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Issue #1693      July 15, 2015

Culture & Life

Resist the corporate takeover!

Mussolini dreamed of “the corporate state”, the complete integration of business and politics. Poor old Musso was ahead of his time, but today – even as more and more countries all over the world are moving to sever their dependence on and subservience to the big capitalist corporations – those same corporations are moving to establish their total control over society, trade and government. In short, over everything.

Their means to achieve this is by way of innocuously-named free trade agreements. Agreements that place governments in subservient positions to corporations, unable to legislate to protect their environment or their people’s health without opening themselves up to being sued for huge sums in “compensation” for supposedly lost profits.

If a capitalist can make money by screwing up the environment or by selling people a dangerous drug and a government legislates to prevent that, in the eyes of the capitalist he has been unfairly cheated out of his chance to make a profit. And since it is capitalists who are drafting these free trade agreements, they are incorporating into them legally binding provisions giving corporations power to over-rule governments.

Martin Kirk, on the Common Dreams website, commented: “In the public imagination, nation states are the main actors, when actually corporate interests – which are not connected to the public world and whose primary purpose is to maximise profit – are now given equal weight.”

That is a development that suits corporations, and the politicians they control, but it does not suit anyone else. Certainly not the poor, the hungry or the sick.

All over the world, corporations are eagerly eying essential services that if they can get control of them, will assure those corporations of guaranteed profits for years to come: health services, food, water, sewerage. Looking further afield, they are also eyeing education, prisons, firefighting and police. Already, some of these services are being provided by private companies for profit.

In some parts of the USA, the fire brigades are owned by insurance companies and unless you have a current policy they won’t put out your fire. With the proliferation of private security companies and the use of private security contractors in overseas locations like Iraq, the contracting out of police services in US cities cannot be far away. Other countries will quickly follow suit.

In Britain, the reactionary Cameron government is trying to dismantle the nation’s much admired National Health Service (NHS) in favour of a for-profit fee-for-service health care system modelled on that in the USA (where almost half the population don’t go to the doctor or get their prescriptions filled because they cannot afford it!)

In Australia, the equally reactionary Abbott government is trying to dismantle the Medicare scheme with the same aim: to provide another avenue for boosting corporate profits while forcing the poor and the sick to rely on charity. And Abbott and his mates have the gall to pose as concerned Christians!

Almost a year ago, in August, 2014, a report by the Global Policy Forum (GPF) looking at food security warned of the most powerful capitalist governments promoting “a political process designed to reserve corporate actors a seat at the table,” where business is given a role “almost equal to governments.” In fact, business now wants a more powerful role than that of governments.

The US government alone has committed at least US$2 billion dollars for promoting just one example of this effort, the so-called New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which is aimed at placing Africa’s farmers squarely under (foreign) corporate control. But although the New Alliance is concerned specifically with food and Africa, it is in fact, as the GPF report ominously said, “an excellent example of a form of governance that is increasingly gaining importance on a global scale.”

Capitalism can certainly dream big, and it is not inhibited by worries about possible negative effects on people’s health or welfare. A future world in which agribusiness and chemical companies – like the notorious Monsanto – have monopoly control over food and water everywhere is exactly what capitalism desires. And that is precisely what they intend to bring about.

Small-scale farmers currently produce about 70 percent of the food in Africa. Capitalism’s vision for the future is to dispossess virtually all of them, turn them into labourers only too glad to work in the commercial plantations that the transnational companies envisage occupying Africa’s fertile regions.

And if they think they will make more money from those plantations if they grow coffee instead of food, then coffee is what they will grow. Already, millions of people around the world go hungry every night. How many more have to suffer before we say “Enough! Capitalism’s greed for profits before anything else has to stop!”

Backed by social justice organisations in various countries, Africa’s multitude of small-scale farmers are beginning to resist the push by the corporations. As Dan Iles says: “What small scale farmers need is investment in infrastructure that links them more locally and regionally ... Where control and ownership over the means of farming, buying and selling food and the culture of food is held by farmers (and people) – not outside elites.”

Such rational thinking does not offer capitalism much in the way of profits, however, so won’t get much support from imperialist governments.

Resisting the corporate state is going to require a massive effort by the working class and its allies – by all people concerned for democratic rights and a life free from oppression and coercion. The people must speak out and demand that their governments oppose this corporate takeover – while they still have the power to do so.

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