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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The collapse of CAR and South Sudan

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

Continued instability in the Middle East and the putative threat from emerging powers have forced imperialism to increase its military presence in Africa, to ensure control of a continent rich in strategic raw materials. Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, says that after Afghanistan emphasis will ‘certainly’ shift to ‘conflict prevention in Africa’. France’s Finance Minister, Pierre Moscovici, said that ‘French companies...must go on the offensive and fight’ the presence of China. France remains a major player in economic and military terms, with recent interventions in several African states, as CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

 

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When corporations rule the world

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

Multinational corporations intend to enforce their will as law. Sovereign states and democratically elected legislatures will be little more than empty phrases if the US-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US and 11 other countries, are brought into force. These partnerships are vehicles through which multinational companies will remove health and safety protection, end environmental safeguards, abolish legislation providing minimum conditions for labour, scrap food safety laws, abandon efforts to slow climate change, stop campaigns against fracking and forbid attempts to rescue the National Health Service from the predations of private companies – indeed, sweep away any barrier to the unfettered pursuit of maximum profits. If you are unaware of these proposed partnerships that is deliberate because it is intended that the public remains ignorant until they are signed. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

 

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Economic recovery on rotten foundations

Immediately after the preliminary growth figures for the last quarter of 2013 had been released, Tory Chancellor George Osborne smugly announced that ‘our long-term plan is delivering a brighter economic future.’ The British economy grew 1.9% in 2013, the fastest rate since 2007. The Tories were jubilant, impervious to the Labour Party’s fake concerns about a cost of living crisis hitting the vast majority of workers throughout the country. All the main political parties are steadfastly committed to neo-liberal austerity programmes to slash public spending and cut the public sector deficit. They differ only in the opportunist slant they give to their reactionary policies. David Yaffe reports.

 

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Global economic recovery falters

Much as politicians try to put an optimistic gloss on the economic recovery from what is now called the Great Recession of 2007-08, they come up against the harsh reality of faltering growth and chronically weak demand, despite near zero interest rates in the dominant capitalist countries. This was driven home by none other than Larry Summers, former top economic adviser to US President Obama, in a speech to the IMF annual research conference on 8 November. There he spoke of the possibility of ‘secular stagnation’ in the major capitalist countries, a near permanent low growth deflationary crisis similar to that which Japan endured during the 1990s. David Yaffe reports.

 

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China Enter the dragon

In October 2013 the Chancellor George Osborne announced that two Chinese state-owned companies would take a 30-40% stake in the £16bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant to be built in Somerset by France’s EDF. Osborne also said that the British government would make it easier for Chinese banks to operate in the City of London by reducing their capital requirements. US financiers accused Britain of seeking to attract Chinese banks by recklessly removing regulations. To emphasise the welcome being extended to China, visa procedures for Chinese tourists wishing to visit Europe will be simplified. The City and the British government intend to benefit from China’s increasing international presence. Trevor Rayne reports.

 

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Repartitioning Africa

The main imperialist powers, Britain, France and the US, are increasing their military presence in Africa, a region endowed with significant deposits of strategic raw materials which they are determined to control. African military capabilities are being upgraded via training missions, but direct military intervention is also increasing. France is sending 1,000 more troops to the Central African Republic. There is an expansion of US drone bases in Africa, already a key battleground in the fight to push out rivals, like Russia and China, and cripple their access to resources. The ‘war on terror’ is subterfuge. General Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, says British troops, will ‘certainly focus on Africa’ by January 2015. Britain is determined not to lose its privileged parasitic position as exploiter in chief. Charles Chinweizu reports.

 

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Remembering Susan May

Those who battle against injustice have lost a dear friend and comrade with the death of Susan May, who died of cancer aged 68 on 30 October.

In March 1992 Susan was wrongly convicted of the murder of her aunt, 87-year-old Hilda Marchbank. Susan was her aunt’s carer and found her body in bed, where she had been beaten and suffocated. The police believed it was a robbery gone wrong - the house had been ransacked. But suspicion fell on Susan after she denied being in a relationship with a local man. Susan said she lied because: ‘It was none of their business and nothing to do with auntie’s death’.

 

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Chemical weapons: truth and lies

The Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (CWC), which the Syrian government has now ratified, was established in Paris on 12 January 1993 and prohibits the production, storage, use and export of chemical armaments. The CWC calls for the destruction of existing stocks and aimed for the total destruction of the world’s chemical weapons by 2007. Following Syria’s decision, the only nations not to have signed or ratified the treaty are Israel, Egypt, South Sudan, North Korea, Angola and Burma. Joey Simons reports.

