Tips on How to Oppose Corporate Rule

By Dr. Jane Kelsey

One of the strong critics of the corporate agenda is Dr. Jane Kelsey of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Her work on “Economic Fundamentalism” describes the corporate takeover of New Zealand.

Dr. Kelsey has devised what she calls “A Manual for Counter-Technopols” -- suggestions and ideas for actions that challenge corporate rule.

The following is a list of some of her proposed tactics and strategies that could be adopted elsewhere.

  • Be skeptical about fiscal and other “crises.” Examine the real nature of the problem, who defines it as a crisis, and who stands to gain. Demand to know the range of possible solutions, and the costs and benefits of each to whom. If the ansers are not forthcoming, burn the midnight oil to produce the answers for yourselves.

  • Don’t cling to a political party that has been converted to neoconservatism. Fighting to prevent a social democratic party’s capture by right-wing zealots is important. But once the party has been taken over, maintaining solidarity on the outside while seeking change from within merely gives them more time. When the spirit of the party is dead, shed the old skin and create something new.

  • Take economics seriously. Neo-liberal economic fundamentalism pervades everything. There is no boundary between economic, social, environmental or other policies. Those who focus on narrow sectoral concerns and ignore the pervasive economic agenda will lose their own battles and weaken the collective ability to resist. Leaving economics to economists is fatal.

  • Expose the weaknesses of their theory. Neo-liberal theories are riddled with dubious assumptions and internal inconsistencies, and often lack empirical support. These right-wing theories need to be exposed as self-serving rationalizations which operate in the interests of the elites whom the policies empower.

  • Challenge hypocrisy. Ask who is promoting a strategy as being in the “national interest,” and who stands to benefit most. Document cases where self-interest is disguised as public good.

  • Expose the masterminds. Name the key corporate players behind the scenes, document their interlocking roles and allegiances, and expose the personal and corporate benefits they receive.

  • Maximize every obstacle. Federal systems of government, written constitutions, legal requirements and regulations, supra-national institutions like the ILO and the UN, and strong local governments can provide barriers that slow down the pace of the corporate takeover.

  • Work hard to maintain solidarity. Avoid the trap of divide and rule. Sectoral in-fighting is self-indulgent and everyone risks losing in the end.

  • Do not compromise the labour movement. Build awareness of the corporate agenda at union local and workplace levels. Resist concessions that tend to deepen co-optation and weaken the unions’ ability to fight back.

  • Maintain the concept of an efficient public service. Resist attempts to discredit and dismantle the public sector by admitting deficiencies and promoting constructive models for change. Build support among client groups and the public which stresses the need for public services and the risks of cutting or privatizing them.

  • Encourage community leaders to speak out. Public criticism from civic and church leaders, folk heroes and other prominent “names” makes corporate and political leaders uncomfortable. It also makes people think. Remind community leaders of their social obligations, and the need to preserve their own self-respect.

  • Avoid anti-intellectualism. A pool of academics and other intellectuals who can document and expose the fallacies and failures of the corporate agenda, and develop viable alternatives in partnership with community and sectoral groups, is absolutely vital. They need to be supported when they come under attack, and challenged when they fail to speak out or are co-opted or seduced.

  • Establish an alternative think-tank. If one already exists, make sure it is adequately funded. Neo-liberal and neoconservative think-tanks have shown how well-resourced institutes on the right can rationalize and legitimize the corporate agenda. The need is obvious for one or more equally well-supported think-tanks on the left. Uncoordinated research by isolated critics will not suffice.

  • Invest in the future. Provide financial, human and moral support to sustain alternative analysis, publications, think-tanks, and people’s projects that are working actively to resist the corporate agenda and work for progressive change.

  • Support those who speak out. The harassment and intimidation of critics of the corporate takeover works only if those targeted for attacks lack personal, popular and institutional support. Withdrawing from public debate leaves those who remain more exposed.

  • Promote ethical investment. Support investors who genuinely respond to social and ecological concerns. Expose unethical investors who don’t. Boycotts have proved a powerful force in environmental, anti-nuclear and safe product campaigns. Companies that ignore social and environmental concerns can be embarrassed and called to account.

  • Think global, act local. Develop an understanding of the global nature of economic power, and those forces which are driving current trends. Draw the links between these global forces and local events. Target local representatives, meetings and activities which feed into the global economic machine.

  • Think local, act global. Actively support international strategies for change, such as people’s tribunals, non-governmental forums and codes of conduct, and action campaigns against unethical companies and corporate practices. Recognize that international action is essential to counter the collaboration of states and corporations, and to empower civil society to take back control.

  • Develop alternative media outlets. Once mainstream media are captured by the right, it is difficult for critics to enter the debate, and impossible to lead it. Alternative media and innovative strategies must be put in place. Effective communication and exchange of information between sectoral groups and activists are essential, despite the time and resources involved.

  • Raise the levels of popular economic literacy. Familiarize people with the basic themes, assumptions and goals of economic fundamentalism. Convince them that economic policy affects everyone, that everyone has a right to participate, and that alternatives to the corporate agenda do exist.

  • Resist market-speak. Maintain control of the language, challenge its capture by the right, and refuse to convert your discourse to theirs. Insist on using hard specific terms that convey the hard realities of what is going on.

  • Be realistic. Recognize that the world has changed, in some ways irreversibly, and that the past was far from perfect. Avoid being trapped solely into reacting and defending the status quo. Defending the past for its own sake adds credibility to the claims of the right and wastes opportunities to work for genuine change.

  • Be pro-active. Start rethinking visions, strategies and models of development for the future. Show that there are workable, preferable alternatives from the start. This becomes progressively more difficult the longer you wait to respond to the corporate agenda.

  • Challenge the TINA (“there is no alternative”) claim. Convince people--individually and collectively--that there are real and workable alternatives. Present options that combine realism with the prospect of meaningful change. Actively promote these alternatives and have them ready to be implemented when the corporate agenda fails.

  • Promote participatory democracy. Build a constituency for change through alternative information networks and media. Use community, workplace, women’s, church, union, First Nations and other outlets to encourage people to take back control. Empower them with the knowledge they need to understand the right-wing forces affecting them and how they can fight back most effectively.

  • Hold the line. The corporate takeover is not yet complete. Social programs have not yet been entirely dismantled. Unions have not yet been destroyed. Not all environmental protections have been eliminated. There is still time, through sustained and co-ordinated action, to hold the line.

From The CCPA Monitor [The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives]