Posts Tagged ‘HSBC’

Book on How to Resist and Campaign for Change

November 4, 2018

Matthew Bolton, How To Resist: Turn Protest to Power (London: Bloomsbury 2017)

About this time last week, hundreds of thousands of people were out on the streets marching to demand a second referendum on Brexit. It was the biggest demonstration since 2 million or so people marched against Blair’s invasion of Iraq. And as Mike commented in his blog post about it, as likely to do as much good. Blair and his corrupt gang ignored the manifest will of the people, and went ahead anyway, determined to prosecute a war whose real reasons were western imperialism and multinational corporate greed. The march failed to stop the war and the chaos it caused is still ongoing. Just as last week’s march will also fail to prevent the Tories doing whatever they want.

It’s a disgusting situation, and this book is addressed to everyone who’s fed up with it. The author, Matthew Bolton, is an organizer with the campaigning group Citizens UK and their Living Wage campaign. And the book is addressed to people, who have been on the march, and are sick and tired of being ignored. Right at the very beginning of the book, he writes

This book is for people who are angry with the way things are and want to do something about it; for people who are frustrated with the system, or worried about the direction the country is going in. For people who are upset about a particular issue, or want a greater say in the changes happening in their neighbourhood. They’ve posted their opinions on social media and they’ve shouted at something they’ve seen on the news. They’ve been on the big march and they’ve been to the ballot box, but what more can be done? This is for people who want to make a change, but they’re not sure how. (p.1)

A few pages later he describes the dangers to democracy and the increasing sense of powerlessness people now feel when decisions are taken out of their hands by politicians.

What’s at stake here is more important than simply helping people who care about particular issues to run effective campaigns. It’s about democracy. In the past, people who wanted to make a difference, and believed in change fought for democracy with sweat, blood and courage. The Chartists, the Suffragettes and other endured prison and faced death in their struggle for the chance to have a say in the governance of the country. They organized and campaigned to force the ruling elites to open up our political system to influence by the majority of the people. It is a great misunderstanding to think that they were fighting for the chance to put a cross in a box once every few years. They were fighting – week in, week out – for power. Fighting for more people to have more influence.

Over time, we have become confused. Now we have the vote, we have mistaken politics for Parliament and have come to see democracy as something to watch on television or follow on Twitter, like spectators at a football game – or worse, to switch off from it completely, losing trust in politicians, losing trust in the media, losing trust in the system. Democracy doesn’t just mean ‘to vote’, it means people power. It means embedding political action into our day-to-day lives, in our communities and workplaces. It is a vision of a society where power is distributed amongst the people, not concentrated in the hands of the few. It’s not an end state, but a constant struggle for people to fight for a seat around the decision-making table.

But it doesn’t feel like we are at the table. It feels like we are on the menu. Power is being concentrated in the hands of an increasingly small circle of people. We have a revolving door of Cabinet ministers becoming bankers, becoming newspaper editors, becoming chief executives. We have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that our democratic system would create a better future for us all. But it doesn’t look that way. By lunchtime on the first Wednesday in January, after just two-and-a-half days’ work, FTSE 100 bosses will have earned more than the average person will earn that entire year. The generation now in their twenties will be the first in modern times to be worse off than their parents. What we want for ourselves and our children – a decent job, a home, a health service, a community – is under threat. (pp. 4-5).

He then discusses how the political terrain has shifted immensely recently, with people demanding change, giving as examples the vote to Leave in the Brexit referendum and the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But he also makes the point that you need a strategy and that winning campaigns are very well planned and organized. And he gives two examples: Rosa Parks and Abdul Durrant. While the action that sparked off the bus boycott that began the Civil Rights movement in earnest was presented as spontaneous in Dr. Who, in reality it was very carefully planned. The Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been planning a boycott for a year before she refused to give up her seat. They had already tried this with three other Black passengers, but had failed to light the fuse of public indignation. This time, they found the right person with Rosa. Durrant was a leader in the East London Communities Organisation, part of Citizens UK, who worked nights as a cleaner in HSBC in Canary Wharf. He led a campaign to get better pay for workers like him, and then organized a media and mass protest to get it.

