This is the first of a sequence of articles based around the ‘key topics’ to this year’s Bilderberg conference discussed in relation to the prevailing political agenda and placed within the immediate historical context.
Smoke on the water
We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile, we didn’t have much time
— Deep Purple 1
Is it any exaggeration to say that western civilization is in the midst of an existential crisis? No longer tethered by the old sturdy belief in post-Enlightenment progress, at best we seem to be drifting aimlessly, and at worst, lost at sea and beginning to take on water.
Amongst the young especially, a common view has developed that we are living through a uniquely historical moment. The quickening sense that unless the current socioeconomic course can be abruptly diverted, not just the human species, but the biosphere as a whole, will be dashed to pieces as together we plunge into a vortex of our own making. Some prospect of an environmental catastrophe on a truly planetary scale is now top of many people’s concerns, and understandably therefore, a commensurately international environmental resistance movement has been actuated. A few are even asking whether we need a global dictatorship to solve the environmental problems of the twenty-first century. Of course, we should always careful what we wish for!
The gross flaws inherent in our prevailing neoliberal orthodoxy present us with a still more immediate and thus more daunting threat. Vast disparities of wealth and income have been rupturing our societies as the impact of perpetual “austerity” impoverishes millions and spreads untold misery. Inequalities that have lain partially dormant during the decade since the last crash are now beginning to feed an upcoming breed of far-right demagogues and more overt fascists. But the political centre cannot hold for a reason: by adopting right-wing economic policies, it too became virulently extreme. In fact, the measures that brought us to a crisis point remain wholly endorsed by today’s extreme “centrists” perhaps best exemplified by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Finally, a less spoken-of, if occasionally numbing dread, is felt somewhere in the back of all our minds, as Nato powers drag the world unsteadily into the era of a new Cold War and we once again glimpse the unfathomable absurdity of nuclear obliteration. Oddly, this time around, the unspeakable apparitions of apocalyptic doom seen glinting occasionally across Mike Pompeo’s sociopathic gaze, or else blurted spasmodically in the nocturnal delirium of Trump’s presidency-by-Twitter, seldom shock us because we have all but forgotten how to be more seriously afraid. Our conscious minds are so thoroughly distracted whether by the material consumerism of our nonstop Black Friday (in societies that know nothing about thanksgiving) or the more ethereal dopamine rewards of social media, whilst abandoned and denied, yet still lurking unconscious, is a kind of clammy white vertigo of impossible horrors.
On September 28th, Chris Hedges spoke on his RT show “On Contact” with fellow journalist Stephen Kinzer about efforts by Riyadh and Washington to cripple Iran’s economy, inevitably putting Saudi Arabia, its Gulf allies and Washington on a collision course with the Islamic republic that could end in war:
When Bush and Blair were about to deliver their “shock and awe” bloodbath to capture the non-existent weapons of mass destruction operated by Saddam, in London alone two million gathered on the streets to shout truth to power. The antiwar message was loud and clear. How many will gather with placards if Trump and Johnson now decide to send our forces to bring down Iran? The marginalisation of the antiwar movement very much in the midst of the 21st Century’s war without end, with its frontline stretching through the Middle East, Central Asia and more insidiously spreading across Africa, is another disturbing trend.
For these and other reasons, the call for sweeping changes is on the rise in many quarters, and who can deny that western civilisation is in need of swift and sweeping transformation? The old capitalist system is dying, and the elites, the establishment, the globalists (alternative labels for the class of oligarchs who carelessly own and exploit more than half the planet and its “resources”) understand this better than anyone. After all, potentially at least, they stand to lose most in its demise. As the Guardian’s token Bilderberg correspondent Charlie Skelton observed sardonically reporting from this year’s conference in Montreux:
A crisis is looming for Bilderberg, and not merely because of the rise in anti-globalization movements and a creeping loss of faith in the EU project. It’s a crisis of leadership. With the Brexit, Frexit, Grexit and even Polexit dominoes threatening to fall, Bilderberg needs to gird its loins for the long haul if it wants the transatlantic alliance to thrive and its beloved EU to survive. But who’s going to be doing the girding?
