September 20) managed to publish a marginally more critical article titled “Far-right US cult QAnon finds a ready ear in Britain.” Thearticle went on to correctly explain: “While it appears innocent at first glance, the movement is entwined with QAnon, a far-right group of conspiracy theorists that has grown rapidly since the lockdown.” Yet the article only provided a shallow examination of the politics of the centre-piece of their investigation, a new British group known as Freedom for the Children UK. Yet this was a group that has already been closely connection to the protests organised by both Shemirani and Piers Corbyn.

Although to date no meaningful effort has been made by the corporate media to really understand this new group that is ostensibly devoted to Freedom for the Children, it worth noting that its American forerunner had been launched by a QAnon devotee who works as a well-paid “New Earth Teacher”. A Trump-loving teacher who boasts of using “quantum healing techniques and timeline collapsing to trigger illumination and shifts from past/core wounds and assists in rebuilding new communication patterns aligned to manifestations in the present.”[9] It is of course no coincidence that Laura Ward, the founder of the British group, likewise considers herself to be a bit of a spiritual junky. Ward describes herself as a “network marketer dealing in cryptocurrency”, who “discovered QAnon during lockdown after undergoing what she described as a ‘spiritual awakening’ and researching the movement online.”

For more details about how Ward found herself leading Britain’s crusade against Satanists we can defer to her own words. In a recent interview she recalled:

“I’ve had a couple of awakenings in my life, one was probably about two or three years ago when I was in quite a deep depression and I just kind of snapped out of it, and my mind was just quite open and that’s when I started research and exploring the idea that there is a plan — that there is an elite agenda to control us. And to be honest I watched David Icke – a big show, big documentary that he did — and some of it was quite far out there because I was just waking up. And I was just having this first awakening, but I didn’t dismiss it because I thought, well he’s quite researched, and it kind of just sat there in my mind a little bit.

“… and then covid-19 happened, and everyone started going into lockdown and a huge, huge shift happened to me. I went from this idea that it could be happening, or might be happening in a few years’ time, to its right here, and that it is not just a theory. Because everything just matched up to everything the agenda wanted to what the lockdown was asking of us, and I just went into quite a big depression because I knew it was going on but then felt I didn’t have any power to do anything about it. … I then started to get a lot of visions about the future, who is actually controlling it, what they want, what they are doing to children, how they are hurting children, why are the children so important to their plan, and really started feeling what was happening to those kids… And with this came another bout of depression… And then the next thing that came to me was the Freedom for the Children movement.”[10]

Talking to fellow QAnon fan (Charles Ward – no relation), Laura Ward happily agreed with him when he mentioned that humanitarian groups like UNICEF and the Red Cross only work in war zones so they can kidnap children to sell them to paedophiles. Inspired to fight back against such evil, Laura was determined that her germinal child freedom movement would go “after the head of this monster” aiming squarely at the elite’s inner circle. She was however dismayed that the mainstream media were portraying Donald Trump as opposed to immigration when, as she insisted, the reality is that the “wall he put up [on the Mexican border] is to prevent sex trafficking”. Laura’s interviewer also evidently had a bit of soft spot for Tommy Robinson’s special blend of racism, and with Laura nodding in agreement, he celebrated the far-right provocateurs attempts “to expose the Pakistani paedophile gangs in the Midlands.” He added, “you start to realise why [Tommy] went after the Pakistani’s instead of the white paedophile’s, because the white paedophile’s all happen to work in the media or the government or in Scotland Yard, so he couldn’t go after those because they would have ended his life!”[11] So it seems Robinson is not racist, he was just scared of the all-powerful Illuminati!

A socialist alternative to right-wing populism

In Britain, with angry and disillusioned people now turning to conspiracy theorists in lieu of any meaningful political opposition to the Tories being offered to them by the Labour Party, minor divisions have opened-up amongst the emergent leaders of the Right. Thus, Shemirani’s September 19 protest was called in direct competition with another protest that had been co-organised by Piers Corbyn and David Icke to be held in Trafalgar Square the following weekend.[12] In detailing this angst, in the run-up to these protests The Times ran an article highlighting this fight for the publics attention (“Piers Corbyn blamed for split among coronavirus deniers”), but all the newspaper really succeeded in doing was give more publicity to both “rival resistance rallies”. Yes, there may be competition for the leadership of the covid-resistance movement but Corbyn differs little from Shemirani in terms of the dangerous ideas he is promoting. In fact Corbyn has openly supported QAnon; and he even visited John Mappin’s castle the day before Shemirani’s latest protest, where Corbyn proceeded to outline his support of Trump explaining that

“All brainwashing historically involves rituals and incantations, and here we have a lot of rituals, satanic rituals I would say — this wearing of masks, praising the NHS every Thursday, listening to monotonous, repetitive things on the tubes and the buses about masking and distancing which is just reminiscent of what George Orwell warned us of.”[13]

There are of course limits to the extent to which Shemirani, Icke, and Piers Corbyn’s ‘anti-establishment’ libertarianism will be able to secure them the ear of the increasingly enraged masses. But the left should remain vigilant to the democratic threat they pose, after all far-right populist leaders across the world are getting elected for a reason. That reason lies in the fact that the working-classes have repeatedly had their faith in electoral politics crushed by the alleged representatives of the labour movement, especially by social democrats who continue to insist on putting the needs of the capitalist establishment before the needs of ordinary people. Indeed, the dangerous ideas of rightwing leaders like Shemirani, Icke, and Corbyn can only continue to spread if our class has no meaningful political representation.

As one inquiring media commentator points out: “QAnon fills the void of information that [capitalist] states have created—not with facts, but with fantasy. If we don’t want QAnon to fill that void, someone else has to.” Attempting to salvage a scrap of positivity from the “deep mistrust” that drives alienated citizens in the arms of popularist conspiracies the same commentator states that “something like QAnon is proof that people care and people like being involved in pursuit of truth.” Even if, “In QAnon that care and pursuit are dangerously twisted.” That is why socialists though our everyday actions must continue to win people over to the type of ideas that can harness this yearning for meaning and participation to a democratic alternative that can improve the lives of the working-classes in their billions.

In Britain, Keir Starmer has made it perfectly clear that he is not willing to oppose the Tories, which means that the urgent task at hand is to construct a new genuinely democratic and socialist organisation that can undercut the false promises offered up by the right. Dark times are already upon us, and while the conspiracy theorists may be wrong about nearly everything they say, they are counting on the fact that their strenuous opposition to the chaos of the status quo will be enough to gain them the ear of millions of people who are desperately searching for an alternative to their confusion and despair. Shemirani, Icke, Corbyn and many others beside them, understand that our country and the entire world is in the process of dropping off a huge political precipice. Ordinary people are struggling through an intensifying looming economic catastrophe which will see millions of people lose their livelihoods and life as they previously knew it. And now, more than ever, billions of people across the world need political representatives who are willing to struggle alongside them to reverse the adverse impacts of this growing political nightmare!

Now is the time to think carefully and quickly about developing a strategy that can save lives and actively undermine the lies of far-right populists. Professor John Ioannidis is a respected statistician and medical epidemiologist based at Stanford University who has made some important interventions during the course of this pandemic had this to say about dealing with people who have begun to doubt the existence of Covid-19:

“…we should try to be tolerant of people who have different opinions: I am not talking about endorsing conspiracy theories, but people who are scared, people who feel that they have not understood why all this is happening, people who see their lives and their livelihoods devastated, if you call them covidiots that is not going to help. Who is going to be called an idiot and then become a good citizen? I don’t know of anyone. I think these people will just become more angry; and if at the same time their livelihoods have been destroyed — calling then idiots on top of this is not going to solve the problem.”

This is right, and he is correct to say that future public health interventions must be geared to gaining the trust and respect and all citizens. But by approaching the issue in a purely scientific way Professor Ioannidis ignores the fact that capitalist politicians are institutionally incapable of implementing the type of actions that could win back the trust of the public. Hence the continued need to fight for a socialist alternative!


[1] In another video the host of Sons of Liberty accidentally puts up the image from an anti-Muslim grooming gang protest that he had used the day before while interviewing another right-wing Christian named Peter McIlvenna. The protest was organised by a group that Peter McIlvenna had formed with Tommy Robinson at the start of this year called Hearts of Oak – a group that say they oppose “the industrial-scale rape of tens of thousands of under-age white girls by predominantly Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs”.  (For criticisms of such groups see my earlier article “Child rape and the roots of political anger: grooming gangs in context,” Counterpunch, June 14, 2018.)

[2] Icke, The Robots’ Rebellion, p.157; Cooper, Behold a Pale Horse, pp.35-65. For more on Cooper’s influence upon the burgeoning conspiracy scene, see Robert Guffey, “The deep, twisted roots of QAnon: From 1940s sci-fi to 19th-century anti-Masonic agitprop,” Salon, August 23, 2020.

[3] The event was livestreamed by Sons of Liberty and at 22min into the footage the host recognised Robin Tilbrook and commented: “we had him on the show a couple of weeks back… in fact he is coaching Kate in a lot of the things that she is doing”.

[4] For an excellent introduction to Webster’s historical influences, see Martha Lee, Conspiracy Rising: Conspiracy Thinking and American Public Life (Praeger, 2011); and for a discussion of Webster influence on Icke, see Steven Woodbridge, “The world-view of Nesta Webster: a case study in conspiracy theory,” History@Kingston Blog, April 16, 2020; and Woodbridge, “Plots against the world: the role of the right in conspiracy theory,” Magonia magazine, No. 67, June, 1999.

Writing in 1978 Richard Thurlow surmised that: “Nesta Webster was an important influence who provided much of the occult knowledge which was used in the development of both English and American conspiracy theories. In England, with the exception of Major-General J. F. C. Fuller, she was the root source of practically all occult knowledge in reactionary right and neo-fascist movements. Her anti-secret society ideas were widely used by individuals as diverse as Henry Beamish, Arnold Leese, J. F. C. Fuller, A. K. Chesterton, Colin Jordan and John Tyndall. In the United States the John Birch Society and Alpine Publications have used her work to reinforce the occult sources of a conspiracy theory, which had been based on a native tradition which had combined Populist-Progressive anti-monopoly economic theories with Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy. Although she did not cover all the themes of the conspiracy in her work, she had fair claims to be regarded as the most important contributor to the Anglo-American tradition and represented the most significant modern connecting link in the Atlantic conspiracy underworld.” Thurlow, “Conspiracy belief and political strategy,” Patterns of Prejudice, 12(6), 1978, p.12.

[5] Gunderson personally managed to keep the McMartin hysteria going by organising an archaeological dig beneath the McMartin preschool building in an effort to prove the existence of a secret torture chamber. See Richard Beck, We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s (PublicAffairs, 2015). The forerunner for the McMartin satanic scare occurred just a few years earlier with the publication of the 1980 bestselling book Michelle Remembers. This book’s links to QAnon are discussed in Jen Gerson’s article “Michelle Remembers: The destructive conspiracy theory that Victoria unleashed upon the world,” Capital Daily, August 29, 2020.

[6] For early investigations in the way by which far-right Christian groups in the US have systematically sought to colonise the anti-sex trafficking movement – a movement which from its start was based on a serious distortion of the true extent of this problem, see Elizabeth Bernstein, “The sexual politics of the ‘new abolitionism’,” Differences, 18(3), 2007; “Militarized humanitarianism meets carceral feminism: the politics of sex, rights, and freedom in contemporary antitrafficking campaigns,” Signs, 36(1), 2010; Laura Agustin, Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (Zed Books, 2007); also see Anne Elizabeth Moore, “Money and lies in anti-human trafficking NGOs,” TruthOut, January 27, 2015; and for a good recent overview, see Nathan Allebach, “The moral panic and myths of human trafficking,” Medium, September 25, 2020..

[7] Deborah Noel Kaplan, “Shadow republic: the concept of place in patriot movement discourse,” in: Sudeep Dasgupta and Esther Peeren (eds.), Constellations of the Transnational: Modernity, Culture, Critique (Brill, 2007), p.83. “The Granada Forum began as a local campaign headquarters for James ‘Bo’ Gritz, the former Green Beret who reputedly was the model for the movie character Rambo, when he ran for president on the 1992 Populist Party ticket together with David Duke. The forum grew to become one of the movement’s larger and more public groups, drawing 100 to 250 people from all over the metropolitan area to its weekly meetings in the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana.” (p.88)

[8] The so-called Franklin coverup was popularised more recently in Nick Bryant’s Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal which was published in 2009 by the conspiracy publisher TrineDay.

[9] The overlap between the wellness industry and far-right health conspiracies goes back decades; and for an article that discusses this in relation to David Icke’s conspiracy mongering, see Matthew Kalman and John Murray, “From green messiah to new age nazi,” Left Green Perspectives, 1996. This troubling history however eludes the corporate media, who in an otherwise useful article argue that this problematic trend is just a recent one, see Sophie Aubrey, “‘Playing with fire’: The curious marriage of QAnon and wellness,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2020.

[10] The Dharma Life podcast, “Save Our Children with Laura,” September 6, 2020. At one point during this interview the host points out that they both have the same QAnon poster on the walls behind them, that poster being “The Great Awakening Map” that was created by another QAnon and David Icke devotee named Champ Parinya. Although clearly heavily inspired by Icke, Parinya traces his interest in politics to watching a documentary which countered Alex Jones as one of its executive producers. As Parinya recalls: “When I was awakening, 9/11 truth was one of my red pills. So when I was coming out of college I watched the documentary Loose Change 9/11 and that was one of my first red pill realisations that the government was working to have a nefarious plan to overtake most of the westernised world, and eastern world as well.”

[11] Charles Ward, “Freedom for the Children UK with Laura Ward – Against Child Trafficking! Join the Group!”, The Charlie Ward Show, July 30, 2020.

