Nancho Advisory: For perhaps the first time since the Populist Era a century ago, Big Body domination of life and society has again become an issue. The International Forum on Globalization has played a major role in reviving awareness of the peril, and has of late turned its attention to remedial action as well. Their "Emergence of Corporate Governance Workbook" excerpted below is an insightful primer for both veteran activists and those just awaking. It not only helps refocus our symptom-scattered consciousness on the central source of all our plagues, it suggests many new tactical antidotes for a Big medicine that works.
The Emergence of Corporate Governance
And What to Do About It
A SET OF WORKING INSTRUMENTS
FOR SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
|INTRODUCTION: An Invitation||p. 3|
|Step 1: Defining Corporate Rule||p. 7|
|Step 2: Dissecting Corporate Rule||p. 12|
|Step 3: Denouncing Corporate Rule||p. 17|
|Step 4: Disrupting Corporate Rule||p. 22|
|Step 5: Dismantling Corporate Rule||p. 26|
|Action Guide A - - Work Charts||p. 31|
|Action Guide B - - Strategic Planning Charts||p. 42|
|Resource List||p. 48|
The men who run the global corporations are the first in history
with the organization, technology, money, and ideology to make
a credible try at managing the world as an integrated economic unit.
The men who run the global corporations are the first in history
-- Richard J. Barnet and Ronald E. Mueller, Global Reach(1974).
Dear Social Activists,
You know from your own experience what it is like to participate in movements where people are engaged in an ongoing struggle for economic, social, and environmental rights. Whether your experience has been with a labor union, womens' group, an environmental association, civil rights group, students' movement, religious group, public interest association,community organization, or any other type of association, you have been part of a larger movement for democratic social change in your country or region of the world. For the most part, the prime targets for social change have been governments, their policies and their agencies. In one way or another, our social movements have been organized to mobilize constituencies in support of demands for government intervention and regulation of the market in the public interest and, from time to time, the termination of specific abuses by individual corporations.
Yet, what happens when we realize that the real power to rule is being exercised not by governments and their agencies but by transnational corporations (TNCs). Over the past decade and a half, the number of transnational corporations has skyrocketed from 7,000 to more than 40,000. Today, 50 of the top 100 economies in the world are TNCs, 70 percent of global trade is controlled by just 500 corporations, and a mere 1 percent of the TNCs on this planet own half the total stock of foreign direct investment. At the same time,the new free trade regimes ( e.g. GATT, NAFTA) have created a global environment in which transnational corporations and banks can move capital, technology,goods, services freely throughout the world, relatively unfettered by the regulations of nation-states or democratically elected governments. Through these processes, transnational corporations have effectively secured a system of rule and domination in the new world order.
As social activists, we need to recognize that the world today is no longer effectively ruled by nation states, let alone democratically elected governments. Instead, there has been a massive shift in power-out of the hands of nation states and governments and into the hands of transnational corporations - during the final quarter of the 20th century. In the new world order, it is the TNCs that effectively govern the lives of people and rule the earth itself. At the same time, sweeping changes are taking place in the role and function of elected governments. In so called democratic societies today, governments no longer have the mandate, let alone the powers and tools, to intervene in the operations of the market and regulate them in the public interest. Instead, the prime role of governments is to reorganize their national economic, social, cultural, and political system for efficient transnational competition and profitable investment. In effect, we are living in a new age of globalization that is characterized by forms of corporate rule. This new world order has been designed to protect the rights and freedoms of transnational capital, not the basic human and democratic rights of people. It is no longer a prime role and responsibility of governments to defend or protect the economic, social, and environmental rights of its citizens. The real power of governance is wielded behind the scenes by an elaborate system of transnational corporations wherein the financial sector, in particular, plays a dominant role in dictating the priorities of national governments. In turn, the operations of governments and their agencies (including key sectors of the media industry) largely serve to cover up these new forms of corporate rule. Today, these realities are further augmented in many countries by corporate financed right-wing political strategies designed not only to carry out a massive downsizing and dismantling of public services, but a fundamental reinvention of the basic roles and responsibilities of governments along with a corresponding redefinition of the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of citizens in a democratic society.