As for Bolton himself, he comes from a working/ middle class family. His father’s family were working class, his mother’s solidly middle class. He attended Cambridge university, but went to the state primary in his part of London. The local area was very rough, and his mother wanted him privately educated, and he was lucky enough to get a scholarship to a private school in Dulwich. He says that it was at this time that the stark difference between conditions in south London and the bubble of privilege in Dulwich began to grate on him. He was mugged twice in his neighbourhood, once at the point of a knife, punched several times in the face, and violently carjacked. After private secondary school, he went to sixth form at a state school that also had its fair share of problems. He describes how some of his friends from private school went on to work with a family friend in the City, which he describes as a conveyor belt to a decent university and a great career. Others had to avoid gang trouble on their way home, looked after their young siblings in the evening because their mother was working nights, scrimped and saved to pay the gas meter, and then tried to do their homework. He continues

It wasn’t just the unfairness that made me angry: it was the fact that as a society we say success is determined by how clever you are and how hard you work. If you fail, it’s your fault. That convenient lie made me angry then and it makes me angry now. (p. 21).

The book describes the strategy he has devised over years of campaigning to affect change. It starts off by identifying the issue you are particularly angry about – it could be anything – and identifying the people in authority who may be able to do something about it. He rejects the idea that powerlessness is somehow noble, and recommends instead that protestors concentrate on developing their power, as well as appealing to those that already have it to help them through their self-interest. The book also talks about the correct strategy to adopt in meetings and talks with those in authority and so on. It is all about mobilizing popular protest for peaceful change. After the introduction, pieces of which I’ve quoted above, it has the following chapters:

1. If You Want Change, You Need Power

2. Appreciating Self-Interest

3. Practical Tools to Build Power

4. Turning Problems Into Issues

5. The Action is in the Reaction

6. Practical Tools to Build a Campaign

7. Unusual Allies and Creative Tactics

8. Finding the Time.

9. The Iron Rule.

I’m afraid I didn’t finish reading the book, and have no experience of campaigning myself, so I can’t really judge how useful and applicable it is. But just reading it, it seems to be a very useful guide with sensible, badly needed advice for people wanting to mount effective campaigns on the issues that matter to them. And Bolton is absolutely right about the rising, obscene inequalities in our society and the crisis of democracy that has developed through the emergence of a corrupt, self-interest and interlinked media-political-banking complex.

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Secular Talk: HSBC Sued by Families of Americans Killed by Mexican Drug Gangs

February 15, 2016

This is another American story that also affects what’s going on over here. Kyle Kulinski here comments on a report in the Guardian that the families of four Americans, who were killed by the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, are suing HSBC for aiding the gangsters. HSBC did the gangsters’ moneylaundering, and the families are suing on the grounds that this made the mobsters powerful.

Kulinski says that HSBC dealings with deeply unpleasant people has been known about for a very long time. And the bank’s apologised for it. But, as with all banks, not matter what they do, nobody every goes to jail. He contrasts this with the way young black men are jailed for smoking the whacky baccy. But no not the bankster. They just pay a fine and get a slap on the wrist. The banksters at HSBC processed $881 million for the Sinaloa mobsters, who are regarded as the most powerful of the Mexican drug gangs. The lawsuit says that the banks are culpable because they knowingly provided aid and support through moneylaundering to the gang, as a result of which numerous lives, including that of the plaintiffs’, have been destroyed.

Kulinski also reminds his viewers that HSBC were also dealing with rogue states and terrorists, including a Saudi bank that had contacts with al-Qaeda. Kulinski states that it’s possible that these banksters will still walk, but there’s no question that they should be in jail. Lock ’em up.

Kulinski and the Groaniad are absolutely right. And unfortunately, it isn’t just a few westerners, who’ve paid the price, as horrible as the murders of the Americans are. What the drug gangs do in Mexico is absolutely horrific, like something from a horror movie rather than real life. For example, in some parts of the Mexico there is a ‘femicide’ going on. This is the term for it. The gangster kidnap, rape and kill girls and young women, for no reason other than their own sick kicks. As for the authorities, who try to stop them, some of the things they’ve done to them are just as vile. They kidnapped one mayor, who dared to crack down on them. A few days later the man’s face was found stitched onto a football.

I’m sorry to turn your stomachs with this, guys, but these people are lower than animals. Absolutely scum. And HSBC was taking their cash. Too right the bankster should go to the slammer.

