Session VIII — Global Corporatization

“If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessities of life.  If we would not submit to an emperor, we should not submit to an autocrat of trade.”

– from Robert La Follette’s 1911 autobiography

Corporate capitalism and its protection by government “security forces” aren’t new, but under the past two decades of influence from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, their destructive impacts have increased dramatically.  Multinational corporations now comprise half the world’s 100 largest economies, and the World Trade Organization epitomizes institutionalized power and protection on a global scale.  In response to the loss of their homes, jobs, and even lives, the peoples of the world have not stood idly by — from the Chiapas uprising at the dawn of NAFTA to Indian farmers burning fields of genetically modified crops to French farmers bulldozing a McDonald’s. 

None of this made headline news in the US until November 1999, when more than 50,000 people took over the streets of Seattle, helping to prevent the WTO Ministerial gathering from negotiating more global trade rules.  Inspired by Seattle, similar protests have continued to take place against the WTO, IMF, World Bank, and other institutions of global power throughout the US and other parts of the world. These struggles on the streets and at the teach-ins, marches, meetings, rallies, and seminars are developing new strategic alliances among labor, human rights, environment, student, farming, peace and justice, and many more activists, and they signal a growing global people’s movement.  The hopes raised make it all the more important to ground our energy and efforts in an understanding of the forces of corporate and state oppression.

Readings:

1 – “Free Trade: The Great Destroyer,” by David Morris, from The Case Against the Global Economy (5 pgs)

2 – “Globalization and the Poor,” by Amitabh Pal (1 page)

3 – “A Choice for the Nice Conspirators,” by Caroline Lucas (1 page)

4 – “WTO: Militarism Goes Global,” by Molly Morgan (3 pages)

5 – “Globalization from Below,” by Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, and Brendan Smith (3 pages)

6 – “Corporate Cash” flyer (1 page; not available on website)

7 – “The Party of Davos. The Ruling Class Depends on US Power- Which is slipping into crisis” by Jeff Faux (3 pages)

Discussion Questions:

1.     Some people have held that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand.  Comment from both a US and global perspective.  What is the impact of conflating these terms in public discussion?

2.     What institutions and forces have propelled the global expansion of corporate capitalism?  How do they work?  Who benefits, who loses, and why? 

3.     How does building an export-oriented economy affect the ability to develop democracy?  What is the impact on a community when its customers are on the other side of the world instead of the other side of town?  What is the impact on the environment of this system?

4.     Discuss the evolution of corporate power from its roots, discussed in Session II, to today’s global system.  What basic elements of the system are the same, and which ones are different?  Include the role of militarism in your discussion.

Supplementary Materials:

     The Corporate Consensus: A Guide to the Institutions of Global Power, by George Draffan.  Consists of two sections: Part I is an essay called “The Dynamics of Power,” an excellent and comprehensive overview of the system of global corporate power. Part II is “Profiles in Corporate Power,” a detailed description of the major think tanks and influential organizations in US and global politics (e.g., Brookings Institution, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, International Chamber of Commerce, RAND) and how they work.  Published by the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, HCR 82, Fossil, OR  97830.  114 pages (standard 8.5x11 size), October 2000, $5.  Also available on the web at www.endgame.org (and there is a lot of other good resource material at this website as well). 

     The Case Against the Global Economy and For a Turn Toward the Local, edited by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith.  Sierra Club Books, 1996.

     “By What Authority!” a pamphlet by Tony Clarke.  Explains key agreements of the WTO, how some of the corporations benefit from them, and what some of the key issues and impacts are.  Available from the Polaris Institute, 4 Jeffrey Avenue, Ottawa, ON K1K 0E2 CANADA, 613.746.8374, tclark@web.net.  36 pages (approximately 18 standard 8.5x11 pages).

     Whose Trade Organization? Corporate Globalization and the Erosion of Democracy, by Lori Wallach and Michelle Sforza.  Describes various agreements under the GATT and WTO; case studies document details of how these agreements have damaged the environment, workers, laws, and citizen sovereignty. Public Citizen Foundation, 1999; 229 pages. 

     “Women Define Globalization: A Discussion Paper,” from WILPF, 1998.  This international collaboration is 36 A4 pages (European standard, approximately equivalent to US 8.5x11).  Describes the elements of capitalist globalization (economics and labor, science and technology, communications and media, militarism, governance and politics, social effects) and their social effects; also explores alternatives and people’s movements.  $10 (proceeds benefit international WILPF). 

     “False Profits: Who Wins, Who Loses when the IMF, World Bank and WTO Come to Town,” a pamphlet co-sponsored by 20 organizations.  Explains how the IMF, World, Bank, and WTO work and the impacts of their policies on developing countries, women, workers, people of color, the environment, and children.  26 pages (equivalent of about 10 standard 8.5x11 pages).  Available from Booklets/Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 E Street SE, Washington, DC  20003, 541.344.5410, clr@igc.org.

     “Showdown in Seattle” (videotape). Documentary describing day-by-day activities at the WTO protest in Seattle, November-December 1999.  Deep Dish Television, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY  10012, 212.473.8933 (all proceeds benefit nonprofit video production collectives and the Independent Media Center). 137 minutes (five segments, each approximately one-half hour long); a shorter version is also available.

     “This is What Democracy Looks Like” (videotape).  Documentary produced by over 100 media activists about the WTO protest in Seattle, narrated by Susan Sarandon and Michael Franti.  The Independent Media Center, 1415 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA  98101, 206.262.0721, info@thisisdemocracy.org.  69 minutes.

     “Global Village or Global Pillage” (videotape). Documentary exploring what the global economy means for ordinary people — and what they are doing about it. Narrated by Edward Asner.  World Economy Project, Preamble Center, 1737 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009, phone: 202.265.3263 ext: 232, fax: 202/234-0981, e-mail: wep@preamble.org.  Make checks payable to Preamble Center; $25 per copy ($10 students and low-income; can also be downloaded from the website: www.villageorpillage.org).  28 minutes.

     “Trading Democracy” (videotape). PBS documentary by Bill Moyers; first aired in February, 2002. Explains how NAFTA works and examines its effects in the US, Mexico, and Canada, with particular focus on Chapter 11 (the investor rights clause). Available from PBS (www.pbs.org); one hour.

     “Tangled Up in Blue,” a pamphlet published by TRAC — Transnational Resource & Action Center, www.corpwatch.org.  Describes the history and problems of the Global Compact, a plan for UN agencies to form partnerships with the corporate sector.  September 2000.  18 standard 8.5x11 pages. 

     One Market, Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy, by Thomas Frank.  Explores the way US leaders in the 1990s came to believe that markets express the popular will more meaningfully than elections, and in the process changed and came to control the whole concept of populism and who “the people” were rebelling against.  Doubleday, 2000.

     Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, by Kevin Bales. Reveals the crucial links between the process of globalization and the contemporary forms of slavery that help tomake certain businesses so extremely profitable. University of California Press, 1999.

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