Panama Papers: When cheating becomes necessary

panama papers

How fitting that London and the British Prime Minister David Cameron should host the world anti-corruption summit on 12 May 2016. Presumably in the 1920s no one told Al Capone that he should hold a conference in Chicago on combatting organised crime. The Panama Papers confirm what we already know from a string of scandals: that the City of London is at the heart of the world’s biggest network of tax avoidance, money laundering and market rigging. These are the means by which capitalists retain their profits. Pension funds, insurance companies and stock markets are all beneficiaries. If the intention of publishing the Panama Papers was to embarrass the Russian and Chinese governments, British ruling class divisions over European Union membership, combined with resentment at banking profligacy and growing inequality in the midst of enforced austerity, quickly deflected attention on to Cameron himself. Trevor Rayne reports.

Profit increasingly takes a parasitic form: interest, currency exchange deals and the manipulation of financial assets. Fraud is an extension of these methods of securing a share of surplus value and is invaluable to the British ruling class. When Cameron proclaimed, ‘I’m determined that the UK must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world,’ we knew it already is.


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G4S: Private Armies


‘Britain is no longer what it was’. This is a common refrain in the corporate media whitewashing Britain’s profoundly virulent role in the world at large. Rather than ‘losing’ an empire, Britain has in fact adapted to a new order in which, admittedly, it is no longer top dog, but nevertheless still has the capacity to unleash mass terror and inflict misery. Private security companies provide the means for the British ruling class to do this without recourse to their own state military. This offers the advantage of being able to operate in areas more anonymously, and operating with even less oversight than a national force carries, which allows the wanton application of cruel and inhumane approaches.

Global private security is a £140bn industry and rising. It employs in excess of 15 million people. The British state has played a pivotal role in its expansion, according to The Guardian it is the ‘mercenary kingpin’ of the world[i] - 14 separate companies are based in Hereford, the SAS HQ, all the better to recruit British soldiers. There’s a lot of talk about our poor ex-servicemen, abandoned, living on the streets of Britain, losing out to undeserving recipients of British beneficence: asylum seekers. However, what of the vast numbers who go on to make a pretty penny as mercenaries, ‘dogs of war’, at the beck and call (now directly) of Big Capital. At the height of the occupation of Iraq about 80 British companies operated there. Hundreds operate globally with no democratic oversight. Last year there were contracts of £188m (to protect Basrah Gas Company) up for grabs and a five year £100m contract with the British embassy in Afghanistan. There’s big money to be had: the Labour government spent over £60m on such contracts between 2007 and 2009[ii]. And most of it goes to ArmorGroup. ArmorGroup is owned by G4S (bought in 2008 for $85m).


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Communists and national liberation movements: Same goal, different paths

The Battle of the Bogside - 1969

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 52 - September 1985

As communists in the world's oldest imperialist nation, the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) has consistently fought long and bitter struggles with the British left to establish the communist position of unconditional support for the struggle of national liberation movements against British imperialist domination and against national oppression. Our record on this, especially in relation to Ireland, is beyond serious challenge. In Britain, with its long tradition of imperialist exploitation, its strong and well entrenched labour aristocracy, communists have always had to emphasise the goal we have in common with the national liberation movements — the defeat of British imperialism.


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Why is Britain always at war? - speech by Trevor Rayne

Speech given by Trevor Rayne to an RCG meeting entitled 'Why is Britain always at War' in London on 19 January 2016

In February 2014 The Guardian newspaper published an article that said that since the start of the First World War in 1914, British armed forces have been at war somewhere in the world in every year since. In four centuries England and then Britain have unleashed over 230 wars to seize other lands and enslave and exploit other peoples.


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Panic hits global markets

The deepening crisis hitting China and other ‘emerging market’ economies continues to send shockwaves through world markets.1 In the first week of January, measures taken by the Chinese government to support share prices and the renminbi only reinforced fears over the global impact of the slowdown in China’s economic growth. Share trading in China had to be halted for the second time in four days, within 30 minutes of opening, when the size of the losses triggered ‘circuit-breakers’ in place to prevent panic selling. This new sell-off came after the offshore renminbi fell to its lowest level against the dollar since it was established in 2010. Oil prices dropped to an 11-year low and more than $3.2 trillion was wiped off global stock markets. The prospects for the global economy in 2016 are deteriorating. David Yaffe reports.


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139 British military interventions overseas since 1945

The Royal Air Force’s bombardment of Syria beginning on 3 December 2015 is the 139th separate British military intervention abroad since the end of the Second World War and the 50th British military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa in the same period. These are overseas interventions that the British state acknowledges. Not included in the 139 are covert excursions whose records are not available. 1968 was the only year since the end of the Second World War when British military personnel were not killed on active service.


