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Kevin Danaher: Taking on capitalism

This article is over 23 years, 5 months old
Kevin Danaher is the co-founder of the Global Exchange and an organiser of the anti-capitalist protests in Seattle – He will be speaking on the Globalise Resistance tour between 2 and 11 February – Here he writes about the challenges facing
Issue 1731

Kevin Danaher is the co-founder of the Global Exchange and an organiser of the anti-capitalist protests in Seattle. He will be speaking on the Globalise Resistance tour between 2 and 11 February. Here he writes about the challenges facing everyone opposed to the corporate agenda.

‘The mass media talk about globalisation as if it were a unified, all-encompassing entity. But there are two kinds of globalisation-elite globalisation and grassroots globalisation. The top-down globalisation promoted by the big corporations is characterised by a constant drive to maximise profits. It forces countries to open up to large corporations, reduce and privatise state functions, deregulate the economy, submit everything and everyone to the rule of ‘market forces’.

In practice economic production is increasingly disconnected from human needs. People are encouraged to pursue an unsustainable pattern of resource consumption, and social inequality has reached grotesque levels. In the face of this predatory type of globalisation, there is another kind of globalisation being forged, globalisation that reaffirms the primacy of the ethical principles that form the foundation of true democracy-equality, freedom, participation, human diversity and solidarity.

This grassroots variant of globalisation is made up of many large movements-the fair trade movement, micro-lending networks, the movement for social and ecological labelling, sister cities and sister schools, trade union solidarity across borders, and many others.

These constituents of grassroots globalisation showed at the World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle in late 1999 that they are capable of mobilising enough people to halt the corporate agenda in its tracks at least temporarily. Yet we must do more than denounce and disrupt corporate rule. We must do more than make individual corporations more socially responsible (by adopting green labelling practices) or more publicly accountable. Even successful corporate accountability struggles do not usually threaten the existence of the corporation.

This does not mean that corporate accountability campaigns are worthless. It means that socialists must get involved in these campaigns and help move them towards a systemic critique that seeks to end corporate rule, rather than simply make corporations less destructive. Other changes that are needed include:

Challenging judicial doctrines asserting that the corporation is a legal person and has property rights in decision making.

Building campaigns to get governments to revoke the charters of companies that violate the public interest.

Amending legal codes to end limited liability and ban corporations from owning other corporations.

Excluding corporations and their trade associations from involvement in elections, law-making and education.

There is a growing consensus within the progressive movement that we must evolve from disparate, piecemeal approaches to a more systemic focus that seeks to change the basic rules of the game.

Our task is to build a worldwide movement for democratic control over our economic and environmental future. This ‘globalisation from below’ will build the institutional foundation for a participatory and sustainable global society. Science To accomplish such a huge task requires that we get more professional about the art and science of mass mobilisation. Beyond changes achieved by corporate accountability groups, they are also helping to create a ‘we’ ideology in place of the dominant ‘me’ ideology of corporate consumer culture.

Organisations in the global North are learning how to take direction from partners in the global South. Organising efforts such as the WTO protests in Seattle, the IMF/World Bank protests in Washington, and the World Social Forum in Brazil this month are building the foundation for global political structures ‘of, by and for the people’ rather than of, by and for the corporations. More and more people now believe that we can build a truly democratic global economy.

But the pressing question is, can we achieve that goal soon enough to prevent the biosphere and millions of people from being destroyed by the built-in rapaciousness of global capitalism?’


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