“Mock on; thou hast a place of refuge; I am alone, an exile soon to be.” —Euripides, “Medea”
The 29 November Russo-British Business Forum (RBBF), held at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, hallmarked continued efforts to mend Anglo-Russian business ties.
Russo-British Chamber of Commerce (RBCC) Patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent opened the event, followed by speeches from UK Trade Representative Boris Abramov, UK Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, delegates from the House of Lords and Commons, and many others.
Over 35 high-profile speakers in politics, business, AgriTech, FinTech, engineering and finance addressed pertinent topics. Bloomberg Radio’s Caroline Hepker moderated several open panel discussions and delegates signed numerous bilateral agreements.
Other notable projects were showcased, such as the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency (TIDA) and the Western Europe-Western China Transport Corridor (WE-WC), which aims to facilitate trade for the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative into the European Union.
In an interview, RBCC Board of Directors’ Chairman Roger Munnings expressed that “Brexit is going to require British companies to think adventurously and be faster on their feet — all of which is good,” drawing parallels to Russia’s economic rebound from international sanctions.
Many guests spoke on promising trends in increasing bilateral trade whilst underscoring the importance of closing trade deficits, to which Abramov noted, “Russia sells to Britain 1.7 times more goods and services than Britain sells to Russia”.
An RBBF press release extrapolates,
Over the first 9 months of 2017 Russian exports to the UK increased by 29.4% to US$ 6.5 billion compared to the 9 months of 2016 [whilst imports] from the UK, based on the results of the first 9 months of 2017, increased by 18.7% compared to the same period in 2016.
However, the event, full of optimism, laughter, and networking, was obscured by a dearth of attention to one of the most important obstacles sat in the way of progress: the British state.
In order to determine the future Russo-British ties, this issue must be addressed.
The “Special Relationship” and the State
Capitalism is an unabated sea of competition, alienation and monopolisation, which “always becomes the more destructive for bourgeois relations”, with the state determining such relations.
Vladimir Lenin defines it as,
[…] an organ for the oppression of one class by another [which] legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes.
Dialectically, Britain is undergoing a painful loss: its “special relationship” with the US empire, a product of the Cold War rising with former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and falling with current PM Theresa May.
Friedrich Engles saliently noted that,
The State was the official representative of society as a whole [only] in so far as it was the State of that class which itself represented […]
In this case, it operates solely for the dominant bourgeoisie to crush opposition at home with social-democracy and austerity, or abroad with NATO—the “strange fruits” of such a relationship.
Karl Marx highlights that,
The value of a thing consists solely in its relation to our wants [where] we wish to part with a useless thing, in order to get one that we need [and] exchange something superfluous for something necessary.”
A contradiction ensues: as the British state coalesces capital and power, sections of the bourgeoisie will revolt in order to circulate their commodities to accessible markets.
These two relationships find expression in diametrically opposed value-forms, with the former in the US petrodollar, a money-form used to suspend the production of commodities, and the latter commodities, which must circulate in return for money-forms; Solve et Coagula, in other words.
Marx also notes that hoarding becomes,
…a constantly extending market for gold and silver, unconnected with their functions as money [and] a latent source of supply [principally] in times of crisis and social disturbance.
One particular crisis—Brexit—has become so severe that the British state is compelled to hoard as it prepares for an uncertain future. The material evidence for this must be explored further.
Material Origins of Deteriorating UK-Russian Relations
Post 9/11, Russo-British relations began disintegrating with former UK PM David Cameron, whom reinvigorated the UK-US special relationship with former US president Barack Obama in 2010, cumulating with the 2014 fascist Ukrainian coup, in order to mitigate the EU-Russian trade deficit.
The Guardian quacked that,
[Cameron] said Russia cannot expect to continue enjoying access to European markets and pushed for stronger sanctions against the country, after both the UK and US said they strongly suspect the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was struck down in Ukraine by separatists using Russian-made Buk missiles.
Pandering to Washington and Brussels, Cameron rallied against Russia by joining US-EU sanctions, military and media (propaganda) regimes, of course, for completely material reasons.
A Russian embassy communique from Ambassador Yakovenko noted,
The [2013 EU-Ukraine Association] Agreement stipulates that 80% of export tariffs are to be cancelled or lowered right away and further 15% – within 5 years. As a result, we expect the Ukrainian market to be saturated with European goods and components quite quickly, which can lead to Russian goods being displaced from Ukraine and EU [and] that Ukraine will be used as a low-cost transit channel for European goods, […] bypassing the agreed tariff schedule.