The problem Bilderberg faces is a loss of quality, of intellectual backbone. With David Rockefeller tucked away since 2017 in his cryogenic pod, and Henry Kissinger knocking on hell’s door, you realize that Bilderberg is facing a generational crisis. You might not like or admire Henry Kissinger, you might want him strung up for war crimes, but you have to admit he’s a heavyweight statesman and historian. He’s a psychopath with vision. Where will Bilderberg find the serious ideologues to lead them into the 2020s? 2
Click here to read Skelton’s full article published by Newsweek.
“By means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms— elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest—will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial—but democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.” — Aldous Huxley 3
Born in Boston in 1910, Carroll Quigley read history at Harvard University, afterwards going on to teach history, first at Princeton, before returning to Harvard to lecture in Government, History and Politics. Later again, he moved to Georgetown University, where he became one of its most eminent professors. 4 But there were also other strings to Quigley’s prodigious bow.
Quigley had worked for the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration. He became a consultant for the Navy, advising on the development of weapons systems. He had even advised the Smithsonian Institution on the layout of their Museum of Science and Technology.
An exceptional polymath, Quigley was respected and influential. Bill Clinton famously singled him out for special mention during his acceptance speech to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, saying:
“As a teenager, I heard John Kennedy’s summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown, I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest Nation in history because our people had always believed in two things – that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so.” 5
In 1966, Quigley wrote a remarkable if little known book. Entitled Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in our Time, it recounts the central role played by Cecil Rhodes, English imperialist and founder of the De Beers diamond company (which had at the time a virtual monopoly in the diamond mining industry) and the societies and associations established by Rhodes – the so-called Round Table Groups – extending influence and bringing to fruition his and others’ ambitions for expanding the British Empire. 6
“The Round Table Groups”, Quigley explains, “were semi-secret discussion and lobbying groups whose original purpose was to federate the English-speaking world along lines laid down by Cecil Rhodes.” 7 To what political ends? Quigley is quite clear: irrespective of what the John Birch Society afterwards claimed, this was very far from a communist plot:
“…there is no evidence of which I am aware of any explicit plot or conspiracy to direct American policy in a direction favorable either to the Soviet Union or to international Communism.” 8 In fact, Quigley unequivocally dismisses all theories of a communist conspiracy as a “Radical Right fairytale”; before he goes on to make his more important and eye-opening assertion:
“There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the radical Right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies (notably to its belief that England was an Atlantic rather than a European Power and must be allied, or even federated, with the United States and must remain isolated from Europe), but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.” 9
The part of this network which Quigley says he had the greatest access to was the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Founded in 1921, as “a nonpartisan and independent membership organization”, Quigley tells us that it was actually set up as “a front for J.P. Morgan and Company in association with then very small American Round Table Group”, and that by 1928, “the Council on Foreign Relations was dominated by the associates of the Morgan bank.” 10 Indeed, Quigley later informs us that funds for all these Round Table activities came primarily from Cecil Rhodes himself, alongside J.P. Morgan, the Rockefeller and Whitney families and associates of bankers Lazard Brothers and Morgan, Grenfell and Company. Apparently their design was to be a grand one:
“The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland 11, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.” 12
A world controlled by international banking interests – who would have thought so? A world of “cooperative politicians” coerced to do their bidding by offers of “subsequent economic rewards in the business world” – oh, come on now… is there even a shred of evidence?
Bilderberg is a key part of an extensive network of loosely affiliated private groups, institutes, ‘think tanks’ and other organisations that include, in descending order of secrecy, the Trilateral Commission, the US Council on Foreign Relations, its UK cousin the Royal Institute of International Affairs (better known as Chatham House), and not forgetting the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Bilderberg is arguably the most prestigious and is certainly the most “private” of all these.
It is the place (so far as we know) where our own class of oligarchs, those we might usefully distinguish as Atlanticists (plutocrats in the Anglo-American sphere and those who serve them), meet annually to discuss business and to make arrangements with their political go-betweens. This is all done in strict adherence to Chatham House Rules which means we can never know for sure who said what to whom, and thus importantly, who was receiving instructions and who was giving them. We do however know that Bilderberg isn’t managed according to egalitarian principles, and no great leap of imagination is needed to recognise the entrenched internal hierarchy with its top-down steering committee to decide the agenda, topped again – we learn this year – by a managerial board: in effect this is Bilderberg Inc. Quelle surprise.