Private Eye on HSBC and the Former Head of MI5

April 1, 2015

Private Eye today also notes their speculation in a previous issue that the government’s failure to prosecute HSBC for money laundering may well have had something to do with the revolving door between ‘the most sensitive parts of government’ and the bank. It noted that one of the bank’s non-executive directors was Lord Jonathan Evans, who was head of MI5 up to 2013, and a non-executive director of the National Crime Agency. This is the branch of government that should be prosecuting the bank. Now, apparently, Evans has resigned from the National Crime Agency, stating that ‘there could be a perceived conflict of interest’. He has not, however, resigned from his directorship of the bank.

Private Eye’s almost certainly right here, and as I might have written previously, it’s strongly reminiscent of the BCCI scandal. That also escaped international prosecution for so long because it was being used by the CIA to launder drug money, amongst other things. Makes you wonder what MI5 are doing over here.

Northcliffe on the Threat of Coercion by Advertisers

February 21, 2015

Who Runs This Place

I also picked up yesterday a copy of Anthony Sampson’s Who Runs This Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century (London: John Murry 2004). This attempts to describe how the country has become less democratic, and government and big business more unaccountable. It’s a very good book, and accurately describes how we have lost power to the governing elites. One of the most immediately significant passages deals with the way newspapers have increasingly come to reflect the interests of their advertisers.

This was brought home most powerfully this last week with the scandal over the suppression of adverse news about HSBC by the Telegraph. HSBC is heavily involved in tax avoidance, and is being investigated by the Swiss, Americans and other nations for money laundering. Yet this was largely kept out of the pages of the Torygraph on the express orders of its chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan. HSBC was the advertiser the newspaper believed it could not afford to lose, and so instructed its journalists to do everything not to offend it. The resulting scandalous lack of coverage, and the suppression of other news stories and their substitution by puff pieces to satisfied other advertisers, so outraged the columnist Peter Oborne that he resigned. Oborne has written a piece on the Net describing his decision and the circumstances that led up to it. Mike has covered this extensively, including linking to Oborne’s piece, on his own blog over at Vox Political.

Sampson notes in his section on the growing power of advertisers that Lord Northcliffe, the press tycoon, was well aware of their power and did everything he could to keep it in check. Northcliffe said in 1922 ‘Do not let the advertisements rule the paper’. Apparently for a brief period he had the hall porter at the Daily Mail censor them. Northcliffe himself was a major pillar of the establishment, but he was absolutely right in this instance. Unfortunately, Murdoch MacLennan and the others weren’t listening.

Private Eye on Telegraph Supporting Farage

February 19, 2015

In addition to covering up the investigation into tax avoidance and money-laundering at HSBC, and being party to either covering up paedophilia by MPs, or else trying to smear them, the Torygraph has also blotted its copybook even further. It has supported Nigel Farage. Private Eye reported in their issue for the 4th – 14th April last year how one half of the weirdo Barclay twins, the newspaper’s proprietors, were very impressed by the Mussolini of British swivel-eyed loons.

Backing Nigel…

Nigel Farage’s performance in his debate with Nick Clegg last week impressed the Daily Telegraph, whose editorial praised his “persuasive” oratory and predicted that UKIP would do “exceptionally well” at this year’s Euro elections.

We can now expect plenty more of this in the coming months, at least if the Telegraph’s many editors hope to curry favour with their proprietor. For Sir Frederick Barclay, one of the weirdo twins who own the paper, is now a discreet but dedicated UKIP supporter. He has helped pay for back surgery for Farage, who still needs treatment for injuries sustained in the 2010 election-day plane crash. And, by happy coincidence, Farage is holding his 50th birthday party next month at the Barclay-owned Ritz. Will a well-wisher pick up the tab?

The Torygraph did not earn its nickname for nothing. It has always been staunchly Tory, and the support of one of its co-owners for Fuhrage demonstrates that whatever else UKIP are, there are certainly not anti-establishment. Nor can they realistically argue that the media is biased against them.

But they probably will.

Vox Political on Peter Oborne’s Resignation Article in Open Democracy

February 19, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article on Peter Oborne’s resignation, entitled Oborne’s resignation article lifts the lid on Torygraph corruption. This reports on Oborne’s article giving his reasons for resigning from the Torygraph, including extracts from the article. While the newspaper’s cover-up of tax avoidance and money-laundering was the immediate reason Oborne took the step of walking out, this was only one of a number of instances where the newspapers content had been grotesquely distorted to suit the interests of the advertisers. Other examples include a puff-piece about Cunard’s Queen Mary II; extremely minimal news coverage given to the pro-democracy protests in China, with another puff piece by the Chinese government urging the British people not to let events in Hong Kong ruin the relationship between the two countries; further puff-pieces about the wonders of Tesco, while the false accounting scandal at the company was, like Hong Kong, barely mentioned.