[12] The September 26 protest packed-out Trafalgar Square with around 15,000 people. Notably although the police eventually broke up the protest, they waited until 3 hours after its official start time to violently intervene to seize the protests PA system. All three of the headline speakers had just finished addressing the crowd (these being Piers Corbyn, David Icke, and Gareth Icke). The police cut short the protest shortly after Dr. Heiko Shöning started speaking. Dr Shöning is the co-founder of “Ärzte für Aufklärung” (“Doctors for Enlightenment”) and fellow-traveller of the far-right (see “Inside the weird pro-QAnon German group behind RFK Jr.’s latest anti-vaxx Stunt”). After the London protest moved to Hyde Park Dr Shöning was arrested. In response Dolores Cahill “arranged the solicitors and barristers” to secure his release. She also explained to his supporters that Dr Shöning, was one of the co-organisers of the next anti-covid protest to be help in Berlin (on October 10), an event at which she was “delighted to have been invited to speak”.

[13] Interview on Camelot TV Network (September 18, 2020), at 24min.

Bernarr Macfadden: From Pornography to Politics (1936)

The following article was first published in the New Masses (May 19, 1936).

Bernarr Macfadden: From Pornography to Politics

by John Stuart

BERNARR MACFADDEN is distinguished for making America muscle-conscious. His methods for developing the bulging biceps have made him a millionaire. During many of his sixty-seven years he has fasted on Mondays and walked daily the twenty-seven miles from home to office. In his crusade for “physcultopathic” health he has written an encyclopedia prescribing varieties of diets and knee-bending exercises as cures for diseases ranging from earache to syphilis. In one of his creative moments Macfadden discovered the trick for determining the sex of your next offspring, thereby giving the worlds geneticists the greatest belly laugh in years. When the business of making every male in America an expert weight lifter waned, Macfadden began publishing the heart-rending confessions of unhappy stenographers and frustrated barbers. In 1924, five years after he gave America True Story magazine, he put out The New York Evening Graphic, the greatest venture in pornography of all times. Of late Mr. Macfadden has become politically ambitious. Friends whisper that he would like to take his morning setting-up exercises on the north porch of the White House.

I am afraid that Bernarr Macfadden will die a disappointed man. Years ago he propagandized for the establishment of a Portfolio of Health in the presidential cabinet. It was a good idea and it still is. But Macfadden thought that he was the best fitted man in America to hold the secretaryship. And the idea got no further than the pages of his Physical Culture magazine.

Unfortunately, those people who have turned their noses up at such things as True Story or True Romance are not the people who regularly read Macfadden’s magazines. Millions of working-class and lower middleclass citizens absorb his reactionary editorials and wallow in the politely-dressed filth of his confessionals. Macfadden primarily appeals to those whose lack of education or political understanding makes them vulnerable targets for his vicious demagoguery. Under the guise of “common sense” he plays with their deep-seated prejudices and aspirations. The fact that bourgeois life has corrupted the relationship between the sexes makes it possible for Macfadden to earn millions annually by adding to that corruption. The factory girl in search of a husband is advised what pitfalls to avoid; the perplexed housewife is told how to keep her husband; all the little domestic and love-life problems rising from a defunct society Macfadden has made peculiarly his own. He exploits the lowest in public taste. The cult of body-worship has been stretched to provide remedies for all the world’s ills. Macfadden justifies his publications by saying that they accurately represent American life. And Macfadden’s picture of America is portrayed by the titles of a few of the stories appearing in his twelve magazines: “I Was Ashamed of My Mother,” “Week-End Madness,” “My Moment of Temptation,” “Park Avenue Siren,” “Not Made to Be a Wife,” “My Road of Shame.”

THE origins of Bernarr Macfadden (ne Bernard Mcfadden) are humble. In almost every detail his career conforms to the classical American pattern of the young man’s rise from the log cabin to either the presidency or the baronial mansion. He hails from the Missouri of 1868. His father was a drunkard, a fact which is responsible for Macfadden’s hatred of liquor. After his mother succumbed to tuberculosis, Bernarr was taken in by an uncle who owned a hotel. As a child, Macfadden survived a half-dozen diseases and a scalding in a tub of boiling water. Later he was to suffer blood poisoning from vaccination. Many of Macfadden’s fantastic ideas on correct living are traceable to a lonely, sick adolescence.

His education, little as there was of it, was not of the best. Work on a farm strengthened him until his cheeks glowed with health. After a day of chores, Bernarr read the currently popular romances that were thoroughly perfumed with the scent of sweetness and light. In time he found himself consecutively employed at a dozen different jobs. And then a racking cough overtook him. It was quietly said that Bernarr’s days were numbered. But Bernarr knew better. He joined a gymnasium and climbed back to health with a set of dumb-bells. From the moment he appeared in trunks and sweat shirt the world was doomed to years of Macfadden pseudo-science.

Macfadden’s advancement as a gymnast amazed his instructors. They must have thought him slightly unhinged in the cranial region as he went about tackling the parallel bars or the trapeze with demoniac enthusiasm. When it was physically impossible to carry himself across the gymnasium floor, Macfadden devoted himself to studying the theoretical aspects of muscle stretching. William Blaikie’s How To Get Strong and How To Stay So made a tremendous impression on the young student. Blaikie provided him with the dubious scientific equipment which later, it seems, qualified Macfadden to call himself the father of physical culture. Of course, Bernarr has credited the Greeks for contributing a few ideas on how to keep the body beautiful. And while it has profited him to keep a few illusions alive, Macfadden is neither the father nor the founder of physical culture in this country. The Dutch Colonists in New York were physical-culture fans long before Bernarr arrived. As for actual systems of physical training, Dr. Dio Lewis spent many years of his life before and after the Civil War quietly developing gymnastics for improving the health of Americans.

Macfadden engaged in wrestling bouts whenever his job as a laundryman permitted. He also opened a school and the whole of St. Louis passed by his door wondering what the word “Kinistherapist” on his shingle meant. Bernarr was beginning to create the first of his spectacular labels to bring in the trade. But soon Macfadden closed his school. The beer-drinking Germans of St. Louis had other ideas about how to spend their time after a day of labor.

And then Bernarr wanted to have his name on the title page of a book. In the back of his mind a novel was brewing. The Athlete’s Conquest was to bring before America the profound thoughts of one Bernarr Macfadden on the important problems of health and life. The novel’s hero was to be a child of the gymnasium, a boy who fought from weakness to strength to success. In fact it was to be a fictional autobiography. With his ideas clearly in mind and his imagination working on all cylinders, Bernarr set to work. But he was slightly handicapped. He knew practically nothing about grammar and punctuation and his spelling was atrocious. But a mind determined, particularly a mind toughened by ambition, could dissolve even such hindrances. He spent a year in quiet study and contemplation as a physical-training instructor in a small school. After submitting the manuscript to a publisher, Macfadden visited him for the reader’s decision. The book was rejected. It seems that it lacked a plot and that his expression was as “crude as crude oil.” Macfadden offered to pay for his debut in American literature. But the publisher, a sensible person, refused to be bribed. Later the book appeared, after considerable sandpapering, in Macfadden’s Physical Culture magazine.

Strangely enough Macfadden didn’t hanker for a chance in New York. He had spent a season at the Chicago World Fair as demonstrator for an exercising machine. And when it was all over he turned his eyes to Boston. Macfadden yearned for membership in the intellectual sanctums of the city. William Dean Howells was holding forth there as America’s number one literary man. Certainly there was room for the author of The Athlete’s Conquest. But Macfadden accidentally stopped for a few hours in New York, breathing deeply of its sights and sounds and there awoke in him the old conquering spirit. This town must be his. And the Cabots and Lowells were once again saved!

I HAVE stressed Macfadden’s early career because it decisively proves that he had no training or education in science and medicine. Nor did he in his later years acquire this equipment. He is, in simple language, an outrageously ignorant man when it comes to biology or physiology. Furthermore, he has no particular love for science because men in the laboratories have frequently torn to pieces his empirical formulas for health and body building. His rise as a physical culturist can be accounted for by the fact that working people could not afford expert medical advice. For fifteen cents an overworked and underpaid wage slave could find assorted remedies and treatments for his ills. If you had eye trouble or an intestinal disease Macfadden could furnish a cheap cure. It was only natural that the circulation of Macfadden’s health literature would increase by leaps and bounds. Undoubtedly much of Macfadden’s success is due to the same medical profession which has so persistently fought him. The profession has called him names within the confines of its professional literature. If physicians had exposed Macfadden by taking their analyses of his methods directly to the people who read Physical Culture, Macfadden’s story would have been considerably different. Instead the medical profession attacked him because essentially he was cutting in on their business. And, after all, the American Medical Association is opposed to socialized medicine which would have made Macfadden and many like him an impossibility.

How much faith Macfadden has in his own health principles is worth analysis. I am reasonably assuming that if a man advocates a course of procedure to cure or alleviate certain ailments, he will fight anything which might interfere with the successful outcome of his prescribed treatment. Years ago Macfadden attacked the sale of patent medicines as unreliable and harmful curatives which defrauded the public of millions of dollars. In the place of quackery and nostrums, Macfadden offered his own health system. His principles of physical culture are based on so-called natural healing through exercise and diet. In cases of constipation he warns against “cathartics of all kinds. . . . All drugs are harmful; they lessen one’s vital efficiency, they dry up the glands that furnish the digestive juices and in many ways they spell disaster to the physical organism.” (Macfadden’s Encyclopedia of Health). In the November 2, 1935, issue of Liberty, there is an advertisement for Feenamint, a cathartic. For that matter, there were five patented cathartics advertised in the October 26 and November 2 issues of the same magazine from which his readers could choose. One of these patented cathartics advertised is Sal Hepatica, which was condemned by the American Medical Association because of its capacity for damage. About alcohol Macfadden has the following to say (Encyclopedia, page 117):

That alcohol in its various forms is one of the greatest causes of disease, we think no physician will deny and no careful observer will dispute. . . . Do not touch, taste or handle the dangerous stuff, for then, and then only, is one safe.

Two issues of Liberty carried advertisements for five brands of whiskey. Nor is Macfadden less vehement in his denunciation of tobacco. He agrees with a statement quoted in his Encyclopedia from another source. “I denounce it [cigarette smoking] simply because of its blighting, blasting effect on one’s success in life. . . .” There is hardly an issue of Liberty placed on the stands without at least a one-page cigarette advertisement. In his treatment for colds, Macfadden nowhere advises the use of drugs or medicines. He believes in starving the cold. Liberty has carried many advertisements for cold remedies, notices for cough drops and medicines to clear stopped-up nostrils.

Macfadden believes in his principles of health building so long as they do not interfere with profits. As soon as they do, his elaborate exercises and diets are tossed into the waste basket.

MACFADDEN’S purchase of Liberty magazine in 1931 gave him the opportunity to branch out into national affairs. Liberty’s circulation runs well above 2,000,000 weekly. It rivals The Saturday Evening Post in the low level of its contents (Macfadden told one of his biographers that the people aren’t ready for great literature) and the reactionary tone of its editorials. The editorials are signed by Macfadden and when he does not write them they are subject to his approval. The editorials read as though Hearst, Coughlin, Easley and the American Liberty League were called in as consultants. If Macfadden is not officially connected with these tories, he has given them ample support by echoing their programs in his publications. (Liberty’s editor, Fulton Oursler, is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the male counterpart of the other organization of decayed old ladies.) For Red-baiting, for opposition to anything socially progressive and for all around viciousness, Macfadden can run rings around almost every other professional patriot in the business.

It was inevitable in Macfadden’s case that preaching the big biceps would lead to the worship of strength and strong men. And naturally one of Macfadden’s heroes is Mussolini. His admiration for II Duce led him once to say that “there are times when I believe that America needs a Mussolini. . . .” In 1930, Macfadden traveled to the Venezia Palace to meet the strong man of Europe. After talking with many fascist dignitaries Macfadden brought to this country, at his own expense, forty of Mussolini’s young proteges for a course in physical culture. The fascist government in appreciation later awarded Macfadden the Order of the Crown of Italy. Macfadden is also an admirer of Mussolini’s tactics in suppressing liberals and radicals who under fascism are, of course, labeled outlaws and brigands. In an editorial under the head of “How the Communists Plan to Wreck the country” Macfadden recalled that when Mussolini took over the reins of government he determined to stamp out Sicilian brigands. He arrested all of them. He put them in lion cages similar to those we use’ in circus parades. And then he made a show of them in a parade through Sicily. The public was told to look upon these outlaws. Here was their last chance to see them. They were facing death sentences. This unique policy, it is said, entirely exterminated lawlessness in Sicily.

Bernarr Macfadden

Macfadden suggests the same method to quell the “Reds” in this country. In another quiet, contemplative mood Macfadden wrote:

“Death to the traitors” should be the slogan from now on. At any minute the nation is likely to be forced into a fight for its life. There should be no need for additional laws to protect us from such a band of wholesale murderers—the disciples of Bolshevism in its most violent form. Give the same penalty quickly administered that they have prepared for their victims.

It would seem that in preparation for this editorial Mr. Macfadden, philanthropist and humanitarian, read a few pages of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Macfadden’s humanitarianism also extends to the Soviet Union. He has frequently employed those two prominent authorities on Russian affairs, Matthew Woll and Isaac Don Levine, to write articles generating good will to 160 million people by suggesting that they be wiped from the face of the earth.

On foreign affairs Macfadden’s comments are exhilarating.

Japan has made a good start toward ruling the Far East. She has brought order out of chaos in Shanghai and Manchuria (Manchukuo). People can now live safely under civilized conditions in these countries. Wherever Japan’s power is extended similar improvements are effected, and she should be applauded and commended for the progressive spirit which her officials have manifested.

