Is Novara Media a NATO asset?

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Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani advocates the UK stop demanding an exit from the nuclear armed military alliance

Intelligence terminology is slippery at the best of times, partially because many terms overlap to the point of being almost but not quite interchangeable. Scott Ritter, for instance, has suggested that the term “asset” is meaningless due to its subjectivity.

But useful definitions of what it means to be an “asset” are available. For instance, the term has been applied to journalists “who receive their manuscripts, or work orders, from intelligence agencies” by Wikispooks, the online Encyclopaedia of Deep Politics.

Could this term apply to Novara Media? Keep reading and decide for yourself.

Hybrid media

Novara Media is a major player – perhaps the major player – in the UK’s “New Left Media” landscape. Originating as a small podcast rooted in the anarchist politics of the “libertarian Communist” movement, Novara grew rapidly after piggybacking upon the “Corbyn Surge” following the left-wing MP’s election to the leadership of the Labour Party. During this time, Novara’s contributors were able to build their social media profiles significantly through appearances on current affairs programmes broadcast on so-called legacy mainstream media channels.

The blurb on the “About” section of Novara Media’s Website describes the outlet as follows:

“an independent media organisation addressing the issues that are set to define the 21st century, from a crisis of capitalism to racism and climate change. Within that context our goal is a simple one: to tell stories and provide analysis shaped by the political uncertainties of the age, elevating critical perspectives you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.”

Novara Media itself has 192 thousand followers on Twitter and 341 thousand subscribers on Youtube and its presenters also enjoy considerable social media followings grown around their mainstream media appearances; they are among a tiny minority of left-wing pundits to enjoy this privilege.  As Novara Media Co-founder Aaron Bastani himself recognised in an insightful 2015 piece about the BBC’s media monopoly, published on the US National Endowment for Democracy funded OpenDemocracy website:

“[…] that those with high levels of media capital on supposedly independent spaces, such as Twitter, often only come to do so at the behest of the BBC. One could point to someone like Owen Jones, who with his 280k followers enjoys a greater reach and influence than any think-tank on the centre-left. The position he has built over the last five years, however, was dependent on engaging with the mainstream media, the majority of which, at least in regard to TV and radio, would have inevitably been regular BBC appearances. In digital Britain, as with its analogue predecessor, if you aren’t on the BBC you are unable to truly participate in the national conversation.”

Novara Media journalists are therefore among the few “left wingers” to be part of the national conversation and able to shape public debate. However, as Bastani himself also recognises,

“rather than opening the field and challenging incumbents, then, the emergence of the new media environment is interacting with the BBC’s monopoly over the domestic news market and, in the process, entrenching existing privilege and power.”

Novara’s popularity and reach, is, following Bastani’s own logic, at the behest of and on the terms defined by mainstream media. One might argue that, if Novara’s perspectives weren’t compatible with mainstream media, their presenters wouldn’t be allowed such prominence.

So how independent is Novara Media really, and are the perspectives that it provides really that different to what we see in the Mainstream Media?

When examining its reporting of foreign policy matters in particular, a troubling pattern emerges. Regarding the Ukraine conflict, for instance, Novara’s interventions are not at all dissimilar from mainstream media or even statements made by UK Government Officials

Foreign policy conformity case study: Russia and Ukraine

On 12 April 2022 Novara Media published an article by Volodya Vagner, which supported the contested claim by Ukraine and the West that Russian forces had committed a massacre of civilians in the town of Bucha, and openly speculated over whether Putin’s Russia was now a “fascist” country.  Like an article from BBC News published a day earlier on the same subject, Novara’s piece draws upon satellite images and drone footage as evidence of Russian guilt to “debunk” Russian denials of their responsibility. Later, the Novara Media article’s framing of Putin’s Russia as potentially “fascist” was echoed by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who said, “Putin, his inner circle and generals are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the errors of last century’s totalitarian regimes.”

There is a cruel twist of irony to these assertions because, as is widely acknowledged outside mainstream media, the Ukrainian army has incorporated whole battalions of genuine Banderite Nazi units into its ranks. These groups, such as the Azov Battalion and Right Sector, trace their ideological pedigree directly back to Nazi collaborators who committed horrific genocidal massacres of Russians and Jews during World War Two.

For balance, it should also be noted that the Ukrainian account of the Bucha massacre has been contested by serious analysts, like former US Marine and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter. Moreover, Ritter firmly believes Ukraine was responsible. He argues:

“Shortly after Russian troops departed Bucha, Ukrainian security forces made their way into the town. Announcements were made on social media and public broadcasting warning the citizens of Bucha about “cleansing” operations targeting collaborators. In light of these announcements, many of the Ukrainians who had remained in Bucha became concerned about their fate, and began to flee toward Russian lines. They wore the white arm band, indicating that they were not a threat to the Russian troops. Many also brought with them Russian-provided rations to sustain them on their journey.