There are many reasons why Bilderberg operates in darkness, but the semi-official one is that the delegates hide out to avoid the prying gaze of public attention, i.e., they don’t want to have the likes of us looking over their shoulders when they are in the process of trying to run things. In fact this repeated assertion is hardly worthy of doubting. That ‘the great and the good’ of Bilderberg are the best and most worthy leaders is perfectly self-evident – how else did they rise to such prominence if not because of their exceptional calibre? It follows as a matter of course that they eschew, as they see it, the incompetent meddling of the public.
Its (reliably incomplete) list of participants also provides insight into Bilderberg’s political leanings and this year was interesting not just for inviting representatives from both sides of the mainstream political aisle (the usual practice in fact), but with the more surprising appearance of a representative for the Greens: the attendance of Dutch MP Kathalijne Buitenweg was indeed a novelty.
I have highlighted this bringing into the fold of a Green MP because it is revealing. Not only should it challenge a widely held opinion that the greens are inherently anti-establishment, but it also shines light on the peculiar nature of Bilderberg, which aims always to cover all available political bases, and thus perennially invites a mix of individuals feigning to be conservatives and progressives when Bilderberg is by its peculiar nature neither conservative nor progressive, but a phoney amalgam – so we need another word: I tentatively propose “congressive”.
I need to expand on this point a little. Bilderberg is not strictly conservative due to its efforts to keep ahead of the curve, proactively (a horrible word too, but an equally appropriate one) guiding and railroading future advancements under its broad remit to concentrate and centralise existing power. It is this forward-looking, and in some respects pioneering outlook – which is seldom if ever progressive in any recognisably leftist sense – that helps to preserve the status quo; a feature of Bilderberg that is readily apparent once we consider their annual agenda, and especially this year’s list of ‘key topics’. Here’s my own schematically enhanced version:
Notice first how many of the listed items completely transcend the everyday concerns of the industrialists, defence contractors, financiers and bankers, heads of intelligence, and military top brass who make up its main contingent.
Why are they even discussing “the ethics of artificial intelligence” or “the importance of space”? In fact, in both cases another cursory glance down the list of participants elucidates one of the likely reasons…
That’s Matthew Daniels, Technical Director for Machine Learning and AI Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering at US Department of Defense having a good old natter with Patrice Caine, Chairman and CEO of Thales Group, the French multinational that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for aerospace, defence and security.
And here’s Admiral (Ret) James Ellis, former Commander of US Strategic Command and current Director of Lockheed Martin leading the way for Jānis Sārts, the Director of NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence. Can you feel the breeze from those revolving doors?
And there is a second reason to welcome the Greens into the Bilderberg fold. It is arguably the most brilliant ruse of the ruling class: the ability to maintain the illusion of electoral free choice. A ploy I first understood during a spell I spent in retailing: that expanding product lines reliably boosts overall sales and turnover. The same is true when it comes to political choice: by giving the impression of a greater variety of political alternatives, public interest is maintained and electoral turnout is bolstered, all of which serves to maintain the semblance of democracy.
But it is a difficult process, of course, to manufacture political alternatives out of whole cloth. Successful newcomers such as Macron’s neoliberal relaunch under the Vichyesque banner of En Marche! tend to be the exceptions – incidentally, Macron attended Bilderberg in 2014 and became President of France in 2017 (one of many Bilderberg success stories!).
Other comparative newcomers include the quick-to-sell-out Syriza coalition in Greece; Spain’s more honourable leftist alternative Podemos; and its Machiavellian centre-right adversary Ciudadanos (Citizens), whose leader Inés Arrimadas joined President of mainstream conservatives Partido Popular, Pablo Casado, at this year’s Bilderberg conference.
