If anything is ever going to change in a way that serves the interests of the people in this country ... it will take a massive uprising out in the streets and squares everywhere to demand it. Those who hold power have never relinquished it, nor have they adjusted the systems through witch it is implemented, simply because they were politely asked or because it was reasonable to do so. They only accommodate demands for justice when they have reason to fear that if they could lose a lot more than what is being asked of them. For this reason I think it is absolutely essential that at this time of looming crisis like the world has yet to experience we make common cause with those who we may not see eye to eye with on every issue and push for those issues upon which we can agree.
Why Occupy Edmonton should Focus on Corporatism?
Corporatism is the domination ... you could say "Occupation" ... of a nation's government by large corporate interests. Anti-Corporatism is not a new crusade within the activist community and it is a concern of all people who value democratic governance; however, it seldom gets the attention it deserves. It usually gets overshadowed by other progressive issues such as environmentalism or civil rights or free trade or inequality or labour struggles etc. which are always exacerbated, if not directly caused, by corporatism. In an article appearing in http://www.CommonDreams.org on December 5, 2011 U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben states,
And he (Exxon CEO) and his ilk spend heavily on campaigns to make sure no one stops them--the US Chamber of Commerce gave more money than the DNC and the RNC last cycle, and 94% of it went to climate deniers.
It would seem that by effectively reducing or eradicating corporatism Democracy could be improved and that would improve the chances of dealing with global warming as well as make it much easier to solve most other issues in a way that addresses the concerns of the communities affected. It would greatly reduce the degree to which corporate wealth and power influences the debates and often contributes to the creation or worsening of the issues that average citizens may wish to alleviate. Prominent voices within the Progressive community such as Naomi Klein, Ralph Nader, Robert Reich, Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky etc. have all expressed the need for this objective to be pursued and there are currently bills in the U.S. congress that are directed at achieving it; however, like all progressive causes it will only happen as a result of a massive popular uprising to support it and the "Occupy" movement is showing every sign of providing that needed uprising.
Corporations exert their influence over the legislative and regulatory processes of governments that we elect and pay for with our taxes. Through their financial contributions to political parties and through promises of lucrative employment once the public official leaves office, corporations make it difficult for our elected and unelected public officials to ignore their points of view which are usually self-serving and not primarily focused on the needs of average citizens or their communities.The forms of influence mentioned in the latter sentence are the more blatant kinds of influence and influence can, and likely is exerted, through more subtle mechanisms involving social networks, conferences, luncheons, offers of assistance in specific tasks etc. that usually create some sense of obligation to be exploited at some point. In any event Corporate executives will usually exploit every opportunity they can, within the bounds of the law (which that they may have also helped compose), to shape the environment in a way that results in greater corporate profits ... no matter what the ultimate costs are for the community or society as a whole.
Most senior corporate executives tend to favour neoliberal economics which seems like more of a cult based on faith in a lot of unrealistic assumptions, than a legitimate economic theory which is grounded in fact and supported by real world evidence. In fact their are no real world examples of neoliberal success in spite of it having being attempted in many struggling economies around the world. The reason this doctrine has had so much support is because it's main tenets sound so good as they talk about freedom which makes it easy to sell to the masses; however, the reality, as has been seen time and time again, is something altogether different and serves only to increase inequality and channel more and more of an economies wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer members of the elite.
In the case of the 2008 meltdown of the financial markets on Wall Street that triggered the ongoing and ever worsening global recession, strong corporate influence on the U.S. government in conjunction with the low-tax, no-regulation or just lax enforcement, free trade and anti-labour tenets of neoliberal doctrine that dominated economic institutions and developed world government policy since the late 1970's, the activities of those involved in the financial services industry along with the decisions of the leaders of major financial institutions on Wall Street were often immoral and unethical if not blatantly criminal.
The costs to taxpayers and average citizens in terms of lost jobs, lost homes and increased government debt as a result of the governments trying to keep the economies of the world on life support has been enormous and has resulted in cutbacks on necessary government services like education, health care, as well as wiping out retirement funds and crippling pension funds around the world. Meanwhile the financiers who caused the mess and other members of the elite upper 1% (actually more like .01%) of income earners have continued to see their bonuses and incomes grow while the net wealth and incomes of the remaining 99% (actually more like 99.99%) have increased very little, stagnated or declined.
So it seems pretty clear that excessive corporate influence over the affairs of state (particularly where the cult of neoliberalism dominates policy) can and often does lead to ever increasing inequality and reduction of the ability of government to pay for services often provided by the state in exchange for taxes paid. In Alberta the policies of the provincial PC's such as ever decreasing corporate and business taxes as well as low personal income tax, failure to collect all royalties owed in exchange for resource extraction, inadequate environmental regulation and enforcement as well as labour legislation that severely impairs organized labour from organizing and protecting the middle class seem to indicate that neoliberalism dominates government policy making. Even a cursory examination of how societies around the world, including the big one just to the south, Have fared under these kinds of policies does not inspire faith for the future of Alberta and Albertan's. This needs to change and change quickly but it will only occur through a massive uprising of the citizens demanding such change.
The occupy movement has the potential, as has been demonstrated in the U.S. where conditions are admittedly much more severe, of providing the spark for the necessary civilian movement to occur; however, in the U.S. many more people have been directly and adversely impacted by the effects of corporatism and thus rebellion is not as difficult a sell as it will be in Alberta. I'm pretty confident in saying though that most Albertan's do not like to have their government in the pocket of corporations - particularly corporations that aren't even Canadian. Therefore, I believe that most Albertan's will support and even participate in attempts to eliminate corporatism in this province provided that such attempts are not overtly linked to attempts to achieve any other objectives that they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as constituting a threat to their livelihood without the realistic prospect of compensation or some other means of providing for themselves and their families.
For this reason I believe that it's strategically unwise to make it easy for Occupy Edmonton's critics (right wing sycophants in the media and elsewhere) to portray the movement as merely a front organization for some other cause that is viewed (rightly or wrongly) as a threat to the livelihoods and/or deep seated values of the larger community. I shouldn't have to remind anyone that this larger community been electing conservative governments for a long, long time and shows little sign of changing.
I don't believe it would be a problem to let it be known that individuals within the occupy movement also support the causes of other progressive organizations ... but as an organization ... #occupy has one overriding objective and that is to evict corporate influence from occupying our government, our media, our consciousness and our thought processes just as we have been evicted from our encampments. Encampments in which we were engaged in peaceful democratic activities that were far less socially toxic than what usually goes on out of the public eye in corporate boardrooms and quite often in our governments as well.
It would be great to see a massive rally on May Day in 2012, possibly becoming an occupation, of all those groups (unions, NGOs, charities, students. even off duty policemen, soldiers and veterans) and individuals to demand greater transparency and accountability from our government and an elimination of corporate influence over the legislative and regulatory processes. March/parade in the morning from City Hall through downtown to the legislative grounds; speeches, teach-ins, sharing of views in the afternoon; A BBQ and relevant musical/artistic performances in the evening and perhaps the start of an extended occupation should it be warranted. It could be a May Day event that will go down in history and include citizens groups around the globe. If that doesn't affect constructive, positive change then this civilization as well as much of life on planet Earth is pretty much doomed.
In the coming months I will be hard pressed for time to work on this project but I can mention it to people I know in the Building Trades Unions and assist with any organizing where I can. However, if OE does not focus on addressing the issue of Corporatism, then I really can't see the point.
What say you?