Over the past two decades, citizen groups have waged public campaigns against the operations of TNCs on numerous fronts - ranging from worldwide boycotts against Nestlé on infant formula and bank loans to South Africa, the battles against Union Carbide over the Bhopal disaster in India,the repression of Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala, the promotion of bio-tech milk products by chemical companies like Monsanto, and the clear-cut logging and deforestation by Mitsubishi and MacMillan Bloedel - to name but a few. Through these and many other corporate campaigns, workers, environmentalists,consumer, church and human rights groups have cultivated important strategic capacities and skills for challenging TNCs. At the same time, a variety of legal and social action centers on corporate issues have been developed bringing valuable profiles and data on specific TNCs. Today, these resources need to be refocused and retooled for the task of building a broad-based global movement aimed at the new realities of corporate rule.
Indeed, the time has come for social movements to develop a new form of politics in response to the realities of corporate domination in an age of globalization. This does not mean that all corporations should suddenly be targeted as enemies. After all, one can cite examples of individual CEOs and corporations who do strive to be socially responsible, even to the point of actively resisting some of the trends described here. But this does not detract from the fact that we are living in an era where peoples' lives are increasingly determined by corporate power. The challenge for social movements today is to put more strategic priority on the task of exposing and challenging corporate rule.
Wherever workers and communities are involved in struggles to gain a significant measure of control over their economic, social, or ecological future, serious questions of governance need to be raised about the role played by corporations. The task at hand, however, is not simply to make individual corporations more "socially responsible" (e.g. by adopting green labelling practices) or more "publicly accountable"(e.g. public disclosure of information on investments and operations). Nor are the conventional strategies and tactics employed for many years by various organizations for corporate social responsibility adequate for tackling today's corporate domination and rule. In short, we can no longer apply a more or less piecemeal approach to what has become a systemic problem.
As we approach the 21st century, it is imperative that social movements in both the North and the South develop a new politics around the task of dismantling the systems of corporate rule that now dominate both humanity and the earth. By a new politics, we are talking about the need to equip peoples' movements with the capacities to think and act in a more systemic way in order to break the stranglehold of global corporations over the lives of nations, peoples, and communities and other species. To move in this direction, the International Forum on Globalization is launching a project to encourage social movements to put strategic priority on the task of challenging corporate rule. The prime objective of this project is to enable social movement activists to develop their own analyses and strategies for tackling systems of corporate rule in their own countries and regions.
For these reasons, we have prepared a set of working instruments and tools for social movements to use in developing their own analyses and strategies. What follows here is a five step process-(1) defining corporate rule; (2) dissecting corporate rule; (3) denouncing corporate rule; (4)disrupting corporate rule; and (5) dismantling corporate rule. Each section ends with a short discussion starter. We are calling these instruments the 5-Ds. By following this process and using these instruments, we hope that social movement activists will begin to make the task of dismantling systems of corporate rule a strategic priority in their respective countries and regions. The last section of this document consists of a set of working charts (Action Guide A) for further research and analysis on each of the 5-Ds and with strategic planning charts (Action Guide B) which can be used for summarizing the data and insights that have emerged.
It is our hope that social movement activists in both the North and the South will make use of this 5-D process* over the coming year or so. As a follow up, we intend to convene an international strategic planning conference for movement activists who have been able to make use of these working instruments with their constituencies in developing analyses and strategies for tackling systems of corporate rule in their own countries or regions. The purpose of this event will be to provide a common forum for activists who are working on issues of corporate rule to share their experiences, deepen their analyses and strategies, and develop capacities and networks for coordinating global campaigns in the future. In effect,the conference would be designed to build upon the work that has been done with the 5-D process.
We, therefore, invite you to join with us in building what could well become a worldwide movement for dismantling corporate rule and seizing democratic control over our economic, social, and environmental future in the 21st century. We hope this will be an historic, path breaking process for social movements to develop a new form of politics in an age of globalization.
*NOTE: While there is an internal logic to the 5-D process that follows, it is certainly not cast in stone. In working with these instruments, some may find it easier to interchange them or to collapse the 5 into 4 or even 3.