 

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British capitalism: a recovery built on sand

Despite spirited attempts to talk up the recovery of the British economy, the hard, cold economic reality continues to deflate such claims. Five years after the bankruptcy of the financial services multinational Lehman Brothers, widely seen as precipitating the global financial crisis, British economic growth still remains some 3.3% below its pre-recession peak. Britain’s workers are enduring the most protracted squeeze on incomes since the long depression of the 1870s: over four years of falling real wages with more to come. Investment and productivity are stagnant and whatever growth is occurring is driven by debt-fuelled consumer spending and inflated house prices. Government claims that it is ‘rebalancing’ the British economy, away from consumption towards exports and investment, are mere empty rhetoric. David Yaffe reports.

 

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The British economy - Spinning a recovery

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne

In introducing the government’s Spending Review on 26 June 2013, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, began the process of spinning a recovery of the UK economy, his eyes firmly focused on the 2015 general election. He told us that Britain is moving out of intensive care and ‘from rescue to recovery’. The action the government has taken, he said, has reduced the public sector deficit by a third, has helped a record number of people into work, and has taken the economy back from the brink of bankruptcy. He then went on to claim that the government acts on behalf of everyone ‘who knows that Britain has got to live within its means’. David Yaffe reports.

 

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Imperialism and wiretaps – a web of control

The leak of information on the US government’s secret Prism surveillance programme by ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has exposed one part of a sprawling system of phone and internet tapping of whole populations as part of the ‘War on Terror’. The revelations have caused uproar in Congress among ruling class figures who were in the dark about what is going on; they may be even more shocked to realise that this may all be legal. It is clear that Prism is the tip of the iceberg as the imperialist states build a global network, controlled by an elite of government, corporate and military interests. Details of Britain’s surveillance operations are beginning to leak out. The targets include rival capitalist powers, ‘rogue’ states, Islamic fundamentalists, anti-imperialist resistance groups, revolutionaries and working class people hit by rising austerity.

 

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European Union and Britain: Tories self-destructing over Europe

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

On 23 January 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron announced, in his Bloomberg speech, that he would renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) and follow this with an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership in 2017. He did this in an attempt to appease the eurosceptics in his party, outflank the United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) anti-EU stance, and strike a populist pose to improve his party’s prospects in the next general election.[1] This gamble has spectacularly failed. DAVID YAFFE reports.

 

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The two faces of class struggle: the motor force for historical regression or advance

We are publishing this article by James Petras on class struggle as the motor force of history because it represents a serious attempt to understand the purpose of today’s ruling class onslaught on the working class internationally. He points to some of the reasons why in the imperialist countries social democratic parties have been instrumental in these attacks, and why trade union-based resistance is proving so inadequate. FRFI


One of the most important and yet most neglected determinants of the outcomes of the economic crisis and resultant deepening of social inequalities and immiseration is the class struggle.  In one of his most pithy metaphors, Karl Marx referred to class struggle as the motor force of history. In this essay we will analyze the central role of class struggle, its impact and reflection in economic decisions and, most especially, the different methods and forms, according to the particular classes engaged in class struggle

 

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Crisis of British capitalism - Ruling class in denial

In attempting to justify the savage economic policies of the Coalition government and its refusal to abandon current austerity measures in the face of a stagnating economy, Prime Minister David Cameron came into direct conflict with Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Chote had been appointed by the Chancellor George Osborne to lead the OBR, set up in 2010 to provide ‘independent’ forecasts for the Treasury. In a speech on 7 March Cameron claimed that the OBR ‘has made clear that growth has been depressed by the financial crisis, the problems in the eurozone and a 60% rise in oil prices between August 2010 and April 2011’. He continued that the OBR is ‘absolutely clear that the deficit reduction plan [the austerity measures] is not responsible; in fact, quite the opposite.’ The next day, in an unprecedented rebuke, Chote wrote a letter to the Prime Minister informing him that every forecast published by the OBR since the June 2010 Budget ‘has incorporated the widely held assumption that tax increases and spending cuts reduce economic growth in the short term’. The letter went on to say that the ‘fiscal consolidation measures’ (OBR spin for austerity) would have been sufficient to reduce GDP in 2011-12 by around 1.4%. This was yet another humiliating blow for Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne in the period leading up to the Coalition’s fourth Budget. David Yaffe reports.