It is not recorded whether Macfadden ever praised Mussolini for bringing his light and wisdom to Ethiopia.

Of course Mr. Macfadden is a peaceloving man. He believes in peace because “peace always pays larger dividends.” But if the world must have war Macfadden feels that “if a man has unusual strength and vitality, with the accompanying determination and will power, a few months of training will make him an efficient soldier. A powerful handy man is hard to kill even with the most modern bullets. … If you can put your men out in the field with the vitality of wild-cats, they will indeed be difficult to beat.” Writing about the low physical condition of men drafted into the last war Macfadden stated:

And now there is talk of another war, what about the flower of our national manhood this time? . . . The very life of this nation is liable to be at stake in the near future, and upon the vitality of its people will depend whether or not we are to endure or to go down to enslavement.

This statement in addition to establishing the link between Macfadden’s physical culture and militarism must have delighted the hearts of Hitler and Mussolini. It is strange that Macfadden neglects remarking about this country’s vitality after a war. There is no record that he ever visited a veteran’s hospital.

Arming “to the hilt” is another of Macfadden’s high-minded principles for the preservation of peace. He apparently followed the senatorial investigation of the munitions industry and concluded that

our legislators would like to take all the profits out of war. That is undoubtedly desirable. But our first thought should be the protection of the lives of our citizens. If our manufacture of implements of war is restricted and profits curtailed or eliminated, from what source will we obtain war materials that may be necessary to save the life of this nation?

The du Ponts and Krupps ask the same question. As for international disarmament conferences:

If we kept our amateur diplomats at home and went our own way in accordance with the dictates of our own intelligence protecting our country by the most modern methods without consulting with other nations, we would be in a far better position. . . .

A solution for unemployment can also be found in preparedness.

While the whole world seems to be turning toward military madness, there is general acceptance of the airplane ascendancy in warfare. But we are still plugging along. Maybe in a few years we will recognize the need of being prepared for aerial warfare, and when that happens, a few hundred thousands of our unemployed can be used to build and fly ships and prepare for our next war—which will be in the air. . . .

One of these days Macfadden will be awarded a gilded swastika for the following: “With the impending clash of arms and the hectic war preparations in every country throughout all Europe, Hitler can hardly be blamed for desiring the protection necessary to the life and liberties of his people.”

On our domestic crisis Macfadden’s commentaries are indeed refreshing. He at least differs with the academic opinions of all economists. “The prevailing ignorance throughout this country as to the fundamental principles of health building accounts for much of the poverty and misery which our people are enduring at this time.” Can Macfadden mean that if all Americans had exercised for ten minutes each morning the depression would never have reached these shores? Perhaps he can devise a set of gymnastics to end unemployment and starvation. Taxation of big business and soaking the rich drives Macfadden into an editorial frenzy. “Can any sensible citizen find any plausible excuse for a legislative procedure that passes on prosperity to the poor by lowering the financial status of the rich?”

Macfadden coos to the workingman with a patronizing benevolence and good will to mask his semi-fascist attitude toward labor.

There may be excuses for strikes during normal times, but when every business executive is straining to his utmost to maintain his business and pay his bills, a strike at this time only invites disaster to both workers and owners. . . . The fight labor is making at present to control business will put all super-executives out of business. . . . Labor is responsible for jobs only. It has no investment at stake; no sacrifice or thrift is involved. Consequently it can be more drastically inconsiderate. … A long continued fight between labor and capital means disaster for both, and there are but few exceptions. . . . Labor mustn’t be given too much power. I’m recognized, of course, as one of the outstanding friends of labor.

A few years ago Macfadden threatened to move his organization out to New Jersey to escape dealing with New York unions. Because Macfadden believes that capital and labor “are working together for the good of each other,” he has preached a friendly relationship between the employer and employee through mutual organization—or the company union (Macfadden Employees Association, for example).

It is quite natural that Macfadden’s politics come from the same sordid greed as do his true stories and true romances. A man cannot simultaneously publish pornographic “literature” and liberal editorials. Reactionary politics is in harmony with Macfadden’s Bourbon philosophy. In his editorials, as in his pseudo-scientific health propaganda, Macfadden displays astounding ignorance. And when ignorance and wealth are all a man possesses, particularly a man with an audience of more than seven millions monthly, the amount of damage that man can do is inestimable. Macfadden is competing for honors with William Randolph Hearst.


The Fiction of Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland

The following article was published by Counterpunch on October 20, 2017.

Kurt Andersen is the author of the “instant best-selling” book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire—A 500-Year History (Random House, 2017) – a problematic volume which deserved the more suitable subtitle Why America’s Elites Can’t Think! This much is clear from reading Andersen’s 13,000 word essay (as adapted from Fantasyland) that was featured in the September issue of The Atlantic. Providing an intriguing overview of the leading proponents of magical-thinking (i.e., believing in UFOs, superstitions, miracles, etc) over the past half century, this subject matter, as interpreted through Andersen’s factually-troubled article, has been given its very own fantastic twist. Blame for widespread irrationality apparently rests with the delusions of the working-class majority, not with the powerful elites who have actively reaped the benefits from sowing seeds of confusion. As Andersen bluntly puts it, perhaps two thirds of Americans are now so hopelessly lost that “the solidly reality-based” citizens are now just a minority… “maybe a third of us…” This classic case of victim-blaming dovetails with Andersen’s electoral fantasies. Thus, in the recent faceoff between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he arrived at the wrongheaded conclusion that the only realistic choice for the people of America was to plump for the Wall Street Democrat, Hillary, a serial liar and warmonger to boot!?


So when Andersen repeatedly refers to “we Americans,” I can only imagine that what he is really referring to are fellow liberal elites who, like their right-wing counterparts, have no faith in the working-class to make democratic decisions about America’s future. As he explains “we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us.” Too right as far as the elites are concerned. And there is nothing more feared by libertarian or liberal elites than the prospect of the collective and democratic empowerment of ordinary people. This is precisely why this class-based aspect of history remains marginalized by Andersen and his undemocratic cohort of pessimists who peddle their toxic wares in the mainstream media.

Like the many conspiracy theorists that he so despises, Andersen is mostly wrong… and right only occasionally. For instance, he seems to stumble over the truth when he lays blame for the current state of affairs at the doorstep of mainstream institutions including the “media, academia, government, corporate America, professional associations, respectable opinion in the aggregate”. These institutions have, as he points out, “enabled and encouraged every species of fantasy over the past few decades.”[1] But rather than being a problem of recent pedigree, such institutional elite commitments to fantasy far predates the last few decades. It is a problem that is umbilically-connected to capitalism and its perpetual need to place profit before human need. Thus, contrary to Andersen’s rose-tinted view of history, capitalist institutions have never had any principled dedication to keeping the public well-informed about anything much except the righteousness of the political system.

The Descent to Fantasy

Somewhat arbitrarily the befuddled author in question, rather than focus his full rage against mainstream institutions, traces the “descent into full Fantasyland” to two “momentous changes.” One, he says, was the onset of the new era of information” that allowed ordinary people to have easy access to new narratives of social change that had previously been excluded from the liberal media. And secondly, that there was “a profound shift in thinking that swelled up in the ’60s” that led many people to start doing their own thing – his problem being that people started to explore political and social alternatives to the deadening confines of a consumer society. But here, should I be accused of wilfully misrepresenting Andersen’s deep-seated anxieties, he says that he has no regrets regarding “the ways the ’60s permanently reordered American society and culture”; “just that along with the familiar benefits,” there have also “been unreckoned costs.”

Attacking the publics’ ability to think comes easily to Andersen, but again, almost in passing he reiterates that fantasy-thinking has always found a welcome home within elite networks which have incubated all manner of idiocies before serving them up to the public. Andersen states that on the forefront of the evolution of such nonsense in the recent period was the Esalen Institute which had been formed in 1962 by a pair of wealthy Stanford graduates. Esalen as it turned out became something of “a pilgrimage center for hundreds and thousands of youth interested in some sense of transcendence, breakthrough consciousness, LSD, the sexual revolution, encounter, being sensitive, finding your body, [and] yoga”.

As Andersen surmises, this group’s impact on the spread of New Age modalities has been huge: “Esalen is a mother church of a new American religion for people who think they don’t like churches or religions but who still want to believe in the supernatural.” But while it is true that one should recognize the detrimental influence of Esalen on rational thinking, the individualist spiritual ideas peddled therein had been doing the rounds for decades – as exemplified by the popular spiritual cult that was theosophy. Nevertheless, all manner of supernatural and anti-socialist ideas were certainly thrown into the melting pot of ideas at this new institute, producing irrational fads which were soon consumed and popularized by middle-class drop-outs like for instance Harvard psychology lecturer Timothy Leary. Indeed, much like the utopian socialists of the nineteenth century, many of these well-funded social experimenters then set about the task of building small communities of resistance in the belly of an inhumane society. The limited ambitions of these budding utopians however stand in stark contrast to the determined social projects embarked upon by socialists like the Black Panthers who during the same period sought to build mass based movements for social change along class lines.

The Postmodern Fantasy Machine

Providing useful context for understanding the renewed interest in mysticism, Andersen is correct in stating that such developments were “understandable, given the times: colonialism ending, genocide of American Indians confessed, U.S. wars in the developing world.” Yet as he goes on to explain, in their keenness to reject all that capitalist society had bequeathed them, spiritual seekers at Esalen and elsewhere went awry when they combined their social experiments for change with frontal attacks on the legacy of the Enlightenment and the core tenets of the scientific process itself.

Thriving in this irrational milieu, anti-socialist intellectuals then took their cue from the mainstream to hype the emerging New Age. Andersen points towards influential books like professor Theodore Roszak’s The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition (1969), and Yale Law School professor Charles Reich’s The Greening of America (1970). Both books were well-publicized by elite media outlets and Reich’s bible soon “became The New York Times’ best-selling book (as well as a much-read 70-page New Yorker excerpt), and remained on the list for most of a year.”

Here Andersen once again emphasizes the backward role play by elite institutions, noting how in the 70s “mainstream publishers and media organizations were falling over themselves to promote and sell fantasies as nonfiction.” One good example is The Secret Life of Plants (1970) which wasa big best seller arguing that plants were sentient” which Andersen notes made the outlandish claim that this new truth about plants was being “suppressed by the FDA and agribusiness.” Other similarly ludicrous books mentioned by Andersen included Uri Geller’s 1975 autobiography, and Life After Life (1975) by Raymond Moody, the latter being “a philosophy Ph.D. who presented the anecdotes of several dozen people who’d nearly died as evidence of an afterlife” and whose “book sold many millions of copies”.

class struggle

In addition to these developing fads, Andersen observes how “During the ’60s, large swaths of academia made a turn away from reason and rationalism as they’d been understood.” This was most pronounced in that area of intellectual enquiry now commonly referred to as postmodernism. Early leading lights in this field, as highlighted by Andersen, included the French philosopher Michel Foucault — a man whose “suspicion of reason became deeply and widely embedded in American academia.” Andersen continues: “Ever since, the American right has insistently decried the spread of relativism, the idea that nothing is any more correct or true than anything else.” This may be true, but Andersen neglects to mention that the relativist proponents of post-modernism have always faced vocal opposition from socialists (and particularly Marxists), i.e., those people who are serious about organizing and not just theorizing about ending oppression.

By contrast, ever content to muddy the intellectual waters of history, conservatives continue to promote the lie that an authoritarian clique of cultural Marxists control and dominate America’s academic institutions with relativist mumbo jumbo. However, those on the Left continue to oppose both the conservatives and all irrational philosophical turns precisely because they recognise the threat posed by such intrigues to the future of democracy. Andersen partially comprehends this danger, writing that when this relativist groundswell eventually “flowed out across America” “it helped enable” the spread of “extreme Christianities and lunacies on the right—gun-rights hysteria, black-helicopter conspiracism, climate-change denial, and more.” More to the point he adds:

“The term useful idiot was originally deployed to accuse liberals of serving the interests of true believers further on the left. In this instance, however, postmodern intellectuals—post-positivists, poststructuralists, social constructivists, post-empiricists, epistemic relativists, cognitive relativists, descriptive relativists—turned out to be useful idiots most consequentially for the American right.”

Attacking the Left and Right

Keen to badmouth both socialists and conservatives, Andersen contrasts what he calls the “zealots on the left” with the moderate left. He was apparently particularly taken by the “sweet and reasonable” founding manifesto that was drafted in 1962 by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which Andersen holds in esteem because, he states, they declared themselves “in basic opposition to the communist system.” To be polite to Andersen, this is a fairly mechanistic appreciation of the founding of SDS, as a good case can be made that it was the powerful lobbying efforts undertaken by liberal civil rights activists like Bayard Rustin that were most responsible for convincing SDS to adopt his own fierce opposition to communism. In later years Rustin was not as successful in foisting his views upon other young activists, as he failed to get the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to moderate their constitution to include a formal commitment to anti-communism, while SDS themselves had no qualms about working alongside the far-left.[2]

Returning to Andersen’s left-wing zealots, it turns out that the group that he had to the fore of his mind when making this point was the terrorist group Weather Underground — the tiny successor organization to the SDS. Having set up his own crude caricature of what constituted left-wing politics, Andersen then adds that the right-wing had become “unhinged” as well. He explains how leading agencies of the State (including the police, the FBI and the CIA) began to “to spy on, infiltrate, and besmirch” organizations on the left which he said “thereby validated the preexisting paranoia on the new left and encouraged its wing nuts’ revolutionary delusions.” But on the issue of repression this is an understatement to say the least as State agencies went far beyond merely besmirching the left, they also helps others to firebomb their offices and murdered their leaders. A prominent example of the latter took place on December 4, 1969 when the police slaughtered two leaders of the Black Panther Party, a group which had been successfully working alongside many others on the left including the SDS. We should also recall just one of the many other reasons why the left might have been feeling paranoid in the 1960s. For instance, the US government gave vital aid to Indonesia’s Suharto dictatorship that upon assuming power in 1965 proceeded to murder hundreds of thousands of “left-wing zealots”!

Having ostensibly established the unhinged nature of left-wing politics, Andersen then draws attention to the far-right conspiracies of the John Birch Society — an organization that had been founded in 1958 and is truly deserving of the unhinged descriptor. Andersen, however, fails to see the connection between the exceptionally paranoid anti-communism of the Birchers and the ingrained anti-communism of liberals like himself, or of the Cold War liberals of the past. It was, after all, the fear of the influence of the Marxist left upon the working-class that had led liberals to lay the groundwork for the McCarthyite excesses that followed. Cold War liberals threw fuel on the fires on conspiracism that were raised to new levels by demagogic groups like the John Birch Society who went on to denounce both Republican and Democratic presidential Cabinets as including “conscious, deliberate, dedicated agent[s] of the Soviet conspiracy”.

Although Andersen states that “Delusional conspiracism wouldn’t spread quite as widely or as deeply on the left,” he remains astounded that “more and more people on both sides would come to believe that an extraordinarily powerful cabal—international organizations and think tanks and big businesses and politicians—secretly ran America.” But what Andersen is describing here is not really a conspiracy at all, it is capitalism at its most effective. An “extraordinarily powerful cabal” – that is, the ruling-class – do run America as best they can, but they definitely don’t do it secretly. Their profit-driven actions only appear to be hatched in secrecy because of the mainstream media’s ongoing failure to accurately report on the exploitation of the global working-class; and much like Andersen, the media continue to downplay or ignore any successful efforts to resist their misrule. Nevertheless, Andersen is correct that “real life made such stories plausible.” And although he primarily faults the far-right for this confusion, he feels compelled to reiterate his critique of the left by stating: “the belief that the federal government had secret plans to open detention camps for dissidents sprouted in the ’70s on the paranoid left before it became a fixture on the right.” Yet this troublesome concern should hardly be surprising, as in 1973 the US government openly backed the rise of the dictatorship in Chile where vast detention camps had been openly employed to devastating effects against democratic activists on the left. (Here a powerful early film that warned against the potential persecution of left-wing activists in America was the 1971 mockumentary Punishment Park.)

Ruling Class Delusions

Of course, in spite of his disdain with the so-called irrationality of the majority of citizens, who, as he puts it inhabit a “post-factual America,” Andersen repeats again (with little emphasis) that elite forces in society have nurtured America’s interest in conspiracies. Specifically, he draws attention to the international best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? which was written by the “convicted thief and embezzler” Erich Von Däniken – a book that describes how extraterrestrials apparently seeded life on Earth. Andersen then explains how the subsequent spin-off documentary “had a huge box-office take in 1970” and was only topped when NBC “aired an hour-long version of the documentary in prime time.” This was all part and parcel of the disempowering media milieu that titillated both the liberal left and the far-right but was categorically rebuked as a dangerous distraction by the socialist left. As always, the upper-class strata within society, whether they be in the corporate world or at the top of the CIA, were particularly enamoured by such irrationalities, and “In the ’70s, the CIA and Army intelligence set up their infamous Project Star Gate to see whether they could conduct espionage by means of ESP.”

The persistence of grand delusions and magical thinking within ruling elites is of course nothing new, and in many ways such fantasies have been a mainstay of American history. But amongst the broader public a good case can be made that the flight to fantasy tends to ebb and flow depending upon the tempo of working-class struggles. During times of vigorous and successful grassroots organizing one might expect to observe a decline in supernatural thinking, while during periods of intense repression and political defeat the intrigues boosted by the “fantasy-industrial complex” are able to rise to the fore. These problems are further exacerbated by a corporate media environment that serves to confuse and befuddle the public, all the better to allow corporate elites and their shareholders to profit from our hard labour. Thus, the same mainstream media that is so intent on ridiculing socialists, alternatively places the gurus of mumbo jumbo on a golden pedestal. From this position they are able to make immense profits, both for themselves and the mainstream press, and confuse the public to boot!

What is to be Done?

Moving to the present day, Andersen is again partially correct to say that Donald Trump rose to power because he was able “to exploit the skeptical disillusion with politics,” but he is wrong to suggest that Trump can be credited with any form of “genius.” The orange-tinted beast only did what any mildly intelligent demagogue does when their opponents are discredited: adopt populist rhetoric that appeals to a section of angry people — those who can still stomach voting — who have been worn down by the lies and poverty of the status quo. The key in the matter is that Trump’s Presidency represented change. Furthermore, we should never forget that Trump has only been given the opportunity to sell his populist right-wing lies to the public because his so-called progressive counterpart, Hillary Clinton, was so downright appalling. Only a genuine socialist representative of the 99% could have undermined the rising tide of division and hate that is personified in Trump. The Democrat’s have therefore proved once again — as they have throughout the past century — that the American public desperately needs a genuine working-class alternative to that raised time and time again by the tired old corporate shell that is the Democratic Party.


With Trump now in the White House, Andersen, having plumped for the fantasy candidature embodied by Hillary, is apoplectic with the majority of Americans who he blames for the rise of Trump. “I really can imagine, for the first time in my life, that America has permanently tipped into irreversible decline, heading deeper into Fantasyland.” But apparently because Andersen remains a fact-loving American, fortified by his faith in the shining power of truth, we can breathe a sigh of relief as he still remains “(barely) more of an optimist than a pessimist.” This is despite the fact that Andersen is adamant that America has entered a period of “foolishness and darkness” where “too many Americans are losing their grip on reason and reality”. If one truly believed Andersen’s ill-informed diagnosis then surely any level of optimism would seem unwarranted.

If anyone is living in Fantasyland it is Andersen himself, who concludes his shallow list of reasons for being (barely) hopeful by saying: “Since 1981, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty around the globe has plummeted from 44 percent to 10 percent.” This statement of apparently uncontroversial fact is emblematic of an individual who has retreated into the statistical depths of unreason. Andersen is wrong on so many fronts, not least the decline in poverty. But if he really wanted to understand the poverty of the world around him, but especially within America itself, he might look to books like The American Way of Poverty or more critical texts like They Rule: The 1% Vs. Democracy – the latter of which highlights the ritual complicity of the Democrat’s in the ongoing transfer of wealth and power to a tiny plutocratic elite.

When Andersen concludes his essay by asking “What is to be done?”, ironically echoing the title of a seminal text by one of history’s most renowned “left wing zealots”, his own fantastic and irrational response is to admit that he doesn’t actually “have an actionable agenda” for change; although almost as an afterthought he adds, we should do our best to “stop things from getting any worse.” To undertake this task he rallies his troops, pleading that “we in reality-based America” must now stand firm and commit to waging a “struggle” of fact against falsehoods. He sees no urgent need to fight for meaningful political change, or to even partake in collective democratic action. Instead he implores his reality-based readers to “Fight the good fight in your private life.” But remember, he warns “You needn’t get into an argument with the stranger” who persists in promoting magical thinking; save your energy for winning over only your acquaintances, friends and family members (particularly your “children or grandchildren” if you have any). On that note of fantasy, I will leave you (the reader) to decide whether you stand in solidarity with Andersen or with the ordinary Americans that the author of Fantasyland has so little respect for.


[1] The publisher of Fantasyland, Random House, is a good example of a mainstream media organization that derives immense profits from selling all manner of mumbo jumbo from Erich Von Daniken’s infamous books about ancient aliens, to an endless stream of books about anti-scientific health remedies written by the likes of Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil.

[2] James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, 1985 [1972]), p.220.

Gambling With Our Planet

This peer-reviewed article was first published by the journal Theory In Action (Vol.7, No.1) in January 2014.

This essay presents an unfortunate story of conservatives and conservation. Unfortunate because it is highly problematic that so many of the reactionary ideas of conservative elites have entered the lexicon of the mainstream environmental movement: an age-old conundrum that can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century, but nevertheless needs to be scrutinized if meaningful and democratic solutions are going to be counterpoised to capitalism’s desire to destroy the planet. Previous studies have produced detailed examinations documenting the cynical way in which ruling class elites manipulate green concerns to legitimize class war.[1] This investigation differs from earlier studies, however, in that it traces the influence of three men of ruling class stock, whose thoroughbred lives have been as varied and colorful, as they have been intimately entwined by their obsession for all things wild. The names of these three men being: gambling legend cum zoo owner John Aspinall (1926-2000), billionaire financier Sir James Goldsmith (1933-1997) and his brother, the influential deep ecologist Edward “Teddy” Goldsmith (1928-2009). All were born to a life of plenty, coming together in Oxford in 1949 as friends through their shared addiction to gambling.

Aspinall’s Wild Side

The elder of the trio, and the man whose gambling clique brought the three together in the first place was John Aspinall. A man who was also the first of the three to seriously develop his preoccupation with the majesty of nature untamed. Born in Delhi in 1926, when just thirteen years old Aspinall was introduced to the novels of H. Rider Haggard, with his entry point into Haggard’s opus being Nada the Lily. Nada presented a tale of Zulu witchcraft, wilderness and adventure, which “opened Aspinall’s eyes to a world so different from the one he knew, so much more romantic and impressive, on a scale so super-human, that he was entranced.” From that time onwards Aspinall’s obsession with comprehending Zulu history was second only to his addiction to Haggard’s imperial tropes of spiritual fiction.[2] A lifelong commitment that culminated with him being rewarded with his dedication to their cause by being initiated into the Zulu ‘nation’ as a ‘white Zulu’ by King Goodwill Zwelithini.

John Aspinall

Living in central London during the 1950s, Aspinall used his backyard to bring a little wilderness into his life of pleasure-seeking and gambling, beginning his erstwhile zoo by purchasing a monkey, tiger cub, and two Himalayan brown bears. “In the presence of these proud, secretive, untameable creatures, he felt moved.” And soon after making these new ‘wild’ friends, he used the rich dividends from his gambling enterprises to purchase Howletts country house and estate in Kent, and in 1956 he set about creating a private zoo on his new premises. As his biographer added, Aspinall’s new found animal friends at Howlett’s “strengthen[ed] his belief in elitism and confirm[ed] his distaste for social egalitarianism”.[3] Such views were de rigueur among Aspinall’s ruling-class patrons.[4]

With his public wildlife profile growing rapidly during the 1960s, Aspinall was soon courted by the aristocrats of eco-imperialism, the World Wildlife Fund, and in his first television experience he was invited to discuss whether people or wildlife should be prioritized. Talking on behalf of animals with Aspinall was his good friend Teddy Goldsmith. “Goldsmith thundered about the redundant millions of humans in the world and disastrous progress of medical technique which eliminated many useful natural diseases.” Aspinall joined the anti-humanist debacle such that their opponents concluded “that he and Goldsmith were no better than fascists in their denial of democratic advance; [Aspinall and Goldsmith] were happy to agree”. Perhaps because of such elitist beliefs, in 1970 WWF asked him (for the second time) to become a member of their group of rapacious capitalist funders known as the ‘1001’ Club.[5] Being very much a lone misanthrope on wilderness matters Aspinall sent the requested money but refused to join the committee. Although he would later have quarrels with WWF for choosing leaders prone to big-game hunting, Aspinall “continued to support Friends of the Earth, the Fauna Preservation Society, and many like bodies, both financially and morally”.[6].

Teddy’s Primitive Past 

Although born to great wealth, Teddy Goldsmith initially made his private fortune in the 1950s by marketing, with his brothers aid, a miracle cream developed by a well-known quack that touted itself as a cure for rheumatism. Teddy however was not cut out for the cut-throat business world, and by the late 1960s he retired and purchased a 300-acre farm in Cornwall, UK, where he continued his private studies into the history of life on earth.[7] When his father passed away in 1967, Teddy inherited a handsome legacy, and soon decided to put his long-abiding interest in indigenous cultures into action. To do so he picked an issue that resonated with Aspinall’s longstanding interest in Zulu culture, and in 1969 they both served as founding members of the Primitive People’s Fund (now called Survival International) — group formed to protect the human rights of indigenous tribal peoples and uncontacted peoples. Yet despite the professed concern for primitive others, as expressed by Survival International’s bourgeois founders, “by rooting their concern — and persuading their clients — to preserve” indigenous culture in “false essentialist premises,” they arguably acted to “subvert efforts to address issues of… inequality and poverty in realistic political terms”.[8]

Teddy Goldsmith Worthyvale-Manor-Farm-Camelford-1970s

Now on a roll, the following year Teddy launched The Ecologist magazine, which adopted the sub-title, the Journal of the Post Industrial Age. The first issue, hot off the press in July 1970, led with an editorial on primitive peoples, and was succeeded with what would become a mainstay of Teddy’s writing, a declaration that overpopulation was the world’s number one problem. The solution?… enforced sterilisation to halve the world’s population! In subsequent years Teddy would rise to global fame when he published his neo-Malthusian tract Blueprint for Survival, which contained many proposals for action, one of which included the formation of an apocalyptic sounding Movement for Survival.

In the summer of 1972 a small group of well-to-do friends in Napton, Warwickshire, began to discuss their environmental concerns. These discussions led to the formation of a transient group known as the Thirteen Club. “In particular they were influenced by the Blueprint for Survival, the Report of the Club of Rome and other writings of Paul Ehrlich”. Four members of this group who were particularly intent on taking political action ended up splitting off from the Thirteen Club around Christmas time, and by February 1973 they had organized the first meeting of their new political party, which they named PEOPLE (this later became known as the Ecology party, and in turn the Green party). To their eternal benefit, Teddy was an “early member of the new party and contributed the mailing list of the Movement for Survival.”[9] Aspinall having earlier arranged for his gambling friends to raise funds for Friends of the Earth’s Director, Graham Searle, jumped at the chance to support Teddy’s short-lived electoral ambitions, and lent Teddy a camel to ride upon during his campaigning in February 1974 as a PEOPLE candidate.

