Category Archives: International

Trotsky School 2012 Videos

Yasin Kaya – Can Social Democracy Be Reformed? Click here to watch the video

Barry Weisleder – Origins of Zionism, and Why Israel is a Major Obstacle to Social Justice Click here to watch the video

Jeff Mackler – The Rise and Fall of Maoism  Click here to watch the video

Coming Soon: Jeff Mackler – The Nature of Capitalism – profit squeeze, overproduction, periodic crises, eco-destruction, and war

Hands Off Iran! Restore diplomatic relations! Dismantle all nuclear weapons, starting with those of the USA and Israel!

Ottawa’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran is a desperate political move to try to sustain a reactionary and unpopular policy. Nothing to do with any Iranian threat to global peace and security, it is designed to counter the nearly total isolation of Israel and US policy in the Middle East.

Clearly, Iran has the right to defend itself by any means necessary from the imperial predator states, especially the USA which engineered the overthrow of the democratically-elected government in Iran in 1953, fueled the cruel Reza Shah Pahlavi dictatorship for decades, and sponsored a devastating war against Iran (1980 – 1988). The lack of evidence that Iran is nuclear-weapons capable does not deter Washington and Tel Aviv from making accusations and threats, just as George W. Bush did in 2003 to rationalize his invasion of Iraq, resulting in the death or displacement of millions of Iraqis. Self-defense is for victims, not victimizers.

Whether Iran has ‘the bomb’ or not, the major threat of nuclear annihilation stems from the USA and its attack dog in the Middle East, the apartheid Zionist state. Washington has by far the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and it is the only state to use the barbaric weapon (twice against Japan in 1945). American presidents have repeatedly threatened to deploy ‘the bomb’, chiefly in pursuit of their corporate interests in the Middle East and Asia, but as seen in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, not exclusively so. Israel’s nuclear arsenal is the only one in the vast Arab region, signalling the ultimate price the Zionist establishment puts on terminating its illegal occupation of Palestine.

What is so galling for the White House and the Pentagon is the public relations coup Tehran scored by hosting the conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, in late August, attended by representatives of 120 countries (two-thirds of the United Nations Assembly). Could Washington and Tel Aviv attract that kind of solidarity without coercion?

Stephen Harper’s hard-boiled Minister of External Affairs John Baird cites the repressive character of the Ahmadinejad regime. He accuses it of using diplomatic personnel to promote its interests and to intimidate Iranians living in Canada. To be sure, the Islamic Republic is deeply undemocratic and repressive. So is the Saudi regime which extended its repressive force into Bahrain to quell an Arab Spring uprising. Recall also that the Harper Conservatives intervened in the 2006 election in Venezuela by funnelling money to the right wing opposition.

Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste condemns all forms of oppression and exploitation. At the same time, we defend the right of oppressed nations to national self-determination. We believe it is the task of the workers and farmers of Iran to settle accounts with their ruling class, to replace the tyranny with a vibrant, pluralist, socialist democracy.

Canada’s rulers could not be less interested in facilitating grass roots democracy in Iran. Their interventions in Afghanistan and Haiti attest to that. NATO bombing of Libya, in which Canadian Forces played a despicable leading role, resulted in U.S.-engineered regime change. But it did not prevent the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi on September 11. Should Washington and Ottawa now break relations with the government they helped to install in Libya? Do they have a similar political ‘make-over’ in mind for Syria? Protests this week across the Muslim world show what is in store for the western powers if they continue to bomb, invade and occupy foreign lands.

Socialist revolution from within, not imperialist intervention, is the road to genuine democracy and social justice. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is wrong to pause, wrong to invite Harper to further explain his reactionary diplomatic move. International working class solidarity starts with opposition to the schemes of our own ruling class and their state, and by clearly opposing the war drive of the western powers. A crucial task in this regard is to strengthen the broad, united front, action-oriented anti-war movement, and to appeal to the Iranian community to be a prominent part of it. Demonstrate the opposition of immigrants, workers, youths, women, seniors, NDPers and the entire labour movement to the impending blood bath.