Italy’s noxious, if more enigmatic, Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement); and Nigel Farage’s opportunistic Brexit Party are also notable exceptions to the rule. And of all these new political players, Ciudadanos and En Marche! are unusual in that they receive annual invitations to Bilderberg. 13
Contrast these few successes with the more typical death spiral perhaps best epitomised by already defunct wannabe centrists Change UK and it becomes clear how prefabricated parties only seldom succeed. Instead, the promotion of special interests is more reliably achieved through the capture of established political parties, as well as the infiltration of grassroots movements.
In Britain for instance, takeover of the Labour Party was negotiated by Peter Mandelson (a Bilderberg grandee), its rebranding achieved under Neil Kinnock’s leadership, and the hijacking thereafter concluded under Blair (another Bilderberg attendee). Corbyn’s attempt to undo this process is hampered at every step by the same Blairites who having seized control of the party machinery, remain ensconced at all levels beyond the rank and file of ordinary membership. Here is Labour peer, Lord Adonis, the consummate Blairite, speaking live on an LBC radio phone-in last September, encouraging the British public not to vote Labour:
And here is Lord Adonis enjoying his minibreak in Montreux:
Outstanding amongst this year’s crop of nominally leftist progressives is Stacey Abrams, a former member of the Council on Foreign Relations, who as then (at the time of Bilderberg) was being touted to run as a Democrat presidential candidate in 2020. 14 Mary Kay Henry, the International President of Service Employees International Union, was another other of this year’s cohort who must account for her glaring conflict of interests, about which she instead prefers to remain tight-lipped [from 15:15 mins]:
So where is this leading? Democracy is always a moveable term. On the one hand it has become more or less synonymous with mere electoral procedure, and on the other, it is held up as a shining western standard, especially so when it comes to imposing American-led versions of it throughout the world. American democracy – well, that’s one word in case you didn’t know!
Thus democracy as we authorise it, can also be gauged negatively. Any government acting against the interests of western – specifically US foreign policy – will be singled out and rebranded “a regime” irrespective of the transparency and rigour of its electoral procedures. These days the West alone is sanctioned to decide on who is and isn’t “a dictator”. Yet even when we judge in accordance with its own definition of the word, the United States provides military assistance to more than 70% of the world’s dictatorships – what better measure of double standards and flagrant hypocrisy?
In short, whether the determination of democracy is applied to foreign or domestic governments there is never recourse to the neat definition proffered in the Gettysburg Address: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Why? Because set against this measureable benchmark of popular sovereignty, there never has been true democracy, whether in America or elsewhere. No government has ever served the common interests of the people. As French democratic socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon reminded us in a recent interview:
“[T]he French Socialist Jean Jaurès once said, the only question posed in politics is that of the people’s sovereignty. All the rest depends of that, including the question of the distribution of wealth, for this is a matter of reasserting democracy.” 15
Indeed, if we are to take Lincoln’s words seriously and judge historically, there have only ever been better or worse regimes that asymptotically approach or recede from his laudable ideal of true democracy.
Bilderberg is a thoroughly anti-democratic entity, of course, whose operation seeks to gnaw away at structures and institutions that serve true democratic interests. It ought to go entirely without saying that Bilderberg doesn’t gather in tight secrecy to serve the public good, so why am I saying it again? Because the media owners, newspaper editors and other senior staff, whose crucial role ought to hold corporations, institutions and politicians to democratic account, have been instead lodged inside Bilderberg for decades and have chosen to function as its willing agents.
Perhaps the most lurid example of the cronyism at this year’s meeting was the surprise appearance (to some) of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner’s appointment to Trump’s cabinet is an instant measure of how undemocratic US politics has become:
Today the tide of democracy is receding again and as it recedes so too do our individual freedoms. Restrictions on free speech and free assembly were first tightened by the terrorism bills introduced after 9/11, but the chilling effect of total surveillance is more insidious, as is the clampdown on alternative voices by virtue of deplatforming, shadow bans, and algorithmic discrimination, all of which is carried out by the tech giants who dominate proceedings at Bilderberg.
James Corbett on how tech giants like Google envision the search engine of the future:
The steady militarisation of policing provides a further means for quelling popular resistance, as evidenced by the brutal suppression of the French Gilets Jaunes movement (read more here).
At another level, all democracies are highly vulnerable to infiltration within existing parties and through the hollowing out of extant political institutions; a process nearing its completion in America and ongoing throughout Western Europe. In all instances, of course, our political systems have managed to retain the outward appearance of democracies. In other ways too, they satisfy the democratic duck test: first and foremost, they still quack like democracies, and are belligerent in quacking that this is the only way to be a democracy. Meanwhile, the power to take decisions that is ostensibly placed in the hands of our elected representatives, shifts incrementally to the technocrats – the appointed experts. This is the preferred end game for the bigwigs at Bilderberg.
In the interim, and faced with a genuine crisis at least in terms of western confidence, Bilderberg, which exists and operates solely to promote the interests of established structures of privilege and power, is now hunkered down to such a degree that it has very nearly disappeared from sight again. For their part, the media, which is reliably obedient to the same insider interests, have purposefully let it disappear.
This year’s location was announced at the eleventh hour thanks to the charade of their annual “press release”: a nod to transparency since they already know the press has no interest whatsoever in reading and reporting on it. And top of this year’s ‘key topics’ (attached to the same press release) was how a system that serves their own plutocratic agenda can survive, or, put in the language of Bilderberg, how to maintain “a stable strategic order”. When it comes to confessing their priorities, could they be any more frank with us?
1 Opening lyrics to the famous track “Smoke on the water”. The inspiration for the song was a fire inside a casino that the band had witnessed across the water of Lake Geneva. Here ‘mobile’ actually refers to a type of recording studio although given today’s context seems to fittingly allude to more contemporary methods of audiovisual recording.
2 From an article entitled “Silicon Valley in Switzerland: Bilderberg 2019 and the High-Tech Future of Transatlantic Power” written by Charlie Skelton published in Newsweek on June 1, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/silicon-valley-switzerland-bilderberg-2019-and-high-tech-future-transatlantic-1441259
3 Quote taken from Brave New World Revisited (1958), Chapter 3, by Aldous Huxley.
4 Georgetown University awarded Quigley its Vicennial Medal in 1961 and also the 175th Anniversary Medal of Merit in 1964.
“In 1891, Rhodes organized a secret society with members in a “Circle of Initiates” and an outer circle known as the “Association of Helpers” later organized as the Round Table organization… In 1909-1913, they organized semi-secret groups know as Round Table Groups in the chief British dependencies and the United States. In 1919, they founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Similar Institutes of International Affairs were established in the chief British dominions and the United States where it is known as the Council on Foreign Relations. After 1925, the Institute of Pacific Relations was set up in twelve Pacific area countries.”
Extract taken from Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in our Time written by Carroll Quigley, The Macmillan Company, 1966, pp131-2.
7 ibid. p. 950
8 ibid. p. 946
9 ibid. p..950
10 ibid. p. 952
11 “The Bank for International Settlements was established in 1930. It is the world’s oldest international financial institution and remains the principal centre for international central bank cooperation.” taken from current BIS website.
12 ibid. p. 324
13 In 2018 (Turin) then-President of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera Díaz, (ESP) joined Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Sáenz de Santamaría, Soraya of Partido Popular. Rivera Díaz also attended in 2017 (Chantilly) this time alongside then-Minister of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, Luis de Guindos (Partido Popular), soon after appointed Vice President of the European Central Bank. In 2016 (Dresden), Bilderberg welcomed Luis Garicano, Professor of Economics, LSE and Senior Advisor to Ciudadanos.
Stacey Abrams announced on Tuesday that she would not run for Senate in 2020, denying Democrats their favored recruit for the race in Georgia. She did not say if she planned to run for president, which she has also been considering doing.
From an article entitled “Stacy Abrams Will Not Run for Senate in 2020, written by Alexander Burns, published in The New York Times on April 30, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/us/politics/stacey-abrams-2020.html
15 From an interview with Jean-Luc Mélenchon conducted by David Broder for The Tribune, published under the title: “Everyone should know – I am very dangerous”. [I am currently unable to find an upload of this piece]