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Globalizing Resistance to Corporate Power

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  • Dan Clore
    Noam Chomsky speaks to Socialist Worker about Globalising resistance to corporate power NOAM CHOMSKY is one of the most well known writers and anti-imperialist
    Message 1 of 4 , May 30, 2000
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      Noam Chomsky speaks to Socialist Worker about
      Globalising resistance to corporate power

      NOAM CHOMSKY is one of the most well known writers
      and anti-imperialist campaigners in the US today. He
      has written on many subjects, including the role of
      the media and NATO's war in Kosovo. He spoke to Socialist
      Worker about the growing mood against capitalism.

      HOW SIGNIFICANT were the protests in Seattle against the
      World Trade Organisation and in Washington against the
      International Monetary Fund and World Bank?

      VERY SIGNIFICANT. I don't recall anything like it. For a
      long time there have been vocal protests against what's
      misleadingly called globalisation, this particular mode of
      corporate-run international integration which has harmed a
      great many people-probably the majority of the population
      of the world.

      This has led to local protests over specific issues. But
      in the last couple of years the protests have become
      integrated. You see many examples of it. The international
      efforts that undermined the Multilateral Agreement on
      Investment were extremely impressive. They were done very
      quickly with virtually no publicity.

      Seattle was a major protest, and the major institutions had
      to back down. In Washington it was again the same story. The
      variety of constituencies involved in these protests is
      remarkable. They involve people who in the past did not have
      much to do with each other, like steel workers, gay activists
      and environmentalists. The protests also have an international
      character, bringing together people from movements like the
      landless workers' movement in Brazil, the peasant movement in
      India and working people in the US.

      IN WASHINGTON the movement seemed to be deepening and becoming
      more politicised. People were making links in a way that we
      haven't seen for a long time.

      YES. THE protesters know what they are talking about. People
      are asking more fundamental questions. People who call the
      protests reformist are missing the point. For one thing the
      reforms are good-if you can achieve them, they help people.
      But also when there is a limit placed on reforms it helps you
      come to understand the way the world works, and that's
      important. You begin by calling for a minor reform. You find
      you can make a little progress on that, but then you face an
      iron wall. That teaches you something. You ask questions about
      why there's an iron wall and you look a little deeper into the
      way the system works. Then there's more pressure and sometimes
      more reaction. Part of the point of the protests is that they
      educate the protesters. You learn about where the institutions
      will be willing to bend and where they will not. That sharpens
      the protesters for the next stage.

      AMONG THE protesters there seems to be a sophisticated
      understanding of the way corporations are choking the life out
      of the world, and also a vision of essentially a socialist
      society.

      IT IS true of some of them. And those people are to a large
      extent people who have learned that through the experience of
      trying to carry out corporate reform. You start by going to an
      investors' meeting and calling for socially positive investment.
      You find you can make a minuscule difference, but you can't go
      too far. You ask why you can't, and you get to what you're
      describing.

      TEN YEARS ago we were told it was the "end of history", the end
      of wars and civil conflict. How does that fit with the reality
      of the world today?

      THE SOVIET Empire collapsed, and other regions like Yugoslavia
      collapsed. When that kind of collapse happens you get violent
      ethnic conflict because imperial systems, like totalitarian
      states, tend to suppress internal conflict. When the British
      Empire collapsed there were atrocities much worse than anything
      going on today in Eastern Europe. In south Asia there was a
      huge war between India and Pakistan that is still going on 50
      years later. In Palestine it is the same.

      When the French Empire collapsed there were wars all over Africa.
      So too when the Portuguese empire collapsed in the mid-1970s.
      There were major wars in Africa where South Africa acted as the
      front guy for the US and Britain to try to undermine the newly
      independent countries. In south east Asia where Portugal had a
      small empire you had the same thing, except this time Indonesia
      played the role of South Africa. Atrocities in East Timor went
      on right through until last year. When the Russian Empire
      collapsed it was the same story. Many of the conflicts in Africa
      today, like in Rwanda, are a lingering result of the breakdown
      of the Belgian, German and French imperial systems.

      WHERE DOES US foreign and military policy fit into the picture
      today?

      IT'S THE same story. One interesting index is arms transfers.

      The main countries that get arms are Israel and Egypt. Egypt
      gets them because it supports Israel. That has to do with US
      domination of the Middle East's oil resources. Turkey is also
      a leading recipient of US arms. Turkey is a NATO country and
      was on the frontline of the Cold War. But the level of arms
      transfers was fairly steady and not all that high until 1984.
      Then it went much higher and stayed high. The peak year was
      1997. In that single year Turkey got more arms from the United
      States than in the entire period of 1950 to 1984.