Hands Off Iran! Restore diplomatic relations now! Canada Out of NATO! NATO out of Afghanistan! Disarm the war makers, starting at home! Money for public health, education, housing and good jobs, not for war! Workers to power, from Iran to Egypt, and beyond!

Statement issued September 15, 2012 by:
Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste (Canadian state)

 

The Un-taxed $21 Trillion

(This article is drawn from information at www.taxjustice.net, compiled and edited by Barry Weisleder.)

 

     The world’s richest people are hiding $21 Trillion in offshore tax havens worldwide. Actually, it may be as much as $32 trillion.
     While governments slash spending and lay off workers, citing a need for “austerity” due to the recession/depression, the ultra-rich—fewer than 10 million of the seven billion people on Earth—have stashed away an amount equal to the entire US and Japanese economies – beyond the reach of the tax man. This is according to a new report by the Tax Justice Network, an independent organisation of economists, accountants, lawyers and other professionals launched in the British Houses of Parliament in March 2003. The lost tax revenue from offshore tax shelters, the report notes, “is large enough to make a significant difference to all of our conventional measures of inequality. Since most of the missing financial wealth belongs to a tiny elite, the impact is staggering.”
     James S. Henry was former Chief Economist for McKinsey & Co. He is the author of the book The Blood Bankers as well as articles for publications including The Nation and The New York Times.Henry obtained information from the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, central banks, and private sector analysts and found the outlines of the giant pool of cash floating in that nebulous space known as “offshore”. (Keep in mind this refers to money only—the report ommits real estate, yachts, race horses, art, and other forms of wealth the super-rich are hiding, untaxed, in offshore tax havens.) Henry refers to it as a “black hole” in the world economy and notes that, “despite taking pains to err on the conservative side, the results are astonishing.”
Meet The Top .001%
     “By our estimates, at least a third of all private financial wealth, and nearly half of all offshore wealth, is now owned by world’s richest 91,000 people– just 0.001% of the world’s population,” the report says. Those top 91,000 have about $9.8 trillion of the total estimated in this report—and fewer than ten million people account for the whole mountain of cash.
     Who are those people? The report mentions “30-year-old Chinese real estate speculators and Silicon Valley software tycoons,” and those whose wealth comes from oil, and from the drug trade.
     Drug lords, understandably, need to hide their ill-gotten gains, but plenty of the other ultra-rich are simply avoiding paying taxes by constructing complicated trusts and other investments just to shave a few more points off the bill they owe in their home country.
Where’s the Cash?
     “Offshore,” according to Henry, isn’t a physical location anymore—though plenty of places like Singapore and Switzerland, he notes, still specialize in providing “secure, low-tax physical residences” to the world’s rich.
     But today, “offshore” wealth is virtual—Henry describes “nominal, hyper-portable, multi-jurisdictional, often quite temporary locations of networks of legal and quasi-legal entities and arrangements.” A company may be located in one jurisdiction, but it is owned by a trust located elsewhere, and administered by trustees in a third location. “Ultimately, then, the term ‘offshore’ refers to a set of capabilities,” rather than to a place or multiple places.
     It’s also important, the report notes, to distinguish between the “intermediary havens”–the places most people think of when they think of tax havens, like Mitt Romney’s Cayman Islands, Bermuda, or Switzerland—and the “destination havens,” which include the US, the UK, and even Germany. Those destinations are desirable because they provide “relatively efficient, regulated securities markets, banks backstopped by large populations of taxpayers, and insurance companies; well-developed legal codes, competent attorneys, independent judiciaries, and the rule of law.”
     Thus, the people who avoid paying taxes by moving their money around are taking advantage of taxpayer-funded services to do so.
Big Bailed-Out Banks Run This Business
     Just who is facilitating this process? Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Credit Suisse are the top three, with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase all in the top ten. “We can now add this to their list of distinctions: they are key players in many havens around the globe, and key enablers of the global tax injustice system,” the report notes.
     By the end of 2010, the top 50 private banks alone were managing some $12.1 trillion in “cross-border invested” assets for their clients. That’s more than twice what it was in 2005, representing an average annual growth rate of over 16 percent.
