The “Panama papers” are the leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm called Mossack Fonesca. These files were obtained by an investigating journalist working for the German newspaper , from an anonymous source. This newspaper shared and released the files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Large international news networks, such as the BBC, obtained the leaked files from the ICIJ. These documents have revealed the myriad ways that government officials, politicians (and their close family members and associates), and celebrities have been using offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in the country they reside in. The 143 politicians discovered so far in the documents include Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson (Prime Minister of Iceland), friends of Vladimir Putin (President of Russia) and the father of David Cameron (British Prime Minister).
The first impact of the Panama papers has been political: that is the deepening of the political crisis and turmoil that has plagued capitalism since the 2008 economic crisis. Further, at the crux of this political crisis is a legitimacy crisis. In the last economic crisis, neoliberal bourgeois politicians were able to crush the working-class to accept the payment of billions of dollars of their hard earned tax revenues (that were supposed to be used for social services), to bailout banks and corporations, by wearing the ever thinning shroud of legitimacy. In order for capitalism to effectively shift the cost of the economic crisis to the working-class, it relied on its political and sate machinery (corporate media, the police and the army of politicians) to convince the working-class that the only way out of the crisis was to save the banks and the corporations and to elect neoliberal leaders. The inexorable outcome of the crisis for capitalism was to intensify its neoliberal class war on the working people.
The working-class response to the economic crisis, the bourgeois class war, was a global political shift towards the left. With waves upon waves of austerity and the assault on social services, e.g. the cuts to the NHS in the UK; the divide between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor, the 99% and the 1%, has become wider and ossified into the global class struggle. The working-class today thinks and acts with the consciousness of being part of the 99%, while knowing that the 1% controls the wealth in society and has the monopoly on violence to protect its interests (the state and the police). The last thing that the bourgeois, the capitalist class, wants is to be categorized as the bourgeois, and its role in society to be illuminated and classified as the 1%, i.e. to lose its facade of legitimacy and the illusion of representing the interests of the working-class. This is the very reason why David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, wants to be photographed wearing jeans, drinking a pint, and using a budget airline.
One only needs to look at the US primary elections to see that today the working-class is asking the bourgeois, the so called “leaders”, important class-based questions such as: which corporation is endorsing you? How is your campaign being financed? Which special interest are you representing? Can you release your tax records? The working people also want to see long-term voting records and actions of the politicians. The working-class knows that the people who represent corporate interests, or are themselves a corporate owner, do not represent their interests. The “trust” that was once installed in the system is now completely evaporated and the bourgeois is desperate to hold on to any political ground still available to it. This is why the Panama papers are extremely politically damaging for the bourgeois, and why any so called “leader” named in the released documents is facing imminent impeachment - as was the case for the Prime Minister of Iceland.
The Panama papers is another stone thrown at the political glasshouse of the bourgeois. This is a legitimacy crisis, in the context of an intensified global class struggle between the haves and the have nots: the class war between the 99% and the 1%. The Panama papers have further lifted the shroud, and reduced the façade of the bourgeois democracy and class rule. It is in such political crises that the campaign of the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders will ignite. These bourgeois politicians will run to rescue capitalism by salvaging important political ground, and will reinforce and legitimize inequality via the bourgeois distribution of wealth, by putting a fresh layer of lipstick on the pig.
By: Chia Barsen