But it was too late.

Ukrainian security forces, in particular the “Safari” unit staffed by veterans of the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment, caught up with scores of these refugees while they made their way north and, in the vernacular of the Ukrainians, “cleansed” them, gunning them down on the spot, or binding their hands behind their backs before executing them in the alleyways and streets of Bucha.”

The evidence of this crime was overwhelming. But the “collective West,” led by a coterie of erstwhile journalists whose function had transformed from reporters of fact-based truth to stenographers of fictional propaganda, was engaged in a larger information operation, designed to shift public opinion away from the need to seek a negotiated settlement to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, toward the sustainment of a long-term war of attrition designed to weaken Russia in the long term.

The Ukraine war and the Luxemburg Foundation

It may not be a coincidence that Novara Media, whose coverage of the war in Ukraine is mostly slanted in favour of the Ukrainian government, is also funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which is itself linked to anarchist volunteers fighting alongside the Ukrainian military and has a history of collaborating with Ukraine Solidarity Campaign supporter, Novara Media author and alleged “MI6 Agent”, Paul Mason.  

Novara’s website explains that “Novara Media’s 2022 labour movement correspondent assignment receives support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (London Office).”

Ukrainian Anarchist military volunteer Sergey Movchan runs the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation funded Violence Marker, a website whose goal is to is to

“analyze the activity of xenophobic, anti-democratic, and violent organizations and initiatives from the right side of the spectrum who engage in hate crimes, assaults, and pressure against their political opponents, minorities, and vulnerable groups.”

However, this stated purpose has not discouraged Movchan – who is also involved Solidarity Collectives, which coordinates support for anarchist militias fighting alongside the Ukrainian army – from downplaying concerns over cooperation between anarchist militias and Banderite Nazis in the armed forces of Ukraine.

In an interview for Novara media published on 12 December 2022, Movchan states:

“One thing I always need to explain to comrades abroad is the relevance of the far right in the context of the war. Is it growing stronger because of the war? Probably, yes. But compared to 2014, when many saw these groups as the heroes of the war, they no longer have a monopoly on this title. Back then it was all about their units: Right Sector, Donbass, Aydar, Azov. Now, it’s all about the Armed Forces of Ukraine – its reputation is really high.

Once the war is over, there will be huge competition between fighters from different political backgrounds and groups in the fight for influence and for different versions of Ukraine. I think the next parliament will be full of people dressed in camouflage. That’s why it’s important to show that leftists are also defending Ukraine, fighting against the invasion, and making possible a common future for all of us. Without that, we have no chance. That’s why it’s important for us to create bridges which will be useful in the future. We don’t introduce ourselves saying, “Hello, we are anarchists and Marxists, we want to overcome the state one day, but today we are protecting it.” But equally, everyone can see our social media, where we explain our perspectives with other words. We aren’t hiding our ideas.”

In the interview, Movchan also explains that he is operating a supply network running from Ukraine to Germany and other areas of Europe:

“Solidarity Collectives is a network of groups not only in Ukraine, but also places like Dresden, Berlin and Warsaw. We have a big warehouse in Poland, where people gather packages from the rest of Europe and send them on to those of us here in Ukraine.”

In addition to Movchan, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation has also published several articles by and an interview with Ukrainian Anarchist Taras Bilous, in which he calls for more weapons for Ukraine. Bilous has links to the United States’ National Endowment for Democracy (NED) –  known by some as the “second CIA” or “traditional intermediary of the CIA”, due to its strong links to the intelligence organisation – through his publication of an open letter in the NED-funded Open Democracy, who then circulated it to other organisations associated with the Western left. Further to this, again according to the World Socialist Website, “in November 2019, Bilous also appeared at a public event held by the IZOLYATSIA Platform for Cultural Initiatives, an organization that was also funded by the NED” .  

Additionally, World Socialist Website has reported that Bilous made an “appearance on Hromadske Radio”, which, as reported by the World Socialist Website “is also funded by the.” Bilous’s OpenDemocracy letter, titled “A letter to the Western Left from Kyiv” criticised Western leftists for not being more critical or Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/a-letter-to-the-western-left-from-kyiv/.  

It is also worth emphasising here that numerous Novara authors, including Volodya Vagner and Bastani himself, have a history of publishing articles on the NED funded OpenDemocracy site. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/author/volodya-vagner/

Given Novara Media’s funder, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, also supports people and organisations advocating further weapons supplies to Ukraine, it is hardly surprising that Novara Media has itself published numerous pro Ukrainian articles.

