Posts Tagged ‘Leonid Brezhnev’

Money Laundering: Will Jeremy Hunt End Up at the Bottom of the Black Sea like Iron Bella?

April 22, 2018

Much mirth was had on Friday night’s edition of Have I Got News For You when host Lee Mack inadvertently accused Jeremy Hunt of money laundering. The current minister in charge of privatising the NHS has bought a whole load of houses in Southampton to the tune of £50 million, but not declared it in the register of members’ interests. This breaks parliamentary rules, as Mike reported on his blog. Mack went a bit further, and frightened the Beeb’s lawyers and producers by inadvertently claiming that Hunt had been accused of money laundering. He hasn’t, as the producers and the lawyers told him through the microphone in his ear and by autocue. He then got frightened over whether it would be the programme or himself that could get sued for libel.

Hislop, however, was perfectly willing to repeat the accusation. He said that the legislation that Hunt had violated had been brought in specifically to deal with money laundering, and so that was what Hunt was doing. ‘Trust me on this. I never lose’. That last must have been said ironically, as Hislop and Private Eye have lost libel cases so often that it was a case for major celebration over a decade ago when he actually won one. Mack hurriedly repeated the statement that Hunt had not been charged with that offence, while Hislop said ‘But that’s what he’s been doing.’ Ah, the fun of watching arguments on panel games, and a host terrified of m’learned friends coming down on him.

But this also raises an interesting point. Amongst their various donors, the Tories have been taking money from Russian oligarchs. These men were very highly placed managers and apparatchiks under the old Soviet system. Hence they were able to buy up their particular industries and state enterprises, often at knockdown prices, when it was all privatised by Yeltsin. And there’s a conflict of interest here. When Putin came to power, he allowed them to retain their ownership on one condition: absolute loyalty to him. It’s been described by Russian dissidents and academics as ‘industrial feudalism’. Alexandra Politovskaya, the murdered Russian democracy activist said that as long as this system continues, there is no freedom, no democracy, just the strong man in the Kremlin.

Exactly true. So although the Tories want some kind of confrontation with Putin, including war, a sizable portion of their rich donors don’t.

But there’s also the possibility of personal danger to Hunt himself. Russia is a very corrupt society, and the Communist era was certainly no exception. The Russian journalist Arkady Vaksberg described just how corrupt Russian officialdom was in his book The Soviet Mafia. Vaksberg was a Jewish Bulgarian, who worked for TASS, the official Soviet news agency. Several times he risked censure and arrest for uncovering massive corruption within the Communist party. And it went all the way to the top, right to Brezhnev himself and his son-in-law. Vaksberg describes talking to exhausted, demoralised Soviet generals, who had spent days trying to arrange emergency transport for food into areas hit by famine. They then found out that all their efforts had been wasted. There was no famine. It all had been a scam by the local party chiefs and apparatchiks to misdirect funds and goods, and enrich themselves.

And money laundering was one of the many tricks the corrupt Communist chiefs were into. In one of the these scams, the embezzled money was laundered through the Soviet hotel chains on the Black Sea coast, run by a powerful Georgian lady nicknamed ‘Iron Bella’. Again, millions of roubles were involved. After this was busted wide open, and those responsible were sacked and led off to the gulags, Iron Bella mysteriously disappeared.

But everybody knew where she went. As they said in the Godfather, she sleeps with the fishes. The joke at the time went, ‘Nobody knows what happened to all those roubles, but everyone knows Iron Bella’s at the bottom of the Black Sea’. Quite.

If Hunt has been doing a bit of money laundering, an offence for which he has not been charged, and it comes from Russian oligarchs, then it might be advisable for him to avoid any coastal holidays for the time being.

The Political Abuse of Anti-Semitism Accusations: Jeremy Corbyn, and the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia

July 3, 2016

I’ve put up a whole series of article attacking and debunking the accusations of anti-Semitism, which have been directed against the Labour party, and more specifically its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. As I’ve shown, these are all false, gross distortions of history and offensive personal smears of decent men and women. Ken Livingstone, for example, was entirely correct when he said that Hitler favoured at one time the emigration of Jews to Israel. He did. The Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann, one of the most notorious of those responsible for the Holocaust, aided people smugglers in getting Jews into Palestine, then under the British Mandate. They also supplied arms to the Haganah, the clandestine Jewish military organisation in Palestine, so that it could aid the British in suppressing the Arab rebellion against British rule – the First Intifada. This is documented in the work of the Jewish historian and passionate Zionist, David Cesarani, on the Holocaust and the origins of the Israel. Naz Shah, one of the others, who have been accused, has the support of her local synagogue. This surely provided good testimony that whatever faults she may have, anti-Semitism isn’t one of them. As for Jackie Smith, one of the others slandered with this accusation, she is a veteran anti-racism campaigner. Her mother was Black British civil rights activist, who was deported from America for her activism by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Her father was a Russian Jew, and her partner is also Jewish.