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Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement - On with the show...

‘Mr Speaker, when I presented my first Spending Review in 2010 and set this country on the path of living within its means, our opponents claimed that growth would be choked off, a million jobs would be lost and that inequality would rise. Every single one of those predictions have proved to be completely wrong.’
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Autumn Statement, 25 November 2015

The British Parliament has always had an ambiguous relationship to lying. Calling a fellow MP ‘a liar’ leads to immediate eviction, but lying was simply frowned on. Today, lying is the tool of choice when it comes to any government statement. The most slavish sections of the British lackey press, like the Telegraph, greeted Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review with the headline ‘End of Austerity’. Nothing could be further from the truth: the Conservative Party is on course to move Britain from being, in their words, a ‘high welfare, low wage economy’ to a ‘lower welfare, higher wage economy’. The ‘higher wage economy’ is Osborne’s ‘Nirvana’ of the national living wage at a paltry £7.20 an hour from next year and the chimera of unbridled economic growth that is impossible.


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Imperialists foster climate of fear after Paris attacks

On the evening of Friday 13 November 2015 a series of co-ordinated bomb and machine-gun attacks ripped through Paris, resulting in 130 deaths; another 350 people were admitted to hospital, many with serious injuries. The main targets were a football match and a rock concert, with additional shootings in restaurants, cafes and the street. Seven perpetrators died at the scene, apparently by detonating suicide vests they were wearing. Others allegedly involved died or were arrested during a police raid in St Denis on 18 November. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed in a communiqué purportedly issued by Islamic State (IS). Nicki Jameson reports.

This was an overt act of terror against the people of Paris and there was an immediate outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from across the world. The day after the attack the General Command for the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), fighting against Islamic State in Rojava, Syria, sent condolences and solidarity to the ‘families of the victims and all French people’. On the same day, in northern France, migrants living in the Calais ‘jungle’ camp staged a solidarity vigil, holding a banner which read ‘The refugees are crying with the French people’.


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Fight the TTIP

A cluster of economic treaties is under negotiation between the leading imperialist countries and their satellites. Imperialist powers are faced with a serious problem of profitability. All these negotiations and wheeler-dealing are no coincidence. They include:

  • the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Europe and Canada, which awaits ratification;
  • the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the USA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US and a number of Asian countries;
  • the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) between some 51 countries in the World Trade Organisation, which is still being negotiated.

US companies are sitting on about $1.8 trillion of idle cash which would be invested, if only it could be invested profitably. The situation is similar elsewhere: in the UK, companies’ cash reserves total about £550bn ($850bn); in Europe the figure is about €900bn ($1.1 trillion); in Japan about ¥250trn ($2.1 trillion), a staggering 51% of GDP. These enormous sums are sitting idle, not because firms don’t want to invest, but because of the lack of profitability. This situation has been going on for several years. Now capitalism is trying to break out of this stagnation with the help of these treaties, which are intended to steamroller any obstacles to capitalist exploitation.

The US, as the leading imperialist power, is the main player in these talks, but all the leading imperialist powers of Europe and Asia are also trying to cut advantageous deals at each other’s expense.


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Third phase of the global economic crisis

On 18 September Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, warned that the global financial crisis is entering a third phase of turmoil. Speaking to the Portadown Chamber of Commerce, he particularly highlighted the risks to the global economy from China, where an economic downturn and sudden currency devaluations have accompanied dramatic falls in the stock market. Together with the mounting crisis in many other large ‘emerging market’ economies, these developments have sent shockwaves through the world’s financial markets. David Yaffe reports.

Haldane is keen to point out that these developments in the global economy should not be seen as independent events, as lightning bolts from the blue, but are part of a connected sequence of events that have affected the global economy over the past decade. He argues that: ‘Recent events form the latest leg of what might be called a three-part crisis trilogy.  Part one of that trilogy was the “Anglo-Saxon” crisis of 2008/09. Part two was the “euro-area” crisis of 2011/12. And we may now be entering the early stages of part three of the trilogy, the “emerging market” crisis of 2015 onwards.’1


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50 years on: remembering the Indonesian massacres

It is now 50 years since the massacre of around one million communists, trade unionists and sympathisers in Indonesia in 1965. The killings were carried out by the Indonesian army, and other forces of reaction, with the direct support of British and US imperialism. The powerful Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) was entirely destroyed, paving the way for the savage military regime of General Suharto to facilitate the subjugation of the country to imperialist capital. The story of these events has been largely buried by those who have profited from them. Exposing the Indonesian massacres, and the extent of British and US involvement, is essential for new movements to understand the lengths that the imperialists are willing to go to destroy any opposition. Toby Harbertson reports.


