Know Our Enemy Part II – Where Stride the Behemoths

Posted: November 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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It’s easy to create a caricature to point at and demonise. The right do it all the time: ‘scroungers’; ‘Trots’; ‘immigrants’, and so on. But when we (outside of the media) create caricatures, we also imbue them with cartoon villainy; sometimes delegitimizing their negative aspects for the sake of the simple-minded.

We need to understand why corporations and corporate nature are the true enemies we face, and why, without just complaining about ‘fat cats’ or ‘greedy pigs’. So what is a corporation? I find this documentary excellent as an explanation:

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the_corporation/

At its essence, a corporation is just an enormous reservoir for wealth. In fact, reservoir is a perfect analogy. Imagine currency; the conduit for trade, as water. After all, it is as vital for our economic survival as water is for our physical survival. The ideal scenario for a body of land would be for rainfall to be dispersed equally over it, keeping all the land arable. Reservoirs are useful for collecting water to cleanse and distribute, just as the principle of a corporation should be to distribute labour and wealth efficiently. Because, if reservoirs were to suddenly be locked up and blocked off, the ensuing drought would reduce the surrounding land to arid status, just as an inordinate hoarding of the wealth produced by collective labour eventually reduces employees and customers to paupers.

The question is: why would the general public allow a reservoir to cut off the water supply to most of the population? After all, the only reason a reservoir exists is to service said population, with the people running the reservoir taking a little more off the top for their expertise at managing the distribution effectively. And this is where our analogy ends. Asking the question again: why does the general population tolerate a corporation sucking up huge sums of collective wealth, while cutting off the majority of their staff from sharing in it. The only reason corporations, and indeed anything else, are allowed to exist is the general consent of their potential customers and staff. So why are we consenting to the greatest wealthy disparity since Victoria’s reign?

Ignoring the printing of money, which tends to disappear straight into the upper echelons of the financial system, and aside from exports or foreign investments, which will not drastically alter the total wealth of a nation when considering outgoings, there is only a certain amount of wealth in circulation. If certain groups i.e. corporations, amass more of this collective wealth, it is at the direct expense of others within that nation. In the UK’s social democratic period: post-WWII to 1979, inequality was gradually reducing to an impressive level, chiefly through regulation and progressive taxation. Unsurprisingly, the prevailing ideology since 1979 of the rich as Randian superheroes has meant that this trend has reversed, and ‘trickle-down’ has been more like ‘suck-up’, in more ways than one.

Of course, the Friedman/Hayek axis which conceived Neoliberalism: the transfer of public assets into private hands under the guise of ‘efficiency’, while also removing as much regulation as politically feasible, was made a lot easier through the globalisation of the last three decades. Globalisation was supposed to enrich all of our cultures and nations by allowing fluid investment and trade, but we now see that it has actually meant the fast transfer of labour to countries with lower wages and less employment rights, while multinational corporations have used it to move their bases of operations wherever the tax regime is most lenient and governments are discreetly corrupt.

We were sold a dream that globalisation would mean easy travel and welcome into new, vibrant cultures which would blossom with Western investment. In fact, it has meant a McDonalds in every corner of the globe, sweatshops with child labour and swathes of rainforest wiped out for more profitable use of land. In nations where the adult population has very little spending power, multinationals like Nestle realise that they must simply corner the market on the tools of survival, by, for instance, privatising water supplies.
We were convinced that ‘borderless investment’ would mean poverty-stricken nations could lift themselves out of penury through employment and opportunity. In reality, it has meant strategically identifying unstable nations with vital resources, and either plundering them through financial coercion (see ‘IMF’), or bombing them to the ground and offering to ‘rebuild’ in the aftermath (see Iraq, Halliburton).
Antitrust measures are a perfect concept no longer applied, much like lying to Parliament used to see MPs step down from their positions. The ‘free market’ we have now instilled as our new ‘God’, whose invisible hand decides that we must pay more than we can afford on essentials, and peanuts for consumer electronics, is conning us all. Most non-zealots realise that this utopian ‘free market’ should only be applied to items which can be declined. Anything essential for survival: energy, healthcare, basic housing, clean water for instance should never be subject to the whims of the market, because natural monopolies or cartels (which are supposedly anathema to this ‘free market’) are created, leading to price-fixing, as the businesses have a captive market which cannot decline their ‘product’. The competition or value incentives no longer exist in these scenarios, so corporations will do what they naturally do: take advantage. I would also add essential common infrastructure to that list, because it is in all of our best interests (including big business) to have an affordable national strategy to keep the country moving and working. Railways; roads; public transport; mail; money creation. This last is, of course, most important of all.
[If you’re not aware of the scandal of new money being created out of thin air as valueless debt, please visit http://www.positivemoney.org]

