What Do the Panama Papers Reveal?

Commentary by Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 4.4.2016, www.thecommunists.net


Germany's newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have revealed a massive global web of capitalist corruption and tax evasion. The journalists investigated 11.5 million (!) leaked internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world, revealing its activities for the past four decades (hence the name The Panama Papers.) In short, this shady law firm is connected with 214,488 offshore entities which helped corporations, politicians, celebrities, etc. to hide their fortunes.


According to the journalists, the documents link at least 12 current and former heads of state and 143 other politicians to illicit financial transactions. Among them are British Prime Minister Cameron’s father, closest friends of Russia’s president Putin, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, relatives of the Spanish king, Iceland’s Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson, Argentina’s right-wing president Macri, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, two cousins of Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad, former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, and many more. Among this global gang of capitalist politicians are also at least eight current or former members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, including the current President Xi whose family members own numerous offshore companies.


In addition, the leak has revealed that numerous banks dominating the global financial system like UBS and HSBC have been complicit in directing clients, who want keep their finances under wraps, to shell companies (the files list nearly 15,600 such shell companies!).


According to the expert Gabriel Zucman, approximately 6,600 billion US Dollars (that’s 6.6 trillion dollars!) are parked in these phony offshore companies! Nearly a third of this astronomical sum is alleged to be in Switzerland, in the very heart of Europe!


In short, this leak proves once more that not only is capitalism thoroughly corrupt in all countries around the world, it cannot be otherwise. It demonstrates how hypocritical all Western statesmen are when they denounce corruption as the specific problem of poor countries, and how it is responsible for their backwardness. In reality, not only are the leaders and bankers in the rich imperialist countries at least as corrupt as their African colleagues, but it is precisely the former who are establishing and protecting the system of off-shore companies.


The Panama Papers also shows that, as long as banks are private property, they cannot be controlled. This can only be stopped when the working class nationalizes the banks under its control.


Similarly, we see that all states are ruled by corrupt politicians. This can only be remedied under a socialist system in which all political representatives earn only an average wage and are accountable to and immediately recallable by the popular masses; or in other words, under the rule of the workers and oppressed – one based on popular councils and militias which suppress the capitalist class and their counterrevolutionary armed forces.


Last but not least, the Panama Papers demonstrate the shallowness of the preposterous assertions of various pro-Russian/Chinese social imperialists who claim that in some way Assad, Qaddafi, Xi or Putin are progressive or anti-imperialist. It is also a blow to those fantasists who still call China a “deformed workers’ state” when China has in fact become an imperialist country ruled by millionaires who serving an even richer capitalist class.


It is vital that Marxist revolutionaries use this valuable investigation in their propaganda and agitation to help the working class and oppressed better understand the corrupt mechanism of global capitalism. In this way it will also be easier to explain the urgent need to expropriate the superrich and their corporations and banks, something which can only be achieved by means of a socialist revolution.


The Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have published the details of this scandal on this websites: