The rise of corporate rule and its opposition:
Global corporate slave society ahead?
by Jan Lundberg

Does the future hold some kind of a worker-ant slave society all over the planet? That scenario assumes that the imminent global oil extraction peak and virtual disappearance of affordable energy will not derail the juggernaut of corporate rule, as dependent as it is on petroleum supply. As for alternative-living structures, a tribal model is proposed in this essay.

The corporation is a relative newcomer in human social development, concurrent with the world's greatest production of material things. Behind the corporations are individuals, but in the past hundred years in the U.S. the corporation has transcended individual rights and has achieved immortality as long as there is an accommodating society.

In this essay we inquire whether transnational corporations operating today are on a course of taking ultimate power, leaving no country or community unconquered. Will today's drab, foul-aired cubicle office environment one day be considered posh, as the growing population is fitted into work places that only serve the corporate masters' bottom line and social policies? How much more extremely must people be controlled and worked without their own land and freedom, before it can be agreed that the world population of humans has become a modern slave society?

With population growth, capitalist employers and corporations have profited from an ever-growing labor pool that cannot command high wages or serious changes in the relationship between owner/executive and worker (exploiter and exploited). As population grows, there is less and less space for working and for workers' homes, and nature areas for obtaining food are almost all corporate property devoid of much biological diversity. Corporate efficiency dictates that conditions everywhere must become only more ant-like or human-machine like, due to competition for profits. Meanwhile, the government already rubber-stamps whatever the corporations offer up.

With their wealth larger than many countries (e.g., Wal-Mart is bigger than Sweden's economy), and no opposing social force challenging the strength of corporations, it would seem reasonable to follow a trend-line into the future. Authorities on the modern corporation should be invited to speculate on the timing and circumstances of corporations' taking complete, tyrannical control of society and the economy. In examining the background for our current position in history, it appears these look like the early days of "Machine Rule" for the vast majority of humans.

The big question may narrow down to be how far along the road the world is toward irretrievably being locked into a form of socioeconomic control that we have barely begun to face. Already, the mass media (corporate outlets) mislead most of their public with the notions that we as individuals still have an independent government and that much of society is run by community institutions such as schools and the friendly police force. The police can be said to be in every neighborhood in the world that has allowed U.S. corporate influence: Anytown USA and Iraq as well.

One aspect of modern fascism that people do not want to face is that torture is part and parcel, on occasion, to dominating peoples through attacking key individuals and intimidating any resisters. In addition to the "War on Terror"'s systematic torture that emanated from Donald Rumsfeld and others at the top of our global fascist state, we see instances of torture and overwhelming intimidation domestically. It is nothing new, but each generation has to discover the reality hidden by corporate media and public education: Examples include "robocops" violating free speech in public areas, and policemen administering pepper spray directly into the eyes of nonviolent, immobile protesters. Both manifestations are on center stage today's mainstream news, at the Republican convention in New York City and on trial in federal court in San Francisco starting on September 7.

Politics, history and figures of Corporatism

The biggest recent indication that individuals can be swept aside in their collective exercise of will could be the 2000 U.S. election, where not only the popular vote did not matter for selecting the blatant corporatist president, tampering and interference as well as the Electoral College system assured the victor. It was finally not the Supreme Court as final arbiter — with its members' pro-corporate philosophy and its body of precedent-law maintaining corporate "rights" — but the U.S. Senate that subsequently chose to ratify the tainted results and non-election of the current occupant of the Oval Office. The "election" of George Bush was a watershed event in corporate rule's advance, when we look at the well-known, blatant corporate connections of the key individuals running the Executive Branch of federal government. Yet, the myth of American democracy keeps the opposition movement (most visibly led perhaps by film maker Michael Moore) from taking on the whole government as a dangerous, unaccountable corporate state. After all, Al Gore and John Kerry are corporatists too.

The World Trade Organization's creation out of a General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in the early 1990s represented a governmental takeover of almost every nation without a shooting war being fought. This is because the corporations' representatives had already taken over the largest national governments, especially the US, and had already fought a war amongst themselves called World War II. Despite the warning for all to see, corporate power was barely starting to flex its muscles and start expanding with World War II. It was the 1950s onward that saw rapid growth of global corporate markets, thanks to newly refined mind-control in the form of politically successful "public relations" and the influence of "Madison Avenue" that started to utilize television.