The virtual black-out on any adverse news about HSBC, including its investigation by the Swiss authorities, began two years ago in 2013. Quite simply, the bank was a such a major advertiser, that journalists were told that they simply couldn’t afford to lose the account. And so they did everything they could to appease it.

Oborne further makes the point that the Telegraph is only one case of the corruption of British journalism in general. He attacks the way the newspapers, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, were silent during the phone-hacking scandal, regardless of whether or not they were involved.

He makes the excellent point that this has extremely serious implications for democracy. Newspapers aren’t just entertainment, and they aren’t their to appease big corporations and rich men. ‘Newspapers have a constitution duty to tell their readers the truth’.

Mike himself is a trained journalist, and as he says, has personal experience of this. He walked out on two jobs because of management interference in the contents of the newspapers he was with to suit their advertisers.

The article begins

Peter Oborne has written an enlightening article on OpenDemocracy, covering his concerns about the Daily Telegraph’s editorial enthrallment to its advertising department and the effect on its news coverage.

Passages like the following are particularly disturbing:

The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.

The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected the Telegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like the Times) I could not find a single leader on the subject.

At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.

On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.

The article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/18/obornes-resignation-article-lifts-the-lid-on-torygraph-corruption/.

The Guardian and Observer haven’t exactly been as entirely blameless or free of such contagion as Oborne describes. In the 1990s and 2000s they often featured in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for running the same kind of puff-pieces Oborne describes. Frequently, these were articles extolling the virtues of extremely authoritarian countries, like Indonesia, which at that time was pursuing its brutal occupation of East Timor through terror and genocide, and similarly harshly suppressing and persecuting political dissidents. Nevertheless, it should be said that Groaniad and Absurder still published articles criticising such regimes.

And Murdoch’s might empire also has form in this. Australia’s Minister for Public Enlightenment was personally horrified by the Tianamen Square massacre. Nevertheless, Murdoch was keen to expand his global empire into the Chung Kuo. Thus when Chris Patten tried to publish his book describing his experiences and perspectives as the last British governor of Hong Kong, it was turned down by HarperCollins. The publisher was owned by Murdoch, who didn’t want to upset the Chinese, and so lose his chance of subjecting the citizens of the Middle Kingdom to the same kind of moronic bilge he inflicts on the rest of the population.

The corruption of the British press goes back decades. The Torygraph and HSBC are merely the most extreme and recent example. Let’s hope this prompts people to strike back and demand a genuinely free and informative press.

Private Eye on the Spooks Covering Up Scandals at HSBC

February 15, 2015

This past week we’ve had the revelation that HSBC were helping their customers avoid tax, and that the corruption included a number of influential MPs. One was Labour; six were Tories, including the Tory donor, Lord Fink. This isn’t the first time the bank was mired in scandal over corruption. A few years ago it was being investigated for money laundering, and murky dealings with the Iranians.

The Americans wanted to prosecute, but according to Private Eye, the Foreign Office and the Treasury stepped in to block the declassification of certain pieces of evidence under the Freedom of Information Act. in their issue for 4th – 17th October 2013 the ran the story HSBC and the Spooks. This went

Official efforts to protect Britain’s rampantly money-laundering banks from the wrath of US regulators and prosecutors extended as far as the security services, the Eye has learnt in a series of Freedom of Information Requests.

Back in May campaigners in the US obtained emails from the US Treasury showing that chancellor George Osborne had written to his counterpart Tim Geithner on behalf of Standard Chartered. But at far greater risk of losing its licence was HSBC, with money laundering at the core of US operations that were, for example, taking drugs cash from Mexico without checking its provenance and doctoring paperwork to hide Iranian business (all under the leadership of former HSBC boss and soon to retire trade minister the Reverend Lord (Stephen) Green).

So how did HSBC keep its US licence and escape a potentially terminal criminal prosecution there? With help from friends in high places, it seems.