 

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UK Budget: Osborne spins as economy sinks

‘It is taking longer than anyone hoped but we must hold to the right track... by setting free the aspirations of the nation, we will get there,’ so we were reassured by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. ‘It is a budget for an aspiration nation...a budget for people who aspire to work hard and get on’, said the heir to the Baronetcy of Ballintaylor, County Tipperary, whose personal fortune in 2010 was put at £4.6m. An ‘aspiration nation’: it is as if Osborne imagines himself presiding over a country full of property developers and estate agents. No doubt such are the intended beneficiaries of the March 2013 Budget.

 

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Housing crisis deepens

There is a desperate shortage of social housing: one in 12 families in England are on waiting lists. In London more than 360,000 people are waiting, and nearly 40,000 people live in temporary accommodation. People are being forced into the unregulated private sector, which has grown by 86% in three years. Rents are going through the roof, up by 4.3% last year and up by a third in three years in London. As people can't pay, landlord evictions have risen by 70%. Slum landlords are back with 42% of tenants in sub-standard properties. Housing conditions in Britain are among the worst in Western Europe and cost the nation about £7bn a year by adding to the pressure on the NHS and other public services, because of the mental and physical health problems associated with debt, poverty and enforced relocations and overcrowding.

 

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Cameron fuels ruling class divisions on Europe

European Union and Britain - Cameron fuels ruling class divisions on Europe

Prime Minister David Cameron finally gave his much delayed speech on Britain’s relationship to the European Union (EU) early morning on 23 January at the City of London office of Bloomberg, the business and financial news corporation. He had planned to make his speech in continental Europe, following the tradition of past Tory leaders who had wanted to demonstrate that their views on Europe could command a serious hearing outside Britain. However, the already lengthy delay in his widely anticipated speech, the incompetence of his officials and the hostage crisis in Algeria all conspired to make this impossible. David Yaffe reports.

 

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Divisions and conflicts resurface as immediate threat to the eurozone recedes

At the end of July Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), made a pledge to safeguard the future of the euro. ‘Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro’, he said. ‘Believe me it will be enough’. More than a month later on 6 September he came up with a plan, credible to the markets, with the offer to purchase short-term bonds (up to three years) of eurozone countries in the secondary markets.1 Since then the borrowing costs of Italy, Spain and other countries in difficulties have fallen. This has happened despite the fact that Spain, the main target, has so far not asked for help and the ECB has not taken action to buy its bonds. In addition, US money market funds have returned to the eurozone, increasing their exposure by 16% since the summer. With the immediate threat to the eurozone receding, the divisions and conflict of interests between and within the dominant European imperialist countries is, once again, taking centre stage. David Yaffe reports.

 

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Offshore tax havens - wonders of the modern world – October 2012

Tax havens‘Less than 100,000 people, 0.001% of the world’s population, now control over 30% of the world’s financial wealth.’ This astonishing and ridiculous figure is presented in the Tax Justice Network’s The Price of Offshore Revisited. Having revised earlier calculations they now estimate that ‘at least $21 to $32 trillion as of 2010 – has been invested virtually tax-free through the world’s still-expanding black hole of more than 80 “offshore” secrecy jurisdictions.’ They offer a caution, ‘Remember: this is just financial wealth. A big share of the real estate, yachts, racehorses, gold bricks – and many other things that count as non-financial wealth – are also owned via offshore structures where it is impossible to identify the owners.’ 

 

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Relentless austerity: the price of a European imperialist bloc

Portugal, 15 September 2012. Thousands demonstrated against austerity measures: ‘Damn the troika, we want our lives!’

15 September 2012 was the fourth anniversary of the collapse of the financial services corporation Lehman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy in US history. This event triggered the global financial crisis and the deepest crisis of the capitalist system since the Great Depression of the 1930s, a crisis which shows few signs of receding. The eurozone, having contracted 0.2% in the second quarter of 2012, will almost certainly follow Britain into a double-dip recession. The US economy is slowing down and the US Federal Reserve has in desperation launched a third open-ended round of ‘quantitative easing’. It will inject an extra $40bn into the US economy each month through purchases of mortgage-backed securities until the US labour market improves. The latest OECD report forecasts slower growth in Japan, China, India and Russia. David Yaffe reports.

 

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