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No to British strikes on Syria! - Imperialism out of the Middle East!

Following the massacre of 38 people – 30 of them British – in the Tunisian city of Sousse on 26 June, Prime Minister David Cameron seized the opportunity to announce plans to expand air-strikes against the Islamic State (IS) into Syria as well as Iraq. This would overturn a 2013 parliamentary vote against British strikes on Syria. Days later, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Budget that British military spending would increase every year for the next five years. With Labour expected to support the government in a new vote to extend strikes to Syria, it is likely that soon British planes will be bombing yet another country in the Middle East. The lack of any coherent strategy is clear. Bombing IS in Syria will not stop terrorist attacks elsewhere. Continuing to support forces fighting the Syrian government will only strengthen IS. The only sure result of imperialist strategy is continued war in the region for decades, and a continued justification for a huge military budget.


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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 126 August/September 1995

‘The historic fact remains that the decision whether or not the use the atomic bomb to compel the surrender of Japan was never an issue.’ Winston Churchill

‘The greatest thing in history’ US President Truman

On 6 August 1945 the US Air Force dropped ‘Little Boy’, named after President Roosevelt, on Hiroshima. 140,000 people were killed, they are dying still. Three days later ‘Fat Man’, named after Churchill, killed 110,000 in Nagasaki. This terrifying force was unsheathed not primarily to bring Japan to its knees, but to announce US imperialism as the dominant world power. The bomb would guarantee dominance.


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A naked act of class war

George Osborne

The Conservative government’s July Budget was a naked act of class war. Its intention to slash spending on benefits by £12bn a year will bring destitution to large sections of the working class. It showed that capitalism is no longer able or prepared to provide an adequate system of state welfare for the working class. It was also an arrogant demonstration of power: the ruling class is confident that it is free to drive the working class into the ground without facing meaningful opposition. Labour leadership candidates Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper agree that the benefit system is too generous to the working class. Acting leader Harriet Harman concurred and announced that the Labour Party would not oppose the welfare bill implementing the Budget’s benefit cuts. Three quarters of Labour MPs duly followed her lead including Kendall, Burnham and Cooper. Only 48, including the fourth leadership candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, voted against. Robert Clough reports.


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Capitalism in crisis: stagnant, predatory and corrupt

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ),1 the business newspaper of the large US corporations, argues that the glut of capital and labour throughout the global economy represents a major challenge to policy makers. The global economy, it said, ‘is awash as never before with commodities like oil, cotton and iron ore, but also with capital and labour’ – an oversupply which is creating serious difficulties for policy makers attempting to boost economic demand. As a result, we are experiencing ‘a low-growth, low-inflation, low-[interest] rate environment’ which could take a decade for the global economy to surmount.


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General Election: break with Labour now

After weeks of electioneering, following an outcome that surprised even the pollsters and that left three party leaders dead in the water, working class people in Britain are now confronted by exactly the same questions about the future that they faced at the start. Regardless of who has topped the polls and whose career has ended, none of the leading parties was willing or able to represent the interests of the working class and the poor. The electoral game was fashioned to provide only one outcome: a government to serve the interests of British imperialism while perpetuating the illusion that we live in a democracy which is capable of benefiting the working class. No political party would be allowed to take power that did not defend the interests of British imperialism and the City of London. The media set the parameters of debate, and ensured that they governed all the hours of phoney interviews with politicians on radio and television. That is why we called for no vote at this pantomime election.


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Imperialist massacre in the Mediterranean

On 23 April David Cameron and other EU leaders met at an emergency summit in Brussels to cobble together their response to the ‘crisis in the Mediterranean’. This followed the death by drowning of 800 people in the worst disaster to date involving refugees attempting to cross from Africa to Europe. During the weekend of 2/3 May Italian and French ships rescued nearly 6,000 migrants off the coast of Libya and retrieved ten dead bodies. So far in 2015 some 1,500 people have died while attempting the crossing in unseaworthy overcrowded boats. These deaths are not due to some natural disaster; they are entirely the result of the wars, occupation and poverty created by imperialist foreign policy, together with the immigration laws of ‘Fortress Europe’.


