Russia and the City: no such thing as “clean money”

23 February 2022

After Putin’s latest “Great Russian” posturing and the entry of Russian troops into the Donbas, Johnson has done some of his own “Great British” posturing.  He boasts (of course!) that Britain is leading the way against Russia, with the biggest sanctions package ever: these are not just “sanctions”, but a British government “barrage”!

    And Starmer, trying very hard to differentiate himself (while “fully united” with Johnson), claimed that the sanctions don’t go far enough.  Lily-white Britain had to be cleansed of “dirty Russian money” once and for all!

    Never mind that the City of London has long been the chief Laundromat of the world, washing and drying the dubious and ill-gotten gains of every capitalist individual or gang who ever asked.  Which begs the question: whose money is actually “clean”?

    Indeed, the xenophobic and nationalist overtones of Starmer’s language against “Russians” aside, are we to consider the money deposited in City banks by Shell, squeezed out of oil workers in Nigeria at the expense of the lives of the peoples of the Niger Delta, “clean”?  Is the money made by the 5 British companies operating in Myanmar, clean, when the army is perpetrating genocidal murder?  And what about those millions made by arms companies equipping Saudi Arabia to bomb the poor peoples of Yemen?  Are they clean?  “UK Gov Plc” presides over this without a murmur.

    Moreover, when Putin sent troops into Kazakhstan against workers protesting the cost of living (shooting to kill!) last month, Johnson had nothing to say.  Not only does Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev own offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, but these control a British company with £3m in assets.  And hundreds of British companies run lucrative businesses within the country.

    One can go further with this argument and ask: are any profits “clean”?  Aren’t they based entirely on the theft of part of the value which workers produce?

    Starmer’s second “difference” with the government was to call for a breach in the principle of free speech: the Russian TV channel, RT should be banned, because it is a “propaganda” outlet! Sure it is! Of course!  But isn’t that the case with all TV channels in one or other sense?  If one wants to look for bias and propaganda in the media, everyone knows to follow the money...  And anyway, hasn’t the “independence” of the BBC always been an independence governed by the colour of government in power?

    For the international working class on the other hand, what Putin said about emulating the “Bolsheviks” was a travesty.  At the time, and long before the degeneration of the USSR under Stalin, this party offered all former colonies of the Czarist Russian empire their freedom!  Today what’s offered to the peoples of the region is the opposite: yet more contested borders and yet more death and destruction in this “New Cold War” stand-off.