The Socialist 23 September 2008 |
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McMafia: Crime Without Borders
By Misha Glenny
Reviewed by Iain Dalton
As the title indicates, this book is a penetrating insight into the close co-existence of big business and organised crime throughout the world.
Glenny, a former BBC correspondent during the break-up of Yugoslavia, starts his journey through worldwide organised crime with where he knows best, the Balkans. He interviews law enforcement agencies and current and ex-criminals and describes the web of corruption in these newly capitalist states that have allowed smuggling to establish itself so strongly. He goes on to trace the explosion of organised crime worldwide.
Unlike other authors discussing the relation between organised crime and the break-up of the USSR, he doesn't see the rise of the mafiya in Russia as an aberration on its path to transforming into a full-blown free market economy. He demonstrates that the rise of the mafiya and the gangster capitalist society it brought with it were linked.
Mafiya bosses transformed themselves into 'legitimate' businessmen who would then cut and run with their new money and status to the west.
Glenny then examines the effect this transformation of the former Stalinist states had on other countries. He demonstrates how globalisation, in particular the deregulation of financial markets, has led to a bonanza for organised crime as the boundaries between legality and illegality have blurred.
He points out that the main recruiting sergeant for organised crime gangs and syndicates is capitalism's inability to provide even the hope of a decent future for many people, whether it be the street gangs in Mumbai, the Yakuza in Japan, drug mules in South Africa or coca growers in Colombia.
He also notes the role that organised crime plays in helping to maintain capitalist society in many countries - not just by occasionally doing big business' dirty work but also in maintaining 'order' through their own rule of terror that law enforcement agencies co-exist with rather than tackle.
An extreme example was when the boom in the Japanese economy ended, leaving several financial institutions with bad debts owed to the yakuza. To reclaim these debts the yakuza made an example of one leading banker by murdering him. To stop a crime wave setting off, instead of punishing the yakuza for this act, the government underwrote all the financial institution's bad debts, effectively buying the yakuza off.
The book offers no serious way forward. Instead Glenny is rather despondent, understanding that the financial and other loopholes that organised crime exploit are the same that benefit big business.
He says in the conclusion that: "The need for strong, well-equipped law-enforcement agencies to combat organised crime is axiomatic. But appeals like this, which offer solutions based on the greater engagement of the police or military alone, betray a profound abdication of political responsibility."
Getting halfway there, he then adds that these appeals "are the product of unimaginative politicians who lack either the vision or the interest to address the great structural inequalities in the global economy upon which crime and instability thrive."
Glenny explains that it is not in the interests of the major capitalist countries to do this but at this point he reaches his limits.
It is socialists who have both the vision and interest to tackle inequality and really begin a fight to eradicate crime.