Later in 1974 Teddy spent a few months at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in India (which was organized by his friend Satish Kumar), and followed his (mis)enlightenment in India by dedicating a special issue of The Ecologist to Gandhi and India. The following year Teddy then helped found Ecoropa (Ecological Action for Europe), serving as vice-president and president of the French branch; and in 1978 helped set up Green Alliance, a parliamentary lobbying group ostensibly concerned with the environment, even if sustaining capitalism would be a more appropriate descriptor of their work. Romanticizing feudalism, and maintaining false illusions about a wholesome (“organic”) history of the days of folklore in India or otherwise is hardly progressive.[10]

Sir James: Green Raider

Unlike his brother, Sir James Goldsmith remained in the business world throughout his life, and during the 1970s and 1980s he rose to global infamy for his predatory exploits as a corporate raider — activities that in common parlance became known as hostile takeovers. Like Teddy, Sir James continued to lend a hand to green exploits, making his own early contribution to conservative environmental efforts by purchasing a 400,000-acre ranch in the right-wing state of Paraguay. Politically-speaking his good friend Mr. Aspinall was of much the same mind as Sir James, and in a typically outrageous speech made to his colleagues in the business world, Aspinall “applauded the chimpanzee custom of dividing into rival armies which engaged in wholesome slaughter as a useful exercise in keeping down numbers.” This was something he referred to as “beneficial genocide”. In a similar way Sir James slaughtered any business competition on his rise to global power, and when he broke-up Cavenham Foods in July 1980 his own personal fiefdom had been “the third-largest retailer in the world after Safeway and Kroger.” James however still railed against the food industry, and was “proud of a speech he made at a conference in Woldson College, Cambridge, in 1976 on the subject of poison in food” which he saw as an explicit “attack on the food industry, in particular on intensive farming”. Here he was clearly picking up on the green zeitgeist of his day, which saw the controversial growth of all manner of highly profitable, albeit exploitative, natural enterprises.[11]

James Goldsmith

During the 1980s, amid his continuing financial escapades Sir James became obsessed with AIDS which — following his brothers nihilist cue — he thought would soon wipe out much of the human species. He read widely upon the subject that so obsessed him, and even funded his own dubious research on the matter — research that he was unable to persuade even his own newspaper L’Express to run with. “When the drug AZT came along, Goldsmith dismissed it as only adding to the problem — it simply meant a longer period for the disease to spread, and created a false impression that its development had slowed”. This of course is nonsense, but nonsense that would have fatal consequences for thousands of Africans in the coming years. In the light of Sir James’ attraction to anti-scientific ‘research,’ it is fitting that in 1997, after chemotherapy and surgery had proved unsuccessful in stopping the spread of Sir James’ diagnosed cancer, he chose to utilize the services of a famous practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine — the quack in question being Balendu Prakash, a man who had allegedly successfully treated brain cancer in one of Teddy’s friends.[12]

Inspired by his taming of the French left-wing newspaper L’Express (which he had purchased in March 1977), in January 1979 Sir James announced the creation of a new magazine Now! which was to be edited by the former political editor of the Daily Mail, Anthony Shrimsley. Upon its launch, one of their regular columnists was Brian Crozier, who “preached the dangers of left-wing infiltration even more fervently than Goldsmith”. Another Now! contributor of extreme far-right pedigree whose connections are worth drawing attention to is Michael Ledeen, whose articles in both Now! and L’Express, aimed to discredit Jimmy Carter’s 1980 presidential campaign, contributing to what became known as the ‘Billygate’ affair. Not to be outdone by such servility to great power, yet another master of disinformation who was more than capable of injecting “black propaganda” into Now! was Brian Crozier’s protege Robert Moss. Amalgamating all his and others paranoid anti-communist conspiracy theories in one place, in 1980 Moss published an international best-selling novel titled The Spike. His coauthor on this vicious propaganda tract was the Newsweek journalist, Arnaud de Borchgrave. Considering the mystical proclivities of the Goldsmith brothers, it is interesting to note that both of these writers somehow managed to take their obsessions with disinformation one step beyond. Moss has now reinvented himself as a shamanic counselor and dream teacher (an issue upon which he has written numerous books), and since 1985 de Borchgrave has spent all his time editing newspapers and magazines belonging to Sun Myung Moon’s cultish Unification Church.[13]

Not long after founding Now! Sir James was invited to join a host of right-wing elites to support “Project Democracy,” a covert propaganda effort dedicated to weakening democratic institutions abroad.[14] Sir James was thus just one of a gaggle of powerful businessmen who met President Reagan (in March 1983) to support his war on popular democracy; other members of the group included Rupert Murdoch and self-help guru W. Clement Stone.[15] Bolstering his efforts to bolster neoconservative networking across the Atlantic, Sir James was also counted as a member of the Committee for a Free World. A group which was founded in 1981 by Midge Decter, who is the spouse of another prime neoconservative mover, Norman Podhoretz. As late as 1989 the chairman of this group was Donald Rumsfeld, while other board members sitting alongside Sir James were the president of the misnamed National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gerschman, and the author Jacqueline Wheldon, who headed the British branch of the Committee for a Free World.

No surprise then that in November 1990, Sir James was in attendance at a dinner hosted by his good buddy Aspinall whose guest of honour was the reactionary head of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi; with another notable diner being Marc Gordon, the Director of the London office of the International Freedom Foundation — a right-wing think-tank with close links to Inkatha.[16] This so-called International Freedom Foundation had been founded in 1985 by former Republican “superlobbyist”/convicted and sentenced felon, Jack Abramoff, growing out of an initial meeting Abramoff had organized (known as the Democratic International) which took place at the headquarters of Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. The meeting was “attended by a who’s who of the extreme Right: members of the Oliver North group, Laotian guerrillas, Nicaraguan Contras, Afghan mujahideen and South African security police”. As it turned out, the International Freedom Foundation was a South African military intelligence front formed to campaign against the ANC, financed to the tune of up to $1.5 million a year by the apartheid regime; funding that was maintained until 1992. When the underhand activities of the Foundation were finally wound down in 1993 their activists went on to join other right-wing causes, with Marc Gordon moving smoothly on to serve as the field organiser for Sir James’ Referendum Party.[17]

As luck would have it, Sir James’ stellar contacts in the conservative media world provided exactly the type of propaganda that the Inkatha Freedom Party needed in the West. One of Sir James’ well-placed acquaintances being former Now! contributor, Frank Johnson, who acted as the editor of The Spectator between 1995 and 1999. Sir James and Aspinall’s good friend, Taki Theodoracopulos, then used his longstanding column in The Spectator to good effect, and along with Carla Powell (the wife of Mrs Thatcher’s former private secretary) the deadly duo “led the campaign in the British right-wing press to canonise Buthulezi”.[18] Here it is significant that Carla’s husband, Lord Powell, until recently worked under the supervision of Rothschild banker, Sir Henry Keswick, a powerful individual whom some years earlier had actually been the proprietor of The Spectator (1975-81). Natural history and elitist conservation measures having long provided useful sources of entertainment for the ruling class, with Sir Henry himself being a former president of the Royal Highland Agriculture Society, and current trustee of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In addition, the CEO of Caterpillar (the world’s largest maker of earthmoving machinery) also resides on the board of the ‘big green’ wannabe, the World Resources Institute, which is significant because the aforementioned Lord Powell is one of Caterpillar’s current board members. Here one would do well to recognize that green connections among the earth excavation business are not exceptional, and billionaire industrialist and head of the JCB Group, Sir Anthony Bamford, is a patron of the eco-mystically inclined Resurgence magazine. In addition, Bamford is the proud owner of an organic farm, whose shop is patronized by David Cameron; and Bamford even counts organic anti-modernist, Prince Charles, among his green circle of friends. Prince Charles was of course also close to the Goldsmiths, and Sir James’ wife, Annabel, became a trusted confidante of the Princess of Wales in the early 1980s.[19]

Right-Wing Nationalism and Zulu Heritage

Organizing dinner parties and public relations for Buthelezi is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Aspinall and Sir James’ support for the Zulu cause is concerned — some funding from this dubious duo having been directed through the KwaZulu Conservation Trust (later the Wildlands Trust) and some to scholarship funds. According to one former Inkatha Freedom Party politician, “Aspinall and Goldsmith donated around R4,000,000 to the party before the 1994 elections. It was in these tense years that Aspinall publicly recommended the sabotage of Duban’s power lines and, at an IFP rally in Ulundi, urged Zulu nationalists to ‘sharpen their spears and fall on the Xhosas’”.[20]

Aspinall was a personal friend of both Buthelezi and the famous South African conservationist, Ian Player, and it is through his connection to the latter that he serves as a patron of the Magqubu Ntombela Foundation. Aspinall likewise penned the foreword to Player’s Zululand Wilderness: Shadow and Soul (David Philip, 1997), a passionate memoir documenting Ntombela’s defining influence on his life as his friend and spiritual guide.

It was Ntombela’s vision and Player’s global maneuvering that led to the first World Wilderness Congress in 1977. This was a crucial node for a network sharing Aspinall’s concerns, such as Laurens van der Post, who met Buthelezi and provided the chief with the ear of British politicians (most significantly Margaret Thatcher) and royalty (in the form of Prince Charles). Aspinall, introduced to van der Post by Player, was seen as a crucial contact for raising the capital to give effect to van der Post and Buthelezi’s dream of a Zulu renaissance. [21]

Such concerns for the wilderness are not merely green in value, and environmental protection is closely entwined with the capitalist politics of nationalism. For example, one might note that one of the “prime lobbying and facilitating organizations” for the creation of Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) “is the South African Peace Park Foundation (PPF), presided by Anton Rupert who started his career as a nationalist thinker in the Afrikaner Broederbond, which sought to empower Afrikaners in the business world.” In this way, a strong argument can be made that “through the TFCAs the PPF manages to foster cohesion between the old — mainly white — and new political and business elites in post-apartheid South Africa.” Bonding is thus achieved by manufacturing “a de-politicized, aesthetic Edenic landscape” built on primitivist discourses of Africa and Africans which have room aplenty for ‘noble savages.’ “The good native is given a place to stay in wildlife areas. The bad native is ‘naturally’ evicted.” Yet as many elitist conservation organisations have shown, despite the fact that they can be sometimes critical of so-called ‘enforced primitivism’; these problems may not always derive from conscious policy, but reoccur time and time again “through latent, but deeply held values”.[22]

Ian Player

So let’s now return to Ian Player, who by 1964 was the chief conservator of Zululand, and whose “name is closely associated with Operation Rhino at Umfolozi in the 1960s where he was officer-in-charge”. On top of helping save the white rhinoceros from extinction, Player fulfilled a crucial role in creating the first officially designated wilderness areas in South Africa as part of already existing Zululand game reserves. However, prior to enacting the requisite environmental legislation in the 1960s, Player founded the non-government Wilderness Leadership School in 1957 — with funding provided courtesy of his golf-star brother, Gary Player. Building upon these successes, in 1974 Player retired from his position as chief conservator of Natal and KwaZulu, and traveled to the United States as a guest of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to film To Catch a Rhino. But owing to his wilderness vocation, in the same year he formed the International Wilderness Leadership Foundation (WILD). Subsequently in 1976 he took over the reins of his Wilderness Leadership School and set about organising the first World Wilderness Congress in Johannesburg, in 1977. Two people who collaborated with Player in establishing the Congress were Ntombela and Laurens van der Post, who sharing his new-found obsession with Jungian metaphysics, worked with him to set up both the Wilderness Foundation and the Cape of Good Hope Center for Jungian studies. Unfortunately, given his company it is unsurprising that their strategy of wilderness preservation is “backward looking and conservative”.[23]

Player has begun to see environmental problems as wrapped up with problems of power but has difficulty articulating more than a mystical atavistic whim for a better planet. His journey into the wilderness within took him into New Age ideas which he embraces. He rejects unmitigated western Enlightenment science and identifies with post-modem social thought which features amongst the current reading in his personal library. In the end, however, Player owes to Jung and van der Post an essentialist view of culture. (p.814)

With such problematic ideological baggage, it is fitting that Player, like his friends, moved to embrace Zulu ethnic nationalism. One “close friend and associate,” Nick Steele (1933-1997), who perhaps more than anyone else helped move Player in this reactionary direction, and had also served as a cofounder of the Magqubu Ntombela Foundation. Steele had worked closely with Player since the 1950s at the National Parks Board, and in the year of his death had just been appointed as Chief Director of Environmental Affairs and Nature Conservation for KwaZulu-Natal. As Steele would go on to demonstrate in his controversial conservation work, he was an “unbending ‘securocrat’ from military tradition”. [24]

Green Traditionalism: The Answer?

