The new Argentinian president, Javier Milei, has announced a programme for government that bears striking similarities to the policies implemented by the UK Conservatives over the past 45 years. This crash programme includes massive cuts, the demolition of public services, privatisation of public assets, centralisation of political power, the sacking of civil servants, the removal of constraints on corporations and oligarchs, the dismantling of worker and vulnerable people protections, support for landlords against tenants, the criminalisation of peaceful protest, and the restriction of the right to strike. These policies are heavily influenced by Argentinian neoliberal think tanks associated with the Atlas Network, a global coordinating body that promotes similar political and economic packages worldwide.
The Atlas Network was founded in 1981 by Antony Fisher, a UK citizen who also founded the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which played a significant role in shaping the political platform of Liz Truss, a prominent Conservative politician in the UK. The IEA, along with other think tanks belonging to the Atlas Network, continue to have a significant impact on UK politics, despite the disastrous consequences of their policies. These corporate lobbyists are frequently featured in the media without being challenged about their funding or representation.
Many of the peers nominated by Truss in her resignation honours list have connections to organisations belonging to the Atlas Network. These individuals now have lifelong powers to shape the lives of UK citizens without democratic consent. The influence of these corporate lobby groups is pervasive, with organisations like Policy Exchange, which helped draft the UK’s anti-protest laws, being members of the Atlas Network. It is clear that the policies implemented by leaders like Milei, Bolsonaro, Truss, Johnson, and Sunak are all variations on the same themes developed by think tanks associated with the network.
The funding sources of these think tanks, including the Atlas Network itself, have been linked to right-wing billionaires, as well as oil, coal, and tobacco companies. They act as intermediaries, advancing the interests of their donors in the class war between the rich and the poor. These junk tanks are highly effective at disguising and aggregating power, allowing billionaires and corporations to influence politics without transparency. They shape public opinion and have successfully demonised environmental protesters as “extremists” and “terrorists”.
The Heritage Foundation, a member of the Atlas Network, played a significant role in shaping the policies of Donald Trump through a 900-page document called the Mandate for Leadership. Many of the proposals in this document prioritize the demands of capital over public needs. What was originally intended to defend against tyranny has become a source of oppression as neoliberalism has gained influence.
In Argentina, Milei is taking advantage of the vacuum left by previous misrule to impose policies that would otherwise face fierce resistance. The poor and middle classes are expected to bear the brunt of these policies, as similar programmes have been implemented in other countries, such as Chile, with devastating consequences.
It is crucial to recognize the influence of these junk tanks and the Atlas Network in shaping global politics. Their funding sources and agenda must be scrutinized, and their power must be challenged to protect the interests of the majority. The neoliberal programme they promote has proven to be oppressive and detrimental to society, and alternative approaches must be explored to ensure a more equitable and just future.