The Eye asked the Treasury and the Foreign Office for their correspondence with the US authorities. After long delays both admitted they did have such material but refused to disclose it, citing harm to international relations, damage to the economy and threats to commercial interests.

On planet Treasury, where the last five years haven’t happened, disclosure might, er, “damage banks (sic) business reputation and possibly the confidence of their customers”. The Foreign Office meanwhile feared that any information “might prejudice the commercial interests of HSBC” – the public interest favouring those commercial interests over the public’s right to know anything about wholesale corruption in banks to which taxpayers have recently provided financial support.

More mysteriously, the Treasury tacked on to the end of its responses a reference to section 23 of the freedom of information act, an exemption for “information supplied by, or relating to , bodies dealing with security matters”. This shadowy provision allows officials not to confirm or deny they do hold such information but, since no other FoI requests mention it, it’s safe to assume there is such information. From the chancellor to the spooks, if a bank faces embarrassment or worse, the full might of Whitehall has to be secretly mobilised behind it.

Corruption and Conservative Complicity

Now that it’s been revealed that MPs, most of whom were members of the ruling party, were benefiting from the bank’s advice about tax avoidance, you’re also left wondering how many Tories and others were also involved with the HSBC’s other shady dealings. How many knew about the money laundering and the breaking of trade sanctions to Iran? In fact, how many were actively involved in these activities?

And these ain’t victimless crimes, by any stretch of the imagination. Quite apart from the misery caused by drug addiction in Britain, America and Europe, the Mexican and South American drug cartels are brutal and ruthless. In Guatemala or one of the Central American states, they shot up an ordinary bus full of people just to make a point about their ruthlessness to the government.

In Mexico, the war on drugs has become a true civil war between the authorities and powerful drug gangs. And they are vile. Feminist and Human Rights organisations have talked about the ‘feminicide’ in the poorer communities in Mexico, where the gangs kidnap, rape, torture and murder young women, simply for the fun of it. It’s sickening to even think that someone’s making money from dealing with these butchers.

HSBC: Britain’s Iran-Contra?

The fact that the British government also tried to shut down US investigations into the bank’s dealing with the South American drugs trade and Iran also raises the spectre of another scandal that hit the CIA in the 1980s. This was the Iran-Contra affair, where Ollie North’s friends did deals to allow South American drug lords to import cocaine into the US, in return for their backing in the war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. At the same time the Company was selling arms to Iran in return for their help in negotiating the release of American prisoners in Lebanon.

When that scandal hit, the effect on the poor black population of the Land of the Free was potentially explosive. One of the areas where the drugs were being dumped was downtown LA. Drugs are a major blight of Black America, to the point where some Black radicals believe that they’re being used as part of a deliberate, planned genocide by the American state against its Black citizens. When the news broke that America’s spooks really were importing drugs in America, the same drugs that were ravaging Black communities, there was a mass meeting by Black Angelenos that nearly flared into a riot.

Although the story has never been refuted, the guy who broke it has effectively had his career ruined through pressure from the authorities and the news corporations.

Now it looks like Britain and our spooks were doing exactly the same. Remember, Maggie set up secret companies to deal with Iraq, while Major’s government was deeply implicated in the affair of the Iraqi ‘supergun’. It really wouldn’t surprise me if we had also followed suit in also supplying arms to the Iranians in order to gain some kind of political leverage in the Middle East. And the Libertarians in Thatcher’s party, like Norris McWhirter, also had absolutely no qualms about dining with South American dictators and death squad leaders.

This piece from two years ago now adds an extra, very suspicious dimension to a very murky business.

Adam Hills and Wossy Tell the Rich to Pay their Tax

February 14, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has just put up a short piece about Adam Hill’s exhortation on last night’s The Last Leg for the rich to pay their tax. He was supported in this Jonathan Ross, showing his usual bizarre taste in clothing, as well as Josh Widdecombe, David Mitchell and Alex Brooker. He also has the clip of that section of the show. Naturally, this follows the revelations that not only were HSBC helping people to avoid paying tax, the government also knew all about it. What is interesting is when Wossy and the others talk about how they don’t try to avoid paying tax, because it supports the very infrastructure they use – schools, roads, hospitals and so on.

Mike’s piece is A message for rich tax-avoiders from The Last Leg, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/14/a-message-for-rich-tax-avoiders-from-the-last-leg/. Go over there and have a good laugh. If you can stand the sight of Wossy’s jacket.