As a pioneer of the new frontiers of capitalist conservation, Nick Steele’s “own idea and practical definition of wilderness was far less mystical than [Ian] Player’s”. The same of course largely applied to Sir James environmental approach which came into its own when he retired from his days as a corporate raider to join his brother as the new born-again saviour of the planet. Sir James however found gaining “entry into the environmental world far from easy.” For example, he thought a good campaign idea would be for various environmental groups to threaten to sue individual corporations and their directors for not taking action fast enough to reduce CFC emissions. “Teddy got the environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, to form a rough alliance, and Goldsmith outlined his proposal for major legal actions around the world.” Some environmentalists were evidently suspicious of Sir James’ green credentials, which is unsurprising considering the fact that he was still a “major shareholder” in Newmont Mining. Thus despite his best efforts at white-washing his immensely destructive investment portfolio, the green groups in question refused — in this instance anyway — to allow Sir James to take an active role in their campaign. So in response Sir James withheld his promised investment of £250,000. Considering his growing influence in environmental circles this was no skin off the nose for Sir James, as at Teddy’s urging in 1990 Sir James had set up the Goldsmith Charitable Foundation, which provides tens of millions of pounds a year to environmental enterprises all over the world.[25]

In 1987 Teddy had retired as the editor of The Ecologist, and considering Sir James’ full-blown love affair with the reactionary traditions of the Zulu’s it might seem that their ideological obsessions about the failure of the modern world were drawing ever closer together. Teddy now took the time to document his personal desire to re-establish the values of small-scale pre-industrial traditional societies (via something called bioregionalism) in his book The Great U-Turn: Deindustrialising Society (Green Books, 1988): the content of which “go[es] beyond rational expression, being articulated in nature mysticism, creative art, folk legend and paganism”.  A commitment to such traditionalist ideas helps explain why around this time Sir James provided £80,000 to help finance a film, later shown on BBC, “about a tribe of Colombian Indians called the Kogi which had survived untouched and unscathed by the outside world, high in the mountains”.[26] The Kogi base their lifestyles on their belief in “The Great Mother,” their creator figure, whom they believe is the force behind nature, providing guidance.

A dedication to popularizing ancient traditions and primitive spiritual practices is for the ‘Goldsmith brothers grim’ (and for their friend Aspinall), therefore seen as the ideal way to reverse the secularizing and democratic trends of the Enlightenment. Speaking to these concerns, in 1989 Teddy argued (within the pages of the Financial Times) that as a traditionalist he sought to oppose “the holocaust of modernisation”. The reactionary and conservative nature of such a belief system is clear,[27] and in a later interview Teddy traced the intellectual origins of his traditionalism to his interest in the perennial philosophy, saying:

It this interest has basically been cultivated, and promoted, by a group of people, perhaps the most famous was Molander Gumalaswami, but there are others — Europeans, like René Guenon, and, Lord Northborne in this country — all sorts of people. And they are really interested in the wisdom which underlies all your traditional societies, and there is such a wisdom. They call it The Perennial Philosophy, and of course, it is based largely on tradition.[28]

The Traditionalist scholars mentioned here are critical to the Goldsmith story, as the right-wing Soil Association activist Lord Northbourne (1896-1982) had translated Rene Guenon’s The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. Lord Northbourne who was one of the cofounders of the Soil Association was “a frequent contributor” to the British periodical Studies in Comparative Religion, which was a major source of Traditionalist scholarship and has been described by E.F. Schumacher “as one of the two most important journals to read”. Indeed, it was Traditionalism that actually served as “one of the main sources of Schumacher’s anti-modernism”; a philosophical trend which combined neatly with the leading role he assumed within the anthrosopically-inspired Soil Association, which happened to provide the initial staff for The Ecologist.[29]

One infamous writer situated with Traditionalism whose influence is relevant here is the prolific fascist writer and activist Julius Evola, whose vile work has been revived in the work of French Nouvelle Droite (New Right) ideologues like Alain de Benoist.  De Benoist is best-known for founding an ethnonationalist and neopagan think-tank known as the Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne (“Research and Study Group for European Civilization” or GRECE). Formed in 1968, an early member of GRECE was Louis Pauwels, coauthor of the 1960 irrationalist, Romantic treatise, Les matin des magiciens, which was published in the United States as Morning of the Magicians in 1964, and has the dubious distinction of helping launch a revival of interest in the occult and Traditionalist ideas more generally. In recent years, the extreme-right-wing GRECE has sought out and made connections to green Traditionalists like Teddy Goldsmith, who in 1994 accepted their invitation to address its 25th Anniversary Meeting. Here one person who has been particularly forthright in his criticism of Teddy’s propensity to embrace such authoritarian forms of cultural essentialism has been Nicholas Hildyard, who had worked at The Ecologist from 1972-1997, and had assumed the journal’s editorship (with others) from 1990-97. Having spent much of the 1990s advising Sir James on environmental affairs, he recalls that “political differences” with Teddy “over ethnicity and gender issues” eventually led him and the rest of the editorial team to quit The Ecologist.[30]


Considering these fascist connections, it is intriguing to observe that when Sir James purchased the left-wing L’Express in 1977, which he identified as “the source of intellectual sickness of France”, he recalled that: “When I appointed Raymond Aron — he came from Figaro — I had a strike because I was imposing a fascist!” A strike, and accusation, that arose for good reasons because the prestigious French daily Le Figaro was at the time playing a key role in dispensing the ideas of the Nouvelle Droite, counting Louis Pauwels as one of their editors. Later Aron was remembers as being one of only a few scholars “willing to engage in dialogue” with the Nouvelle Droite.[31]

Unfortunately Teddy’s embrace of the French New Right as suitable allies in his bid to save the planet was not a passing fad, and was very much in keeping with his own, and his brothers, explicit conservatism and elitism. In subsequent years Teddy kept in contact with de Benoist and his GRECE comrades, and when challenged about the reactionary nature of their work he pleads that GRECE “have changed very much these last dozen years”. This is not the case, GRECE and their politics of green Traditionalism mesh perfectly with Teddy’s political orientation. Either way, in late 1997 Teddy was the main guest on the third TeKoS colloquium in Antwerp, Belgium: TeKoS being a sister organisation of GRECE. The following year Teddy then gave a lecture in Paris at the first colloquium of the New-Right ecology organisation Le recours aux forêts, which was headed by Laurent Ozon, the head of GRECE’s ecology branch. Other lecturers in attendance included Alain de Benoist and members of the French extreme-right party Mouvement Pour la France, which had been founded in 1994 by none other than Sir James Goldsmith. Working in collaboration with Ozon, Teddy then agreed to stand in the June 1999 elections for the right-wing ecological party Mouvement ecologiste independante (MEI). Teddy even convinced Ozon to allow his friend Antoine Waechter to head the party — Waechter having founded the French Green Party in 1973. But before Teddy’s electoral bid ever got off the ground he dropped the project when the French media decided to cause a ruckus about Waechter’s obviously extreme right-wing ideas.[32]

In addition to harboring right-wing views, Teddy’s interest in hidden (occult) knowledge is shared by many of his green-fingered bourgeois friends.[33] The third ever World Wilderness Congress was thus held at the anthrosophically-inspired Findhorn Community, in Scotland, in October 1983. In the same year the Foundation for GAIA was created in the UK “to do something for Gaia, the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth representing the living beings of this planet as embodied in all its life-forms and ecosystems.” Current trustees of the Foundation for GAIA include green capitalist entrepreneur Jonathan Porritt, and Italian conservationist Franco Zunino, who is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Wilderness which is published by the WILD Foundation (US) — the WILD Foundation being headed by the former coordinator of environmental programs at Findhorn, Vance Martin. While another former Findhorn leader, Vita de Waal, is a trustee of the Foundation for GAIA, and is the vice president of the Institute for Planetary Synthesis, a group which dedicates itself to promotion of various variants of theosophy. When Teddy passed away in 2009, the Foundation for GAIA honored his longstanding service to their spiritual cause by thanking him for serving on their board for “over 20 years.” Occult connections are also derived through Foundation for GAIA trustee, Eileen Noakes, who in 1973 was a founding member of the misnamed Scientific and Medical Network, another theosophical project which counted Teddy as a former member.

Until his death Teddy bolstered such mystical ties through his service on the advisory board of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), which describes itself as “a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.” Here he worked alongside the likes of eco-mystic guru Frijof Capra and famed eco-feminist Vandana Shiva, with ISEC itself having been founded in 1975 by Helena Norberg-Hodge. Norberg-Hodge is the author of many books including the primitivist hit, Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh (Sierra Club Books, 1991). Moreover the two current Associate Directors of ISEC are Tracy Worcester and Zac Goldsmith. Tracy, the Marchioness of Worcester, is a former patron of the Soil Association, former trustee of Friends of the Earth, and counts the thoroughly anti-modernist, Prince Charles — as her eco-hero (he also attended her wedding). [34] In her spare time Tracy promotes anthroposophy, has served on the advisory board of The Ecologist, and was a member of Sir James’ Referendum Party. Zac Goldsmith on the other hand is the son of Sir James, and after recently acting as the editor of The Ecologist he is now the Conservative MP for the constituency of Richmond Park and North Kingston.

Another well-known group that counted Teddy as an emeritus director is the International Forum on Globalization, an organization that was formed in 1994, and whose work has been heavily supported by Douglas Tompkins’ controversial eco-philanthropy. Tompkins is better known as the founder of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, although he is also a patron of Satish Kumar’s Resurgence magazine, which recently merged with The Ecologist. Former Foundation for Deep Ecology staffer, Victor Menotti, presently serves as the International Forum on Globalization’s executive director. However, the key person involved in establishing the International Forum on Globalization was Jerry Mander, a former president of a major San Francisco advertising company, and ‘Grateful Dead’ promoter, who decided to turn his talents at manipulating symbols and images to protecting the environment in the late 1960s (initially working with David Brower while he was based at the Sierra Club). In addition to Mander’s work at the International Forum on Globalization, he also found the time to briefly serve as a program director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Following Teddy’s example, the International Forum on Globalization has played a key role in bringing progressives into dangerous coalitions with the right-wing forces.[35]

Perhaps Mander’s most influential book, vis-à-vis the alter-globalization movement was his co-authorship with Teddy Goldsmith of the edited volume, The Case Against the Global Economy and For a Turn Toward the Local (Sierra Club Books, 1996) — some of the many contributors to this book included Maude Barlow, Richard Barnet, Wendell Berry, John Cavanagh, William Grieder, David Korten, Ralph Nader, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Jeremy Rifkin, Kirkpatrick Sale, and Vandana Shiva. Mander however has written numerous other books, some providing a romantic celebration of indigenous culture, and others providing naïve criticisms of industrial society. Thus much like Teddy and Vandana Shiva’s anti-modern turn, despite his good intentions –when he published his book In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (Sierra Club Books, 1991)Mander has ended up reinforcing the very hegemony he purports to oppose.[36]

Finally, much like Teddy who is a Bija guru at Vandana Shiva’s Bija Vidyapeeth (Center for Learning) in India, Shiva’s politics are far from anti-capitalist and more closely approximate those of a nationalist. So it is appropriate that Shiva has worked closely with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a Hindu paramilitary group formed in 1925) and other assorted Hindu nationalist groups in India. She has thus not only lent them her international prestige, but has also furnished the popular farmers’ movements with “the much-needed agrarian myth” that is so compatible with conservative ruralism. As Meera Nanda concludes: “The connecting thread [between the right and left] is the defence of the traditional way of life.”[37]

Reviving Nationalism?

With all this history born in mind, Sir James’ support of environmental causes is highly worrying given his consistent support of the radical Right; all the more so given his brothers anarcho-primitivism and his dalliances with the far-right; it is a deadly cocktail indeed. The danger presented by this ominous combination is illustrated by the way that Sir James was able to recruit his various green acquaintances into standing in the 1997 General Election for his Referendum Party — which was truly his own pet nationalist project, that he launched with no formal democratic structures or members, only “supporters”. Prominent examples of Sir James’ green electoral candidates include Tracy Worcester, David Bellamy, and Peter Etherden (a former contributing editor to the Fourth World Review, which is edited by Teddy’s friend John Papworth). Not to mention his buddy, John Aspinall, who in an interview conducted during the 1990s was “quoted as saying he would be happy to see large numbers of human exterminated, and that the death of 200 million in the event of nuclear war would not be enough.” He added: “Statistically, in terms of real population reduction, it would mean nothing more than a slight temporary dip in the world’s population. It wouldn’t solve the problem”.[38]

Another conservative green who represented the Referendum Party in the 1996 British elections was Robin Page, who was also a member of the Party’s council, and had been the founder of the Countryside Restoration Trust — a body whose founding patron was Prince Charles’ New Age mentor, Laurens van der Post. Fellow Referendum Party candidate David Bellamy is counted as one of the Countryside Restoration Trust’s current patrons, while Zac Goldsmith resides on their board of trustees.[39] Upon Sir James Goldsmith’s death in 1997, Robin Page had no qualms in joining the racist UK Independence Party, which to boot is staunchly skeptical of climate change; this is not surprising considering Sir James’ background and that of the individual he chose to act as the field organiser for the Referendum Party, Marc Gordon (the former director of the International Freedom Foundation, see earlier). Or to take another example one might look to Referendum Party electoral candidate John Gouriet, a man who during the 1970s worked with Robert Moss — as the administrative director of the National Association for Freedom. This later group is now known as the Freedom Association, a leading council member of which is the former leader of the UK Independence Party, Lord Pearson of Rannoch.