Usually when a mass media program on the future is offered, the assumptions are that technology will become ever so more wondrous, with science enabling people to do amazing things and live longer. The similarity with machines is that sophistication of technological design is toward robots and nanotechnology, a molecular approach to controlling nature and the internal functioning of humans.

The definition of fascism presented to U.S. troops in World War II for their education identified a unification or marriage of the state with corporate industry. The peaceful, unaware citizen in the U.S., imagining that the U.S. and its components were completely innocent prior to WWII's hostilities drawing in the U.S., did not want to look at the world's developing fascism as a variant of U.S. institutions that had been on the rise for half a century or more. Yet, innocence may have been in high places:

"Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing"
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Corporatist culture

The rule of the corporate machine is on the rise, and threatens to enslave everyone. If we look at working people as already enslaved, and consider the potential of corporations to keep growing and acquiring control over everything from land to water to people's time, it is useful to imagine a future of worker-ant-like slaves. Ants live according to complex division of labor by groups, and there is no other way for ants — or an individual ant must be killed or starve. Does this sound like modern society, or is the unraveling social safety net and the joys of consuming sufficient for someone to ignore the possibility of greater and greater coercion and boxing in?

What people may not realize is that the corporate slave-master is busy plotting their future lives. The reality of the future is being shaped today. The main question may be whether the upcoming end of plentiful petroleum and the resultant crash of the economy will abort — permanently? — the march of the corporations taking over of all society and all the remaining land and resources not owned by corporations as yet.

What about government? Not only is it corporate-structured; it almost always represents the interests of corporations rather than individual people or the remnants of community culture. The New York Times' magazine cover story on August 29, 2004 was "The era of small government is over". This is tantamount to saying that fascism will only be large and global.

Some dissidents, misfits, revolutionaries and anarchists are trying to live counter to the corporate state's rules and institutions. An alternative economy has always existed to the official market economy (see CC Letter #72), but not necessarily in clear opposition with a political agenda to replace corporate rule (whether local corporate or global corporate rule). Nowadays the dissident is not only political but cultural in such a way to include his or her relationship with nature. Sustainable living and progressive/unconventional domestic arrangements are part of the alternative pursued in the margins of corporate society. The opposition does exist, and is in view in the streets in New York at this writing as non-corporate citizens in effect protest for their rights and for a non-corporate alternative government. Not all protesters see the two-party system as simply a corporate tool, but they are on the way to realizing it if they remain in the movement and continue to learn about corporate globalization.

The game of supporting Demopublicans

The Democratic and the Republican parties comprise the dual political structure in the U.S. for big corporate business. Whatever the political leadership does and wants is whatever the corporatist agenda requires. Could this possibly result in a tasteless and corrupt culture? Hmm... Regardless, let us analyze the tendency to settle for something very much less than ambrosia in leadership:

Why would a sensible critic of today's unworkable system support the slightly less egregious of the two wings of corporatism? The reasons are understandable if one simply wants to defeat the Bushes. But the reasoning seems to include the idea that the Democrats are the only game in town. If so, change the game!

The reluctant supporters of John Kerry are right to want to improve the chances for more sensible policies affecting the whole globe, but good-cop/bad-cop is ultimately a dead-end strategy. It is unlikely that the groundswell to replace Bush with Kerry is part of a revolutionary movement to get off the oil habit, for example. There is nothing to stop the Democratic consumer to begin a revolution in his or her own life and neighborhood right now, except the "need" to spend a lot of time and money for an unsustainable material lifestyle. Iraqis will be killing Americans in both hemispheres over the U.S. lifestyle as long as the energy-disparity exists between the two peoples.

Machine humans versus primitives

"The Matrix" movie portrayed a society remarkably similar to the one most U.S. citizens are already a part of. Similar features of the future machine-ruled illusion of the everyday world on the surface (of the planet, technically, and figuratively too) included the regimentation of workers who have been convinced of their individuality — albeit noticeably dwindling — as consumers. The purpose of the film's science-fiction message was in part to alert everyone to the already established characteristics of machine(-like) and police-state rule, and tell the audience (in the tradition of books such as 1984) that we are sleepwalking in ignorance of the extent that our lives are programmed from conception to death.