The source of these allegations lie in the Blairite wing of the Labour party, who are desperate to use any tactic to cling on to power, and the Israel lobby. These latter are determined to smear anybody and everybody, who objects to their oppression and maltreatment of the Palestinians, as an anti-Semite, even when these are other Jews, such as the head of Bernie Sander’s Jewish outreach department in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

I’ve also been struck by the way the anti-Semitism allegations recall earlier attempts to discredit left-wing political leaders, in fact and fiction. David English, the editor of the Daily Mail, believed Ken Livingstone was an anti-Semite, and continued to press the issue for about a year in the early 1980s. There was also a piece on the Going Underground news programme on RT, hosted by Afshin Rattansi, which compared the anti-Semitism smears with the plot of the 1980s novel and Channel 4 series, A Very British Coup, in which the media and opposition politicians manufacture false accusations of anti-Semitism to discredit a genuinely popular left-wing Labour Prime Minister.

And the Soviet Union under Brezhnev also used accusations of anti-Semitism in its campaign against the proposed democratisation of Communist Czechoslovakia under its leader, Anton Dubcek, in 1968. Dubcek wished to free his country from the rigid control of the Soviet Union. While remaining very much a Communist, he also planned on introducing platform of reforms aimed at liberalising the country, while retaining the Communist party’s privileged position as the country’s leading political authority. He was going to allow a certain degree of political freedom, in allowing non-Communist groups and voluntary societies to be formed. Inside the Communist party, the policy of ‘democratic centralism’ was to be replaced by democracy and the free discussion of ideas. The security services was to be made responsible solely for defending the Czechoslovakian nation, and not for protecting the Communist parties. The command economy was going to be weakened, to allow greater consumer choice. State enterprises were not going to be privatised, but were going to be freed from the constraints of following the plan, and allowed to manage their own affairs. He was also in favour of something like workers’ control, and the democratic election by the workers of the management committees. In many ways, it prefigures much of Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union during Perestroika.

All this was too much for Brezhnev’s USSR, which invaded. One of the reasons for the Soviet Union’s hostility to the reforms, according Hugh Lunghi, in his introduction to the book, Dubcek’s Blueprint for Freedom (London: William Kimber 1968) was the fear that the USSR’s covert operations manipulating and dominating its satellites would be revealed by Dubcek’s de-Stalinisation campaign. Dubcek was determined to go ahead with the investigation of Stalin’s terror and the rehabilitation of the old thug’s victims. This would almost certain produce evidence of the activities of the Soviet Union and its secret police in destroying the opposition to the imposition of Communism and those countries’ direct control by Moscow.

Dubcek was, however, genuinely popular amongst the peoples of Czechoslovakia. Surprisingly, he also had the backing of the Czechoslovak secret police. When the KGB tried to infiltrate the country disguised as Czechoslovak secret agents, their passports and documents were in such awful Czech that the country’s real agents had no trouble recognising them and rounding them up. They were then delivered to the Russian embassy with the explanation that their Czech was so terrible, they must obviously be American spies.

Unable to find anyone willing to collaborate with them in a puppet government to replace Dubcek and his supporters, the Soviet authorities tried instead to grind him down by stalling his reforms and trying discredit Dubcek and his supporters. One of the ways they tried to do this was through entirely spurious accusations of anti-Semitism. Lunghi writes:

About a month later, on October 11th, Dubcek repeated [not to introduce a secret police terror campaign] in a major speech in which he explained why the Czechoslovak leadership had refused to authorise a programme of unjustified arrests and dismissals which “some Communists” (he did not specify in which country) demanded for anti-Semitic and other reasons. “Some individuals,” said Dubcek, “think this is now the time to move towards excesses similar to those of the ‘fifties, that this is a time to return to the deformities of sectarian non-Leninist methods.” Communists should understand, continued Dubcek, that “”socialist thought in our country is not deformed, for example, by anti-Semitism…” (p. 29, emphasis Lunghi’s). Several of those forced out of office on the orders of the Russians were the victims of anti-Semitism. These included Dr. Frantisek Kriegel, who was accused of being a ‘Zionist’. (p. 30). Which sort of prefigures the accusations of anti-Semitism against Jackie Smith, who’s half-Jewish, has a Jewish partner, and is a dedicated campaigner against racism. Or against Rhea Wolfson, who, despite being Jewish, was dropped as a candidate for the NEC by her constituency party on the advice of Jim Murphy, because she was connected with Momentum, which was an anti-Semitic organisation.

It seems the Blairites and their allies are following a very old pattern of using allegations of anti-Semitism to smear left-wing opponents. Well, the joke in Private Eye about Gordon Brown had him as a Stalinist apparatchik, issuing diktats, decrees and party purges like the thug himself.