The roots of the UK Independence Party’s and the Referendum Party’s manifestation of eurosceptic post-imperial populism “are most usefully traced back to Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 Bruges speech,” which led to the formation of the Bruges Group under the leadership of University of Oxford undergraduate student Patrick Robertson. With financial backing provided courtesy of Sir James, prominent members of the Bruges Group included Alan Sked (who went on to found the UK Independence Party in September 1993) and their founding chairman, Lord Harris of High Cross (who was the former head of the Institute of Economic Affairs, 1957-1987; and board member of Rupert Murdoch’s Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd from 1988 until 2001). Robertson would go on to act as the head of the Referendum Party’s public relations operations (working with former Downing Street press officer Ian Beaumont), and is credited with being the individual who “flogged the idea of a full-blown referendum party” to Sir James in the early 1990s; an idea allegedly first conceived in the home of Christopher Monckton in 1989. This idea was spread wide and far with Sir James’ financial backing, but that was not all, as prior to getting the Referendum Party off the ground, Sir James had stumped up $3.5 million to create the French extreme-right party Mouvement Pour la France (MPF) headed by the aristocrat Philippe de Villiers.[40]

An Ecosocialist Response

From John Aspinall’s Zulu dreams, gambling fortunes and virulent anti-humanism, to the conspiratorially minded far-right pipe dreams of a corporate raider like Sir James Goldsmith, over the past several decades, advocates of green politics have had some distasteful and highly dangerous allies. And while Teddy Goldsmith is often held up as a grandfather of the modern environmental movement, his contributions to the ideological evolution of the green thinking are as reactionary as those of both Aspinall and Sir James; perhaps even more so give the insidious way that his eloquently articulated primitivist and traditionalist anti-modernist nonsense has rooted itself in so many of his readers minds.

That the work of three such prime examples of the ruling class should have been able to encourage the institutionalization of quite so much inegalitarianism within an ostensibly liberal environmental movement clearly demonstrates the pressing need for a Marxist alternative to managing our world for the benefit of all. The task that now lies at hand is difficult and involves building a mass movement of the working class to rid our world of a small subgroup of ruling class predators who, on the one hand, consume the planet to enrich themselves, and then offer us irrational anti-human solutions to enable them to continue to sustainably rape the planet. One step towards building such a democratic movement will involve disentangling self-serving bourgeois environmental theories from those that will strengthen eco-socialist concerns for the future. In this way, we can learn from previous mistakes, and continue to build movements capable of generating the type of popular momentum for social change that will eventually be capable of eradicating, and not just domesticating, capitalism.


[1] Gray Brechin, “Conserving the race: Natural aristocracies, eugenics, and the U.S. Conservation movement,” Antipode, 28 (3), 1996.

[2] Masters, The Passion of John Aspinall, p.29, p.30.

[3] Brian Masters, The Passion of John Aspinall (Coronet, 1989), p.84, p.131.

[4] Dorothy Roberts, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics and Big Business Re-create Race in the 21st Century (New Press, 2012).

[5] Michael Barker, “The liberal foundations of environmentalism: Revisiting the Rockefeller-Ford connection,” Capitalism Nature Socialism, 19 (2), 2008, pp.15-42; Masters, The Passion of John Aspinall, p.139, p.140; Raymond Bonner, At the Hand of Man: Peril and Hope for Africa’s Wildlife (Vintage, 1993).

[6] Masters, The Passion of John Aspinall, p.169, p.245.

[7] Ian Fallon, Billionaire: The Life and Times of Sir James Goldsmith (Arrow, 1992), p.83, p.470.

[8] Edwin Wilmsen, “To see ourselves as we need to see us: Ethnography’s primitive turn in the Cold War years,” Critical African Studies, 1, 2009, p.38.

[9] Sara Parkin, Green Parties: An International Guide (Heretic Books, 1989), p.217, p.218.

[10] Richard Fox, Gandhian Utopia: Experiments with Culture (Beacon Press, 1989); Simon Matthews, “Pissing in or pissing out? The ‘big tent’ of Green Alliance,” Lobster: Journal of Parapolitics, No.42, 2001/2; Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (Chatto & Windus, 1973).

[11] Geoffrey Wansell, Sir James Goldsmith: The Man and the Myth (Fontana, 1982), pp.206-7; Masters, The Passion of John Aspinall, p.341; Fallon, Billionaire, p.356, p.471; William Friedland, Amy Barton, and Robert Thomas, Manufacturing Green Gold: Capital, Labor and Technology in the Lettuce Industry (Cambridge University Press, 1981); Julie Guthman, “Fast food/organic food: Reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’,” Social & Cultural Geography, 4 (1), 2003, pp.45-58.

[12] Fallon, Billionaire, p.433; Ben Goldacre, Bad Science (Forth Estate, 2009), pp.181-97; Chris Hutchins and Dominic Midgley, Goldsmith: Money, Women and Power (Mainstream Publishing, 1998), p.215.

[13] Fallon, Billionaire, p.348, p.388; Ann Louise Bardach, “Moonstruck: The Reverend and his newspaper,” In: David Wallis (ed.), Killed: Journalism Too Hot to Print (Nation Books, 2004).

[14] William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

[15] Joel Brinkley, “Iran sales linked to wide program of covert policies,” New York Times, February 15, 1987.

[16] Mzala, Gatsha Buthelezi: Chief with a Double Agenda (Zed Books, 1988); Malcolm Draper and Gerhard Mare, “Going in: The garden of England’s gaming zookeeper and Zululand,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 29 (2), 2003, p.555.

[17] Philip Van Niekerk, “How apartheid conned the West,” The Observer, July 16, 1995; Dele Olojede and Tim Phelps, “Front for apartheid: Washington-based think tank said to be part of ruse to prolong power,” Newsday, July 16, 1995; Chris Blackhurst, “Goldsmith’s party ‘too old and too few to fight’,” Independent, September 16, 1996.

[18] George Monbiot, “Adventure playground,” Guardian, August 31, 2004.

[19] Hutchins and Midgley, Goldsmith, p.62.

[20] Draper and Mare, “Going in,” p.555.

[21] Draper and Mare, “Going in,” p.556.

[22] Malcolm Draper, Marja Spierenburg and Harry Wels, “African dreams of cohesion: Elite pacting and community development in Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Southern Africa,” Culture and Organization, 10 (4), 2004, p.342, p.347, p.350.

[23] Malcolm Draper, “Zen and the art of garden province maintenance: The soft intimacy of hard men in the wilderness of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, 1952-1997,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 24 (4), 1998, p.806, p.809, p.813.

[24] Draper, “Zen and the art of garden province maintenance,” p.816, p.819.

[25] Draper, “Zen and the art of garden province maintenance,” p.818; Sally Bedell Smith, “Billionaire with a cause,” Vanity Fair, May 1997.

[26] David Pepper, Eco-Socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice (Routledge, 1993), p.17; Fallon, Billionaire, p.471.

[27] Edward Goldsmith, “A society that lost its way,” Financial Times, July 1, 1989; Murray Bookchin, Re-enchanting Humanity: A Defense of the Human Spirit Against Anti-humanism, Misanthropy, Mysticism and Primitivism (Cassell, 1995); Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the 20th Century (Oxford University Press, 2009).

[28] Edward Goldsmith, “New lamps for old (transcript),” Schumacher Series, January 1, 1991.

[29] Phillip Conford, The Origins of the Organic Movement (Floris Books, 2001); Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, p.212; Phillip Conford, The Development of the Organic Network: Linking People and Themes, 1945-95 (Floris Book, 2011).

[30] Nicholas Hildyard, “Blood and culture: Ethnic conflict and the authoritarian right,” Corner House Briefing No.11, January 29, 1999.

[31] Fallon, Billionaire, p.312; Tamir Bar-On, Where Have All The Fascists Gone? (Ashgate, 2007), p.9, p.11.

[32] Eric Krebbers, “Millionaire Goldsmith supports the left and the extreme right,” De Fabel van de illegal, September 1999.

[33] Michael Barker, “Findhorn’s angels,” Swans Commentary, November 5, 2012.

[34] Rod Dreher, “Philosopher Prince: The revolutionary anti-modernism of Britain’s heir apparent,” American Conservative, March 12, 2012.

[35] Michael Barker, “Saving trees and capitalism too,” State of Nature, November 17, 2009; Doug Henwood, “Antiglobalization,” Left Business Observer, No.71, January 1999; Eric Krebbers and Merijn Schoenmaker, “Seattle ’99: Marriage party of the left and the right?”, De Fabel van de illegaal, November 1999.

[36] Regina Cochrane, “Rural poverty and impoverished theory: Cultural populism, ecofeminism, and global justice,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 34 (2), 2007, pp.167-206; Ward Churchill, From a Native Son: Selected essays in Indigenism, 1985-1995 (South End Press, 1996).

[37] Cochrane, “Rural poverty and impoverished theory,” p.188; Meera Nanda, Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodernism, Science, and Hindu Nationalism (Permanent Black, 2006), p.253, p.256.

[38] Neil Carter, Mark Evans, Keith Alderman and Simon Gorham, “Europe, Goldsmith and the Referendum Party,” Parliamentary Affairs, 51(3), 1998, p.473; Masters, The Passion of John Aspinall, p.324.

[39] The most recent addition to the board of trustees of the Countryside Restoration Trust  is the former campaign director of the Soil Association and former trustee of Population Matters (formerly Optimum Population Trust), Robin Maynard. Maynard is a vocal supporter of Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic farming. Robin Maynard,“Muck and magic,” The Ecologist, September 1, 2004.

[40] Simon Usherwood, “The UK Independence Party: The dilemmas of a single-issue party. Political Studies Association 57th Annual Conference, 11 to 13 April 2007, p.2; Paul Vallely, “A big little Englander,” Independent, April 26, 1996; Eric Krebbers, “Millionaire Goldsmith supports the left and the extreme right,” De Fabel van de illegal, September 1999.

The Magical Passage to Planetization

This article was first published by State of Nature on August 5, 2013.


Although New Age mumbo-jumbo maintains a special appeal for those seeking spiritual solace, especially for those worn down by the grueling monotony of working-life under capitalism, such nonsense has always boasted its most ardent supporters within the relatively well-to-do. In fact one could almost imagine that there is a direct correlation between financial wealth and an unhealthy addiction to philosophical garbage. Much to the chagrin of Conservative Christians this mental defect seems especially pronounced within elite policy wonks concerned with “world peace” and global governance (i.e. among World Federalists at the United Nations). Here one particularly prominent group that formerly advocated New Age doctrines within the upper echelons of polite society is the little-known Planetary Citizens. Formed in 1974 by Donald Keys, this organization identified itself as a catalyst for global peace, ostensibly through democratic elite planning, albeit mixed with an unhealthy dose of magical thinking.

Donald Keys had already made quite a political name for himself when he formed Planetary Citizens in the early 1970s,[1] as not only had he just finished serving as the executive director of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and been a speech writer for Secretary-General U Thant, but between 1969 and 1982 he had acted as the World Association of World Federalists’ representative to the United Nations. SANE’s founding co-chair had been Norman Cousins (who at the time was the honorary president of the United World Federalists), and not coincidentally Cousins went on to join Keys as the honorary chairman of Planetary Citizens. Thus paradoxically, like something akin to the magical transformation that affected comic-book superhero Spiderman (who mysteriously obtained supernatural powers from a radioactive spider) Keys and Cousins came to believe that through their limited “exposure” to radioactivity – through their anti-nuclear activism – that they too could utilize magical powers to save the world.[2]

So you might well ask: “what type of magic did Keys and Cousins hope to bring into the service of world peace?” Well as it turns out it was mostly delusions of a spiritual nature. And although there was no web-shooting or climbing walls, gigantic leaps of faith were in aplenty – supernatural leaps of faith that took Keys and his cohorts back into the not-so-ancient make-believe realms of Theosophy. For instance, one especially significant early board member of Planetary Citizens was the spiritual visionary and all round New Age guru, David Spangler, who had recently served as the co-director of the Scottish-based Findhorn Foundation, and had just formed the Lorian Association for Incarnational Spirituality (in the United States).

Of the fourteen board members of Planetary Citizens (as of October 1975) at least three of them were practitioners of Robert Assagioli’s Jungian-inspired Psychosynthesis: an unique form of mystical therapy that provides a direct link between Theosophy and the human potential movement. A connection arises because the creator of Psychosynthesis, Robert Assagioli, had been the Italian representative of Alice Bailey’s Arcane School, and had gone on to found the Meditation Group for the New Age, which has its headquarters at Meditation Mount in Ojai, California.[3]

Furthermore, another Planetary Citizens board member of note is George Christie, who in 1962, along with Keys and several others, helped cofound the International Center for Integrative Studies, an organization that “works to co-create a common consciousness as a seedbed for new visions of positive futures for humanity and the planet…” The past president and now board member of this Center, Laraine Mai, likewise served on the board of Planetary Citizens, and has since gone on to work for the New York Open Center (a “holistic consciousness” learning center), and currently serves on the board of the UN Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns in New York.

Despite what initial appearances may suggest, that Planetary Citizens was just a marginal home for deluded wackos, this is far from the case, and influential members of the global bourgeois lined up to endorse their goals. A few recognizable “early endorsers” who I have written about in previous articles include Maurice Strong, Aurelio Peccei, Peter Ustinov, Konrad Lorenz, Gunnar Myrdal, the Dalai Lama, and the former Ford Foundation president, Paul Hoffman. One should also observe that Planetary Citizens’ 53 person-strong advisory council was home to a veritable smörgåsbord of New Age hucksters and World Federalists. In the latter category we have secular types like Isaac Asimov (an early member of the American Movement for World Government), and Martin Ennals (the founder of Amnesty International); and in the nonsense category we have Peter Caddy (of Findhorn fame), spiritual guide Sri Chinmoy (who underwent his spiritual training at Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram in Pondicherry, now the home for the New Age Auroville Foundation), Edgar Mitchell (founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences), William Irwin Thompson (founder of the Lindisfarne Association), and Ervin Laszlo (founder of the Club of Budapest). In 1981 Donald Keys would continue his work with Ervin Laszlo by coauthoring an UN report titled ‘Disarmament, the Human Factor’, but it is to Keys’ subsequent book, Earth at Omega: Passage to Planetization, that we now turn our attention.