"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. And when you're inside, and look around, what do you see? Businessmen. Teachers. Lawyers. Carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But, until we do, these people are still a part of that system... You have to understand: Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."
— Morpheus (from the film The Matrix)

Traditional economies, primitive as well as quasi-industrial, cling to survival in several regions of the globe, offering diversity and working models of social organization radically different from dominant society. These traditional hold-outs are mostly already contaminated by corporate and consumer-culture forces and may be destroyed soon. A simultaneous sub-trend has been the extinction of languages, as English crushes others with mass media and corporate influence. If the global economy collapses, the remaining traditional societies will be spared complete disintegration. Needless to say, the traditional local economies are not united whatsoever to fight the common enemy, nor are the mostly urban opponents of the corporate state involved or in communication with the remnants of traditional societies.

Tribal organizing for land

Tribes (or rather, smaller bands) are the prime human structure for social organization for over 99% of all humanity's time on Earth. It therefore seems reasonable to recreate tribes if possible in the present urban environment. It's hard to imagine this, without the usual context of pristine nature offering food, materials and non-human companionship.

A tribe can be created and supported by a nonprofit, cooperative system that may ironically be incorporated. It could work on a labor/materials/services-exchange basis among its members, without incurring taxable income for the individuals. A larger goal of such a tribe or collective would be to assure access to land where a support system for members would be secure and permanent. An incorporated, nonprofit tribe could thrive despite the dominant corporatist environment that has taken over almost all the world's land and peoples. Forming modern urban-to-rural tribes and a nonprofit structure will be investigated in an upcoming report.

"Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
— Abraham Lincoln

"Feels like we're livin' in a police state," you did nothing wrong, "so accept your fate." — a tree-sitter poet of a correspondent sent the following dispatch on August 30 from the Republican National Convention protests:

"Do not believe the corporately owned, 'mainstream' media hype. From anyone & everyone getting picked off by drone-like cops for standing on the sidewalk observing traffic law-obeying bicyclists getting rammed by undercovers on motorcycles & grabbed by cops so hard that at least one has a broken arm (which, by the way, the arrested is being charged with assaulting an officer ... the officer is not broken at all) to a random activist being singled out for the felony charge of arson (the burning dragon at Madison Square Garden) just because he had matches in his pocket & the felony charge of assaulting his arresting officer when the officer was burnt when he was to close to the actual fire.

"Riot cops everywhere. 800 of them ominously marched to a peaceful gathering in Central Park ... & there were plenty more everywhere else in Manhattan yesterday. On every street corner from Wall Street to the lower east side to the upper east side to the upper west side & back around. Everywhere, profiling. Grabbing anyone who could be construed to be in opposition.

"There were many more unConstitutional, undemocratic atrocities & violence committed toward protestors I could write about, but I'll talk more about that when I see you. Just want to add now that even though I've always had a funny feeling about it, & I've sure had my share of the fringes of it, I have now really experienced — blatantly & imminently & frighteningly (though, for some of us, not discouragingly) — the monster that is the US fascist state."

Culture Change comment: Somehow a police riot in Manhattan, "the media capital of the world," is probably not what Bush & corp. desire, one would imagine.

About 260 bicyclists out of 6,000 got arrested for exercising their freedom of assembly, as non-four wheeled killer machines, as the convention began. See Okie's report on RNC Critical Mass Bike Ride for Culture Change readers. Bikes were clearly perceived as a threat to the oil-loving Republican establishment and the city fathers.

See Guantanamo on the Hudson: toxic residue for jailed protesters at the RNC scene. Dissenters are taught yet another lesson about the land of free speech & assembly.

U.S. Domestic Torture is Important for "Harvesting" Ancient Trees / Update Second Federal Trial in San Francisco with new judge is on!

See Culture Change e-Letter #42: Resisting nanotech, violence and the corporate state — They're coming for you by Jan Lundberg

Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy

The Corporation flick

The Corporado's Life and its Antithesis (also appeared in Pravda in Spanish, thanks to Raul Riutor, Culture Change correspondent in Buenos Aires).

Health Care Tribe: Elder Care "Insurance" by Jan Lundberg

This page is a reprint of Culture Change e-Letter #73,
first published on the Culture Change website at

Sunday, August 22, 2004

You can download the entire text of the book Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy by Ted Nace (some chapters are available here in HTML, and the whole book is available as a PDF file). Following the same general line of thinking, you can also go see the movie The Corporation, which posits the thesis that corporations, if they were human beings, would be psychopaths (the thesis is well described here). The author of the book accompanying the movie, Joel Bakan, is interviewed here. Corporations aren't going to reform themselves, and will need radical alteration. Sooner or later we'll have to get around to changing the laws that allow them to do the evil that they do.


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