This is where the destructive power of capitalist alienation began. Cameron, hoping to alienate British goods to Ukraine via the agreement, was instead alienated by his European counterparts.
The Normandy Four—France, Germany, and Ukraine, and Russia—negotiated the Minsk agreements without London’s participation, infuriating Cameron.
A Russian Embassy resumé discloses that,
Outside the ‘Normandy Four’ and with no stake in the political solution, Britain became the most vociferous critic of Russia and supporter of Kiev’s flawed strategy of military solution.
The OEC stresses that,
During the last five years the exports of the United Kingdom have decreased at an annualized rate of -11.966%, from $446B in 2011 to $404B in 2016.
RT elucidates the timing even further,
Russia-UK trade has almost halved in 2015 as a result of the tit-for-tat sanctions between Russia and the European Union [and that] the total trade between the two countries fell by nearly 50 percent compared with 2014, and the loss is estimated at about $10 billion.
In short, there was nothing special about the special relationship. Even worse, whilst the UK accuses Moscow of hostile “aggression”, it was Britain who severed diplomatic ties to Moscow.
The Russian Embassy highlights,
[At] the moment Russo-British political dialogue is non-existent. London unilaterally froze all the bilateral formats of Inter-Governmental cooperation which proved their worth […] Regular consultations between the foreign ministries have actually ceased.
London is not ready either to drop its [visa] sanctions [against] Russian officials, introduced earlier [and still refuses] to fully restore the contacts between special services, [damaging] Russo-British counter-terrorism cooperation.
Not since the 1927 ARCOS incident has a Tory-led government become such a cacophony of Russophobia. Even today, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson channels the humiliation of 1st Earl Stanley Baldwin of Bewdley. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
To understand why, a UK Parliament paper explains,
EU statistics indicate that EU goods exports to the UK amounted to €314 billion in 2016; more than EU goods exports to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.
So, betrayed by the EU and US, yet dependant on the American state and European economy. Alienated by Brussels, and, under US president Donald Trump, alienated “at the back of the queue”, Britain becomes a shameless Ouroboros of self-destruction. Potentially without markets to which it can alienate its commodities, Britain began doubling down on hoarding.
An Inc. article details why,
[Imagine] you’re in charge of a large public company [and every] three months, investors are picking apart your balance sheets. […] Companies look better on the balance sheet if they hoard their cash–or spend it on low-risk, short-term, in-the-box, incremental innovations.
The British superstructure is being devoured by its material reality, ab irato, whilst its capital and stability remain under constant scrutiny from investors, the European Commission, and the public.
Unfortunately, after PM Tony Blair’s transatlantic honeymoon in Iraq and Afghanistan, British gold reserves plummeted from 588.27 to roughly 310 tonnes (2000-2002) and never recovered, which threatens British quantitative easing plans post-Brexit.
The 2008 global financial crises also aggravated matters to the point where QE began failing for the Bank of England. So, instead of hoarding gold, Britain hordes money-forms via austerity and prints cash via the BoE, to the chagrin of its citizens.
Should Westminster not change course, one can expect several phenomena to come to pass:
- With EU productive forces merging with the OBOR, defeat in ALL Brexit negotiations.
- To avoid a monetary collapse, hoarding via social welfare cuts and military/ security spending
- Massive capital flights to other European finance centres and tax havens
- A rapid collapse in Conservative (Tory) leadership and violent in-fighting
- A rise in the UK Labour Party (social-democrats) to capitalise on and mitigate capitalist crises
To survive, Britain must choose the OBOR, where commodity and money-form exchanges (non-USD) can prosper via emerging markets and kickstart its sluggish growth. Many EU nations are already doing so, and as Europe’s third-largest Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank member since 2015, it makes perfect sense. However, if it chooses the opposite, then prepare for the worst.
Furthermore, it is senseless why the British bureaucracy refuses to exploit all possibilities with organisations like the RBCC, even from a realpolitik perspective, or a Machiavellian one. It must integrate, not alienate itself from emerging economies like Russia, China, and countless others, particularly in the absence of the European market, and increase production of commodities of use-value, not exchange value. Cameron understood this when he joined the AIIB, and subconsciously, Theresa May also understands this and is reshuffling her cabinet in response.
As a final anecdote, one should recall the prophetic “wisdom” of Karl Kautsky,
There is no economic necessity for continuing the arms race [as] the capitalist economy is seriously threatened precisely by the contradictions between its States.
Every far-sighted capitalist today must call on his fellows: capitalists of all countries, unite!