The Open Society and its Enemies

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure. -Karl Popper

Por Armando Chaguaceda

HAVANA TIMES – All over this orb, there are campaigns against the Open Society organization founded by magnate and philanthropist George Soros. Despite the nearly identical narrative of these attacks, their origin couldn’t possibly be more ideologically diverse.

Nationalists on the extreme right and populists on the left. Islamist extremists and white supremacists. Homegrown Leninists and conservatives obsessed with “Cultural Marxism”. A true Jurassic Park of illiberal politics. The common denominator is the denunciation of a supposed global plot threatening nations and peoples all over the world.

We can evaluate the reality behind the accusations by examining the data that the organization itself has made transparent. The work of the Open Society in Latin America is focused Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, three countries whose governments have very different ideological orientations. The Open Society promotes violence reduction, government transparency and freedom of information, as well as women’s participation in politics.

These pursuits led their budget to increase from US $43 million dollars to US $55 million, in the ten years from 2010 to 2020. Today, it includes new funds to combat social consequences of COVID-19, support for young journalists and media, and for various types of activism, including feminist, community and environmental organizations.

In the United States, Open Society has supported a number of progressive projects and organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Arab-American Institute Foundation, which denounces Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. That’s something those anti-Semites hide when they attack Soros for being Jewish.  For those who understand his trajectory, ideas and the complex workings of his organization, it’s understandable.

Open Society also supports the NAACP’s Legal defense and Educational Fund; UnidosUS, formerly National Council of La Raza, which defends immigrants; and Planned Parenthood, among other groups.

Last year, in an exercise of self-criticism, Open Society condemned Trump’s violence, including the police repression of demonstrations and then the assault on the US Capital building. In the face of these events, the organization declared:

“Founded to promote human rights and justice all over the world, Open Society has never been blind to the problems in the United States itself, a society with brutal participation in racial injustice and economic exclusion.” It then approved US $220 million dollars for organizations led by African-Americans and committed to the struggle for racial equality and justice.

In reality, beyond its founder’s controversial acts or ideas, the attacks on Open Society have a deeper root. Its work of civic promotion maddens both reactionaries and anti-democratic radicals. Both groups are enemies of political pluralism and social diversity. They’re united in their fear of liberal and authentically progressive causes.

These forces believe that an autonomous and self-critical style and actions is intolerable for the leadership and movements of authoritarian regimes. The political theology of such regimes confuses Faith and Ideology. They consider “the right to have rights” an insubordination punishable by the established powers. Their vision is the opposite of the modern civilizing change, which Karl Popper calls the transition from a “closed” tribal society, with its submission to magical forces, to an “open society” which frees our critical powers.  

In addition, the anti-liberal onslaught often includes a selective and hypocritical forgetfulness. That’s the case of the many Victor Orban’s (the Hungarian PM) – small and large, conservative or progressive – who use the rights and resources of the open society to forge their own political trajectories. And later, when they’re in power, they denounce the same demands that led them there. In the name of a people who must be interpreted, made flesh and preserved.  At times, even, against themselves.

Related Resources

-Emili Tamken, The Influence of Soros: Politics, Power, and the Struggle for Open Society, Harper, 2020.

-Soros, In defense of open society, PublicAffairs Books, 2019


Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.