The Blog

Panama Papers: Time for Ultimatums

With the Panama Papers the jig is up. Austerity's proposed logic, which has always been flawed, is now null and void. The public, in an extremely public fashion, now have proof of how the rich have robbed the poor.

Ultimatum: noun /ʌltɪˈmeɪtəm/ - a final, uncompromising demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliation or a breakdown in relations.


'Capitalism is crisis', read the banner I slept underneath for months as we occupied the city of London. This crisis will never be without revolt, was the biggest lesson. In the margins of capitalism, where extraction, exploitation, death and destitution pave the way for prosperity in the capitals, people are always on a move against the moneychangers and captains of industry. Sometimes, at crucial moments, the revolt spills into the capitals.

With the revelation of the Panama Papers, revolt is brewing in the cities of the Global North. Historically, it is then that collateral is offered up by the state, usually in the form of heads. David Cameron, although hesitantly, may well be the next head of state to step down - this means next to nothing, we need look no further than Eton to see that he is bred to be replaceable. We need look no further than Osborne to see that his successor could easily match his malice.

If David Cameron resigns it only indicates that we must push for more than resignations, that we must impose ultimatums limiting the mobility of the government to slash crucial services and continue the imperial status quo. If people take to the streets, people must stay on the streets. Space is crucial, to talk, to organise, to commune and to envision. We can and must focus our energies on the gargantuan task of holding a system of global capital, of cronyism and colonialism, which has never stopped plundering, to account.

With the Panama Papers the jig is up. Austerity's proposed logic, which has always been flawed, is now null and void. The public, in an extremely public fashion, now have proof of how the rich have robbed the poor. David Cameron being the most poignant example of this robbery. Blairmore holdings, an offshore fund at the heart of Cameron's unfolding scandal, amassed its wealth by playing broker for the Rothschild bank during times of war, and playing grain merchant in 19th Century Chicago. Capital scraped off the back of hardworking, dying, people.

Photo: public domain image, a conversation between newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the anonymous source

With the capital the Cameron-Geddes house hoarded they have since established an investment bank, an accountancy firm and various offshore funds. Building up a formidable dynasty in the City of London, they have been funnelling all wealth through offshore schemes, zeroing taxes, namely in Panama and the Bahamas. The time to pay has come, so in Rihanna's timeless wisdom, #BitchBetterHaveMyMoney.

The Corporotocracy at the helm of global capital and most nation states, which all mainstream parties will inevitably play ball with in order to gain political power, may finally be unable to reassemble the mask which creates a fake distinction between elite tycoons and leaders of states. As the Panama Papers scandal brings to light, state leaders have lept at every opportunity to defend the assets of the wealthy - and the wealthy have accrued capital at an accelerated rate during what is essentially the most persistent global recession in human history.

What can we organise for beyond resignations? Now is the time to formulate national demands, but more than demands, ultimatums. Whilst the fat cats and parliamentarians rush to find their feet we must levy these non-discussions upon them. We must reassess all that we were told to forfeit because "We're all in this together", as Cameron once chimed.

No austerity. Immediate collection of all evaded taxes, and, appropriation of assets handled illegally. The NHS must not be sold off. Crucial services such as women's refuges must remain open. Resettle families seeking refuge here from our wars. Whatever our ultimatums, they must be strictly unconditional: sustained demonstrations if we do not have immediate obligation from government during this interim period.

Photo: Ged Carroll

We need an interim period not just a snap internal election. The demands we formulate should be step one, only to halt and reverse the murderous, racist, ableist, patriarchal policies of the last few decades. They are for the interim because when the establishment is on the retreat, there is no better time to forward the agenda of holding it to account - to begin the dialogue of justice, the people are wounded, and a program of healing and restorative justice needs to start, yesterday.

The word justice needs to trend alongside the word resign. We must radicalise and decolonise the discussion, so that this is not just about state leaders and party politics, so that this is about a systemic injustice pitting the marginalised against the rich in an unfair game - where the rules are rigged and the Panama Papers say so. The Panama Papers say so. Just as the indigenous peoples of the Global South say so. Just as we, the wretched of the earth have said so.

There is a chasm being created where the show-reel of mainstream politics is overheating, in this space of uncertainty we can certainly seize a moment. Assemblies, in churches, in mosques, in parks, in town halls, on streets, in homes, better than we did in 2011. We need not look far to draw inspiration on how to believe in our autonomy, and power to mobilise, cast a glance at Rojava in Northern Syria, Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa or the Comunero's in Venezuela, by the people, for the people.

We have time and reason to come together in our respective communities and be honest about the situation - assess our communal needs, formulate our nuanced ultimatums against the government, amalgamate and correlate our voices through the internet, and most importantly piece together a plan to separate ourselves from a system of global capital, of corporotocracy, which as the Panama papers show, cheats us minute to minute.

Photo: Matthew Straubmuller, Panama City

We need not fear who will pick up rubbish or cook food. We do that ourselves. We hold up the state, we hold up society, my uncle was a carpenter, my grandmother was a chef, my grandfather was a tailor, my mother was a nurse, is a carer, my father is a taxi driver. We make society and the state turn, it is not the other way round. We the people are not even a dual power, we are the only real power.

The closing weeks of April will be very decisive. Climate catastrophe is beyond urgent. Marginalised communities are filling prison pipelines and prisons are being auctioned off to private companies by a government entrenched in the biggest leak in history. We have a moment, it is bigger than a resignation, and it is even bigger than a political party. It is about a political and economic system that does not stand up, and that with enough agitation and organisation can be curbed at the eleventh hour.

Power to the people