What is the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation?

According to its website,

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is one of the six major political foundations in the Federal Republic of Germany, tasked primarily with conducting political education both at home and abroad. The foundation is closely linked to Die Linke, a democratic socialist party in the German parliament.

Since its founding in 1990, the foundation’s work has adhered to the legacy of its namesake, German socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, and stands for democratic socialism with an unwavering internationalist focus. The foundation is committed to a radical perspective emphasizing public awareness, education, and social critique. It stands in the tradition of the workers’ and women’s movements, as well as anti-fascism and anti-racism.”

When discussing the model according to which German political foundations operate, commentators in the UK often describe it as being like the allocation of “short money” to opposition parties here. The system is in fact very different. No political parties in the UK maintain foundations in receipt of money from the UK foreign Office specifically restricted for “foreign office projects”. But this is true of German political foundations and, to administer its grants, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation operates offices throughout Europe, including in London.

As the Foundation’s annual report explains:

“With the help of funds from the BMZ and the Foreign Office, the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung maintains a network of international relationships. This includes financing its foreign offices, projects with partner organizations, and events abroad.”

As stated, Novara Media is one of these partner organisations.

To get a deeper understanding of why this system works in this way and the significance of this for the question posed by this article, it is necessary to briefly consider the history of the role played by the post-World War Two German state in Europe during the cold war and arguably even today.

In his book, NATO’s Secret Armies, academic Daniele Ganser recounts the integration of West Germany (now modern Germany) into the post World War Two Western Union. In his history of Operation Gladio, Ganser explains how the CIA and MI6 set up secret  “stay behind” armies throughout Europe, which were supposedly formed to counter a possible Soviet invasion but ended up being used to undermine domestic socialist political organisations. Ganser documents how the German Foreign Intelligence Service, which had significant influence over national politics, was run directly by the CIA. It was the CIA, whose own role was originally to facilitate US presence in Europe through NATO, who appointed Nazi Military Intelligence Chief Rienhart Ghelen to lead it. This organisation was later renamed as the BND – the modern German foreign intelligence agency. According to Ganser,

“President Truman was impressed and named Gehlen, together with a large number of Gehlen’s Nazi network, chief of the first post-war German Secret Service, tellingly named Organisation Ghelen (ORG) […] Clandestinely, CIA and ORG signed cooperation contracts and senior officer James Critchfield was deployed to Germany. Called “Herr Marshall” by the Germans, Critchfield monitored Gehlen’s service and made sure that at all times the names of Gehlen’s top 150 officers were given to him. For each of them the CIA created a file. So that the German Secret Service was firmly in US hands.”

Moreover, and as reported by the World Socialist Website, Gehlen was effectively the “uncontrolled co-ruler of the German Republic”. The Gehlen organisation recruited genocidal Ukrainian nationalist and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera for the CIA and supported his Nazi movement in postwar Ukraine.

Towards the end of his book, Ganser concludes that  “as of now evidence indicates that the governments of the United States and Great Britain after the end of the Second World War feared not only Soviet invasion but also communist parties and also socialist parties […] it was in this sense that the Pentagon in Washington together with the CIA, MI6 and NATO in a secret war set up and operated the stay behind armies as an instrument to manipulate and control the democracies of Western Europe from within.”  

It can therefore be argued that the modern German state was founded at the very beginning as a function of NATO’s power in Europe, and a slave to the United States and Britain.

As a conduit for German Foreign Office financing, the Rosa Luxemburg foundation is an arm of the German state and works in its interests. These are, by the necessity of history, also the interests of NATO and the CIA – a Europe united under the NATO umbrella. This is not speculation; Gregor Gysi (the “Pied Piper of the Left”), the founder of Die Linke, the political party to which RLF is affiliated, confirmed to the US Ambassador to Germany that the party’s policy of leaving NATO was essentially insincere and actually designed to prevent more strident calls to have Germany quit the alliance.

Therefore, the German Foreign Office’s financial support for Movchan’s work via RLF, Movchan’s involvement in facilitating weapons supplies to Banderite Nazis, RLF’s funding of Novara Media and Novara Media’s positive coverage of NATO aligned anarchists fighting in Ukraine, including by platforming Movchan himself, should be read in the context of this disturbing history.

Novara and Rosa Luxembourg were approached for comment. Neither made any.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Christ, how depressing. A very valuable health warning about Novara Media that needs putting about. It echoes the links between individuals like James Schneider a co-founder of Momentum and his links to the Atlantic Council. The problem is that any serious opposition to the current plutocratic cartel that has captured the politics of the US, UK and EU is going to be infiltrated and undermined by state operators wherever possible, so one has go be very discerning about who ones political fellow travellers are.

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