      This was because in order to crush the Kurds the Turkish state
      needed a huge flow of US arms. So US arms were pouring in for
      massive ethnic cleansing operations and massacres in
      southeastern Turkey. By 1998 they had suppressed the Kurdish
      movement, so the arms sales declined. Until then Turkey was the
      leading recipient of US arms apart from Israel and Egypt. In
      1999 it was replaced by Colombia. Colombia had been the leading
      recipient of US arms in the western hemisphere through the
      1990s. It also had one of the worst human rights records in the
      1990s. Why? Because Colombia has a powerful guerilla movement
      which the state has not been able to crush.

      HOW DOES NATO's bombing in the Balkans last year fit in?

      WHEN NATO bombed Yugoslavia it was not because of human rights
      problems. They don't give a damn about human rights. NATO did
      it because Serbia didn't follow the rules. Milosevic is
      doubtless a war criminal and a gangster. But the US and Britain
      have no problem supporting war criminals and gangsters-they do
      it all the time. Take Saddam Hussein. Tony Blair and the United
      Nations tell you he is the only monster in history who has not
      only developed weapons of mass destruction but even used them
      against his own population. All that's missing is, "Yes, he
      used weapons of mass destruction against his own population,
      but with the SUPPORT of the US and Britain."

      The real reason they are after Saddam Hussein is because he
      disobeyed orders. Now that's a crime. You can gas Kurds if you
      like-we don't care about that-but don't disobey orders! That's
      the way great powers work. The United States works that way.
      Britain, which is by now more or less the attack dog of the
      United States, works that way. Russia is doing the same in
      Chechnya.

      HOW DO the big corporations fit into this picture?

      STATES ARE to some extent independent actors. But overwhelmingly
      they reflect the concentration of power inside them. That
      concentration inside contemporary industrial countries is
      concentrated corporate power. This concentration of power is
      extremely high in the US but it is also international-although
      big corporations are rooted in, and heavily dependent on, their
      own home countries.

      What's called globalisation, a development that has taken place
      in the last 25 years, is a real power play on the part of
      concentrated corporate power and the states that are linked to
      that. They are trying to develop a particular form of global
      integration which is in the interests of financial institutions.
      What happens to the population is incidental. In fact, what
      happens to economic growth is incidental. You get a lot of
      excited talk about how wonderful the economic record has been
      in the last 25 years. It's total nonsense. In the period from
      the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s economic growth in the industrial
      countries was cut by about half.

      Wages have either stagnated or declined in most of the
      industrial countries, and primarily in the US. Working hours
      are going way up. Benefits are down. Although growth has slowed
      there is highly concentrated profit. In the Third World the
      growth rate in the 1990s is about half what it was in the 1970s.
      That's one of the effects of one particular form of globalisation,
      traceable in substantial measure to the financial liberalisation.
      These changes in the last 25 years have had the effect of harming
      the international economy. It still grows, but not like before.
      And it concentrates wealth and power far more than before, and
      undermines democratic processes.

      There are other ways of undermining democracy. Take the European
      Union. One of the crucial parts of the European Union is the
      transfer of power to unaccountable central banks. That's a
      tremendous attack on democracy. In fact, it's so extreme that
      even conservative sectors in the United States have been shocked
      by it.

      WHAT ABOUT future prospects? Is something shifting in the US
      working class?

      AVERAGE WAGES in the US have only now, maybe, reached the level
      of 20 years ago. To have a 20 year period when average wages are
      stagnant or declining when there is still economic growth is
      probably unprecedented. US workers have the highest workload in
      the industrial world. They passed Japan a couple of years ago.
      You have to have two members of the family working in the US
      just to keep food on the table.

      You don't have daycare systems for children so you have to figure
      out what to do with the children. That's not so easy for a working
      family. This is a tremendous burden on families. One associated
      factor, which may well be a consequence, is that things like child
      abuse have gone up. By most social indicators the US has declined
      since the mid-1970s. People feel that in their own individual
      lives, but they are also beginning to feel it collectively.

      It's not just industrial workers. It's all through the economy.
      Small farmers are getting smashed, as are small store owners.
      Except for a pretty small sector most people are suffering, and
      you get this coming together. That's one of the striking things
      about Seattle. As for the future, conflicts and struggles always
      go on. They are never predictable. These are things you do
      something about.
    • caliban@gate.net
      1. Chomsky either doesn t distinguish between state capitalism and a free market, or else he does it very badly. 2. Chomsky doesn t mention, either because
      Message 2 of 4 , May 31, 2000
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        1. Chomsky either doesn't distinguish between state capitalism
        and a free market, or else he does it very badly.

        2. Chomsky doesn't mention, either because he doesn't
        understand or because he is uncomfortable admitting it, that
        more free trade has helped raise standards of living in the
        Third World, especially for the poorest of the poor.

        3. Chomsky doesn't seem to understand the positions of his
        opponents, much less have any compassion for them. In
        everything I've read by him, he comes across as the cliche'd
        arrogant ivory-tower intellectual, cold and unfeeling.