In many ways this book could be seen as Planetary Citizens’ manifesto for change, or as the books back page blurb puts it “a tool for transition.” Within Earth at Omega’s pages magical thinking is seamlessly merged with demands for global governance. For instance, we are introduced to the wonders of Kirilian photography as a metaphorical means of describing how a new world order will be organized:[4] a fitting choice of New Age claptrap in which to frame Keys’ ideas. In Keys’ mystic future:

Neither capitalism, communism, socialism, democratic socialism, nor other partial ideologies as we have experienced them can possibly be adequate to a new global-level organism. The new world has its own needs, its own new requirements, which can be met only out of responses to that which the new world intrinsically is. Imposing something from the past cannot, will not meet these needs. The planetary design must and will be the collective emergence of something utterly new. It will be discovered – not theorized. It will be implemented not rationalized, as an intuitive recognition of an emerging necessity. (p.12)

Luckily for his eager devotees, some of the worthwhile values that need to be “translated to the global level” have, according to Keys, already been identified in the Club of Rome’s 1976 report, RIO – Reshaping the International Order. Likewise, he adds that scholars based at the Institute for World Order have already recommended the need to promote the necessary “values for global community”, as laid out by the chair of Planetary Citizens advisory council, Saul Mendlovitz, in his book On the Creation of a Just World Order (Free Press, 1975). In addition, work towards allowing the development of an “organismic humanity” is similarly growing in strength owing to the “scholarly and prophetic” activities of those applying General Systems Theory to everything and anything; theories “pioneered” by Ervin Laszlo in his book A Strategy for the Future: A Systems Approach to World Order (George Braziller, 1974). As Keys puts it: “New mythic awarenesses such as these anchor themselves in human consciousness through experiences which bring them home in demonstrable ways.”[5]

Of course the United Nations will, in Keys’ mind, play a key role in bringing about the necessary transition to planetatization, and he highlights three “unsung heroes” who “are unconsciously representing the energies of human unification.” The first is Dag Hammarskjold… although the “intensity of his inner life became apparent only after the publication of his spiritual diary, Markings, following his death in a plane crash in the Congo.” The “cosmic north wind” that was Hammarskjold, left his own mark at the UN by redesigning the Meditation Room – transforming it into an austere place of universal worship. The next spiritual guru cited by Keys is U Thant, who “writes as did Dag Hammarskjold that he was greatly influenced by the writings of Albert Schweitzer and his ethic of ‘reverence for life,’ and by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.” (Chardin apparently “foresaw an organismic union of humankind based on the sharing of one consciousness.”) The final figure “who represents the subjective side of life in the UN” is Sri Chinmoy, who had “led twice-weekly meditations there for more than ten years…” An individual who “comes from the lineage of the saints and sages of the Hindu East, in the line of and in the tradition of Ramakrishna and Aurobindo.”[6]

Sri Chinmoy apparently holds a special place in Keys life as at the start of Earth at Omega he dedicates his book to his “mentors”: Max Heindel (who was the founder of the Rosicrucian Fellowship), Djwhal Khul (who was one of Madame Blavatsky’s invisible spiritual masters, and was the source of inspiration for much of Alice Bailey’s work with the Arcane School), Geshe Wangyal (a Buddhist guru closely associated with the Dalai Lama), Morya (another of Madame Blavatsky’s invisible friends), Erling (an individual who through her spiritual union with Archangel Mikael in later years formed the Angelic Temple of Illumined Faith and Protection), and last but not least, the celebrity-obsessed cult guru himself, Sri Chinmoy.[7]

Thankfully for Keys, cutting edge studies undertaken at SRI International (formerly the Stanford Research Institute) examining the specifics of human consciousness promoted by his New Age spiritual gurus (invisible or otherwise) will, according to him, soon allow such previously unquantifiable factors to be incorporated into Ervin Lazlo’s systems theories for global management. Here we are informed of Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff’s “stunning research” into “remote viewing” (formerly known as clairvoyance); of how astral projection has been revamped with a new scientifically validated title, “out-of-body experiences,” of which Robert Monroe is cited as being its “best-known practitioner”; while psychokinesis, “the capacity to move objects without touching them, retains it old name, and continues to fascinate.” “The existence of psi phenomena is not in question, only their mechanisms.” Keys continues: “These fledgling steps are regarded with some amusement, of course, by Asian practitioners of these arts, long versed in practicing the psi abilities mentioned above, and many more.”[8]

Keys is in joyous rapture about the rapid spread of intentional communities documented in Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy (J.P. Tarcher, 1980), and by the countercultures adoption of what Mark Satin referred to as “a transmaterial world view.” Keys writes: “Planetary Citizens has found a strong response to its interne program from graduates of spiritual intentional communities, such as the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. These internes seek training for involvement in societal change without sacrificing their more profound values and their inner growth orientation.” On a further triumphant note he suggests that the “political impact of the new consciousness” will “ultimately spell the end of the materialistic, inadequate and dead-end interpretations which characterize latter-day marxism and neo-marxism.” An irrational intuitive future is apparently in good hands, with ruling class members of Planetary Citizens working in collaboration with intentional spiritual communities like “The Farm,” whom Planetary Citizens came to the aid of by helping them distribute their surplus soybeans “directly to the needy of the world.” This international soybean-aid-program (PLENTY International) was apparently “so successful that it has won the backing of both the World Bank and the Canadian aid organization.” How nice. On a more “political” note, Keys draws attention to the transformative work of Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr., Governor of California, whose politics are “neither ‘right’ nor ‘left,’” and whose “administration is animated by a non-material, humane world view…”[9]

Here one might point out that former Apollo astronaut Russell Schweickart, who served as California Governor Jerry Brown’s assistant for science and technology, happened to reside on Planetary Citizens advisory council before going on to become a fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, and then a member of the New Age corporate offshoot project the Global Business Network (which had been set up in 1987). Notably, three of the five cofounders of the Global Business Network included New Age phenomena Stewart Brand (who has recently been rewarded for his longstanding spiritual commitment by the Joseph Campbell Foundation, who honored him with their Erdman-Campbell Award), and two former SRI International senior staffers, Peter Schwartz and Jay Ogilvy, who together with Findhorn-booster Paul Hawken wrote Seven Tomorrows: Toward a Voluntary History (Bantam, 1981). Presently a scholar at the Esalen Center, it is worth mentioning that in 1979 Ogilvy served alongside Donald Keys on the initial governing council of Mark Satin’s New World Alliance, which, much like Planetary Citizens, consisted of a mish-mash of theosophists, futurists, and a general assortment of do-gooders committed to “global peace” (whatever that means).[10]

Finally, I have no doubt that in order to smash capitalism, and to erect a new socialist world in its place, the working classes of the world will need to unite and work in global solidarity to oust the ruling class. But to undertake this monumental task there is no need for the working class to incorporate the metaphysics of bourgeoisie mystics into their organizing repertoires. Call me old-fashioned, but I have a hunch (although Keys might call it intuition) that rationality will win over in the end; and that at the end of the day, the oh-so-learned proponents of irrationalism – be it through their vehement belief on the magical dictates of the free-market, or in spirit voices from above – will succumb to the rational dictates of a united working class that demands a fair and equitable material world for all. Solidarity forever; irrational mumbo jumbo be vanquished!


[1] On the founding of Planetary Citizens, Donald Keys writes: “In 1970, an opportunity arose to create a new vehicle to activate these [humane and global] values. Norman Cousins and I had been conducting a roundtable of meetings among United Nations ambassadors, with Norman as host. These dinner evenings created an arena of ‘neutral turf’ where the diplomats could express themselves more freely and share some of their more human concerns, aspirations and hopes for the United Nations. On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, the ambassadors decided to hold at the UN a ‘Conference on Human Survival’ which would direct itself to questions and issues which they knew would be bypassed in the more routine congratulatory statements of governments in the General Assembly. The conference was arranged with the then Secretary-General, U Thant, as host, with Lester Pearson of Canada as chairman, and with financial help from the Kettering Foundation. The Quaker UN Program helped to organized the conference logistics. Robert Muller, then Director of the Office of the UN Secretary-General, and myself, provided background papers.
“More than twenty of the world’s most revered and thoughtful citizens attended this ‘Conference on Human Survival.’ During the proceedings, U Thant made a plea for a ‘second allegiance, to humanity as a whole, as represented in the world organization.’ U Thant rightly realized that all the efforts of governments and people for world peace and justice would come to naught unless there was a profound addition to our ‘pyramid of loyalties.’ That was it! This was the key. A new effort had to be made, along new lines, stressing a philosophical and attitudinal shift which alone could save Spaceship Earth from either a swift nuclear cataclysm or a slow ecological demise. Normal had penned the now famous ‘Human Manifesto.’ To this I tagged on a ‘Pledge of Planetary Citizenship.’ With U Thant and Normal Cousins as honorary chairmen, and with some funds left over from the Conference on Human Survival, we began Planetary Citizens.” Donald Keys, Earth at Omega: Passage to Planetization (Branden Books [in association with the Findhorn Foundation], 1982), pp.95-6.
For a critique of the peacekeeping credentials of Lester Pearson, see Yves Engler, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt (RED Publishing, 2012). For a study of Planetary Citizens’ history, see Paul Adler, ‘Planetary Citizens: US NGO’s and the Struggles Over Globalization, 1972-1989’, Ph.D. Thesis In Progress, Georgetown University (Thesis adviser: Michael Kazin).

[2] For an examination of the crossover between New Age ideas – particularly the evolutionary mysticism’s that have flowed through Esalen – and comic book superheroes, see Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

[3] Bruce Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (University of California Press, 1980), p.155. Notable examples of Psychosynthesis practitioners serving on Planetary Citizens board of directors included Betsie Carter-Haar, Mark Horowitz, and Fred Rosenzveig. Another person who was an early board member of Planetary Citizens was Martha Crampton, who during the 1970s was also the director of the Canadian Institute of Psychosynthesis. Crampton remains committed to New Age spirituality, and more recently has taught at the Omega Institute and the New York Open Center. At the latter Center she taught a course in Integrative Therapy, and one of her students was Ida Urso, who went on to serve as the director of World Goodwill (which was founded by Alice Bailey) and as the founder and president of the Aquarian Age Community. Another of Crampton’s students who has gone on to become extremely influential in both New Age and corporate management circles is Jack Canfield, the bestselling author and founder of the Californian-based Foundation for Self Esteem. Canfield counts Crampton as being one of the three biggest influences on his own work; the other two being, W. Clement Stone (who was the coauthor with Napoleon Hill of The Power of Positive Mental Attitude) and Gestalt therapist Robert Resnick. Canfield served on the advisory board of Renaissance Weekend (a very exclusive elite retreat founded by PR-guru Philip Lader), and on the welcoming committee of Barbara Marx Hubbard’s latest mystical consciousness-raising outfit, Birth2012.

[4] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.4.

[5] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.13, p.14, p.71.

[6] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.58, p.59, p.63, p.66, p.69, p.66, pp.66-7.

[7] For a critical review of Sri Chinmoy’s cultish ambitions, see Jayanti Tamm, Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult (Crown/Harmony, 2009). The former wife of Grammy-winning musician Carlos Santana writes of their collective experience of being amongst Sri Chinmoy’s most treasured disciples, noting that: “There was a gaping hole between what his books taught about enlightenment and the psychological and physical requirements of energy, money, loyalty, and selfless allegiance.” Deborah Santana, Space Between the Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart (Ballatine, 2005), pp.256-7. For a further recollection of a related cult set up by one of Sri Chinmoy’s former disciples, Frederick Lenz (“Rama”), see Mark Laxer’s Take Me for a Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult (Outer Rim Press, 1993).

[8] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.74. One collaborative project mentioned in the closing pages of Keys’ book that Planetary Citizens helped launch is ‘The Planetary Initiative for the World We Choose’. Keys writes: “The original inviters of the Planetary Initiative were the leaders of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, the Club of Rome, Global Education Associates, the United Nations Association of New South Wales, and of course, Planetary Citizens.” (p.103)
Although here is not the place to go into an analysis of this Initiative, it is fitting that Victor James Zammit (a former board member of the United Nations Association of New South Wales’ Human Rights Commission) now dedicates his life to proving the existence of magic, and is the author of A Lawyer Presents the Case For The Afterlife: Irrefutable Objective Evidence (Ganmell Pty, 2002). Zammit currently resides on the advisory board of the Association for Evaluation and Communication of Evidence for Survival, serving alongside leading members of the mumbo-jumbo community such as Rhine Center advisors (Vernon Neppe and Julie Beische), and Jane Katra, who has coauthored two books with aforementioned former SRI International “remote viewing” fanatic Russell Targ.
One should recall that at the very time that the Planetary Initiative was being supported by the United Nations Association of New South Wales, democracy as such barely existed in Australia. For example New South Wales’ neighbouring State, Queensland, was at the time being managed by the right-wing hippy-hating premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen (who held a firm dictatorial grip on Queensland from 1968 to 1987). For documentation of the rampant corruption that ran throughout the New South Wales political machinery during the 1970s, see Michael Barker, ‘The CIA, Drugs, and an Australian Killer Cop‘, Swans Commentary, October 5, 2009.

[9] Keys, Earth at Omega, p.84, p.88, p.89, p.91.

[10] Findhorn fellows and founders of the Center for Visionary Leadership, Gordon Davidson and his wife Corinne McLaughlin, served on the founding governing council of the New World Alliance: they are also the coauthors of Spiritual Politics: Changing the World from the Inside Out (Ballatine, 1994). Their book includes a foreword penned by the Dalai Lama, while Gordon and Corrinne dedicate the book to Djwhal Khul (who was one of Madame Blavatsky’s invisible spiritual masters, and was the source of inspiration for much of Alice Bailey’s work with the Arcane School) and Maitreya (who following the Buddhist tradition is considered to be the future Buddha, but following Theosophical clap trap is their future World Teacher).