Activists under Attack by the Corporate State

By Glenn Ashton · 4 Feb 2015

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Picture: Anti-Fracking Activist Arrested in Washington D.C. courtesy EcoWatch
Picture: Anti-Fracking Activist Arrested in Washington D.C. courtesy EcoWatch

Naomi Klein’s latest book, “This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs the Climate” explains how the dominant economic system is destroying the life support systems of humans and all other life on earth. Klein proposes that in order to prevent catastrophic climate change we need to fundamentally shift away from the existing materialist based capitalist system.

The 1970’s and ‘80’s were decades where human threats to planetary ecosystems were not only recognised but were acted upon, spurred by analysis such as the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” report and Rachel Carsons seminal warning on chemical abuse “Silent Spring.” These led in turn to broad national and international recognition of human impacts on the environment.

It is remarkable how the geopolitical game around environmental politics has shifted back and forth over the past four decades. 1987 saw the publication of the “Bruntland Report” where the complex issue of environmental sustainability was grappled with and defined. At the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, close alliances were forged between the UN, civil society, political power and possibly most importantly, corporate power.

Various environmental protocols have been established in the interim: the Stockholm convention on persistent organic chemicals, the Montreal protocol on CFC’s, and of course the weak Kyoto protocol. However, these international agreements, agreed upon after lengthy negotiations, are overtly and covertly undermined by corporate interests whose bottom lines are threatened.

The recent rise of conservative economic and political power across much of the western and even the developing world has seen the increased marginalisation of not only environmental concerns such as global warming and pollution, but of any social faction questioning the status quo, as part of a push back against multiculturalism.

We consistently learn of monitoring and data collection of activists of all stripes, along with journalists, students and organisations opposed to the increasing threats of global inequality. Those who raise concerns about the dominance of the alliance between corporate and political power are increasingly portrayed as terrorists, economic saboteurs and enemies of the state.

Since the early nougties the socio-political spectrum has become ever more exclusionary as the wealthy oligarchy, their lapdog tanks and political appointees draw the laager ever tighter, using every means at their disposal to dismiss annoying facts like global warming, chemical pollution, resource depletion and increased wealth concentration.

From the Battle in Seattle, where public protests resoundingly rejected unfair trade treaties such as those sought by the World Trade Organisation, we have seen the emergence of utterly opaque and potentially disastrous bilateral agreements like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. TTIP epitomises just about everything that is wrong with the world and only stands to make things worse.

If this agreement is finalised, governments and nations will be allowed to be sued for putting environmental legislation in place in order to protect natural resources. In fact this has already happened, with an estimated 500 cases of corporate entities suing various states and regions. TTIP will further enable this manner of corporate malfeasance, worsen environmental regulation and expand the wealth gap.

What is even more outrageous is that nobody – no individual voter or citizen – will have any say as to whether TTIP and its ugly sisters the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), along with numerous other bi- and multilateral agreements, are passed and come into effect. These agreements are not only unavailable to scrutiny, but in TTIPs case, are to be kept secret from the public for the next 5 years.

But what does this mean to us? It means that pesticide regulation will effectively be weakened, if not rendered null and void. It means that first world land grabs in places like Africa and Asia are sanctioned and can’t be legally challenged by those kicked off ancestral or even titled land. It means that national environmental regulations can be challenged in whichever legal regime suits the aggrieved corporate party. It means that the global oligarchy, the one percenters who own more than the rest of the world put together, will essentially consolidate their wealth at the expense of not only us, but of the very planetary systems that sustain life.

At the latest World Econmic Forum round in Davos, the overhyped gabfest between the rich, the richer and the wannabe rich, Oxfam highlighted the increasing wealth gap and the risk of instability bolstered by this reality. The talking heads agreed in public, but privately business will continue as usual.

So when my young cousin goes out to protest against skyrocketing university fees in the UK and is greeted by aggressive policing, kettling, false arrests and general abuse by the powers that be, he is simply experiencing the reality of modern life as our corporate and political masters would have it be. Give him a loan and let him spend his life paying back our banks is their solution to his woes.

Groups opposed to fracking, airport runways, beach mining and nuclear power are overtly infiltrated by undercover cops, repeatedly found by the judiciary to have over-reached the legal bounds of police oversight. We witness the infiltration of agents provocateurs, as perfected by the Apartheid state in South Africa, into protests against the continued persecution and marginalisation of black people in the USA and against human rights movements in Russia. We see the conservative Indian government refusing Greenpeace representatives permission to travel to conferences overseas.

Are these simply tastes of a future world, a noxious mix of 1984, Animal Farm and other tracts warning of a dystopian world? It seems so.

But the counter to this depressing trend is the emergence of a powerful counter-narrative with tomes like Thomas Pikettys “Capital” achieving best-seller status, of Kleins treatise on climate change, on growing regional and international networks of alternative thinkers and activists who are prepared and experienced enough to stand up against what are essentially the bullying tactics of a privileged elite, an oligarchy that can surely see the writing on the wall.

Ashton is a writer and researcher working in civil society. Some of his work can be viewed at Ekogaia - Writing for a Better World. Follow him on Twitter @ekogaia.

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Rory Verified user
6 Feb

The First Pillar of Power Abuse

The fact that the money system removes the power to create new fiat money from the individual and vests it in the State and/or an elite with close links to the State is the lynch pin from which flows the economic power to perpetrate many of the current abuses of people and planet. The fact is that money is the life blood of any cash based society and therefore those who control the money supply naturally have society by the jugular. With fiat currencies however, which is what we now have, this situation need not continue. A logically simple change to the money system would give EVERYONE the power to get new money issued to them if they need it to make a purchase provided that they subsequently sell something of equal value in order to defray their new money debt. This would democratise money by giving individuals the power to create new money when they need it in order to make purchases.

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