Man On A Mission: Bill Browder vs. the Kremlin

World Affairs

“There, but for an accident of geography, stands a corpse!” thundered Max Shachtman—once known as Leon Trotsky’s “foreign minister”—in New York City in 1950. By popular account, the line had been cooked up that night by a young Shachtmanite named Irving Howe; it ended the debate between the anti-Stalinist socialist Schachtman and his opponent, Earl Browder, former head of the Communist Party USA, who had been expelled from the party in 1946 at the behest of Moscow Central after suggesting that Soviet Communism and American capitalism might coexist after all.

Browder’s grandson Bill, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, has continued the family tradition of heretical defiance of the Kremlin and as a result has had an experience that in all its eccentricity defines the malign brutality of Russian political life today.

“When I was a teenager growing up in Chicago, I went through the standard teenage rebellion,” Bill Browder told me one afternoon in the Hermitage office in London, during the first of several conversations I had with him in 2011. “But instead of growing my hair long and joining a rock band, coming from my specific family, I decided I was going to become a capitalist. There was nothing that would piss off my family more than that.”

Browder was the largest capitalist in Eastern Europe for a while, but he’s now known as an international justice crusader. In the past two years, he has singlehandedly waged an intercontinental lobbying campaign to get Western governments to pass a suite of sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian officials involved in the conspiracy to arrest, torture, and murder Browder’s thirty-seven-year-old Moscow-based attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, who had uncovered a $230 million tax fraud pegged to companies that had been expropriated by Russian officials. His thanks for exposing the government agents who perpetrated this theft was to be accused of the crime himself. Browder might not be a corpse but for geography, but he’d certainly be snatched up if he ever traveled back to Russia: “I’d be arrested the moment I crossed the border and most likely tortured to death like Sergei.”

Since his muckraking and lobbying efforts on behalf of Magnitsky began in earnest in November 2008, Browder says he has received eleven death threats, including voicemail and text messages left on his mobile and office phones. One simply quoted Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II: “If history has taught us anything, it’s that you can kill anyone.”

Michael Weiss is the communications director of the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank focused on democratic geopolitics. payday loan payday loan https://zp-pdl.com/emergency-payday-loans.php https://zp-pdl.com/fast-and-easy-payday-loans-online.php hairy woman

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