        4. This may be one reason why, for over 30 years as one of the
        leading figures of the intellectual left, his influence has always been
        marginal at best. I don't have much sympathy for Chomsky
        personally, nor for his ideology, so this actually doesn't bother me,
        but in order to be honorable I am willing to offer honest advice even
        to those I disagree with (while hoping that they will refuse the offer,
        so I can wash my hands of them without feeling guilty).

        --
        John Fast
        <caliban@...>
        "The satisfactions of self-righteousness are strong and
        addictive, but the problems of the human race will not
        be solved by junkies." <http://www.impel.com/liblib/>
      • David Graeber
        ... Yes, that s because it s not true. The period of structural adjustment since the 80s has led to continual declines in standards of living in the poor,
        Message 3 of 4 , May 31, 2000
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          >1. Chomsky either doesn't distinguish between state capitalism
          >and a free market, or else he does it very badly.
          >
          >2. Chomsky doesn't mention, either because he doesn't
          >understand or because he is uncomfortable admitting it, that
          >more free trade has helped raise standards of living in the
          >Third World, especially for the poorest of the poor.

          Yes, that's because it's not true. The period
          of structural adjustment since the '80s has led to
          continual declines in standards of living in the poor,
          lower rates of education and access to health care, in
          almost all of the countries most affected, in comparison
          with say the 1970s. The only main exceptions were the
          East Asian countries which did not adopt free market
          models but instead opted for state-directed protectionist
          policies and export-oriented industrial development,
          usually combined with strict capital controls. I'm not
          saying rah rah protectionism, but I am sick and tired
          of seeing lies repeated to justify brutality. I've seen
          the effect of these "free trade" "free market" policies
          with my own eyes and I work with people who have to see
          it every day, in dozens of different countries, and if
          someone else prefers to go only to sources which will cook
          the books to tell him what he wishes to be true, that's
          hardly my problem.


          >3. Chomsky doesn't seem to understand the positions of his
          >opponents, much less have any compassion for them. In
          >everything I've read by him, he comes across as the cliche'd
          >arrogant ivory-tower intellectual, cold and unfeeling.
          >
          Chomsky is a person who spends just about every
          waking hour campaigning for human rights and justice as
          he understands them - yes, he's dedicated his entire life
          to the cause of human liberation and that's because he's
          cold and unfeeling.


          >4. This may be one reason why, for over 30 years as one of the
          >leading figures of the intellectual left, his influence has always been
          >marginal at best. I don't have much sympathy for Chomsky
          >personally, nor for his ideology, so this actually doesn't bother me,
          >but in order to be honorable I am willing to offer honest advice even
          >to those I disagree with (while hoping that they will refuse the offer,
          >so I can wash my hands of them without feeling guilty).

          Boy talk about projection...
          Dan, why on earth do you want to waste my time
          with this? I don't appreciate it. If you want to put up
          a discussion list and then place people who utterly disagree
          with the premises or even version of reality of those
          to whom the group is mainly directed, this is what's going
          to happen. Me, I want off.
          David
        • Clore Daniel C
          ... and ... David, I started this list to create an alternative source for the things I post on the Usenet groups. I didn t intend it to be a discussion list,
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 1, 2000
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            David Graeber wrote:

            > Dan, why on earth do you want to waste my time
            > with this? I don't appreciate it. If you want to put up
            > a discussion list and then place people who utterly disagree
            > with the premises or even version of reality of those
            > to whom the group is mainly directed, this is what's going
            > to happen. Me, I want off.

            and

            > Now if I have to deal with the same tedious
            > free-market ideology here as on the net I'm going to
            > have to ask Dan to take me off the list. This shit is
            > tiresome and I have _much_ better things to do with
            > my day. Mr. Fast is obviously a nice guy personally,
            > but for whatever psychological reasons he seems to have
            > decided to become an apologist for brutality - mainly,
            > it would seem, because of a wishful-thinking desire not
            > to have to face up to the ugliness of what really goes on
            > in the world. Whatever the reason, I don't want to know.
            > I am tired of debating with such people. Could this
            > please be the last?

            David, I started this list to create an alternative source for the
            things I post on the Usenet groups. I didn't intend it to be a
            discussion list, though I did approve the first few responses (I have to
            approve all messages for them to be sent). For now I'll ask that
            everyone limit responses to factual issues and things of that sort
            (David's response to the Anarkids post is I think I fairly good
            example). I don't think egroups.com provides a way to set up a separate
            list for discussion, which would be the ideal option. So for now,
            everyone please try to keep responses limited. Some of John Fast's
            responses might have better gone to me by direct e-mail.

            PS: Do however feel free to send news items, communiqués, articles,
            essays, and things of that sort that you think would be of interest to
            those on the list. Also be aware that messages also go to the moderators
            at misc.activism.progressive and may be posted there.

            --
            ---------------------------------------------------
            Dan Clore

            The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
            http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/index.html
            The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
            http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/necpage.htm

            "Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
            zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
            not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
            Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
            and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
            night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
            &c., &c.,"
            -- The Book of Dzyan.
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