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General Election General Fraud

The purpose of a general election is to allow the ruling class to select the government that will best represent its interests, and at the same time to perpetuate the illusion that we live in a democracy which is capable of benefitting the working class. Yet it is evident that the major parties, the Tories, the LibDems, Labour and the SNP, will run the economy in the interests of British imperialism and the City of London, and that whatever combination forms the next government, it will ensure the working class continues to pay for the crisis. Those who claim to stand on an anti-austerity platform are lending credibility to a fraudulent process. There is no possibility of a positive outcome for the working class: the election is a distraction from the real task of defeating the ruling class offensive. Robert Clough reports.


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Fantasy economics for a decaying economy

George Osborne

Britain is ‘walking tall again’ claimed the Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, in opening what was a blatantly political Budget speech.1 It was aimed at blunting the Labour Party’s attack on the coalition government’s economic and social policies in the few weeks left before the 7 May general election. Britain, he said, ‘is growing, creating jobs and paying its way. We took difficult decisions in the teeth of opposition and it worked’. He taunted Labour throughout the speech: ‘The sun is starting to shine – and we are fixing the roof’; ‘Out of the red and into the black – Britain is back paying its way in the world’; and ‘Living standards on the rise. Britain on the rise … The Comeback Country’. The speech was littered with election slogans interspersed with carefully selected economic data. David Yaffe reports.


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Marx Emasculated

Karl Marx

Michael Heinrich An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital (Monthly Review Press, New York, 2012)

This book has gone through nine editions and is widely used in German universities. It has the stamp of approval of academic Marxists: the back cover is peppered with effusive praise: ‘a “must-read” in our time of crisis’, ‘The best introduction to Capital I have read’, ‘A brilliant presentation of Marx’s Capital’, ‘the best short introduction to Marx’s Capital to ever appear in English’, ‘The best and most comprehensive introduction to Marx’s Capital there is’.


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HSBC: rotten ripe and ready to fall

Britain’s biggest bank, HSBC, plays a pivotal role in the world drug and arms trades, in bribery, embezzlement and tax avoidance. Herve Falciani worked as an IT engineer for HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary in Geneva. In 2008 he stole information on 30,000 accounts. Falciani described the secret stash: ‘This money comes from mafia, drug traffickers, blood diamonds and tax evasion. Once known, no one, and I’m talking about governments, were motivated to do anything, even when it was possible. We had over $500bn in assets that were not supposed to be there.’ Falciani was arrested in France in January 2009 and handed the files to the French finance minister, now head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde. On the ‘Lagarde list’, as it has become known, royalty mingled with sports stars, East European bankers with cycling dopers, Conservative Party donors with Middle Eastern defence ministers; all manner of wealthy customers of the world’s local bank - and all with something to hide. Identities were disguised: names include Captain Kirk, Painter, Captain Haddock and a Mr Shaw.


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Imperialism targets Russia

The US and European Union (EU) attempt to subordinate Russia continues. In this context the collapse in world oil prices is being used to try to bring Russia to its knees; it may also accelerate the descent into war. Russia is largely dependent on oil and gas exports. Oil sold at $115 a barrel in June 2014 but on 26 January 2015 it was selling at under $50 a barrel, a fall of over 55%. As oil prices dropped so the Russian rouble has fallen by 42% against the US dollar. Russian President Putin reacted: ‘We all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s a lot of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.’ Trevor Rayne reports.


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Unending economic crisis sharpens class divisions

The international agents of the dominant imperialist powers are eager to declare an end to the Great Recession precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008. They desperately want to announce the success of the austerity programmes imposed on millions of working class people throughout the world. Reality will not conform. Their policies have not only failed, but are being challenged ideologically and politically as mounting opposition starts to confront the centres of capitalist power. David Yaffe reports.


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Red warning lights for global economy - Class war to intensify in Britain

Full of self-importance after his jaunt to the G20 meeting of world leaders in Brisbane Australia, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, declared in an article in The Guardian (17 November 2014) that ‘red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy’. He pointed to the eurozone on the brink of a third recession, the slowing of growth in the emerging market economies, the stalling of global trade talks, the Ebola epidemic and the escalating conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East as ‘all adding a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty’. He contrasted this to the British economy which, he said, is the fastest growing in the G7 major capitalist countries, with record numbers of new businesses and the largest ever annual fall in unemployment. But Cameron, preparing his excuses well in advance of the coming General Election, warned that ‘in our interconnected world’ these wider problems in the global economy ‘pose a real risk to our recovery at home’. David Yaffe reports.


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Luxembourg: tax avoidance with friends in high places

Luxembourg Ville

The craving for money yields fantastic devices invented by the best minds capitalism can hire. What is one to make of this: if you earn Britain’s average annual income of £26,500 you will pay the basic rate of 20% income tax, but if your income is £6bn you can get away with less than 1% tax, and it’s all perfectly legal? Tax avoidance, money laundering, rigging money markets – these are the chosen means of enhancing profits used by many of Britain’s biggest companies. Receive child tax credits that are later ruled to have been mistakenly paid and you are relentlessly pursued for every penny, even into the courts, by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs; make the most minor infraction of the Job Centre’s commands and you are sanctioned and denied benefits; head a company with a household name, shift fortunes abroad, out of the government’s reach, and you are knighted for services to the country. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Unending global crisis reinforces divisions over Europe

In a document prepared for the 20-21 September 2014 meeting of the G20 group of finance ministers and central bank governors in Cairns, Australia, the IMF warned that global economic recovery from the 2008 crisis is precarious. Rising ‘geopolitical tensions’, excessive risk taking and the prospects of tighter monetary policy in the US pose new threats to what is already an unbalanced and weaker than expected recovery. The IMF pointed to lower growth rates in the developed capitalist and emerging economies, continuing high public and private debt and growing risks associated with low inflation despite the stimulative monetary policies in place for over five years. Escalating conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East will further undermine prospects for the global economy. This is the context in which the growing economic crisis is reinforcing divisions within Europe. David Yaffe reports.


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British state suffers setbacks in its war on migrants

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

Since passing the Immigration Act in May, state attacks on migrants have suffered a number of significant setbacks. Although limited, they demonstrate that resistance is possible.

In June the Home Office launched Operation Centurion, a high-profile campaign of immigration raids on businesses and homes. Documents leaked to the Anti-Raids Network exposed Home Office claims that the operation was ‘intelligence-led’ as nothing more than racial profiling: targets included ‘Vietnamese nail bars in the Manchester area’, Nigerian security guards in Sussex, and phone stalls in the North of Ireland. Networks of activists across Britain and the North of Ireland mobilised to warn as many as possible of those being targeted, and to inform people of their rights. Reports suggest the operation resulted in only 20 arrests, and the Home Office was unable to claim it as a victory.


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Imperialists responsible for South Sudan collapse

In July 2014, South Sudan’s elites ‘celebrated’ the third anniversary of the world’s newest nation. However, a civil war that began last December has displaced 1.5 million people (a third are children) out of a total population of over 9 million; a predicted famine as early as August 2014 looms which could affect 4 million people; nearly 400,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring countries; the UN states that 5 million people desperately need humanitarian assistance. There exists a scarcity of basic goods, hyperinflation, outbreaks of preventable diseases such as cholera, mass hunger and homelessness. Several of South Sudan’s largest towns are deserted with homes, churches, medical facilities (patients shot in their beds, wards burned down) and even UN bases attacked, looted or destroyed. There is nothing in this catastrophe for the majority of South Sudanese people to ‘celebrate’.


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First World War - Ominous portents for today

One hundred years ago, Austria declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. The following day the British Grand Fleet sailed to war stations in the North Sea. The slide to war was rapid; Russia mobilised its armed forces on 31 July, Germany and France mobilised on 1 August. Britain declared war on 4 August. The first imperialist world war had been long in preparation. Over 70 million military combatants fought. Leading the Allies were Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, Serbia and, from 1917, the United States. Against them were the Central Powers including Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. Nearly ten million combatants were killed, 21 million wounded and eight million went missing. Barbarism, the age of mass murder, was upon us. The same forces that drove humanity into the conflagration of 1914-18 drove us into the Second World War and impel humanity towards Armageddon today. Trevor Rayne reports.


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BRICS summit creates New Development Bank, challenges US and EU economic domination

At the 6th BRICS summit held on 15-16 July 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) announced the creation of a New Development Bank and multilateral reserve fund. This is a direct alternative to the dominance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and represents a significant challenge to the US and EU. The new bank gives countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, which are explicitly building and working towards socialism, access to trade, credit and investment without having to accept the dictates of US and EU imperialism.


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British imperialism – investing in hunger

On 22 April 2014 the Economist Intelligence Unit issued grim news: food security has fallen in almost 70% of countries since the beginning of the year, as the global price of grains, sugar and other farm commodities rose at their fastest pace in 18 months. Food prices have doubled on average since 2000 and keep some 842.3 million people – 12% of the world’s population – in a state of perpetual undernourishment. Misery for the many is good business for the few, and the prospect of easy money is encouraging a new wave of land grabs by British companies, with the enthusiastic support of Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID).


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