Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham


Posted on: November 27, 2013

After the film “The UK Gold” last night my mind went back to a conference of the Student Christian Movement fifty years ago. It was called by the newly appointed General Secretary, Bishop Ambrose Reeves, who had been expelled from apartheid South Africa. The title was “Nationalism, Neutralism and Neocolonialism”. The argument was that the end of the British Empire which was then being achieved year by year would lead, unless we did something, to a more subtle economic domination. It was heady stuff and even I thought it a bit over the top. My father recently retired from the colonial service and my mother an SCM member for the 1930s were both furious as what they saw as mindless left-wing propaganda. Alas, after seeing the film last night and reading the associated documents, I cannot but conclude that SCM conference was prophetic.

The picture we are presented with is a web of tax havens across the world to which all too many individuals and, above all, multi-national corporations can divert their funds in order to avoid tax and keep what they are doing secret. At least half of these jurisdictions are former parts of the British Empire and in some cases still have Governor Generals capable of taking final decisions on behalf of the Crown. Money from dictators or dodgy commercial dealings can if necessary be laundered through trust funds, and the widespread stretch of the British maritime empire from the Caribbean to Singapore, together with the City of London as its hub, can ensure that there can be a ready interchange between the hegemonies of the dollar, the pound, the euro and the yen. Most amazing to me was that all this had been going on under my nose while like Rip Van Winkle I was asleep until wakened by reading extracts from a book by Nicholas Shaxson about tax havens in 2011.

The present situation is grossly unjust, primarily to the ordinary people of poor nations who are taken advantage of – this subterranean web fostering collusion with unjust rulers or a kleptocratic elite – but also to the ordinary businesses and citizens of the UK who have to pay the more tax when others pay less. Furthermore the golden calf of the City of London diverts attention from other regions and sectors of the UK economy. Finally, like so much that is unjust, it is also fundamentally foolish. Hate begets hate. Greed begets greed. Exploitation brings nemesis in its wake. Will the guardians of the dollar and continue to allow London to steal a march on them by such cheating? How will the new Bric economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China react? Certainly with no sympathy unless it is to outdo the experts at their own game?

At the G8 our Prime Minister spoke about the need for action but so far precious little has been done. I only hope he is sincere and his government effective. Otherwise some of the words of Bishop Ambrose Reeves come back to me. Talking about South Africa in the 1960s he said some such words: “It may surprise you that many Africans fighting apartheid prefer dealing with the Afrikaners to the British. The former may be brutal and reactionary but at least they are honest. You know where you are with them. As for the English, they entirely sympathise with you, they make lofty statements on your behalf. But they do precisely nothing!”

(c) John Nightingale 22nd November 2013



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This is the blog of the local group of the UK campaign calling for cancellation of international Debt.

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