In a functioning ‘free market’, antitrust measures would see ‘too big to fail’, or, perhaps, ‘too corrupt to continue’ businesses broken up (Barclays, I’m looking at you). After all, the ‘free market’ relies on good competition to keep prices down and service high. Multinational companies should never exist under a free market. They should have been broken up long before they reached the level where they operate in numerous countries like nomadic plunderers. Cue the free marketers screaming: “You can’t punish success!” You also can’t have it both ways; professing to love competition while admiring gargantuan companies swallowing the competition whole.
I’ve heard some naïve sorts claim that anybody can put together a good product and compete with a multinational, by simply undercutting them and offering personal service. These people seem to willingly ignore the economies of scale which mean that a massive company can buy in bulk, pay their employees derisory wages or simply take on government-sanctioned free labour, not to mention gerrymandering planning laws by bribing local authorities to saturate the markets with their stores (See: Tesco). That’s not even scratching the surface of the creative book-keeping that allows multinationals to operate under different tax laws to SMEs.
Ronald Reagan once reportedly said that concentrated power was the enemy of liberty; most likely with a Goldman Sachs Executive holding his cue cards. Ever the pantomime zealot, Reagan was of course referring to his favourite bogeyman: Government. He then went on to make Government (at least, the military-industrial stake) much bigger, while removing regulation and ignoring antitrust laws to allow corporations to grow so bloated, they would soon write manifestoes for elected officials to enact; mostly in direct violation of the needs of the larger public. The reason this is pertinent to the UK is that we are currently following in their toxic Neoliberal shadow, as well as handing their healthcare conglomerates our NHS and literally giving our blood to their venture capitalists: http://www.alternet.org/economy/sorry-britain-bain-capital-now-owns-majority-your-blood-plasma-supply (lending a whole new meaning to ‘bleeding us dry’).
Mass unskilled immigration; public sector outsourcing; media witch-hunts; employment rights dismantling; Trade Union busting; criminalizing public protest; debt slavery: all powerful tools in the modern plutarchy’s formidable arsenal, bankrolled by those with concentrated wealth, and enacted by those with concentrated power. The UK police force, particularly, are fast being shaped into a corporate goon squad. Not many of us would have been too shocked to hear that professional war criminal Anthony Blair effectively signed agreements to give the USA carte blanche to spy on and keep our citizens’ internet and phone records, but are you fully aware of the other, far more monstrous ‘trade agreements’ currently on the table?
Heard the one about SOPA or ACTA? Both were bills that would have restricted the internet to a frightening degree, under the veil of ‘taking action against piracy’. They were defeated by outraged people (and business) power, but like the many-headed hydra, you lop off one corporate monster’s head and another eventually grows in its place. This is how we understand our enemy. Apathy is not a solution. Corporations, especially when they swell with layers and layers of management, disconnect from their consumer base and simply exist to gorge on profits. More than that, they do not stand still. They are always looking for new loopholes, new resource grabs, or, as Chomsky wryly puts it: ‘investment opportunities’. Morals are for people, not big business. Standing back, and hoping they’ll ease off on the power-grabs is like, to use another Reagan classic: “relentlessly feeding the crocodile, hoping he’ll eat you last”.

To prove the point, no sooner had SOPA and ACTA been defeated, than the horrific EU-US/Trans-Atlantic trade agreement is on the table. Discussed as a response to China’s rise and America’s likely relegation to also-rans in the global power stakes, it is terrifying in scale, essentially asking other nations not only to abandon their principles in return for their people being shafted by American multinationals, but also to give these massive corporations power to sue ‘sovereign’ governments for regulating or running their public services in-house. This could lead to the NHS forever remaining private, as well as every other conceivable public concern, in some kind of nightmare toll-booth economic dystopia.

http://www.peoplesassemblies.org/2013/11/alert-on-the-useu-free-trade-agreement/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/04/us-trade-deal-full-frontal-assault-on-democracy

So ask yourself: are you happy knowing your confectionery will essentially only come from one of Mars, Nestle or Kraft, despite the hundreds of varieties seemingly on offer? Perhaps you don’t care as it’s an inconsequential product. What about other, more vital products at the mercy of these bloated cartels?

http://www.policymic.com/articles/71255/10-corporations-control-almost-everything-you-buy-this-chart-shows-how

We do not live in anything like a ‘free market’, and not because of too much, but far too little regulation. But how do we change it?

We can fight the government, and resist, of course. But we also need to use one of the only powers still afforded to us: that of the consumer. We need to shop ethically. Do not give a penny to these massive multinationals if you can avoid it. Boycotts; comments on their social network pages; sharing their compromising stories with other people to warn them off. PR is the only thing corporations have. We have the internet, still free if constantly under threat. Your shopping choices exacerbate this mess. Every shop at Tesco says you prefer generic supermarkets influencing government policy to small grocers just making a living. Every ‘Round-Up’ purchase helps Montsanto in their fight to poison the world’s food chains. Every bottle of Nestle Pure Life suggests them privatizing Third World nations’ water supply is acceptable. If we want to defeat our enemy, we need to look at hurting their backers rather than simply their defences.

Please, please sign these petitions too:

http://act.demandprogress.org/letter/TPP3?referring_akid=2396.454332.B1Alf6&source=facebook

https://openmedia.org/Censorship

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/scrap-the-gagging-law

http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4012?n=44124256.EdP7jZ

We are powerful when we act in numbers. Let’s start changing our shopping habits, and get disobedient.

Other recommended reading:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/11/business-rules-lobbying-corporate-interests

http://www.s2bnetwork.org/fileadmin/dateien/downloads/Brave_New_Atlantic_Partnership.pdf

‘The Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein.

‘The Silent Takeover’ by Noreena Hertz.

‘How the World Works’ by Naom Chomsky.

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