     “From banks to accountancy firms and corporate lawyers, some of the biggest businesses in the world are part of the fabric of global tax avoidance,” writes financial researcher (and former Goldman Sachs trader) Lydia Prieg in The Guardian. “These companies are not moral entities that we can shame into paying their fair share; they exist to maximize their profits and those of their clients.”
     “Until the late 2000s,” Henry notes, “the conventional wisdom among flight capitalists was ‘What could be safer than ‘too big to fail’ US, Swiss and UK banks?’” Without the bailouts that followed the 2008 financial crisis, he adds, many of the banks that are stashing cash for the ultra-rich wouldn’t exist anymore. The assumption of government backing is the very reason why those uber-rich are banking with the big guys from the start.
Inequality Is Worse Than We Thought
     Inequality has already been skyrocketing around the world, by all the conventional measures. If the top 1 percent in the United States own not just 35.6 percent of the wealth, for instance, but a much larger portion that’s hidden, what does that mean for the rest of the population? An incredibly shrinking share of the wealth.
     In any case, as the report argues, “inequality is a political choice”. (Or, it is the consequence of the capitalist system of producation. – BW) The amount of inequality is what the rich can get away with, and what society will tolerate. Many North Americans are grossly misinformed about the present level of inequality. The report shows that even the ‘experts’ massively underestimated the problem.
Indebted” Countries Aren’t in Debt After All
     Henry’s report breaks out a subgroup of 139 countries, mostly lower or middle-income ones, for further study, noting that by most calculations, those 139 countries had a combined debt of over $4 trillion at the end of 2010. But if you take into account all that money being held offshore, those countries actually had negative $10 trillion in debt—or as Henry writes, “[O]nce we take these hidden offshore assets and the earnings they produce into account, many erstwhile ‘debtor’ countries are in fact revealed to be wealthy. But the problem is, their wealth is now offshore, in the hands of their own elites and their private bankers.”
     Henry further notes that the developing world as a whole turns out to be a creditor of the developed world, rather than a borrower. “That means this is really a tax justice problem, not simply a ‘debt’ problem.”
     But those debts, as we’ve noted, fall on the shoulders of the ordinary working people of those countries, those who can’t take advantage of sophisticated tax shelters.
How Much are We Losing?
     If the unreported $21 trillion earned a rate of return of 3 percent, and that income was taxed at 30 percent, that alone would generate income tax revenues of around $190 billion. If the total amount of money in tax havens is closer to Henry’s higher estimate, $32 trillion, it’d bring in closer to $280 billion—which is about twice the amount OECD countries spend on development assistance. And that’s just income taxes. Capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and other taxes would bring in even more.
A Matter of Strategy
     The problem with seeking a tax solution to systemic inequality is clear. The super-rich control governments, armies and states – which are dedicated to preserving their power and wealth. They have shown great capacity and a ruthless will to crush any serious challenge to their accumulated privileges. Even the most radical tax reforms can be reversed… by electoral fraud, a Capital strike, a military coup, etc. So, if fighters for social justice are in for a penny, we may as well be in for a pound. It’s the system that must be replaced. Thus, if lasting social justice and genuine economic democracy is your goal, better prepare to expropriate the bourgeoisie and build the institutions of workers’ power, from the bottom-up.

United Church votes for Israeli boycott

     The general council of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, voted in mid-August to support a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
     The 350 delegates to the United Church council, which according to Statistics Canada represents nearly three million Canadians who identify with the church, spent close to six hours debating the boycott recommended by an internal report that named the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as a major obstacle to a two-state settlement of the conflict.
     Increasingly, a one-state solution is seen as the only just and effective path by Palestinian, labour and human rights bodies. But the boycott idea itself is enough to raise the ire of pro-occupation forces and to expose the growing isolation of the Zionist apartheid state.
     In the months preceding the council vote, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (the ultra-conservative body that displaced the former Canadian Jewish Congress), and a group of nine Canadian Liberal and Conservative senators, heavily lobbied U.C. members against “taking sides” on the issue. But after hearing long arguments on all sides of the controversy, the church council voted to take a side, against the occupation.